Presuppositional Apologetics
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02-05-2012, 02:28 PM
Presuppositional Apologetics
I'm not sure how many of you listened to the mini-episode a few weeks ago called "Proof That God Exists", but it's worth looking into this argument. When I listened to the recorded podcast, I was getting quite angry listening to Sye, as he's rekindling the TAG form of argumentation. (TAG = Transcendental Argument for the existence of God). This method was developed by Cornelius Van Til, and his "bulldog" of promulgation was Greg Bahnsen. The reason I've been familiar with this method is because I used to listen to Bahnsen's lecture mp3s all the time when I was a believer.

While Seth and dprjones correctly referred to the argument as a "parlor trick", which it is, the TAG supporters will always claim victory if they're not properly called out. You'll first notice that they conveniently distance themselves from the Evidentialist form of argumentation, which immediately gives them a "get out of jail, free" card since they can remain strictly in the philosophical arena; that's the first red flag. The second, of course, is the fact that they presuppose the Bible to be true, and that God exists. In a nutshell, their epistemological argument says that you can't make sense of anything in the world without presupposing the Christian god. Their inductive questions are these: On what basis can you expect the future to be like the past, and what provides the preconditions of the intelligibility of experience?

If I remember correctly, in his "Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism", AronRa has a clip of Kent Hovind answering a question about his proof of god's existence by saying, "...from the impossibility of the contrary." This was one of Bahnsen's favorite lines, and it's sickening to see others ripping it off. Sye throws in Bahnsen-talk during this podcast discussion, as well. One of the ironies of the philosophy Bahnsen was peddling is that he was entering the arena-of-debate in an utterly biased manner while simultaneously accusing others of non-neutrality. Yes, he admits as much, but accusing others of automatically being non-neutral isn't reasonable just because they don't want the Christian framework presupposed.

Bahnsen was a philosopher/debater in the Calvinist camp who lectured against Evolution, and he thought that creation occurred in seven 24-hour days. He died in 1994, but there's a website that carries all of his debates/lectures in MP3 format, and I still have a collection of them. One of them is a lecture he gave to attempt to refute the refutations of the TAG argument. Several of the refutations are aimed directly at specific philosophers, but, in my opinion, only one of the refutations he brings up is needed, and his answer is, as you'll see, inadequate.

The hypothetical question/refutation Bahnsen brings up is the following: "How do you know there isn't another possible worldview out there that would work?"

Here is his two-fold answer:

1) In the nature of the case, there can only be one transcendental. (ultimate authority)

2) I'm going to directly quote Greg's entire answer (verbatim) for this part, so excuse the grammar of spoken-word:

"The Christian worldview, in the nature of the case, has to be the only worldview that works. If it works, it must be the only one that works. Why? Because it claims to be the only one. That claim is either true, or it's false. If it's true, then there aren't any other ones. If it's false, then Christianity is not a worldview that will work. So, if Christianity is a transcendental...if there is one, and it's Christianity, it must be the only one. Because, internally, it claims to be the only one. Sometimes, you'll feel like, "I've got a good grasp on that", and, other times, that'll seem real slippery....say, "The fact that it says it's the only one...why does that establish it?" Because, you're granting that it really is a transcendental of meaningfulness. If it really is, you're granting that it's a true worldview. But, if you grant that it's a true worldview, then its claims must be...true. And one of its claims is: this is the only one. If that claim is wrong, then the worldview is not, as a whole, true, in which case it can't be a worldview that's a transcendental for meaningfulness. The argument assumes there can be two true worldviews...ultimately. But, on this assumption, Christianity couldn't be true because Christianity says there's only one (transcendental). So, that's what I'm calling "internal" demonstration that Christianity has to be the only one."

At this point in the lecture, a participant in the audience basically asks Greg how he would answer a person asking how Greg knows that the transcendental/worldview Greg uses is the only valid one, and what that's based upon. Greg answers:

"When you raise this question, where are you standing when you raise this question? If you're standing in the absurd worldview (atheism is implicit, here), I can ignore you. If you're standing in my worldview, then my answer is the Bible says it's the only one."

With due respect to the obvious debating ability that Greg had when he was alive (he was at least as good as WLC), I can simply no longer feel anything but indignation when I hear this nonsense. If you've watched Seth's video ad for the Oklahoma Freethought meeting in June, you'll see that Eddie Tabash will be speaking. Bahnsen debated Eddie back in '93, and the audio is up on youtube:

I used to dislike Tabash when I was a Bahnsen fan, but I now realize that Eddie's form of argumentation is all that's needed. Eddie basically gets down to good, old-fashioned "proof", and there's a point in the debate that's crucial to Greg's argument. (and every other Christian apologist). At 1:35:39 of the video, Tabash's rebuttal of Bahnsen's self-authentication claim really does, in my opinion, render all of Greg's previous argumentation practically irrelevant. If you've watched any of William Lane Craig's debates, you'll notice a consistent tactic. Both Greg and William, whenever the Bible is brought up, will neatly sidestep Biblical legitimacy/inerrancy since the "topic of the debate" doesn't include any reference to the book. As Eddie says, Christianity stands or falls on that book, and there's simply no justified reason that it should ever be precluded from scrutiny.

Frankly, that's the reason that I now despise formal debates about the existence of god. While I'm thankful that they're available and that they ended up opening my eyes, the religious person always goes into the debate with the presumption that their holy book is true. Non-belief has no book, so it will almost always come across as a less-legitimate perspective.

