Suggestions for a newbie to presuppositional apologetics?

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Willflyforfood

Puritan Board Freshman
I've always been a classical/evidential apologist, and due to what I now know to be unfair charicatures of the presup method (and frustration at many presuppositionalists' unfair characterization of the classical method) I've always avoided the presup method. Well, I feel it's time I learn more about it and figured you guys would be the people to ask!

1) Any suggestions for good resources/books for newbies to the method?

2) I've gathered the basic gist of presup is to attempt to show that any competing worldview must borrow from the Christian worldview to make sense at all. Is this a correct understanding?

3) Would plantinga's EAAN (evolutionary argument against naturalism) be considered presup? Is plantinga a generally presup apologist? He seems to be the closest example among the authors I read.

Thanks in advance for any help!!
 

ooguyx

Puritan Board Freshman
1) Every Thought Captive by Pratt, or Pushing the Anthithesis by Bahnsen would be a good one to start with. Also here is a good video of the presup method on display during a debate 'Does God Exist?' Greg Bahnsen vs. Gordon Stein (Full Debate) - YouTube

2)That is an ok way to boil it down. You might add the flip side that any attempt to construct a worldview absent of from the Christian one destroys human understanding and experience.

3) I've not read this book, so can't comment.

Good luck in your studies. I've personally found that by studying presup apologetics, I'm able to grow in deeper understanding of the Lord and his word and I'm always challenged to be ever more faithful to His word.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I started with The Defense of the Faith by Cornelius Van Til. It proved to be very devotional - perhaps unintentionally - as well as apologetical. You know you've found a good apologetics book when it frequently inspires you to stop and reflect on the majesty and grace of God.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
3) Would plantinga's EAAN (evolutionary argument against naturalism) be considered presup? Is plantinga a generally presup apologist? He seems to be the closest example among the authors I read.
I don't recall the argument in enough detail to tell whether it is a presuppositional argument (by which I understand you to mean: "This belief you have presupposes this other belief, so you cannot argue against it since you actually and must believe it in order to hold this belief you hold."), but one thing to note about the presuppositional method is that it does not deny the use of evidence and argumentation in apologetics. But anyway, Plantinga is a foundationalist with influence from Scottish Common Sense realism (calls himself a "broad foundationalist"). Foundationalist arguments tend to be similar to presuppositional arguments, so it isn't surprising that he would seem that way. Indeed, they are so similar that I am not entirely certain what the difference is. Perhaps it's simply the metaphysics or even the attitude with which the arguments are presented? Or maybe the objects they are concerned with? But I don't know.

I too tend to find Van Til's writings to have a devotional quality.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I'll just comment on 3)

Plantinga is not a presuppositionalist as such. His method (common-sense realism, which was the method of Old Princeton) can be complementary to a presuppositional method.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Plantinga is great, but hard to apply. But on the other hand, I don't know of anyone on the street who was every converted by the phrase "preconditions of intelligibility." Return to Reason, or soemthing like that, by Kelly James Clark is just as good as any of the pop presups books.
 

Willflyforfood

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for all the suggestions friends! I've heard a lot about Bahnsen and may start there! Along similar lines to what many of you have been saying, I've found apologetics (while certainly useful in talking with unbelievers) to be primarily very edifying to myself and other believers. Which is probably the main reason I study them now. I frequently have that experience of pausing to reflect on the majesty of God in my classical and evidential pursuits, and I look forward to the same in learning about presup!
 

BuddyOfDavidClarkson

Puritan Board Freshman
You mention further down in this thread and I certainly endorse listening to lots and lots of Bahnsen. I've purchased a lot of series from cmfnow.com and would recommend that as well.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I would recommend this: Reason and Worldviews: Warfield, Kuyper, Van Til and Plantinga on the Clarity of General Revelation and Function of Apologetics: Owen Anderson: 9780761840381: Amazon.com: Books

I think it gives a good framework for understanding the differences and similarities between those who claim to be offering a version of Reformed Apologetics.
CT
I remember some of our previous conversations about that book, but I had forgotten the title. Thanks for bringing it up.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I think Van Til's Reformed Pastor and Modern Thought is the ideal place to begin.
 

BrettLemke

Puritan Board Freshman
Great suggestions. I hate to hijack, but its within the scope of the OP's request, but can someone recommend a good beginners book on logic and/or critical thinking? Preferably something from a Christian worldview, but if there's just a great book in general, I'm willing to check it out. Thanks!
 

BuddyOfDavidClarkson

Puritan Board Freshman
Great suggesPoythress . I hate to hijack, but its within the scope of the OP's request, but can someone recommend a good beginners book on logic and/or critical thinking? Preferably something from a Christian worldview, but if there's just a great book in general, I'm willing to check it out. Thanks!
You picked a great time to ask! Vern Poythress' new book on Logic just came out and a significant portion shows how logic is rooted in God.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
BrettLemke said:
Great suggestions. I hate to hijack, but its within the scope of the OP's request, but can someone recommend a good beginners book on logic and/or critical thinking? Preferably something from a Christian worldview, but if there's just a great book in general, I'm willing to check it out. Thanks!
I don't know if they're great books or are along the lines of what you are looking for, but For what it's worth, for the introductory logic class at my (secular) college we used the Logic Primer by Alan and Hand for deductive logic (sometimes, the course has used Lemmon's Beginning Logic instead) and Choice and Chance by Skyrms for inductive logic.
 

