The Presuppositional Defense of the Reliability of the Bible

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by natewood3, Mar 2, 2006.

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  1. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    What would a presuppositional defense of the Bible look like in practice? If someone objects to Christianity and says that they do not believe the Bible is the Word of God or historically reliable, how does a presuppositional defense differ from that of a classical or evidentialist approach?

    Does Bahnsen have any articles or lectures on this that would be a good resource?

  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I would ask the person to justify his stance. "Why, guy?" When I've asked before, I got complete irrationalism. "Oh, I just don't think the Bible is reliable, and that's all. I don't need a justification."

    When you do get some supposed rational answer, you just show how useless and arbitrary it is. In the end, there is no reasonable excuse for rejecting Scripture and its authority. The excuse is based on the a priori stance the person bears against the God of Scripture, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. There is no neutrality vis a vis God and his Word.
  3. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics by Gordon Clark.

    From the website:
  4. crhoades

    crhoades Puritan Board Graduate

    And for giggles:

    WCF I.IV

    IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God. {Insert Reductio Ad Absurdem here for anyone who disagrees}

    V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts

    And who said the WCF was not a presuppositional document and allowed for evidentialism?;)

    [ducks the tomatoes]

    [Edited on 3-2-2006 by crhoades]
  5. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    GHK affirmed these confessional statement as the foundation for his "axiom." Accordingly, Clark's Axiom was not a blind Axiom that he did not know was true.


    [Edited on 3-3-2006 by Ron]
  6. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    How would a presuppositional defense of the reliability of the Bible look different than the classical and evidentialist defenses? Would the presuppositional defense use evidence to prove that the Bible is truly what it says it is? Would the presuppositionalist only appeal to the Bible to prove that the Bible is the Word of God?

    Like I have said in the other thread I started, I am having a hard time applying presuppositionalism to the actual defense of the faith, which is probably because I haven't read enough on it yet...
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Ultimate authority claims. The classicist (most of them anyway, Warfield in particular) would use right reason to establish the ultimate authority of the bible.

    Right reason is the ultimate authority but leads us to conclude that Christ is the ultimate authority.

    Schizophrenia of making Christ your final authority only after he has been authorized by right reason. If right reason is your ultimate authority then it will always be your ultimate authority. If right reason leads me to conclude that Jesus is the final authority then right reason must be satisfied that nothing Jesus said/did will contradict the dictates of right reason. Two ultimate principles are conceptually impossible. Right reason wouldn´t allow me to hold to the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.
  8. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    So if someone asks, "Why do you believe the Bible is reliable and inspired?" and we simply respond that it is self-attesting and claims to be the Word of God on its own account, is there any way to further the debate if they simply reject the Bible's claims for itself or if they accuse us of circular reasoning?

    I suppose that it is possible to turn the tables and argue that they must appeal to their ultimate authority to prove their ultimate authority so that circular reasoning is unavoidable when it comes to justifying ultimate presuppositions, but does that really prove that the Bible is the Word of God? Just because I reduce an unbeliever's position to absurdity, how does that necessarily prove that the Christian worldview is the correct worldview? How can we say that ALL worldviews are unable to account for intelligibility if we have not examined all the possible worldviews?

    Once again, maybe I am missing some basic points I should already know...
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    You are on the right track. Everyone has an ultimate authority claim. It is circular reasoning, but not all circles are valid. If you have to go beyond your ultimate authority to prove your ultimate authority, then it is no longer your ultimate authority.

    If you want to, take their ultimate authority and reduce it to absurdity. Granted, this isn't as easily done as said to be, but it is valid.

    Greg Bahnsen notes:
  10. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    Draught Horse,

    So if my opponent rejects that my appealing to the Bible to prove the Bible's inspiration as circular, my next move is to prove that my opponent appeals to his/her ultimate authority as well to prove his/her presuppositions, which is exactly what he/she has accused me of doing. Once I have done this, I suppose I should show that the person is not justified in using such things as the laws of logic, morality, and science because his/her worldview cannot account for them, which is nothing more than an internal critique of my opponents worldview. Is the Van Tillian method to next ask my opponent to assume my worldview and show that my worldview can account for such laws and prove that it is coherent and reliable?

