The end of classical apologetics?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by jwright82, Feb 26, 2012.

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  1. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    "World" here includes both time and space. This argument misunderstands the proposition.

    Not necessarily. Many people (Blaise Pascal) have done logical and philosophical proofs for personal edification.

    No, but he's questioning whether he needs to.

    Actually, no. Greatness is defined in terms of worship-worthiness and therefore the only worldview which this being could possibly be is the God of Scripture. Reasoning from creation to creator is what all theistic argumentation does---even a TA. Further, the OA is just a TA in reverse.

    Why? What compelling reason does he have?

    You misunderstood what I was saying with the "Gold in China" analogy. The form of the TA shifts the burden of proof onto you because it's a claim not simply that God exists, but that God is a necessary being. In order to demonstrate this, you either have to prove it directly (an ontological argument) or indirectly (transcendental). The indirect argument means that you must examine every single possible alternative system in order for it to be logically valid. "China" in this analogy would be "unbelief" and "gold" would be "grounding for phenomenon X."

    Eric, you missed my point. You claim that the argument proves that God is necessary---it doesn't, or rather it only does so in theory. Because you are finite, it cannot do so in practice.

    My objection to the transcendental argument is that it has no audience. Here is what I mean by this: in practice it boils down to a lot of bare assertions and unstated presuppositions without the logical force to back them up. In theory it is valid, but in practice it is not capable of validity given the finitude of the presenter. Further, the subtlety of the argument is lost on many. Thus, most will not understand it and rather than being enlightened will simply be confused by it. Those who actually understand it, on the other hand, will be able to see through the fact that you can't actually present a valid form of the argument given what this would involve.

    Further, if the argument is valid in theory (which I will grant that it is), then all of the classical arguments are, in fact, just transcendental arguments in reverse. Thus it would make much more sense to continue fine-tuning these arguments rather than attempting the Sysyphian task of actually trying to present a TA.

    If Christianity is the only possible way of accounting for reality, then a conclusive argument for Christianity would by default accomplish all that a TA attempts to accomplish. A transcendental view of Christianity entails that a transcendental argument is itself the most cumbersome and least efficient possible way of presenting the Gospel.
  2. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    And he is a person, right? So he is demonstrating things to a person, not just 'in general'.

    Obviously he doesn't think he needs to, but he would still be wrong. Again, the alcoholic doesn't think he needs help, but he still does.

    Who defined 'greatness', you? Obviously I believe that the God of scripture is the only God who is worship worthy, but this presupposes that scripture tells the truth concerning God. Again, it all goes back to the presuppositions. The OA and the TA reason from creation to creature in different ways. The TA presupposes God and the Bible because that is the only way to make sense of reality. The OA looks at reality and tries to figure out what God is like. The problem is that the OA will never bring you to the God of scripture (it will never lead you to conclude that scripture is the infallible world of God). This must be presupposed.

    Well, in general he is trying to show that God is not necessary (because he hates God). That is the compelling reason, because he is a slave to sin and a rebel against God. Rebels don't want to just be left alone, they want to overthrow the king. And we wonder why atheists are so aggressive in their attack on God. It is not enough that they are allowed to believe or disbelieve if they want, but they cannot stand the fact that others believe.

    The TA claims that God exists. God by definition is a necessary being. It is making a positive statement. The atheist is making a negative statement, either God does not exist or he is not necessary. So the burden of proof is indeed on the atheist who is trying to argue that there is no gold in China (another negative statement). The ontological argument will never prove the God of scripture, because you must presuppose that scripture actually depicts God accurately. Your definitions of the analogy simply do not make any sense. The analogy clearly showed that one person is arguing that there is gold in china (positive statement that represents a belief in God), while the other person is arguing that there is no gold in china (a negative statement that represents unbelief). I know that you are trying to redefine the terms in order to force the analogy to fit, but it simply does not work.

    What does it have to do with me being 'finite'? Either I am wrong when I say God is necessary, or I am right. No matter how much I try to 'prove' it, the unbeliever will never accept the 'proof' because he is a rebel. This is true for all arguments, not just the TA.

