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Friday, April 30, 2010

Problems with Presuppositional Apologetics

In yesterday's post, I discussed problems that presuppositional apologists such as Greg Bahnsen have with the use of evidences to try to persuade non-believers in the truth of Christianity. Today, I want to look at other evangelical apologists' criticisms of presuppositionalism. An interesting book was published in 2000 entitled, Five Views on Apologetics, edited by Steven Cowan. The book has five leading representatives of various apologetical schools defending their methodology. William Craig defends "Classical Apologetics" (the use of the deductive theistic arguments such as the cosmological and teleological). Gary Habermas defends "Evidential Apologetics" (the use of inductive arguments such as historical evidences for the resurrection). Paul Feinberg (longtime professor of Philosophy and Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) defends "Cumulative Case Apologetics" (the use of multiple lines of argumentation which together prove Christianity). John Frame defends "Presuppositional Apologetics" (the idea of presupposing the truth of the Bible in order to prove Christianity). Kelly Clark defends "Reformed Epistemology" (the idea that belief in God is properly basic as a result of the sensus divinitatis, the "sense of the divine" present in all men). While there is significant agreement and overlap in the various approaches, the most marked distinction is between the presuppositionalist position and the others.

I have identified 10 separate criticisms of Presuppositional Apologetics (hereafter, PA) from the other apologists writing in Five Views.

1. PA is an assertion not an argument.

PA believes in proclaiming the gospel not arguing for the gospel. It believes that argumentation is useless because until the Holy Spirit regenerates (which they believe precedes faith) the lost man, he will never be persuaded of the truth of Christianity.

Kelly Clark says that PA prefers assertion over argument (p. 256). He elaborates:
Whenever I read presuppositionalists I almost always think, "Saying it's so doesn't make it so." Saying that Christianity is the criterion of truth (whatever that could mean), that Christian belief is the most certain thing we know, that Christian faith is not defeasible, and that Scripture supports these views, does not make it so. There are few apologetic approaches that are so long on assured proclamation and so short on argument (pp. 370-371).

2. PA begs the question.

Frame formulates the PA's argument in the form of a syllogism.

Premise 1: Whatever the Bible says is true.
Premise 2: The Bible says it is the Word of God.
Conclusion: Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God.

For Christians, the argument expresses an important truth: As our supreme standard, Scripture is self-attesting. There is nothing higher than God's Word by which God's Word may be validated
(pp. 356-57).

Craig points out that this is "begging the question." He writes:

Where presuppositionalism muddies the waters is in its apologetic methodology. As commonly understood, presuppositionalism is guilty of a logical howler: it commits the informal fallacy of "petitio principii," or begging the question, for its advocates presupposing the truth of Christian theism in order to prove Christian theism. Frame himself says that we are "forced to say, 'God exists (presupposition), therefore God exists (conclusion),' even though such reasoning is "clearly circular" (p. 217). It is difficult to imagine how anyone could with a straight face think to show theism to be true by reasoning, "God exists. Therefore, God exists"(pp. 232-33).
Craig continues:
Furthermore, it would be circular reasoning if we were to try to show that the gospel is true on the basis of the Scriptures, since the Scriptures are a written expression of the gospel. Thus, while one can use the Scriptures as historical documentary evidence, one cannot, withouth begging the question, use them as God's Word to argue for the truth of God's Word. That is why Scripture as God's Word does not play a greater, distinct role in my religious epistemology (p. 315).
Feinberg succinctly states: To make Scripture a test for truth in apologetics is to argue circularly. I find this to be a problem (p. 348).

3. PA is defensive in nature and offers no positive reasons to believe.

Habermas argues that presuppositionalism is only an incomplete apologetic system. I would even say that it fails in the most important aspect--providing positive reasons to believe (p. 241).

According to PA, the unbeliever cannot be persuaded to accept the Christian faith by arguments or evidence because to the natural man the things of the spirit are foolishness. One has to presuppose the truth of the Bible in order see its veracity. In reality, one can only see the veracity of the Bible, once God has implanted faith in the individual. Since PAs by their own proclamation are consistent Calvinists, they believe that unless and until God regenerates a man, that man will never see the truth of Christianity. One might as well expect a blind man to see or a deaf man to hear. It is actually then futile to engage in apologetics. Evangelism is what Christians should engage in and apologetics at best offers negative criticisms of other worldviews, it does not offer positive proofs for Christianity.

