The Gospel Coalition on Presuppositional Apologetics

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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I mean where can you go in nature to show that God is omniscient?
Is it possible to conceive an absolute God without absolute knowledge?

What do you think of this statement by CVT? "It is the weakness of the Roman Catholic and the Arminian methods that they virtually identify objective validity with subjective acceptability to the natural man. Distinguishing carefully between these two, the Reformed apologist maintains that there is an absolutely valid argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christian theism. He cannot do less without virtually admitting that God’s revelation to man is not clear. It is fatal to the Reformed apologist to admit that man has done justice to the objective evidence if he comes to any other conclusion than that of the truth of Christian theism.

As for the question whether the natural man will accept the truth of such an argument, we answer that he will if God pleases by his Spirit to take the scales from his eyes and the mask from his face. It is upon the power of the Holy Spirit that the Reformed preacher relies when he tells men that they are lost in sin and in need of a Savior.” The Defense of the Faith, p. 104.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Is it possible to conceive an absolute God without absolute knowledge?
Granted, but why conceive of an absolute God at all? There are as many different "conceptions" of God as there are religions. Plus the whole idea of conception of God apart from special revelation makes me a little uneasy. I'm not saying that that is what your saying here, I'm just trying to make a distinction between the covenantal/personal attributes that God has chosen to reveal to us in scripture and the most general and limited knowledge He has revealed in nature.


What do you think of this statement by CVT? "It is the weakness of the Roman Catholic and the Arminian methods that they virtually identify objective validity with subjective acceptability to the natural man. Distinguishing carefully between these two, the Reformed apologist maintains that there is an absolutely valid argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christian theism. He cannot do less without virtually admitting that God’s revelation to man is not clear. It is fatal to the Reformed apologist to admit that man has done justice to the objective evidence if he comes to any other conclusion than that of the truth of Christian theism.
I believe he is in the context of the section you are quoting from, "Arguing from Presupposition", merely pointing out that the opposing apologists are equating acceptability of an argument with its status as being true or not. The unbeleiver will never admit to the truth of christian theism even when faced with objective proof.


As for the question whether the natural man will accept the truth of such an argument, we answer that he will if God pleases by his Spirit to take the scales from his eyes and the mask from his face. It is upon the power of the Holy Spirit that the Reformed preacher relies when he tells men that they are lost in sin and in need of a Savior.” The Defense of the Faith, p. 104.
I take this to be the ultimate hope of the apologist. It is the Holy Spirit who "convinces" the unbeleiver of their guilt and error.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Granted, but why conceive of an absolute God at all?
Because it is understood by the things that are made, Romans 1:20.

The unbeleiver will never admit to the truth of christian theism even when faced with objective proof.
In saying that you have just conceded "objective proof." The fact that an unbeliever will not admit it should not alleviate the duty of the believer to provide it.

I take this to be the ultimate hope of the apologist. It is the Holy Spirit who "convinces" the unbeleiver of their guilt and error.
Yes, but it is the "objective validity" of which the unbeliever becomes convinced by the work of the Holy Spirit. Hence the need for the Christian to maintain objective validity in his apologetic. Without this objectivity apologetics will become neo-orthodox and require an encounter to establish "truth."
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Granted, but why conceive of an absolute God at all?
Because it is understood by the things that are made, Romans 1:20.

The unbeleiver will never admit to the truth of christian theism even when faced with objective proof.
In saying that you have just conceded "objective proof." The fact that an unbeliever will not admit it should not alleviate the duty of the believer to provide it.

I take this to be the ultimate hope of the apologist. It is the Holy Spirit who "convinces" the unbeleiver of their guilt and error.
Yes, but it is the "objective validity" of which the unbeliever becomes convinced by the work of the Holy Spirit. Hence the need for the Christian to maintain objective validity in his apologetic. Without this objectivity apologetics will become neo-orthodox and require an encounter to establish "truth."
Oh I completly agree. I believe that I have 100% of time maintaned the idea of objective proof of christian theism on this site. What I was attacking was not objective proof per se but a certian type of it, NT. I regect neo-orthodox ecounter, I-Thou vs. I-It, ecounters. I firmley believe that Van Til's method does yeild objective proof for christian theism, as I have argued since joining this site.

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But I completly see your concern. Thank you for pointing it out to me so that I could better clarify myself.
 

Apologist4Him

Puritan Board Freshman
Today, The Gospel Coalition posted an article by Paul Copan on Presuppositional Apologetics. Quite frankly, I would be ashamed of an article that depended on such a caricature of presuppositionalism rather than what presuppositionalism actually teaches. Dr. Copan, who is a well known philosopher and apologist, should know better.

