Brad Littlejohn on worldviewism?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Reformed Covenanter, Oct 22, 2019.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    What are your thoughts on the below extract?

    Another common tendency of worldview thinking is that, to the extent that it can seek to offer a pre-packaged framework of knowledge, it can be remarkably hostile to learning. Paul warns about those who are “always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7) but some worldview warriors seem to suffer rather from an “always already at knowledge of the truth and never learning” syndrome. If the key thing is to have the right worldview, then once you have that worldview, well, you already have a view of the world, you already know your way around. …

    Perhaps the most serious danger of worldviewism (though this tendency is more likely to arise only within so-called “presuppositionalist” circles) is that it might tacitly—if inadvertently—endorse a kind of postmodern relativism. …

    But it is easy to see how the metaphor might lead this way. Worldview-as-map, perhaps, may not—if there are different maps, but only one reality, then only one of the maps can genuinely orient you. But with the worldview-as-lens metaphor, it is easy to think in terms of different lenses that one can switch between, yielding different internally-coherent world pictures, without ever having (or being able?) to encounter the world-in-itself. This, in fact, is no coincidence, but testifies to the intellectual genealogy of “worldview,” which translates the German Weltanschauung, a term coined by Immanuel Kant in 1790.

    Kant’s philosophy made a hard distinction between the world-in-itself and the-world-as-constructed-by-our-minds, a distinction that is ironically a favorite whipping boy of many Christian worldview teachers. To talk of a “Christian worldview” risks buying into this idealist and subjectivist construal of the world, in tension with the philosophical realism that characterized almost the entire previous Christian tradition.

    Bradford Littlejohn, What’s Wrong with “Worldview”? (Leesburg VA: Davenant Institute, 2019), pp 5, 7-8.
  2. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Honestly, I only find these objections among people who spend too much time reading secular philosophy and calling foul every time they see a resemblance. The objection “Kant!” isn’t really a meaningful objection, in my view.

    I am surely one you might call a “worldviewer.” I am most certainly presuppositional. And, frankly, I don’t understand all the hype around trashing this position. To me, it makes perfect sense to challenge unbelievers at the level of their worldview. What’s wrong with showing the unbeliever that their behavior and beliefs are counter to their professed worldview? What’s wrong with telling unbelievers that by denying the God of the Bible in their worldview they remove every possible foundation for knowledge and ethics?

    I don’t know what kind of people this person is running into that claims that they know everything simply because they hold to a biblical worldview. It certainly isn’t what I claim for myself, not any other presuppositionalist I know, although I certainly believe—because it’s biblical—that by refusing to acknowledge God in our thinking, that reality as we experience and interact with it, because God made it, does not and cannot make sense in any ultimate sense of the word.
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Littlejohn primarily reads Richard Hooker, who was not a secularist.
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    My own push-back against Littlejohn (whereas I agree with the "substance," to use a dangerous word, of his argument) is that Weltanschauung has a closer connotation of "intuition," which neither most presups nor their critics understand. Ironically. Husserl is good on this.
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    See any Facebook Presuppositionalist/Van Tillian group.
  6. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    OK, well, with all due respect, Jacob, you tend to point to random no-name representatives of presuppositionalism and claim that they are the best representatives. We’ve been down this road before; I’ve called you out specifically on this kind of Texas sharpshooting. If we are going to characterize a philosophy, let’s characterize it by the best, most scholarly representatives—in this case, not a bunch of Joe-Schmoes on Facebook, but men like Bahnsen, Frame, Oliphint, and especially Van Til himself. To do otherwise is unfair and a deliberate misrepresentation made in order to get some kind of upper hand in these discussions.
    • Like Like x 3
    • Amen Amen x 1
    • List
  7. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    At the most foundational level everyone holds a presuppositional worldview. Either they believe there is a Creator-God or they do not.

    The idea there isn't a creator is utterly unscientific.

    And if there is a creator then He must be the primary reality.

    As such it's not a matter of biblical presuppositionalists needing to insist that they know everything, but much more one of if there is indeed a Creator then those who discount Him necessarily have a hopelessly deficient premise underlying their worldview.

    If one does acknowledge there is a creator, then of course the next step is to determine whether the Creator simply left creation as something to be subjectively observed and speculated on, or if further objective revelation as to creation's purpose was given - and so on.

