The sinfulness of unbiblical apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Me Died Blue, Feb 26, 2005.

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  1. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    In another recent thread, I was talking about Paul Manata's appearance on Unchained Radio, discussing Atheism, Christianity and the burden of proof. I also mentioned that,

    to which John replied,

    John, first of all, it is a misunderstanding of presuppositionalism and of the nature of "evidence" to say that the former uses the latter in the same sense as does "Evidentialism." Evidentialism iis not "the apologetic that relies on evidence," but is simply the name that happened to be given to the particular apologetic method that relies on empirical evidence - for Classical and presuppositional apologetics use "evidence" as well, as does any method of defense for anything. In light of that, Evidentialism might more logically be called Empiricism, since it is really incidental that it is the apologetic with "evidence" in its name, since they all use certain kinds of evidence. With that in mind, the primary difference between Evidentialism and Classicism is that the former uses empirical evidence, whereas the latter uses philosophical evidence. The problem with both of those is that they both use autonomous evidence, whereas presuppositionalism appeals to God and His Word as the complete and sufficient evidence that everyone possesses, which is why they are without excuse. They are not without excuse because they inherently know the historical and scientific claims of evidentialism or the philisophical arguments of Aquinas and other Classicists - rather, they are without excuse because God has written His law on their hearts and evidenced His ways and character as revealed in His Word in everything.

    With regard to the issue of Classical and Evidential apologetics being sinful, one of the main reasons myself and others (such as Paul and Craig) find them to be so is because they inherently debase God from His rightful position as the final authority and source that can appeal to nothing else. That is because both of those apologetics presume that in order to biblically defend the faith, we actually have neutral ground with the unbeliever on which God can be put "in the dock," and that His existence can be confirmed by--and thus tested by--autonomous human reason and empirical evidence. Doing so, however, places those things on a higher level of reliability than God Himself by saying that they can be rightfully used to confirm and test His existence. Scripture tells us, on the other hand, that "he had no one greater by whom to swear" (Heb. 16:3), not even logical or empirical evidence, which only make sense as expressions of His character.

    As Paul (Manata) mentioned on the radio, when we're talking with other Christians or preaching from the pulpit, we always treat Christ and His Word as the final authority, as we do in the realm of evangelism. But for some reason, when we shift to the realm of defending the faith as commanded by God through Peter, we elevate autonomous human reason, laws of logic and empirical evidence above God, and thus implicitly praise those things as ultimately more reliable and absolute than Him, which is an idolotrous abomination to His character. It is important to note my use of the word "implicitly," meaning that none of us are claiming that Classicists or Evidentialists are purposefully downgrading God's character and neglecting His revelation of His ultimacy, but we are saying that their methods inherently possess and logically imply such a downgrading and neglect, even though the adherants do not mean to do so, but seek to glorify God. Ignorance, however, has never been a biblical justification for sin, just as one side on the credo-paedo issue is inevitably sinning, though non-intentionally.
  2. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    :bigsmile: Heh, you could say that!
  3. pastorway

    pastorway Puritan Board Senior

    Thread Title - The sinfulness of unbiblical apologetics

    Other than commands about our demeanor, language, and attitude the Bible nowhere gives us a "form" of apologetics. So upon what Biblical basis can a form of apologetics be proved sinful without a presupposition that has been added to Scripture to prove a point in the first place? And would not adding to the Scriptures to prove a point be sinful in and of itself?

    So the presupposiutionalist is hanged by his own presuppositions and all forms of apologetics become sinful.

    This is, how do you say, STOOPID......

  4. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The Bible does not give us a neatly-cut systematic theology, either. Nor does it explicitly lay out in one single passage the full doctrine of the Trinity...or of Sola Scriptura...or of Covenant Theology...or of the Regulative Principle of Worship, including the forbidding of images of God. All of those things, and much more, are arrived at by interpreting Scripture with Scripture, and that is where systematic theology even comes from. If everything was explicitly laid out in cookie-cutter passages, and good and necessary inference was invalid, there would not even be a place for systematic theology at all, but only "biblical theology."

    So it should come as no surprise that arriving at a biblical apologetic requires the same kind of systematic exegesis. We are told by Peter that we should be ready to defend the faith against skeptics, and to see how, we should look at how the Apostles themselves defended the faith as well as the biblical nature of the faith as a whole, and the biblical nature of those to whom we are making a defense.

    According to Scripture, there is an infinite abundance of proof everywhere, as "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1, ESV). Furthermore, Scripture speaks of the unbelievers, "who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:18-21). The Apostle Paul goes on to say of unbelievers that "they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them" (Rom. 2:15).

    Scriptures like those show us that unbelievers actually have no shortage of proof everywhere, but that they suppress it by their "conflicting thoughts" and their foolish, unregenerate minds. The Classicist and Evidentialist, however, deny that every fact in existence is sufficient proof to leave unbelievers without excuse, and deny that the fear of God is the beginning of true knowledge, since they maintain that various historical, scientific and philosophical conjectures are necessary to give sufficient proof, which denies that God's law in men's hearts and every part of His creation and the truth of His Word are sufficient proof.

    In summary, presuppositionalism is not the biblical apologetic because there is a passage that says, "Here is how you are to defend the faith: a) b) c)..." Rather, it is the only apologetic that takes into account the biblical view of fallen man's mind and heart, everyone's internal knowledge of God, the nature of creation in relation to God, the ontological and epistemological preeminence of God, the fear of the Lord as the beginning of true knowledge, the complete foolishness of all unbelieving thought and thus the lack of any "neutral" ground, the biblical power and sufficiency of the Word to open the eyes. The Classicist and Evidentialist are forced to temporarily throw out their biblical views on those doctrines when defending the faith, since they treat the unbeliever as if his or her mind was unaffected by the Fall, and as if the unbeliever is justified in claiming a lack of proof and thus has a right to demand various historical, scientific and philosophical "proofs." Only the presuppositionalist takes into account the whole Reformed systematic theology when defending the faith.
  5. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Chris, I am perfectly happy to let the Presuppositionalist have his view if that is what he wants. No church has given me the right to call holding that view sinful. I don't agree with it, and I think that it has certain utterly weak tenets, but that's not my business. I have pointed them out enough times, but we do not live in a time when these things seem as substantial as they really are.

