Help, I\'m lost!

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srhoades

Puritan Board Freshman
Help, I\\\'m lost!

I've been in the reformed faith for only a few years. My interests really started to spread into philosophy, and now naturally to apologetics. I'm totally confused concerning the different methods. Let my try an explain what I think I know, and then please correct me.

Presuppositional
Van Tillian - God is presupposed because without God we could know nothing
Clarkian - The Bible is presupposed because without the Bible we couldn't presuppose God

Evidentialism
Evidence presented to prove, or show coherence to the Bible

Is that roughly about right? I have read John Gerstner's Reasons for Faith. If I remember correctly he starts with "I think therefore I am" and concludes that an eternal being must therefore exist and then builds his case from there. So am I correct in thinking he is a Van Tillian?

And isn't evidentialism presuppositional in nature? Wouldn't you have to presuppose that truth is possible before you could offer evidence that something is true? Or am I guilty of equivocating the word presuppositional?
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
I'm not much ahead of you in the study of apologetics but I can point out that Gerstner is not a Presuppositionalist he's an Evidentialist. "I think therefore I am" is Cartesian NOT Van Tillian. Van Til would probably be more inclined to say "God is therefore I think."
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Peter
I'm not much ahead of you in the study of apologetics but I can point out that Gerstner is not a Presuppositionalist he's an Evidentialist. "I think therefore I am" is Cartesian NOT Van Tillian. Van Til would probably be more inclined to say "God is therefore I think."

:ditto:

It is true that in the broad sense, everyone is presuppositional, the question is What are your presuppositions?

Van Til presupposes God and the Bible, but looks at it as a reference point.

Clark presupposes God and the Bible, but looks at it as an axiom.

Gerstner/Sproul et. al. presuppose empiricism (the senses alone furnish us with truth) and try to prove God/Bible

Anselm et. al presuppose rationalism (the reason alone furnish us with truth) and try to prove God/Bible


Research "Epistemology" and it should help you in this study. :)
 

beej6

Puritan Board Sophomore
Frankly, when the Word presupposes the existence of God, we shouldn't have to prove it all over again ;-). If someone doesn't believe the Word, all the more he needs It preached and taught to him. So then I think the question is what non-Word method can one use to "apologize" for one's faith.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by srhoades
And isn't evidentialism presuppositional in nature? Wouldn't you have to presuppose that truth is possible before you could offer evidence that something is true? Or am I guilty of equivocating the word presuppositional?

I knwo what you are saying, but probably best not to use "presup" in that category. A few evidentialists, Craig and Moreland, openly admit they presuppose: causation, induction, existence of orderly universe, etc.
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel

Gerstner/Sproul et. al. presuppose empiricism (the senses alone furnish us with truth) and try to prove God/Bible

This is not true. Classical apologetics uses the faculty of reason and rational argumentation and uses empirical evidence in history/created world as far as it goes to make a case for theism and this case is made less as a building up of a system and more as a tool to show that empericists and rationalists cannot disprove the existence of God.
A rational, evidential, biblical case is then made for the Bible as the sole special revelation of God.

It also does not "try" to prove so to speak. God proves himself, and these apologists only bring God's proofs to the discussion, while realizing that only the Spirit of God can persuade people to embrace these proofs instead of denying what they clearly can see.

Classical apologetics does not deny presuppostions, what it seeks to avoid is seeing everything through one presupposition; (presuppositionalism)

It affirms the presupposition that God is first in the order of being, what it denies is that we have to see everything from God's point of view in the order of knowing.

It affirms emperical evidence, it does not affirm empiricism.

There is also a difference between classical (Sproul, Gerstner) and evidential (John Montgomery) apologetics.

I am not making a case for classical/evidential, I just want to make sure they are understood for what they are before they are rejected due to a straw-man.

Read "Classical Apologetics" by Sproul, Gerstner, Lindsley. If you are going to reject it, make sure you reject it, and not some mischaracterization. Read them in their own words. Read other views in their own words. Then read critiques of each view by other views. This way you will at least disagree for what they are, and not for what someone thinks they are.

