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).
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.5. PA could be used to "prove" any religion.
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).
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.
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.(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).
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
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.