    Further, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible as special revelation that necessarily displaces what can be observed or rationally allowed for in natural observation. The Bible certainly reveals many things that transcend the observable natural sphere, but there still aren't any inexorable inconsistencies between the two.

    Of course the real kicker as told in special revelation is that one's very acceptance of itself is totally dependent on the creator opening the creation's eyes and giving them a new heart and nature to receive it. And there the mind boggles, and the believer's heart jumps in joy and awe...
  8. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I agree that it is not, in and of itself, a meaningful objection. Mind you, if I had a pound for every time I heard someone argue "you are wrong because you agree with [someone whom they dislike]" I would be a very rich man.

    In my own field of history, I have come across many presuppositionalists who think that they do not have to do the hard graft of research but can make dogmatic statements about historical events just because a favourite ideologue said something with which they agree. When you would bring historical evidence to their attention, they would dismiss it with "you are just agreeing with secularists" and so on. I have even seen people argue that R. J. Rushdoony changed his position on the Jewish Holocaust, not because he genuinely believed he was factually wrong, but because he went a bit soft in his old age.

    Okay, you could say that these are extreme examples based on anecdotes (I get that they are), but people do have concerns about positions based on the fruits of such ideas. Hence, I do not think that we can dismiss them completely out of hand.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There are no Bahnsens today. Frame is on his way out. I like Oliphint and James Anderson. They are legit scholars. They also aren't your average presupper.
  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's not so much the problem. As a student of Thomas Reid I have no issue with first principles, principia (which is a Reformed tenet that few talk about today), etc. The presuppositionalist goes much further: unless you presuppose x, y, and z, you cannot even begin to know what you are talking about. It's that claim we reject.
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Or when Greg Bahnsen endorsed Norm Shepherd until the day of his death. Theonomists pleaded with David Bahnsen to burn the files.
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Here is another quotation from the same author. Even if you think he is not presenting his opponents at their best, it is still a wise caution:

    Worldview warriors are liable to be more interested in having answers than asking questions, in dismissing an opponent rather than engaging him, and in teaching rather than learning. Worldviewism, as often practiced, is not an approach that encourages patience, humility, discrimination, or persuasion. Indeed, since any passion must be nourished through struggle, and worldviewism can seem to promise a cheap shortcut to knowledge, it does not often create students fired with a love for truth.

    Bradford Littlejohn, What’s Wrong with “Worldview”? (Leesburg VA: Davenant Institute, 2019), p. 8.
  13. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    What are you talking about? These men left us literature! That the “average presupper” is ignorant of them does nothing to the fact that they are still the standard when it comes to what presuppositionalism actually is. You can’t ignore them just because they’re dead or dying (no matter how convenient it might be). Just because the majority of Presbyterians today do not hold a confessional position on the Sabbath in no way means that Sabbatarianism is the standard for Westminsterian theology, though the drafters be long dead.

    Again, Texas sharpshooting. All I ask is that you be fair. And I find that, on this topic, you are consistently unfair.
  14. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I appreciate this caution. However, the Arminian makes similar claims of Calvinism in general! Are we therefore to believe that Calvinism itself is in error? To point to a character flaw in a person who holds position X in order to conclude that position X is invalid is textbook ad hominem. The problem is that this man is not dealing with presuppositionalism, but presuppositionalists. How can we not see this fallacy? It’s plainly there.
  15. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I appreciate the thoughts you folks bring to the table. I really do. I just feel that too often the presuppositionalism that I’m told I believe is often, if not always, unrecognizable, especially when I compare it to the standard literature (which frankly ought to be treated as the standard, too).

    I can see that this thread might go the way of others on this topic, so I think I will bow out now. It’s just not worth me losing my cool over, especially when I like you guys so much! :)

    Thanks, brothers.
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I've read Frame's book on Van Til three times. I took apologetics under Frame. Two of my former pastors were close friends of Bahnsen. I've read Bahnsen's big book twice. I've had two of the contributors to Bahnsen's Festschrift autograph it for me.

    With all of that said, Bahnsen's book on Van Til isn't what is debating atheists today in university forums, nor is Frame's book on Van Til writing new scholarly articles on what makes a Transcendental Argument a valid and sound proof (which is by no means a given in modern philosophy).
  17. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I understand that, but it is presuppositionalists who are exemplifying presuppositionalism
  18. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Well, you are certainly out of my league in this area, so maybe simpletons such as myself just can't get past first considering first principles. :duh: Carry on...
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    A transcendental argument specifically claims that unless you presuppose {a,b....z} you cannot account for intelligibility.

