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Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by knight4christ8, Mar 13, 2005.
Well put, John. If I'm reading what you said correctly, then I actually agree with everything in your last post, especially regarding the way in which we are to present our apologetic to the unbeliever, and the reason we are presenting it, and that doing so is vain if it does not include a presentation of the Gospel in our defense of the Christian worldview.
I also think we're either on the same page or close regarding the nature of the necessity of reason and logic - do you agree that while a rejection of it does indeed inevitably result in empty foolishness, it alone is still not enough to change that and to account for intelligible thought and experience?
I bolded and underlined the two statements that I'd like to comment on. I agree fully. Where I believe we may differ is that this is and always has been the stand of a proper Classical approach, and is not unique to Presuppositionalism. I would say the bolded sentence applies to all men alike. No man can think unless in the realm of thought that God has created. There is no thinking outside that. Its just not a possibility that there is a realm outside of God's sphere unless He has cast it out. It is not that man thinks in his own realm, but that he thinks rebelliously. He is mistaken in the analysis of his thoughts if he believes not in God. In basic, he doesn't have a different system of thought, he has rebellion in the same system of thought that every man must live in to think at all. He will acknowledge truth to the degree that he has to, in order to live, to feel, to love, to emote, to do his work, and to make his rebellious reasons.
I see the Presuppositionalist as the one who takes on these rebellious reasons. That part I accept of Presuppositionalism. I see it as the Classical method also applied to the area of basic notions, or presuppositions; but that's me.
But that is not the only area in which any man needs to be dealt with. He can't just be told that he is lost in the forest intellectually, and then be left lost in the forest. We have to address the whole man in order to let the light shine on the path out of the forest. It isn't just intellectual. And it is not our aim to put ribbons on the wall for our favourite methods, but to lead the man out of the woods, at least as far as we ourselves are out of the woods. For we too have a lot left in our thinking that ought to be demolished, and God is doing this gently and sweetly through the work of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying us as we grow in faith and knowledge and holiness, up to the mature image in which we were created. So it is firstly a humble and humbling work.
The first one I read that had the idea in its central theis is Rene Descartes. I know that most of academia doesn't figure it this way, but I can't see how its avoidable. His treatise (First Principles) is usually described as a particular type of ontological argument. But to be consistent with that, then, it seems clear to me that he was pointing to the ontological necessity of the transcendant and preconditional aspect of reason, and of the paradigm of truth that only God can account for, though he did not use those words. Like you said, Kant was the first to formalize it, or maybe we could say, to specifically formulate it in terms. The basic ideas have been there a long time, and I would contend that they are present in Anselm's treatise as well. We might call it presuppositions in our day, but that would be because of modern formulations of the discussions.
To tie this in with the first part of this post, if the argument is the case, then it must be believed that presuppositions have been part of any method from the very start, from Job to Solomon, to the Greeks, to the Church-age philosophers, to our present day. They are nothing new. But this is the first generation where it is concentrated on, even at the cost of addressing the other areas of thought and life.
I hold a difference between presuppositions and preconditions. But I usually have to use the former term to mean preconditions, because I think Presuppositionalists often confuse them, and I want to reply to them in the terms they choose to use. Preconditions are the same across the board for everyone; we all live in the same world, in the same intellectual environment, and under the same curse. But some of us have been rescued from the penalty of that curse, and so receive grace,light and truth to help us overcome the darkness in our souls and minds. Presuppositioins, therefore, can't be more basic than the precondition. A rebellious man may have his presuppositions, but his precondition is the same as ours. We can get under his presuppositions by calling him to continuity and consistency in his thought, to show a deeper set of presuppositions that he carries, but will not acknowledge. It is his rebellion which overshadows his thinking, not his so-called system of thought. For there is no other system of thought in reality, for they are only fool's errands.
