TAG questions

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Neopatriarch, Jul 7, 2008.

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  1. Neopatriarch

    Neopatriarch Puritan Board Freshman

    There are some things I don't understand about the transcendental argument for God's existence. Basically, the logical form is:

    [1] q
    [2] Necessarily, if not p, then not q.
    [3] Therefore, p.

    And it tries to show that God's existence is the precondition for the intelligibility of experience. (Is it belief in God that is the precondition for the intelligibility of experience or is the argument claiming that God is the ontological ground for the intelligibility of experience or both?)

    [1], as I understand it, can be any fact, and the premise is granted. But [2] says that you can't make sense out of [1] without God. How far can we go with this? Greg Bahnsen argues that we should let our presupposition be the whole Christian worldview and establish it with the transcendental argument. The trouble is that nonbelievers are going to question the soundness of [2]. Could someone prove that experience is unintelligible whenever Christian theism is not presupposed? That is, show that no form of nonChristian belief can give us the preconditions for the intelligibility of experience.

  2. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I'll defer to others with more understanding of the nuances, but I think the basic answer to your first question is that acknowledged belief in God is not a precondition for intelligibility of existence, but rather, that God is the ground for intelligibility. Once that is established, than belief in God is a logical necessity.

    As for the second question, it brings up the great issue of whether you are trying to prove a negative. Inductively, of course, that is impossible. So what really is happening is burden shifting: the unbeliever is asked to question his assumptions and to demonstrate that, whatever these assumptions are, they rest on something that does not require the existence of God. After all, it is their assertion that there is no God. They should be able to come up with a way to account for existence without having to insert "a miracle occurs here" somewhere in their framework.
  3. etexas

    etexas Puritan Board Doctor

    :lol::lol::lol: Sorry, I popped in because I collect wristwatches! I thought your question was in regard to that watch brand! DOH! Back to the program folks!:):):):)
  4. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"


    I wrote a paper critiquing TAG around the issue you raised. You can find it here if interested: TAG Critique.

    Absolutely. This is where the rubber meets the road - so to speak. Bahnsen presents the following two-step process for the justification of [2]: (1) Show how the Christian worldview can account for some particular pre-condition for knowledge, and (2) point out, demonstrate, illustrate, etc..., that the unbelieving worldview cannot do so.

    Here are a couple of observations regarding this: (1) The apologist never shows that the Christian worldview can account for every precondition for knowledge. No such list exists apart from in the mind of God. (2) Most unbelieving worldviews can account for particular preconditions, and as such the apologist picks and chooses particular preconditions depending upon the worldview he is confronting. (3) This process does not establish [2] in any absolute sense, and as such TAG is not a deductively certain proof for the existence of God as many Van Tillians claim. However, what the apologist does is compelling and provides a rational basis for one to accept the Christian Worldview.


  5. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I'm foundationalist rather than transcendentalist, but they are similar. The issue boils down to this: (1.) Can the theist account for the conditions necessary for knowledge? (2.) Can the non-theist account for them?

    The answer should be obvious -- knowledge requires a knower, and all knowledge requires an all-knowing One.

    The quality of "truth" changes according to the system making the truth claim. If there is no such thing as an infinite, eternal and unchangeable Mind, there can be no such thing as infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Truth. What, then, does the non-theist claim for the statements he makes concerning the existence of God? If he claims God does not exist, is that a reality which exists in all places, at all times, and under all conditions? If so, then he has just asserted the existence of a Mind which can verify the reality which He rejects. If not, then it is not a genuine truth claim which is being made.
  6. J. David Kear

    J. David Kear Puritan Board Freshman

    How can this be if the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge?
  7. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    The unbeliever must concede that the world is the way God made it to be, if he is going to make sense out of any of it. So when the unbeliver uses logic, sense experience, or morality to make correct observations and arguments, abilities God created in man as His image, then he is living in such a way that contradicts his own professed unbelieving worldview. He is conceding (some of) the truth of Christianity without willingly admitting it. When the unbeliever sees patterns in creation and calls them "laws," he is making correct observations about consistent phenomina in creation and can even use those observations for further knowledge, but he fails to fully understand that it is God's providence which he is observing, not some fatalistic world machine.

