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Philosophy discuss What exactly do we mean by "Autonomy"? in the Apologetics Forum forums; A precise definition would be useful--"any system that does not accept God" is a given. The question is why the term is implicitly broadened to ...

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    Philip's Avatar
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    What exactly do we mean by "Autonomy"?

    A precise definition would be useful--"any system that does not accept God" is a given. The question is why the term is implicitly broadened to include Christian non-presuppositional epistemologies.
    Philip
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    Autonomy

    I like to think about this in a way that is easiest for Calvinists - metaphysics compared to epistemology.

    Those of us who are Calvinists understand that the Arminian and the unbeliever both believe that there is some aspect of reality that is independent of God, i.e., self-determining. This is metaphysical autonomy.

    Van Til has argued similarly that there is no aspect of reality that is self-interpreting. The unbeliever thinks that his mind is the ultimate criterion of truth and falsehood, i.e., that there are at least some aspects of reality that can be interpreted without reference to God. He believes he can interpret these areas (most importantly himself) autonomously.

    The Biblical position iis that every fact is both created by God (in terms of being being) and governed by God's comprehensive plan (in terms of becoming becoming). Thus no fact can be properly interpreted without reference to God. The attempt to do so is an assertion of epistemological or intellectual autonomy, in the same way that a "free will" Arminian asserts metaphysical autonomy.

    ---------- Post added at 03:31 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:18 PM ----------

    Autonomy: noun Lit: self-law 1. an assertion of independence from the self-attesting triune God of Biblical revelation; 2. an assertion that something other than the triune God of Biblical revelation is self-attesting
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    But this all asks a question: what about the senses? Are I and the unbeliever seeing different things when we both see a tree? True, we may interpret its significance differently, but it seems to me that the sensory interpretation is the same.

    Also, what do you mean by "his mind is the standard"? This seems to be either a) an obvious statement since standards of proof are always dependent on the audience b) simplistic, since his mind has a standard too (aka: I like this better, this makes more sense, this is logically consistent, this is consistent with experience, etc.).
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    First, I think the meaning of the word depends on who is using it and in what context. With that in mind, I'm assuming you're asking what Reformed theologians who discuss issues like epistemology mean when they say it. I think what "autonomy" means to them is the notion that one may interpret facts correctly without acknowledging that they must contextualize them in the light of God's existence and revelation.
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    I think what "autonomy" means to them is the notion that one may interpret facts correctly without acknowledging that they must contextualize them in the light of God's existence and revelation.
    So the unbeliever is not interpreting the fact that there is a tree outside my window when he says, "It is a maple" because he would not say "God created it."
    Philip
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    When I say "his mind is the standard", I mean the standpoint of the unbeliever whereby he says "I will determine the criteria of what is true and false, and what is possible and impossible. If God's claims and demands do not live up to my standards of [rationality; empiricism; experience; desire; science . . .] then I will not believe it. What the net of my mind can't catch ain't no fish." So in the garden, the Serpent suggested to Eve an alternate standard of judging the desirability of the forbidden fruit. Eve's proper response should have been, "whether or not it is pleasing to the eye and desirable to make me wise, I will not exalt my mind to a position of judgment over the word of God, but I will submit my mind to God's word because He is the Creator and I am the creature." Then Adam should have killed the Serpent.

    The unbeliever and the believer see the same tree when they are looking outside the window. The tree is independent of them or of their perception of it. But every act of perception is conditioned by the unbeliever's principle of autonomy. There is no perception apart from interpretation. That is what is meant by the claim that "there are no brute facts." So when I say the word "maple", as a Christian, I implicitly mean "maple created by the triune God and governed by His comprehensive plan". The unbeliever, using the same word, means "maple not created by a God who has inescapably revealed Himself in every fact of my experience and comprehensively governs everything that comes to pass." To borrow from Calvin, the unbeliever has yellow lenses epoxied to his eyeballs, and everything is yellow to the jaundiced eye.

    Does that make sense? I am very eager to communicate this clearly because it is an issue dear to my heart and I believe is deeply important for Christians to understand.
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    Philip, I believe that some Van-Tillians would indeed make that inference. One of my professors used to say that unbelievers have no true knowledge of anything, by which I think he meant that even in very obvious cases such as mathematical tautologies - "2 plus 2 equals 4" - the unbeliever does not have true knowledge of that statement because he is unable to give an adequate basis for his assertion. I confess I struggle to see the usefulness of such a definition of autonomy.
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    There is no perception apart from interpretation.
    To perceive is to interpret.

    I guess my question is what epistemology (how I know there is a tree) has to do with teleology (the story of how the tree got there). Do some supposedly "autonomous" epistemologies carry with them teleological implications that are dependent on God?
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    To piggy back off of Ben; another often sited example Van Til used was the concept of a buzz saw with a crooked blade. Van Til says that the unbeliever/"autonomous man" is like a buzz saw that cuts remarkably well, however, the blade is crooked and always cuts the wood at the wrong angle. What Van Til meant was that the unbeliever can surely reason and interpret the facts around him, but he can never reason and interpret facts rightly, he is always crooked in his reasoning and interpretation. For behind all facts and interpretations resides the One who has created and interpreted the facts already. So Van Til said that we as Christians must "think God's thoughts after him" and interpret the world around us in light of the revelation of God.
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    There is no perception apart from interpretation.
    To perceive is to interpret.