    What do you mean unstated presuppositions? The TA states the ones it holds to (such that the Triune God of scripture exists). How does it not have 'logical force'? Who determines what is 'enough' logical force? You can't logically force an unbeliever to believe you. In fact, the TA is not just valid in theory, it is valid in reality as well. When you say that the 'subtlety of the argument is lost on many', now you are making a bare assertion about how others will perceive it. Just because you do not understand it does not mean that others will not either. By the way, unbelievers are not going to accept it just like they won't accept any argument in defense of the Christian faith (because their reasoning is clouded by sin). The validity of an argument is not dependent upon how it is received by others. In fact, nothing is valid anyways without God, who is the source of truth and logic.

    No, because those arguments BEGIN with certain presuppositions and they expect the unbeliever to begin there as well. The TA recognizes the presuppositions of both sides and seeks to address it. Allow me to show you how those arguments fail to bring us to the God of the Bible:

    Cosmological Argument: God is the uncaused first cause, but this says nothing about whether he is the God of Christianity or not. Scripture is clearly not proven to be infallible. All you get is a generic deity that would look more like what Plato argued for than what scripture reveals.

    Moral Argument: God exists because objective moral values and duties exist. Of course, these objective moral values are undefined without scripture being the word of God. All you get is a generic deity who is the source of morality, but you have no idea what that morality is (could be Islam, Christianity, etc.)

    Teleological Argument: God exists because there is fine-tuning in the universe that must be from design. The only way we can know who this God is though is to go to the word of God. Without presupposing scripture as the word of God you simply get a deity who designed everything, but you have no idea for what purpose (unless you appeal to scripture).

    Ontological Argument: God exists because there must be a 'maximally great being', based on such a being existing in some possible world. Of course this will never get you to the God of scripture. Again, it simply brings you to a deity that is 'maximally great', but we have no idea what this maximally great being would look like without presupposing scripture as correctly describing God.

    These four arguments for God's existence were drawn from one of William Lane Craig's writings. As you can see they do not (and never will) lead us to the God of the Bible, unless the Triune God of scripture be presupposed. That is why the TA is the strongest argument.

    But you will never find a conclusive argument for Christianity without using presuppositions that the unbeliever does not hold. The transcendental argument/method is the best way of presenting the gospel because it immediately seeks to bring the matter back to God and the Bible by quickly addressing the presuppositions that both sides hold.

    In the end Philip I think we can see that this is going nowhere. Will you agree with me that perhaps we should call it a day and move this to a PM or a later thread? I myself will refrain from future posts in this thread, since I honestly cannot make my statements any more clear.

    ---------- Post added at 03:09 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:43 PM ----------

    By the way, for anyone who is interested in a quick summary of the TAG, I recommend the following article by Steve Scrivener: Form and Theological and Biblical Basis.pdf. There is alot of good information in there concerning Van Til's apologetic (without requiring you to buy a book).
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  3. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    The TA still fails because it never gets to the end of it self. The assertion of the TA is that it can prove every possible theory wrong. Until you have done this with every single theory in existence and everyone to every be formed I have no reason to believe that it is valid. I understand that unbelievers have a moral obligation to believe so I do not need that point to be rehashed. Earlier you mentioned that your atheistic associates kept demanding that you read their books before debating them. Well they have every right to because your initial claim is that you have an answer to their objections or theories- whatever they could ever possibly be. This leaves the TA as an open ended challenge that can never be fully completed. That is why it is cumbersome. It may work as Raymond said earlier to psychologically dishearten an opponent if they are caught off guard, but if someone knows what you are doing, they know that the ball is in your court because of your initial claim to be able to deconstruct anything to have to deconstruct everything before the argument is complete.
  4. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Read the Proslogion and get back to me on this. You may be surprised.

    Eric, he assumes that God is not necessary. He's not trying to show this at all.

    Ah, so you're using an ontological argument (this is exactly what the OA concludes)?

    I'm not talking about rhetorical force: I'm talking about logical validity of form. The form of a TA is "there is no ground for truth in unbelief therefore Christianity is true."

    I am merely talking here about the burdens of proof that the TA sets for itself. I am not talking about who ought to have ultimate burden of proof, but what the form of the TA entails in terms of its own burden of proof. You are missing my point entirely.

    In which case it's a circular argument and therefore, though not invalid, proves nothing whatsoever.

    All right, then: please lay out for me a complete transcendental argument for the existence of God that is logically conclusive. If it's valid in practice, then this can be done. I'll even offer to translate it into formal logical terms and go over it to see if the premises yield the conclusion.