    If I reduce my opponent's position to absurdity and show that his reasons for rejecting the Bible as the Word of God is irrational, does that necessarily prove that the Bible IS the Word of God just because my opponents worldview is irrational and absurd? Could not a Muslim reduce an atheist's worldview to absurdity and while not necessarily proving that his worldview is true or that the Quran was the Word of God?

    Concerning the presuppositional method in general, why do they always worldviews cannot account for the laws of logic instead of using laws of morality? Do not the laws of logic imply morality? Since they do, could a presuppositional apologist begin by showing that they cannot account for the laws of morality? Or would this only work on an atheist, since I suppose that worldviews that have an ultimate standard of truth, such as Muslims and the Quran, can say that they CAN account for the laws of morality? However, even in a Muslim worldview, their idea of sin and morality causes many problems within their worldview, which I do not believe they can solve. Anyhow, I appreciate any answer you can give...
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis


    I believe so but this has been quite a debate here recently. I will try to get back to you on this.
    He could, but its highly doubtful. The muslim god is not personal and that would make much of his argument flawed. Also, the Quran is riddle with open contradictions and internal consistencies.

    It doesn't matter. You can use either laws of logic or laws or morality. Usually it is logic because that is what the god of modernity was.
    At this point you would continue to do the same thing that you have been doing. Take their ultimate standard, the Quran, and ask if Allah is so graet that nothing can be likened unto him (that's in the quran). He will say yes. Then say, "If nothing can be likened unto him, including human speech, then how can the quran eve say that?
  12. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    Draught Horse,

    I would appreciate it. It is not that I think the Christian worldview is the only worldview that can make sense of reality and the world, but I am not sure if it actually proves the Christian worldview when you reduce another position to absurdity.

    Is it possible to show an unbeliever that there are only two worldviews? I believe that on the basis of Scripture. Another thought that has came to my mind is what about those denominations or other "Christian" sects that disagree with what we as Reformed Christians would believe, such as unitarians, JW, Mormons, and possibly even Catholics and those who believe in a works salvaton? Can they argue presuppositionally and show an atheist that since their worldview is "Christian," it makes sense of the world just as a Reformed Christian would? Do we argue presuppositionally with other denominations?

    Does not Frame use a moral argument more so than an argument from the laws of logic argument in ATTGG? I understand that he believes the TAG is probably not enough in and of itself to prove Christianity true, but he seems to make use of the moral argument in a transcendental nature more than any other...

    Sorry for so many questions, but when I begin to think on these things, question arise that I feel once they are answered, it would clear up alot of I really do appreciate your time and answers.
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    No, you are raising good questions taht all presupps have to deal with. With all due respect to Brother Frame (and I have benefitted tremendously from his works), I do not think his criticisms of TAG are substantial. I plan to relisten to a lot of Bahnsen lectures on TAg and I will throw some things out here concerning ultimate claims, worldviews, etc. Many will disagree but it will get a lot of people thinking the right sort of questions.
  14. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    Well, I have never really studied philosophy or logic, so I may be ignorant to alot of what I shouldn't be, but I have just become interested in apologetics in the last 6 or 7 months, so I am trying to learn all I can. I am in my second semester at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary working on my M.Div in Biblical and Theological Studies, so it is hard to have time to read all that I want to read on apologetics with all my other studies. When I found this forum a few days ago, it started answering alot of questions as well as raising alot of questions. I have benefited alot from some of Paul Manata's earlier posts concerning presuppositionalism, as well as from your posts.