Questioning Presuppositionalism – The Gospel Coalition Blog
Reads like a typical Arminian assessment. Van Tillian presuppositionalism is just as offensive to an Arminian, as a non-Christian, mostly because of how Reformed Van Til's apologetic is, at least to those who understand it. The most laughable criticism is that presuppositionalism involves circular reasoning. Why yes it does, but when it comes right down to the most basic presuppositions of a worldview, can any worldview escape circular reasoning? How does the rationalist escape the fact they have to use logic to prove logic, is that itself not arguing in vicious circles? There are too many apologists working under the assumption they can be neutral regarding the facts, as though autonomy were a neutral ladder to theonomy...as though the facts are not God created facts...as though our ability to reason were not part of being made in the image of God. Man centered apologists will never have much good to say about presuppositional apologetics, because man centered apologists are mindful of men think about them, mindful not to be offense or preachy else they might loose listeners or be considered less than brilliant for Christian dogmatism. When it comes down to it, man centered apologists want a place in the glory with God, they enjoy the pats on the back, the money from books, the high places of honor, more than the truth of God. Way too many Christians have downplayed and undermined presuppositinal apologetics, and those same people, will be the last to explain the beauty of the Van Tillian apologetic....a Christian need not memorize dozens of arguments, or study the errors and deception of thousands upon thousands of heretics and religions to be an effective defender of the faith because in my experiences, a presuppositinalist will examine the presuppositions of the non-Christian worldview (or inconsistent Christian worldview) and demonstrate how they fall short of the glory of God of Biblical Christianity. Just preachin' to the choir...
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Upon further thought Rev. Winzer I think I see your point. So let me lay out NT as I see it.
1. Without scripture and spiritual regeneration you cannot have or believe a true view of NT
2. Any autonomous view of NT says that we can know all sorts of things about God from nature alone, these views should be regected
3. Scripture is the lens by which we view nature correctly

I believe that that is the traditionaly reformed view of NT but please correct me if I am wrong.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Next, on what basis do you think those who advocate a strong view of NT are assuming too much?
On the basis of what can be known about God from nature? Not much. As much as I love philosophy I do not believe that we can rip open heaven and logically deduce anything about God apart from special revelation. Philosophy investagates creation. I know that persons advocating a strong view of NT will say that these are revealed in nature but the arguments themselves are purely logical.

I mean where can you go in nature to show that God is omniscient?
Actually I think such is an implication of God's eternality.

I would say it is a combination of the two positions. Concepts etc. we are born with/gain immediately when we interact with the world. The knowledge can/is depended when we focus on developing such knowledge.
Sure but how much about has God is revealed in nature? Is it enough to warrant a discipline called NT? I don't think so.
According to Romans 1, quite a bit.

Why is anyone who disagrees within their epistemic rights to automatically disagree? They may be within their rights to disagree with a certain position or claim but I am not seeing how that extends to any and all claims.
Its not all claims, only claims reached by consensus. Just because a lot of people agree on something I'm under no obligation to believe it. Also any new "knowledge" reached after this grand consensus will be suspect for that reason too. I think for NT to have a chance it needs to be heavely reconstructed. But the question is after this reconstruction has thrown out anything of no value will there be anything left?
I was not making an appeal to the number of people who believe something to be a proxy for its truth. Either a position can be defended or it can't.

CT
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
1. Without scripture and spiritual regeneration you cannot have or believe a true view of NT
Yes; CVT emphasised that general revelation was never intended to function apart from special revelation. Gen. 2:16, 17. Special revelation was needed for eschatological blessedness, and after the fall was necessary for redemption and to free general revelation from idolatrous perversion.

I'm not sure about the wisdom of adding "spiritual regeneration" to "Scripture" when dealing with the content of revelation. I find it helpful to always distinguish between scriptural light and spiritual sight. The opening of the eyes of the blind enables him to see the light that was there all along; it does not add anything to the light itself.

2. Any autonomous view of NT says that we can know all sorts of things about God from nature alone, these views should be regected
If we say that the problem with the autonomous person is that he wants to interpret NT on his own terms, and that "nature alone" includes a rejection of special revelation, then this point stands.

3. Scripture is the lens by which we view nature correctly
Yes, absolutely.

That is definitely the traditional reformed view. It is wonderful to be able to discuss these things with an appreciation for our heritage.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Upon further thought Rev. Winzer I think I see your point. So let me lay out NT as I see it.
1. Without scripture and spiritual regeneration you cannot have or believe a true view of NT
I don't see the purpose of NT as necessarily to get one to believe the truth. I see it more along the lines of making a person see, "I have no response to this and have to be quiet." They may continue to attempt to find a way around NT properly done, but they will not be able to go around and proselytize for their unbelief.

2. Any autonomous view of NT says that we can know all sorts of things about God from nature alone, these views should be regected
I don't see how you can make sense of Romans 1, if Right Reason is unable to deliver proper beliefs.

