DEBATE: Apologetics Methodology Presuppositionalism vs Evidentialism Pt. 3

Hello readers, the following is the third and final (for me, I will explain in a separate post) response from me in this little debate I agreed to. MK = Mark Kennedy = the person I have been debating.

 

Brother Mark! I would briefly like to note how up to post #5 (post #6 appears to be a different story) you have made it difficult for me to disagree (which I can appreciate on one hand). Up to this point, if this were a normal conversation, I would most likely not respond thinking to myself; “we agree more than we disagree, so no big deal”, no need to nitpick. However, a no response here would defeat the purpose of having a debate, so please forgive the nitpicking which follows and if I come across as overly critical. I think precision is important to most Calvinists, perhaps more so than for many others. Please consider this as iron sharpening iron.

 

MK: You brought up two principles, I’m summarizing as ‘presuppositionalism applied to Science’, and the ‘subjectivism of autonomy’. Science is a limited epistemology limited to the study of natural phenomenon, what presuppositions we bring to such experiments, theories and laws of science belongs to a larger epistemology known as metaphysics. Metaphysics isn’t the paranormal and supernatural included into our naturalistic thinking, it’s the study of first principles that transcend all reality.

 

About twenty years ago in a college course titled “Changing Universe” from our primary text “The Five Biggest Ideas of Science” I recall reading briefly on the history of Science, and historically the first Scientists, were Philosophers. And then I think about Philosophers like Aristotle and his work “Categories” and the role and influence of his works on Western Civilization. His work “Categories” is indeed a philosophical work and considered the first written textbook on formal logic.

Science as an epistemology is an incomplete epistemology. Every Scientist has an epistemology and for example must depend on transcendental laws of logic or laws of thought to interpret the phenomenon and conduct scientific procedures.

Science can be defined as:

“A branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged andshowing the operation of general laws” Dictionary.com

Epistemology can be defined as:

“A branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.” Dictionary.com

One branch of epistemology is the philosophy of Science, and I acknowledge the connections, however as you note, Science is limited to the natural, therefore the epistemology is limited to the natural, but at the same time is dependent upon transcendentals or metaphysics, another branch of philosophy. However there is a problem in all of this, a naturalistic epistemology presupposes autonomy which is at odds with transcendental realities or absolutes. So my contention here is that metaphysics cannot be justified or sustained without dependency on the supernatural.

Additionally, the reason Science is limited to naturalism is due to the Scientific Method, so it is not so much epistemology, as it is dependency on the predictability involved with test results through the five senses. The apologist who emphasizes experience though may point to the conversion testimonies of countless Christians throughout the centuries as evidence of the supernatural. The empirically verifiable differences in persons who experience Spiritual regeneration. Differences in thought and behavior and responses to external phenomenon.

In summary to this section of response, I agree Science and Evidential apologetics are categorically two different fields, and naturalistic Science defined as such indeed is limited, but the naturalistic presuppositions also reveal severe limitations of the evidential apologetic as a primary defense of….faith. We should embrace our Calvinism in every field, without a Revelational (Transcendental) Epistemology, we shall never pass beyond the natural to the supernatural, we shall never interpret the facts of Science as the God created facts in our interpretation of facts.

 

MK: Ubiquitous to reality is that God being self existing and self evident there is a light that shines for every soul that comes into the world, leaving us without excuse (John 1:9; Rom. 1:20). One of the things we presuppose is the existence of God, St. Thomas Aquinas describes five ways of proving God exists, argument from motion, efficient causes, possibility and necessity, gradation of being, and design (The Existence of God can be proved in five ways.). His conclusion to each arguments was that, ‘This all men speak of as God’.

 

Unfortunately the natural theology of St. Thomas Aquinas did not go far enough; if we stop there we have not even proven that the God who exists is the God of Christianity. However even what is called natural theology presupposes the Scriptures, and apologists appealing to natural theology should acknowledge their Christian presuppositions beforehand. The non-Christian will deny they are made in the image of God, and deny the law of God written on their heart, because all men are sinners and men in bondage to sin suppress the truth of God.

 

MK: The court in Dover dismissed this argument as absurd and said, just a Thomas Aquinas, was that the designer was clearly and obviously God. For the apologist, especially the Calvinist, it is already presupposed that you are aware of the divine attributes of God and his eternal nature. That’s what I like about Presuppositional Apologetics and what I don’t like, is it need not stop there. That’s a given, an axiom of Christian theism that all men know. We do well to emphasize that point since God has made it clear to them.

 

And it does not stop there, apologists with a Biblical anthropology need to recognize the antithesis between the regenerate man and the man dead in sins and trespasses, the regenerate conscience and the seared conscience, the renewed mind and the carnal mind. We can appeal to what men know all day long, but can it avail when men suppress the truth of what they know?

 

MK: Questions:

How are we bringing the non-Christian to confrontation with the Gospel if we’re only holding them accountable in a Romans 1:18-20 way?

Frankly, we can’t, God alone has the power to reach men with the lesser light of revelation in the things that are made, and no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44).

 

I agree God alone has the power to reach men, but he has chosen to reach men with the greater light of the Gospel of Christ. How can men come to know Christ except by the Scriptures? The things that are made declare the existence of God, but do not declare the Gospel of Christ.