    You've oversimplified and misunderstood all of them. Further, all of them are forms of transcendental argumentation, if a transcendental argument is correct.

    I'm not convinced right now that you understand my critique: my critique is that it is impossible for you to present a transcendental argument. You can present the Christian system, but a transcendental argument depends for its logical validity on a deconstruction of all possible alternative systems, a burden of proof that is unfulfillable by any but God Himself.

    The clash of worldviews is never merely between Christianity and a particular form of atheism or Christianity vs another religion: it is always Christianity versus every other possible view. In apologetics, you are defending and presenting arguments for Christianity from general revelation and such arguments must be presentable. In order to actually present a logically-valid TA, one would have to examine the presuppositions of every possible alternative system. As long as you fail to do this, your TA is logically invalid and logically inconclusive because of the way the methodology proceeds.

    Again, there are two ways to logically demonstrate necessity and a TA is a "no-gold-in-China" approach because it proceeds by a process of elimination. Again, I'm not talking about who properly has the burden of proof but about what the logical form of a TA demands in terms of a burden of proof.

    I do not, by the way, think that most of the other classical arguments are conclusive either (other than the OA---which can be made from Biblical presuppositions without being controversial), but then again, they aren't trying to be. The point of a classical argument is to point out that even from things that the unbeliever must admit, there is good reason for believing in God. A transcendental argument presented by a human cannot show what it claims to show because only God can ultimately provide one. You say that a transcendental argument "quickly" addresses presuppositions, whereas I maintain that it cannot. Instead you will inevitably end up bogged down in a discussion in which both you and the unbeliever will end up talking past one another. In practice, a transcendental argument will boil down to a shouting match.

    I am, by the way, concluding here. My point is this: the transcendental arguments claims to conclusively establish that only Christianity is left standing, but cannot because each step (each alternative to be deconstructed) takes (really) a book-length discussion to even establish. It is also the case that simpler direct arguments can be valid (again, I would suggest reading Anselm, who is essentially presuppositional, by the way, and Van Til would probably admit it) and have more by way of logical and rhetorical merit as well as being actually presentable in full.

    The TA is wonderful in theory and a theory of transcendental argumentation can even be of benefit to one presenting arguments, but the argument itself is comparable to a certain cannon called the "Basilica" used at the siege of Constantinople. It was large and impressive, designed to batter the walls of the city to a pulp. However, when it was actually fired, it ended up blowing up because the technology of the time was unable to actually create a gun of those proportions. That's what ends up happening with such an argument: it's not the theory that's the trouble---in theory, I think that the TA should work. However, we're finite and the list of false systems is much longer than we can overcome one by one. However, if the TA is right, then it should be possible to have a direct proof that God is a logically necessary being. It should be possible to do a TA in reverse.
  5. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    If I establish a TA for this conversation I don't have disoprove any and all other possibilities. I only have to give the preconditions for the conversation to be what it is.
  6. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you.

    Well, you seem to have got the gist of my post, though I don't know if I exactly meant "psychologically dishearten;" but of course, I'm not sure the word "psycholgoically" that I used is the proper word. To clarify for the future, though I'm sure you knew what I meant anyway, I meant that as finite human beings, there are only a finite number of worldviews a particular human being will have considered or can consider. Further, there are only a few worldviews that a particular human being will take seriously, e.g., not everyone will invent a pseudo-Christian system to explain reality because they know they invented their system; indeed, a particular human being may have already begun the work of the Christian apologist ahead of time by dismissing other sorts of worldviews for that particular human being's current worldview.

    When a Christian then attempts arguing with a "transcendental method," there are only a finite number of views the Christian will need to take down because there are only a finite number of views the particular human being will take seriously. During the course of the argument or after the argument, it is possible the particular human being will suddenly take other worldviews more seriously, and so the Christian will have more to take down, but I do think it is possible that a particular human being could be persuaded by this method (well, provided the Holy Spirit acts to remove their hostility to God) because that particular human being will only be tempted by so many worldviews, though perhaps refusing to move out of one eventually. I guess it depends on the person one is arguing with. And of course, because the actual transcendental argument is true according to Christianity, this is not a dishonest method but instead is akin to "knocking the roof" off their actual or potential worldviews and presenting an alternative.

