Does Paul offer a classical apologetic in Romans 1?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Monergism, Jul 30, 2004.

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  1. Monergism

    Monergism Puritan Board Freshman

    In Romans 1, is Paul taking a classical apologetic method to make an argument from intelligent design or is he taking a presuppositional apologetic method to make an argument from the impossibility of knowledge without God? I will post the text for an easy reference.

    Romans 1:18-25 NASB

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
    20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
    21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
    23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
    24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
    25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
  2. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You asked:
    [quote:c63b77b9a6]In Romans 1, is Paul taking a classical apologetic method to make an argument from intelligent design or is he taking a presuppositional apologetic method to make an argument from the impossibility of knowledge without God? I will post the text for an easy reference. [/quote:c63b77b9a6]

    Categorically, Romans 1 is a Classical argument. It is not just an argument from design, though, for that is a modern addendum. The design argument, as we know it today, is a recent addition to the reasoning, and likely was not part of Paul's original thought. However, a form of the design argument is still part of it.

    What makes this a Classical argument categorically, is the time frame and not the argument itself. Romans is a carefully argued statement of theology from beginnng to end, with three distinct parts. As such, it was argued in a period of history known as Classical. To call it Presuppositional is anachronistic. Also remember that the Ontological Argument is also an argument from the impossibility of knowledge without God.

    I think your question is a prejudicial question, not one of factual or categorical importance. I believe it is wrong to wrestle any part of Scripture into one of our favoured or pet theories. It is best to keep to our theories, but also to make sure that they remain subject to Scripture. If we make the Classical or Presuppositional views equal to, or even normative for Scriptural interpretation, then I think we have overstepped the boundaries of our freedoms and limits.

    You would do well to acknowledge what Scriture teaches, and to value what each methodology aids you to understand.
  3. Monergism

    Monergism Puritan Board Freshman

    [quote:feaea83e06]First, the knowledge Paul speaks of is immediate not the mediate, discursive, process that classicalism speaks of. [/quote:feaea83e06]


    Could you explain the difference between mediate and immediate knowledge of God?
  4. Monergism

    Monergism Puritan Board Freshman


    Thank you, that helps a lot. It did raise another question in my mind. I understood your argument that an infant doesn't come to the knowledge of God mediately. Does that mean an infant has immediate knowledge of God then? If so, would that not leave infants without excuse and hence under the wrath of God? Can you explain why "men" in Romans 1:18 does not exclude infants and those who are mentally ill? Do most presupp. apologists take this position?
  5. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    [quote:7ba5d2f5ab]To John,

    I brought this up with you before. Your newest stance that we shouldn't fit our systems into Scripture and say that anyone is *the* correct one is self-defeating. *YOU* have a system, you have to. And you seem to think your right. If so, you think your system is the one correct view. If you don't then you can't say that mine isn't. I find this agnostacism an ad hoc response to all the arguments I've given you for presuppositionalism. I know that you have an axe to grind because of how you have been treated by some in the past. Your position just proves presuppositionalism, though. What I want to know is how does your system work in the real world? Anyone can talk but how does it work. There is a time to move past aguments about method and get to the real appplication of defending the faith. Can your system accomplish this task?


    This is not a form of agnosticism. Perhaps you mean gnosticism. But even that this is not.

    You are right, I do believe I am right. I would be a fool to hold to something I did not believe. But even so, there are some things I do not have reasoned out (to the nth degree) and yet believe. But these things, some of which I confess I do not understand, I believe because Scripture says they are true. And that is reason enough for me.

    My system can accomplish very little, if anything. If God chooses to use what He has given me to know, then it is to accomplish His purposes. Meanwhile, He has given me to understand some things that you don't agree with. But I cannot give myself over to what you believe because I do not believe it myself. What I believe I believe prayerfully and carefully, and not irresponsibly. For myself, I find the system I have as more persuasive and more faithful to Scripture. I have to wrestle with the fact that other faithful men, such as yourself, are persuaded of other things. I have no right to impose what I think is true on another. Only Scripture may do that. And getting Scripture to fit does not make it any more necessary, for that is also necessitating an interpretation that is questionable. If Scripture does not impose, than neither will I.

    How I have been treated by others has had an effect on me. The fact that the perpetrator of such an authoritarianism stood on a Presuppositional and Theonomic platform should be no basis for judging those platforms as wrong. He also stood on Calvinist soteriology, and on Post-Millennial eschatology, and on the Millennial Kingdom-oriented gospel. That does not make any of these wrong in themselves. It was his authoritarian approach that made it wrong. If we did not abide by what his interpretation of these matters were, then we did not understand the Bible, and we were not as Reformed as he. He went over the denomination's head, for the denomination imposes no such things, except for Calvinistic soteriology.

    The Belgic Confession is clear: we are to judge such teachers as false. They put man ahead of the Confessional church, and even ahead of Scripture, imposing the doctrines of man, and claiming status for one man above and beyond what the Church or Scripture has authorized. I did not stand against him because he taught these things, but because he taught them as if his views were equal to Scripture itself.

    As you can percieve, this ought to have nothing to do with my personal views on these matters in and of themselves. As I am convinced of the A-Mil position so far, I am yet in some consternation that the possibilities exist that the interpretations of some texts that Post-Mils and Pre-Mils hold to could indeed be true, even though I disagree with them, and that I would have to amend my A-Mil view accordingly. I may be convinced, but the question is still there, "What does the Bible really say?" I may be able to explain texts to accommodate my A-Mil views, but it does not follow that therefore Scripture intends for them to mean that. So I can hold the view, and think it true, and yet know how to subject it to Scripture.