 

MK: What we can do is a due diligence with regards to knowing our own history found in the pages of Scripture. We have a witness there that spans human history, past, present and the very near future. At a minimum we can affirm the tradition authorship and if given to Christian scholarship, learn the intricacies of traditional authorship and the unique preservation of our sacred texts.

 

I love Bibliology and it is of great value to the Christian, however from the perspective of the non-Christian, even if and when they affirm the historicity of Biblical tradition, people, places, and things, the buck stops there and at best they approach the enlightenment of Deism. It is one thing to look at the Bible as literature and another to affirm it is of Divine origin.

 

MK: The epistemology related to the historicity of an event, certainly the epic miracles surrounding the Exodus and the resurrection are formidable tasks, given the high degree of skepticism even in our own seminaries.

 

Formidable is saying it lightly, apart from the miracle of monergistic regeneration in the heart of the non-Christian, they will always exit out the back door in retreat to their most basic presuppositions of their worldview.

 

MK: But time and time again, even in the wildness of the creation/evolution controversy I’ve seen well read, hard core skeptics, silenced by a formal presentation of the facts.

 

Certainly I too believe there is great value in silencing critics and skeptics for the sake of the faithful, for the sake of the layman, and the believer struggling with doubts.

 

MK: Evidential apologetics is indispensable to Christian scholarship, the transcendent principles Presuppositional apologetics are not in conflict with that, but rightfully should be in concert with evidential apologetics and epistemology.

 

Without a transcendental Revelational Epistemology, Evidential apologetics is limited to naturalistic epistemology of the Scientific method, and Supernaturalism is out of question, and likewise justification for metaphysics without supernaturalism is a lost cause. So evidential apologetics without Presuppositional apologetics is an exercise in futility.

 

MK: Adam was created from the dust of the earth, created from the earth for the earth. Even though he was more then that, we all exist on an earthly plane. Is it somehow surprising that men in their natural selves can only see the natural plane? With miracles abounding the children of Israel turned in their hearts back to Egypt, they stoned the prophets and crucified the author of life. How do we bring them to a supernatural worldview? God alone can pierce that darkness and we should have every confidence he can and does.

 

Exactly, God alone by a sovereign supernatural mongeristic work of the Spirit in regeneration.

 

MK: We have a well developed soteriology but I’m not quite sure that anthropology is often revisited in our apologetics.

 

Ahh now you’re approaching the historical problem of traditional apologetics, without a Biblical anthropology, traditional apologetics alone are not sufficient nor thoroughly Biblical to be;

 

“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

 

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

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Anti-theism Presupposes Theism

“It was useful to seek to apply the method of reasoning discussed in the previous chapters to the various schools of philosophy about us. However, since we have constantly sought to bring out that all forms of antitheistic thinking can be reduced to one, and since the issue is fundamentally that of the acceptance or the rejection of the concept of God, it may suffice to apply the analogical method of reasoning in an argument with those who hold to the “scientific method” of the day. That scientific method is agnostic. It claims to be willing to accept any fact that may appear, but unwilling to start with the idea of God.

Reasoning analogically with this type of thought, we seek to point out that it is psychologically, epistemologically and morally self-contradictory. It is psychologically self-contradictory because it claims to be making no judgment of any sort at the outset of its investigation, while as a matter of fact a universal negative judgment is involved in this effort to make no judgment. It is epistemologically self-contradictory because it starts by rejecting theism on the ground that its conception of the relation of God to the universe involves the contradiction that a God all-glorious can have glory added unto him. By this rejection of God, agnosticism has embraced complete relativism. Yet this relativism must furnish a basis for the rejection of the absolute. Accordingly, the standard of self-contradiction taken for granted by antitheistic thought presupposes the absolute for its operation. Antitheism presupposes theism. One must stand upon the solid ground of theism to be an effective antitheist.

Finally, agnosticism is morally self-contradictory since it pretends to be very humble in its insistence that it makes no sweeping conclusions, while as a matter of fact it has made a universal negative conclusion in total reliance upon itself. The “natural man” is at enmity against God.” Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, Table of Contents Chapter 16 A Sample of Christian Argument

 

Updates to Van Til PDF’s Section

Hello my peoples, thank you for stopping by this little blog. In honor of the anniversary of Van Til’s birthday this month (3rd) I’ve been working on a few updates. The update I would like to bring to attention here is in the Van Til PDF section. I have added more content to the unpublished manuscript section and changed the fonts in each document from Times New Roman to Siege UI (easier to read) and now there are spaces between paragraphs (easier to follow thoughts). I enjoy reading most anything written by Dr. Van Til. For probably a number of different reasons these manuscripts listed below were never published, and in reading them we should keep this in mind. These insightful documents cover a whole range of topics, from epistemology to theodicy to ethics to the free will debate to Science and facts. Time and again I am blown away by how relevant his writings remain today, and how he could in so few words get to the important issues. It is my hope people will find these valuable to the end of giving God the glory. Grace and peace. – calvinist4life

More updates to come, Soli Deo Gloria!