    Ignoring facts and sound arguments is not the right kind of argument to take to convince me.
    If this is what you believe, then that's fine for you. I won't begrudge you your stance, as long as it is allowed a place in the Christian consensus of our day. I will continue to work to show you the utter weakness of this stance, with the eye of taking you along in truth, not with an eye of having to defeat Presuppostionalism. That has already done; it just hasn't been paid attention to.

    Name the Church ruling that makes this pronouncement, or the Church policy that gives you that office. This, by far, is the weakest part of Presuppositionalism. It is clearly unilateral, and without church authority. That says a lot. I too use God's Word as a final authority. Not giving me credit, and supposing to be the judge of such things, is quite an undertaking. Personally, I would not want to be in your shoes come judgment day. Stepping on those who belong to Christ, not to you, is a very serious offence, especially if it is to bolster you own elevation of your view to such a status.

    You see, Chris, I am not as upset as I would be if I were a Presuppositionalist. If I were a Presup, and I had been having discussions with, say, Matt, and I just about had him convinced, and then someone comes along and makes this very naive statement that Paul has allegedly made, I would be furious. It would have set everything back to square one for me. That's because I would be trying to hold that view with integrity, and here comes someone who is supposed to be an expert and he shows how shallow it is. I would feel utterly betrayed, and would even consider leaving the view for the corruption within the ranks.

    That is how I feel about the corruption that exists among some Classical and Evidential proponents. Its not to my interest to feel that way about Presuppositionalism, for it has debased itself again and again, over and over, without apology to those it steps on for its own agenda. It defeats itself sufficiently for my liking; it doesn't need my help.

    As long as the Presuppositionalist makes such audacious statements, you can have no fear about me being convinced of that kind of Presuppositionalism.

    There is the other side of the coin: Presuppositionalists who are not exclusivists. They recognize their philosophical roots, and respect them. They do not cut their own history from under them. I respect their arguements very much, and am convinced of some their additions to the cause. And they respect my views as well. I am, after all, a Christian who is not unaware or ignorant of the ways of defending the faith. I have done it all my life, and have a lot of experience with people's motives and understandings as to their stated beliefs. My faith is true, and my reliance on my Saviour is certain and unshakable. My membership in His body is secure. And so is the membership of these brothers who hold to the fellowship, and continue in mutual respect and love, whose assurance is in their Saviour, not their apologetical methodology.

    When I apply my apologetic method, my first objective is to respect the person; if that is not done, then their interest in Chirst is not the objective either. The method is quite secondary. If I do not view them as someone Christ is loving and reaching to, then I am a noiseless symbol, a tempestuous wind with no movement of air. I certainly don't need to show everyone what a "hero" I am at apologetics and argument, or touting myself as anything. If there is any pride it is this: that God has allowed me to see the truth and to be there for some people to help them at just the right time, for their sake, not mine.

    Go ahead and continue to assert the evils of Evidentialism and Classicalism; it only weakens your own respectability in the arguments. I really don't understand why you don't see something so simple. But it reminds me of the the Arminian Baptist lady who came by my place one time, who proceeded to the task of trying to convince me of my erroneous view of baptism. She felt she was quite able to do that. But it turs out that her entire religion was so wrapped up in her view on baptism, that when I began to unravel and make obvious her deceptions, it became painfully clear to me that I was unraveling her entire religion. And that was scary. There is no way that I would tear down and leave nothing to stand on. And I knew she would run before I had the chance to give her that. So I was forced to back off, even though I held the truth in my hand for her. What I had said was enough for her.

    I will not expose the errors of Presuppositionalism all at one time. I will do it a little at a time, so as to bring my friends, you and Craig and Paul with me, to maintain that unity we have above the things that we differ on. It will not be my doing that this bond is broken. For no matter how good I may be at winning arguments, it is all for nothing if I can't respect the prior and more important things.

    [note: I notice that the conversation is ongoing, and that there have been other posts entered while I was composing this one. I will read them after I am done this one. This is in answer to the first post. ]
  6. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The problem is that Church Councils have established the norms for the Christian faith, not individuals of a certain sect in Christianity. And even then, solid Reformed churches only ask for agreement and loyalty to that faith, but are fain to call those sinners who do not agree fully with it. It is the officers who are overtly bound to it. The members are held accountable to their faith in Christ, regardless of how misinformed or uniformed they may be about the systems of religion in their churches.

    Correction: this is the Presuppositional judgment of Evidentialism and Classicalism. This does not even come close to depicting what I believe, as I hold to what would be classified as a Classical view.

    Again, show me the Church declaration that says so. Otherwise, its your judgment, and that of those who are convinced in like manner. It is unilateral, not authoritative. That's an awful big bite to take; and awful big responsibility to take. You'd better have some kind of big sign to show us that you have been especially commissioned by God to do this over the heads of the established Church.

    [Edited on 2-27-2005 by JohnV]
  7. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The issue is this:
    Classical and Evidential methods are called sinful, and are being charged with twisting the Biblical truth. This is NOT about apologetic methods; its about who has the right to pronounce such judgments on matters of conscience. The Presuppostionalist that took it upon himself to use this upon me has conceded, in ecclesiastical judicatory, that this is adiaphora, a matter not binding but of personal conscience freely held. They all did. No one opposed that. No one dared.

    If this is so, then I have the right to my Classical views with integrity and the peace and blessing of the Church. What do I have to fear from individuals who would condemn me? I don't comdemn those who hold Presuppositionalism with intergrity; I never have, and have even defended them and their right to their views and will continue to do so. This condemnation of the Classicalist and the Evidentialist is not an apologetic error. So this is not a matter of fighting it out between the methodologies, not in this context. We may disagree, but we have no grounds for such accusations as these. It is clearly over the top.