    If the millennial view were that important, and if it were that clear, then the Church would have included it in the Confessions. She did not. No one man other than Christ has that kind of authority to impose what the Church does not impose.
  6. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I'm sorry, I had to go, so I cut myself off kind of short in the above post. I'm back now, but no less pressed for time. I'll finish this off tomorrow, or maybe Monday.

    I want to bring this back to the apologetic, and not just leave it at the example I gave using the Millennial views. I only went that route because it derived from the "experiences" I have had in that and other areas. And with the Millennial views its easier to see our limitations, since we are talking about some thing yet to be, which will be heavy with historical context at that time, a context we have no idea of now.
  7. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    [quote:495fa572fd]Your newest stance that we shouldn't fit our systems into Scripture and say that anyone is *the* correct one is self-defeating. *YOU* have a system, you have to. And you seem to think your right. If so, you think your system is the one correct view. If you don't then you can't say that mine isn't. I find this agnostacism an ad hoc response to all the arguments I've given you for presuppositionalism.[/quote:495fa572fd]
    This stance is not new. Nor am I saying that we should not fit our "systems" into Scripture. What I am saying that I have refrained from until now is that it is too much to say that any one system is the very one that Scripture teaches. Our knowledge, no matter how educated we are, does not reach to that extent to know that.

    There are difficulties with even the best of our understandings. To deny that is to just turn away from them as if they don't exist. The problem is our limitations, not truth itself.

    An illustration I have used in other circles may be appropriate here. A group of about ten or twelve learned men are sitting around a conference table. They are looking at the blue vase situated in the middle of the table. Half of them say that the vase is blue; the other half says that the vase itself does not have an attribute of colour, but rather that it reflects light that our brains interpret as blue, each one to that hue which he calls "blue". We do not know whether each one sees the same colour, but we only indentify that which we see by the same name. Half is convinced one way, and half the other way. And neither side has the convincing argument that necessitates their view.

    In some ways our differing methodologies are like that. Both sides see necessites from Scripture that the other does not. Both sides would like to impose their necessities on Scripture, so to speak. That is, they may interpret Scripture in such a way that it exonerates their view. But none of this is what Scripture calls us to. It is Scripture that is the norm, the revelation. We may fit our view nicely into the Scripture, but Scripture may yet spit it out. We may know a lot, but we just do not know enough to say that the one view we hold is the one that Scripture asserts. The fact is, Scripture did not make a point of asserting it. That was how I knew that that authoritarian preacher was wrong. He not only made it Confessional, he made it central, and hence more important than the Confessions. And that is going far too far. If Calvin, if the Westimister Assembly, if the Synod of Dordt, had been convinced of Presuppositionalism, or of one of the Millennial views, and thought it necessary to believe that position, they would have included it. And then we would know that they had overstepped their offices, for the Scripture makes no such teaching known to us, either by direct revelation or by good and necessary inference.

    I've used the word "necessary" quite often. It isn't good enough that one person, or a group of persons thinks that there is no way out but to accept Presuppositionalism. It has to be acknowledged by the church as a whole. It is within the Confessional standard to hold to it, but it is not within the Confessional standard to impose it. It is within the Confessional standard to think it ought to be confessed by all, to be of that opinion; it is not within the standard to say that therefore it will be.

    It is so even with something that is within the standards of faith. We hold, along with the Confessions, that baptizing our children is a must, an act of covenantal obedience. But it also implies that, if our children which are too young to make a profession of faith, are included in the covenant, then so are those who profess their faith, but do not agree with Covenant Theology, and do not baptize their children. Covenantal membership is not based on our reaching our standard of knowledge; it is founded on God's appointing. Based on that confession which necessitates the baptism of our children we find also the necessity that we cannot easily oust someone who does not hold to that tenet, though it is confessional. So even confessional matters have to be handled with great care, so as not to overrule Scripture by adhering to the Confessions.

    As I said, this is not new. It has been part of our standards from the beginning. We are warned to watch out for those who would impose doctrines on us that are not the ones handed down to us through the Apostles. Our part in this is to know our limitations, to know how to believe things such as Millennial views, or apologetic methodologies, based on Scripture, and yet to know that Scripture itself is higher than our views, that we do not have as wide a scope as we think we have when we assume too much, and make claims that go beyond Scripture.
  8. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    [quote:9501f324ed]Does this mean that all the parts of the system are perfect? No, just like the Reformers knew we would always have to be reforming... sola fide is correct. But all the works written about it do not exhaust the biblical truth regarding it. Likewise, presuppositionalism is THE correct method. It is the way that God would have us reason. This DOES NOT mean that all the parts are perfect and that we can't expand on truths tought in it. [/quote:9501f324ed]

    I can agree with this. As long as we can grow in truth together, then our differing understandings will be of benefit to each other. I may not agree with what you hold to, but I yet support your holding to it if you rely on the Word for your understanding, just as I rely on the Word for mine.
  9. FrozenChosen

    FrozenChosen Puritan Board Freshman

    Romans 1 seems like the foundations for presuppositionalism to me.