The following consists of Unpublished Manuscripts:

A Letter to Francis Schaeffer

An Uncertain Sound

Bernard J.F. Lonergan, S.J

Black Theology And Black Power

Boston Personalism

Christianity And Scientific Effort

Evil And Theodicy

God And The Absolute

Reformed Epistemology

The Ten Commandments

The Theology of C.S. Lewis

The Will In Its Theological Relations

Why Westminster Today

DEBATE: Apologetics Methodology Presuppositionalism vs Evidentialism Pt. 2

This is part 2 of a debate, a continuation from the previous post: HERE

Indirect Response to MK

Disclaimers

Although I have owned the title “Reformed presuppositionalist” for this debate it should be noted:

“Van Til personally disliked the term “presuppositional”, as he felt it misrepresented his approach to apologetics, which he felt was focused primarily on the preeminence of the Bible as the ultimate criterion for truth, rather than denying or ignoring evidence. He did, however, accept the label reluctantly, given that it was a useful way of distinguishing between those who deny a neutral basis for apologetics and those who do not.” – Wikipedia

In all of his years as a Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. Van Til worked towards a distinctly Reformed and systematic theological/philosophical defense of the faith. Perhaps it is why several years ago Dr. Oliphint a “Van Tillian” authored a book entitled “Covenantal Apologetics”, in which he argued in favor of using the term “Covenantal Apologetics” rather than the more common term “presuppositionalism”. I believe Dr. Van Til would approve. (see his pamphlet “Towards a Reformed Apologetic”)

Circular Reasoning and Axioms

In my opening statement I stated; “Try as we might to avoid it, proving the Scriptures are revelation from God, involves circular reasoning.” This should be no cause for alarm, because there is a difference between circular reasoning and a circular argument. Further nobody can interpret reality without basic presuppositions about reality, and the answer to philosophical question “does God exist?”, however it is answered, will be central and circular to reasoning and connected to other assumptions about reality and impact other big questions of philosophy. To use Clark terminology, the Christian Scriptures are the central axiom to Christianity. To use Plantinga terminology, the Scriptures are properly basic to warranted Christian belief. To use Bahsen terminology, the Christian worldview must be presupposed to justify the necessary preconditions of intelligibility, these include conceptual realities behind: intelligible language, laws of logic, math, and as they apply to the scientific method. To quote Dr. Van Til :

“From this quotation, certain things are clear. Calvin never did start a chain of reasoning about man’s nature and destiny by taking man by himself. He did not start with man as with an ultimate starting point. Calvin did start with a general a priori position. His position is as radically opposed to that of Descartes as it is to that of Hume. Most apologetic writers who have come after Calvin have allowed themselves to be influenced unduly by Cartesian philosophy on this matter. Calvin recognized fully that if man is to have true knowledge of himself he must regard God as original and himself as derivative. He did not place God and man as correlatives next to one another, but he recognized from the outset two levels of existence and two levels of interpretation, on the one hand the divine and eternal, and on the other hand the human or temporal. To him it is perfectly obvious that the endowments that we possess are not of ourselves, but of God. Hence he says that” not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him: and of which he is not the cause … “ – Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology” Chapter 8 Section B

Axioms and Science

So it is my contention that the epistemological defense of the faith begins with presupposing the self-attesting Christ of Scripture as the final authority and the basis, the foundation, as an apologetical framework for all other apologetic methods from reason, facts, experience, and faith.  The facts are not just the facts; the facts do not interpret themselves. In the Scriptures we learn that man was created in the image of God, but this does not mean he was created for independence from God, but rather man was created to be dependent upon God for everything, including knowledge concerning the God created facts. The empirical facts are neither neutral nor independent of the knowledge of their Creator. One way to demonstrate man’s dependency is to consider the Scientific Method. What does the Scientific Method presuppose other than the general reliability of sense perception? The laws of thought or logic are necessary to the processes of observation, measurement, experimentation, formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. The Scientific Method also presupposes a normal (“natural”) order within the universe necessary to predictability of a hypothesis. So the laws of thought or logic are necessary preconditions governing all scientific thought and procedures.

Axioms and Epistemology

The word “invention” invokes other related words like “new” and “original”. Now consider the omniscience of God, and ask yourself; “has man ever had an original thought?” Has man ever achieved a one up on God in the marketplace of ideas? I should hope not! Taking into account the Creator – creation distinction and man created in the image of God, it is important to consider differences between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man. The language Dr. Van Til used to describe the relationship of man’s knowledge to the knowledge of God, is analogical. One could probably write a small book noting differences between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man, the primary message would be that the extent to which man can know is not identical, nor the scope, therefore not exact. For what we can and do know that is true, is because man was created in the image of God, and because it is so, the knowledge of man is analogical to his Creator.  To put it another way, man’s knowledge is analogical to the original. To quote Dr. Van Til:

“All of this may again be expressed from another point of view by saying that human knowledge is analogical of divine knowledge. We cannot avoid coming to a clear-cut decision with respect to the question as to whose knowledge, man’s or God’s, shall be made the standard of the other. The one must be original and the other analogical of the original. The one must be determinative and the other subordinate. Roman Catholic theology seeks to serve two masters here. It too speaks of created being and human knowledge as being analogical of divine being and divine knowledge but it does not really take this seriously. In its philosophy and apologetics Romanism reasons as though man can, by himself, determine the nature and possibility of knowledge without reference to God. On the other hand it refers to mysteries as being above the understanding of man. But as Protestants we should definitely choose to make God the original in the knowledge situation.