    (Perhaps a poor analogy but...) It's kind of like a wood furniture builder who lives in a log cabin but says he doesn't believe in trees. He may know alot about wood, but doesn't understand everything he could. He knows how to fashion wood, what woods work best for particular purposes, and what woods to avoid. But he can't explain how the wood got there or why the properties of wood never spontaneously change right in his shop, or even how he has the ability work with wood in the first place. But what he does know, he knows only because trees do in fact exist.
  8. Neopatriarch

    Neopatriarch Puritan Board Freshman

    Personally, I believe that Bahnsen is right when he says there are only two alternatives: autonomy and theonomy. You are either a covenant keeper or a covenant breaker. Also, Christian theism is the only worldview that can provide the preconditions for the intelligibility of experience. It's just that proving these things to a nonbeliever with TAG (even though it may be a sound and valid argument) is only possible for someone who knows all of the alternatives and can refute all of them.

    Perhaps a more modest form of TAG will be enough to get started though. You might not have to proof Christian theism to start, just prove that a transcendent God exists. I mean, you might not be able to answer every nonChristian worldview in a debate, but if you start with, say, atheism, you can show that atheism fails to provide the preconditions for the intelligibility of experience and go from there.

    Van Til had many subarguments that, when considered together with TAG, make his overall apologetic for Christianity stronger. A cumulative case style of argument may go well with with Van Til's approach.

    Just thinking.
  9. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello Everyone,

    Two things: (1) I am not sure what you understand this verse to convey. There are multitudes who have some type of real knowledge yet do not fear God. Romans 1 seems to teach this. It is why the wrath of God has been revealed. These men know something of God (real knowledge), but fail to honor Him as God (at the very least they lack proper fear). As such, I doubt that the above quote means that before you can have any knowledge whatsoever you must fear God. (2) My statement was made within the context of Bahnsen’s two-step approach, and should be evaluated within that context. I particularly enjoy using the argument from induction (the future being like the past) when confronted with the atheist worldview. The atheist does not have the ontological foundation to account for induction. Yet, the Islamic worldview does. As such, I would use a different approach with an Islamist.

    I tend to stay away from such broad assertions. It is a different thing to defend this claim in a dynamic encounter with one who is committed not to make such a concession.

    I think you would be hard pressed to demonstrate in some objective manner that the Islamic worldview is a worldview based in human autonomy. Of course, one might define ‘autonomy’ in some limited, tautological manner – such as, "all non-Christian worldviews". Then it would amount to nothing more than an application of the law of non-contradiction: There are only two alternatives: Christianity (A) and non-Christianity (non-A). Another possibility would be to claim that Islam is simply a Christian heresy. Of course, this smacks of special pleading even though in some sense this is probably true.

    My approach in any apologetic encounter is to try and be gracious, humble and present a well thought out argument. I no longer make wide, sweeping generalizations, nor attempt to persuade via sharp rhetoric. I try to acknowledge good points when they are made, and I try to admit when I do not have an answer. I try to genuinely care for the other individual. I pray that God would give me a heart of compassion for them, and that God would open the eyes of their understanding. I pray that God would use me as a means of grace torwards the individual for His glory. The assumption being made is that no matter how well thoughtout an argument is, if God in His sovereignty does not move on their heart, then they will not be converted. Also, I always try to share how beautiful Christ is to me - and what a wonderful salvation He offers to all who believe. In fact, presenting a passionate, vibrant picture of Jesus Christ as painted in the Scriptures and how He has graciously delt with me often has more of an impact than my most eloquent argument. (The main means of conversion is the preached Word.) These are things I have learned after years of engaging in apologetics of one sort or another. I love talking about and debating method, but the longer I practice apologetics, the less important method seems to be.

  10. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I am by no means finished with my investigation into philosophy but, in my studies, I have always found it fascinating that the discipline of philosophy can, at best, come to no conclusions about Truth from either an Idealist or Ermpirical standpoint - hence the constant move toward skepticism on the part of man.

    I also struggle with the idea that we're supposed to fit our Christian Truth claims into a philosophical framework. Yes, I know, every man does philosophy and it's a matter of whether we're doing good or bad philosophy. Yet, the Scriptures seem to have no patience for man's wisdom and his foundations. Paul declares the Truth simply: men know who God is and they suppress that Truth in unrighteousness. Do we need any other foundation more explicit than Romans 1 with which to deal with the world?