    But if you're trying to show your TA is correct, don't you also have to critique "any and all other possibilities" in order to show your TA withstands the critique of all other possible explanations? And don't you also have to show your TA actually explains the problems, which is still a hefty thing to do in itself because of all the various problems that are out there? I remember once you explained the TA to me as, (1) You set up your explanation. (2) Show that your explanation satisfies the conditions. That is your TA. Then if someone disagrees, they must first critique your TA. It would seem that if your TA is really correct, it would need to withstand all possible critiques of your TA, which means you would end up proving your TA indirectly by showing all other TAs (ways of explaining that something) do not work. If not, then it seems the TA is more of a method of arguing again rather than an argument itself (which the link from the vantilinfo website seems to confirm).
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  7. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Yeah you will in theory have to "disprove all other possibilities" eventually because they will challange your argument and you will TC them and on and on and on. So yeah you are right. It is more of a method yes. I may not have stressed that in our conversation but I think with Van Til's obsession with method justifies this. The TA is technically a form of an argument but it is also a method that we use to argue for the truth. I think that it should be contrasted with other more static methods, one size fits all I call them.

    You know them like 10 arguments for the existance of God and here you go good luck but how does that method allow you to deal with the cultural challanges facing us with the various worldviews out there? We must be able to take the presuppositions of these philosophies and show how they cannot explain why things are the way that they are. It is always very intellectual but it touchs the heart as well. Because it is transcendental it goes to the core of the person and we need a method that is that adaptable.
  8. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    That makes sense, thanks!
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    All arguments fail to bring us to the God of the Bible, even the transcendental argument. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." The reason why the traditional arguments all fail is due to the fact that they all depend on a natural reasoning which by its very nature cannot account for the supernatural act of creation. Every one of them leaps at some point from the natural to the supernatural, whether in a way of cause and effect, design, morality, and so forth. And the transcendental argument is no different in this respect. It simply makes the leap in the area of verifiability. When we speak of the preconditions of truth we simply mean that truth has certain qualities that demand a greater intelligence than man himself is able to give to the truth. But greater intelligence does not prove the God of the Bible. There are other arguments that are needed to supplement the transcendental argument. It is at this point that the traditional arguments show themselves to be very useful. But after all has been said, and the best cumulative argument has been made for the existence of God, those arguments do not prove the God of the Bible. They certainly give the greatest credibility to the rationality of believing in God. When all philosophical systems are taken into account the God of the Bible can be shown to meet all the "characteristics" that are demanded by those arguments, and even to do so in a way that no other can. But without faith the best cumulative argument proves nothing. Faith is needed to believe that God is and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. And that faith is the gift and work of God.
  10. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    Rev. Winzer,

    Well I would say that the transcendental argument would indeed bring us to the God of the Bible IF we were to start from a 'non-rebel perspective'. I completely agree that NO argument itself can BRING someone to Christ, because that is only in the hands of God. But IF the person hearing the message were not under the influence of sin, they would conclude that God exists by the transcendental argument. If logic and truth only exist if God exists, then there SHOULD be a way that God can be "proven". The reason why there is no argument that itself can "prove" God is because the mind of the sinner (the one hearing the argument) is twisted. It isn't working properly. His mind (and emotions) only function properly in relationship with God. If his mind WERE functioning properly, the transcendental argument would indeed "prove" God. I mean, isn't it silly to suggest that God, even though he exists, is unprovable? But I would say he would be provable to a mind that was not already in open rebellion against him.

    By the way, I would slightly disagree that it leaps in the verifiable area. I know that many have argued that the TAG has to deal with an infinite number of worldviews. Yet this article by Michael Butler presents a strong rebuttal to that critique: The Transcendental Argument for God's Existence

    Allow me to simply post an excerpt from that article that addresses the question of 'infinite worldviews':

    "Recall that objection (2) against TAG maintains that it is impossible to provide a uniqueness proof for the conclusion that the Christian worldview is the necessary precondition for experience. This is due to the fact that there is no way of refuting all possible competing worldviews. Thus, even if all actual worldviews in competition with Christianity (naturalism, Islam, etc.) are shown to be false and Christianity is shown to be a sufficient precondition for experience, it does not follow that Christianity is the necessary precondition for experience.

    But as Förster has pointed out, TAs, and, by implication, TAG, do not set out to provide a uniqueness proof by refuting an indefinite or infinite number of worldviews. Rather the proof is provided by refuting the negation of the conceptual scheme or worldview that one is attempting to establish. It subjects the non-Christian worldview to an internal critique and shows that, on its own terms, it is contradictory, arbitrary and cannot provide sufficient preconditions of experience.

