Against fundamentalist presuppositionalism

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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Quote from Ben
Does this mean we should wallow in skepticism? No. But it does mean that we need to be careful about what we assert to know with certainty.

But surely Van Til and Bahnsen taught that all men know the God of the Bible with certainty; the only reason they deny this or aren't as aware of this as they should be is sin. Bahnsen sought to make men aware - by the blessing of God on his apologetic - of this fundamental knowledge of God, without which a man could not make sense of anything. It's not finitude that makes men deny the certainty of the God they know, and by which they interpret reality, but sin.

It's the knowledge of God that makes any knowledge about anything else by anyone, regenerate or unregenerate, possible.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Quote from Ben
Does this mean we should wallow in skepticism? No. But it does mean that we need to be careful about what we assert to know with certainty.

But surely Van Til and Bahnsen taught that all men know the God of the Bible with certainty; the only reason they deny this or aren't as aware of this as they should be is sin. Bahnsen sought to make men aware - by the blessing of God on his apologetic - of this fundamental knowledge of God, without which a man could not make sense of anything.

It's the knowledge of God that makes any knowledge about anything else by anyone, regenerate or unregenerate, possible.
The knowledge they taught was non-inferentially obtained. It had to be; otherwise, many people would be "without excuse." And since it is non-inferential, there is no moral requirement for an apologist to argue for the certainty of God's existence. The apologist can make unbelievers aware of this knowledge with probabilistic arguments.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
So, if I understand you correctly, you do not believe that certainty is attainable because of finitude; is that correct?
Yessir.
So, in your earlier post, you asserted that:

If we know something with philosophical certainty, then that means that we have no possible reason to doubt it.
In follow up to this definition, I have a few more questions:

1. Do you believe that God is truth and reason itself?

2. Do you believe that anyone knows God?

3. Is the knowledge of God doubtful or certain?

4. If the knowledge of God is doubtful, how do you reconcile God as Truth with knowledge of God as doubtful?


Cheers,
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Adam,

You are magnifying the importance of the distinction between a non-inferential knowledge of God and the ability to prove this discursively. I am stating that because we have the former, the latter is not morally required by the apologist.

I apologize for speaking so ambiguously before. I should have said that I believe certainty in the knowledge of God (non-inferentially) is attainable by humans, but an ability to express this via rational argumentation with certainty is not, because of finitude.

Although, even if I were wrong in the ability of humans to express a certain argument for God's existence, it wouldn't really matter so long as it is not held that the apologist is committing a moral error in using a probabilistic argument.

1. Do you believe that God is truth and reason itself?

2. Do you believe that anyone knows God?

3. Is the knowledge of God doubtful or certain?

4. If the knowledge of God is doubtful, how do you reconcile God as Truth with knowledge of God as doubtful?
1. Yes; and if it would be wrong to set God and reason as equivalent, then I would still say that reason has its ontological basis in God.

2. Yes.

3. It is certain but non-inferential.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Adam,

You are magnifying the importance of the distinction between a non-inferential knowledge of God and the ability to prove this discursively. I am stating that because we have the former, the latter is not morally required by the apologist.
I have magnified nothing; please attempt to read what I have written, and not read motivations into my questions.

I apologize for speaking so ambiguously before. I should have said that I believe certainty in the knowledge of God (non-inferentially) is attainable by humans, but an ability to express this via rational argumentation with certainty is not, because of finitude.
If one quotes from Holy Scripture using rational argumentation, is it certain?
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
I have magnified nothing; please attempt to read what I have written, and not read motivations into my questions.
I apologize if I read motivations into your questions. What I was trying to say is that I was speaking ambiguously, and your question brought to my mind an important distinction that clarified my thought.

I apologize for speaking so ambiguously before. I should have said that I believe certainty in the knowledge of God (non-inferentially) is attainable by humans, but an ability to express this via rational argumentation with certainty is not, because of finitude.
If one quotes from Holy Scripture using rational argumentation, is it certain?
Yes (assuming the Scripture passages are used appropriately, without fallacies), and I would say that this is because we can know that Scripture is authoritative non-inferentially.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
I have magnified nothing; please attempt to read what I have written, and not read motivations into my questions.
I apologize if I read motivations into your questions. What I was trying to say is that I was speaking ambiguously, and your question brought to my mind an important distinction that clarified my thought.
Gotcha :cheers2:

I apologize for speaking so ambiguously before. I should have said that I believe certainty in the knowledge of God (non-inferentially) is attainable by humans, but an ability to express this via rational argumentation with certainty is not, because of finitude.
If one quotes from Holy Scripture using rational argumentation, is it certain?
Yes (assuming the Scripture passages are used appropriately, without fallacies), and I would say that this is because we can know that Scripture is authoritative non-inferentially.
Ben,

Can you please define what you mean by knowing a proposition non-inferrentially.