This link is to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals/Modern Reformation. It is a chart of the positions...

http://web.archive.org/web/20010422.../1998.02.MarApr/mr9802.chart.apologetics.html



Jeff-

Could you point me to where classical/evidential apologetics teaches that we only know anything from the senses? Where in Sproul/Gerstner's "Classical Apologetics" do they affirm empiricism? I'd like to look that up.

[Edited on 4-10-2006 by RAS]
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
There's a difference between using presuppositions or foundations in your epistemological approach and actually employing "presuppositionalism" a la Van Til.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm totally confused concerning the different methods. Let my try an explain what I think I know, and then please correct me.
This is a very brief description:

Van Tillian - right
Clarkian - wrong
Evidentialism - wrong
 

Founded on the Rock

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Scott
I'm totally confused concerning the different methods. Let my try an explain what I think I know, and then please correct me.
This is a very brief description:

Van Tillian - right
Clarkian - wrong
Evidentialism - wrong

Being pretty new to the issues myself, assertions like this only posion the well. I would lean towards Van Til but a statement like this is in no way helpful, brother.
 

gwine

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Founded on the Rock
Originally posted by Scott
I'm totally confused concerning the different methods. Let my try an explain what I think I know, and then please correct me.
This is a very brief description:

Van Tillian - right
Clarkian - wrong
Evidentialism - wrong

Being pretty new to the issues myself, assertions like this only posion the well. I would lean towards Van Til but a statement like this is in no way helpful, brother.

It could have been typed in jest, my brother, but these days you never know. Take a few deep breaths and let's watch this play out. It should prove to be interesting.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by gwine
Originally posted by Founded on the Rock
Originally posted by Scott
I'm totally confused concerning the different methods. Let my try an explain what I think I know, and then please correct me.
This is a very brief description:

Van Tillian - right
Clarkian - wrong
Evidentialism - wrong

Being pretty new to the issues myself, assertions like this only posion the well. I would lean towards Van Til but a statement like this is in no way helpful, brother.

It could have been typed in jest, my brother, but these days you never know. Take a few deep breaths and let's watch this play out. It should prove to be interesting.

Right. We have fought so many apologetic methdology battles here that we have to find ways to keep one another on our toes. It was in jest.

If you want to see "poisoning the well," go to the theonomy threads! :lol::lol:
 

Founded on the Rock

Puritan Board Freshman
:D Nothing mean and nasty meant by my comments :) If it was said in jest then I apologize brother! Being new to the board I wasn't sure :)

I was just trying to make sure assertions weren't thrown out without anything being substantiated. Sorry I might be a little slow :banghead:
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by RAS
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel

Gerstner/Sproul et. al. presuppose empiricism (the senses alone furnish us with truth) and try to prove God/Bible

This is not true. Classical apologetics uses the faculty of reason and rational argumentation and uses empirical evidence in history/created world as far as it goes to make a case for theism and this case is made less as a building up of a system and more as a tool to show that empericists and rationalists cannot disprove the existence of God.
A rational, evidential, biblical case is then made for the Bible as the sole special revelation of God.

I understand what you are saying, but this does not contradict what I have said. Sproul/Gerstner presuppose the reliability of the senses, (and probably logic as well) to argue for the existence of God.

The reason they are labeled empiricists (basically synonomous with evidentialism) is that they appeal to the validity of the cosmological argument and sense perception to argue for the existence of God.

Originally posted by RAS
It also does not "try" to prove so to speak. God proves himself, and these apologists only bring God's proofs to the discussion, while realizing that only the Spirit of God can persuade people to embrace these proofs instead of denying what they clearly can see.

I see not substantiative difference between "bringing God's proofs to the discussion" and trying to prove the existence of God. In the scope of the discussion (i.e. the differences between the apologetic methods), the difference between the presuppositional method and the evidentialist method is if it is valid at all to prove in any way the existence of God.

Originally posted by RAS
Classical apologetics does not deny presuppostions, what it seeks to avoid is seeing everything through one presupposition; (presuppositionalism)

I thought I made that point. :)

Originally posted by RAS
It affirms the presupposition that God is first in the order of being, what it denies is that we have to see everything from God's point of view in the order of knowing.