    As of right now, I have not had time to get any of Bahnsen or Van Till books, but I have read some of Bahsen's articles and have started listening to some of his lectures. Anyway, I appreciate your responses, being as I need someone who I can ask these questions and get an answer...
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The more philosophy you know (and I don't know that much. I have only taken a history of philosophy class, philosphy of religion, and logic) the better. the best bahnsen book, practically speaking, is ALWAYS READY. Van Til's good, if you can understand him. Just curious, what lectures are you listening to? His best ones, I think, are:

    1) Short Synopsis of Van Til
    2) Van Til Seminar
    3) Transcendental Arguments (you have to have this oen to really understand and work with TAG)
    4) Theistic Proofs, Rationality, and Fideism.
    5) The first 3 or 4 tapes in his Philosophy of Christianity are phenomenal. He really takes the rationalism-irrationalism tension and implodes non-christian thought.

    granted, rts, surprisingly*, has most of these, so that helps on the cost.

    *I said surprisingly because a lot of the lectures have crucial tapes conveniently missing, so they pull the whole set and I don't get to listen to any of it.
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I have found the following quite helpful.

    Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen note that metanarratives make a total claim upon the lives of their hearers. Seeing the value of such an approach for missions, they note,
    (Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, "Story and Biblical Theology," Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 151-152, emphasis added. The authors go on to add, "Worldviews operate at the presuppositional and precognitive level and have to do with the ultimate concerns that grip people's lives" (155). ).
  17. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    Draught Horse,

    I didn't take any kind of logic of philosophy class in college, except a Christian worldview class, which was just an introduction. My wife goes to Murray State University, and I have considered taking a logic class and possibily an intro to philosophy class in the summer. I have to order a couple books for my Church History class (Revival and Revivalism and also Theology of the Reformers, ya read either of them?), so I might go ahead and order Always Ready while I am placing the order. has a deal where you can get both Always Ready and Van Til's Apologetic for $40. Would you recommend me getting VTA and reading it after Always Ready, or should I read some of Van Til's books first before reading VTA?

    As far as lectures, I had started downloading College Preparation in Apologetics just as an introduction, but I also found Challenging Unbelief from a website for free, so I was gonna try to listen to that first...
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I would hold off on VTA for a while. I would get more comfortable with that line of thinking. Same with Van Til books. But once you think you are ready, go for it. Most definitely get ALWAYS READY.

    I have read Revial and Revivalism. It is good.
  19. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    Good question, Nate. No, by showing that one system is arbitrary and inconsistent another system is not shown to be necessarly true.

    1. However, if there are ultimately two worldviews then all non-Christian worldviews posit that intelligible experience is possible apart from God´s revelation. Accordingly, all we need to do is refute the arbitrariness and inconsistency of the one non-Christian worldview, leaving the Christian worldview as the only one that provides the necessary precondition for intelligible experience.

    2. Donald Davidson, "On the Very Idea of Conceptual Scheme," in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984) pp. 183-98, argues that in order to argue something as an alternative conceptual scheme, we would need to map it according to our own conceptual scheme. If we are unable to do so, then we cannot properly call the hypothetical conceptual scheme a "conceptual scheme" since it would be unrecognizable as such to us.

    3. Let's consider a conceptual scheme that apes Christianity and posits for instance:

    An absolute God: who makes ethics possible

    A God of unity and diversity (e.g. Triune -- three persons on God): who unifies particulars of human experience (i.e. brings unity to diversity)

    A Sovereign God who governs providence: who makes science possible

    An all-powerful and good God: who creates our minds and the world, so there can be a fruitful connection between the two, allowing us to trust our senses

    In such cases, objection 3 is no objection at all, for it is simply parroting the Christian worldview and changing nothing. (Please note the relationships emphasized above in italics.)

