Presuppositions & Evidences...

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amishrockstar

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a question about presuppositions...

Do we pre-suppose (believe) something to be true apriori or are our presuppositions based on some sort of external evidence(s)?

In other words, do we believe in (presuppose) the existence of God based on evidence (His Word, or historical evidence, or natural revelation, or His Spirit drawing us to Himself) or do we believe in (presuppose) His existence as apriori -- apart from external evidences?

Note:
This question isn't necessarily limited to God's existence; we could ask similar questions about presupposing our own existence or the world's existence.

Thanks,
Matthew
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Do we pre-suppose (believe) something to be true apriori or are our presuppositions based on some sort of external evidence(s)?

It depends which version of presuppositionalism you are exploring. Certainly in traditional foundationalism presuppositions are a priori, but such as may be proved to be necessary, and without which there could be no rationality. According to this scheme external evidence is not brought in to prove but simply confirm presuppositions.

I will leave it to a Van Tillian to explain what they mean by transcendentals, as some of them have a place for evidences and some of them do not.
 

Calvinist Cowboy

Puritan Board Junior
I would say that, in the specific example you mention, we believe in the existence of God a priori because of Rom 1:18-21. Because we have been created in the image of God and, as Rom 2:15 states, we have the Law of God written on our hearts, everyone knows that there is a God but the natural man consciously rejects that knowledge.
 

Theogenes

Puritan Board Junior
Matt,
If your suppositions are based on evidence,etc. then they are POSTsuppositions NOT PREsuppositions. So, yes, presuppositions are a priori assumptions.
Jim
 

amishrockstar

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the responses.

Can we ever presuppose something about life, the world, or God based on external evidence? Or should that not be considered a "presupposition" once there are external "facts" involved?

Can I presuppose that there are no dinosaurs today --based on my personal empirical studies? Or is that not considered a "presupposition"?

Thanks,
Matthew
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Can we ever presuppose something about life, the world, or God based on external evidence? Or should that not be considered a "presupposition" once there are external "facts" involved?

External evidence might confirm or negate a belief, but it cannot prove or disprove it for the simple reason that we as humans do not contain a complete record of all evidence. At the same time, one's theoretical framework is not at liberty to discard certain data but is obliged to account for it in some way.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am doubtful that we presuppose the existence of God. It seems rather that we believe in God for some reasons, in which case it is not a presupposition.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I am doubtful that we presuppose the existence of God. It seems rather that we believe in God for some reasons, in which case it is not a presupposition.

What happens when an individual discovers his reasons were invalid?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Quote from Steve
I am doubtful that we presuppose the existence of God. It seems rather that we believe in God for some reasons, in which case it is not a presupposition.

Do you believe that our mind is a tabula rasa(blank slate) when we emerge from the womb, and that things such as knowledge of God evidenced by knowledge of logic, morality and aesthetics, is not innate in Man made in God's Image but learned?
 

Irish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
If a belief is based on empirical evidence then you can not presuppose it. However, you can presuppose there are no dinosaurs because you first presupposed what the so-called empirical evidence would give you.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Do you believe that our mind is a tabula rasa(blank slate) when we emerge from the womb, and that things such as knowledge of God evidenced by knowledge of logic, morality and aesthetics, is not innate in Man made in God's Image but learned?

(1) I am not convinced that things like the laws of logic, morality, and aesthetics necessarily prove or provide evidence for God's existence. It is possible but I wouldn't know for sure.

(2) I don't know if our mind is a tabula rasa. Probably it is something like a tabula rasa. Could be we have some innate ideas, but I don't have a developed opinion on the matter.

What does this have to do with my assertion that we probably do not presuppose the existence of God?

What happens when an individual discovers his reasons were invalid?

He might search for other reasons; he might continue in his belief; he might abandon his belief.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
What happens when an individual discovers his reasons were invalid?

He might search for other reasons; he might continue in his belief; he might abandon his belief.

If he may seek for other reasons for his belief then it is obvious that the belief itself is not dependent upon reasons. If it were dependent on reasons then it would not be faith which is the gift of God, but the reason which produces faith.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
If he may seek for other reasons for his belief then it is obvious that the belief itself is not dependent upon reasons. If it were dependent on reasons then it would not be faith which is the gift of God, but the reason which produces faith.