The first thing to note in the question of our knowledge of God is that it must be true or objective. That this is so is once more involved in our God-concept. God knows himself analytically and completely and therefore must know all things beyond him analytically and completely. God certainly must have true knowledge of us and of the universe in general. Our existence and our meaning, our denotation and our connotation are derived from God. We are already fully interpreted before we come into existence. God knows us before and behind; he knows the thoughts of our hearts. We could not have existence and meaning apart from the existence and meaning of God.” The Defense of the Faith, Part One, Section 3-3 Man’s Knowledge of God

Skipping over a portion of context from the same sub-section, Dr. Van Til goes on to write:

“Important as it is to insist that our knowledge of God must be true, because God is what he is, it is equally important to insist that our knowledge of God is not and cannot be comprehensive. We are God’s creatures. We cannot know God comprehensively now nor can we hope to know God comprehensively hereafter. We may know much more in the future than we know now. Especially when we come to heaven will we know more than we know now, but we will not know comprehensively.

We are therefore like God so that our knowledge is true and we are unlike God and therefore our knowledge can never be comprehensive. When we say that God is a mystery for us we do not mean that our knowledge of him is not true as far as it goes.” – The Defense of the Faith, Part One, Section 3-3 Man’s Knowledge of God

 

The Christian Evidentialist is a Closet Christian Presuppositionalist

In support of the above heading, I offer the following from the book “Faith Has Its Reasons” by Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman:

“Evidentialist apologetics has been widely criticized from a number of perspectives. We will consider here some of the most common and important criticisms identifying potential weaknesses in or challenges to the evidentialist approach.18

ASSUMES THE THEISTIC WORLDVIEW

The principal objection to evidentialism from a classical apologetics perspective is that it attempts to make a case for the theistic worldview on the basis of facts. According to both classical apologists and most Reformed apologists, this will not work; one must first have a worldview before one can interpret the facts in the world. As Geisler puts it, “facts and events have ultimate meaning only within and by virtue of the context of the world view in which they are conceived.”19 Geisler explains that

evidence gains its meaning only by its immediate and overall context; and evidence as such cannot, without begging the question, be used to establish the overall context by which it obtains its very meaning as evidence. . . . it is a vicious circle to argue that a given fact (say, the resuscitation of Christ’s body) is evidence of a certain truth claim (say, Christ’s claim to be God), unless it can be established that the event comes in the context of a theistic universe.20

Geisler adds that meaning is not inherent in historical facts and events; meaning demands an interpretive context that is distinct from the facts and events.21 Apologists from other perspectives agree that evidentialists tacitly assume the validity of the theistic worldview from the beginning.” 22   LINK admin@bible.org

 

Direct Response to MK

 

MK: My experience with evidential apologetics has been focused primarily on the subject of origins, the doctrine of creation and the large body of work related to Darwinian evolution. My primary source material has been the vaunted peer review articles, especially Nature magazine. In a nutshell [the ad hominem approach] is an attempt to argue from evidence your opponent would never dream of denying as valid.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but to me this reads like presuppositionalism applied to Science. This is done by assuming the other persons view for the sake of the argument, and then demonstrating the irrationality of their view on their own terms.

 

MK: Epistemology is essentially, theories of knowledge. The Presuppositional logic of Cornelius Van Till while sound, I believe is limited.

 

I hope my indirect responses address this belief, I hope you will conclude Calvinistic presuppositionalism is: “the basis, the foundation, as an apologetical framework for all other apologetic methods from reason, facts, experience, and faith.” (See Axioms and Science heading)

 

MK: I further agree that the noetic effect of sin hampers mans search for the truth since the natural man ‘suppresses the truth in unrighteousness’ (Rom. 1:18-20). However, I do not consider this an absolution for mans’ responsibility regarding truth and examining well established evidential proofs.

 

Absolutely and I do not see where Van Tillian apologists have conflated the doctrine of total depravity or radical depravity to an absolution for man’s responsibility regarding truth. It is just the opposite; the aim is to show that despite their suppression of the truth of God, they borrow from the Christian worldview as image bearers of God, to account for truths. The problem is in non-Christian purposely taking the position the facts can be known autonomously, apart from the Creator of the facts. So as Christian apologists it is on us to remind them of their responsibility, that is remind them that facts do not interpret themselves, and the subjectivism of autonomy cannot establish objective truth in a “factual” sense. So the anti-theist suppresses theism while at the same time borrowing from theism, and this is the height of self-deception.  For all of the truth the non-Christian knows, they are analogically thinking God’s thoughts after him, we should remind them when we defend the faith…even with facts.

 

MK: This underscores one very important and distinctive feature of the rules of evidence, men are capable of apprehending evidential truth and held accountable for that reason. We are held responsible for a rejection of the gospel and the light of revelation (John 16:8-11; John 3:19; Acts 28:27 Isaiah 6:9,10). How could we be thus convicted of the sin of rejecting the light of revelation if we are incapable of discerning the truth and evidence of the gospel?

 

How are we bringing the non-Christian to confrontation with the Gospel if we’re only holding them accountable in a Romans 1:18-20 way? The responsibility is in believing or rejecting the Gospel, not the facts of Science. The non-Christian is capable of apprehending or understanding with their mind practically any and all truth the Christian can, minus spiritual discernment or those truths which are spiritually discerned.  That’s not even the issue, it is their rejection of spiritual truth which is the issue. Suppression of truth amounts to knowing the truth and rejecting it. So it is not a matter of apprehension, you will receive no argument from me concerning the capability of non-Christians to learn the same knowledge, to grasp the same doctrines. I even believe as a whole, Churches are full of apostates with a great deal of knowledge, not that they believe it, but have a mental ascension, without spiritual conversion, and this too is self-deception.

