Legitimate use of Classical and Evidential apologetics within Van Tillian presuppositionalism?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Me Died Blue, Jan 17, 2006.

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  1. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I've been thinking about apologetics as of late, and have typically viewed Classical and Evidential apologetics as unbiblical and erroneous, due to their divorced nature from one's theology, versus presuppositionalism's consistency with the rest of Reformed systematic theology, including man's depravity, the Creator-creature distinction, special knowledge of God and regeneration, universal knowledge of God as set forth in Romans 1, the fear of the Lord as the beginning (not the end result) of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7), all hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3), and other issues.

    And I am still an ardent presuppositionalist, and believe the Classical and Evidential approaches as a whole as employed by men like Aquinas and Lee Strobel are unbiblical. But what do other presuppositionalists - who are committed to standing against neutrality, and not standing on the foolishness of unbelief on the so-called "neutral" level of the unbeliever - think of the possibility of legitimate use of certain Classical and Evidential arguments as particular parts to Proverbs 26:5, answering a fool according to his folly, by taking his perspective for the sake of argument?

    In other words, after making our ultimate commitment to Christ as the beginning and source of all true knowledge, and stating that we will not surrender that in our apologetical discussion with the unbeliever, and presenting the Christian worldview and how it explains life around and within us, once we also begin to answer a fool according to his folly, could we not in that part say something to the effect of, "OK, and for the sake of argument, taking your assumptions that reason and science can be neutral or objective with regard to the question of the Christian worldview, here's how even that perspective of yours (employing "neutral" philosophy in the Classical arguments, and "neutral" science in the Evidential arguments) only points toward the reasonableness of Christianity, rather than the doubtfulness."

    Of course we also still have to answer the fool according to his folly by showing him that his view logically leads to utter absurdity and chaos in all spheres of reason, experience and life (e.g. showing the impossibility of laws of logic and uniformity of nature without the Christian worldview), but could not these arguments also serve as additional points in the "reason" and "experience" categories in that regard? Some presuppositionalists may say that doing so would render the most basic demonstrations of Christianity's necessity as "insufficient," but that is hardly the case any more than the fact that we use arguments about logic and science being impossible with autonomy, for as Dr. Bahnsen well noted in his "Challenge to Unbelief" lectures, we are in effect done once we have shown even one of those as being impossible - yet showing several of them as such on many levels is part of answering a fool according to his folly, as he always raises many objections of many types.
  2. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

    Frame talks about the legitimate uses in "Apologetics To The GLory Of God".

    What a pity if philosophers, who are expected to be the chief seekers and lovers of the truth and to see as much of it as can be seen by man, should decide after all that truth cannot be discovered. How they should then grieve that their studies have been all in vain.

    -St. Thomas Aquinas
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I have my thoughts, but I am about to go to class.

    I will use evidence, provided the following conditions are agreed on by both sides:

    1) I get to determine what counts as valid evidence.
    2) My worldview, not yours, determines what counts as valid standards for evaluating evidence.
  4. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

    Is not presuppositionalism really a christian response to Kant ?
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Only to the degree when it reflects upon Kant's claims. We abhor the autonomy which Kant claimed, but find his transcendental method to be very useful.
  6. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate


    I hope that I am not overstepping my bounds in this thread, being that I am more Clarkian than VanTillian. But that being said, i agree with VanTil on many things, and it is ever interesting to me how the reasoning between the two is the same...to a point.

    I cannot pretend to tell you what VT would say on the subject, but what I can tell you is what I believe (although I am interested to hear more presupps on this thread).

    To answer a fool according to his folly does not mean that we can give positive proof for the existence of God. When you ask the question if we can use evidential arguments to "point to the reasonableness of Christianity rather than doubtfulness" frankly, I think that this is precisely what VT/GHC are trying to prevent. Even if one tries to approach this tactic from a Christian worldview, in essence, they have to deny God in order to use it. To try to prove the existence of God, is to deny him first.

    Secondly, even ignoring the fact that all "proofs" are fallacious, one could theoretically only "point to the reasonableness of Christianity" by probablity, not absolutely (inductive vs. deductive reasoning). Remember, we are not trying to reason people's way into the kingdom, but we are "casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

    It is also interesting to note that the examples of apologetic encounters are ones that either argue to absurdity, or ones that use scripture. If one can find an example cases other than these, I would be interested to know them.

    Lastly, it is also interesting to note that the only offensive weapon given us by God is the most important, the Word of God. If we believe that everything necessary for faith and life (including apologetics) is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from it, then it only makes sense that God would give us everything necessary to combat antichristian worldviews.

    Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
    Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
    Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
    Eph 6:14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
    Eph 6:15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
    Eph 6:16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
    Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

    My long :2cents:
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Evenutally I will want to spar with you on giving a positive "proof" for God, but this was a good summary on the insufficiency of evidentiary approaches. To borrow a phrase from Bahnsen, we can't just say we will use "evidence" (whatever that is) for or against the faith, we must ask what *kinds* of evidence are to be allowed.

    Also, the nature of proof itself is problematic. If there is "some" evidence for God's existence, then there must be "some" evidence *against* God's existence.
  8. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior


    What evidence against God's existence would there be ?

    The minute you offer anything seemingly rationally viable, you admit to being a fool.

    Psa 14:1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
  9. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

    Rom 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
    Rom 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
    Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

    [Edited on 1-17-2006 by Saiph]
  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's only a problem if one engages in inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning can only render probable conclusions. Thus, if it renders some evidence for God, to be logically consistent, one must admit that given the standards of reasoning employed, there must be some, albeit small, evidence against God's existence.

    Of course, I repudiate any such reasoning in apologetics. Rather, I would assume a transcendental approach and render inescapable evidence for God's existence.
  11. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

  12. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Sounds like a famaliar struggle I have been having.

    Paul, Chris, and Jacob did help me out significantly.

    They don't deny evidence but put it in it's place.

    Why not Both?

    [Edited on 1-17-2006 by puritancovenanter]
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Right. I will try to kill two birds with one stone. There is no such thing as an "uninterpreted fact." Everything has a context (I can go deeper later). This means we must engage in "worldview" thinking.

    Why is it that almost all evangelicals get excited about the arguments for the resurrection right at first? They sound pretty good. According to us, what's not to deny? The problem is they work because they are already true. We have the proper worldview in which they make sense. We already have the proper context.

    Secondly, a corpse resuccitating doesn't prove Christianity. An atheist can accept the fact that Christ rose from the dead and not be a Christian. In a chance universe, strange things happen. The Christian must challenge not only his *facts* but his *philosophy* of facts.
  14. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    An empiricist would never find presuppositionalism to be worth a hill of beans, just as they would not find the Ontological arguments of Anselm to be "arguments" per se. However, a rationalist would be forced to concede many points of presuppositionalism (just as they would with Anselm) if the argument was logically sound.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    empiricism is a naive philosophy. JW Montgomery has long tried to silence presupps. Still forthcoming...
  16. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    Not only that (which I agree with your line of reasoning here), but the arguments themselves are fallacious. Just because one agrees (and wants to defend) the conclusion of an argument, doesn´t mean he should accept the method of argumentation.

    This is true. In fact, the resurrection doesn´t *prove* anything. There were many people resurrected in the gospel accounts, not to mention we ALL will eventually be resurrected on that great day.

    C.H. Spurgeon
  17. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Unless you can convince the empiricist that he is a presuppositionalist in a sense - that is, he can not prove his empiricism presupposition - that knowledge comes from sensation.
  18. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

    Classical arguments are fine for most people not sufficiently educated in philosophy. No one is converted by any apologetic other than the Spirit and the word.

    So, What is evidence according to the Bible ? Is the TA evidence ?
    Must a rational person have evidence or reasons for all his beliefs ? Or does their worldview rather need to provide a foundation for their beliefs being viable ? Is a person justified in believing a proposition only if it can be inferred inductively or deductively from the assumed incorrigible sensory data ? And what about propositions considered to be common sense and accepted by everyone.

    I believe Jacob owns at least one firearm. Other people on this discussion board do as well. Because we have seen pictures of him holding one. Do we need to prove that by visiting his house and seeing the said weapon and resgistration form in his name ? Maybe he did not register it, and paid cash for it. Is his word enough ? These are difficult epistemological dilemmas. However, scripture is clear, that all men know God. So if classical arguments work on those who supress that knowledge to point out how inconsistently they are living as atheists, then use them. If they do not, bring out the TA.
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I don't have to answer these do I? I plead the fifth.
  20. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

    That answers it for us Jacob. :bigsmile:

    Evidence that will not hold up in court however.
  21. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Is the TA a valid proof?
  22. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior


    So is their own conscience condemning them.
  23. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    If TA is a valid proof, then wouldn't we have the power to believe the Gospel by our own reason?
  24. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    And speaking of court, this sure explains a lot for me.
  25. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

    Proof of His existence and attributes, not His plan for salvation. The faith that leads to repentance is a gift.
  26. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Could you point me to a good article that presents and defends TA? I've heard it presented before, but I've always found it to be circular. Not only did it fail to prove the God of Scripture, but it did not prove any kind of supreme being. But maybe it was poorly given.
  27. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

    Well Kant came up with it. And Jacob may know a good Bahnsen or Van Til link.