His belief can be dependent on reasons, and when those reasons go, because he still can't help but believe that his belief is true, he searches for other reasons.

Furthermore, you set up a false dichotomy by saying that either faith (which I take it you mean belief that God exists, for example) is a gift of God or dependent on reasons. It could be God produces belief in person S by way of reasons and his rational faculty.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
His belief can be dependent on reasons, and when those reasons go, because he still can't help but believe that his belief is true, he searches for other reasons.

At the point at which he can't "help but believe," and is seeking for reasons, he is believing without reasons. Hence you yourself maintain that the belief is a presuppositon which is not dependent on reasons.
 

Smith

Puritan Board Freshman
I would submit that a faith that "is not dependent on reasons", i.e., has no reason to support it, is not faith. It might be some sort of blind leap into the unknown, but it is an irrational act. Faith is not irrational. I am talking about a "faith" that is *completely devoid of any reasoned basis*, whether empirical, logical, formal, informal, intuitive, or other.

In regeneration, God imparts spiritual life, which enables a person to believe. Yet, it is only in conversion, the immediate reflex of regeneration, that a person actually exercises faith. And in conversion, means are used, such as at least some rational grounds for trusting his word.

Thus, we believe in God because (a) he has enabled us to believe, and (b) he has shown himself to be true.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I would submit that a faith that "is not dependent on reasons", i.e., has no reason to support it, is not faith.

If by "support" is meant that reasons can be brought to confirm faith, there is no problem, because faith seeks understanding. But if it means faith itself depends on reasons to prove that which is believed, then there is an insurmountable problem, because this makes faith to stand on the wisdom of men rather than the power of God.

He who can be argued into the Christian faith today can be argued out of the Christian faith tomorrow.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
I have a question about presuppositions...

Do we pre-suppose (believe) something to be true apriori or are our presuppositions based on some sort of external evidence(s)?

In other words, do we believe in (presuppose) the existence of God based on evidence (His Word, or historical evidence, or natural revelation, or His Spirit drawing us to Himself) or do we believe in (presuppose) His existence as apriori -- apart from external evidences?

God has implanted certain innate ideas in man which make him man. Any form of thought which denies or obscures this denies the basic fact of manhood, and leads (ultimately) to some form of skepticism. Empiricism, or the naive idea that man is not created by God in His image as man's constitution, provides no knowledge of anything. God defines His image as knowledge righteousness and holiness. Therefore, since this is what man is, even though these traits be fallen, this is yet what man is constitutionally. Neither knowledge, righteousness nor holiness can be conceived of as a blank slate waiting for impressions to be made.

In fact, properly defined, empiricism does not even pretend to produce any kind of categorical definitions at all. Thus, for an empiricist and an Augustinian, the debate is over before it begins. The Augustinian claims that God is the source of all truth, and is Truth itself. The Empiricist claims that man is created without the image of God, and that no categorical definitions exist by means of his approach to knowledge. In a battle over definitions or axioms, the Augustinian wins before the conflict begins.

You may find Gordon Clark's book A Philosophy of Science and Belief in God an interesting read in this regard. Although I can't vouch for everything Clark says, I think you may find his arguments against empiricism helpful.

Cheers,
 

Smith

Puritan Board Freshman
If by "support" is meant that reasons can be brought to confirm faith, there is no problem, because faith seeks understanding. But if it means faith itself depends on reasons to prove that which is believed, then there is an insurmountable problem, because this makes faith to stand on the wisdom of men rather than the power of God.

He who can be argued into the Christian faith today can be argued out of the Christian faith tomorrow.

Well, I understand the point of view you are expressing, but I have to differ. I would say "support" means support, basis, grounds. That is the sense in which I was speaking.

If reasons can serve only as mere "confirmation", in the sense you seem to be suggesting, then faith is just a blind trust in something that we do not and cannot regard as trustworthy. It is not trust to commit to something in this way when there is no reason held for viewing the thing as worthy of trust. It is a faith founded on nothing. I claim this is not faith.