    Can the above accusation be said in a more seemly manner, one that fits fully within the givens of the Reformed Confessions and Church parameters? Disagree! That's fine. But don't curse the ones the Church blesses.
  8. alwaysreforming

    alwaysreforming Puritan Board Sophomore

    Wow, this is a good debate! Such clear thinking and argumentation on both sides.

    If I can add something, John:
    I don't think Chris' "judgment" is as harsh as you may have interpreted it. When he made the clarification of it being a sin "implicitly," it seems he was saying that because he feels it is in error, it is in that respect "sin" (missing the mark of perfection). For example, two opposing positions cannot both be correct, therefore one is false, and therefore "sin". (Now I understand that you're not in agreement with them being "opposing positions".) Not to put words in Chris' mouth, but that is the way I understood it. Don't bother responding to this "aside."

    Chris is so young, and yet so advanced in thinking, knowledge, and presentation of his argument, that I, as a 36 year old, am humbled greatly.
    And John, possessing the above, and yet polished with the wisdom that comes from his experience, is causing me to hold off on the "great sway" I felt at Chris's first post.

    It'll be interesting to see the progression here. I look forward to it!
  9. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I have no idea what you are talking about with this statement.

    Well, I have yet to see that weakness be rationally demonstrated at all.

    Two points:

    1) I have nowhere claimed thus far that the Church has pronounced it sinful. And this thread is not for discussing whether or not it has, but it is for people like you and I who have a commitment to God's truth to discuss issues pertaining to that truth. And I am simply saying in this thread that I see biblical reasons to believe Classical and Evidential apologetics to be sinful, and I created this thread for discussion of and interaction with those reasons, which is the same reason so many of the theological discussions on this board are created. We are not limited here to discussing issues that have been officially decided on by the Church, and I am presenting biblical warrant for why I consider non-presuppositional apologetics to be sinful, and I have yet to see any real interaction with any of my actual points.

    2) In the points I have made in my previous posts in this thread, I have listed some of the specific reasons why I see certain apologetical methods as unbiblical and sinful because of their assumed foundations and their logical implications, such as giving something a higher authority and reliability than God (Evid. and Class.), and speaking of God's existence as probably certain (Evid.), and implicitly denying the application of Total Depravity to man's mental side and rational thought ability (Evid. and Class.). While I was thinking more about those things as inherent implications of Classicism and Evidentiaism, Paul further pointed out to me that while the Church has not explicitly declared non-presuppositional apologetics to be sinful, it can be argued that the Church has in fact pronounced some of those implications as sinful, by adopting the Reformed confessional standards that it has.

    Then show me the ontological argument in Scripture. Or maybe the cosmological, or the teleological. Also, if you use God's Word as the ultimate authority in apologetics, do you agree that the unbeliever cannot make logical sense of anything they say or do or think or observe without assuming the Christian worldview? If you do not agree, then you are inevitably saying that those things have a higher authority and reliability in the realm of knowledge than does God's Word.

    That is irrational and has no relevance to the presuppositional position itself. If it did then it would only be logical for you to consider leaving the Church for some of the abuses Christians have been responsible for throughout history, such as the Spanish Inquisition. The point is that the fact that you say you would consider leaving the presuppositional camp if you were part of it and had such an encounter shows that personal issues are at the heart of a lot of your problems with it, rather than sound biblical reasons.

    See my above statement.

    How does the fact that we see biblical reason to consider the opposing view sinful shed any negative light on our view? Should the credobaptist see our claim that their position is sinful as further reason to reject our position, or vice-versa?

    I have not disputed and do not dispute any of those things about you or other Classicists on this board, nor for Baptists on this board, for instance. But that has no relevance whatsoever to the claim I have made, which is that your view on this particular issue is nonetheless sinful.

    I again fail to see the relevance of this to the issue at hand, but I fully agree that respect is key, and that lack of such is hypocritical. That fact does not make the method any less important. Also, respecting someone and viewing them "as someone Christ is loving and reaching to" and very different things, and we really do not have biblical warrant for viewing every unbeliever we encounter in such a light. Furthermore, nothing here is about pride, but about being faithful to biblical instruction, which is what I am claiming is violated by Classicism and Evidentialism.

    Again, that claim seems ridiculous and random to me, and I still fail to see how our claim that opposing views are biblically sinful sheds any negative light on our view. What if they are sinful? Thus far you have not interacted with any of my points on why I see them as biblically so.

    Amen - I value the bond we have in Christ and the unity we have on many more issues than division.

    See my third and fourth paragraphs in this post, which speak on the issue of the Church's relation to Classical and Evidential apologetics being sinful.

    See my fifth paragraph in this post, in which I asked you a question attempting to clarify why I see Classicism as implying such things.
  10. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    The charge is that we as a class, Evidentialists and Classicists, sin and twist Scripture. And this is being done over the heads of the authority to do that. You may disagree, and you may voice your disagreement. You may even say that you think it is sinful to hold those views, but you have to do it with great care and respect. But you may not declare these other views as sinful by your own standards, without warrant.
  11. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That's some of it. By "implicitly," I basically mean that it does not explicitly deny things like God's final authority or fallen man's Total Depravity or his inescapable knowledge of God, but it does logically imply such things, as opposed to, say, an Arminian, who would explicitly deny Total Depravity, or some hyper-Calvinists, who would explicitly deny fallen man's inescapable knowledge of God.

    One point I have tried to make is that the methods I am calling sinful are so because in implicitly denying such things about God's nature and man's nature, they are thus degrading His character, which is sin. Another point is that I also believe they are sinful in the sense that we are commanded by Scripture to defend the faith, and that command is elaborated on by how some of the Apostles are recorded as defending the faith themselves, which I believe is inconsistent with Classicism and Evidentialism, and thus those methods are to a certain extent breaking the command to defend the faith, by not doing so in a biblical way.

    It was a good point for clarification.

    Thanks for your encouragement. So much of what I have gained in the knowledge and application of God and His Word is due to the discussion, challenge, advice and fellowship I have received on this board, and I am grateful to God for bringing me to this community and using people like you, John, Phillip and Josh through it. I hope I can help refine and encourage you all to even a fraction of the extent everyone here has me.