    In lay speak, "ohyeahhowdoyouknow?"

    Transcendental arguments, even if they work, are very shaky. They are by no means philosophically self-evident, which then comes close to having preconditions of the preconditions.
  20. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    Sounds like a good corrective to me.

    This is exactly what I've seen happen in Literature, with some teachers in my Christian school very preoccupied with developing a "Christian" reading of a text, like it's one of many options on the table.

    How about just a good reading?

    I took over a Lit class once from a teacher who was very much into "worldview" teaching. One of my students asked a question and, before I could begin to answer, the students all chanted in unison, "We live in a fallen world."

    "What?" I asked, groping for some meaning to this spontaneous and unexpected performance.

    "Isn't that what you were going to say? That's what teacher x always said."

    "No! I was going to answer the question!"
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
  21. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I get that it could be seen as an ad hominem, but I think that the author in question sees it as the logical outworking of the presuppositionalist system. To substantiate the point further, however, he would need to cite actual sources rather than just refer to anecdotes.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's why I love CS Lewis's take on literature: just let the text be the text (sorry for sounding like the Gospel Coalition) and don't evangelize the text. And that can backfire even with Christian works like Paradise Lost. Many of Milton's sources probably come from magical grimoires, Christian though the rest of it is.
  23. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    That was really fine.
  24. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Generally speaking TAG is a deductive argument, but it is unlike all other deductive arguments. What sets TAG apart from garden variety deduction is that with the latter we begin with some truths (or inferences) and reason to others – but unlike transcendental arguments that to which we reason is not presupposed as a necessary precondition for the intelligible experience of the original fact of experience (or its denial). For instance, “If causality then God” merely means that causality is a sufficient condition for God and that God is a necessary condition for causality. Which is to say: if causality exists then it is logically necessary that God exists. However, such a premise does not delve into the question of how God and causality relate to each other. It does not tell us whether God exists because of causality or whether causality exists because of God. Causality presupposes God says more than causality is a sufficient condition for God and that God is a necessary condition for causality. If causality presupposes God then God must be logically prior to causality.

    The transcendental argument for the existence of God is an argument that has as its conclusion God exists.

    Prove A: The Christian God exists.
    Step 1 ~A: (Assume the opposite of what we are trying to prove): The Christian God does not exist.
    Step 2 (~A--> B): If God does not exist, then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility
    Step 3 (~B): There is intelligible experience (Contradiction)
    Step 4 (~ ~A): It is not the case that God does not exist (Modus Tollens on 2 and 3)
    Step 5 (A): --> God does exist (Law of negation.)

    Whereas professing atheists are willing to concede the validity of the above argument Christians should happily concede that the argument is not only not fallacious (i.e. valid) but also sound. In other words, although professing atheists and Christians alike agree that the above argument has a valid form – i.e. the conclusion follows from the premises – Christians should agree that since the premises are all true and the form is valid the conclusion is true. But unfortunately Christians don't always grasp this point.

    Christians often say that TAG does not achieve its goal because not every worldview is refuted in the argument. Such a claim simply demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of TAG. The above argument is aimed to prove that God exists, which it does. To deny that it does is to reject logic and / or biblical truths. Again, the argument above has a specific conclusion, God exists. The conclusion of the argument is not that if God does not exist, then there could be no intelligible experience. In other words, the above transcendental argument does not aim to prove that God is the precondition for intelligible experience, though that is a premise used in the argument which is why the argument is transcendental. That is where Christians who oppose TAG get tripped up. They don’t appreciate what is being argued.

