The Transcendental Perspective in Apologetics

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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I've been thinking about an angle to best explain and discuss how transcendental arguments (methodologicaly) function in apologetics. As well as the devastating critiques they give that sets them apart from other arguments. Or what makes them unique in the apologetical tool bag for the Christian?
In the early twentieth century a somewhat new criticism was leveled at things as being meaningless or not. Before you would describe a position or idea as either true or false but at least it communicated meaningful sentences and ideas. Not so much now. Now it is seen as being even worse than false because you're not even making sense. Its like talking gibberish it can't even be false because to be false you have to make sense in the first place.
So the heart of the transcendental method is in showing that the unbelieving WV is neither true or false because its meaningless (worse than false). Its "true", no pun intended, that their WV is false but its worse than false because it's meaningless. Positively reality is meaningful only because of the Christian WV is true. Because only within the Christian WV can anything be true or false to begin with. This is an aspect of the argument from predication. Only within a Christian WV can you meaningfully say that something is true or false. The unbelieving WV can't even do that.
This was Van Til's point about how even the arguments against the faith prove the faith because only within the Christian WV do arguments make sense. This explains why unbelievers can and do make sense all the time, they're using borrowed capital.
So I think when we view the transcendental method as only showing the unbelieving WV as false and the Christian WV as true, we rob it of its deepest aspect. We show the unbelieving WV to be worse than false because its meaningless ultimately. As well we show the Christian WV to be more than true because its the only WV that gives meaning to reality, hence our ability of predication.
Now it could be objected that some WV's admit upfront that life and reality are meaningless but in order for that statement to make sense predication must be possible. But only in a Christian WV is predication possible hence can one meaningfully say that.
Keep in mind I'm not laying out an argument but a method of argumentation, there's a difference. Nor am I saying other methods are wrong. I'm only pointing out the unique aspect of the transcedental method that I think sets it apart as a useful tool. I also understand I'm throwing around meaningful and meaningless in loose ways but used in slightly different senses, so I'll take that criticism if someone points it out. I hope this sparks good discussion and debate but most of all is beneficial to at least someone. If anything I said is confusing please point it out to me and I'll do my best to explain better.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
To reflect further on the Transcendental method (TM), it is comprehensive in its Aproach. It involves both a negative or critical assessment of the rational and religious assumptions of a given WV and a positive presentation of the Christian WV. An example.
One abiding debate surrounding Nietzsche is whether or not he caused the Holocaust and was in a sense a proto Nazi? The answer is yes and no but its complicated. Sure both sides can cherry pick "verses" to prove their point but ultimately which one is it?
Nietzsche's most fundamental concern, in my opinion, is the revaluation of all values. That is an almost Transcendental analysis of values in general. He recognized that value talk is far more complex than mere ethical rights and wrongs. It seeps down into our very being, we can't help but be value creatures. So if values are inescapable we must propose a method to determine which values are to be preferred.
He proposes that we "philosophize with a hammer, as with a tuning fork" (Twilight of The Idols, first part "How To Philosophize With A Hammer"). You see he views values as like ancient idol statues we worship, they need to be tested to see if they're hollow or not. Only those values that prove to be able withstand the hammer and the tuning fork are valuable.
In his Hegelan "genealogy of morals" he lays the blame of our current cultural nihilism at the feet of Christianity. It's only because of Christianity for promoting hollow values that we are where we are. When your constantly looking beyond your immediate experience to a "pie in the sky, perfect, eternal future heaven" you won't follow values that improve your life here and now.
Nihilism comes in because you've robbed this life of its value by placing all value in the hevean to come (Twilight of The Idols second part "How The Real World Became A Myth"). But if there is no heaven to come than Christianity is a degradation on the value of individuals by enforcing the values of the weak on everyone. This may work fine for the "herd" but it also stifles the progress that the strong would make things better. Hence the Ubersmench, hope I spelled that right, is needed to cast off hollow values and make their own values so that in succeeding the herd will be better off.
But its not just moral values that are his target but all values. Nationalism is itself a herd morality that groups all people together regardless of weak and strong under one unifying idol. Democracy is the elevation of the herd morality because it blindly says we're all just as valuable as the next.
So what of Nazism, on the one hand he overvalued the strong to rise up and lead the weak by their own values but since nationalism is itself the herd morality he didn't like that. You can see that right there is a Nietzstian contradiction fundamentally in Nazism. So was he proto Nazi? Who knows but what in his philosophy would preclude it?
In his revaluation of all values he never arrived at any criteria for distinguishing between good values or bad values. If all values are up for grabs than there remains nothing but personal preference. So what if he hated nationalism why couldn't an Ubersmench rise up and use power to commit genocide to eliminate those who personified the herd morality to make way for a new morality of the strong?
This a transcendental critique of Nietzsche's philosophy or to use Van Til's words "stepping onto the ground of the unbeliever to show how inconsistent they are ,(paraphrasing)". That is in his philosophy there's not even the possibility of determining good values from bad values. He wants his cake and to eat it too.
Now inviting the unbelieving Nietzstian onto the ground of the believer we can show them how in our transcendental analysis why Christianity can give that consistency. We are value creatures because you have to assume values exist in order to talk about values. Our Creator infused values into creation in the beginning, "He declared all that he had made good (Genesis chp 1)".
So creation is saturated with values, they're inescapable. You can't think, move, or have your being without them because of the Creator.
Some points on the TM. First I tried, albeit in a broadbrush fashion, to correctly lay out the WV in question. To be fair to Nietzsche and not resort to simply calling him a Nazi and moving along (this step is not unique to this approach, all approaches seek for this). I tried to show that he's not only false but within his WV there isn't even the possibility of values at all. And since, as he recognized, values are inescapable its impossible to live without them. He can't fulfill his "revaluation" from where he's starting.
Secondly I tried to show that within the Christian WV you have the possibility of values, its a direct consequence of our WV. Values are inescapable because the Creator infused them in creation. But notice that in my method I focused only on the WV in question not all possible WV. Since as a method it works best against an individual WV, whether or not some analytical proof is possible for all WV singlehandedly is asking too much of any method (we are finite after all).
So instead of talk about TAG as some one size fits all argument the TM is useful against all WV. Hope I wasn't confusing but we need to start thinking in terms of a TM not a TA. That would clear up a lot of confusion on Van Til's method.
 
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