4. PA is based on a false analogy.

Habermas says that according to PA:
No one can be neutral, we must all begin with some sort of prior notions. Given such a stance, they can basically begin with the truth of Christian theism in at least some form. But somehow Frame proceeds from here to Scripture, as if this entire body of truth is justified by the need for a starting point.

Here Frame commits the informal logical fallacy of false analogy. He argues that rationalists must accept reason as an ultimate starting point, just as empiricists must assume sense experience, and so on. So the Christian may begin with Scripture as a legitimate starting point. But these are not analogous bases. While the rationalist uses reason and the empiricist uses sense experience as tools from which to construct their systems, Frame assumes both the tool of special revelation and the system of Scripture, from which he develops his Christian theism. In other words, he assumes the reality of God's existence, his personal interaction with humans, plus a specific product: Scripture. Does Frame not realize that, in the name of everyone needing a presupposition, he has imported an entire worldview when the others have only asked for tools? (p. 242).
5. PA could be used to "prove" any religion.

In response to the argument of PA that if one used anything outside of the Bible to verify the Bible (as evidentialists like Habermas and classical apologists like Craig do), then whatever is being used to verify the truth of the Bible has in effect become the ultimate authority. Since the Bible is the ultimate authority as the Word of God, nothing can be over the Bible in terms of authority. Habermas points out that according to this way of thinking a Muslim could equally presuppose the truth of the Qu'ran. Unless something outside of the Qu'ran could be used to falsify the Qu'ran, then there would be no way to disprove it. The Christian and the Muslim could only state their beliefs against the other (p. 244).

In addition, Habermas points out that in the Bible itself, God gives evidences for the veracity of his revelation. For example, in the OT, a prophet was recognized as being a true prophet only if his prophecy came to pass (Dt. 18:21-22). In the case of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the evidence of fire from heaven was given as a proof of the reality of Yahweh. In the NT, Jesus offers miracles as evidence that he is the Messiah and his disciples proclaim the resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate proof of their message. Thus, the PA methodology is at odds with the Bible itself.

6. PA would mean that the unbeliever is not able to know anything.

According to PA, the nonbeliever must presuppose the existence of God in order to deny him. Here PA tries to show that the nonbeliever is really inconsistent. In any worldview except Calvinistic Christianity, there is no basis for thinking that man has grounds for believing that his cognitive faculties are reliable or that his sense perception is reliable or that the external world even exists. Clark argues that the logical conclusion of PA puts them in the untenable position of saying that the nonbeliever really can't be justified in knowing anything. He can hold true opinions but never true knowledge unless he unwittingly presupposes the truth of the Scriptures (pp. 256-59).

7. PA is wrong to assume that one cannot "step outside of their worldview" to examine other worldviews.

Feinberg disagrees with PA on this point. He believes that people can step outside of their worldviews and look at things as one would in another worldview. I can think about things from the presuppositions of an unbeliever, and I think that unbelievers can think about things from the standpoint of a Christian (p. 251).

8. PA produces arrogance.

PA tends to think that they and they alone have the biblical method of apologetics. They have roundly criticized other apologetic methods and apologists as compromising the authority of Scripture.

Clark writes:Presuppositionalists have tended to believe themselves to be the biblical and Christian apologists (arrogantly so, in my estimation, when they call other apologetical approaches anti-Christian) . . . (p. 256).

Presuppositionalists pride themselves on finding their view (and their view alone) supported by Scripture. Indeed, Frame patronizingly suggest that I need to do more Bible study (p. 371).

9. PA diminishes the importance of reason.

Clark argues:
Is autonomous human reason a bad thing? If its a bad thing, it is all the worse for us because it is all that we have. Although people often oppose revelation to reason and suggest that revelation is superior, there can be, in the end, no real opposition. Here is the problem: Each person must decide (tacitly or explicitly) that a purported revelation is revelation. Each person must decide that what is being said in some particular holy writ is the voice of God. Each person must decide what is being said and then what it means. And each person must decide what it means today that God said something a long time ago. At every level, human reason is operative.