Sola Gratia

Puritan Board Freshman
Plantinga is great, but hard to apply. But on the other hand, I don't know of anyone on the street who was every converted by the phrase "preconditions of intelligibility." Return to Reason, or soemthing like that, by Kelly James Clark is just as good as any of the pop presups books.
I thought Plantinga's Warrant and Proper Function pretty good
 

Andrew1142

Puritan Board Freshman
Everything I know about this is essentially second-hand because I haven't gotten around to studying this in-depth yet. My understanding is that Presuppositional Apologetics isn't at all anti-evidence, but instead has a different philosophy of how to use evidence.

That fits what I've seen of the two self-described presuppositionalists that I'm familiar with, James White and John Frame, both of whom use evidence quite a bit but in a way that's very different from someone like, say, William Lane Craig. Dr. White actually does a great job of using evidence effectively, I think.

Anyway, I know that James White recommends Always Ready by Bahnsen. I have Bahnsen's Presuppositional Apologetics sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read as well as Van Til's Introduction to Systematic Theology. (I've got a stack of such books that are waiting to be read.)

I actually just finished the first half of Josh McDowell's New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, and I've enjoyed it quite a bit.
 

Willflyforfood

Puritan Board Freshman
Just listened to the Bahnsen-Stein debate and I'm quite intrigued. Stein seemed utterly unable to account for his presuppositions. I found myself following along easier than I thought. It seems that even the classical/evidential apologists I've read rely on this line of reasoning at times. William Lane Craig (who doesn't hold a very high opinion of the presup method) has an entire chapter entitled "The Absurdity of life without God" I read a month or two ago in his "Reasonable Faith" book that seems to smack rather heavily of a presup argument. I feel that many apologists may just have a misconception of the nature of presup arguments (I certainly know I did).
 

CovenantalBaptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Presuppositional apologetics is a good and scriptural approach to defending and explaining the Gospel. I have found it to be liberating, delightful and helpful and I hope you will too.

Here are my suggestions/recommendations for getting started and drilling deeper and the positive (and negative) rationale for each:

My recommendation is to start with Scott Oliphint - "The Battle Belongs to the Lord."
Positive rationale: First, it was designed to be a Sunday school class to teach Presuppositionalism to newbies. It is exegetical and very accessible. I believe that Oliphint is by far the premier presuppositional apologist today.
Negative rationale: I love and appreciate Greg Bahnsen but he is a theonomist and it does influence his apologetics - I studied under one of Bahnsen's (theonomic) students. Sam Waldron has an excellent (Reformed Baptist) analysis on theonomy here: Theonomy, A Reformed Baptist Assessment I am not a theonomist. Despite the theonomic themes, Bahnsen is still excellent overall. His course on the history of philosophy is worth getting and listening to.

If you want to drill down further, it's good to go to the source - Van Til's Defense of the Faith - but get the one annotated by Oliphint as it will be more accessible (footnoted).

Other good early primers:
* "Every Thought Captive" by EJ Pratt - designed for high schoolers. Many simple, helpful illustrations
* "Always Ready" by Bahnsen - same as above. Comprehensive and clear.

Deeper into it:
* Bahnsen "Van Til's Apologetic" - Van Til assumed a solid knowledge of Greek philosophy. If you don't have it you will struggle. Bahnsen (as Oliphint does in Defense of the Faith) helps fill in some of the gaps.
* Van Til's other works.
* Oliphint's other works.

I personally would avoid John Frame until you've built discernment in presuppositional apologetics. Frame does have some helpful contributions. Frame, however, does not teach a truly presuppositional position and in my analysis (although I am not alone) he does not articulate or properly represent Van Tillian presuppositionalism. In the book "Apologetics to the Glory of God", Frame even argues that "There is less distance between Van Til's apologetics and the traditional apologetics [ in the context here he's referring to classical Roman Catholic apologist Thomas Aquinas]than most partisans on either side (including Van Til himself) have been willing to grant." In the book 5 Views on Apologetics, he ends up agreeing with the evidentialist authors and arguing for a truncated presuppositionalism. The problem with his approach as I see it is that while Frame would rightly affirm Scripture as the starting point for discussion, he skips the traditional Van Tilian approach of then proceeding to metaphysics - the "what" of God -and goes right to epistemology. This is a classical evidential approach. Van Til by contrast considers first the nature of God (metaphysics) which affects our understanding of epistemology (how man acquires knowledge). Man cannot understand or "know himself" without understanding himself in relation to God. In other words man needs to know God before he can properly understand himself and his environment. Tim Keller's book "Reason for God" follows Frame's style. It has some helpful sociological data - specifically the defeater beliefs, but in my opinion his argument strays from a true presuppositional framework and at times is more Plantiga/C.S. Lewis than Van Til.

Finally there is a danger in focusing on the theory and not understanding how to employ presuppositionalism in conversation. If you want to see presuppositionalism in action - not the theory but what it looks like: the little pamphlet "Why I believe in God" by Van Til shows how it's done. I also find Doug Wilson's book (and this is the only one I would ever recommend by Wilson - his other stuff is less trustworthy) "Persuasions" helpful although I believe he's influenced by Frame from other material I have seen.

Hope that helps give you some "lay of the land". I hope you enjoy your studies in apologetics and may the Lord make you a sharper instrument of His grace as you humbly and gently "give an answer for the hope."
Blessings,
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
I recommend Gene Cook's radio show The Narrow Mind. He covers it extensively at an easily accessible level and demonstrates its effectiveness with atheistic callers as well. He does have a LOT of shows on other theological topics in his archive as well, but most of it is worth listening to also. :)
 
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