    Same here.
  12. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thank you Christopher. But there was no tone of "implicit" in the original. It was an overt statement. Discussing the differences on an even keel is good and important. But to throw mud at each other is not helpful. This was not a suggestion or an question; it was an assertion.

    There are two things involved here: an overestimation and overconfidence of one's own stance; and an overstatement of it.

    Unless the Exclusive Presuppositioinalist is willing to take into account the real Evidentialist and Classicalist views, he really is in no position to make such judgments. So far these views are what the Presuppositionalist says they are, not what the Evidentialists and Classicists say they are. And these latter do not make it a point to "defeat" presuppositioinalism. For them, (when done rightly, for there are exceptions ) they have no interest in the "them or us" debates, for they know its not like that at all. You will often see an unwillingness to take part in such discussions because of the tenor of the debate. Its not about methodologies with them; its about understanding and explaining the truths when objections and obstacles come in the way. Truth itself is the goal. Why should we want to win a debate about these methodologies on the "them or us" terms?

    That's why they can call us out 'til the cows come home. We just won't debate on those terms. We're both for the truth. They are the only ones declaring war, for the most part. There have been notable exceptions, and I've taken objection to them in these discussions too, just as much so.

    Let's keep it within propriety.
  13. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I have shown above how Classicism and Evidentialism logically imply certain things that are explicitly declared sinful by the adopted standards of the Church, while at the same time admitting that the Church has not explicitly declared Classicism and Evidentialism sinful, but that I simply see them as so biblically, and see them as implicitly going against the standards of the Church as well.

    For one thing, in the very first post in this thread, I said

    And indeed, I am making an assertion, which is that your view is implicitly (though inherently) sinful, because it logically implies explicitly sinful views, as I have noted throughout this thread. And that is no more "throwing mud" than are any of the debates on here that involve an accusation of sin on the part of one side, such as Exclusive Psalmody or baptism.

    See the first paragraph in this post.

    That is why I have repeatedly acknowledged that you do not explicitly hold to the errors that are nonetheless logically implied by the position that you do explicitly hold, and I have not seen any interaction with my points on any of those logical implications.

    With all due respect, this shows a misunderstanding of presuppositionalism. An integral part of presuppositionalism itself is the belief that all unbelievers have all the proof they need both within them and abundantly around them, and that the only reason they remain in denial of the truth is that they foolishly and self-deceptively suppress it, and thus that our task in defending the faith is solely to show them that the biblical Christian worldview is actually assumed in every logical thing they say and do, and that the only possible outcome of them being consistent with their denial of it would be foolish meaninglessness.

    So to assert that other various arguments for the faith--besides a demonstration from Scripture of how Christianity alone justifies the meaningful thought and action that everyone takes for granted--are necessary in apologetics, or even helpful for that matter, really nullifies the whole core and paradigm of the presuppositional apologetic itself.
  14. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That is the position I hold too, in basis. We have two revelations of God, in nature first of all, and in Scripture more openly.

    Where I differ is that when it comes to truth, both you and I are on the wrong side of the ledger. What we do know of truth is only in part, and is combined with a lot of our own deceptions. Unbelievers, of course, relish in their own deceptions, thinking themselves to be wise thereby. But for a believer, who more humbly knows his estate, he takes no pride in his undestanding and knowledge, but is rather intimidated by the perfection, the magnitude, and the majesty of truth itself. The one mark that demonstrates wisdom, that dominates the wise man, is humility. Not pride or arragance. He is respectful of the gifts God has given others, even to unbelievers. And such unbelievers are not without knowledge in the gifts they have received. They do not sin in having knowledge, they sin in abusing and obfuscating it. They cannot do this if they don't possess it to do it with. They cannot subvert or suppress the truth unless they have at least to subvert or suppress.

    So as far as basic presuppositions is concerned, all men, believer and unbeliever alike, without distinction, have the same ones. It cannot be any other way. There are not two sets of original epistemologies. However, each generation and each people have their own systems of deception well ingrained in their heritage and social interactions. We too, sadly, as a modern church also have that weakness. We have the Word, but still we allow conventions and consensuses to hold sway over us, often leading to the prosecution of the sinless and the honouring of the sinful. I know, believe me, I know. So all of us need to rid ourselves of our narrow concepts, and look to the unchanging truth. And it is plain enough if we would open our eyes. Wisdom and knowledge has built her house without our help, and the foundations stand just as solid as they ever have.

    I am glad, Chris, that you have made it clear that this was only your opinion, and that it no longer stands as a declaration. We can work with that, and I can eventually show you how these methodologies, filled with sinful men who have done wrong, yet can illustrate and defend with majesty and wonder the illustrious faith we all hold dear, without twisting either Scripture or other men's words or thoughts, and still remembering our own place as being one of also being under condemnation if we had to lean to our own understanding.

    I can also show you a better Presuppositionalism. Allow me to explain.

    Before I was introduced to Presuppositionalism I used to use that name to describe the pathetic state of some of the Dutch denominations. Tradition and concensus held sway in everything. As someone put it in another thread, "It all depends on your point of view." That is just how they thought and decided on important issues. And that about sums up the depth of conviction I was up against. The problem is that the only thing that depends on my or anyone's point of view is our own deceptions; everything else depends on whether or not things are true or not. Our real knowledge, discretion, wisdom, understanding, ability, talent, and every other virtuous faculty, these all depend not in the slightest on our opinion, but on truth. As a matter of fact, the value of our opinons are to be judge by how they reflect truth. It is the height of stupidity to make truth depend on one's point of view, as Pastor Way rightly pointed out. But that was what I called Presuppositionalism in that sphere.