    I guess my question is what epistemology (how I know there is a tree) has to do with teleology (the story of how the tree got there). Do some supposedly "autonomous" epistemologies carry with them teleological implications that are dependent on God?
    Teleology deals with final cause, what the tree's purpose is. Teleology, of course, was central to Aristotelian science. To explain something you must have knowledge of its causes, specifically it's final cause. Modern science has, with exceptions, been hostile to the very idea of teleology. Nietzsche, a logical positivist, very clearly denies all teleology in A Genealogy of Morals. He says (roughly) that the great mistake of science is concluding that, for example, the hand was made to grasp. Rather, the life-will of an organism wished to grasp, and used the hand to do it. His point is that that things don't exist for purposes; we create purposes through instruments at our disposal.
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    I'm not sure I understand the question (maybe it's too late at night), but I would say that an act of interpretation is to apply a "universal" concept to a "particular" fact. To say there are no brute facts is to say there are no particulars that are not involved in universals. The two most fundamental universals that every particular participates in are (1) created by God and (2) governed by God's plan. So I don't believe we can segregate epistemology and metaphysics or ethics (perhaps what you are calling teleology, which I usually understand to be related to final causes, rather than origins).
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    Quote Originally Posted by CharlieJ
    Modern science has, with exceptions, been hostile to the very idea of teleology. Nietzsche, a logical positivist, very clearly denies all teleology in A Genealogy of Morals.
    Couple of things here:

    a) Calling Nietzsche a logical positivist is grossly anachronistic and inaccurate. Logical positivism was a movement in analytic philosophy starting in the 1920s. Nietzsche is probably the father of 20th century continental philosophy and died in 1900.

    b) Teleology is not completely rejected by science--it just has decided to deal with physical reality. Thus, if it cannot find a physical reason for something, it either a) continues to probe (modern physics) b) moves on (biology).

    One of my professors used to say that unbelievers have no true knowledge of anything, by which I think he meant that even in very obvious cases such as mathematical tautologies - "2 plus 2 equals 4" - the unbeliever does not have true knowledge of that statement because he is unable to give an adequate basis for his assertion.
    I would argue that calling it a tautology is enough of a basis--tautologies are necessarily true (pun intended).

    Quote Originally Posted by The Calvin Knight
    What Van Til meant was that the unbeliever can surely reason and interpret the facts around him, but he can never reason and interpret facts rightly
    I would have to see some very strong reasons to believe this simply because it simply contradicts the way we all think and act.

    For example: in analytic philosophy, I've been reading some G. E. Moore and very often he seems to be right. In many instances, it seems that his atheism is an afterthought--only inserted in as an aside, with no connection to its context. Is the rest of his thought automatically bad reasoning just because of the gaping hole? In other words, while he has no foundation, can't we salvage the bricks and reuse them?
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    Ok, Philip, since I was being picky, I certainly can't fault you for being picky back. I will make the much weaker claim that many scholars have pointed to Nietzsche as embodying many of the ideas of later positivism, at least scientific positivism, such as Ernst Mach's philosophy of science.

    Regarding your example of Moore, I'm not sure where your difficulty is arising. I don't know any mainstream Reformed philosophers that would disagree with the notion that unregenerates can be right about many things (in a qualified sense). In fact, I think that is what the "autonomy" language is supposed to indicate, that the unregenerate is illegitimately taking claim for whatever correct beliefs he may hold because he must borrow from Christian foundations but does not acknowledge that he is doing so.
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    Mach and Nietzsche were contemporaries. Which scholars linked Nietzsche to logical postivism? I am not trying to be combative, I am truly curious, because I have read most of the Nietzsche corpus as well as the main secondary texts and don't remember and am a little surprised if this is the case (other than his rejection of metaphysics, which I don't believe is a uniquely logical positivist position in the 20th c.).

    I would not say that the unbeliever has no knowledge. I would say that on the basis of his assertion of autonomy, knowledge is impossible. However, the unbeliever is inconsistent, and because he is created in the image of God and lives in God's creation, it is impossible for him to be consistent with his principles. He lives on borrowed capital. As Van Til would say, atheism presupposes theism.

    The mathematical example is a good one. What does 2 + 2 = 4 mean? It is possible to say it is a tautology, but that represents a very specific position within the philosophy of mathematics, and would imply that we can never learn anything new or be surprised by mathematics. Vern Poythress has an excellent article on this (his first PhD is in mathematics from Harvard). But the unbelievers can't even agree on what that equation means.

    The reason this question of autonomy is important is because it is ultimately an ethical question: can epistemology be segregated from ethics, i.e., can there be neutral reasoning? In every area of investigation, the unbeliever investigates and interprets reality on the basis of his principle of autonomy, but all the while he implicitly presupposes the Christian preconditions of thought. From Paul to Augustine to Calvin, the Reformed tradition has maintained that no aspect of existence is self-determining or independent of God (neutral). The presuppostional tradition, appealing to Paul, Augustine and Calvin, has emphasized the extension of the sovereignty of God to the intellectual realm: that no aspect of human knowledge is self-interpreting or independent of God (neutral).
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    In fact, I think that is what the "autonomy" language is supposed to indicate, that the unregenerate is illegitimately taking claim for whatever correct beliefs he may hold because he must borrow from Christian foundations but does not acknowledge that he is doing so.
    The problem is that with Moore his correct beliefs and his atheism are not clearly at odds. It may be an afterthought, but his atheism in no way contradicts his common sense philosophy. He may find it hard to account for such things, but then again, he would see no such need. The only way for us to say that his "borrowing" is illegitimate would be to prove that his claims necessarily presuppose Christianity. Otherwise, it's just an assertion.

    The problem is that the language of autonomy asks questions that the unbeliever sees no need to answer. I think there is a proper use of the term, but I'm not quite sure whether the standard Van Tillian use is quite correct. It seems (to me at least) to exclude certain epistemologies that are perfectly orthodox but aren't presuppositional.
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    The problem is that with Moore his correct beliefs and his atheism are not clearly at odds. It may be an afterthought, but his atheism in no way contradicts his common sense philosophy.
    Presuppositionalists would disagree one of two ways. They would say either that you have mistaken his beliefs for correct when they are truly incorrect, or that you have just failed to follow through in finding the contradictions. According to presupp, all non-Christians are necessarily incapable of producing any correct beliefs that are not at odds, somehow, with their core worldview.