 

MK: I want to clarify what I believe are the two primary means of receiving knowledge in the human mind with regards to the truth of Scripture. There is the natural revelation that all who come into the world are subject to, the divine attributes and eternal nature of God reflected in his created world (Romans 1:10-20) and the witness of conscience (Romans 2:15). Now all are subject to this level of revelation, that is what I call the lesser light of revelation. With regards to the righteousness of God in Christ, this can only be revealed as an act of God’s sovereign will (Matt. 16:16-17).

 

I suppose my question here is, apart from the Gospel, how will you bring the naturalist to supernaturalism? I see this is a major issue, in the same way I see arguing for the resurrection from internal evidences. The non-believer does not ascent to or acknowledge Supernatural revelation as Supernatural revelation. This gets back to worldviews and basic assumptions about the nature of reality.

 

MK: I contend that evidential apologetics equipped with the tools of science and reason, both mental and physical, make our witness stronger and worthy of consideration to the sincere seeker of truth.

 

In closing a couple of quotes, first from Dr. Bahnsen;

“The Christian faith should not be defended one isolated belief after another isolated belief-as though a block house were being built up, one block at a time. Instead, the whole system should be presented and defended as a unit. Its epistemology should be defined in terms of its metaphysics and ethics (including anthropology and soteriology), and it’s metaphysics and ethics (including anthropology and soteriology) should be defended in terms of its epistemology.” – Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis

And from Dr. Van Til:

“Historical apologetics is absolutely necessary and indispensable to point out that Christ arose from the grave, etc. But as long as historical apologetics works on a supposedly neutral basis, it defeats its own purpose. For in that case it virtually grants the validity of the meta- physical assumptions of the unbeliever. So in this case a pragmatist may accept the resurrection of Christ as a fact without accepting the conclusion that Christ is the Son of God. And on his assumptions he is not illogical in doing so. On the contrary, if his basic metaphysical assumption to the effect that all reality is subject to chance is right, he is only consistent if he refuses to conclude from the fact of Christ’s resurrection that he is divine in the orthodox sense of the term. Now, though he is wrong in his metaphysical assumption, and though, rightly interpreted, the resurrection of Christ assuredly proves the divinity of Christ, we must attack the unbeliever in his philosophy of fact, as well as on the question of the actuality of the facts themselves. For on his own metaphysical assumptions, the resurrection of Christ would not prove his divinity at all.

In addition to showing that Christ actually arose from the grave and that the facts recorded in the Scripture are as they are recorded as being, insofar as this can be ascertained by historical research, we must show that the philosophy of fact as held to by Christian the- ism is the only philosophy that can account for the facts. And these two things must be done in conjunction with one another. Historical apologetics becomes genuinely fruitful only if it is conjoined with philosophical apologetics. And the two together will have to begin with Scripture, and argue that unless what Scripture says about itself and all things else of which it speaks is true, nothing is true. Unless God as an absolutely self-conscious person exists, no facts have any meaning. This holds not only for the resurrection of Christ, but for any other fact as well.” -Cornelius Van Til,  An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 242-243

Thank you brother MK for persistently encouraging this debate despite my expressed reluctance on several occasions. I honestly do not know of another person here on CF as interested in PA as you, and for this I am grateful. Overall I have primarily encountered opposition here on CF from Christians regarding PA, and usually in a disrespectful tone, and so when your own “side” rails against PA, it does tend to make it difficult and discouraging to even offer a few PA crumbs. To me, you like a rare jewel my friend, an irregularity where respectful disagreement is welcome.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

 

Notes

18 Several articles explicating and defending Montgomery’s apologetic appeared in the Global Journal of Classical Theology 3, 1 (March 2002): Ross Clifford, “Justification of the Legal Apologetic of John Warwick Montgomery: An Apologetic for All Seasons”; Gary Habermas, “Greg Bahnsen, John Warwick Montgomery, and Evidential Apologetics”; Craig Hazen, “‘Ever Hearing but Never Understanding’: A Response to Mark Hutchins’s Critique of John Warwick Montgomery’s Historical Apologetics”; and Boyd Pehrson, “How Not to Critique Legal Apologetics: A Lesson from a Skeptic’s Internet Web Page Objections.” These articles were accessed online at < http://www.trinitysem.edu/journal/toc_v3n1.html >.

19 Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 95.

20 Ibid., 95, emphasis deleted.

21 Ibid., 96.

22 Reid, “Subjectivity or Objectivity,” in Jerusalem and Athens, edited by Geehan, 409; cf. Hanna, Crucial Questions, 100; Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 vols. (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1976-1983), 1:231.