And in that case, the "confirmation" is not really confirmation, because it is not verifying or corroborating anything, except a blind say-so. The "confirmation" is really the first time reasons are being considered.

God gives us good reasons to believe in him. He shows himself to be trustworthy. When we believe in him based on those reasons (which God has provided), it is not a faith standing on the wisdom of men, but a faith trusting on the grounds God has given.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
God gives us good reasons to believe in him. He shows himself to be trustworthy. When we believe in him based on those reasons (which God has provided), it is not a faith standing on the wisdom of men, but a faith trusting on the grounds God has given.

He certainly does give us good reasons to believe (trust) in Him. But for those reasons to be cogent we must believe both that He is and that He is a rewarder of seekers after Him. So once again we are thrown back on the presuppositional nature of faith.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Quote from Steven
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Tallach
Do you believe that our mind is a tabula rasa(blank slate) when we emerge from the womb, and that things such as knowledge of God evidenced by knowledge of logic, morality and aesthetics, is not innate in Man made in God's Image but learned?

(1) I am not convinced that things like the laws of logic, morality, and aesthetics necessarily prove or provide evidence for God's existence. It is possible but I wouldn't know for sure.

(2) I don't know if our mind is a tabula rasa. Probably it is something like a tabula rasa. Could be we have some innate ideas, but I don't have a developed opinion on the matter.

What does this have to do with my assertion that we probably do not presuppose the existence of God?

Well, if our minds are tabulae rasae and lacked an innate sense of e.g. logic, we would not have the tools to think and reason with. What foundation apart from the revelation of God to Man and in Man is there for Man's innate logical ability? On what foundation do you place logical and moral laws?

Remember, we are taught in the Bible that all men know God, as Judge if not Saviour.

E.g. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:19, ESV).

How can anything be known if we do not know God? We would have no ultimate and absolute reference point on which to hang/place our knowledge and thoughts?

Without the knowledge of God humans lack the basic software by which we can judge and assess what is logical, moral, aesthetic, and even the basic principles of science.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Well, if our minds are tabulae rasae and lacked an innate sense of e.g. logic, we would not have the tools to think and reason with. What foundation apart from the revelation of God to Man and in Man is there for Man's innate logical ability? On what foundation do you place logical and moral laws?

Remember, we are taught in the Bible that all men know God, as Judge if not Saviour.

E.g. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:19, ESV).

How can anything be known if we do not know God? We would have no ultimate and absolute reference point on which to hang/place our knowledge and thoughts?

Without the knowledge of God humans lack the basic software by which we can judge and assess what is logical, moral, aesthetic, and even the basic principles of science.

Yes, and I would add that rational thought is only possible because of God, and everything that opposes Him is irrational. Not only the framework of reason is created by Him, or possibly emanates from Him, but the design of human intelligence is created by Him and the way to articulate reason is created in us by Him. He is logically prior to all thought and reason.

Evidence, then, is not possible without God. So for evidence to have logical priority over the ability to reason for the existence of God, the whole thing would be stood on its head. God and the knowledge of Him must be innate and logically prior before any reason or evidence is possible.

In Christ,

KC
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
In order to believe, we must know, because knowledge precedes faith. Second, we must affirm that knowledge. Third, we must trust. That is the sum of what faith is.

The question of how we know that God is there is tricky. The presuppositionalist argues that we know from Scripture, yet Scripture rests on the supposition that God is there--circular logic (and yes, the presuppositionalist is up-front about this, calling it a "glorious circle"--doesn't make it any less fallacious). We cannot know that Scripture is the word of God unless we know that there is a God to give that word.

I would submit that general revelation gives us reason to believe that God is there. What general revelation cannot give us is knowledge of a) who this God is (as opposed to what) b) how to be saved from His wrath. If it were not so, then men would have an excuse for not believing--yet they are willfully ignorant because they do not want to know God.
 

caddy

Puritan Board Senior
What happens when an individual discovers his reasons were invalid?

He might search for other reasons; he might continue in his belief; he might abandon his belief.

If he may seek for other reasons for his belief then it is obvious that the belief itself is not dependent upon reasons. If it were dependent on reasons then it would not be faith which is the gift of God, but the reason which produces faith.