    While I'm not an apologetic ninja, or even trainee, the text seems like theological grounding more than apologetical argumentation. Paul is giving the Romans the "OK team, here is what we're dealing with" speech before they go out into the world.

    And he's talking about a giant rift. He's describing the unbelieving side of the great abyss which stands Christendom and the unredeemed world. A rift only bridged by the Holy Spirit in his regenerative workings.
  10. Ianterrell

    Ianterrell Puritan Board Sophomore


    We musn't confuse apologetics and theology.
  11. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    [quote:5e41a762cb]And he's talking about a giant rift. He's describing the unbelieving side of the great abyss which stands Christendom and the unredeemed world. A rift only bridged by the Holy Spirit in his regenerative workings.[/quote:5e41a762cb]
    I thought he was talking about the commonality of the knowledge of God, whether or not the man has the gospel. Yet even so, this is not exclusively within the Presup domain. Actually it is in the Presup domain, as well as within the domains of all apologetical efforts before Presup.

    I want to just throw something out for consideration; something that struck me as I was reading Malcolm Muggeridge's [u:5e41a762cb]The End of Christendom[/u:5e41a762cb]:

    The above may presuppose another thing as well. May I ask, is there anyone on this Board who has a tendency to think that the centuries of church dominance, in both the East and the West, and including the time when the West brought the gospel way out, even to the Orient and to the New World, is that Millennium of which Rev. 20 speaks? I say, "has a tendency to believe"; I am not saying, "believes it dogmatically."

    The reason I ask that is because the idea of a "post-Christian era", which our time has been called quite often, would seem to presuppose a previous "Christian era." And if that is so, then is that "Christian era" that millennial age? And what are the marks of that era, to mark it off from our present era? And if this is so, then do we not regard Rom. 1:19-21 accordingly?

    That the reign of Christendom is over seems to be almost unanimous, except in Reformed circles, where people recognize that Christ has promised that He will never leave or forsake His Church, and that His rule has no end. No matter where we place the Millennium, we are always sure of Christ's promises, and assured of the victory of the Church, even now already. But it does say something, does it not, of the sway of thought in our time? It does seem to be an accurate accouting of the flow of history, and how the culture which once held to Biblical forms has given way to a chaos of norms, saying evil is good, and right is wrong, also as Jesus predicted.

    People used to just argue against Biblical history, or the scientific accuracy of the Bible, or even denied the possibility of miracles. They do so no longer. They are now wrapped up in forming new morals, new "non-religious" laws, and a new age of evolutionary advancement. And it is overwhelming even our Christian leaders, who have to abide by the "correctness" that empowers them to rule.

    Does not the Bible ring out here? Surely they know. Does not He who formed the ear hear? Does not He who formed the eye see? Does not He by Whom we know know? Surely Rom. 1 rings out here, for try as they might, there are no new morals, just an empty promise of immorality; there are no "non-religious" laws, just tyrrany; and there is no next evolutionary era, just godlessness and every kind of debauchery. If nothing else, surely the former regime of the USSR has taught us at least that much. Surely our era of abortions and homosexuality in our own lands impresses that upon us.

    These things are foisted upon us in the name of freedom and equality; but these terms are completely void of the happiness they promise anymore. They are just cold technical terms in the new regime, and have no personal bearing for us under the new order.

    Suerly we live in a "post-Christendom" era. But we have the certainty that it is not a "post-Christian" era. We believe there is no such era, don't we? Is that not what Rom. 1 means?
  12. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    [quote:60455c1a76]Yes we both do. But, the debate is over *how* that knowledge is obtained(?), or held(?), or aquired(?).[/quote:60455c1a76]
    Even here I think it is more a dispute about words than about the case in itself. I would rather not indulge in the "how" it is so, but rather be sure that Rom. 1 talks about "that" it is so. I see more profit in discussing the question I stated than in debating whether the Apostle is advocating our favourite apologetic methodology. After all, we can't go and ask him; but we can analyze our own time in light of history and Scripture. And we do not have to be divided by our methodolgies, but rather use them to advantage for each other. That is why I posed the question, to deflect the point at issue.

    We don't have to though. It was just a suggestion.
  13. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    [quote:074209c2c2]I'm just saying that this is where a big part of the debate is between the classicalists and myself. The *that* it is so is uninportant since that is obvious from Scriptuture. If I can show the classicalist's way to be in error then a huge point would have been scored for the presup side... wouldn't you say?[/quote:074209c2c2]
    If I could show the Presup's way to be in error, I would not have won anything at all. I may have scored, but all I can do is take home the points and hang them on the wall. But they don't do anyone any good at all. I see no value whatsoever in one methodology defeating another, when there is so much to be gained by the proper application of both. Can't you see, Paul, that if you defeat Classicalism, you also defeat Presuppositionalism? Because there has always been a thread of Presuppositionalism in any argumentation, to defeat the properly applied tenets of Presuppositionalism would defeat Classicalism and Evidentialism. To wipe out Evidentialism, or Classicalism would take the footing out from under Presuppositionalism, for it simply cannot be denied that these are the foundations of Presuppositionalism.

    I don't see these as antagonistic; I see these as progressive thought. Unfortunately, I also see many Presup's taking on modern gnostic language when it comes to the use of terms and formation of ideas. I see that, at times, only a disembodied mind can appropriate or comprehend the terms, but not the soul. This is also the progress of thought, but perhaps better thought of as regress. That is to say, unless I am more careful to say that by progress I mean to denote the developement, whether good or bad, from the past to today, we could speak of either regress or progress with the same intent.