Frame says: "To claim neutrality is to claim that I am the one who ultimately decides what is true or false" [p. 218]. But surely I am the one who decides what is true or false. Who else could do that for me? of course, our deciding does not make something true or false; that is not my point. My point is that each of us must make decisions using our best judgment about what is true and false. I don't see any other way around it. We have no other faculty than reason to come to our best judgment of which god to follow (or not) and what it means to follow that god
(p. 262).
Clark points out that reason is needed even to understand the Bible and to evaluate different interpretations. I suspect that some presuppositionalists believe that Scripture is so clear that submission to God's truths does not involve any imposition of human reason. But the tremendous diversity of Christian interpretations of Scripture suggest otherwise (p. 262).

10. PA confuses faith with certainty.

PA prides itself in having the only apologetic method that allows for the certainty that Christianity is true. All the others deal with probability.

Clark points out, however, that faith does not always equal certainty. He writes:
Frame claims that faith is not defeasible (and hence is certain and indubitable) and offers Abraham as his example. But Abraham is surely not a good example. He laughed at God, slept with his maidservant, banished his son (Ishmael), and lied twice about his wife to protect himself. Read the life story of any of the so-called heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 and see if it supports Frame's claims. Read carefully through the lament Psalms and see if you come away with the belief that faithfulness implies certainty. Faith is a journey fraught with peril, risk, and uncertainty. We see through a glass darkly, and we see the goal from afar. Certainty is the goal or the ideal not the beginning or the reality. We are not perfect in practice, nor are we perfect in belief. Scripture itself is painfully honest about doubt and the struggle of faith (p. 371).
As I pointed out in yesterday's post, PA makes some valid criticisms of evidentialist apologetics. It points out that evidences do not come with their own built-in interpretation but that they are subject to being understood in light of the individual's presuppositions and background knowledge. Today, I show that PA is not free from problems itself. It essentially is guilty of circular reasoning. One presupposes the truth of the Bible in order to believe in God. Thus, in my opinion all Christian apologetic methods fail. That is one reason why I remain a convinced non-believer.

36 comments:

  1. Do you think that there is a connection between presuppositional apologetics and King James onlyism? It seems to me that in both cases there is some level of intellectual integrity which recognizes that arguments based on empirical evidence are insufficient to support the desired theological conclusions. However, rather than question the conclusion, empirical arguments are abandoned in favor of arguments based on supernatural intervention.

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  2. What irks me most about presuppostionalism is that it channels Calvin's abhorrence of human nature. Man is so vile, so broken down by inner wickedness, he has no business even considering the merits of Scripture. He can scarcely touch the book without defiling it with his filth. A moral maggot has no place questioning or seeking an explanation.

    I have heard many times from Calvinists that our human reason is "fallen." Strange how reason works just fine when mathematicians work on a problem. NASA used reason to get us to the moon and to land a spacecraft on Titan. I guess "fallen reason" means that when we seek answers to ultimate questions, our circuits go haywire and we inexplicably come up with the metaphysical equivalent to 2+2=5.

    I was a Calvinist champion for years and years. Now words fail me to describe how much I detest that arrogance-inducing steaming pile of theology.

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  3. Vinny,

    While most presuppositionalists are not KJV only, KJV only people are presuppositionalists when it comes to the accuracy of the KJV. They have to presuppose (i.e., accept by faith) that it is accurate because the facts certainly indicate otherwise.

    There is also the similarity with regard to the need to be certain. PA brags about the fact that only they can hold with certainty that Christianity is true whereas other apologetic methods deal with probability. KJV only advocates brag that only they know for certain they have the Word of God whereas those who accept multiple translations and textual variants have to deal in probabilities.

    There is a certain kind of person who must have "certainty." They cannot stand anything less. To me, its an overly simplistic mindset that is found also in the realm of politics. Ever notice how Bill O'Reilly is adamant about the certainty of his beliefs? This appeals to a lot of people who want to see everything as black or white.