The heart has it reasons of which reason knows nothing...It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is why faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason." ~Pascal~


"Submission and the use of reason: that is what makes true Christianity." ~ Pascal~




If reason operated rightly, it would not deceive us with delusions about reason's greatness. Instead, it would remind us how little reason can discover: "Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond." ~Pascal~


Far better than relying solely on reason is to admit that "man's condition is dual." No one can function without the use of reason, but "without the aid of faith he would remain inconceivable to himself." And faith is as dependent on the operation of what Pascal called "the heart" as reason is upon the mind--the heart being a term he used that meant, not simply feelings or emotions, but intuition. All God given.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
caddy said:
The heart has it reasons of which reason knows nothing...It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is why faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason." ~Pascal~

And yet faith is always grounded in reason. I cannot know God personally unless I first know intellectually that there is a God to be known personally. Taking a blind Kierkegaardian leap is not faith--it's foolishness. I have to have some knowledge that there is a God to catch me before I take that leap.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Phillip,
The Reformed divines consistently maintained the difference between fides and scientia, as the latter had demonstration as its foundation, whereas the former rested solely upon the authority of the speaker. Our faith in God cannot (even in part) rest upon natural demonstration; but rather, even as babes which cannot be quieted by any other yet are soothed by the voice of their mother which they cannot help but recognize, so do God's children, our hearts being illuminated, hear the voice of the Holy Ghost speaking in scripture, and recognize the voice and authority of the one true God. This is certainly not a Kiergegaardian leap of faith, nor does natural demonstration play a role apart from a posteriori confirmation and assurance.
 
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Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
You've defined knowledge here so narrowly as to reduce it, literally, to "science". I can't demonstrate, for example, that George Washington led the Continental Army in the American War for Independence. Nonetheless, I can validly claim to know that he did. Schaeffer was right to point out the mistake of separating faith and reason.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Phillip, I believe there may be a small misunderstanding as to the traditional understanding, since we surely do not separate faith and reason; we do, however, remove natural reason from being foundational to faith. This is an important distinction. The role that we assign to the so-called "natural theology" is not that of a foundation to revealed theology. As Rev. Winzer has noted above, I can demonstrate not only the truth, but the necessity of such presuppositions, but my faith does not rest upon these demonstrations.

I will include the following passage from Turretin, which was written against the Popish concept of implicit faith:
The question is not whether faith is knowledge, which has evidence. For it is thus distinguished from knowledge, which has a certain and evident assent (which is founded upon clear and sure reason) and from opinion, which rests only upon probable reason. Faith denotes a sure assent indeed, but inevident; founded not upon reason, but upon the divine testimony.​
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Are we including general revelation as part of the divine testimony here? Again, how can we know that the testimony is God's unless we know there is a God?

The alternative allows for such statements as what Karl Barth said: "Belief cannot argue with unbelief--it can only preach to it."

or worse

"There is no God and Jesus Christ is His son."

Utter nonsense! Faith without grounding in reason is blind and leads, ultimately, to absurdity.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
I think an illustration might serve better than any argument on my part. I would ask you, when God had created Adam and came to him to command him not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, did Adam first have to ask God who/what/wherefore/etc He was before believing his testimony? Even so we, being regenerated by the Spirit of God, hearing that Word, require no prior demonstration that God is before we accept the testimony as His. His own Word or speaking is testimony enough (WCF 1:5), and concurs with the innate conception of God wherewith man is by nature endowed.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I think an illustration might serve better than any argument on my part. I would ask you, when God had created Adam and came to him to command him not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, did Adam first have to ask God who/what/wherefore/etc He was before believing his testimony? Even so we, being regenerated by the Spirit of God, hearing that Word, require no prior demonstration that God is before we accept the testimony as His. His own Word or speaking is testimony enough (WCF 1:5), and concurs with the innate conception of God wherewith man is by nature endowed.
Dear Paul,

I agree, of course, but couldn't help but be reminded of a number of ECFs who said the same thing.

BTW, I love that line from one of the old star trek movies by Leonard McCoy: "You don't ask God for His ID!"

DTK
 
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