    The only way for us to say that his "borrowing" is illegitimate would be to prove that his claims necessarily presuppose Christianity.
    Yes, I believe this is the whole point of presuppositional philosophy, or at least strong modal TAG. TAG was supposed to provide an ultimate defeater to any challenger. With TAG, a presup. can shoot down a non-Christian theory without even knowing anything about it. Aren't transcendental arguments convenient?

    I think there is a proper use of the term, but I'm not quite sure whether the standard Van Tillian use is quite correct. It seems (to me at least) to exclude certain epistemologies that are perfectly orthodox but aren't presuppositional.
    I share your ambivalence.
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    According to presupp, all non-Christians are necessarily incapable of producing any correct beliefs that are not at odds, somehow, with their core worldview.
    So they say--I have yet to see it proved.

    Yes, I believe this is the whole point of presuppositional philosophy, or at least strong modal TAG. TAG was supposed to provide an ultimate defeater to any challenger.
    I notice you say "supposed"--is it possible that the TAG operates on assertion rather than argument?
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    The Calvin Knight is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    According to presupp, all non-Christians are necessarily incapable of producing any correct beliefs that are not at odds, somehow, with their core worldview.
    So they say--I have yet to see it proved.

    Yes, I believe this is the whole point of presuppositional philosophy, or at least strong modal TAG. TAG was supposed to provide an ultimate defeater to any challenger.
    I notice you say "supposed"--is it possible that the TAG operates on assertion rather than argument?
    I agree with both of you on this one. It does seem that TAG, the strong modal form, is more assertive than anything else (If you listen to Bahnsen he always says Christianity is true and all others are false by the "impossibility of the contrary", and yet he never really explains this, logically speak, or argues in depth for it, to my knowledge). I don't think Van Til and Bahnsen are worthless, though, they still have some great points to make on apologetics. I prefer Frame's interpretation of Van Til, for the most part, and consider myself something of a Van Tillian/Reformed epistemologists crossbreed. Dr. James Anderson, Steve Hay and others at Triablogue, Paul Manata, Dr. Greg Welty, and to some extent Dr. Michael Sudduth (I'm pretty sure he does not consider himself a Van Tillian, like the others, but he does have sympathies for Van Til) are doing excellent jobs showing compatibilities between Van Til and Reformed Epistemology.
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    I am going to be way jumping into the middle of an intense debate here but I thought I might weigh in on this one. I was, ironically, watching "Tool Time", Tim the Toolman Taylor erlier, I think thats the name anyway, and his middle son( in the show) Randy, I beleive, and Randy gave an excellant example of the concept of autonomy. He decided he was not going to go to church, which he found hypocritical, and he didn't see why the churches could claim to be the final word on God.

    His problem was autonomy; he decided what the criteria for truth would be for any religion. He set the bar and wanted God to meet that bar, this is of course not reconizing that it is God who sets the bar( Creator-creature distinction). But one thing that I didn't see discussed here that I find to be intimatly connected to the idea of autonomy is the idea of aurthority.

    Now for Descarte he shrugged off the church's authority and claimed that reason was the ultimate authority in knowledge, but ethics cannot rely on reason as its ultimate authority so Descarte must be fundamentally wrong ( I can elaborate on this if anyone likes but I thought I would save space and not).

    Locke comes along and humbly disagrees with Descarte and declares that the senses are the ultimate authority in knowledge ( I recomend reading the first section of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding). But in philosophy we know that any argument who's only foundation is empirical data is commiting a formal logical fallacy.

    So this brings us to Van Til. You see Descarte and Locke were autonomous because they located their own ultimate authority in themselves, Their reason or Their senses, and they failed to provide an absolute authority for knowledge. Van Til pointed us to God's revealed Word as our ultimate authority and because this Word is from the Creator himself we can rely on it as an ultimate authority for knowledge, and so we locate our authority in the Creator verses the creature.
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    I guess a simple answer would be that the unbelieving world has gradually been more and more consistent with its anti-theistic presuppositions. G. E. Moore was superseded by the logical positivists, who were superseded by Wittgenstein and Quine, who were superseded by Rorty, etc. Not that none of them had interesting insights along the way, but they have failed to provide the necessary basis for human knowledge. The intellectual elites of non-Christian thought have degenerated into total epistemological skepticism and pessimism. At any major college or university, the prevailing climate of opinion will be that there is no objective truth, that human reason has no privileged claim to truth, and that science is just one way of interpreting reality among many equally legitimate others. This is also the prevailing climate of opinion in society at large (but they still want better iphones and Wiis). Western thought has followed in the path of Greek thought, which also could not justify its confidence in human reason and rapidly degenerated in to radical skepticism. The Western confidence in human reason was based on the Protestant Reformation's confidence in the propositional truth of the Bible, but having rejected the Bible, this confidence has slowly collapsed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ValiantforTruth View Post
    I guess a simple answer would be that the unbelieving world has gradually been more and more consistent with its anti-theistic presuppositions. G. E. Moore was superseded by the logical positivists, who were superseded by Wittgenstein and Quine, who were superseded by Rorty, etc. Not that none of them had interesting insights along the way, but they have failed to provide the necessary basis for human knowledge. The intellectual elites of non-Christian thought have degenerated into total epistemological skepticism and pessimism. At any major college or university, the prevailing climate of opinion will be that there is no objective truth, that human reason has no privileged claim to truth, and that science is just one way of interpreting reality among many equally legitimate others. This is also the prevailing climate of opinion in society at large (but they still want better iphones and Wiis). Western thought has followed in the path of Greek thought, which also could not justify its confidence in human reason and rapidly degenerated in to radical skepticism. The Western confidence in human reason was based on the Protestant Reformation's confidence in the propositional truth of the Bible, but having rejected the Bible, this confidence has slowly collapsed.
    You know what I couldn't agree more!
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    I'd like to comment on the whole TAG issue. I have never read Bahnsen's other books on apologetics, I have read many articles and am working through his Van Til book again, so I can't speak for them but no where do I find him laying out this argument in it's syllogistic form that the word TAG, I believe, refers to. I think the reason for this is that this is more of a method of apologetical debate verses a syllogistic one-size-fits-all type argument.