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  4. Steve,

    Yes you are correct. Its amazing that man's fallen reason serves him pretty darn well most of the time. But when it comes to the Bible and evangelical Christianity its way off base. Strange how that works, isn't it?

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  5. "Frame formulates the PA's argument in the form of a syllogism.

    Premise 1: Whatever the Bible says is true.
    Premise 2: The Bible says it is the Word of God.
    Conclusion: Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God."

    How many adherents of PA actually affirm Premise 2 quite so explicitly? "Bible" is a post hoc collective noun. No book of the Bible identifies itself as part of something called "the Bible."

    Some books of the Bible purport to contain the words of God. Others don't. In the letters of Paul (authentic or not), does Paul ever positively assert that the theological opinions he expresses are actually the "Word of God," and not just his theological opinions? PA adherents may claim that the words of Paul are the Word of God, but can they -- do they -- claim that they're taking Paul's word for it?

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  6. P.Coyle asked: "In the letters of Paul (authentic or not), does Paul ever positively assert that the theological opinions he expresses are actually the "Word of God," and not just his theological opinions?"

    Yes. In at least 4 verses in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul indicates whether he is speaking for himself or the Lord:

    "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this." (6)

    "To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord):" (10)

    "To the rest I say (I, not the Lord)..." (12)

    "Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." (25)

    As an Apostle appointed by Christ he would speak authoritatively unless otherwise noted (as he does in these passages).

    Hope that helps.

    Scott

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  7. Scott,

    Why shouldn't we conclude that Paul expressed his own opinion except at those points where he specifically states that he is passing along something that was revealed to him?

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  8. Good Question, Vinny.

    There are at least 6 reasons off the top of my head (I don't expect you'll accept any of them but you asked):

    1. Paul says that he was an Apostle called/appointed by Christ for the preaching of the Gospel, an "ambassador" as he refers to himself (This idea is important; I'll come back to this).

    2. Paul recounts for us that he was instructed by Christ himself for at about 3 1/2 years.

    3. Paul was accepted by James, John & Peter in Jerusalem as being an Apostle like them.

    4. He dealt with Peter as a peer when he corrected Peter on his shunning of Gentiles.

    5. 2/3 of the N.T. writings are ascribed to Paul and account for most of the theological development during the transition phase from Judaism to (Judeo-)Christianity.

    6. Throughout the history of the Christian church Paul as been accepted as an orator for God.

    Now, back to the ambassador idea. When a national leader appoints an ambassador to represent the nation to other leaders, the ambassador is said to "represent" and "speak on behalf of" that nation. The ambassador is an official messenger and representative.

    Now, just because Paul said he was an ambassador for Christ doesn't make it so. The person must also fulfill the responsibilities/duties of the office. Paul did that. He walked the talk.

    To top it off he started as an "enemy of the state" if you will as a man on a mission to persecute and put to death Christians. Then BAM! We see a complete 180% turn around for no apparent reason other than what he says happened, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,..." (Romans 1:1)

    So, he claimed something. Then his actions backed up that claim right up to his death. If he didn't speak from and for God, he's the craftiest fellow who ever lived.

    But that's just my opinion.

    Scott

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    1. I think there is an important work not being considered here, Hyam Maccoby's "The Mythmaker" (Paul and the Invention of Christianity) which lays down a rather heavy argument that Paul was not telling the truth about being a Pharisee and that accounts taken from Acts and the Pauline Epistles clearly proves it. This would not only throw clear doubt that Paul's intentions were to elevate his level of importance but also that he mixed Gnosticism, Mystery Religions, and Judaism to make a new Man/God Cult and give himself a position of authority- a position he failed to achieve from Judaism. If you haven't read the book I HIGHLY recommend it. The writings of this "Paul of Tarsus" is equivalent to the writings and motives of Joseph Smith, the Founder of Mormonism-- false accounts designed to get a following despite the risk of alienating himself from the more "fundamental teachings of Christianity". This is true with Paul, for his claims are so foreign and strange to Judaism that his claims of Jesus being Divine would be considered heretical to any learned Pharisee.