I wouldn't normally put it in these terms when dealing with an unbeliever in discussion. These things would remain hidden from him as I discuss his ideas and concepts. I would edge him to rethinking his ideas, so as to make an introduction to God not just plausible, but real. He may refuse, but I am not going to burn bridges with him. I want to leave the door open for others to talk with him as well as myself. It took many years for me, a Christian, to understand some of these things; it is far too much to ask him to step up to anyone else's level right from the start.
Where we need to be aggressive is in the area of proud obstacles to the faith. Most of the time these are within our own circles, in the Church. That is the context of II Cor. 10. And that is the struggle I am in now. The offices were being used to unfair advantage against those who were not Presuppositionalists or Theonomists or Postmillennial. The preaching was used to add an air of Christ's own authority to these views, so that to hold to other views was deemed to be opposed to Christ. This the very thing that the Confessions warn us against, that we must guard against. But further, the offices were used to hide the situation, and to put down the one who withstood this abuse; to discipline the one instead of the many, for the sake of peace. This is a most gross thing in the church, and we should be indignant and forceful in removing it. But notice that this says nothing negative about these views, but only about the abuses of office. That is the point. That is the proud obstacle that we must deal with with boldness, according to the context of that passage.
It is not a call to go out and destroy everyone's ideas that don't match with the Christian's. We are to evangelize among those, and to show the love of Christ to them. There is much more to them then their arguments. They too bear the image of God, and they may indeed be of the elect, but not yet regenerated. It may be that our efforts may make the difference. It may happen through our efforts, or it may be the root of someone else's effort later on, or it may be one of the building along the way. It's the Spirit's work, and we have to do our part, whether small or big; it's all equally important.
Well, I hope that is an adequate response to the posts now a ways back. There is a lot to discuss, but I think I covered Jacob's, Patrick's, Gregory's and Chris' posts way back there. I think Evie has taken this thread into new and exciting areas, and we should pursue that too.
[Edited on 3-19-2005 by JohnV]
Yes, most heartily. One either reasons rightly or wrongly. It is not possible to reason rightly and hold to beliefs that deny God or His Word. That cannot truly be called reason, nor intelligent, and really isn't thought so much as it is rebellion. There is only one set of principles for reason, and they're in place by God's design, not man's.
It has been my hope that we can see the commonalities as primary to our disagreements. Because we are both of the household of faith, then if would follow that our basis of reason is the same. Where we differ is how we use them, or employ them in our arguments. And at that point we all need to grow. And that is the hope of the use of this Board, to have iron sharpen iron, and to remain iron as a result, but only sharper. I never doubted your fellowhip and love, Chris. Please accept mine as well.
It's like this... everyone without exception makes an assumption concerning the God question. Everyone believes their assumption to be correct, or else they would not hold their assumption. But everyone's assumption does not agree, so everyone's assumption cannot be correct. I assume the Christian God exists, and the impossibility of the contrary. You see, I can prove the Christian God, by disproving all other assumptions concerning the God question. This method of proving the Christian God is by a process of elimination. In a nutshell, I think your question begging depends upon an oversimplified version of presuppositional apologetics.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, the only way to have 100% proof for the existence of God, is through presuppositonalism (and that is why I say "everyone without exception makes an assumption concerning the God question"). You can reach a high degree of certainty concerning the existence of God through rationalism, but not absolute certainty. It is for that very reason that I started looking into presuppositonalism, and have not turned back since.
Along the way I also decided revelational epistemology is more biblical than rationalism.
Here is Paul Manata's response to begging the question:
I got the email the same night you did and posted it...some of it, anyway.
John, how do any of the historic Classical arguments attempt to show the absolute vanity and indeed non-existence of reason without God? I do not see that in the cosmological, ontological, teleological or other Classical arguments, which all traditionally seem to start from a neutral territory of thought with the skeptic, and from there proceed to reason their way to God by building arguments upon that neutral territory of thought. I cannot see how any of them even attempt to speak of God as a necessary precondition for any and all reason and experience to be intelligible. I do not doubt your personal commitment to that truth, but fail to see it properly accounted for in the Classical arguments. Even Matt (Webmaster), who is a Classicist, has said here before that while God ontologically precedes logic, logic epistemologically precedes God, which is consistent with what I see in the Classical arguments and have heard from most other Classicists.