    3.1) If the opponent changes something within the worldview that is "œsignificant", then we'd have to know the specifics. A significant change, however, would no doubt impinge upon other doctrines since the Christian doctrine is systematic. Would this significant change disrupt coherence within the worldview? First off, the opponent cannot answer this question since he is not acquainted with the conceptual scheme to begin with. Accordingly, we cannot subject the worldview in question to an internal critique. (Bring on the next non-hypothetical competitor, we might say.) The real rub, however, is that one would be using rationality in order to posit a hypothetical conceptual scheme, yet without warrant for rationality. If one is willing to stand up to the microphone and say, "œI have no basis for my reasoning" the apologist´s work is done. After all, such a person who denies reason cannot give credence the an argument for God´s existence.

    3.2) If they change something "œinsignificant", like remove Jude from the Bible, then they have not introduced a relevantly different worldview. All they would have done is to have counterfactually about the Christian canon.

    (With respect to 3.1 and 3.2, if one changes something significant, then I would think that the worldview would not be coherent, since Christianity is systematic and one doctrine impinges on another. In any case, he´d have to give us something to critique. If he changes something insignificant, then I´d say that he has aped Christianity and posited our worldview.)

    Since man knows that God exists through general revelation, can man justify knowledge by the use of general revelation apart from Scripture? I have no doubt that he cannot. Although man knows God and is guilty before him, he cannot account for this knowledge. The best way to internalize this notion is not for me to explain it, but to think about how man could justify knowledge apart from the Scriptures, which speak of God as the one who created our minds and the world, and has provided the fruitful connection between the two.

    Apart from Scripture, one might posit a creator-God in order to save himself philosophically from skepticism, but what would be the end result? The end result would be a "œnecessary conceptual scheme", but would this conceptual scheme be true or merely a convention to organize experience? As Mike Butler has noted, "œthe necessity of a conceptual scheme cannot guarantee anything about the way the world must be; for while such a scheme may organize our experience, it itself is dumb and mute and cannot, definitionally, tell us anything about the world itself"¦" In other words, conceptual necessity does not equate to ontological necessity. Accordingly, God´s revelation in Scripture is needed to interpret God´s revelation in nature. The only way we can begin to tackle the problem of the one and the many found in ethics, reality and knowledge, is to begin with God´s revelation in Scripture and apply it to his revelation in the world. This is how we can justify that there is a real, mind-independent world that is intelligible. God must tell us so.

    Unconverted men are justified in their true beliefs. They have knowledge. However, they cannot give an account for what they know. They believe God exists; it is true that God exists; and they are justified because God has revealed this truth to their consciences. Accordingly, they know God exists. However, they cannot justify this knowledge that they have. They know, but they cannot articulate a justification for what they know! We need Scripture to speak to us about this world and our place in it.

    As for a formal argument, that's no problem. The question is whether the unbeliever will accept our ultimate authority, Scripture. If he doesn't, our argument does not become philosophically unsound.

    In his grace,

  20. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman


    What about those worldviews that seem to have an ultimate authority, such as Muslims or Mormons? Would they not appeal to God's revelation? Why is it that they could not argue presuppositionally as Reformed Christians try to do?

    Even though I have asked the questions above and I am looking for an answer, I do understand that those worldviews are internally incoherent...I suppose another way to ask what I am wanting to know is how do we argue against those have an ultimate authority to appeal to and who would seemingly have an answer for why there can be universals laws, since they do not deny the existence of God?

    It seems that the TAG works best on materialist and atheists. I do not see how presuppositionalism would differ from the traditional method when debating worldviews who do not deny the existence of God, such as Muslims. It seems there is nothing more than an internal critique of their worldview, which is what the traditional method would seem to do. Maybe I am missing something...if so, please fill me in.

  21. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman


    If they are appealing to God's revelation in a sound fashion, then they'd be giving the right answer. Even infidels can parrot truth.

    Traditional methods are always fallacious deductive arguments with inductive premises. Evidentialism is inductive at its core but without grounds for induction.


    Good Lord's Day!

  22. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman


    Could you give me an illustration of these two examples, if you don't mind?