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  9. Hi Ken, I replied to you on Facebook, but I don't want to come to your blog and just slap down a pointer to my blog.

    Best wishes,
    Jeri

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  10. Scott, just because Paul was an apostle, that means that BY DEFAULT everything he wrote or said is binding on all people for all time (unless he says it isn't)? That's one quantum leap.

    I'll bet Paul would be shocked to learn that these personal letters he sent out became Scripture, equal in authority to the words of Jesus.

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  11. Scott,

    The ambassador is an official spokesman and representative, but that doesn't mean that every word he speaks is binding. There may be some areas where his authority is very specific and others upon which he has discretion to respond to the situation as he finds it. That would seem to be consistent with 1 Corinthians 7.

    SteveJ,

    I agree with Steve that Paul wouldn't have thought that he was writing scripture. Since he thought the second coming was imminent, I doubt that he could have imagined that there would be any purpose to additional scriptures. However, since he doesn't give much indication that he knows many of Jesus' words, I am not sure he saw them as authoritative either.

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  12. In addition, Paul's claim to be an apostle is somewhat dubious based on the qualifications laid down in Acts 1. Also there is no Scriptural passage that says that the apostles have some unique authority. That seems to be an idea that developed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.

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  13. Let us just for a minute presuppose there is no Bible, or even that the Bible exists but is simply another book, like Harry Potter. What would the apologists come up with without using the Bible to back up their arguments?
    Scientists require independent,replicable, outside proof.
    As was pointed out in an earlier post, using the Bible to back up your argument is circular logic.
    So God inspired the Bible saying he was God. Great logic!

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  14. "PA prides itself in having the only apologetic method that allows for the certainty that Christianity is true. All the others deal with probability."

    Didn't anyone ever tell them that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is? "Isn't it great we get to skip that whole persuasive part?!?"

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  15. Write@titude said:

    at least 4 verses in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul indicates whether he is speaking for himself or the Lord:

    "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this." (6)

    "To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord):" (10)

    "To the rest I say (I, not the Lord)..." (12)

    "Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." (25)


    I do not think that Paul's intent in I Corinthians 7:10 was to say, "In the following sentence, I am claiming that the voice inside my head is the voice of God." What he is saying is "This is what the Lord (i.e., Jesus) said about divorce."

    Paul has often been accused of not knowing which Jesus had actually taught. There may be considerable truth in that, but this verse seems to suggest that he did have some knowledge of Jesus' teachings. See, for example, Mark 10:1-10. Of course, Paul would not have known about what Jesus had said about divorce from Mark (the earliest of the Gospels), because Mark was only written 10 or 15 years after I Corinthians. He could, however, known about it from other sources.

    I think the question remains open: Did Paul ever claim that his own personal opinions as expressed in his letters were "the Word of God"?

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  16. Coyle,

    I think you could make a case for it based on 1 Thess. 2:13--And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. .

    And 2 Thess. 3:14--If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.

    Also in 2 Pet. 3:15-16, note the author says the writings of Paul are being distorted just like the other Scriptures --Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

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  17. Ken,

    I would think 1 Thess. 2:13 points in the other direction. Whatever the "Word of God" is taken to mean in that passage, isn't Paul saying that it was something he and others brought at some earlier time rather than something in the contents of the letter they were reading?

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  18. Clare,
    "Scientists require independent,replicable, outside proof."

    Then evolution is no more plausible to you than Christianity? There is no evolutionary scientist that can provide independent, replicable, outside proof for it.

    "As was pointed out in an earlier post, using the Bible to back up your argument is circular logic."

    For PA, the Bible is not a proof-text to "back up" anything. It is the foundation stone upon which faith and logic rest. For a presuppositionalist, reason and empirical proofs do have use. They are not ignored, nor are they minimalized. For PA, empirical proofs serve to bolster the faith of one who already believes; not as evangelistic tools. This is no more circular reasoning than Darwinian evolution. Evolutionists devising the geologic table in the 19th C. did so according to their basic presupposition - that evolution was true. They did not do otherwise. This is the very reason modern scientists are still explaining the persistence of missing links and presence of fossils in strata of the geologic column that should not be there - at least not for a few billion years. In fact, your comments presuppose, as do most of the comments thus far, that Christianity is false and/or that PA is evil and those who align themselves with it are undereducated or unintelligent.