Also, are you saying that non-inferrential knowledge does grant certainty (at least of the proposition "Scripture is authoritative" if not others)?

Cheers,
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Ben,

Can you please define what you mean by knowing a proposition non-inferrentially.

Also, are you saying that non-inferrential knowledge does grant certainty (at least of the proposition "Scripture is authoritative" if not others)?
By "knowing a proposition non-inferentially," what I mean is that the proposition is known apart from separate evidences, or apart from a syllogism (inference). For instance, we can know non-inferentially that there is a computer screen in front of us. (I'm not saying we can't know it inferentially, though.)

And yes, I am saying that it does grant certainty.

One of the examples that Van Tillians typically give, and that is central to the entire presuppositional apologetic, is from Romans 1:18ff., in which it is claimed that all men universally have some type of immediate knowledge of God.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
long reply...

To CatechumenPatrick: Proving that the Christian God exists does not mean Christianity is true; that's obvious, because our God could exist and simply have not revealed himself in scripture or not have come to Earth in the form of man. And yes, if there is no atonement and incarnation, there is no Christianity; unless you are willing to call liberals who don't believe in either but believe the gospels are wise fictional literature just as true Christians as you and I.

For clarifications sake what you are labeling "fundamentalist presuppositional apologetics" is more often referred to as the "strong modal form of TAG". Your labels don't help because if there is either "liberal" presup./TAG (Frame) and fundi. presup./TAG(Van Til, Bahnsen) then what is just plain presuppositional apologetics/TAG?
What is the difference between plain presup and strong modal TAG? What other form of TAG is there, besides "Christianity is a necessary precondition for logic, morality, and science"?

"a great deal of sense about the universe"? That's a pretty weak foundation to rest your apologetic on, and it puts you at a complete standoff when discussing the faith with Muslims, Mormons, Hindus or anyone else who thinks their philosophy "makes a great deal of sense about the universe".
That is just plainly false; how does Hindu religion explain the natural human inclination towards worship of something greater than themselves (for an example) in a way that is any more satisfactory than Christianity?

toddpedlar said:
I also don't see how your 'hypothetical world' proves anything about whether Christianity is necessarily true or not. If you're going to be true to presuppositionalism, then you have to realize that indeed such a world is impossible based on the presupposition of the triune God. Under other presuppositions, of course, such a world would be viewed as possible - but at the heart of presuppositionalism is the embracing of the fact that EVERYONE has root presuppositions, and subseuqent showing that any alternative to the presupposition of the Triune Godhead is impossible. Your argument really doesn't hold any water if you treat Van Tillian presuppositionalism correctly as it is actually practiced.
Do you really think that a world where God creates man but doesn't decree him to sin is impossible? How is that impossible? You are obligated to claim that God decrees men to sin necessarily; there is no possible world where God doesn't decree men to sin---why on earth should anyone believe that? It is contrary to common sense and also a very strange limitation for a God who is supposedly omnipotent.

There are problems with the claim that Christianity is necessarily true, one of them being the fact that no Christian presuppositionalist has shown that at least all the other worldviews we know about are inconsistent and contradictory, let alone all possible worldviews which are not Christianity.
What do you mean by the part I have underlined? And what do you mean by the other implication that no presuppositionalist has demonstrated the inconsistencies of non-Christian worldviews?
I hereby invite you, and the whoever else on the Puritan Board who is willing, to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt, the inconsistency and contradiction in not only every worldview currently believed on earth, but also every possible worldview; a task like this, if completed, would show the necessity of the Christian worldview (but also prove a lot of things which seem quite possible impossible (as I noted above)).

Ignoring the special pleading in your scenarios about "Christianity" that have already been pointed out, your arguments are defeatable by the well-grounded practitioner of presuppositionalism.

For example, playing off your contrived themes, one might ask...

Would a world with no sin be the best possible world for the common good?

Would a world with no sin be the best possible world for the greatest good?

The answers would lead to the inevitable head-on epistemological thrust of presuppositional approaches.

AMR
There is no special pleading anywhere in post; I'd ask you to point it out.

I don't know the purpose of those questions, maybe you can explain what you mean.