    If you view it as a method than I think the ambiquity that some have pointed out goes away. For example I will employ the same method of argumentation against an atheist and a muslim but the content of the debate will be differant.
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    The Calvin Knight is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwright82 View Post
    I'd like to comment on the whole TAG issue. I have never read Bahnsen's other books on apologetics, I have read many articles and am working through his Van Til book again, so I can't speak for them but no where do I find him laying out this argument in it's syllogistic form that the word TAG, I believe, refers to. I think the reason for this is that this is more of a method of apologetical debate verses a syllogistic one-size-fits-all type argument.

    If you view it as a method than I think the ambiquity that some have pointed out goes away. For example I will employ the same method of argumentation against an atheist and a muslim but the content of the debate will be differant.
    I recommend reading this article my James Anderson , he touches on the topic a bit. http://www.proginosko.com/docs/IfKnowledgeThenGod.pdf
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    I'd like to comment on the whole TAG issue. I have never read Bahnsen's other books on apologetics, I have read many articles and am working through his Van Til book again, so I can't speak for them but no where do I find him laying out this argument in it's syllogistic form that the word TAG, I believe, refers to. I think the reason for this is that this is more of a method of apologetical debate verses a syllogistic one-size-fits-all type argument.
    The trouble is that even in that context, it isn't compelling at all--even for me as a believer. The trouble is that it simply asserts the impossibility of the contrary without proving it. Even if you could demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the unbeliever's set of presuppositions, it would not prove the existence of God, but the skill of the debater.

    His problem was autonomy; he decided what the criteria for truth would be for any religion. He set the bar and wanted God to meet that bar, this is of course not reconizing that it is God who sets the bar( Creator-creature distinction). But one thing that I didn't see discussed here that I find to be intimatly connected to the idea of autonomy is the idea of aurthority.
    So if we could only convince the unbeliever to accept God's authority we wouldn't have this problem . . . but on what basis will they accept that authority. Just because an apologist has proven that I have no basis for thought is no reason for me to accept God as a basis--it's a non sequitor.

    Let's say I was debating governmental theory and my republic-advocating opponent was able to prove that my monarchist position was logically inconsistent and had no basis. Then he says, "Since monarchism is clearly false, you must find a new basis by accepting republicanism." All I have to say at this point is, "Ok, maybe monarchism is a bad position, but that's not a reason for me to accept republicanism." Using a negative method, all you can prove is that your opponent is wrong--you cannot prove that your own position is right. Indeed, a critique may be valid regardless of who is delivering it.

    On what basis can we get the unbeliever to accept God's authority?
    Philip
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    ValiantforTruth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    On what basis can we get the unbeliever to accept God's authority?
    There is no argument by which we can get the unbeliever to accept God's authority. His rejection of God's authority is an ethical problem, not an intellectual one. I learned apologetics from one of Van Til's students, but his emphasis was a little different than Bahnsen's. I do admire Bahnsen's work for certain situations: specifically, highly polemic scenarios where you want to show the total foolishness of the unbeliever's worldview. But this has got to be less than 1% of actual situations. But the way I understand, apologetics is preferably a transition into sharing the gospel, because only the truth can create the ears that hear it. Have you listened to Bahnsen's debate with Stein or Tabash? They cannot answer any of his questions. What is the solution to the inductive problem, for instance? I am not aware of any serious contender for a solution to that problem other than Biblical theism, and they've had time to think about it. Russell, for instance, recognized the seriousness of the problem.

    Which brings me to the answer I gave before: When the premier intellectual elites among academic unbelievers have all come to the conclusion that objective knowledge is impossible, that human reason is simply a cultural prejudice, that empirical science is simply one way of interpreting reality among many viable alternatives, and that there is no objective foundation for ethical propositions, why is it so difficult for Christians to agree that anti-theistic worldviews simply cannot provide the cognitive foundation for understanding human experience? Once again, I'm not trying to be combative, but I think this is a very serious question that Christian defenders of legitimate non-Christian intellectual autonomy really need to answer. I'm not saying you're defending such autonomy either, but you said you haven't found the argument compelling.
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    I have thought of a few questions that pinpoint what I see as some of the fundamental points of disagreement between presuppositionalism and the other schools of apologetic thougth. I am not necessarily asking for answers to these, just offering them as food for thought.

    1. Has God really inescapably revealed Himself in some way to every human being, so that they are all without excuse?

    2. Can the unbeliever's rejection of God's authority and revelation in principle be a purely intellectual problem, or is it always ultimately an ethical problem, i.e., suppressing the known truth in unrighteousness?

    3. Think for a moment in terms of the philosophical categories of being and becoming. If the ultimate truth about every fact in the universe is that it is (a) created by God (being) and (b) in every subsequent moment governed by God's exhaustive plan (becoming), how can an unbeliever correctly interpret any fact of reality without submitting to these truths?

    4. Is there some portion of reality that does not reveal God, or does every aspect of creation reveal God in some way?

    5. Are there some areas of human investigation that are self-interpreting (e.g., a human being)?

    6. What is the solution to David Hume's problem of induction on the basis of any non-Christian epistemology?

    I may update this post with other questions if they come to mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    I'd like to comment on the whole TAG issue. I have never read Bahnsen's other books on apologetics, I have read many articles and am working through his Van Til book again, so I can't speak for them but no where do I find him laying out this argument in it's syllogistic form that the word TAG, I believe, refers to. I think the reason for this is that this is more of a method of apologetical debate verses a syllogistic one-size-fits-all type argument.
    The trouble is that even in that context, it isn't compelling at all--even for me as a believer. The trouble is that it simply asserts the impossibility of the contrary without proving it. Even if you could demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the unbeliever's set of presuppositions, it would not prove the existence of God, but the skill of the debater.

