Plantinga's modal logic version of the ontological argument

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Whitefield, Jun 8, 2009.

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  1. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Rev. Marshall,

    Did you see my reply to you above? I for one thought it was rather important, as I have seen a lack of clarification in presuppositionalists regarding when we are justified in holding beliefs. in my opinion this has arisen because Bahnsen wrongly said that atheists have to "account for" things rather than absolve contradictions within their worldview. As I said, it is not the case that people walking around have to account for their belief in laws of logic; they are already rationally justified in believing in laws of logic and need nothing more. But yet the apologist can point out a contradiction, namely that their belief in laws of logic contradicts some other part of their worldview.

    Now, I don't know if declaring the importance of my statements makes me narcissistic or not, but irrespective of that I would appreciate your understanding my point.
  2. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior


    I think the "accounting for" has to do with justifying a starting point, and the basic argument for the existence of God. The "pointing out of contradictions" is much more practical and results in clearer results.

    If one starts from point A and travels 3 miles at 60 degrees they will arrive at point C. If one starts from point B (which is not A, nor on the line from A to C) and travels at 60 degrees they will not arrive at point C. in my opinion the "accounting for" is a discussion of the difference between points A and B.

    If one starts from point A and travels 3 miles at 60 degrees they will arrive at point C. If one starts from point A and travels at 75 degrees they will not arrive at point C. The "pointing out contradictions" is a discussion as to why the second person did not arrive at point C.

    This is a rough analogy, it is late, but in my thinking, the effects of sin on the human mind has them start at the wrong point and head in the wrong direction (i.e., one is starting at point B and heading off at 75 degrees).

    Autonomous man is sinful man, autonomous thinking by man is sinful thinking, without metanoia man does not know where point A is, and his direction of travel will always be towards himself.

    I don't know if this answers your question, but I think the atheist has to both give an account for the tools he uses, and resolve contradictions in the use of those tools.
  3. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    1. As for justifying a starting point, there's not much to say. Unbelievers think it self-evident that man has the prerogative to interpret reality; Christians think it self-evident that God has the prerogative, that the Bible is His Word and His authoritative revelation-interpretation. (Keep in mind that a proposition is "self-evident" to a person iff that person comes to believe it solely by understanding it.) Rationally speaking (not morally), there's nothing wrong with an unbeliever choosing autonomy as his presupposition -- that is, until he recognizes its implications, its contradictions.

    2. Regarding your analogy, I think you're evidencing that we are on the same page. According to the part of your analogy involved with "accounting" (the difference between points A and B when leaving at the same angle) would in fact be showing the atheist his contradiction. If you show him the logical implications of his worldview, you would show him how they lead somewhere other than C. Then, given that he is at C, it would follow that his worldview is false, since his worldview starts at B.

    As a result, I would honestly say that pointing out contradictions is not merely a more "practical" method (as if it's a form of evidentialism that works despite its inconsistency), but the presuppositional defense of the faith, TAG. When one is pointing out such a contradiction, he is taking whatever fact of reality he wants, showing how the unbeliever's worldview leads to a separate "endpoint" and how the Christian's worldview leads to that endpoint.

    In other words, the contradictions I'm trying to point out are not ad hominem inconsistencies that can be resolved while the unbeliever maintains his presuppositions (therefore I think your second analogy is mistaken); they are irreconcilable contradictions that the unbeliever can fix only by abandoning his worldview.

    3. Otherwise, I'll stand by my argument that the unbeliever does not have to give an account for anything -- if a seven-year-old is justified in believing in the laws of logic, then he is justified whether or not he can explain how. However, if someone tells an unbeliever that his presupposition (that man has the prerogative to interpret reality) results in a contradiction (e.g. that he would have believe in the absence of laws of logic), then he'd be in a quagmire.

    You'll notice too that when you tell unbelievers to account for various things (e.g. logic, uniformity) without positing a contradiction in their worldview, they'll often respond, "Fine, I presuppose logic/uniformity." That is unanswerable unless you show a contradiction in their worldview.

    -----Added 6/14/2009 at 01:04:34 EST-----

    And I just now noticed that I hijacked this thread. :oops:
  4. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    You're assuming here that he's asking the questions.

    Or what if God has given man the tools necessary to interpret reality and man has consistently misused those tools?

    I've never seen it work. I have an agnostic friend who I have been debating with for a couple months now. I have honestly tried pinning him down and working out contradictions, but his views are so general and vague (and changeable) that one cannot find a place to find contradictions. One is forced, with this fellow, to use an external reality that is acknowledged by both parties.
  5. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    I agree with you on this, and I think this is the only effective apologetic approach in the post-modern world.
  6. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior


    1. I'm not assuming he's asking questions; I'm assuming that the unregenerate will not immediately submit to the fallaciously jumpy reasoning of natural theology. There are tons of gaps in natural theology and he will not traverse them.

    2. God has not given man the prerogative to interpret reality at all; that's why the Bible exists in the first place. In fact, statements like these imply that the Bible is supplementary rather than foundational and can be found in such anti-Scriptural frameworks as the Wesleyan quadrilateral and the Catholic pretense that Tradition and Scripture are "equal."