I think that presuppositionalists like Van Til and Bahnsen have shown that the God of the Bible - compared with the various other personal and impersonal deities and philosophies on offer - is the only adequate foundation for the universe. People can invent other Gods - like the "Quadrinity" - to challenge that position, but one of the major problems with these is that we know they're invented. Hence presuppositionalists and other apologists can and should take Allah versus the God of the Bible (Yahveh) seiously, or Christian Theism versus Atheism seriously, but not Christian Theism versus the Quadrinity.
This isn't an answer at all to what I've wrote; but also, the fact that the Quadrinity god was supposedly made up doesn't mean it does not exist. It surely seems possible (there is no contradiction in it), so even that is a claim against the supposed necessity of the Christian God.

Steven,
You are also not understanding the foundation of presuppositionalism. Presuppositionalism is working out the philisophical implications for what the Bible claims. The Bible states that there is only one God and one way of salvation. That is the objective foundation of presuppositionalism. It is the Bible which tells us the nature of ourselves, the world, and the mess were in. If the Bible is true, then all other religions are false. All the presuppositionalist has to do is show the inconsistencies of any other religion which the Bible itself does an many occasions. See Acts 17, Psalm 115, Isaiah 45, etc. And if the Bible is true, then man is in fact made in the image of God, actually knows God in some way under the covenant of works, and has a twisted heart designed on contradicting the true God as much as he may get away with. Again, presuppositionalism is just working all those truths out philisophically when it defends the faith against other religions.
:2cents:
Proving the inconsistencies of other religions does not prove Christianity true.

How do you or would you argue for the truth and correspondence of Christianity?
I wouldn't know. Maybe some of the classical arguments, with a bit of evidentialism thrown in.

First, though, I believe there's a problem with your example that Christianity is not necessarily true: a presupper probably wouldn't say that "Christianity" entails the all the specific religious-historical events that take place in this world. They might make "Christianity" less specific than that, referring only to the ontological Trinity as the necessary basis of knowledge, but in that case it isn't true that the Bible in toto is necessary for knowledge.
If you reduce Christianity to just the existence of the trinity, then anyone who believes in a Trinity but does not believe in justification by faith, or by works, or justification at all, or an incarnation, or an atonement, etc., is a Christian.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
First, though, I believe there's a problem with your example that Christianity is not necessarily true: a presupper probably wouldn't say that "Christianity" entails the all the specific religious-historical events that take place in this world. They might make "Christianity" less specific than that, referring only to the ontological Trinity as the necessary basis of knowledge, but in that case it isn't true that the Bible in toto is necessary for knowledge.
If you reduce Christianity to just the existence of the trinity, then anyone who believes in a Trinity but does not believe in justification by faith, or by works, or justification at all, or an incarnation, or an atonement, etc., is a Christian.
I think you have an equivocation here. Saying that Christianity does not necessitate the entire history of redemption that has occurred on this planet, that is, saying that the Christian God could have made a different world, is not tantamount to saying that people in this world can deny the incarnation, etc., and still be Christians. Rather, it implies that it is not necessarily the case that Christians in another world must believe in an incarnation, etc.

But again, as I said, I don't think it is the case that Christianity can be proved by the impossibility of the contrary. I just think that the proposition "Christianity is not necessarily true" needs to be proven in some other way than you are doing here.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
If there is no incarnation, there is no Christianity! Can you really be called a Christian if there was never a Jesus Christ who lived on earth? There's no "Christian" religion if there is no Christ!
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
If there is no incarnation, there is no Christianity! Can you really be called a Christian if there was never a Jesus Christ who lived on earth? There's no "Christian" religion if there is no Christ!
In the actual world, Christianity involves the incarnation. However, this does not mean that in all possible worlds the living God decreed an incarnation. (In this case followers of Him might not be called "Christians," but that's besides the point.)

This would show that the incarnation is not necessary for knowledge, in which case the truthfulness of the entire Bible is not absolutely necessary for knowledge -- this helps your argument. Perhaps the ontological trinity is necessary for knowledge, but this is different from the strong modal claim of Van TIl.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
In the actual world, Christianity involves the incarnation. However, this does not mean that in all possible worlds the living God decreed an incarnation. (In this case followers of Him might not be called "Christians," but that's besides the point.)

This would show that the incarnation is not necessary for knowledge, in which case the truthfulness of the entire Bible is not absolutely necessary for knowledge -- this helps your argument. Perhaps the ontological trinity is necessary for knowledge, but this is different from the strong modal claim of Van TIl.
What I mean by Christianity is not necessary is this: give me a list of all those truth claims which you think constitute the religion "Christianity", and there is a possible world where some of them are false. Therefore it is not necessary.