    Change the presupposition and you change the person.

    BTW - Most PA adherents are not KJV Only. They represent only one small segment of evangelicalism, let alone PA.

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  19. @pastordwsmith,

    "Then evolution is no more plausible to you than Christianity? There is no evolutionary scientist that can provide independent, replicable, outside proof for it."

    Researchers at McGill and Oxford Universities have applied ecological and evolutionary theory to demonstrate how bacteria become resistant.

    Here's more from another biologist:

    Recently, biologist Richard Lenski of Michigan State University discovered that one of the populations of E. coli bacteria which he has been cultivating for 20 years developed a rare and unexpected new trait. His 12 populations have been reproducing for more than 44,000 generations now and every 500 generations, he saves a sample so he can "replay" their development to see what happened.

    That to me is pretty good proof of evolution, and that's just one tiny bit of evidence.

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  20. I've written something on the presuppers here:

    http://aigbusted.blogspot.com/2010/02/refuting-presuppositionalism.html

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  21. Ken,
    Great post. I have that 5 views book and that is a very good summary of the criticisms of PA.

    I was a die hard PA guy for a long time. Ironically, I think that is one of the things that caused me to loose my faith completely. I read a lot of Bahnsen and Van Til and saw them take the "evidentialist" arguments apart and show how weak they were. Then when I finally saw the MAJOR flaws in the PA viewpoint, it all unraveled from there.

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  22. Ken, as a believer the necessary foundation for reasoning is God. As a professed non-beleiver, the necessary foundation for reasoning is 'not-God.' Could you perhaps tell me how one reasons from God being the necessary foundation for reasoning, to Him not being so?

    "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." ~ 1 John 2:19)

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  23. Sye said:

    As a professed non-beleiver, the necessary foundation for reasoning is 'not-God.

    Eh, no. Any other strawmen...?


    Could you perhaps tell me how one reasons from God being the necessary foundation for reasoning, to Him not being so?

    Easy. By realising he isn't.

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  24. Ken,

    FYI, Sye reckons he's answered your criticisms here.

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  25. rhiggs,

    These ten problems are drawn from other Christian apologists who have problems with PA, they are not original with me. I looked at the link you provided and I didn't really see any response except a couple of words under each problem. That is hardly an answer. If Sye really wants to answer these problems, then he needs to show why Craig, Clark, Habermas, and Feinberg are all in error when they criticize PA. I think it will take a little more than a few words.

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  26. Hi Ken, first off an apology - I linked your blog to rhiggs blog (http://fourdollarsalmostfive.blogspot.com/2010/10/useful-links-for-exposing-sye-tenb.html) as part of an ongoing debate that we're having with Sye Tenbruggencate about PA, hence these recent comments.

    I hope to debate Sye for the second time (the first is at http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable under 31st July 2010. Worth listening to as it shows the lines of argument that Sye uses and the dangers of being under prepared to debate a Presuppositionalist.)

    Dawson Bethricks blog has a very good series of rebuttals of PA at http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/

    Stephen Law has also had several exchanges with Sye at http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/ (Stephen is the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK).

    It's also worth looking at my own blog http://patientandpersistant.blogspot.com/ where I've tried to bring together the various lines of argument advanced by PA and the rebuttals.

    PA has been as successful as it has been because each time it's been presented anyone responding apppears to do so without full knowledge of prior exchanges whereas the Presuppositionalist begins knowing that he/she will face the same starting lines of argument as before.

    Paul Baird

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  27. Paul,

    No apology necessary. I listened to the discussion between you and Sye. One problem relates to the concept of being certain. Have you read On Being Certain by the neuroscientist, Robert Burton? I have a post here on the book.

    There are many things I could say in response to Sye. I used to teach apologetics in a Bible college and I held to presuppositionalism. I understand it as well as he does.