Also, I couldn't agree more that the intellectual side of man is certainly not the only part that needs to be dealt with - and actually, that leads into another important point that I see in presuppositional apologetics, but honestly cannot see in Classical apologetics - and that is the presentation of the Gospel. Obviously a Classicist arguing for the faith can present the Gospel alongside of his arguments, but none of the Classical arguments seem to have any presentation of the Gospel inherently embedded in them, while the Transcendental Argument does, since it inevitably involves a presentation of the Christian worldview as a whole. So as an honest question, where is the Gospel necessarily presented in any of the Classical arguments?
Okay. First, please forgive me for having bailed out on our dialogue. Spring Break had me in other places. Hopefully, now we can get to some good challenging dialogue.
To the board . . .
There is a categorical mistake going on when Paul is using this to support Presuppositionalism. I affirm that God could not care any less whether the unbeliever affirms that His Word is His Word or not . . . His Word is His Word b/c it is His Word. But, note that this is the objective sense in which God's Word is self-attesting. The next section in the Confession [see last paragraph] also speaks of why God's Word is the Word of God. If the entire synopsis of our apologetic should be comprised of the fact that God's Word is God's Word b/c it is God's Word, then there would have been no reason for the next section to be written. However, it was. It speaks of God's Word in its subjective self-attesting nature. It begins by stating those reasons that "We may be moved by Scripture . . ." to give it the respect that Scripture demands. So, the Confessional fathers intended to make it clear that God's Word is God's Word no matter what we think, but then they go on and speak of how we, as subjects, can know that the Word of God is the Word of God. Thus, the fathers employ a "classical"-type approach by which we can know that the Bible is the Word of God, not in addition to the section quoted above, but seperate from and in a completely different sense in dealing with man's mind. This subjective sense is all too often ignored. Unfortunately, what I have seen come from your type of apologetic is unsympathetic and in a sense, considers those like Gordon Stein reprobate. Rather, the Word tells us to be "gentle" with those who oppose us and pray that they might repent. There seems to be little care for the unbeliever in the apologetic that forgets we are subjects, and, as such know God by the subjective and mediate means which He provides to us.
The Word of God is objectively and subjectively self-attesting. The objective nature has nothing to do with our apologetic or man's knowledge of God, but everything to do with God's superiority to man. The subjective sense has everything to do with our apologetic and employs the use of arguments in order to argue that Scripture is Scripture. Nowhere in this subjective sense of the self-attesting nature of Scripture is there an appeal to an immediate knowledge of God. The only sense in which the Confessional fathers refer to man's knowledge of God is through the mediate means by which God makes Himself known.
"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 doth 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."
Please be sure to read my post above first. All points are valid.
Blue I agree that Classical apologetics is not complete and does not directly lead to the gospel as apologetics must do.
I will post the first argument in which "Rational Presuppositionalism" lays its foundation to show the sin of the unbeliever. All men must hold to the laws of thought in order to even speak. All men speak, so they affirm the laws, but when forming their worldview fail to seek God and affirm their incosistency and irrationalism. Not all unbelievers are at the point of denying the follwing argument (i.e. spiritual monists, etc.) , but what follows is clearly seen by all men and denied by some unbelievers less consistent in reason.
There must be something eternal is shown to be true through an analysis of the contrary: none is eternal.
None is eternal implies all is temporal.
If all is temporal, then all had a beginning.
If all had a beginning, then all came into being.
If all came into being, then being came from non-being.
Being from non-being is not possible.
Therefore the contrary . . . Something is eternal must be true.
There are certainly some questions you may have, but when it comes down to it, denying the above leaps into absurdity. Through deductive arguments, Christianity, as holding Christ as God and Savior of fallen man, is shown to be the only rationally consistent belief system. Our apologetic is based on the classical assumption that God makes himself know through what has been made, and again, speaking to men, the subjective nature of God's self-attesting Word is the only honest means to prove God. Through being consistent with the Word of God our apologetic hushes the fool and evangelizes the elect at the same time.