 

Definitions

Axiom

Analogy, analogical reasoning: (1) (Aquinas) Thinking in language that is neither literally true (univocal), nor unrelated to the subject matter (equivocal), but which bears a genuine resemblance to that subject-matter. (2) (Van Til) Thinking in subjection to God’s revelation and therefore thinking God’s thoughts after him. Source

Empirical

Naturalism

Supernaturalism

Further Reading

Faith Has Its Reasons (free book) by Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman

Examples of PA applied to:

Logic: A God Centered Approach (free book) by Dr. Vern Poythress

Redeeming Mathematics: A God Centered Approach (free book) by Dr. Vern Poythress

Redeeming Sociology: A God Centered Approach (free book) by Dr. Vern Poythress

PA applied in the field of Bibliology on the issue of Canon:

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books by Dr. Michael  J. Kruger

 

The full ongoing debate can be read at Christian Forums

DEBATE: Apologetics Methodology Presuppositionalism vs Evidentialism Pt. 1

Hello faithful readers and guests, here recently I decided to participate in somewhat of a formal debate with another Calvinist on the subject of Apologetics methodology. I confess to being reluctant (for a number of reasons), I turned him down several times, but he persisted to hint and nudge over a period of months, and so I finally gave in.

Here below is my (rather short) opening statement, with a link to more of the (more detailed) debate on christianforums.com below. So far I have completed the first round, and thinking about the direction I might take for the second. Comments, thoughts, etc. are welcome and appreciated.


 

Brother Mark Kennedy and I have agreed upon a friendly debate on the subject of apologetics, more specifically apologetic methodology. Mark will be making the case for Evidential Apologetics, while I make the case for Presuppositional Apologetics.

The format will be as follows:

1. Opening Statements
2. Three Rounds of Rebuttals
3. Closing Statements

We have set no time constraints, this allows time for our responses as we have time, and keep in mind this may continue for some time. If you wish to respond before we are finished, please be brief so as to help us focus efforts on the many issues related to this debate.

Please pray our faith may be increased and strengthened and for mental clarity as we work through the important issues of this debate and we hope you the readers will be blessed and be strengthened from our discourse.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

 

Laying out the groundwork

Christian apologetics includes both an offense and a defense; this entails both negative and positive aspects. Presuppositionalism tends to be characterized as an offensive approach, however it is also defensive. For example, if a positive argument for the existence of God is given, this is offense/positive, while responses to contrary arguments against the positive may be defensive/negative in nature.

The role of Epistemology

Which apologetic method should a Christian defend the faith with, one of the two advocated in this debate , neither, or both? Which method is Biblical, one of these two, neither or both? Are these two methods equal in what they can account for? I hope we will be able to answer these and many more throughout this debate.

To sort differences between them, presuppositionalism is an epistemological method which is primarily philosophical in nature, and concerned with theological/philosophical justification. Evidentialism is an epistemology which assumes the basic reliability of natural sense perception, and is concerned with justification by physical evidences. These may be presented as scientific, archaeological or historical, and usually learned from secondary sources such as books or videos. An epistemological issue for evidentialists is the philosophy of a fact, or the necessary interpretation involved with facts and the necessary philosophy to interpret reality through the natural senses.

For the sake of clarity, I am not defending a generic presuppositionalism, nor a generic epistemology, nor a neutral epistemology, I am defending what is called “Revelational Epistemology”, a Scriptural grounds and means for justification of knowing facts in an objective sense, while still maintaining our dependency on God in our interpretation of the God created facts. To be clear, it is my position our knowledge includes both objective and subjective elements. The difference is justification for knowing anything objectively apart from the Christ of Scripture.

Biblical Presuppositionalism

I am a Christian, but more specifically, I affirm the Reformed faith, therefore my defense of the faith should be consistent with my faith. I am not a generic “presuppositionalist”, I presuppose the Reformed faith from the start to the end. Reformed believers hold to the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura”, which relates to the source for knowing, the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. The Scriptures are the justification for all true knowledge of the God created facts. In Scripture we read: in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3 Christ as the supreme authority of knowledge is our justification for knowledge (in an objective sense) concerning the God created facts (objectively speaking).

The role of Worldviews

Throughout the history of apologetics, it is not uncommon for a classical or evidentialist apologist to assume for the sake of the argument a common or neutral ground as a starting point to debate or argue with the non-Christian. I strongly disagree with this approach especially on a formal level for a number of reasons. To assume neutrality is to loose contact with the Christian faith and therefore justification for knowing the facts objectively, it is to assume a position of pure subjectivism, which denies the facts are created by God. One cannot rise to objectivism from pure subjectivism.

Even when/if the classical or evidentialist apologist begins with a Christian worldview, both approaches, even combined end up falling victim to the deserved title of “god of the gaps” arguments. Let’s suppose that a Christian provides a convincing argument for the existence of God, such that the debate opponent surrenders. The question that follows is “which God?” From here we cannot really get to Jesus Christ, because this involves proving the Scriptures according to Christianity are from God, before we could ever get to arguments for the resurrection of Christ. Try as we might to avoid it, proving the Scriptures are revelation from God, involves circular reasoning.

We might point to qualities about the Scriptures which demonstrate: popularity, survival, uniqueness, unity-diversity, explanatory power of origins, the central uniformity of primary emphasis, and so on, and while they compose a supportive collaboration of evidences, there is still a logical leap involved from establishing human origin to divine origin.

Unfortunately, so many seem to have almost subconsciously bought into the notion that the non-Christian can be brought to faith in Christ through human reasoning and the five senses (alone). All Reformed believers should recognize the necessity for God to intervene through the supernatural act of (monergistic) regeneration, for the non-Christian to be “born again” or “born from above” before the non-Christian will assent or respond positively to the reasons and facts from a faith made alive by God. I hope this past statement is considered as evidence that I am not opposed to the God centered facts or God centered reason.