3. Scripture is the lens by which we view nature correctly

I believe that that is the traditionaly reformed view of NT but please correct me if I am wrong.
The problem is that general revelation is more basic than Scripture. Scripture presupposes natural revelation but natural revelation does not presuppose Scripture. If one needs Scripture to properly understand natural revelation, then one has a big problem.

CT
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The problem is that general revelation is more basic than Scripture. Scripture presupposes natural revelation but natural revelation does not presuppose Scripture. If one needs Scripture to properly understand natural revelation, then one has a big problem.
The purpose of the covenant of works was to direct man to the end for which he was created. If what was created required something additional for its development, it is obvious that what was created was not sufficient of itself.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
The problem is that general revelation is more basic than Scripture. Scripture presupposes natural revelation but natural revelation does not presuppose Scripture. If one needs Scripture to properly understand natural revelation, then one has a big problem.
The purpose of the covenant of works was to direct man to the end for which he was created. If what was created required something additional for its development, it is obvious that what was created was not sufficient of itself.
Now I believe that NT properly done points to Scripture. But that is different than NT presupposing Scripture. I would also not have a problem with someone saying that special revelation completes general revelation. However again that does not imply that the knowledge from special revelation is somehow unsure in itself.

CT
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
How does one properly do NT without any reference to God's word first? The natural man is unable and unwilling to do NT properly. Not until his eyes are opened will he acknowledge the truth that is in front of him.

---------- Post added at 09:30 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:24 AM ----------

I would say that the creation we see in front of us provides sufficient knowledge of God to condemn us, but not to save us. Only when God supernaturally replaces the heart of stone with the heart of flesh will that happen.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
How does one properly do NT without any reference to God's word first? The natural man is unable and unwilling to do NT properly. Not until his eyes are opened will he acknowledge the truth that is in front of him.


If it cannot be done without reference to God's word, then one would say that one is only responsible to know God and act in accordance with His commands after one has the Bible properly explained to them. That is not what Romans 1 says.

Next, I am not saying/asking that the unbeliever, go out and do NT properly and then I will present the Gospel to them, after they get it right. As a regenerate person, I am making the claim that unbelievers are without excuse (in their current state) for their wickedness. NT is the justification of that claim.

I would say that the creation we see in front of us provides sufficient knowledge of God to condemn us, but not to save us. Only when God supernaturally replaces the heart of stone with the heart of flesh will that happen.
I have never stated otherwise. However, I do believe that God's process of calling His elect towards Himself, is done through the means of proper presentation and explanation of man's current state and God's command to repent and believe the gospel.

CT
 
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Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
If it cannot be done without reference to God's word, then one would say that one is only responsible to know God and act in accordance with His commands after one has the Bible properly explained to them. That is not what Romans 1 says.
That isn't quite what I meant. I agree that when a person looks at creation, they SHOULD easily recognize and glorify the Triune God of the Bible. And even though ALL people have a knowledge of their creator (a sense of the divine based on what Romans 1 teaches), this knowledge only condemns them and does not save them. For salvation to occur God MUST act by regenerating the unbeliever. If I am not mistaken the ordinary means by which this is done is God's word/the gospel.

Next, I am not saying/asking that the unbeliever, go out and do NT properly and then I will present the Gospel to them, after they get it right. As a regenerate person, I am making the claim that unbelievers are without excuse (in their current state) for their wickedness. NT is the justification of that claim.
Then we are in agreement. Unbelievers are completely without excuse.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Now I believe that NT properly done points to Scripture. But that is different than NT presupposing Scripture. I would also not have a problem with someone saying that special revelation completes general revelation. However again that does not imply that the knowledge from special revelation is somehow unsure in itself.
If special revelation completes general revelation then general revelation is partial in a certain respect. Think of the two creation ordinances. How would man know that a whole day and which specific day was the Sabbath without some disclosure of God's will? Or how would he know that he must cleave to his wife alone? We can certainly identify the "moral" element inherent in natural theology, but I cannot see how this suffices to know God's will when God's will contains positive elements.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
That isn't quite what I meant. I agree that when a person looks at creation, they SHOULD easily recognize and glorify the Triune God of the Bible.
All right, then. In that case, general revelation is sufficient on its own to provide knowledge such that the non-believer who has never heard of the Bible is condemned in his unbelief. That is to say, there must therefore be enough evidence in general revelation alone to warrant Trinitarianism.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
The Trinity is purely a doctrine of special revelation.
You're in good company there. My point was simply that if you are going to make the claim that all non-belief in a triune God is culpable, then either you are claiming a) all non-believers are recipients of special revelation b) there is enough evidence to warrant belief in the trinity apart from special revelation.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
The Trinity is purely a doctrine of special revelation.
You're in good company there. My point was simply that if you are going to make the claim that all non-belief in a triune God is culpable, then either you are claiming a) all non-believers are recipients of special revelation b) there is enough evidence to warrant belief in the trinity apart from special revelation.
I would defend a similar claim by saying that c)All non-Trinitarian worldviews blow up. In such a case, one would still be culpable for their trust in a false God.