    I'm not arguing that we remain ignorant of other's approaches and trying to understand their metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological approach but, in the end, must our task be about trying to shoehorn Christian truth into what the world considers an appropriate philsophical system.

    I don't quite know how to put this but it always seems like the analytical philosophers turned theologians or theologians turned analytic philosophers tend to try to push a Christian doctrine in certain directions more because it fits with a coherent philosophical framework than with a Scriptural framework.

    Now the philosophers will immediately jump on me and say that the two are not necessarily at odds and, trust me, I understand that our theology must cohere but there seems to be a coherence that certain schools of philosophy demand that the Scriptures themselves do not. So you have classical apologists who are devoted to some Thomistic ideas or Clarkians devoted to some idealist idea or shades of Van Til from Bahnsen or Frame committed to different streams of a Van Tillian scheme (while Van Til never really seemed to write in a way that would be easy to pin down like his disciples have).

    I'm not saying I despise all the insights that some of these men or schools of thought have but I do often think that the notion that, until we come up with a firm philosophical framework that fits within the history of man's attempt to construct a comprehensive epistemology, metaphysic, and ethic that we haven't understood theology or can't give an adequate apologetic is just too much for me. Frame has now completed his attempt in his three volumes in the Lordship series. Has man come to cognitve rest on this and can now proceed to give an apologetic?

    I remember listening to Bahnsen's history of philosophy and he was extremely dismissive of Scottish common sense realism. In the end, it was just so much immature philosophy for him. But this, in a nutshell, was what undergirded men like Hodge and Dabney and Warfield and held the line on orthodoxy for over a hundred years. Are we worrried that a foundationalist or realist philosophy won't give us the respect we need academically in the world to simply proclaim the Truth about what Paul says about the world in Romans 1 adn what is repeated throughout the Scriptures? I say understand others' folly in how they try to suppress such truth but I don't think we need to imitate them in constructing systems that look like theirs only to lose the basic confidence that we have that God Himself is foundational to all Truth.
  11. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Was it Scottish common sense realism that helped some fathers in the faith to defend orthodoxy or was it common sense realism that eventually turned old Princeton into new Princeton?

    I really recommend this book on the history of Reformed Apologetics, from Warfield to Plantinga. Amazon.com: Reason and Worldviews: Warfield, Kuyper, Van Til and Plantinga on the Clarity of General Revelation and Function of Apologetics: Owen Anderson: Books

  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Thanks Hermonta. I'm just expressing some thoughts aloud. I don't want to come to any firm conclusions. I'm not arguing in favor of the school of thought per se but we've also seen a great decay in recent years away from Reformed orthodoxy in recent years as well.

    My observation is simply that whenever we're critiquing a philosophy or worldview for its adequacy in philosophical terms that even Christian philosophers are utilizing the rules from human philosophy. Now one might argue that these are really "God's rules" from the light of reason but I also wonder if some of the rules are necessarily suitable. If human philosophy cannot construct a completely coherent philosophy then why are we certain we have the tools with which to say a philosophy such as foundationalism is out of bounds? I don't know if that makes any sense.
  13. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    In reading about TAG, I have found a helpful distinction between "the contrary" and "the contradictory."

    contradictory vs. contrary

    Applying that to TAG: TAG proves the absurdity of the contrary, not the contradictory. In order to prove the Christian worldview is true, it would need to prove the absurdity of the contradictory, which would necessitate the truth of Christianity as a result.

    Don't know if that helps entirely with the original question or not.
  14. davidsuggs

    davidsuggs Puritan Board Freshman

    I think the debater must be willing to spend a lot of time beforehand in preparation. He must be able to demonstrate cogently that no other believe system that currently exists can provide the groundwork for intelligibility. In other words, the advocate for the TAG must attempt to see the logical outworkings of other religions and worldviews if they were placed in the position of being a precondition for intelligible experience. One would be ill advised to go into a debate otherwise because he would be unable to support his claims within the argument.

    He must be able to show why it is exclusively [p] that provides the proper epistemological basis for a rational worldview [q]. Interestingly, the argument itself would almost become Clarkian in nature, due to the fact that all the alternative systems must be tested against the Christian worldview, though not in as much detail as Clarke's axioms.
  15. davidsuggs

    davidsuggs Puritan Board Freshman

    By the way, have you by any chance been reading Norman Geisler's Reasons for Faith lately?
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