    What, then, is the nature of the non-Christian worldview? Simply put, all non-Christian systems presuppose that experience can be accounted for on autonomous lines. The non-Christian worldviews share the common feature that experience can be made sense of independently of God and his revelatory word. Thus all non-Christian worldviews deny the Creator-creature distinction, the doctrine of the Trinity and the biblical doctrine of man as being created as God's image. They deny the fall and the noetic effects of sin. They deny the necessity of Christ's redeeming work for not only personal salvation, but the salvation of the human intellect. They also deny the necessity of divine revelation, the foundation of all of these doctrines.

    From this we can see that Van Til is correct, "We have constantly sought to bring out that all forms of antitheistic thinking can be reduced to one."[87] Bahnsen elaborates on this important insight:

    Despite "family squabbles" and secondary deviations among unregenerate men in their thinking, they are united at the basic level in setting aside the Christian conception of God. The indirect manner of proving the Christian position is thus to exhibit the intelligibility of reasoning, science, morality, etc., within the context of biblical presuppositions...and then to make an internal criticism of the presuppositions of autonomous thought (in whatever form it is presently being discussed) in order to show that it destroys the possibility of proving, understanding, or communicating anything.[88]

    Thus the Christian apologist may boldly assert that without an absolute personal being as the foundation of all things, there is no possibility of ethics. Without the ontological Trinity as the fount of all being, there is no possibility of unifying the particulars of human experience. Without the combined doctrines of the Trinity and man being God's image bearer there is no possibility of predication and thus language. Without the doctrine of God's sovereignty and providence there is not ground for inductive logic and science. Without a good and all-powerful God that creates both man and the natural realm there is not reason to believe that our senses are reliable. From these considerations it is clear why TAG is often described as an argument that proves the impossibility of the contrary.[89] There is, at bottom, one non-Christian worldview and this worldview is easily reduced to absurdity. FØrster's insight is relevant at this point. When one version of the non-Christian worldview is refuted, the general non-Christian worldview is refuted for all of them since they are variations on a common theme."

    But if the gist of your post was to show that no argument by itself can bring anyone to Christ, that I wholeheartedly agree with. Only God can do that. At the same time though when we do present any arguments for God's existence, we want to do so correctly. Certainly God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick, but that doesn't mean we should make it a goal to always make crooked sticks. A person can come to faith in the Roman Catholic Church, but we aren't in the habit of adopting Rome's doctrines. In this same way there are many different arguments that have been means by which God brought someone to faith, but that does not mean those arguments were necessarily well-made.
  11. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Man was created in the image of God with knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. This means man naturally believes in God. If the person hearing the message were not under the influence of sin he would conclude that God exists without ANY argument.
  12. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    That is an awesome point, and I concede that. I suppose the better way to word my statement would be to say this: the transcendental argument attempts to point out man's deadness in sin. By pointing out that man's intellect (and emotions) are twisted and enslaved to sin, the TAG attempts to show that the man is not really neutral in this world, he is rather a rebel against God. We all agree that scripture teaches this, but obviously the unbeliever does not believe that he is a slave to sin (he thinks that he really can be neutral and unbiased). I am not saying that the TAG causes him to change his mind (only God can do that). What the TAG does is point out that any worldview that is enslaved by sin is a worldview that cannot consistently and fully interpret the world. Certainly the unbeliever will try with all of his might to avoid this conclusion (and in doing so will show himself as inconsistent). In the end, he either continues in his open rebellion, meriting wrath from God, or God regenerates him and opens his eyes. Other arguments, while presenting the Christian worldview, do not necessarily deconstruct the worldview of the unbeliever, and so in this sense would I say that they are 'weaker'.
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Any "fact of revelation" is going to bring out this inexcusability. An argument merely presents the facts of revelation in a form that others will be open to hear. That is all. Verifiability is a fact of revelation, hence the usefulness of the transcendental argument. Cosmology, morality, teleology, ontology, etc., are also facts of revelation. Hence the usefulness of the traditional arguments. They all point to different things in different ways. I don't see any benefit in presenting the transcendental argument in an evidential way. This just makes it vulnerable to the same criticisms as the traditional proofs. I am sure Van Til would be in full agreement.
  14. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    But the other arguments, such as the cosmological argument, do not traditionally begin by addressing the presuppositions (and underlying rebellious disposition) of the unbeliever. Without presupposing the God of the Bible, the cosmological argument will only get you to a generic deity (the uncaused first cause). At some point you will likely attempt to deconstruct the unbeliever's worldview while presenting your own presuppositions (in order to show that you are speaking about the God of scripture), which is what TAG focuses on doing immediately. The traditional arguments are fine tools to use within the context of the larget transcendental method/argument.