    I know that this is difficult to convey. But that is precisely where the difficulty lies. It seems an unbridgeable gap in ideas. That is why you will see me opposing some Presuppers, but not necessarily all Presuppositionalism. The modern Presupper has no hope of convincing me of Presuppositionalism, as held by many today, such as Bahnsen or Butler; yet I do not at all think myself irresolute for taking up some of the Presuppositional tenets into my thinking, and being provoked to thought by Van Til. I see a sharp difference between the two forms.

    No one can take away from me the empirical evidence that I see all around me. It is just a war of words to me if one tries, and nothing more. For what words can remove what it is that God has allowed me to see, though many walk by me each and every day who cannot see it? Can words convince man of that which he will not see? Can evidence demonstrate to a man what he will not believe? I don't think so. He has a rebellious soul. Yet that in no way has any ill effect on the evidence itself or the truth itself, but only on the man who will not see or believe. Mere words, if they cannot convince of the truth, are certainly powerless to tear down the truth.

    I take you back to that room where a dozen learned men are sitting around a table, studying the blue vase set in the middle of the table. Some say it is blue, and some say we only interpret it as blue. It used to be that all learned men would have said it was blue, but not anymore. But even if eleven out of twelve were to declare that we only interpret it a blue, that would in no way change the fact that the vase is blue, if that were true. I will choose with the one, and not the eleven, because when all is said and done, the eleven have gained nothing by their insight. They have traded one arbitrary observation with another, and that is all, nothing more. For why should not their observation extend to shape, to distance, to table, to floor, to chair, to eleven other men? What are these except interpretations and not facts to them? They have not only lost the blueness of the vase, if they continue in their dilemma.

    But I can boldly believe that the vase is blue. It is not just the intellect that tells me that, for a soulless intellect is no intellect at all. And if you are careful to notice, that is really the strength of the Presuppositional stance, and not the declamation of evidences or principles. That is why I see no value in defeating each other's views.
  14. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Well, I suppose that this is exactly what I was trying to say. Only I don't see either 'ism' as the end of the search for truth. To say that it ends in one of these 'isms' is missing the mark, I think. It is the route at best, perhaps, but not the goal. Truth itself is the goal. And truth itself will rid us of all the 'isms'.

    I am not so sure that I misrepresented your position Paul. I did not mean to state it in the first place. I was only observing what I have seen in the way of some of those who hold to that position. That does not mean that I don't see problems with some who hold to Classicalism or Evidentialism. I even find problems with my own understandings. It will likely scare me when I cease to find difficulties anymore, for it will not mean that I have found all the answers, but that I have stopped looking into the questions. It is not that I state that your position stands on evidences, it is just that I have not yet seen one argument from a Presup that doesn't, just the same as I have not yet seen one argument that doesn't presuppose. I don't think I have misunderstood; but instead it seems to me that the Presups don't take themselves seriously enough. Call it my failing if you like, but I am only trying to help, not hinder. If Presup has to win, then I am with you, but it won't happen at the rate it is going, and it simply cannot happen at the expense of evidences or principles.

    The best that we can hope for is to show that men are going about it all wrong; but we can never upend the witness of the creation, or the witness of the Apostles. We may turn everyone into a Presupper, but that will do exactly nothing to the force of empirical facts that is embedded in the creation of all of nature. The Apostles could reason in the Synagogues from week to week, but that was founded upon the fact that they saw, they touched, and they witnessed. It was the primary prerequiste to being an Apostle. And we believe, even though we have not seen or touched; but yet our faith is founded no differently than theirs, or they would not be our fathers.

    Recognizing the fundamental position of the presupposition is only a more exacting way of doing Evidentialism, not a different way. It is the more exacting Classical argument, and even the more precise Ontological Argument. But it cannot be a totally different or unrelated approach. Even Bahnsen wanted to bring us back to Evidentialism, only the right way. All I am suggesting is that the other is equally valid, presupposing the right way. For they cannot be divorced without suffering damage to the separated parts.
  15. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman

    I myself would rate both positions as being fideistic, because they are not conclusive proof of the existence of God. The atheist Michael Martin has some very good critiques of Presuppositionalism as promoted by Bahnsen( "To say that A presupposes B is to say that we could not "make sense" of A without assuming B. However, supposing we grant that one must assume B to make sense of A, it does not follow that B is true."
    This is the type of true, honest opposition that is being set forth. The Presuppositionalism that I have been exposed to does not earnestly and caringly consider the questions and misunderstandings of the unbeliever. Don't get me wrong. The unbeliever hates God, but we should be able to conclusively leave them denying their rational thought in order to deny God. This is the only way to truly avoid fideistic short-comings and gaps in our understanding of God. We must expose the unbelievers unbelief through showing that it is clear (cannot be denied without denying one's humanity), and thus they are inexcusable for not believing. There are problems when we begin to blend the realms of being and thought. We think and then we understand. We see God's creation, and then we ignorantly deny His existence, because we are not willing. But when we are regenerated we see that God exists through what has been made, not apart from that. We understand the Bible to be the Word of God because it is consistent with God's more basic revelations: Creation being one of them. The Bible is not simply the word of God because it says so. The Book of Morman and the Koran do this. So the PSist should ask himself how does He know that these books are not Scripture? But how can He question it if it says that it is the Word of God? This is where other problems come in.