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  28. Hi Ken.

    I'm not sure what point you're making regarding certainty - if it's with regards to my own worldview then I'd better clarify my position to avoid any misunderstanding.

    Sye's favourite question seems to be to ask "How do you know that you exist ?", my response in the debate was the common cognito ergo sum.

    Sye takes the view that without the certainty of being able to provide an absolute philosopical answer my worldview is groundless and therefore absurd.

    That begs the question as to what "absolute philosophical certainty" is.

    My view is that the question is ambiguous. It requires clarification of "You", "exist" and "know".

    That said within particular contexts I can know that I exist, for given values of "I", "exist" and "know", which is enough for my worldview to be valid.

    Anyway, what I've tried to do since the debate is to connect together the various people who have considered PA in general and who have debated Sye in particular so that when the matter appears again (as it no doubt will) then any responder will not be starting from first principles.

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  29. Paul,

    I should have said that Sye needs to read the book: On Being Certain . According to it, certainity is not a thought but a belief about a thought. It undermines his whole system.

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  30. Hi Ken - thanks for the clarification :-)

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  31. <<<1. PA is an assertion not an argument.>>>

    It's both. But PA doesn't argue for the gospel. It argues for the clear existence of the God of the gospel, and God can use it to bring people to the gospel.

    <<<2. PA begs the question.>>>

    I know many Christians who argue the opposite. To clarify, in light of PA, we say the Bible is true because only it is revelation of the God who has eternal relationship within himself, thus accounts for morality and logic.

    <<<3. PA is defensive in nature and offers no positive reasons to believe.>>>

    What I just clarified in no.2 is a positive argument.

    <<<5. PA could be used to "prove" any religion.>>>

    Umm, no. There's no religious text in the world that specifically says God is "eternal" other than the Bible. In addition, there's no worldview that holds to an eternal God with relationship within himself. So this is flat out ridiculous to say.

    <<<8. PA produces arrogance.>>>

    I know plenty of arrogant atheists. If you mean a worldview that accounts for absolutes is arrogant, then that's incorrect. It means the worldview is most consistent, and consistency should be the greatest sign of truth. Truth itself is not arrogant, it's just true.

    <<<10. PA confuses faith with certainty.>>>

    As a Christian who loves to argue with PA, I will gladly admit that I agree with this point. I even blogged about it that I agree with it so much! But here's what I'd also argue, even as a believer who agrees with this point, namely, everyone is only left with 2 options. 1. To either become a Christian, where there is a historical context to your faith and special revelation of God. 2. You must believe almost identical to what a Christian believes about God, and throw the rest out.

    So even in admitting this point, it doesn't get anyone very far at all.

    Cameron

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  32. Also, about no.10, I agree with your headline that PA confuses faith with certainty, but I disagree with what you say later about circular reasoning. You had a good headline but didn't really follow it up with anything substantial.

    Of course PA is circular. It's not a matter of if one is circular, but are they circular in a bad or good way. With PA it's in a good way because when you're dealing with absolutes and a-priori realities you MUST reason in a circular way. The atheist reasons in a circle too when they say they use reason because they use reason. But this is bad circular reasoning when it comes to "accounting" for why you should reason in the first place.

    Cameron

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    1. Spot on Cameron. Actually many of those reasons are mischaracterizes PA and I am not sure if any of them make any headway.

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  33. The PA utilizes Aristotle's discovery of the three laws of thought which the PA considers them to be elements internal to their IOC, which compared to other worldviews fits snugly. At worst its a preponderance of evidence argument/apologetic (they would say beyond a reasonable doubt) which I happen to agree with. After all, the other apologetic methods at some point have to get back to the Bible as a the primary source and foundation in which all truth rests.

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  34. No.5 is a very poor accusation. You are using the "Can of Soda" argument. Which essentially equivicates all religions as equal in a world full of realities--all are false or are all true is not how it works. And therefore you seem to think one could make a soda can an all knowing God who can make empty claims as you seem to think PA is making. PA stands--it needs no other to fit the reality we all live in, Islam or your Agnosticism does not as they violate the 3 laws/IOC.

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