The ontological trinity is not necessary for knowledge because a quadrinity is possible.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
In the actual world, Christianity involves the incarnation. However, this does not mean that in all possible worlds the living God decreed an incarnation. (In this case followers of Him might not be called "Christians," but that's besides the point.)

This would show that the incarnation is not necessary for knowledge, in which case the truthfulness of the entire Bible is not absolutely necessary for knowledge -- this helps your argument. Perhaps the ontological trinity is necessary for knowledge, but this is different from the strong modal claim of Van TIl.
What I mean by Christianity is not necessary is this: give me a list of all those truth claims which you think constitute the religion "Christianity", and there is a possible world where some of them are false. Therefore it is not necessary.

The ontological trinity is not necessary for knowledge because a quadrinity is possible.
Yeah, you're right. I'm not sure why I said there was a problem in your stating your argument that way, as I agreed that reducing Christianity from the actual events of this world would negate the fact that the Bible is necessary for knowledge.

My bad dawg... :cool:
 

CatechumenPatrick

Puritan Board Freshman
To CatechumenPatrick: Proving that the Christian God exists does not mean Christianity is true; that's obvious, because our God could exist and simply have not revealed himself in scripture or not have come to Earth in the form of man. And yes, if there is no atonement and incarnation, there is no Christianity; unless you are willing to call liberals who don't believe in either but believe the gospels are wise fictional literature just as true Christians as you and I.
Is an implication of your argument the idea that the atonement, incarnation, and fall of humanity, are true in every possible world--in other words, if God creates, he must create worlds with those three features?

Again, a good deal of your argument depends on how you are using the word "Christianity," and then playing fast-and-loose with possible worlds. I really fail to see how your argument is an interesting one :um:
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Ben,

Can you please define what you mean by knowing a proposition non-inferrentially.

Also, are you saying that non-inferrential knowledge does grant certainty (at least of the proposition "Scripture is authoritative" if not others)?
By "knowing a proposition non-inferentially," what I mean is that the proposition is known apart from separate evidences, or apart from a syllogism (inference). For instance, we can know non-inferentially that there is a computer screen in front of us. (I'm not saying we can't know it inferentially, though.)

And yes, I am saying that it does grant certainty.

One of the examples that Van Tillians typically give, and that is central to the entire presuppositional apologetic, is from Romans 1:18ff., in which it is claimed that all men universally have some type of immediate knowledge of God.
Would it be fair, then, to state that you have embraced a new view which grants certainty via empirical investigation, while you have rejected your old view which grants certainty via authoritative declarations by God?

Cheers,
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
To CatechumenPatrick: Proving that the Christian God exists does not mean Christianity is true; that's obvious, because our God could exist and simply have not revealed himself in scripture or not have come to Earth in the form of man. And yes, if there is no atonement and incarnation, there is no Christianity; unless you are willing to call liberals who don't believe in either but believe the gospels are wise fictional literature just as true Christians as you and I.
Is an implication of your argument the idea that the atonement, incarnation, and fall of humanity, are true in every possible world--in other words, if God creates, he must create worlds with those three features?

Again, a good deal of your argument depends on how you are using the word "Christianity," and then playing fast-and-loose with possible worlds. I really fail to see how your argument is an interesting one :um:
His point is basically this: it is not true that the Bible's truthfulness is necessary for knowledge, since part of it could be altered (i.e., the true religion could be slightly different from ours in a possible world) without destroying knowledge. It is possible that the incarnation could never have taken place, had God decreed it not to occur, and therefore the fact of the incarnation is not necessary for knowledge. Seeing as the incarnation is part of the Bible, it follows that the totality of the Bible is not necessary for knowledge.

-----Added 8/13/2009 at 12:56:48 EST-----

Ben,

Can you please define what you mean by knowing a proposition non-inferrentially.

Also, are you saying that non-inferrential knowledge does grant certainty (at least of the proposition "Scripture is authoritative" if not others)?
By "knowing a proposition non-inferentially," what I mean is that the proposition is known apart from separate evidences, or apart from a syllogism (inference). For instance, we can know non-inferentially that there is a computer screen in front of us. (I'm not saying we can't know it inferentially, though.)

And yes, I am saying that it does grant certainty.