    I think that Paul in Romans 1 is speaking about mediate knowledge.

    19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    We both believe that all unbelievers are without excuse and will suffer maximal punishment (eternity in spiritual death). In order for God to punish maximally, He must find the unbeliever to be maximally inexcusable. In order for the unbeliever to be maximally inexcused, God's communication of Himself must be maximally clear. Paul is telling us why all men are inexcusable: b/c it is clear. How is it clear? Paul uses mediate sources to tell us why it is clear: "God's invisible qualities . . . have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . .". This is not an immediate knowledge. This is something that must be seen and formulatively understood, this is opposed to the innate and immediate knowledge that it seems you are saying Paul purports.
    Now it is clear that Van Til believed that Rom. 1:21 was "the most difficult of passages" to understand. But it should not be if we are supposed to understand that God's existence is Clear. I must ask you where you find justification for stating that "all men know God". This certainly is very dear to PSism but cannot be found in scripture directly. I would say that this interpretation is due to a misunderstanding of the passage as a whole. We see that God is speaking of men who had the knowledge, but then rejected it. There is a transition going on. This could easily be shown by the following vers in Rom. 1, "28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." Cain was handed down the knowledge of God by Adam. He rejected it, and "did not think it worthwhile to RETAIN the knowledge of God". Thereafter, Cain did not hand the knowledge down to his children, and they were given over to their desires. I believe that this is more consistent with understanding that the revelation is clear.
    Let me know what you think.
  16. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner


    How do those who supress knowledge hate God if they don't know him? That makes little sense to me that men's knowledge is so corrupted that they cannot believe biblical propositions of the bible.

    I think that the men of Romans 1 (and Paul's argument) is just that - God is known to them, and they hate Him, and supress that truth desiring to continue in thier sin.
  17. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman


    I appreciate you pointing that out. I need to be more clear in my communication. Forgive me.

    I do think that the genesis account of the fall can help here:

    Satan's proposal:
    4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

    We know that God said that in the day that Adam and Eve should eat of the tree, they would surely die. Satan then proposes this idea that Eve and Adam will surely not die (beginning by questioning the consequence of death as the conclusion of God's statement). He then states that Adam and Eve will be like God, knowing good and evil. It was clear through the creation that God was omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and, as the creator, the determiner of good and evil for man. Adam and Eve believed what was false about God and this is what led them into sin. They believed Satan when he said that they could know good and evil as the creator. They should have recognized that God is the creator of man, and that they could never reasonably determine good and evil for themselves as the creator does. Instead, they believed Satan when he said that they would surely not die, and chose to eat the fruit. It is this autonomy that fills every false religion. This pride is the root of sin: to determine good and evil for ourselves, and reject the good and evil that has been laid out by the creator.
    We died because they believed what was false about God. Because they began seeking their own autonomy they lost what knowledge they did have of Him. We do not know God innately. Paul says that it is the creation that speaks of His attributes, and the creation is what will condemn us as inexcusable. If we knew of God innately, there would be no reason for Paul to bring the creation into the exposition. It is the creation that is clear. However, we are unwilling to seek the good through it. All men use the laws of thought at the most basic level to communicate and form concepts, affirming their humanity, but all are unwilling to use these very same laws of thought to see what is clear about God in the creation, and know Him by it. It is the willingness that has been affected, and thus the unwillingness of the human mind is what causes man to not know God. We are all born into an unwillingess (a hate for God), not a direct knowledge of what we hate, but more so an ignorance, hate, and unwillingness to recognize that we are finite and that there must be something infinite. The infinite's glorification should be the finite's main concern, but the finite is not concerned with this. We, left to oursleves, would not know God in any sense. We would be so ignorant and autonomous that our eyes would reject everything that does not serve that as our end. But God has placed the creation in place in order to attest to our unwillingness to recognize the the truth of what is clear. It is so clear that any rational creature can see it if they look, but they are unwilling to look apart from what serves their own autonomy. This is what Paul is speaking about when he says in Romans 3 that no one understands and no one seeks God. It is only by the Holy Spirit's power that we reject our autonomous agenda, and, as a result, come to a willingness to search for what God has clearly shown of Himself through creation and Scripture. Let me know what you think.
  18. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    I just noticed this thread has been reopened, and that you addressed your first post to me. I'm sorry I missed it.

    I have been busy in the Theonomy thread. If you have noticed it, we put up two whole pages (or more) of posts in a few hours. It was hard reading it all and keeping up.

    I'll have time tomorrow to read and answer your post. I've glanced at it, and need to read it more closely.

    I'm also closer to finishing my piece on the Ontologcal Argument. Lately I've had a few flashes of new ideas, so some of it is being formed yet. And I have to sort a lot of notes yet too. But I've got the main part of it straight in my mind now, and know what to do with it. So I have the order, mostly, the outline that is, and much of the material. I just need to finish typing it up, and do the editing. Meanwhile, I keep digging.