CT
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
I would defend a similar claim by saying that c)All non-Trinitarian worldviews blow up.
This would constitute b).
Okay, I would more easily say that they were warranted in their belief that non-Trinitarian worldviews were false. I don't think that is quite the same as saying that they were warranted in belief that Biblical Trinitarianis was true. But there is no reason to go to blows over it :)

CT
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Okay, I would more easily say that they were warranted in their belief that non-Trinitarian worldviews were false. I don't think that is quite the same as saying that they were warranted in belief that Biblical Trinitarianis was true.
If all ~X are false, then X is true. However, in practice, all ~X=false is an unprovable proposition, given that ~X includes so many possible views (Van Tillian protests notwithstanding).
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Okay, I would more easily say that they were warranted in their belief that non-Trinitarian worldviews were false. I don't think that is quite the same as saying that they were warranted in belief that Biblical Trinitarianis was true.
If all ~X are false, then X is true. However, in practice, all ~X=false is an unprovable proposition, given that ~X includes so many possible views (Van Tillian protests notwithstanding).
Well it basically depends on if you can categorize the competition into a small number of categorizes. If you can, then by process of elimination, you can be certain that you win. My hesitancy is due to not understanding the Trinity well enough to explain why God can only be Triune and not simply multi-personed.

CT
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
1. Without scripture and spiritual regeneration you cannot have or believe a true view of NT
Yes; CVT emphasised that general revelation was never intended to function apart from special revelation. Gen. 2:16, 17. Special revelation was needed for eschatological blessedness, and after the fall was necessary for redemption and to free general revelation from idolatrous perversion.

I'm not sure about the wisdom of adding "spiritual regeneration" to "Scripture" when dealing with the content of revelation. I find it helpful to always distinguish between scriptural light and spiritual sight. The opening of the eyes of the blind enables him to see the light that was there all along; it does not add anything to the light itself.

2. Any autonomous view of NT says that we can know all sorts of things about God from nature alone, these views should be regected
If we say that the problem with the autonomous person is that he wants to interpret NT on his own terms, and that "nature alone" includes a rejection of special revelation, then this point stands.

3. Scripture is the lens by which we view nature correctly
Yes, absolutely.

That is definitely the traditional reformed view. It is wonderful to be able to discuss these things with an appreciation for our heritage.
I agree and I am glad that my view is withen the traditional bounds. And I am glad as well that we can discuss these things with an appreciation for our heritage.


I don't see the purpose of NT as necessarily to get one to believe the truth. I see it more along the lines of making a person see, "I have no response to this and have to be quiet." They may continue to attempt to find a way around NT properly done, but they will not be able to go around and proselytize for their unbelief.
I could agree with this as long as NT was properly defined.


I don't see how you can make sense of Romans 1, if Right Reason is unable to deliver proper beliefs.
Well Romans 1 says that we know God's "invisible attributes" without elaborating on just what they are. Plus in that instance you are using SR to interpret GR not GR alone. Even in the Garden Adam needed SR to know what his purpose was. GR could never have shown him that he needed to take dominion over everything or not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Being a male myself I think that he probably would have figured the be fruitful and multiply part but not for the same reasons. I am not making SR more important than GR but only arguing for their complimentary relationship. you need both. You can't get the whole picture without both.


The problem is that general revelation is more basic than Scripture. Scripture presupposes natural revelation but natural revelation does not presuppose Scripture. If one needs Scripture to properly understand natural revelation, then one has a big problem.
Again they both are needed to make sense of things. NT seems at some points to be done apart from SR and that is what I am objecting to.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
That isn't quite what I meant. I agree that when a person looks at creation, they SHOULD easily recognize and glorify the Triune God of the Bible.
All right, then. In that case, general revelation is sufficient on its own to provide knowledge such that the non-believer who has never heard of the Bible is condemned in his unbelief. That is to say, there must therefore be enough evidence in general revelation alone to warrant Trinitarianism.
Well, keep in mind that man was never meant to live apart from God's special revelation. Consider Adam's situation. He had the general revelation of creation, but he also had a special revelation when God spoke directly to him. God gave him his purpose and told him what he was to do and not do (he did not know this apart from God telling him). So from the beginning man was never meant to live apart from BOTH general revelation and special revelation. So again, I would say that general revelation is enough to condemn, but not to save (if it is viewed apart from special revelation).
 
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