So it is my contention that the Romanist Christian worldview, the Romanist methodologies of defending the faith are not sufficient to defend the faith, and never have been. It is also my contention that only a Reformed presuppositionalism is sufficient to defend the faith in a Biblical, God honoring way.

As a final note, I have purposely left out several important distinctives of the Reformed apologetic from this opening statement to make this brief. These include the Creator-creation distinction, the role of self-deception in apologetics, the impossibility of the contrary, the role of antithesis in apologetics, and the transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG). I left these out because I expect to get into these as the debate continues.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and may God be glorified through our discourse.

Definitions

Apologetics (short and detailed definition)

Apologetics (detailed definition)

Methodology

Presuppositional Apologetics (short definition)

Presuppositional Apologetics (detailed definition)

Presuppose

Epistemology (short definition)

Objective (Dictionary.com [6])

Objectivity (Wikipedia)

Objectivity (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Subjective (Dictionary.com)

Subjectivity (Wikipedia)

Justification (Dictionary.com [1])

Further Reading

The Old New Reformed Epistemology (Revelational Epistemology) by Dr. Oliphint

Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology by Dr. Anderson

Science, Subjectivity, and Scripture by Dr. Bahnsen

The Theistic Preconditions of Knowledge by Dr. Anderson

Van Til and the Trinity: The Centrality of the Christian View of God in the Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til by Colin D. Smith

Van Til Frequently Encountered Misconceptions by Dr. Anderson

Redeeming Science: A God Centered Approach (book) by Dr. Poythress

 

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What’s Your Worldview? by James Anderson

what's your worldviewDetails:

Author: Anderson, James N.

Binding: Paperback

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Crossway

Year: Jan 2014

ISBN#: 9781433538926

 

Publisher’s Description:

How do you view the world?
It’s a big question. And how you answer is one of the most important things about you.

Not sure what you’d say? Join James Anderson on an interactive journey of discovery aimed at helping you understand and evaluate the options when it comes to identifying your worldview. Cast in the mold of a classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, What’s Your Worldview? will guide you toward finding intellectually satisfying answers to life’s biggest questions—equipping you to think carefully about not only what you believe but why you believe it and how it impacts the rest of your life.

About the author:  James N. Anderson (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is associate professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, and an ordained minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Before studying philosophy, he completed his doctoral work in computer simulation. Anderson is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers, the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Endorsements:  “I can think of readers to whom I would not give this book: they like their reading material to be straightforward exposition. The notion of an interactive book, where readers are forced to choose distinguishable paths and interact with discrete lines of thought, finding their own worldviews challenged—well, that does not sound very relaxing, and it may be a bit intimidating. But James Anderson has written something that is as creative as it is unusual: he has written a book in clear prose and at a popular level that nevertheless challenges readers to think, and especially to identify and evaluate their own worldviews. If the style is akin to ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, the content is at least as entertaining and far more important.” —D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“This book will become ‘the book’ that will be used by campus ministers, students, and a host of others who are constantly being drawn into conversations concerning worldviews. The layout of this book is ingenious, helpful, and engaging. The information found in these short pages will provide accurate long-term care for those on a ‘worldview journey.’” —Rod Mays, National Coordinator, Reformed University Fellowship

“What’s Your Worldview? is a brilliant concept, because each generation stumbles into its own ways to learn about God. Francis Schaeffer spoke about truth to many now old. James Anderson speaks to the young who grew up with ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, where the outcome depends on the choices readers make. A great gift for thoughtful teens who need to choose wisely.” —Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, World News Group

“James Anderson’s What’s Your Worldview is a delightfully innovative apologetic. I know of nothing like it. It gets the reader to interact by asking crucial worldview questions. Depending on the reader’s answers, he is led to further questions, or to a conclusion. Animating the journey is a cogent Christian apologetic, showing that only the Christian worldview yields cogent answers to the questions. Anderson’s approach is both winsome and biblical, as well as being the most creative apologetic book in many years. I pray that it gets a wide readership.” —John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

“Thanks to James Anderson for filling a massive gap in apologetics and worldview thinking. This book is unique in that it is wholly and broadly accessible to readers of any background and educational level, and yet written by an accomplished Christian philosopher. Written with wit, clarity, cogency and simplicity, this book ingeniously guides the reader from a chosen worldview to its implications. Urging the reader to connect the conceptual dots of his own thinking, this book should lead its reader either to turmoil or to truth. This will now be the first book on my list for people who ask ultimate questions about Christianity and its relationship to other ways of thinking. Get this book, read it, then get more to give away to friends and family.” —K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary; author, Covenantal Apologetics

“What’s Your Worldview offers a uniquely interactive approach to finding answers to life’s biggest and most important questions. It makes identifying your worldview, and perhaps replacing it with a better one, an enjoyable adventure.” —Tim Challies, blogger, Challies.com; author, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

“There has been a plethora of books written about worldview in the past 25 years, but Dr. Anderson has done something much better—he has written a book that helps you discern your worldview, and then ask yourself some penetrating questions about it. Is all as it should be in your worldview? Read on, and find out.” —Rev. William Fullilove, Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Assistant Academic Dean, Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta

“For some time now, the church has been in desperate need of an accessible and practical tool that would help people evaluate the cogency and coherence of their worldviews. Finally, with this new book, that need is being met. James Anderson is one of the brightest new voices in the world of philosophical theology. You will not want to miss this book.” —Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte; author, Canon Revisited

“Not the last word on worldviews, but quite possibly the first! What’s Your Worldview? is creative, clear, and fun, but with some ‘nice’ and necessary sharp edges. I hope and pray it will have the desired effect of making all those who read it stop and think (Isa. 44:19).” —Daniel Strange, Academic Vice Principal and Tutor in Culture, Religion and Public Theology, Oak Hill Theological College, London

“Dr. James Anderson has provided the church with a unique new tool to help the next generation be prepared to give the reason for the hope that is within them.” —Hugh Whelchel, Executive Director, The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics; author, How Then Should We Work?