    So, I'll be back tomorrow to answer you.
  19. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Sorry Gregory, but I'll have to put this off until Monday. Company just came. My little granddaughter is here, and that means both my hands and my lap is full. What a way to go, though.
  20. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Gregory, under your view that unregenerate men do not have an innate knowledge of God that they are suppressing, how do you explain Romans 2:14-15 (ESV): "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them." The law is intrinsically by nature an expression of God's character, since there are no "neutral" ethics, and any external "good" things unbelievers do are in fact only present because of common grace, which comes from God. If your view that they do not in fact know God at all anymore was true, the world would be a much worse place than it is. As illustrated by Romans 2:14-15, Scripture teaches that all men do have an innate knowledge of God since they have such a knowledge of His law, and thus the effect of sin on their lives results in a radical suppression of that knowledge, rather than a disappearance of it. For if their innate knowledge of God ceased after they suppressed it as you say, they would not longer be without excuse after that point. Furthermore, as Scott pointed out, your view cannot account for unregenerate man's "hate" of God. If they did not innately know Him in some way, it would be absurd to speak of their hatred of Him, as do passages such as Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 5:9, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 68:1, Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13 and Romans 1:30.

    And what type of apologetic would you propose gives conclusive proof of Yahweh's existence if not presuppositionalism? Evidentialism and Clarkian apologetics are fideistic in that they both presuppose ways of thought that the unbeliever does not have to accept. However, that same error is precisely what Van Tillian apologetics, on the other hand, exposes in unbelief. It shows that the unbeliever in their autonomy has no basis to claim knowledge of anything they assert, including objections to Christianity. Have you listened to Bahnsen's debate with Stein?

    I was recently talking to Paul Manata about this, and he pointed out that for one thing, critics such as Martin are certainly not just giving "true, honest" objections as you say - for his heart and mind are depraved and hate and suppress God, and far from being objective and neutral in his analysis, he undeniably has an axe to grind. Paul also wrote a paper refuting one of Martin's other papers entitled "Are There Really No Atheists?" and pointed out to me that Martin's critique you cite above is a really petty critique, anyway. Martin's basically saying, "Well, so what if you've shown that I have to presume Christianity in order to consistently use logic anywhere else, that still doesn't prove that Christianity is true!" He's clearly grasping at straws here, and if he was consistent with his claim, he would have to stop using speech and logic altogether. But Paul said it better than I can: "He says that just because A presupposes B that does not mean B is true. First, that's not too bad, apologetically, is it? Martin is saying: 'Maybe logic presupposes Christianity... but that doesn't mean Christianities true!' Aren't they desperate? Martin goes on to say, which Knight didn't quote, that A might not be true because one reason is: 'deductive validity may be a myth.' Ha! That is some serious, honest, scholarship. Wow! Christianity might not be true because logic may be a myth.. give me a break, honest critiques. Sounds like someone has an axe to grind. Lastely, A may not be true but it IS true if it is a transcendental.. and you know what ol' honest Martin does? yup, he doesn't even address that; AT ALL. So much the worse for the tough challenges out there for presuppositionalism."

    See my second paragraph in this post.
  21. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think there is some very insightful material here to think about. I thank you for this.

    We have seen philosophy in general take a turn since the time of Descartes. And even he is part of the change actually. I noted that at one time, and got it from Paul, so I'm not going to repeat that part of it. But it is true that philosophy has turned introspective, from trying to understand the whole of the world, the physical and the spiritual, to prying into how we understand at all. A lot of what we read and discuss is of this latter suasion. And as such, I think, Presuppositionalism makes a good answer to that form of question. That is not the only form of question that people ask, though.

    So instead of seeing one view supplanting all others, we rather have one limited view standing on, and being supported by other limited views, each one addressing different aspects of the questions raised by philosophy in general.

    Are they all fideistic? I really don't want to say that it all depends on what you mean by that. In a way all knowledge must be fideistic, an acceptance of truth based on the testimony of authority, for we are not our own authority. And that is what Presuppositionalism champions. And rightly so. Does that make it fideistic? It certainly doesn't have to. If these views all stand together, then of course any one is as fideistic as the others, or not fideistic like the others. That's how I view them.

    It is the exclusiveness that I object to. When comparing views, I think that one would tend to one more than another. But if one declares his view to be the right one, he does so on his own authority, because he doesn't have any other. And in that sense it is fideistic. But that would be as true for one view as for another. If that is what you're saying, then I agree.

    Making the most out of the authority we have is, I think, what Paul and I were talking about. Regarding that critique by Michael Martin, I don't know him from Adam really. The bare logic, is of course true; but Paul and I would both dispute that this is a valid critique. If "A" is true, and "A" is only understandable because of "B", then it must follow that "B" is true as well. This goes in either of the views we were discussing. If "B" is just a proposed intermediate, that makes "A" understandable, as he seems to say that some Presuppostionalists and Evidentialists assert, then his critique is valid. But that's not what we are saying. We are saying that "A" is true; and it is not that "B" is one answer among many, it is the only answer ever imagined. One cannot imagine another. That is the basic ontological assumption that Paul and I agreed on somewhere, I can't remember the thread. Our difference is in how to establish that from our different viewpoints. And that is a valid discussion.

    But we are both acting in faith to the truths God has given us.
  22. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman

    First of all, I have a friend in Memphis that attends Independent Pres. Church. They just had a great speaker, Dr. Eric Alexander, who you can listen to at From what I can know about them here in AZ, they seem like a pretty solid church, founded on what most Reformed Pres. would desire. And I think that the pastor was close friends with James M. Boice.

    Back to the subject at hand, unbelievers are a testimoony against themselves b/c at the core of their thought they presuppose the laws of thought in order to function as a human. Their conscience bears witness against them b/c they are unwilling to be consistent in the very function that makes them human: reason. They use it to form thoughts and beliefs about their autonomy, but they don't use it to critically test those beliefs and see what is clear about God in creation.