[Edited on 4-4-2005 by knight4christ8]
NOt bad but couldn't a Muslim do the same thing with Islam?
I'll do the best I can to answer your questions. Let me apologize in advance for sermonizing, for that is certainly not my calling or my position.
I think that there may be a misconception involved here. Maybe its mine, but then my misconception is an affirmative one, while yours is negative. That is not evidence, but it certainly is a consideration. At least it has been for me, which is why I conceive of the arguments as I do.
To be more precise, I have no way of knowing what you mean by "neutral territory", since a properly held Classical or Evidential approach knows of no such thing. This is not the same kind of denial of neutral ground that the Presuppositionalist claims. But that is the point I don't understand as yet. To me it sounds like a contradicting and partisan sentiment held by Presuppositionalists. The bottom line is that I don't think the criticism by Presuppositionalists of the Classical or Evidential (or Verificationist) approaches is honest, and that's the main stickler for me. But all this is doing is batting the ball back, and that too is not honest to the question at hand. But I do want to say this in order to underline the proposition that I believe that there is a misconception at work here, and why I hold the position I do.
The misconception that I perceive has to do with the fact that almost all the criticisms of the Ontological Argument that I've read are of the kind that was first raised against Anselm, and which he did not feel necessary to answer. I agree with him; it does not need answering, for the criticism answers itself. And that is that the proof is akin to imagining a perfect island, and then assuming it exists. Although this criticism shows that the conclusion does not follow from the premise, or that the conclusion is assumed in the premise, yet it is not at all of the kind that Anselm dealt with. One could say that he would have been arguing for the perfect island from which he was standing on, but though that may be better, it still is not the same argument. One may say that he was arguing from that perfect island about that perfect island, showing that everyone else is also on that island, and that still would not mirror his argument, though, again, it may be a better one yet. He is not arguing for the created earth (the perfect island); he is arguing for the Creator, without which the island could not exist, nor even the acknowledgment of the island; no, not even the perception of the island. This entirely misses his argument. And yet this has been the academic answer to his argumentation.
Anselm's argument is not just the first three chapters of his treatise. You have to read the whole thing. Try to understand how it all fits in. He is not proceeding from "neutral territory", he is denying it. No one exists in that territory. Its just not a possibility.
Allow me another approach with this question. What is it that atheists and God-deniers deny? Are they denying Allah? No! Are they denying Buddha? No! Are they denying any of the lesser gods of any other religion? No! Though they may deny these, this is not what their main thrust in denying God is about. They have only one thing on their minds, and that is to deny the only God ever described in the perfection that the Bible teaches. They are not denying a philosophical construction, or a religious point of departure. They are denying He of whom none greater can be named. Atheists are not greatly concerned about defeating the notion of Allah, or any other god of any other religion. Nor are other religions as adamant against other religions as they are about Christianity. Nor is there apostacy like there is apostacy from the Christian religion. The entire world is proclaiming with the loudest of jeers and jibes that there is only one real God that everyone knows of. And they hate Him with all that they own. And they couch it in courting semi-virtuous or counterfeit good. There is no neutral territory here that one can start from.
But you cannot make of this the same anti-neutral Dooyweerdian argument that many have taken on instead of Van Til's view as Van Tillian. It is not the same. But that is another discussion. I just want to show that there is a misunderstanding here about what the Classical and Evidential (and Verificationist) arguments are about.
Unless that is done, I don't think that you can escape the notion that you have given above. Of course, you may not want to either. It is still possible that I am the one that misconceives. I just don't think so, because I believe my view goes a lot deeper into the questions. That may be more brag than fact, though; yet it is what I believe.
