Presuppositionalism and the Christian Triune God

Presuppositionalism is a funny old thing. It is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews. It claims that apart from presuppositions, one could not make sense of any human experience, and there can be no set of neutral assumptions from which to reason with a non-Christian.[1] Presuppositionalists claim that a Christian cannot consistently declare their belief in the necessary existence of the God of the Bible and simultaneously argue on the basis of a different set of assumptions that God may not exist and Biblical revelation may not be true.[2][not in citation given] Two schools of presuppositionalism exist, based on the different teachings of Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Haddon Clark. Presuppositionalism contrasts with classical apologetics and evidential apologetics.

Presuppositionalists compare their presupposition against other ultimate standards such as reasonempirical experience, and subjective feeling, claiming presupposition in this context is:

a belief that takes precedence over another and therefore serves as a criterion for another. An ultimate presupposition is a belief over which no other takes precedence. For a Christian, the content of Scripture must serve as his ultimate presupposition… This doctrine is merely the outworking of the lordship of God in the area of human thought. It merely applies the doctrine of scriptural infallibility to the realm of knowing.[3]

Critics of presuppositional apologetics claim that it is logically invalid because it begs the question of the truth of Christianity and the non-truth of other worldviews.

The problem is, when claiming there is something like a properly basic belief in this triune version of God, one can also apply that same logic to any other version of God. Or even non-God. I could claim that I have a properly basic belief that God does not exist, that I can presuppose God’s non-existence, and there is nothing that will sway me otherwise: no evidence to the contrary can affect my core belief.

It’s rather similar to what William Lane Craig says about the witness of the Holy Spirit.

RationalWiki opines:

The presuppositionalist will often say “the Bible isn’t the evidence, it’s the claim” – but the Bible is contingent on divine revelation, which itself is contingent on there being a God, notany specific one. Thus, the argument fatally lacks specificity; just substitute Allah for Yahweh and the Koran for the Bible as a counter-argument and the entire debate grinds to a halt. A deist could also run the argument just as well, and arguably better, since a deistic god communicates through nature, and does not rely on a collection of books full of known contradictions, inaccuracies, and outrages. An atheist could presuppose that consciousness, logic, etc., are simply brute facts, and claim a similar advantage.

Allah and the Qu’ran; Hinduism and the Vedas; you can name any religion and aspect thereof and claim presuppositional precedence. It’s certainly not a tool or an avenue to convince others, being at best something with which to combat contrary evidence to one’s own position.

It’s exceptionally difficult to argue for one different version of God against another because you cannot use evidence of interpretation – it’s merely a case of properly basic beliefs playing off against each other. It becomes arbitrary.


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