    In regards to our present discussion of fideism, I ask, what is reason?
    Can you agree to the following terms?

    Reason is ontological. It applies to being as well as to thought. There are no square-circles, no uncaused events, no being from non-being. God is not both eternal and not eternal in the same respect and at the same time. If reason did not apply to being then statements could be true and not true in the same respect and at the same time. If a could be non-a, then being could not be distinguished from non-being. All distinctions would lose meaning, and all meaning would be lost. Our understanding of God depends on our commitment to understanding that a=a, a cannot be non-a, and a must be a or non-a.
    Reason is transcendental. It is authoritative in the realm of thought. It is self-attesting, and is the highest authority in the realm of thought. It cannot be questioned because it makes questioning possible. A statement which violates a law of reason is not meaningful and cannot be true, regardless of its source.

    I have to run. I may be back to revise and expound. Let me know your thoughts.
  23. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thanks for letting me know that, but I'm already making arrangements with a PCA church here. I guess I'll probably need to change my signature pretty soon here.

    Agreed - this is exactly part of what presuppositionalism teaches. So why do you see it as being fideistic? Also, if you agree that unbelievers' failure to see the truth is only due to their sin blinding their intellects, how can you call critiques such as Martin's "true" and "honest"? Furthermore, how does the fact that unbelievers don't use their reason to rightly contemplate God and His truth necessitate the claim that they lack all knowledge of Him, even suppressed knowledge?
  24. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Well, I'll agree with your last statement, if you say so. I have no cause to doubt it. If you have to run, then you have to run.

    As to the rest: You are referring to reason as a principle, and not as an action by man in his mind. Man's reason is limited by his own limitedness. But reason itself, is really the unity of truth realized. And truth has to be a unit. If it is compartmentalized into even a minimum of two dichotomous sectors, then there is no certainty or knowledge of truth anymore.

    To be more precise:

    Reason as an action upon truth. It goes from a to b to c. God knows truth altogether, and does not need to reason in that manner. He not only knows truth, but is not subject to it. He knows a, b, and c already without going through the process we call reasoning. It is contrary in this way to say that God reasons. That is the limitedness that applies to that word.

    On the other hand, God reasons perfectly, not because He is subject to truth also, but because He condescends to us to give us knowledge so we can reason. His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, and so reasons better on His worst days (which of course is a hyperbole) than any man on his best day. Just because God does not have to reason doesn't mean He doesn't reason at all.

    In days gone by man was intent to know ontologically. Now man strives to know transcendentally. And if this is what you mean, then I agree with you. Man's attempts to philosophize have turned from looking at things about him to looking inside his own head. Both are necessary. Once one knows how he knows, he still needs to understand the things to know. And they also bear witness to God's eternal power and deity.
  25. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman

    Let me ask you a few questions.

    Is God a seperate being from us?
    Due to the inevitability of your answer, I will say yes in your stead.

    What is then necessary for beings to recieve/give info from/to other beings?
    some form of communication.

    What is necessary for a being to recieve communication from another being?
    rationality. A being must be able to conceptualize a as a and non-a as non-a in order for it to recieve communication from another being. If we undermine this by saying that we are finite and cannot use reason rightly, then we cannot affirm any sort of communication from God.

    Man's knowledge of God is through what is made. The communication is more immediate than the concept and finally the being itself. We are dealing with two seperate realms: the Realm of Being, and the Realm of Thought. The Realm of Being encompasses the idea that I am a being, and God is a being seperate from me. In the realm of being there is no concepts, thought, or judgment. What is, simply is. But, this does not concern the epistemic concerns. In the Realm of Thought beings have the ability to communicate. God communicates to man, knowing that he is a seperate being, through communication. There is no immediate knowledge amongst beings, it is only through the Realm of Thought that these beings can conceptualize each other. God knows man through thought, not being. We know God through thought, not being. We argue God's existence from His communication of Himself through the Realm of Thought, not through the Realm of Being. We have no immediate knowedge apart from the Realm of Thought, as it seems PS wants to part God from His infinite attribute of reason.

    In order for God to communicate to man, man must have the ability to reason. The fall did not affect Adam's ability to reason. His duty was to name the creation (req't to understand and distinguish a from non-a). It was enlightening to me to find out that Adam named Eve after the fall. Adam still had the ability to reason at a basic level after the creation. We must understand that it was not the ability that was marred, but our willingness. We are unwilling, without the regeneration of the Spirit, to use the tool of communication that God has given us in order to seek Him and know Him.

    God is committed to reason, just as He is to His love and justness. If reason did not apply to God's being then He could be a and non-a. He could be infinite and finite in the same sense at the same time. He could be perfectly infinite in goodness, while He would be perfectly infinite in evilness. We could have no understanding of God if reason did not apply to His being. Just as He is good, so he is reasonable in His being.

    Quickly thrown down, hopefully clear. Let me know. Thanks John and Christopher.
  26. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That is a radical claim, and one which I believe is very contrary to Scripture and has grave implications. The unregenerate sinner walks in futility of mind and has a darkened understanding (Eph. 4:17-18). They are futile in their thinking (Rom 1:21). Furthermore, we are taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith that the fall resulted in man being "wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body," which thus includes his intellect. The truth of that statement could hardly be made clearer than in its first proof-text, Titus 1:15 (ESV, emphasis mine): "To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled."