    Then I was introduced to it as an Apologetic. I worked hard and long trying to understand it, knowing full well that this was not the same thing. But I continuously run into the same thing. For all the good that is underneath the bravado, it often becomes nothing more than the very same thing I ran into in the Dutch churches, only with other details involved. In all this the basis for doing apologetics has remained untouched by them. What I have run into is that the Presuppositionalist catergorizes all things, even my "apologetic approach", and he is the judge of whether or not it is right, as if he is the only one with the authority to do so. And that means to me that this particular presentation is a write-off, and nothing more than wind in the trees. If he criticzes his understanding of my Classicalism, he has not criticized my Classicalism; and I have not yet found one that is interested enough to listen to what that Classicalism is. I don't get very far and I am ridiculed for my understanding. But they don't even take the time to understand what I said, for it is the same position held by the churches througout the ages, and almost word-for-word Calvin's apologetic in his Institutes. Just because I call it Classicalism, which it is by definition, I am written off without a hearing. That tells me that these people really have nothing to say to me. They are just self-deceived and think themselves superior.

    I want to believe that this is not really and truly Presuppositionalism. And I still refuse to believe it. So whenever I hear the kind of bravado that puts the Presuppositionalists in the driver's seat, as if he and he alone is the judge of such things, even over the Church's head, then I take it that this person does not understand Presuppositionalism at all, and I still hold out hope for better proponents of it. And I know that there must be, because I find some valuable things to glean from Presuppositionalism.

    But that it stands alone as an apologetic approach? That it has a right to be the sole judge of things equitable and truthful? That they have the right to publicly esteem me as lower than them, as even sinful for believing what I do? These things go far too far in their assumptions. They don't really know that much to make such claims.

    There is a positive side to Presuppositionalism. But we're not interested in defending Presuppositionalism, or Classicalism or Evidentialism. That's not our mutual aim. Our aim is to defend the faith. And the proofs are there (Evidentialism proper); the concepts are there (Classicalism proper); and mostly the basis for all knowledge is the single line of presuppositions within which everything, even the things the unbeliever and irreligious take for granted, is all there (Presuppositionalism proper).

    If you're willing I can show you what real Presuppositionalism is, without all that hype and unnecessary condemnation of not-really-competing approaches.

    If you are not willing, then know this: for the sincere Evidentialist and Classicalist, we are not competing, and refuse to do so. That is cleary not our business, nor our concern, nor our interest. You are competing on your own.
  15. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Chris, as other presupps have before, I think you are misunderstanding John. As I understand him, and his criticisms of presuppositionalism, I believe he thinks more in the absolute. There is only one "worldview" and that is what God reveals. Whether they refuse to acknowledge it or not is the problem. Perhaps if you read the Lewis quote in his signature you'll get at the thrust of his understanding. So what you as a Presupp would consider the Christian worldview, John would call the undeniable "truth" of God's natural and special revelation. What you would call "other worldviews" John would call self-deception or deceit.

    So for John, the use of "evidentialism" or "classicalism" does not presuppose a non-christian worldview because he always assumes the truth of revelation (natural and special) in every encounter with the truth in mind that the unbeliever knows this truth (Rom. 1) whether he refuses to acknowledge it or not. The evidences presented in those methods, as John would use them, assume the truth of the "Christian worldview" no matter what because they present the facts "as they are" in the absolute sense (what you, Chris, would call the facts interpreted through the Christian worldview). What you call the "Transcedental Argument for the existence of God," John would call the undeniable and absolute truth of natural and special revelation. Correct me if I'm wrong about my assessment John. Really, I don't see any substantial disagreement between you two, just a different vocabulary for the same concepts. This is just my feeble attempt to try to reconcile the issues and promote mutual understanding. :2cents:
  16. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    That's a pretty good assessment. Of course that's not all of it, but then how much can one fit into one post? You managed to get more into one post than I can accomplish.

    The nub of the issue is just as you said: it is not a matter of substantial disagreement as much as it is one in other matters. Evidentialists and Classicalists don't condemn each other; and if they do then I have a problem with them too. But it is also not a matter different vocabulary, though it surely is the case that there is one. Where the Presupper says that there is no brute fact I say that all there is is brute fact, and we both mean the same thing, basically. So it is indeed there. But that is not the difference between the Exclusive Presuppositionalist and the Classicalist. The difference that is there exits even between the Presuppositionalist and the Exclusive Presuppositionalist. And that difference needs to be addressed carefully, and willingly.

    But your observation about the absolutes, I think you had a good way of putting that. I live in a world where the only sure thing is God. So He is my absolute. I can't even count on myself. That is why I will never rely upon my own presuppositions. If I am going to have a set of basic presuppositions, then let them be God's, not mine. And I have two sources for that, not just one. He has revealed Himself in two ways, as I said earlier, and both of them are infallible. It is me that is fallible, not the facts, and not the Word. Myself, I am still beset with little and big deceits, far too many.

    This is altogether different than answering someone who makes a charge against one of God's elect, someone who is doing the very best he can with what he knows. If such charges are really valid then tell me, who of us will be blameless? Will it be the Exclusive Presuppositionalist? Really? I don't think that Classicalists will stand any better than Evidentialists; and neither of them will stand any better than Presuppositionalists. We all should be quite ready to let these things fall and be done with, just like the special gifts of revelation spoken of in 1Cor. 13 that have ceased. These are all just tools to a bigger goal, and a better end, and higher prize. There is no competing of methods in reality, for they will all fall away once we all know.

    C.S. Lewis didn't experience my life's journey; he experienced his own. His Pilgrim's Regress, in that sense, means something to me that he may not even have had in mind. It is a good allegory that way. It means more than he knew. But then again, he knew that too when he wrote it, as he remarks in his revised preface. And he would rejoice in this, not get jealous, or contend that I never really understood him. He too would learn of me, just as I learned of him. He was not above that.

    None of us are. I learn from my little children. They often put me in my place. But it is not them, it is the truth that they, God bless them, have been gifted with to help shape my life, just as I shape theirs' in a much bigger fashion as a parent, guardian and teacher to them. I am not going to condemn them because their little gifts are not perfect, or as good as mine. Rather, I rejoice in them, and in what they teach me when I am humble enough to be taught. For God uses whom He pleases. If we're not open to that, then we're not open to God.
  17. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Well, I suppose the part that could be said to fall under the category of my opinion is that Classicism and Evidentialism inherently possess and logically imply certain doctrinal errors. But what is not just my opinion is that the Church has declared those errors to be sinful, even though it has not formally declared Classicism and Evidentialism to inherently imply those errors "“ that connection is what I was trying to demonstrate in my first couple posts in this thread.