    Here is a site with Frame's articles: http://www.frame-poythress.org/

    [Edited on 1-17-2006 by Saiph]
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    hmmmm...Here are some old Paul Manata quotes on it.

    The finest summary of the transcendental argument is by Michael Bultler in The Standard Bearer: A Festrchrift to Greg Bahnsen. Here is the summary of it


    here are some old email correspondences I've done on it;

    By definition, and ULTIMATE authority is just that, ultimate. If you ahve two transcendentals then you have an irresolvable dualism, and no unity/coherence in your worldview. There can only be one unifying transcendental.


    this is what manata wrote a long time ago

  29. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Greg Bahnsen wrote,

    Bahnsen, Cornelius Van Til: Readings and Analysis, 101.
  30. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    This is Modus Ponens:
    • X -> Y
    • X
    • :. Y

    But unless "X -> Y" is an immediate inference such as A(xy) -> I(xy), then it needs to be proven. And if it is asserted, the argument begs the question.

    I have not seen the argument that can prove that only Christianity provides the preconditions for rationality: first, what are the preconditions of rationality?; second, even a hypothetical worldview that can provide the "preconditions of rationality" would invalidate "X -> Y". For if a hypothetical worldview works, then to assert X -> (Y and ~Z ) is really the fallacy of asserting the consequence.

    Rationality (X) implies Christianity (Y) {"because Y is a precondition for X"}, but then it is also true that X -> ( Y or Z). Rationality implies that either Christianity is true, or some other worldview is true.

    X -> ( Y or Z)
    (X -> Y) or (X -> Z) this statement is true if either part is true.

    so to assert

    (X -> Y) and ~(X->Z) without making it explicate that both implications are necessary is begging the question.

    For B to be a precondition of A, B must be logically prior to A. Now what are the preconditions of "intelligibility"? What is logically prior to reason? The question is hard to contemplate because the answer must be reasonable before we can be reasonable.

    I found this article by Frame: Transcendental Arguments. It appears the question begging began with Kant:
    and then Van Til:
    and includes also:
    This is nothing more than Intelligent Design. It may be persuasive, but it does not prove God exists or that he created the universe. The only proof we have that God created the universe is that He revealed this in his Word, and only if we assume that truth of Scripture axiomatically.

    All through the transcendental argument in this article, assumptions are made that are nothing less than the conclusion that it is attempting to prove. It assumes "knowledge" and "order" exists then that only if some sort of supreme being caused it, and no other possible answer accounts for it. While a supreme being is one possible answer to the order of the universe we "observe", this answer is inductive - it does not follow necessarily and can only be assumed or opined true. It assumes both the necessity of the supreme being, and that our observation of order is infallible correct. It also assumes that there is such a thing as the "preconditions of reason".

    And Van Til's TAG argument was supposed to show more than a supreme being exists, but that only the supreme being of the Bible exists. And nothing in this argument makes that connection. In fact, it resorts to the traditional arguments that Van Til found invalid.

    then second:
    The traditional arguments are based on rationalism and/or empiricism. These were rejected by Van Til as false. He developed TAG, and then found he needed to include the things he said were false, which things prompted him to develop TAG, which can not be "completed"without them, but they are false, and ... so the circle remains.

    It looks like Frame has made the same error here:
    This implies that when God created the universe, he created "meaning, order, and intelligibility". Which means that before creation, there was no knowledge. Without meaning, order, and intelligibility, there can be no knowledge. I do not think Frame meant to make this implication - but there it is. Or it means that God is the source of reason and order, but that would not implied that God is the precondition of reason and order. In fact, I think our observation of meaning, order, and intelligibility in the universe are evidence that, if God exists, then these are characteristics of God.

    The TAG is not a valid proof of God. It may be a strong argument for a supreme being, but it is not proof that one necessarily exists. It begs the question by assuming the unity and existence of "transcendentals" which in effect are the God it attempts to prove. And the TAG in itself does not support the God of the Bible, but it does evidence the God that even demons believe exists, and tremble.

    The best evidence for the God of the Bible is God's revelation. Again, it is not a proof - but a strong argument. We should admit that we can not prove God or Christianity - but we can give a solid defense. In the end, only God makes one believe the Gospel.
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