presuppositional/ reformed epistemology

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by bigheavyq, Nov 7, 2007.

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  1. bigheavyq

    bigheavyq Puritan Board Freshman

    could someone please give me a good definition of the reformed epistemological argument? and how does it differ with the presuppositional method?


  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Kelly James Clark writes,

    A belief B has warrant for one if and only if B is produced by one's properly functioning cognitive faculties in circumstances to which those faculties are designed to apply; in addition those faculties must be designed for the purpose of producing true beliefs.

    According the theory of warrant developed above, a person has a warranted belief in God if her belief in God is produced by her properly functioning cognitive faculties in circumstances to which those faculties are designed to apply. I have mentioned above that it appears that we do have a faculty which produces belief in God in us in appropriate circumstances.
  3. bigheavyq

    bigheavyq Puritan Board Freshman

    i need a more simpler definition
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    When our rational faculties are working properly, we are warranted to believe in God. Our belief in God is properly basic.
  5. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello BigHeavyQ,

    I will try and make it more simple.

    Reformed Epistemology

    Reformed Epistemology seeks to justify someone's belief in God by arguing that such a belief is properly basic, and as such no other justification is needed because properly basic beliefs are so basic that they have the nature of being axiomatic (self-evident). Axioms are assumed rather than proved. For instance, the law of non-contradiction may be considered a properly basic belief. The law of non-contradiction is not proved (to prove it you must already be assuming it), but rather is assumed. Reformed Epistemology argues that belief in God is a properly basic belief like the law of non-contradiction and as such one does not need any other evidence to justify holding the belief. Someone once flippantly said that Reformed Epistemology seeks for reasons why it does not need reasons. :wink:


    The idea of presuppositional apologetics is to realize that we all have fundamental, core commitments that are not proved but rather assumed which allow us to answer questions about what is real, how we can know, and what is right and wrong. The presuppositionalist argues that unless one assumes the Christian God, then the foundation is not sufficient for there to be knowledge or anything. In other words, God is the ultimate axiom needed to make sense of the world. This is not what Reformed Epistemologists argue - although they would agree God is the necessary foundation. They only make the point that belief in God is justified because it is properly basic. The presuppositionalist argues in a much stronger manner. They argue that God is so properly basic that we are justified in believing in Him because apart from Him we cannot know anything or even predicate anything.

    I hope this helps a little.

  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    In addition to Mr Bosse's helpful explanation, presuppositions determine the way we view evidence, whereas properly basic beliefs do not.
  7. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    What would a discussion between a believer and an unbeliever look like if the believer were arguing based on Reformed Epistemology?
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This is what Paul Manata emailed to me on this subject (I might put it to dialogue later). It is responding to the objection as to why "belief in some other deity isn't warranted."

    (1) Well, for one, a more thorough and robust account of a warranted belief is one that is not subject to defeaters. So, I'd say that and adherent of ____(insert deity)_____ has undefeated defeaters (think Islam, for example).

    (2) Also, a belief could be warranted but not knowledge. So, the alethic condition must be met by ____(insert deity)____. Obviously we believe that _____(insert deity)____ doesn't exist, and so those people don't "know" that he does.

    (3) Also, if one inclides positive arguments (perhaps revamped natural theology ones), then we actually have reasons *for* our belief as well. Why should I believe in ____(insert deity)_____? I can tell others why they should believe in ____Jehovah____, can they do the same?

    (4) Also, many versions of beliefs in _____(insert deity)____ do not provide a basis for our belief in the reliability of our cognitive faculties, hence they'd have a defeater for all their beliefs, including belief in ____(insert deity)____. So, why should the believer in ___Shivah___ think his/her cognitive faculties are reliably aimed at truth? Does ___Shivah___ believe in those categories (i.e., true/false)? If not, would he design his "children" to have cognitive faculties with beliefs aimed at truth? And, if so, why believe this? Is it revealed in the Vedas? Where?

    (5) Why even think that belief in ____(insert deity)____ is warranted? What's the reasoning process that gets one to think that? This: Belief in Jehovah is properly basic and hence warranted, therefore belief in ____(insert deity)____ is properly basic and hence warranted? What justifies that?

    (6) One need not be a full-fledged RE guy. We should have learned not to be Van Tillian "yes men" and so we need to keep that in mind with RE. No one is perfect. Thus we should incorporate various aspects, trying to make the most biblical and rigerous system.
  9. BrianLanier

    BrianLanier Puritan Board Freshman

  10. Jim Johnston

    Jim Johnston Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think an RE guy would take issue with your use of 'justify.' Indeed, one of the main projects of RE has been to try to get away from the idea that beliefs must be "justified" in order to have positive epistemic status.

    I'd actually rephrase your claim to something like this:

    Reformed Epistemology seeks to [show that] someone's belief in God (BiG) [is not irrational, and that BiG has positive epistemic status even if BiG is not based on propositional evidence in favor of BiG]...

    Let me know what you think?
  11. Jim Johnston

    Jim Johnston Puritan Board Sophomore

    that was a blast from the past :)
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I hope you didn't mind me using it. I did give you props :handshake:
  13. Jim Johnston

    Jim Johnston Puritan Board Sophomore

    Not at all. I totally forgot I ever sent it to you. I wouldn't even care if you didn't "give me props," For what it's worth.
  14. bigheavyq

    bigheavyq Puritan Board Freshman

    so what is the difference between RE's basic belief and presupp's foundational belief in God.
  15. Sebastian Heck

    Sebastian Heck Puritan Board Freshman

    As I see it, there is a big difference between the two. As Luther might have said: they are of a different spirit...

    RE is subchristian (Van Til would say, antichristian) in the sense that it usually makes no distinction between the believer and the unbeliever in terms of their basic categories. E.g., they talk about "properly functioning" cognitive faculties, but regularly miss the fact that given the Fall, human cognitive faculties AS THEY ARE do not function properly as they ought. This is what Presuppositionalist apologetics (PA) calls the noetic effects of sin. RE proponents (such as Plantinga) love to talk about Calvin's "sensus divinitatis" (sense of deity), but miss the fact that Calvin uses the "sensus divinitatis" never to justify "properly functioning" faculties, but in order to explain why man is always inexcusable before the face of God.

    RE would argue that belief in God may be "properly basic", given man as he "naturally" is.
    PA says, belief in God is required (!), given man as he is "metaphysically": created in the image of God, full of revelation from within and without, always and everywhere accessible to God. Thus, in PA, God is not a man-made, rational axiom, but a fact of revelation. In RE, God is a belief one may have, is entitled to have, or may not have.
    Thus, only PA can apply something like an "existential pressure" upon the unbeliefer to repent and believe, RE cannot do this at all.

    "Properly basic belief" of RE is a question of "justification" - an epistemological category. Belief in God's existence (from the impossibility of the contrary) as in PA is not merely possible, but absolutely necessary - for everyone!
    At the end of the day, I believe RE is (epistemological) self-defense, while PA is offensive apologetics!
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