    Remember, though, that there is a fine but definite line between esteeming people as lower and saying that a view of theirs is sinful "“ I do not, for instance, esteem my Baptist brethren here as lower and yet I hold that they are in sin because of their belief and practice of it.

    And when I say I believe it stands alone as an apologetic approach, I mean a biblical defense of the faith must always presuppose the truth, must always approach the unbeliever as if they know it but suppress it, and must always seek to show the unbeliever their self-deception by exposing the vanity of their supposed non-Christian root thoughts. So I am saying that any apologetic that denies those truths and attempts to defend the faith without them is just not taking a biblical view on truth, sin and God. And from your first few paragraphs in your last post, and if Patrick´s interpretation of your view is correct, then you believe those to be essential parts of a biblical defense of the faith "“ and if that is the case, you really do not disagree that much with the mindset of presuppositionalism as taught by Van Til and Bahnsen. I´m not talking about their application of it necessarily, or other Van Tillians´ application of it, but simply the method itself as explained in their books, lectures and debates.

    I agree with you that "œthe proofs are there" and that "œthe concepts are there," but not in the sense that Evidentialism proper and Classicism proper assert. And from what I take from your above statements, we seem to agree with the nature and role of the proofs and concepts, but everything I have read from published Evidentialists and Classicists is actually quite different from that nature and role. That is because when I speak of "œEvidentialism," I am not really speaking of the particular facts Evidentialists use in their arguments or concepts Classicists use in their arguments, but in how both groups view the role of those facts and concepts. Bahnsen has said that facts such as those used by Evidentialists do indeed have a place in biblical apologetics, but "œEvidentialism" proper is more than just a list of those facts "“ it is a belief that those facts are sufficient in themselves to biblically defend the faith. A presuppositionalist like Bahnsen says that those "œfacts" are useful in presenting the Christian worldview, and that they are all "œproofs" of Christianity just like the fact that you expect toothpaste to come out of the tube when you squeeze it is proof, since any of those facts only make sense in the Christian worldview, which is the foundation of all real truth, with which you seem to agree. But rather than properly using those facts to present the Christian worldview and show how it is the foundation of all truth whether people realize it or not, "œEvidentialists" proper simply list the facts and say, "œSee, this archaeology shows that Jesus´ Resurrection happened," and say that such a presentation of such "œfacts" is a sufficient defense of the faith, without ever showing them in the bigger picture of the real issues that even make those "œfacts" meaningful.

    So Evidentialism proper as I have read by authors like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell, and Classicism proper as used by men like Aquinas and Sproul, are not in err because of the individual facts and arguments they present, but because the way in which they make use of those things ignores and even denies the biblical foundations on which you and I seem to agree. And that is why I call Evidentialism and Classicism as entire gestalt systems of apologetics to be sinfully neglecting biblical essentials of defending the faith.

    Are we on the same page?
  18. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Please forgive my cutting into your post like this. You ask if we're on the same page, and I'd like to answer section for section then. This is not meant to cut up everything you said, but rather to ascertain what differences there may yet be, and even more to underline the similarities and agreements.

    I think you missed my point here, Chris. I don't want to belabour it, but it is kind of crucial. Notice that I did not ask for an apology, or a retraction. I trust your fellowship; even though I think it went over the line, I think I can trust you and that you can trust me, even thought these things can happen in unguarded or exhuberant moments. No, I challenged it in good faith. What I challenged is this, and I intend that it remains the main topic of discussion in this thread: the Church does not even believe itself to have the office to make such a judgment, but has left such things to conscience. So an assertion such as the one originally made is a taking up of an office even higher than the Church. What the Church has declared is that the different opinions as to apologetic methodologies is adiaphora at best. It is a taking of a huge responsibility, one even the Apostles would not take upon themselves, to make such a declaration. If you declare publicly that Evidentialists and Classicists are sinners and twisters of God's Word, on the sole virtue of the fact that they are Evidentialists and Classicists, thereby declaring these views themselves to be a sin, then you have a very extraordinary office, one even higher than the Apostles' office. Do you see what I am saying. Maybe I exaggerate it a bit for the sake of clarity, but the idea is that this accusation claims knowledge the Preuppositionalist does not really have, and cannot have.

    This is altogether different than having the opinion that, from what you know of Evidentialists, (which isn't much, even if you know a lot) and of Classicists, (which isn't much, even if you know a lot) you think them to be in error, and even find that it perverts truth, if what you believe is true. It may yet be that I, as a Classicist, know something that you miss, that you cannot understand, or that your view keeps you from seeing.

    It may be the other way around. I too can assert certain gross sins perpetrated by Presuppositionalists, by Evidentialists, and by Classicists. Some of them require to be answered. Personally, I would never recommend the Sproul/Gerstner/Lindsley book. Its supposed to Classical, but it isn't really. It can't be if it cannot properly acknowledge the Ontological Argument; and that is just by sheer definition alone, never mind the other faults. But why would we be interested in such endeavours as to tear each others' works apart as if they were of no value? There is no competition going on here; and if there was there certainly would be no grounds for any of us to boast or gloat over others.

    But the same discretionary tact and respect is in order. We are, after all, brothers in a common cause. And we have no office at all for lording it over others. There exists no such office short of our Saviour's headship over the entire Church. That's not what the offices are for, and that's not what our fellowship is for. If you're going to say some bold things like that, then at the very least preface them by saying, "In my opinion...." It shows some respect to the fact that you, one who is very limited in knowledge and wisdom, know your rightful place beside others who are also limited in knowledge and wisdom.

    This is the basis for my standing up, Chris. You may be right, but if you are this is not the way to go about it. There is a better way, and that is to let the truth assert itself.