    His problem was autonomy; he decided what the criteria for truth would be for any religion. He set the bar and wanted God to meet that bar, this is of course not reconizing that it is God who sets the bar( Creator-creature distinction). But one thing that I didn't see discussed here that I find to be intimatly connected to the idea of autonomy is the idea of aurthority.
    So if we could only convince the unbeliever to accept God's authority we wouldn't have this problem . . . but on what basis will they accept that authority. Just because an apologist has proven that I have no basis for thought is no reason for me to accept God as a basis--it's a non sequitor.

    Let's say I was debating governmental theory and my republic-advocating opponent was able to prove that my monarchist position was logically inconsistent and had no basis. Then he says, "Since monarchism is clearly false, you must find a new basis by accepting republicanism." All I have to say at this point is, "Ok, maybe monarchism is a bad position, but that's not a reason for me to accept republicanism." Using a negative method, all you can prove is that your opponent is wrong--you cannot prove that your own position is right. Indeed, a critique may be valid regardless of who is delivering it.

    On what basis can we get the unbeliever to accept God's authority?
    You raise excellant points ones I do believe require answers so I will attempt. As far as Compellingness goes that is a subjective thing, which I don't mean to imlpy that you have no objective reasons for believing this, so perhaps you could lay out some of the reasons you have for beliving this (if you have already posted some just refer me to them)?

    As far as arguing by assertion, I would agree with you if that is what we pressupositionalists were doing but I don't think we are. The method of argumentation that I employ is to examine the pressupositions of my opponant for logical consistancy and then, the most crucial element, to apply them to reality to see if they make sense out of it, as we experiance it. An atheist can believe all day long that murder is wrong but have no justification for beliving it. If a hindu stopped you from walking out in front of a bus than that would not mix well with the belief that reality is illusionary( I know hindu philosophy is more complex than this but this is what I think it boils down to).

    Only God can get people to accept His authority. Your example nicely touches on the first part of the method that I believe is the one taught by Van Til, but it doesn't go far enough and compare worldviews to reality. If something I said doesn't make sense than just let me know.
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    The Calvin Knight is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwright82 View Post
    As far as arguing by assertion, I would agree with you if that is what we pressupositionalists were doing but I don't think we are. The method of argumentation that I employ is to examine the pressupositions of my opponant for logical consistancy and then, the most crucial element, to apply them to reality to see if they make sense out of it, as we experiance it. An atheist can believe all day long that murder is wrong but have no justification for beliving it. If a hindu stopped you from walking out in front of a bus than that would not mix well with the belief that reality is illusionary( I know hindu philosophy is more complex than this but this is what I think it boils down to).
    The problem is not with TAG itself, but with the strong modal claim that some attach to TAG (others may say it is a part of TAG itself, I would disagree), which claims that all other worldviews besides Christianity will be inconsistent/contradictory (Which Bahnsen and Van Til seem to cliam, and Frame rejects). It is this part of TAG which is mere assertion/it seems ultimately unprovable. One would need omniscience in order to make such a claim, in that one would have to examine every worldview that ever was, is, or will be and show their inconsistencies.

    I would agree with all of Ben's points above, I just think it is impossible to exhaustively prove them (especially 3).
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    The problem is not with TAG itself, but with the strong modal claim that some attach to TAG (others may say it is a part of TAG itself, I would disagree), which claims that all other worldviews besides Christianity will be inconsistent/contradictory (Which Bahnsen and Van Til seem to cliam, and Frame rejects). It is this part of TAG which is mere assertion/it seems ultimately unprovable.
    Well if by TAG you mean that syllogistic one size fits all argument than I would agree, but if you mean it as a method to be employed than that's different. I don't see how a worldview other than christianity could ever be consistant/non-contradictory?

    Keep in mind that the accussation of "arguing by assertion" only stands if the person refuses to validate their P.O.V., I don't believe I have done that, and I know that Van Til/Bahnsen have not done that either. I don't believe I ever just said "here it is, believe it or not", that in my opinion would be "arguing by assertion". If I have done that in any of my posts just please point them out so I can clarify. Also I am curious as to what kind of proof you are looking for, remember I said this is a method that is to be deployed. What unbeleiving worldview out there could ever possibly ultimatly make sense out of reality as a whole? Name one that this method could not destroy?

    One would need omniscience in order to make such a claim, in that one would have to examine every worldview that ever was, is, or will be and show their inconsistencies.
    The Bible tells us that all unbeleiving worldviews are inconsistant/contradictory, and it is omnisciencent. Presupossitional apologetics doesn't allow us to leave what we know is true about creation and mankind at the door when we engage in the apologetical pursuit.

    I would agree with all of Ben's points above, I just think it is impossible to exhaustively prove them (especially 3).
    I agree with all of Ben's points too, but I would need to know what kind of proof you are talking about, don't assume I know?
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    The Calvin Knight is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    In order to save time, and not to high jack this discussion too much from the op, I will point you to a couple of posts by Paul Manata over at Triablogue concerning this topic: Triablogue: Coming Out Of The Closet-read this and follow the link on the page. Then read this post after you read the others: Triablogue: Possibly a Presuppositionalist: Strong Modal TAG
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    creation/providence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Calvin Knight View Post
    I would agree with all of Ben's points above, I just think it is impossible to exhaustively prove them (especially 3).
    What I'm going to say is my view based on how I learned presuppositional apologetics - not sure how well it fits in with Bahnsen, in particular. I think #3 is the clincher. But creation/providence is revealed. We believe it to be true on the basis of revelation. So it cannot be possible to interpret a fact correctly while denying creation/providence. It is not a matter of induction (testing all actual/possible worldviews and seeing that they do not fit). It is a comprehensive statement on the basis of authoritative revelation, which exceeds all other standards of proof. It is my ultimate assumption - unprovable, but true, known, certain.
    Ben
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    But creation/providence is revealed. We believe it to be true on the basis of revelation. So it cannot be possible to interpret a fact correctly while denying creation/providence. It is not a matter of induction (testing all actual/possible worldviews and seeing that they do not fit). It is a comprehensive statement on the basis of authoritative revelation, which exceeds all other standards of proof. It is my ultimate assumption - unprovable, but true, known, certain.
    So then, you have a coherence view of truth rather than a correspondence view of truth. That is, you take something to be true because it fits your worldview, not necessarily because it corresponds to reality.