It affirms emperical evidence, it does not affirm empiricism.

Sproul/Gerstner may presuppose rationality to some degree as well, but as far as the arguments are concerned (the cosmological, causal etc.) they operate from an empiricist worldview.

Originally posted by RAS
Jeff-

Could you point me to where classical/evidential apologetics teaches that we only know anything from the senses? Where in Sproul/Gerstner's "Classical Apologetics" do they affirm empiricism? I'd like to look that up.

I didn't mean to suggest that sproul et. al. affirm that every jot and tittle they know comes from the senses alone, but (at least in the area of apologetics) anyone who affirms that the cosmological argument is a valid way of proving the existence of God is most definately empirical in his knowledge of God. Evendentialism is just that; evidence to our senses.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Being pretty new to the issues myself, assertions like this only posion the well. I would lean towards Van Til but a statement like this is in no way helpful, brother.
It was a joke, directed at our Clarkian and evidentialist friends on the board.
 

srhoades

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you all for your responses, it gives me a place to start. Just gives further evidence that the more you know, the more you know that you don't know anything.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by srhoades
Thank you all for your responses, it gives me a place to start. Just gives further evidence that the more you know, the more you know that you don't know anything.

Evidence? You mean you don't presuppose anything?!?!

Sorry, couldn't resist.:lol:
 

Founded on the Rock

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Draught Horse
Originally posted by srhoades
Thank you all for your responses, it gives me a place to start. Just gives further evidence that the more you know, the more you know that you don't know anything.

Evidence? You mean you don't presuppose anything?!?!

Sorry, couldn't resist.:lol:

:up::lol::lol:
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Jeff for your response.

You said:
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
Gerstner/Sproul et. al. presuppose empiricism (the senses alone furnish us with truth) and try to prove God/Bible

I sought to correct this for the benefit of the one who started the thread.

You then said:
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
I understand what you are saying, but this does not contradict what I have said. Sproul/Gerstner presuppose the reliability of the senses, (and probably logic as well) to argue for the existence of God.

It does contradict what you said. I was pointing out that using empirical evidence does not make one a follower of empiricism as a worldview. You stated that they presuppose empiricism defined as "the senses alone furnish us with truth". Classical apologetics affirms the use of evidence and sense perception, but it does not affirm that all knowledge comes through the senses and the senses only.

I said:
Originally posted by RAS
Classical apologetics does not deny presuppostions, what it seeks to avoid is seeing everything through one presupposition; (presuppositionalism)

I don't think you did make that point. You only referred to one presuppostion.

Originally posted by RAS
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
Jeff-

Could you point me to where classical/evidential apologetics teaches that we only know anything from the senses? Where in Sproul/Gerstner's "Classical Apologetics" do they affirm empiricism? I'd like to look that up.

I didn't mean to suggest that sproul et. al. affirm that every jot and tittle they know comes from the senses alone, but (at least in the area of apologetics) anyone who affirms that the cosmological argument is a valid way of proving the existence of God is most definately empirical in his knowledge of God. Evendentialism is just that; evidence to our senses.

You are equivocating here Jeff. You said you did not mean to suggest this, yet it is what you said:

Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
Gerstner/Sproul et. al. presuppose empiricism (the senses alone furnish us with truth)

I am not denying that classical apologetics uses evidences, obviously. I was simply pointing out, lest someone misconstrues the real position, that that is not the same thing as embracing empiricism as a full-fledged worldview that is alone presupposed and that all knowledge comes from that presupposition alone. They do presuppose the "basic reliability of the senses", but I don't think it is fair to equate that statement with "the senses alone give us all knowledge".

[Edited on 4-11-2006 by RAS]
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Allan,

Please tell me what area you disagree with this argument.

-An apologetic that assumes empiricism as it's first principle is evidentialism.

-Sproul et. al's first priniciple is the reliability of the senses. This is their unproved axiom, and hence they attempt to draw conclusions from it (i.e. the existence of God).

-In apologetics, assuming empiricism as your first principle and deriving your conclusions from these unproved assertions can rightly be called empricism.