One of the examples that Van Tillians typically give, and that is central to the entire presuppositional apologetic, is from Romans 1:18ff., in which it is claimed that all men universally have some type of immediate knowledge of God.
Would it be fair, then, to state that you have embraced a new view which grants certainty via empirical investigation, while you have rejected your old view which grants certainty via authoritative declarations by God?
No, I don't think that would be correct.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
By "knowing a proposition non-inferentially," what I mean is that the proposition is known apart from separate evidences, or apart from a syllogism (inference). For instance, we can know non-inferentially that there is a computer screen in front of us. (I'm not saying we can't know it inferentially, though.)

And yes, I am saying that it does grant certainty.

One of the examples that Van Tillians typically give, and that is central to the entire presuppositional apologetic, is from Romans 1:18ff., in which it is claimed that all men universally have some type of immediate knowledge of God.
Would it be fair, then, to state that you have embraced a new view which grants certainty via empirical investigation, while you have rejected your old view which grants certainty via authoritative declarations by God?
No, I don't think that would be correct.
So, then, what is the difference between your view and empiricism?
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Well, the fact that I believe we know we see things, and that we know this without other evidence, does not necessitate a full-fledged empiricism.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Well, the fact that I believe we know we see things, and that we know this without other evidence, does not necessitate a full-fledged empiricism.
So what did you mean earlier when you stated that you knew that the Bible was God's Word by non-inferrential knowledge?

Cheers,
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Well, the fact that I believe we know we see things, and that we know this without other evidence, does not necessitate a full-fledged empiricism.
So what did you mean earlier when you stated that you knew that the Bible was God's Word by non-inferrential knowledge?
I was saying that it can be known, and is known, apart from evidences.

Say that someone is reading the Bible, and they just "see" that it is the Word of God. As they read over it, they are convinced, apart from argument, that it is divinely authoritative.

That is what I mean. Certainly this means that one's senses must be reliable, but I think only a Clarkian would declare me an empiricist for believing in sensory reliability.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
That is what I mean. Certainly this means that one's senses must be reliable, but I think only a Clarkian would declare me an empiricist for believing in sensory reliability.
Clark didn't define empiricism as one who believes in sensory reliability. He defined empiricists as those "denying a priori forms of the mind, and implicitly basing all knowledge on sensation."

He did believe that one must question sensory perceptions when trying to define truth. Escher is one of his favorite examples of how perceptions can deceive.

 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
In Lord God of Truth, if I remember correctly, Clark did not make a distinction between an empiricist and one who believes in sensory perception. I also have seen many Scripturalists who repudiate learning anything by the senses as advocating empiricism alongside Scripture as a "two-source" theory of truth.

Perhaps he thought that believing that sensory experience furnishes us with knowledge implies empiricism and therefore did not make a sharp distinction between the two.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
In Lord God of Truth, if I remember correctly, Clark did not make a distinction between an empiricist and one who believes in sensory perception. I also have seen many Scripturalists who repudiate learning anything by the senses as advocating empiricism alongside Scripture as a "two-source" theory of truth.
I think Clark was targeting those who use sensory perception as the criteria of truth. One cannot lay at Clark's feet (Clarkian) all scripturalists who came after him.

For those who live in LegoLand.

 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Well, the fact that I believe we know we see things, and that we know this without other evidence, does not necessitate a full-fledged empiricism.
So what did you mean earlier when you stated that you knew that the Bible was God's Word by non-inferrential knowledge?
I was saying that it can be known, and is known, apart from evidences.

Say that someone is reading the Bible, and they just "see" that it is the Word of God. As they read over it, they are convinced, apart from argument, that it is divinely authoritative.

That is what I mean. Certainly this means that one's senses must be reliable, but I think only a Clarkian would declare me an empiricist for believing in sensory reliability.
Thanks for the explanation Ben.

First, "seeing" that the Bible is the Word of God is not an act of the eyes. Nor is hearing an act of the ear. Nor is tasting an act of the tongue. None of the media by which ideas are communicated are reliable. "Seeing", as you used above, is mental assent after having been enlightened in one's mind by the Holy Spirit. Hearing the Word has to do with appropriate it by faith, not with relying upon a sensory organ. We are justified by faith, not by our eyes or our ears.

Man, as the image of God, hears and sees, ultimately, in the image of God. Therefore, man does not need ears to hear, or eyes to see, or a brain to think (otherwise, the spirits of just men made perfect would also be unthinking, blind and deaf); these are merely the instruments God has chosen to use on earth, and after the resurrection. To translate those instruments into the intellectual faculty (God's image) is, I believe, mistaken.

Cheers,
 
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