    Here are some quotes from Van Til that might clarify my position:

    “Accordingly I do not reject “the theistic proofs” but merely insist on formulating them in such a way as not to compromise the doctrines of Scripture” (DOF 256).

    “That is to say, if the theistic proof is constructed as it ought to be constructed, it is objectively valid, whatever the attitude of those to whom it comes may be” (CTK 292).

    “In not challenging this basic presupposition with respect to himself as the final reference point in predication the natural man may accept the “theistic proofs” as fully valid. He may construct such proofs. He has constructed such proofs. But the god whose existence he proves to himself in this way is always a god who is something other than the self-contained ontological trinity of Scripture” (DOF 94).

    “This is, in the last analysis, the question as to what are one’s ultimate presuppositions. When man became a sinner he made of himself instead of God the ultimate or final reference point. And it is precisely this presupposition, as it controls without exception all forms of non-Christian philosophy, that must be brought into question. If this presupposition is left unquestioned in any field all the facts and arguments presented to the unbeliever will be made over by him according to his pattern. The sinner has cemented colored glasses to his eyes which he cannot remove” (DOF 94).

    “Hence Warfield was quite right in maintaining that Christianity is objectively defensible. And the natural man has the ability to understand intellectually, though not spiritually, the challenge presented to him. And no challenge is presented to him unless it is shown him that on his principle he would destroy all truth and meaning. Then, if the Holy Spirit enlightens him spiritually, he will be born again “unto knowledge” and adopt with love the principle he was previously anxious to destroy” (DOF 364).
  15. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    You seem to be saying that this "argument" is in essence something that the other "arguments" are not. How can that be? If one follows Van Til's method then every fact is revelational and every valid argument is objective proof of the reality that the unbeliever suppresses. The idea that this argument can assume a place of superiority over the traditional proofs is not in keeping with a presuppositional approach.
  16. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I would say that the argument's goal is to address something that the other arguments do not necessarily address as their goal. Every fact is revelational and every valid argument is proof of the reality that the unbeliever presupposes. Yet the traditional arguments do not seek to highlight or address the unbeliever's presuppositions. They can be worded in a way that they do, but traditionally do not (Plato and Aristotle's version of the cosmological argument leads to a generic deity based on their presuppositions, not to the God of the Bible). The argument is an objective proof if it begins with the correct presuppositions. If it adopts the presuppositions of the unbeliever, it will simply lead to the deity of Plato or Aristotle. For this reason I would say that the only way one could view the presuppositional approach as superior is that it directly addresses the issue of presuppositions. Traditional arguments can eventually lead to this, but it is not what they generally do from the start.

    Here are three quotes from Van Til's writings as to why he disagreed with the traditional method of apologetics:

    "I had for many years rejected the Thomistic-Butler type of approach to apologetics. I had done so because of
    the unbiblical view of man and the cosmos which underlay this apologetic. I had over and over pointed out that
    non-Christian schemes of thought, whether ancient or modern, presupposed a view of man as autonomous, of human
    thought or logic as legislative of what can or cannot exist in reality, and of pure contingency as correlative to such
    legislative thought. I had for years pointed out that for a Christian to adopt these non-Christian presuppositions about
    man, together with the dialectical interdependence of legislative logic and brute contingency, and then to join the natural
    man [1 Cor 2:14] in asking whether God exists and whether Christianity is true would be fatal for his enterprise. If we
    allow that one intelligent word can be spoken about being or knowing or acting as such, without first introducing the
    Creator-creature distinction, we are sunk. As Christians we must not allow that even such a thing as enumeration or
    counting can be accounted for except upon the presupposition of the truth of what we are told in Scripture about the
    triune God as the Creator and Redeemer of the world. As a Christian believer I must therefore place myself, for the sake
    of the argument, upon the position of the non-Christian and show him that on his view of man and the cosmos he and
    the whole culture is based upon, and will sink into, quicksand. If the unbeliever then points to the fact that non-Christian
    scientists and philosophers have discovered many actual “states of affairs,” I heartily agree with this but I must tell him
    that they have done so with borrowed capital. They have done so adventitiously. The actual state of affairs about the
    entire cosmos is what the Bible says it is." JA 90-1