    3. No offense, but your mistakes in pointing out others' contradictions do not entail the validity of natural theology.

    -----Added 6/14/2009 at 01:56:51 EST-----

    Cool. From what I have seen, it comes down to a minor mistake in carrying out the apologetic. Rather than telling the atheist to account for things, we should point out how that thing objectively makes no sense on his presupposition, thereby positing a contradiction which he must correct rather than something which he must justify; for if you ask him to justify something, then he'll just say, "I presuppose it." More likely, he'll be confused, because he already thought that he was justified in holding such beliefs (and he correctly thought that, too).
  7. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not arguing against what you are saying. It's just sometimes I like to look into the atheist's eyes and ask, "where are you getting this garbage from?"
  8. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

  9. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    If they won't listen to common sense, what makes you think they'll submit to what they know is an attempt on your part to unravel their interpretation of reality? You have no dialogue without something to grab hold of.

    Of course God gives us a prerogative. It's built into us physically. Our eyes are sets of lenses that give us a generally accurate picture of the world.

    Calvin compared the Biblical worldview to a set of glasses. When you put on a pair of glasses (assuming you have the right prescription) you learn a) how wrong your visual perception was b) how right your visual perception was.

    No, it exists to tell us who God is. Natural theology exists to tell us what God is. The Bible never proves the existence of God because it assumes that you already know and believe that fact.

    I would argue that objectivity is a myth. We all see the world through a set of lenses.

    Any more than pointing out my flaws in natural theology entails the validity of presuppositionalism. No offense taken, BTW.

    Question: was Elijah presuppositional when he called the bluff of the prophets of Baal?
  10. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Eyes give us nothing if they are not connected to a brain. And if that brain has been impacted by the noetic effects of sin, then the "accurate picture of the world" is radically askew.
  11. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    When Romans 1, says that the unbeliever is without excuse, what does that mean? From what you seem to be saying, he can say, "My brain works a certain way, and therefore I do not believe"

  12. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    It seems the Synod of Dort wrestled with this question and responded with this:

    Third and Fourth Heads, Article 4:

  13. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Do you think the quote from Dordt is equal to what you wrote earlier because I certainly do not.

  14. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    1. Eyes connected to a brain affected by sin results in a skewed vision.

    2. "in various ways he completely distorts this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in unrighteousness."

    Those look pretty similar to me.
  15. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    I see

    1)As akin to blaming a color blind person for not seeing certain colors


    2)As a person who can see colors putting on tinted shades and then saying that he cannot see certain colors.

  16. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior


    1. I didn't say the unbeliever wouldn't listen to common sense. I said he would not grant all the presupposed Christian assumptions of the natural theologian in order to cross the gaps that he is not rationally obliged to cross. Theistic proofs, even when combined with supposed historical evidences, cannot prove Biblical authority. It's not even possible.

    2. I'm not saying we don't interpret reality in any sense; I'm saying that we don't have the prerogative to lay down all the basic parts of a worldview from our perspective (that is why I differentiated between secular philosophies as autonomous and God's Word, a prefabricated philosophy by God Himself, as theonomous).

    3. There's no difference between who and what as far as God goes. Both those words describe the identity of a thing, with the former referring to a personality and the latter an impersonality.

    And you're missing my point. It makes no sense to say that we must accept what the Bible teaches on its own authority and that God gave man the prerogative to interpret reality. I'm not saying the entire purpose of the Bible is to lay down Christian philosophy, but that's certainly one of its purposes.

    4. Would you say "a dog is a non-dog" is objectively nonsense? I was simply referring to the fact that we can point out complete, irreconcilable contradictions; there's no need to bring up the red herring of objectivity and interpretations.

    5. I am not trying to prove the validity of presup by pointing out natural theology's flaws.

    6. Insofar as Elijah assumed God's authority on its own authority, he was being presuppositional.
  17. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    I gather, then, you have a disagreement with Dort.
  18. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Dordt is fine, it says that a person's problem is due to rebellion, not due having a brain malfunction.

  19. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Methinks you guys are talking past each other a bit. Lance was not explicitly clear in that the noetic effects of sin were due to moral rebellion (rather than innocent malfunction), but I'd say it's what he meant. I highly doubt Lance subscribes to the Plantingian notion that unregenerates simply have not had the right "belief-experience" to be Christians.
  20. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Malfunction, interesting term, and one you interject, not I. There is nothing organically wrong with their brain. The problem with their intellect is that is has been seriously injured by the effects of sin (sin being rebellion against God).
  21. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    But then the problem is not an organic or inorganic problem with the brain or intellect but how one wants to/does use it.

  22. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Too late ... the damage has been done by sin. It is not as though the atheist will wake up tomorrow morning and decide on his own that "today, I will begin to think in a radically new direction."
  23. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Hermonta is right that the problem is only how one uses it. Then, due to TD, we know that the atheist will never want to use it correctly except by regeneration.
  24. Beth Ellen Nagle

    Beth Ellen Nagle Puritan Board Senior

    Reason in itself is not fallen, one can use or not use reason to see what is clear about God.
  25. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Reason itself is not fallen, but the one using it is.
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