    I don't see how a worldview other than christianity could ever be consistant/non-contradictory?
    I can see quite a few--the trouble is that you're assuming autonomy as the only presupposition, whereas I see every worldview as containing a set of presuppositions. Example:

    Materialism
    1. Only the world of space/time/matter/energy exists
    2. The senses are reliable
    3. Humans are merely the highest known intelligent life

    This is an internally consistent set--unprovable but consistent. It may not correspond to reality, but that doesn't keep it from being consistent.

    The Bible tells us that all unbeleiving worldviews are inconsistant/contradictory
    Where? And what exactly is meant by "consistency"? Internal consistency or consistency with reality? I generally take consistency to mean internal consistency.

    Also keep in mind that no Christian has ever fully lived out the Christian worldview.

    On the TAG:

    I've gone through Bahnsen's use of the TAG in, for example, the debate with Stein and he just never backs up his assertion that the non-existence of God is logically impossible. There are two ways that he could have gone: direct or indirect, and he chooses neither. Direct argument is, of course, out of the question for Bahnsen (as it is known as the ontological argument) while the indirect argument is humanly impossible. Instead, Bahnsen opts for assertion. After going through the transcript a couple times, my conclusion was that the only reason that Stein didn't win was that he was out of his league as a scientist trying to dabble in philosophy with no real training. Bahnsen repeatedly ignores the first rule of debate: the affirmative side has the burden of proof every time and all that the negative side has to do is invalidate the affirmative's argument. If you don't believe that such proof is possible/moral, then you should not be debating it in the first place.
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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    So then, you have a coherence view of truth rather than a correspondence view of truth. That is, you take something to be true because it fits your worldview, not necessarily because it corresponds to reality.
    I'm not sure how my post above would indicate a coherence theory of truth, but I do not hold that view. All facts are created and governed by God. I know this on the basis of revelation, the highest source of authority. I don't believe that recognizing the highest source of intellectual authority entails a coherence theory of truth, because everyone has some highest source of authority, whether they admit it or not. Usually either human reason or human experience.
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    So then, you have a coherence view of truth rather than a correspondence view of truth. That is, you take something to be true because it fits your worldview, not necessarily because it corresponds to reality.
    No I hold to what Bahnsen would call "a broad view of truth" that encompasses the strengths of nearly all theories of truth. Here is a quote from me, two posts ago, in which I affirm a correspondance element to truth:

    The method of argumentation that I employ is to examine the pressupositions of my opponant for logical consistancy and then, the most crucial element, to apply them to reality to see if they make sense out of it, as we experiance it.
    Where? And what exactly is meant by "consistency"? Internal consistency or consistency with reality? I generally take consistency to mean internal consistency.
    Well since I have already said that there is a strong correspondance element to the argument, and I think we all agree that any unbeleiving WV cannot possibly perfectly correspond to reality because reality is in fact created by God. I used the catagories of consistancy/nonconsistancy because those were the catagories used by someone else.
    On the TAG:
    I will adress your criticisms indirectly, no pun intended, by adressing the links that The Calvin Knight gave.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Calvin Knight View Post
    In order to save time, and not to high jack this discussion too much from the op, I will point you to a couple of posts by Paul Manata over at Triablogue concerning this topic: Triablogue: Coming Out Of The Closet-read this and follow the link on the page. Then read this post after you read the others: Triablogue: Possibly a Presuppositionalist: Strong Modal TAG
    In reading these I noticed a fatal mistake everyone in the discussions were making that needs to be clarified, this clarification may help this discussion along as well.

    In the discussion evryone was making the mistake of collappsing 2 entirely different forms of argumentation and treating them as if they are the same, this is absolutly false. The 2 different types of arguments I am refering to are a Modal argument and a Transcendental argument. These two arguments both deal with the idea of necessity but in different ways. I'll explain:

    Modal Argument: A modal argument takes a proposition, we'll call it X, and sees if it is (a) necessarelly true or (b) possibly true, this applys to falsity as well. These types of arguments can employ possible-worlds type arguments or other logical types. The important part here is that it is an entirely different form of an argument, just consult any Dictionary of Philosophy, from a Transcendental argument. But it deals with mainly single propositions and analyzes them to see which of the catagories above it corresponds to. Van Til and Bahnsen did not employ a Modal argument! So criticizing it as though it is a Modal argument is probally to commit a catagory-mistake. You are treating it as though it is in this catagory of argumentation when it is in fact in another one altogether.

    Transcendental Argument: A Transcendental argument is an indirect rather than a direct argument. To understand the difference between a Transcendental statement over a regular statement I wil give an example.
    Take these two different proposistions:

    1. Mary And Goerge are the parents of Steve.
    2. Steve beat Will in a game of chess.

    Now it might seem like these two proposistions are the same in relation to eachother, but this is a serious mistake, P1 is a Trascendental statemant in relation to P2. P1 can determiine the meaningfullness of P2.
    Lets assume that P1 is false not because Steve has different parants but because Steve as an entity does not exsist. This would then make P2 meaningless, if Steve doesn't exsist than P2 isn't even talking about a meaningful person. If we were to argue that this would only make P2 false for this reason doesn't make sense because the game never took place.

    Now if P1 is true than P2 now can be a meaningful statement, it can now be either true or false. This may not be the best example of a Transcendental relationship but I hope it gets the point across. Now a Transcendental argument is arguing for the preconditions for making something intelligible( or meaningful from a certian P.O.V.). These may not be able to be expressed in short syllogistic form, Kant's filled a whole book. What a Transcendental argument does is this: it takes some thing (reason) and gives the necessary preconditions, or what must also be true a priori to this thing, in order for this thing to make sense, as we experience it.