    "It has become plain to us that the traditional Butler-type of apologetics does not present Christianity as a
    challenge to modern relativist thought. Modern man must be challenged to forsake his sinful and therefore futile effort
    to find meaning in life in terms of himself as a law unto himself. …
    So far as modern thought is not based upon the presupposition of the truth of Christianity it is lost in utter darkness.
    Christianity is the only alternative to chaos. The traditional method of apologetics fails to bring out this fact. It is the
    business of a Reformed and therefore truly biblical apologetics to do what Romanist-Arminian apologetics has not done
    and cannot do." CTK 310

    "The general conclusion then is that on the traditional method it is impossible to set one position clearly over
    against the other so that the two may be compared for what they are. Certainly there can be no confrontation of two
    opposing positions if it cannot be pointed out on what they oppose each other. On the traditional basis of reasoning the
    unbeliever is not so much as given an opportunity of seeing with any adequacy how the position he is asked to accept
    differs from his own." DF 3 207
  17. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    "It has become plain to us that the traditional Butler-type of apologetics does not present Christianity as a challenge to modern relativist thought. Modern man must be challenged to forsake his sinful and therefore futile effort to find meaning in life in terms of himself as a law unto himself." I fully agree with Van Til's arguments against the traditional "type." This leads me to reject the idea that the transcendental "argument" can be picked up and used in the place of the traditional "arguments" as if it were somehow more effective. If you present the transcendental argument to an unbeliever he must still be challenged to forsake his sinful and futile autonomy.
  18. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Actually, if the TAG is correct, they do so implicitly, indicating that the unbeliever has preconceived notions that prevented him from seeing this fact before.

    Why is directly addressing presuppositions from the outset necessarily superior? If I state from the outset that God exists because the contrary is impossible, I will immediately (and rightfully) be met with the charge of making bare unsupported assertions until I actually demonstrate that this is a logically necessary conclusion (ie, that the statement "There is no God" is, by itself, self-referentially incoherent). I have stated that there is, indeed, a classical method of proving this directly, by the way.
  19. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    Reference the cosmological argument. No way to get to the God of the Bible unless you presuppose him. The unbeliever definitely has preconceived notions from seeing the facts of traditional arguments as he ought to see it. They are false presuppositions that need to be brought out into the light (so that your traditional argument is more effective and that the God you are trying to prove exists cannot be manipulated by the unbeliever into Plato's deity).

    Because if you do not address the presuppositions that your opponent has, you will end up beating the air. Certainly if you state that God exists because the contrary is impossible, you will be charged with making assertions. That is because the argument needs to be elaborated a bit more than that. The same would be true if I said God exists because everything has a cause. That too would be ridiculed as making an assertion until I better explain the argument. By the way, by addressing presuppositions you can show that the statement 'There is no God' is incoherent without God being the creator of the universe. Your classical method of proving anything demands that you presuppose the God of the Bible. Your opponent can use the cosmological argument and get to the deity of Plato. How are you going to show him that he is wrong without addressing his presuppositions?

    Allow me to finish with an illustration that Van Til used (the bottomless pit scenario):

    "Let us watch [the self-frustration of the traditional apologist] for a moment. Think of him first as an inductivist.
    As such he will engage in “historical apologetics” and in the study of archaeology. In general he will deal with the
    “facts” of the universe in order to prove the existence of God. He cannot on his position challenge the assumption of the
    man he is trying to win. That man is ready for him. Think of the traditional apologist as throwing facts to his
    non-Christian friend as he might throw a ball. His friend receives each fact as he might a ball and throws it behind him
    in a bottomless pit. The apologist is exceedingly industrious. He shows the unbelieving friend all the evidence for
    theism. He shows all the evidence for Christianity, for instance, for the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ. Let
    us think of his friend as absolutely tireless and increasingly polite. He will then receive all these facts and toss them
    behind him in the bottomless pit of pure possibility. ‘Is it not wonderful,’ he will say, ‘what strange things do happen in
    Reality. You seem to be a collector of oddities. As for myself I am more interested in the things that happen regularly.
    But I shall certainly try hard to explain the facts you mention in accord with the laws that I have found working so far.
    Perhaps we should say that laws are merely statistical averages and that nothing can therefore be said about any
    particular event ahead of its appearance. Perhaps there are very unusual things in reality. But what does this prove for
    the truth of your view?’

