Van Til's Presuppositional Apologetic - A Critique

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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
When the apologist claims he has an objectively certain proof, he is claiming to have a proof that for any and all individuals cannot fail to be true. My critique is that this claim is too much. The apologist fails at several levels - the most serious being the inductive element he introduces into his argument.

You have managed to confuse me, Brian. It seems to me that you are suggesting any apologetic which removes the burden of objective certainty away from the realm of human rationality is a failure. How have you not established autonomy?

Sure you can, and so thought Van Til. It is the basis of his apologetic. His very argument is that the existence of God is necessary because apart from God there could not be rationality. Since there is rationality, then God exists. This is a good argument. This argument is established in a manner that is not objectively certain. That was the point of my critique.

Since me, then mum (or mom). That is objectively certain. It is based on an induction.

Ok, my idea is nonsense. Since you are using this type of rhetoric, then I would submit to you that you do not understand Van Til’s apologetic. In his The Defense of the Faith (Third Edition) on pages 100-101 we find the following…

Clearly, you do not understand Van Til if you think this is “nonsense.”

Not understanding Van Til is always a possibility, and something which doesn't worry me too much as I'm not VanTillian. However, I believe you have quoted VanTil offering a reason why we should argue ad hominem, not in justification of stepping out of our theistic worldview. If all you meant by stepping out of our worldview is that we should argue ad hominem, then that is fine. However, I took you to mean that we should critique according to the dictates of the natural man, who insists he can reason without God. On that basis we would have to rationally prove God exists according to a rationale which reasons independent of God -- an impossibility.

It is funny how a simple request like this simply goes unanswered. I asked you to quote the appropriate portions of my critique where I was wrong and explain how I was wrong. You would not even show me the courtesy of doing this, but yet you would say that my ideas are nonsense. Not only am I beginning to doubt whether you understand Van Til, but I am beginning to wonder if you have actually taken the time to read my critique. The funny thing is that I acknowledge that there probably are errors in my critique. I would welcome a genuine feedback. I just ask you to be specific. Your response to this post will be telling.

I can't remember calling your ideas nonsense. The only thing I have called nonsense is the idea that we should step outside the plane to inspect it whilst it is flying mid-air. I analysed your critique and thought it boiled down to, "If induction, then false." Civbert tells me there is a difference between false and uncertain in a logical argument. I can't see it, but for the sake of discussion I corrected my analysis to, "If induction, then uncertain." My question was, and still is, Why? Now I could rehash everything I've said since then, but I'd only be repeating myself. One question I am inclined to put to you is, Can you prove that man knows anything? and can you prove this without depending on an induction? Blessings!
 

Brian Bosse

"The Brain"
Hello Matthew,

It seems to me that you are suggesting any apologetic which removes the burden of objective certainty away from the realm of human rationality is a failure.

I am not making this suggestion. All I am saying is that the Van Tillian claims too much when he says he has an objectively certain proof for the existence of God. If the Van Tillian admits this, it still leaves him with a powerful apologetic. In fact, it is more powerful because it is no longer subject to this critique.

I analysed your critique and thought it boiled down to, "If induction, then false." Civbert tells me there is a difference between false and uncertain in a logical argument. I can't see it, but for the sake of discussion I corrected my analysis to, "If induction, then uncertain." My question was, and still is, Why?

By definition, inductive arguments are not certain. All inductive arguments leave open the possibility, however remote this possibility is, that the conclusion is false. Therefore, the conclusion of all inductive arguments fall short of 100% certainty to some degree or another.


Can you prove that man knows anything?

This is a non-sequitur.

Sincerely,

Brian
 

August

Puritan Board Freshman
Brian, wow, this thread is still going.

I may have missed this before, but can you maybe link me back to where you show the use of induction by Van Till? Am I right to conclude that the use of inductive argumentation by Van Till is the foundation of your counter-argument?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I am not making this suggestion. All I am saying is that the Van Tillian claims too much when he says he has an objectively certain proof for the existence of God. If the Van Tillian admits this, it still leaves him with a powerful apologetic. In fact, it is more powerful because it is no longer subject to this critique.

So, may I ask, can a Christian be certain that God exists? If so, and it is not based on objective certainty, we are left with the existential idea that certainty is subjective or a leap of faith; if not, we are left with a lingering angst which makes us continaully anxious that the life of faith is a lie.

By definition, inductive arguments are not certain. All inductive arguments leave open the possibility, however remote this possibility is, that the conclusion is false. Therefore, the conclusion of all inductive arguments fall short of 100% certainty to some degree or another.

Perhaps I am not making myself clear, for which I apologise. It is a manmade dictum that inductive arguments are not certain. Sure, you can get the formal logic right, and deduce necessary conclusions from premises in a technically correct manner. But the premises themselves are filled with inductive arguments. They are nothing more than generalisations of particulars. Hence, everything we know is based on induction; if so, according to the manmade dictum for certainty, that would leave men uncertain of anything. But then how do you know your dictum is certain?

But I know with certainty that I have a mother. Which all goes to show that the manmade dictum -- inductive arguments arte not certain -- cannot be proven to be true.

This is a non-sequitur.

How is a question a non sequitur? Perhaps you mean the question is irrelevant. I do not believe so. Your whole critique comes down to your assurance that "inductive arguments are not certain." My question is, How do you know this? Blessings!
 

Brian Bosse

"The Brain"
Hello Matthew,

So, may I ask, can a Christian be certain that God exists?

If by certain, you mean philosophical certainty (100% certainty), then I would say no.

It is a manmade dictum that inductive arguments are not certain.

Inductive arguments are by nature of their definition not 100% certain arguments.

But I know with certainty that I have a mother.

You may be very very very confident in this, but you do not know this with 100% certainty. I will not debate this with you, but rather allow you to do a search on the web regarding philosophical certainty. Thank you for the discussion.

Sincerely,

Brian
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If by certain, you mean philosophical certainty (100% certainty), then I would say no.

As you cannot say this with 100% certainty it is not of much significance to me; but I do fear for any man who is straying into this desert path. May God save you!
 
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