This is a more acute criticism, and one for which I, as a Classicist, ought to thank the mainline Presuppositionalists. Apologetics has been in quite a funk, even before Van Till's time. C. S. Lewis witnessed the same thing. If you have an early copy of his Mere Christianity, which is called The Case for Christianity, then it becomes quite evident that the general religious public was quite ignorant of the basics in defending the faith. And my own tradition was very negative to anything philosophical, or that pretended to do more than the Catechism or Confession did. They were very suspicious of any authority that trumped the church, as they saw it. And the traditional "proofs" were held in poor repute, and often mishandled even by those who still tried to argue them.
This is not the case for the academic world, but it is still the truth that the arguments did not hold the same sway as they do now. One minister once remarked to me that he had never heard of a Reformed person defending the Ontological Argument before, and he asked whether I may not be a closet Romanist. But he also found that I knew the Reformed doctrines almost as well as he could hope for a parishioner, and that I truly believed them. This idea of defending it from a Reformed perspective was new to him, as it would be to most people, I suppose. But a careful read of Anselm's Proslogium shows that it is actually a reiteration of Augustine's faith, as found in combining his Confessions, the Enchiridion, The City of God, and On Christian Doctrine. It was merely combined by Anselm, and formulated by him. But the notions are all Augustine's. And they are the same background that Calvin used for much of his theological work in the Institutes. So the Reformed connection is quite clear.
However, there has been quite a shift in apologetics since Van Till. I believe Schaeffer had as much, if not more, to do with that than Van Till. Van Till was an academic, working in academic circles. That filtered down through his students into the circles of the churches. It also filtered down to Schaeffer, who popularized his methodology all over the world to the everyday man as well as the academic, without favour or distinction. Sproul, Zacharias, Tada, and many others owe to Schaeffer the groundwork, or fieldwork, for their ministries. He took real apologetics and applied it to real people with real intellectual problems, and presented the gospel to them by helping in answering their questions. He did not profess to have the answers himself, but always underlined that the Bible gave answers to those who were really searching for truth in their lives. And the Bible gave answers in every area of life; it gave answers that no other could give, and it gave answers that proved right and true (He Is There And He Is Not Silent).
As I am given to understand, this is still the epitome of human efforts in our time. This is definitely a presentation of the gospel through apologetic endeavours. And it is simply not true that Schaeffer was a Presuppositionalist at the expense of all other methodologies. He was asked in an open forum if he believed in the Ontological, the Classical, or the Evidential views, and his answer was simply, "Yes". I don't have documentation for that, because I have it on the word of my friend who was attending Westminster Philadelphia at the time of his speaking engagement there.
It was a long, academically laden question, and his answer was simply, "Yes". He did not want to draw undue attention to method, or person, or approach, as much as he wanted to draw attention to the Word, and its reliability for the modern mind. Dr. E. P. Clowny makes the same observation in his summary of a meeting between Schaeffer and Van Till. And this same emphasis comes through time and again in his works, but never more so than in the L'Abri statement of purpose. (I'll look it up and post it. )
It is not that Presuppositionalism does not work. It does work. It is just that I think it is misapplied too often, and has almost become a sectarianist methodology, which no methodology ought to have a right to claim unless it is false. And that ought to scare many of us. If Presuppositionalism is all that it claims to be, then it ought to be showing itself to be the true Classical, the true Evidential, the true verificationist approach to apologetics, instead of disparaging against them. It ought to be incorporating all the best of the past, and stand in the tradition of the faith, rather than forging its own tradition. It is the Spirit that has been upholding the Church, not any methodology of man's making. And He has done so in all ages, governing His servants in the leadership afforded the Church in those ages. Man does not invent propositions, he discovers them. He formulates into proposition the truth that he discovers. And he only discovers through the open door the Spirit grants to us.
Are these methodologies full of wickedness too? Surely they are. Men have wrested even the surest of truths to their own advantage, or tried to. The inward hatred of God inherent in all sinful men always moves them to distort and rearrange the truth once established by the Spirit through Christ's Church. Think of Corinthians and Galations. But just because men have added sin upon sin onto those established truths, the truth itself is still much stronger than deception for those who are in Christ. And it is with this kind of discernment that any of us must approach the defense of the faith. It is not to win, because that has already been done. It is rather to win the soul for Christ, to rescue the wandering faith from the beguiling lies of the world, and to firm up the faith of the believer who must work in the world the other six days of the week. And we need to relegate all our methodologies to such a work.