    The fact that man's intellect was affected at the fall is further confirmed by noting that his communion with God was most definitely affected, and then observing that communion with God is the whole foundation of intellectual fruit and understanding. For in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3), and "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7), not the end result. For it is God "who teaches man knowledge" (Ps. 94:10), and we do not have anything that we have not received from God (1 Cor. 4:7). "The LORD is a God of knowledge" (1 Sam. 2:3), and yet "the wisdom of this world is folly with God" (1 Cor. 3:19), showing that the wisdom of this world is folly to the God of knowledge, and thus it is folly itself!

    Given the fact that man's body, his will, his heart and his emotions were all drastically affected by the fall, it is illogical to presume that his intellect was spared. Furthermore, the Scriptures abundantly and plainly declare that the unregenerate mind is defiled, and since we know that the fall drastically affected man's communion with God, and yet Scripture abundantly tells us that any and all true, plain knowledge and understanding begins with communion with God, it is nothing short of biblically absurd to presume that our intellects were untouched by the fall.

    In his book Always Ready, Dr. Bahnsen answers this objection much better than I ever could:

    It is the truth of common grace that enables a point of contact between the believer and the unbeliever. In fact, the epistemological mindset of presuppositionalism guarantees such a point of contact, since even though he suppresses it in his futile mind and hard heart, the unbeliever has a vast knowledge of God deep down (as shown by Romans 1). And since the believer has a renewed mind (Eph. 4:23, Col. 3:10) by which He knows God openly and awarely, we are guaranteed many points of common ground on which we may communicate with the unbeliever, even though not an iota of that ground is neutral, since it is all fully and solely grounded in the truth and light of God as the beginning of knowledge.
  27. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    In answer to the last paragraph,
    I would say that this is mixing things up a bit. God is in fact three, and He is one; He is God and He is man, in the Son, but not in the Spirit or in the Father. He is fully the Father, and not the Son or the Spirit; He is fully the Son, and not the Father or the Spirit; and He is fully the Spirit, and not the Father or the Son: He is three, and He is one. He is reasonable, and He is the author of reason. But it cannot be that He can be good and bad, for the one is the opposite of the other. Or, as Augustine has it, the one is the privation of the other. God is not subject to anything. It is not that God can be judged by reason, but that reason is judged by God.

    So reason reflects the character of God. But it is not that God has to be conformed to reason, as if reason is somehow overtop of God. I know you're not saying that, but it is implied, I think, in that way.

    I think I know what you're getting at. Though man is fallen, there is yet one standard of reason, which even fallen man must either adhere to or evade. He is subject to reason only one way, and that is truly. The fact that he doesn't reason truly does not damage reason itself, but man's communicative and communicated knowledge. Reason itself still works the same way. And this must be applied properly (or truly) to objects of knowledge for the comprehension of these objects. Man neither invents nor upholds reason or truth, but is either given them or discovers them through the giving of them. And this faculty is innate in man as man, whether fallen or not fallen, because man still is man, even if he is fallen. That is not to say that the Fall did not have a thorough effect on man. But, in his faculties man was found depraved in his faculties after the Fall, not bereft of his faculties.

    Is this what you're saying?
  28. tdowns

    tdowns Puritan Board Junior


    Man, you guys can put out the info. I can't really keep up, sped read most of this thread, but don't have the time to get to it all, and at my stage of learning the diff. thoughts, too much for me right now anyway, but great stuff.

    Since I've spent my time today reading this, I don't have time to search, can one of you either direct me or post here a short definition of classical and Presupp. And any other if you would like. Like everything else, coming from evangelical church's, don't get much of this.
    We just pass out tracts or scream at people on the corner. lol:lol::scholar:
  29. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Trevor, there are a lot of great free articles by Dr. Bahnsen explaining presuppositionalism, and some critiquing evidentialism, at Covenant Media Foundation's site. A few notables include:

    "Van Til's 'Presuppositionalism'"
    "Evidential Apologetics: The Right Way"
    "The Crucial Concept of Self-Deception in Presuppositional Apologetics" (a longer read)
    "Presuppositional Procedure"

    The last of those actually goes into explaining the method of using the presuppositional approach. Another good thing to do would be to browse some of the threads in the "Apologetical Methods" forum here on PB. One thread in which I asked the same question you currently are is here.

    Two resources that were invaluable to me are Van Til's essay, "Why I Believe in God," which can be found here, and Dr. Bahnsen's lectures and debates, which can be found here. All of them are extremely inexpensive - only $1.99 per mp3 lecture, and almost each file is over an hour. I particularly recommend "The Great Debate: Does God Exist?" and "Challenge to Unbelief."

    As far as books go, I'd recommend either starting with Richard Pratt's Every Thought Captive or Dr. Bahnsen's Always Ready. The former is meant more as a training manual than a deep expose of Van Til's thought, but the method and arguments it develops are strongly rooted in that mindset, and while overly simplistic at times, it really helped familiarize me with a lot of the basics and how they apply. I'm currently reading through the latter book myself, and it presents the whole presuppositional mindset and approach in a more thorough and exhaustive way, but is still extremely concise.

    Hope this helps,
  30. tdowns

    tdowns Puritan Board Junior


    Off to read....I'll start with the thread where you asked the question.
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