    Now Van Til and Bahnsen both employed a Transcendental method of argumentation, which has infinite aplicability. In my thread "The Moral Failure of Reason" I give a Transcendental explaination of Ethics. Now an unbeleiver( or beleiver) can challange my argument, on logical grounds, and offer an alternative Transcendental explaination. Or they can just critique mine but they can't take my Transcendental argument and treat it as though it is a Modal argument, two different kinds of arguments. Also to offer an indirect proof in the form of a Transcendental argument does not require me to critique each and every other possible P.O.V., if I were making a Modal argument than I would be required to.

    The strong Modal statements that everyone has objected to aren't so strong after all, they are the necessary outworkings of the very idea of T/F( if Christianity as a WV is true than all other WV are false). If I have been confusing about anything just let me know and I will explain. These are somewhat technical Philosophical issues so anyone who is confused can ask me to explain and it might also be wise to Google these things.
    James
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    Now it might seem like these two proposistions are the same in relation to eachother, but this is a serious mistake, P1 is a Trascendental statemant in relation to P2. P1 can determiine the meaningfullness of P2.
    The question of whether Steve exists is not related a) to whether the sentence is meaningful b) to who his parents are.

    First, how are we speaking of "meaning" here? Statements about non-existent entities are quite meaningful. For example, "All unicorns are pink" is meaningful even though unicorns don't exist. We all know what a unicorn is in spite of the fact that they don't exist and therefore we can speak meaningfully about them.

    On the other hand, it is much harder to speak meaningfully about a bandersnatch simply because none of us knows what a bandersnatch is (other than that it may be frumious). We cannot say whether the proposition "All bandersnatches are frumious" is true or false because the terms are nonsense.

    In other words, we may speak meaningfully about Steve even if he doesn't exist because we have some conception of Steve.

    Even in a transcendental argument, one cannot simply assert the connection (as Bahnsen does). In order for the transcendental argument to be valid, one has to prove a necessary connection.

    For example:

    3. God exists.
    4. The laws of logic are true.

    Now, if you are to make a transcendental argument here, you have the burden to prove that P4 necessarily presupposes P3. If you cannot prove this, you have no grounds for your claim that other worldviews "borrow" the laws of logic from Christianity.

    What a Transcendental argument does is this: it takes some thing (reason) and gives the necessary preconditions, or what must also be true a priori to this thing, in order for this thing to make sense, as we experience it.
    And it also assumes a noumenal/phenomenal distinction that I just cannot accept--there are plenty of things that make perfect sense but have no connection to reality. For example, I can make many perfectly meaningful statements about Elizabeth Bennett or Frodo Baggins even though no such persons exist or existed in reality. The fact that we can understand and write fiction suggests that meaning and reality are not the same.

    All facts are created and governed by God. I know this on the basis of revelation, the highest source of authority.
    Good, a muslim could claim the same thing and be consistent.
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    3. God exists.
    4. The laws of logic are true.
    That is a Modal argument not a Transcendental one. The logical form of a Transcendental argument is this:
    P1 is true therefore P2 can have logical meaning, in the sense that it can be either T or F. P1 is false therefore P2 is niether T or F, look at P. F. Strawson on this. In your argument you are proving that the 2 propositions are necessarally related to one another, a transcendental realationship is P1 truth value determines whether P2 can even be true or false. Your argument has the following form:
    1. P1 is true therefore P2 is true
    2. P1 is false therefore P2 is false
    That is a kind of Modal argument
    A transcendental argument would be this:
    1. P1 is true therefore P2 can either be true or false
    2. P1 is false therefore P2 can neither be true or false


    And it also assumes a noumenal/phenomenal distinction that I just cannot accept--there are plenty of things that make perfect sense but have no connection to reality. For example, I can make many perfectly meaningful statements about Elizabeth Bennett or Frodo Baggins even though no such persons exist or existed in reality. The fact that we can understand and write fiction suggests that meaning and reality are not the same.
    Well I guess I have not really defined "meaningful" good enough so I will atempt to to do so here. Meaningful means, as I use the term, that an explaination rationally fits with the wolrd as we experiance it. For instance I might try to explain reason through the use of a materistc explinaition of the mind, that our reasoning is nothing more than blind random synapse fires in our brain. This cannot explain reason as we all use it. If this theory were true than we could not trust our own reasoning and that would not fit with reasoning as we all use it. This theory may make sense, from a certain P.O.V., but it lacks explainatory power.

    In other words, we may speak meaningfully about Steve even if he doesn't exist because we have some conception of Steve.
    I meant in actuallity.

    Even in a transcendental argument, one cannot simply assert the connection (as Bahnsen does). In order for the transcendental argument to be valid, one has to prove a necessary connection.
    Not as a Modal argument, you are confusing the two forms. A Transcendental argument may seem like assertions but in actuality they are listing the preconditions for reasoning, or anything else, to make sense( in the way I described it above, my explination must make sense of the facts as we experiance them).

    Now, if you are to make a transcendental argument here, you have the burden to prove that P4 necessarily presupposes P3. If you cannot prove this, you have no grounds for your claim that other worldviews "borrow" the laws of logic from Christianity.
    Again, I hate to beat a dead horse, but this is to turn the Transcendental argument into a Modal argument. You must distinguish between the two or you make a catagory-mistake. Also we claim that the truth of christianity is the precondition for any laws of logic to make sense.
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    Let me then reformulate P3 and P4

    3. God exists
    4a. The laws of logic have meaning

    Again, no necessary connection. Now maybe we're just running into a problem of language, but the meaningfulness of a statement depends only on the language. For example:

    5. The present King of France is bald.

    Even though there is no referent, the statement has meaning. The statement is obviously false because there is no present King of France. We could not say anything about the sentence unless it had meaning.