The Classical Methodology is only this: that whatever question or argument or speculation is raised against the faith, it is able to answer, but only from the Word and from an honest appraisal of nature. The Evidential Methodology is only this: that no matter what evidence is given, it can evidence no other than that God exists and that He is true in all He says. And it is my assumption that the Presuppositional Methodology is nothing more than that man can presuppose nothing else but that God exists as a premise to any other proposition, including everything the Word of God teaches and lays as a foundation. So I take it that these cannot work separately, but are all interwoven particularly so that we may have certainty and assurance of what Christ has done for us.
Well, there is obviously greater and lesser consistency in man's use of reason. There are different points at which people begin to sway from rational thought (Muslims are more consistent than materialists - matter is not eternal). The point at which a person begins to deny reason is where reason should begin to be applied. The Muslim would agree with us at this point -- that something must be eternal. However, the Muslim begins to sway from rationality when the traits of what is eternal are made clear. It is clear that God is infinite in all of His attributes. To be evil God would stand against Himself. He is all good. Good being shown to imply perfect justness, He cannot ever deny Himself or neglect His nature . . . that would be evil. Thus, as Scripture shows man that God is merciful, this cannot be taken without remembering that God is also perfectly just, as shown in the creation. Thus, the Muslim fails to remember that God cannot deny one part of Himself in order to act upon another part of Himself. He cannot deny His Justness in turn for His mercy. Rather, if He is to be merciful (as is revealed in Scripture) He must be so not denying His justice. This is how we know that Christ's atonement is in satisfaction of the Father's wrath . . . not only showing Muslims to sway from rationality, but also Arminian theologians who deny that God has wrath which must be satisfied by Christ's atonement in order for man's redemption. The Word is consistent with General Revelation in that it adds to what can be known, telling us that God acts in mercy, but does not deny what is made clear in General Revelation, telling us that God is Just and cannot stand against His nature in any way.
If there is no self-authenticating authority, then there would be an infinite regress of justifying one's truth claims. For instance, suppose you have authority A. What would authenticate authority A? Suppose that authority B authenticates authority A. What would authenticate authority B? Another authority? This process of authenticating one's authority would go on forever if there were no authority that authenticated itself. If God's word were not self-authenticating, then there would be another authority that would authenticate the God's word. One could ask, "What authenticates the authority that authenticates the God's word?". Moreover, if something other than God's word authenticated God's word, then something would have more authority than God's word.
It is not fallacious to prove your highest authority with your highest authority because if you don't prove your highest authority with your highest authority, then you are claiming that there is an authority that is higher than your highest authority. Moreover, having no authority that proves itself will lead to an infinite process of justifying one's truth claims.
[Edited on 4-6-2005 by cih1355]
Nothing need authenticate Scripture objectively. It is the Word of God innately. But, when dealing with subjects whom Scripture must show itself to be consistent with God's nature, it must prove itself. This is the only reason that the Divines included section V. If Scripture were immediately self-attesting subjectively then no arguments would be needed, and any arguments (i.e. the consitency of its parts, etc.) cannot add any support to what is already had in the immediately self-attesting Word of God. But, the Divines show that they felt something could be added b/c their readers find consistency to be a reasonable demand of anything claiming to be Scripture.
Creation could not have come from any other than an eternal being who is infinitely good and all that follows from that. He created man, but he also created creation of which Adam was to name. This creation was to tell Adam about God. This is God's first act toward communicating Himself to man. The second act, Scripture is not validating. If it is not consistent with what is created, then it must be thrown out b/c creation was the first act and could have come from none other than God. We know properly that the Bible is the Word of God not b/c it is self-validating, but b/c it is consistent with God's first act of communicating Himself, Creation.