    So what about step 2 of the argument? We can defend the premise of step 2 deductively by appealing to the absolute authority of Scripture. Of course the unbeliever rejects that authority; nonetheless that the unbeliever is dysfunctional does not mean that an appeal to Scripture is fallacious! After all, if a skeptic rejects logic should we then argue apart from logic? Since when does the dullness of an opponent dictate which tools of argumentation may be used? Of course, given the unbeliever’s suppression of the truth the Christian does well to defend step 2 inductively by performing internal critiques of opposing worldviews, which of course can only corroborate the veracity of step 2. It would be fallacious, however, to conclude because of such condescension toward the unbeliever that the conclusion of TAG (God exists) and the justification for its step 2 (God is the precondition of intelligibility) rest upon inductive inference. By the use of induction the Christian is merely acknowledging that the unbeliever refuses to bend the knee to the self-attesting Word from which step 2 can be deduced by sound argumentation. Since unbelievers will not accept the truth claims of the Bible and, therefore, a deductive defense of step 2 the only thing the Christian can do is refute the hypothetical competitors, but that hardly implies that step 2 cannot be proved by deduction.

    Finally, it has been noted by some and popularized by Don Collet in the Westminster Theological Journal that the only way a transcendental argument may be formalized is thusly (TAG*):

    C presupposes G if and only if both 1 & 2:
    1. If C then God exists
    2. If ~C then God exists

    Given such a construct, we are no longer negating the metaphysicality of causality but rather the truth value of the predication of the metaphysicality of causality. In other words: ~causality (which is chaos) does not presuppose God so for the construct to make sense it must pertain only to prediction about causality. In other words, since non-causality is an impossible entity that defies creation, providence and intelligibility, such a formulation of TAG (TAG*) limits itself to predication only. Does the apologist really want to do that? Do we want to give up arguing that God is the precondition for the intelligible experience of actual causality? I think not. TAG* (as opposed to TAG) is indeed powerful but it does not pertain to anything other than predication; whereas TAG may pertain to predication and the reality that the predication contemplates.
  25. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Amen and Amen!
  26. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Quote me one person, he needn’t even be a presuppositionalist, who says that. I’ll ping you back if you forget.

    There are no Bahnsens today. Frame is on his way out. I like Oliphint and James Anderson. They are legit scholars. They also aren't your average presupper.​

    You like them, but do you understand them? I get the sense you enjoy citing scholars but maybe you might explain more specifically what you like about their work. Why do you like Oliphint’s work in epistemology or apologetics? Be specific. What arguments do you like? How does he differ from Van Til? And what difference does it make if someone “is on his way out”?
  27. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Reasons for Faith was good. I like how he dealt with specific issues in modern philosophical theology.
  28. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman


    I’m really only looking for two responses.

    A transcendental argument specifically claims that unless you presuppose {a,b....z} you cannot account for intelligibility.​

    What does this mean to you and what’s your objection? Are there no preconditions for intelligible experience? How about the law of non-contradiction?

    Transcendental arguments, even if they work, are very shaky. They are by no means philosophically self-evident, which then comes close to having preconditions of the preconditions.​

    Who thinks transcendental arguments are self-evident? Propositions, perhaps, can be self-evident but I’ve been around for a while and I’ve never come across this claim that transcendental arguments are self-evident. Can you point me to a scholar and if not, a FB Vantillian or Kantian who thinks this?

    Thanks in advance.
  29. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I'm in over my head as to the rest of the dialogue, but I admit the "ohyeahwellhowdoyouknowthat" technique has been my favorite with atheists because--it'll be self-evident--they don't know.

    "On what authority do you say these things?" Christ implicitly puts the question back on the Pharisees by asking them to justify their rejection of John the Baptist. They are silent and embarrassed because they don't have a legitimate authority to rule against John, and they know it.

    Some weeks ago I met two atheists. One took my Bible and started flipping through it. I think I just asked him, "So what dastardly deed done by God or by a saint are you looking for?" I know that they like to argue by claiming just what a moral monster God is (Cue "Oh Patrick..."). He finally reaches Elisha calling the bear to maul the 40 children. He talks about how severe and wrong it is, then I just ask, "On what authority do you say that?" I watched these two guys spin themselves in a circle for at least a half hour trying to defend an absolute judgment on the work of Elisha while not having a definite authority for their judgment. Oftentimes such peoples end up saying, "I am my own authority." The rabbit hole gets deeper from there.

    Presup one time also made a good lead-in for evangelizing vegans. "On what authority do you say these things?"

    The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. The presup approach is one--and not the only or even the most important--tool in the evangelism kit to help some see the foolishness of their position. Let them see it is foolish, then let them see that God has declared them foolish in Psalm 14 and Romans 1.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
    • Like Like x 5
    • Amen Amen x 1
    • List
  30. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page