    I don't want to debate apologetic systems, Chris. I will discuss with a mutual eye to disseminating the value of each others' views. I quite disagree with the exclusive claims of some Presuppositionalists, and even think some of the tone is arrogant and rude, and that it betrays their own cause, but in spite of that I have learned a great deal from them. They are not ignorant just because I think they're wrong. It sure has sharpened me a great deal. I may not have gotten that without them. I still think they're wrong, but I don't have all my ducks in a row either. So if we drop the nomenclature, and discuss avenues for truth, then we do have a lot in common to discuss.

    But I want to remain focused, for now, on the issue of rash assertions that seem to disrespect the offices given the Church.
    Chris, we are on the same page if you are as willing to look as critically at your own methodology as you want me to be of mine. I hear you! I think that the state of apologetics is deplorable right now. I won't read Bahnsen, but there are some Evidentialist and Classicist works out there that are worse. And there are some Presuppositionalist works out there that are worse too. But I can't do a thing to change that. There is a mind-set out there that seems too monolithic to budge.

    For example, in my own case, I asserted that a minister was preaching Presuppositionalism from the pulpit. As little as twenty years ago that would have brought gasps of utter astonishment from the status quo. He would have been called on to the carpet very quickly. Now, when you tell it to an overseeing elder he shrugs and says, "So what? What's wrong with that?" Now I am utterly astonished. It is also the case now that to speak up puts me in the doghouse. What do I have to say that could possibly suggest to him the great crime being committed? It goes directly against the Confessions, openly and brazenly,
    but nobody cares. It is taught from the pulpit and in Bible Study as if it is on the same footing as Scripture itself. No! It was taught as fundamental to knowing Scripture; so its even worse than I thought. Still, no one in the positions responsible seems to care.

    So what can I say that would make a difference in the field of apologetics? I don't think that answering one abuse with another is the answer.

    If we are on the same page, then we're both working to fix the abuses that are taking place at this very time, in our time.

    [Edited on 2-28-2005 by JohnV]
  19. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    No problem at all "“ it seems logical to me.

    To clarify the point I am making, here is an analogous question: Has the Church made an official statement on every single pseudo-Christian cult, pronouncing them to be in sinful error? Of course not. I am talking about cults at the same level as Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, Jehovah´s Witnesses, etc., but smaller and less-known. There are no doubt countless cults of such a nature, and the Church has not made an official statement against every one of them. Nor has the Church made an official statement against every specific doctrine that denies an official doctrine of the Church that it has declared to be a sin to deny. And the reason it does not need to make a specific statement on every such cult and doctrinal error is because it has made more general statements that extend to such cults and errors. For instance, I´m sure there are many cults and movements out there that deny, say, Sola Scriptura, that the Church has not specifically named and condemned "“ but that is because they do not need to, for they have already declared the denial of Sola Scriptura as a whole to be sinful, thus implicitly declaring every cult, movement or doctrine that denies it as sinful.

    And it is in that same way that I am calling Classicism and Evidentialism sinful. The standards and statements of the Church have declared such things to be sinful as testing God, denying His pre-eminence in all realms, denying Total Depravity´s effect on the whole of man, denying the universal clarity of God´s existence, treating God´s existence as probable, etc. The Church´s standards declare such things to be sinful, and thus every movement, group, system or doctrine that holds or implies them is sinful by the Church´s standards as well, just as a private cult of mine that denied, say, Limited Atonement, would be sinful by the Church´s standards even if the Church had not specifically identified my cult as being so by name. And what I have been trying to show from the beginning of this thread is that Classicism and Evidentialism analogously contain those errors I specified above and more, which I have yet to see addressed at all.

    It is important to remember that I never have been concerned with discussing particular sins perpetrated by Classicists and Evidentialists on a personal level, but sins that are inherently contained in their respective apologetics themselves. So if you believe there to be sins contained in the presuppositional apologetic itself, by all means point them out, as I have yet to ever be presented with a sound case that such sins exist.

    Of course there is no ground for anyone involved to boast, as doctrinal correctness is never a grounds for boasting to the Reformed Christian, since we recognize the monergistic nature of God´s grace in every aspect of our understanding.

    But there is a definite disagreement, although I do not think "œcompetition" is a good way to describe it, as I would not think it a good word to describe something like the baptism debate, either. But there must be an inherent disagreement among the methods, otherwise this thread would not exist, nor would all the books that have been written from all sides responding to the others. If nothing else, there is a disagreement over whether or not Classical and Evidential apologetics are compatible with presuppositionalism, which all the leading authors and proponents of the latter deny.

    My first answer in this post, dealing with the issue of the Church´s declaration of sin, speaks to this.

    Debating apologetic systems is what this particular forum was created for. Also, what you are classifying as "œnomenclature," I am stating as a legitimate viewpoint that I believe to be true and to be consistent with the standards of the Church, and my specific reasons for stating it as that still have yet to be addressed.

    On another note, since Bahnsen´s works are cited by the vast majority of presuppositionalists as giving some of the clearest and most accurate explanation and defense of their view, the fact that you refuse to read Bahnsen anymore is evidence to me that you are not fairly evaluating presuppositionalism for what it is as a system, but are allowing much of your view of it to be colored by the issues you have with specific presuppositionalists and certain actions of theirs.

    Those confessional sections assert that we are not to elevate any writings of man up to the level of Scripture itself. And that includes not treating systematic theology and confessional standards as equal with Scripture "“ yet we still rightfully preach systematic theology and the teachings of the confessional standards from the pulpit, because the Church has declared them to be summaries of Scripture, though not themselves on the same level as Scripture.

    So really, we are not to elevate, say, the doctrines of grace as worded by TULIP to the level of Scripture itself, either. But we nonetheless proclaim them from the pulpit as summarizing certain truths of Scripture, and thus we should do the same with doctrines like the universal knowledge of God, the sinfulness of testing God, God´s preeminence in all realms, etc.