-In aplogetics, assuming rationalism as your first principle and deriving your conclusions from these unproved assertions can rightly be called rationalism.

When I speak of "all knowledge", it is in relation to this topic, (i.e. not roller hockey or basket weaving) mainly apologetics. They begin with sense experience as the first principle and attempt to prove God from this axiom.

If you think that this is misrepresenting Sproul et. al, please explain.
 

srhoades

Puritan Board Freshman
I have yet another question. Why is there so much strife and friction concerning this topic? If we all are reformed, don't we all agree that it is God who is sovereign in salvation? I understand that he uses means such as apologetics, but do people honestly believe God will be unable to save someone if the "correct" method of apologetics is not used? Now I'm by no mean implying that we can be heretical or misleading, but shouldn't any honest, biblical, orthodox defense be acceptable?
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have yet another question. Why is there so much strife and friction concerning this topic? If we all are reformed, don't we all agree that it is God who is sovereign in salvation? I understand that he uses means such as apologetics, but do people honestly believe God will be unable to save someone if the "correct" method of apologetics is not used? Now I'm by no mean implying that we can be heretical or misleading, but shouldn't any honest, biblical, orthodox defense be acceptable?

I think the friction comes when you realize that Van Tilianism, Scripturalism (Clark), Evidentialism (Aquinas/Sproul/Gerstner) are, for the most part, mutually exclusive. All three claim to present a biblical method for apologetics, but since they stand in opposition to one another, and we know there can only be one method consistent with Scripture, you´re going to get friction. The implicit neo-orthodoxy of Van Til runs counter to Clark and both run counter to Aquinas/Sproul/Gerstner (although VT does make considerable allowance for the so-called classical "œproofs" of God´s existence, albeit while anathematizing Natural Theology at the same time). You´ll notice from the mix above that Schaeffer´s method, which is arguably closer to that of Sproul, is not even mentioned. I guess he´s just fallen out of favor entirely. OTOH I´ve always thought that Schaeffer´s literary style and philosophic and historic bent is more in line with Clark. I also notice that Alvin Plantinga didn´t even get an honorable mention. He doesn't fit within any of the categories already mentioned.

What it comes down to is you should study the works of each man on their own, study the Scriptures in light of what each has to say, and, as you make your own decision, ask the Lord for wisdom.

As one who has come down solidly in favor of the Scripturalism of Gordon Clark I would recommend you read the volume of his work; Christian Philosophy, The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Volume 4. The book includes Clark's major works in philosophy: Religion, Reason, and Revelation; Three Types of Religious Philosophy; and An Introduction to Christian Philosophy. You can get the volume at:
http://www.trinitylectures.org/prod...d=146&osCsid=aeda178f5891e4d0bc431ddd61708eeb

Perhaps the Van Tilians, Evidentialists and anyone else should recommend the book or books that they think best represent the particular apologetic method they defend and/or prefer. I could always list some for the rest if you want, but that will just get me in trouble. ;)

[Edited on 4-11-2006 by Magma2]
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
Jeff-
I'll briefly try my best. However, this has gone farther than I intended to personally involve myself. I think I have answered these questions already but I'll try again one last time. Thanks for your patience.:)

Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
Please tell me what area you disagree with this argument.

-An apologetic that assumes empiricism as it's first principle is evidentialism.

Classical apologetics does not assume empiricism as it's first principle.

A. It assumes that there is common ground among christians and non-christian by virtue of both being created in the image of God; the fall defacing, but not erasing man's ability to reason entirely. Their 3 basic affirmations of what this common ground is: 1)the law of non-contradiction, 2) the law of causality, 3) basic reliability of sense perception. It starts with logic, not empiricism.