    You see that the unbeliever who does not work on the presupposition of creation and providence is perfectly
    consistent with himself when he sees nothing to challenge his unbelief even in the fact of the resurrection of Christ. He
    may be surprised for a moment as a child that grows up is surprised at the strange things of life but then when he has
    grown up he realizes that “such is life.” Sad to say the traditional Christian apologist has not even asked his unbelieving
    friend to see the facts for what they really are. He has not presented the facts at all. That is he has not presented the facts
    as they are according to the Christian way of looking at them and the Christian way of looking at them is the true way
    of looking at them. Every fact in the universe is what it is by virtue of the place that it has in the plan of God. Man cannot
    comprehensively know that plan. But he does know that there is such a plan. He must therefore present the facts of
    theism and of Christianity, of Christian theism, as proving Christian theism because they are intelligible as facts in terms
    of it and in terms of it alone.

    But this is also in effect to say that the Christian apologist should never seek to be an inductivist only. He should
    present his philosophy of fact with his facts. He does not need to handle less facts in doing so. He will handle the same
    facts but he will handle them as they ought to be handled."
    DF3 203-4
  20. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Proving that he is wrong is not the primary objective. I am interested in showing that God is there. It just so happens that a side conclusion to this is that the unbeliever is wrong.

    All right: what makes the TA different? The unbeliever will simply chuck it into the pit along with the others. From his perspective it's no different---in fact, since Christian theism operates only on the assumption of Christian theism, it's an even worse argument from the perspective of the unbeliever because you've just called him to take a leap of faith (in the straw-man Kierkegaardian sense).
  21. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    A side conclusion? That is the whole point of witnessing to the unbeliever, to call him to abandon his rebellion and bend the knee to Christ. How can you show that God 'is there' without addressing the presuppositions? Let's say you use the cosmological argument, and say that 'God is there as the uncaused first cause'. The unbeliever could rightly ask you: "What God?: the Muslim's? the Deists? Plato's? Aristotle's?"

    Not at all, the TA deconstructs his worldview and shows that his position is rationally and logically inconsistent and untenable. His worldview is built on sand. It is on sand because he is a rebel against God. I don't call him to take a leap of faith. I call him to repent and bend the knee to Christ.

    In fact, it isn't just Christian theism that operates on the assumption of Christian theism (you are misunderstanding the TA). ALL of reality operates on the presupposition of Christian Theism. The unbeliever can't throw the 'facts' into the pit because we don't toss them to him for him to play with at his leisure. We first address how it is that he can even catch a ball, or make sense out of what is being tossed to him. We obliterate his pit because that is the first thing we address (a pre-emptive strike of sorts).
  22. kappazei

    kappazei Puritan Board Freshman

    ---------- Post added at 07:47 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:33 PM ----------

    Would you give me an example of this?


    Last edited: Mar 12, 2012
  23. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Is there any other God who satisfies the criteria set forth in the CA and provides adequate ground for being by being necessarily existent? Or, to put it another way, knowledge of a creator entails that He has revealed Himself, and revealing implies revelation, and revelation of a being such as a creator would not be possible without incarnation.

    Which from his perspective is a leap of faith.

    Or you would if he'd let you.
  24. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    That's not what Plato or Aristotle concluded. Just saying. Unless of course they had incorrect presuppositions...

    Well, the sick patient thinks that the massive surgery he needs to cure his condition (only God is the great physician) is a leap of faith. He still is sick, and still needs surgery. Obviously he is not going to listen to the nurse telling him that he has symptoms that are the direct result of his sinful condition, and that he needs a doctor. But just because HE thinks it is a leap of faith doesn't mean that IT IS a leap of faith.

    Well, we don't toss him the balls in the first place until we talk about his presuppositions. Again, you are positing a 'problem' that is the problem for all Christians who try to witness to unbelievers. The unbelievers are UNWILLING to be convinced until God regenerate them. Presuppositional apologetics does not claim to save the unbeliever by reason. If you can understand that, then we can proceed.
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