    Again, declaring a view to be sinful is not necessarily abuse, and as I have explained, I do not see my current such declaration as having any undermining of Church authority so as to render them as abuse, either. The Church has declared certain errors sinful, and I started this thread to point out those errors within the Classical and Evidential apologetic systems, which no one has yet attempted to rebut.
  20. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Classicism and Evidentialism are methods practiced in the very churches that hold to those very standards you refer to. The Church has indeed made judgments against certain types of misuses of Scripture. But it has not declared that these methodologies within her ranks are guilty of these abuses. It is only the exclusive Presuppositionalist who says that, and he is doing it on his own authority, not the Church's. For the Church has condoned them, and has blessed them. Just as she has acknowledged that Presuppositionalism does not break with those standards, so she has also declared that these other methodologies do not break with those standards.

    If you have a difficulty with brothers who hold to different sets of understandings than you, you should take it up with your elder. If Scripture is being abused on this Board, take it up with the moderators. Just don't act unilaterally, and based upon your own understanding.

    For my part, as a Classicist, I deny that I do the things listed above and tied to the Classical methodology. I deny that Classicism is inherently guilty of that. I too am sensitive to the holiness of the Word, and of the personal presence of God. I am very leery of overstating the facts. I make mistakes, to be sure, but I believe myself to every bit as sensitive to those abuses as you are.

    That's what this entire thread is about. That is exactly what I am doing. Well, almost. I am also denying that this error must needs be part and parcel of Presuppositionalism. I may assert that it part and parcel of some Presuppositionalists' agendas, but what I am asserting is that it is occurring, but that it doesn't have to, and that if it is abandoned it damages Presuppositionalism not in the least.

    Just remember, you said it, not me.

    So you say that Presuppositionalists deny compatability. I would acknowledge, on my part, that some Evidentialists do too, as well as some Classicists. I've already pointed out one of those cases, and shown in a rather simple way the dynamic problem with it. But I don't understand why "there must be disagreement". That is defining the problem into the methodologies, when in reality it does not exist. Presuppositionalists themselves freely go into classical and evidential arguments whenever they need to. It's all part of Presuppositionalism. But going into the presuppositions is an integral part of the Ontological Argument as well. It is definitely not a Presuppositional argument, but it freely uses it. I would contend that rather than that "there must be disagreements" there actually cannot exist any one of the methodologies without the others. It is all part of the one true methodology of the Word, as it asserts itself into every facet of life and thought and practice.

    If I grant you this privilege, which I do, then will you accept that I truly believe in the truths that I believe in, and that I think that the way I go about trying to explain it is the very best I can do in accordance with the faith granted me? I am not ignorant or insensitive to the severity of the punishments for disrespect of God's Word, and of His revelation of Himself in creation. Indeed, it is exactly this that drives me in the direction of understanding that I am on.

    And I do not stand on Classicism, I merely use it. If there is error, mistake, or abuse, I'm sure it will be pointed out by my brothers; and I will acknowledge it when I too understand these.

    So if you may make such a confession, may I too? Or may I only do that as a Presuppositionalist?

    No, Chris, that is not why I won't read Bahnsen. I have read him, and am greatly disappointed and astonished that he has so many followers. I am not the kind of scholar that goes digging into others' writings to to critical analyses for refutational purposes. I dig into ideas, and work them around, wrestle with them, and try to bring them into subjection under the truth, as revealed both in the Scriptures and in the creation. I try to supplement my own understanding, not tear others' down. I do not believe there are two sets of truths, but one set only. And that set rules both the written Word and the created word (that is, the creation by the word. )

    I will not spend my time doing a rundown on Bahnsen. I don't respect his argumentations. It has been well described by someone else on this Board as "a dog chasing his tail." That's what I think. But I don't make it public. This is the only time you'll see this. I won't bring it up again.

    There are a lot of people on this Board who respect Bahnsen. And I will not step on that. Whatever I think of Bahnsen is my problem, not anyone else's.

    Chris, I earnestly wish for the time when I can openly reveal all that is going on here on the home front. If I could do it now it would as plain as plain can be that I did much more than bend over backwards and did backflips for those who are contending against me. I now have absolute documentation. This is going to be serious before its done. And I have been more than patient with it. I have had to lean a lot on some brothers on this Board, but they helped me to keep my head and not lash out. But if I did, it would be a great big mess right now. I assure you, this has nothing to do with Presuppositionalism itself, but rather with the abuses that it was used for. And now I have eight ruling and teaching elders, under oath, attesting to it, without my needing to assert anything anymore. But they still do not understand what they have attested to.

    I can give you nothing but assurance right now that this is not done in hatred or revenge. For I cannot yet make it public; my obligation of discretion is still in force. You just have to believe me. And if you don't, then there are brothers on this Board who can attest to it; ask them.

    Please do not accuse me of wrongdoing if you do not know the particulars.

    I am not going to rebut the assertion that Classicists and Evidentialists make errors, nor am I going to pretend that these systems are perfect and without error.

    But I am going to restate that these systems of defending the Word are given the right of way in the very churches you speak of, the very churches which defend against those abuses you spoke of. You speak ill of that which the Church has given a blessing to. Has the Church not done her work? Is the Church being lax? Are you saying the Church has made a mistake? Then your struggle is not with Classicists and Evidentialists, it is with the Church. You condemn what the Church has allowed under adiaphora; you take away from our freedom of conscience what the Church has granted us. Who are we to believe: you or the Church? If we should believe you, then you must trump the Church with you superior understanding of the issues. Are you prepared to do that?

    So it is not the issue to rebut the allegations. That is not what this is about. It is about office, whether one has the right to make such declarations over the head of the Church; whether you have the right to impose upon my conscience what the Church does not, or remove from my freedom to conscience what the Church has not removed.

    Chris, if this is too hard, let me know. I'll quit. I've had my say. There's more that can be said, but there is no need to go further than this for now. I'll let you have the last say, if you think this has gone far enough. I'll respect your discretion and discernment. And I sincerely hope that this has brought us closer together and caused our mutual respect and our faith to grow.

    [Edited on 3-1-2005 by JohnV]
  21. Puritanhead

    Puritanhead Puritan Board Professor

    we should operate within the scope of 2 Timothy 2:24-25... that's our modus operandi for witnessing.
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