Discussion topic: presuppositionalism

It’s been awhile since I’ve tangled with the brand of Christian apologetics called presuppositionalism.

For those who don’t know what presuppositionalism is… I’m not sure anyone can be told what presuppositionalism is, you really have to experience the incoherence for yourself. But for a taste, see this post that I wrote just over a year ago (which I think last post I’d written on presuppositionalism until now)

Anyway, I’ve decided I’m in the mood to have a discussion about presuppositionalism again, but am no longer sure what sources for presuppositionalist arguments are currently considered “standard” in circles where they’re popular: so, commenters, send me your links! Or, summaries/questions about things you’ve encountered if you can’t dig up the links. I and other commenters can pick things apart in the comments; maybe I’ll even do a post or two based on the links people send me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/caleb.ontiveros Caleb Ontiveros

    Notes 68 and 71 in this bibliography of natural theology contain a fair amount of papers and links (that are above the questionable quality of what one might call “internet presuppositionalism”) :http://appearedtoblogly.wordpress.com/theistic-arguments/#fn71

    I think Butler’s and Frame’s pieces are probably representative of presuppositionalism, but given that I am not a presuppositionalist I could be mistaken.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

    I once encountered a presuppositionalist, although it was not clear that was what his argument was until I got past all of his particular “all authority is divinely ordained” form of nonsense.

    So I explained how what we usually refer to as logic is not some external universal thing, but simply a particular system that we have constructed with a set of axioms that includes a set of rules for deriving new true statements from the axioms. We can construct other logical systems, but the usual ones we use are convenient for constructing models of the universe. Those models are then tested against reality, and models that are not likely explanations for the available evidence are discarded.

    Response from the presuppositionalist: “What’s your evidence that reality exists?”

    Me: “… … You asked a question. That requires that you exist, the question exists, the computers and network exist to convey the question, and I exist to read it. Now go away.”

    • decathelite

      Yes, If they can’t acknowledge that the conversation between us is actually happening in reality, then I’m not interested in having a conversation with them.

      • http://www.noctua.org.uk/blog/ Paul Wright

        But presuppers can and do acknowledge that your conversation is happening in reality, they just want to know why you think it is. The presup project is to supply undercutting defeaters for your beliefs (assuming you’re not a presupper), that is, they argue that you have no reason to believe them, not that they are in fact false.

    • Greg G.

      Response from the presuppositionalist: “What’s your evidence that reality exists?”

      Their tactics are to equivocate the problem of solipsism with epistemology. They get around solipsism by assuming God, though they substitute “presupposing” for “assuming” because they think it sounds less ridiculous that way.

  • Rain

    I still don’t get how they get from nobody knows everything, therefore God, therefore Jesus is God. Maybe I’m confused.

    • Greg G.

      You would be less confused if you presuppose that logic comes from God. OK, we’re still confused.

      • Rain

        Oh I see. It’s even more circular than I thought. With a name like “presuppositionalism”, I shoulda figured that. LOL.

      • Rain

        Oh I see. It’s even more circular than I thought. With a name like “presuppositionalism”, I shoulda figured that. LOL.

        • Greg G.

          It’s like arguing “God did it” polysyllabically.

    • JohnH2

      I think you might have the argument backwards. Logic exists but is built on axioms which are assumed true; God, according to Thomas-Aristotle, exists necessarily and is what the axioms depend on. It seems presuppositionalism is trying to use that type of theology, but I am not entirely sure.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

    Because it’s been awhile, so I’ve forgotten how painful?

  • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

    I recently got into a long discussion with a pastor who ascribed to Van Til’s presuppositionalism, although it was an odd strain of it.

    He effectively pointed out that there is no knowledge that doesn’t rely on a type of fideism, and as a result not even logic was truly objective. Basically if you took an axiom like “I exist” or “my senses are sometimes reliable”, you needed “faith” that it was true. So it wasn’t that bad if Christians fell back on fideism when confronted with arguments against god’s existence.

    He also held that god was “supra-logical” and that it was “logical to believe that there are limits to logic”, he also said that there were branches of metaphysics that didn’t use logic at all to eliminate what was and what wasn’t metaphysically possible, which was how we could conceive of god.

    Ultimately, his aim wasn’t to prove god existed, he said that would be “oppressive”. He was a Calvinist, so he thought god would reveal himself if he wanted to, to whom he wanted to. Effectively the goal of his apologetic was to show that there’s no “objective reason” via logic or argument that could tell him or others not to believe in the Christian god. It was the same kind of move Plantinga uses with “Warranted Christian Belief”, basically to shore up believers from challenges to their faith.

    • Greg G.

      Basically if you took an axiom like “I exist” or “my senses are sometimes reliable”, you needed “faith” that it was true

      The latter maybe but Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” covers the former, doesn’t it?

      • JohnH2

        Only sort of, cogito assumes the conclusion. “I think therefore I am” presupposes that it is “I” that think and therefore “I” exists before the therefore. Something thinks and something notices the thinking whether the thing thinking is the same thing that notices the thinking and whether either one can be termed “I” is perhaps less certain; though something does exist from the noticing of thinking and it might as well be “I”.

        • Greg G.

          Our language might imply that the verb requires a subject and the act implies an actor but Descartes in my opinion works at a more basic level. “I” am the thinking itself. “I” am the process of thinking. The “I” is a verb rather than a pronoun. The cogitation recognizes itself and only uses the “I” to differentiate between other perceptions that seem to be external and independent.

  • Pulse

    As best as I can tell, presuppositional apologetics is an oxymoron. Apologetics is the process of defending a position through rational argument. However, arguments in presuppositional apologitics appear to take the form:

    1. Assume Christian doctrine is true.
    2. Words. (optional)
    3. Therefore, Christian doctrine is true.

    This is the farthest thing from rational argument.

  • hodokwaja

    It’s a variation on the usual apologetic theme -

    1: some philosophical, ethical or scientific matter is a thorny issue without simple clearcut answers, or which a lay person would find puzzling and difficult to explain in a single brief forum post

    2: By definition, God can do anything

    3: Therefore, God is a putative solution to the puzzle at hand

    4: Therefore, in absence of a satisfying non-supernatural answer, Goddidit

    5: Therefore, my particular iron age superstitions are true


  • http://www.noctua.org.uk/blog/ Paul Wright

    Surely Sye’s “Proof that God exists” is the standard presup argument? :-)

    (I used to argue with him a bit on Premier Christian Radio’s forums, before they got rid of them. Nothing of value was lost, as they say.)

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