    Also, I asked: how do we argue against those have an ultimate authority to appeal to and who would seemingly have an answer for why there can be universals laws, since they do not deny the existence of God?

    You may have already answered this, and I am just not seeing it...
  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    1. Evidentialism is based, partly, on the uniformity of nature. But to argue for the resurrection, they must temporarily abandon the uniformity of nature. In short, they are using the uniformity of nature to argue against the uniformtiy of nature (ie, the Resurrection).

    2. New Revelation must be in harmony with previous revelation (Dt, Revelation 22). Muslims say that they believe in Moses, the Psalms, and Jesus. Good. They believe Jesus was a Son of God. Good. Given that they hold to previous revelation, they must then agree with its conclusions, but here they backtrack. They now deny, based upon newer revelation, that Christ died on a cross. Ergo, contradiction. They now have a contradiction in their premises. Of course, they will now say that the prior revelation was wrong, but taht is begging the question and denies one of their other claims, namely, that they indeed believe in Moses, Psalms, and Jesus.

    2a. see Paul manata's critique of Islam
    2b. You used the phrase, "claim they have an ultimate standard." press them on this. The Islamic god cannot provide the preconditions of intelligibility. He is a monad and devoid of personality. Etc. etc. The mormon god is also finite.
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This is from Paul's site;

  25. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman


    The traditional cosmological argument fallaciously moves from the premise that every effect has a cause to the conclusion that the world must be caused. The issue of debate, however, is whether the world is an effect or not! If the world is not an effect, then God cannot be the first cause of the world. If God can be eternal without an antecedent-cause, then why not the world? Moreover, the Cosmological argument not only presupposes causality without justification, it fallaciously moves from observable natural causes, which are inductively assumed, to a supernatural, non-physical first cause. More than that, it posits one-single spiritual cause without proving that there aren´t multiple first causes. Finally, the argument concludes that the first single cause must be Divine, which well exceeds the scope of the premises.

    As for inductive arguments, let me offer you this wonderful article by the late Dr. Bahnsen.

    I agree with the article, so if you have any questions I think I can field them.


  26. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    Draught Horse and Ron,

    Thanks for the comments.
  27. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Btw, nate, every question you have just asked I also asked Paul Manata. If we can't field every question, it wouldn't hurt to read a lot of manata's old posts in the apologetics et al sections.
  28. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    Draught Horse,

    It makes me feel better than I am not the only one asking seemingly obvious answers to everyone else here! I actually have went through and read quite a bit of Paul's old posts (BTW, does he post here anymore). They have been helpful, and alot of what I have asked has come from reading some of his posts. I cannot say that I always understand exactly everything you or Paul or Ron say in your post as of right now, but I think I have learned alot within just the past week of reading alot of what has been posted. I plan to teach in seminary when I am finished with school (which will be sometime from now), and I will be 22 in April, so I feel I have alot of time to figure alot of this out before I finish my degrees. I sometimes wonder if I will ever learned as much as people like Bahnsen or even someone like Michael Butler, because it really seems impossible at this moment to understand the Christian worldview, as well as other worldviews as well as they do. I am not sure that I would teach apologetics, but I have been really thinking seriously about it the more I study it...

    How long have you been a student at RTS?
  29. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    1. I have been at RTS for 1.5 semesters now.
    2. You will never learn as much as Bahnsen. Few will. When he went to take his PhD exams, he had 5 semester to take 5 eight hour exams. He took them all in one week and passed with the highest score possible! He would stay up until 4 or in the morning doing doctorate level research and then teach 8 hours the next day. Nothing phased him. But we are not called to his level of learning, only to his level of faithfulness to the gospel. So, you and I should take heart.
    3. Paul doesn't post here anymore. He is quite active with his blog, finishing up school, and of course, he just got married!!!!!!!! Rock on, Paul!

    4. Email me sometime and I can go into more detail on apologetics et al without getting sidetracked here.

    Take care, brother
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