B. My original point was that you defined empiricism as: "the senses alone furnish us with truth". I agree that this is the definition of empiricism as a worldview, in its strict sense. This is naked or pure empiricism. What I tried to correct is that Classical apologetics does not hold to empiricism in this sense. I wanted you to show me where in Sproul and Gerstner they take this position as you have stated they do. They hold that we can learn some things from the senses, yes. But they do not hold that we "only" learn truth from the senses. Whether you agree with the merits of sensory knowledge or not is irrelevant to our discussion. I am simply trying to point out that you mischaracterized the position. They would reject pure empiricism just as much as you and Clark would. A modified common sense realism would be a more accurate designation, not empiricism in its pure form.
Here are their own words: "We are convinced that an epistemology established upon a naked empiricism is doomed to travel the road to the graveyard of Hume." (CA, p. 85)

I hope this makes it clear that when you said, "Gerstner/Sproul et. al. presuppose empiricism (the senses alone furnish us with truth)", it was misleading and not true. If you still disagree, can you show me where in the book or related writings they contradict their statement here and actually affirm pure empiricism as you said they do?

Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
-Sproul et. al's first priniciple is the reliability of the senses. This is their unproved axiom, and hence they attempt to draw conclusions from it (i.e. the existence of God).

Again, it is not the first principle. A basic reading of classical apologists in their own words should make this clear. It is at most a first principle, but not the first principle. (as an aside, just to make this clear also, they do not feel they have to prove this "axiom", rather they try to show that denying this "axiom" is self-refuting and thereby proves its truth. Just like one cannot disprove the law of contradiction without enaging in contradiction, thereby proving the law. Both "axioms" are self-attesting, they think. I do not wish to debate the merits of this at this time, but merely wish to show what they actually are saying.)

Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
-In apologetics, assuming empiricism as your first principle and deriving your conclusions from these unproved assertions can rightly be called empricism.

Again, agreed. But this is pure empiricism, not classical apologetics. There is a difference as I tried to show above.

Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
If you think that this is misrepresenting Sproul et. al, please explain.

I am not proficient at the deep technical discussions, but I hope I have explained it clearly.

Also, I understand what you are saying about classical apologetics being classified as evidentialism. In relation to presuppostionalism I would agree (with a few caveats however, since some forms of presuppostionalism also admit evidence in their method. In that case it it isn't a matter of evidences being legit, but rather a matter of when they can be used in one's method.).

But there is also a distinction between classical and evidential. Classical starts with rational argumentation for theism, then uses historical, material, and biblical evidence for scripture as the sole special revelation of that God, then defends the biblical understanding of who that God is. Evidential apologetics does not agree with starting out making a case for theism, but rather starts with the historical evidence for the humanity, deity, and resurrection of Christ.

So in sum:
-classical apologetics is not pure empiricism, but it is evidential in some of its method.

-classical apologetics is similar to evidential apologetics in that they both use evidence, but they differ in their method of using evidence. Some forms of VanTillianism affirm the use of evidence also, but they differ from classical and evidential in their method.

I don't have the time to go any further, so thanks for the discussion Jeff and your kind demeanor despite our differences. While we disagree about which method is closer to the truth, I just wanted to make clear for the one who said he needed help that CA was represented accurately. I am sure we can both agree that our desire is to destroy the arguments that those who refuse to submit to God bring to the table, so that we can point them to the sole source of salvation, Christ himself and his Gospel for their unbelief. I am thankful that we are of the same purpose in destroying arguments of unbelievers, rather than destroying them or eachother in the process.:handshake:

Blessings brother,
-Allan
 

cih1355

Puritan Board Junior
According to presuppositional apologetics, God's word is self-authenticating. If something else besides God's word authenticates God's word, then there is something else that has more authority than God's word. One might ask, "Why does there have to be a self-authenticating authority?". The answer is that if there were no self-authenticating authority, then the process of justifying one's belief would go on forever.

Presuppositional apologists believe that we should use Scripture's own defenses and own evidence to prove Scripture. Moreover, presuppositional apologists prove Christianity by saying that if you deny Christianity, then you would have to deny the preconditions of all intelligible experience. There would be no science, laws of logic, or moral values if Christianity were not true.

[Edited on 4-11-2006 by cih1355]
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by cih1355
... if you deny Christianity, then you would have to deny the preconditions of all intelligible experience. There would be no science, laws of logic, or moral values if Christianity were not true.

As a nit-picky comment, there would be no way to account for those things, if the Christian God does not exist.
 
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