    Same with Steve: P2 is meaningful even if there is no Steve--you cannot declare a sentence false unless it has meaning. The statement "All bandersnatches are frumious" is an example of a meaningless proposition. Even self-contradictory propositions have meaning, else we would be able to say nothing about them, not even that they are self-contradictory.

    For instance I might try to explain reason through the use of a materistc explinaition of the mind, that our reasoning is nothing more than blind random synapse fires in our brain. This cannot explain reason as we all use it. If this theory were true than we could not trust our own reasoning and that would not fit with reasoning as we all use it. This theory may make sense, from a certain P.O.V., but it lacks explainatory power.
    This doesn't seem to be "meaning" at all: this seems to describe metaphysical adequacy. Meaning merely refers to the sense of a proposition, regardless of whether it has reference. We cannot say anything about a sentence with no meaning because we cannot understand it--we cannot even say whether it is consistent.

    Not as a Modal argument, you are confusing the two forms. A Transcendental argument may seem like assertions but in actuality they are listing the preconditions for reasoning, or anything else, to make sense
    And who is to say that these are the preconditions and not some others? I could just as easily list a set of counter-preconditions. At that point we have an impasse, not a debate. Transcendental argumentation cuts both ways.

    Also we claim that the truth of christianity is the precondition for any laws of logic to make sense.
    And if the unbeliever does not agree to that assertion? Unless there's an analyzable argument, I can't distinguish that from "The truth of Islam is the precondition for any laws of logic to make sense." Again, to prove this, one has to prove either a) a necessary connection b) that all alternatives are false. Otherwise it's deductively invalid and inductively dubious.

    Let's try, for example, a transcendental argument for Arminianism:

    6. Arminianism is the necessary precondition for the notion of moral responsibility to make sense.
    7. The notion of moral responsibility makes sense.
    8. Therefore Arminianism is true.

    See the problem? Now, one can argue P6 and disprove it. One can also cast doubt on the truth of your premise.

    Again, I think that the necessary connection is actually provable--but the proof was unacceptable because Van Til and Bahnsen accepted Kant's critique of such arguments.
    Philip
    Student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
    Attending Christ the Redeemer Church (Anglican)
    Member at Potomac Hills Presbyterian Church (PCA) Leesburg, VA

  39. #39
    jwright82's Avatar
    jwright82 is offline. Puritanboard Senior
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    And who is to say that these are the preconditions and not some others? I could just as easily list a set of counter-preconditions. At that point we have an impasse, not a debate. Transcendental argumentation cuts both ways.
    That is the essence of the apologetical task, the unbeleiver can logically attempt to say destroy my Transcendental argument for ethics and they would have to foster up their own preconditions and then we would procede from there. I am only required to offer up my preconditions for ethics, for instance, I only have to deal with other P.O.V.'s if they are offered up to challange mine, utilitarianism etc. Then we go back and forth debating which kind of theory justifys ethical statements.

    And if the unbeliever does not agree to that assertion? Unless there's an analyzable argument, I can't distinguish that from "The truth of Islam is the precondition for any laws of logic to make sense." Again, to prove this, one has to prove either a) a necessary connection b) that all alternatives are false. Otherwise it's deductively invalid and inductively dubious.
    It is neither a deductive nor an inductive argument at all. It has a different logical form altogether that I gave already.
    I know you are used to a more traditional form of argumentation but I think we can agree that if this argument is not a modal argument than it can't be treated as such. If you truly beleive that it must meet the requirments of a Modal theory than I think you will have to prove that all arguments are modal in this sense.

    If you want an example I will give you one and we can analyze it together, keep in mind that this will be highly simplistic as a Trascendental argument can be very complex.

    1. We all make ethical statements
    2. In order for ethical statements to mean anything at all they must refer to an objective standered
    3. If we reduce ethics to mere opinion it has no objective status
    4. If we reduce ethics to some empirical facts than it is a violation of the naturalistic fallacy
    5. A Transcendant source of ethics is required to be binding on all people in an objective sense
    6. In the christian WV there is a Transcendant source of ethics
    7. God by virtue of being the Creator can make ethical demands of his creatures( Transcendant and objective)
    8. If we assume the christian WV to be true than it satisfies the logical demands to make ethics meaningful

    Notice how it is indirect rather than direct. Sure you could substitute another religion, like islam, and in a bare bones logical sense it would satisfy, at least initially, the argument, this would be borrowed capital. But we then would move into the other part of Van Til's apologetic and critique the WV behind the argument, in this case islam. If we compared the idea of human worth than there is no comparison between christianity and islam, humans have far greater worth in christianity than in islam. So I would offer up a similer argument of a Transcendental argument for human worth compare my argument with islam and there you go. This is why Van Til stressed that ultimatly we are not debating single issues but entire worldviews. That is why there is no slam-dunk, one-size-fits-all arguments that absolutly proves every single element of the christian WV and absolutly disproves every other concevable WV at the same time.
    James
    Pinewood Presbyterian church (PCA)
    Jacksonville, FL
    My blog: http://thereformedcafe.wordpress.com/.

  40. #40
    Philip's Avatar
    Philip is offline. Puritanboard Graduate
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    Here's the critique:

    Assume 1-5

    6a. In the Christian WV there is a Transcendant source of ethics
    6b. In the Islamic WV there is a Transcendent source of ethics
    6c. In the Buddhist WV there is a Transcendent source of ethics
    6d. In the Taoist WV there is a transcendent source of ethics

    See the problem? All that the skeptic has to do is posit a couple of possible alternatives without recommending any one of them. Unless there is a necessary connection or at least an analyzable argument, all we're left with here is a Kierkegaardian leap.

    It seems to me that we have a couple of non sequitors here, since there is no "probable" and no necessary connection.
    Philip
    Student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
    Attending Christ the Redeemer Church (Anglican)
    Member at Potomac Hills Presbyterian Church (PCA) Leesburg, VA

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