Amazon Review by Mike Robinson:   “Worldviews are in dispute: Christian theism vs. modern atheism. Christianity vs. Islam. Truth vs. Eastern ideas. There are powerful and compelling arguments for the existence of the Christian God, but one wouldn’t know it if one only read the works of Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins. They assert numerous fallacious and deceptive arguments as they often erect the frailest of straw-men in order to push them down with the greatest of rhetorical ease. Most world religions are not much better since they generally rest on fideism. James N. Anderson (PhD, University of Edinburgh; assoc. professor of theology & philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary) helps you interact with essential ideas by presenting probing questions about important worldview concepts and applications. How you answer will lead you to the next concept or subject. Anderson engagingly leads the reader to the discovery that only the Christian worldview supplies coherent and persuasive answers to ultimate questions (by means of a type of “game book” or CYOA). This is a very unique and winsome way to not only keep the reader’s attention, but teach him in a manner that may increase retention of essential truths.

You would think that atheism, Islam, finite Godism, and Eastern religions are forceful challengers to Christianity. But Anderson doesn’t merely argue that these views, as amusing as some are, do not reveal the evidential or philosophical actuality, but he guides the reader to the truth. “What’s Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions” draws the student, step by step, to the reality that the Christian worldview has preeminent rational arguments and worldview cogency on its side. The reader will discover that Christianity categorically provides coherency and makes the most sense–even more, concurrently, it provides the foundation for a truth-filled worldview.

A worldview is an overall perspective of life. One sees and defines the world through a basic grid of presuppositions, a worldview. It is the rational network used to evaluate reality. A worldview is a set of beliefs (often unconscious) which affect the way people see and respond to the world. It is a rational paradigm that provides a unified system of analysis. It examines human experience as it provides a set of explanations regarding the problems of existence. Anderson rightly helps the reader understand the important role worldview analysis plays in the development of Christian apologetics as well as the growth of the ordinary person’s thought life.

In “What’s Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions” topics include:

* The Truth Question
* The God Question
* The Freedom Question
* The Unity Question
* The Resurrection Question
* The Moses Question
* The Matter Question
* The Divinity Question
* The Muhammad Question
* The Salvation Question
* And much more

Different worldviews lead to different conceptions of reason, morality, and freedom. The person who goes astray from God’s word falls into many needless troubles and hindrances. One always ends up being a servant to the confines of one’s worldview.

An important function of a worldview is that it serves as an explanatory model of the world. A worldview informs a person’s:

* Description of the world.
* Epistemology (what one can know and how does one know it).
* Ethics (what are moral values and what precisely are they).
* Eschatology (where humanity and reality is headed).
* Objectives (purpose, procedure, and production: what is the purpose of humanity, what should men aim to build, and what course of action should be taken).

“What’s Your Worldview?” Anderson tackles a wide range of worldviews and theoretical categories. The reader can interact with dualism, atheism, Islam, monism, deism, finite Godism, Platonism, pantheism, and countless other worldviews.

The traveler discovers that a worldview consists of a number of background assumptions as well as ultimate beliefs–those are essential presuppositions used to view human experience. “What’s Your Worldview?” gently helps the reader identify many of these presuppositions that constitute the grid through which one observes the world. Presuppositions stand on that which one considers to be the foundation for truth. One’s presuppositions supply the source of their moral values and therefore the guiding source for their assessments and choices.

People tend to view the world in a way skewed to favor the elements essential to their worldview. Studies have demonstrated that people are inclined to think they are more intelligent and sensible than the average person. Obviously some people are engaged in defective reasoning. “What’s Your Worldview?” smoothly challenges one’s reasoning process at its core and ground. People generally view their worldview with foggy glasses (biased presuppositions) as they assume the weak and incoherent features of their worldview without critical inquiry. Anderson allows the reader to use one’s own critical analysis upon their worldview and the worldviews of others. The author fills a vital need within the modern church: worldview studies. “What’s Your Worldview?” is an innovative volume that is reader-friendly and accessible to those with little apologetic or philosophical training. As one digs in, Anderson guides with care, easiness, and appealing straightforwardness–this volume inventively escorts you from a selected worldview to its effects and consequences. Anderson gradually steers you to discover the result of your own ideas, as you either choose the truth or the unpleasant results of an incoherent worldview.

This is a book today’s generation urgently needs–an approachable and hands-on resource that helps the reader evaluate the cogency and soundness of the assorted worldviews jostling for their souls. Herein, students as well as ministers, find the solution. Since it is an interactive book, it is great for campus ministries, youth groups, teachers, and the busy pastor. No apologist should miss this book. Endorsed by D.A. Carson, Marvin Olasky, K. Scott Oliphint, and John Frame.”

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