Here's a quick interjection as to the only reason why I think seasoned Christian apologists are/will ever be necessary: They keep non-believing people/philosophers/scientists sharp and honest, and they force us to examine why we believe what we believe. That's a very good thing. We're still in an age where the proponents of superstition have absolutely nothing outside of the philosophical realm to defend their faith, so we need to be prepared to defend our stance in the same manner.

Bahnsen's most famous debate is the one he had in the mid-80's with Gordon Stein. As you'll hear, Stein wasn't prepared for the TAG argument, though he still comes across as a really smart guy and is quick on his feet. Now that I have a different perspective, I realize how bad Bahnsen can be during the Q&A period. Listen to his answer about the Problem of Evil, and then listen to Stein's completely apt response about "non-answers". One of the things that started bothering me about these apologists is the fact that their credibility instantly fades once they start talking about scripture and their religion. Here's the Bahnsen/Stein link:

The other debate that's posted on youtube is the radio exchange between he and George H. Smith. George wrote "Atheism: The Case Against God". If you're at all interested in Presuppositional argumentation and where they're coming from, this is probably the best audio to start with. In my opinion, Greg's argument falls apart during this exchange when George brings up Aristotle:

There's so much more that I'd like to say, but it looks like I've already rambled on for a bit too long. I'm sorry for the levity, but I really do feel that it's important for you all to know the basis behind this form of argumentation that appears to be making a comeback.

All the Best,

P.S. - If any Bahnsen supporters ever lurk on this forum, the mp3 I used for the quotation is titled, "Van Til's Critics: Hoover, Dooyeweerd, Frame - 16 of 16".
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02-05-2012, 02:48 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
Is there any way you can outline the argument so I don't have to spend the rest of my life reading your post?
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02-05-2012, 02:53 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
(02-05-2012 02:48 PM)Egor Wrote:  Is there any way you can outline the argument so I don't have to spend the rest of my life reading your post?
"In a nutshell, their epistemological argument says that you can't make sense of anything in the world without presupposing the Christian god. Their inductive questions are these: On what basis can you expect the future to be like the past, and what provides the preconditions of the intelligibility of experience? "
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02-05-2012, 03:04 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
Presuppositional apologetics.


"I assume god... therefore god exists"

In all honesty, it's pathetic.

Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!
Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.

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02-05-2012, 03:05 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
Kent Hovind "debates" Thunderfoot in this video , it is more of a series I suppose. I have not seen all of it because it is just terrible to watch. It is nothing more than a game of smoke and mirrors and posturing. Each side trying to catch the other one in some bind and then jumping on it as a victory. Thunderfoot is okay but his debates are not very good, and Kent Hovind says in an interview he did on The Magic Sandwich Show, that all he tries to get the atheist to do is get them to say that it is not impossible for god(s) to exist. If he gets that, he says the argument is over and implies that he has one. Let's say it isn't impossible, it is also possible fairies exist and that there is a planet out there somewhere made of candy. The "World of What-ifs", as I call it, is a place where anything is possible and has no foundation in reality and therefore is a useless tactic for debate about reality.

The whole presupositional argument is like that and is just laughable to anyone who stops and thinks about it. And therein lies the problem. People who hear it and agree with it, don't think about it, and those that spout it off, hide behind complex sentences and convoluted examples that make your head spin. The only reason they do that is to confuse their point so as to make it sound intelligent, and the average person will just accept an argument if it sounds intelligent.

A complete load of hooey.
Once you break down their argument and wade through what they actually said, it is nonsense, utter nonsense. As has already been said by the above posters, starting off with a conclusion and then looking for a way of justifying it via a philosophical circle-jerk and "what-if" scenarios is a sin against the human mind and a downright idiotic approach.


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02-05-2012, 03:17 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
It sounds like a lot of "possibility = probability" wrapped in a very convoluted syntax. Debating them is a generous gesture, as you're giving their arguments credibility. Whatever the truth is, it exists regardless of who "wins" a game of semantics and word-play.

These types of debates reek of ego.

If Jesus died for our sins, why is there still sin? If man was created from dust, why is there still dust? If Americans came from Europe, why are there still Europeans?
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02-05-2012, 05:19 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
I think a fairly accurate summary of the idea this:

We can't know whether or not we live in a "true" reality. We might live in the matrix and there might be things outside our reality. We can't escape our reality to find out what is true, so we can't know anything really for certain. Anything we might think we know is contingent on what is outside of our reality - things we can't observe.

Therefore, we can't claim to know anything unless we can:
1. Determine that there is some absolute reference frame that can peer into every reality
2. Find some all-knowing and all-honest being that exists within this reference frame to tell us something about reality.

This then leads into a proposition that such a frame and such a being exists, and that they have indeed told us something. We find that something in the Bible, and therefore the god of the Bible is true and we can know this and be sure of it in a way that noone else can be sure. Our secret window outside of our reality is more sound and coherent than any observations anyone can make within our reality.

I think the straightforward counter to this is:
1. There is no reason to think that there is an absolute reference frame
2. There is no reason to think that beings exist there
3. There is no reason to think a being that exists there would be honest
4. There is no reason to think that if such a being would be interested in us
5. There is no reason to think that the Bible is the word of that being. Why not another religion's text?
6. I tend also to think that the properties of such a god contradict those of the god of the Bible. I don't think the god of the Bible is honest, nor absolute.
7. The god of the Bible is self-contradictory. Its properties are logically inconsistent with each other, and with reality.
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02-05-2012, 06:46 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
I hope you'll post more on this forum, Questioning. This was more of a blog than a forum post. There's nothing wrong with that, but most of us prefer sound bites to books (if you'll pardon my hyperbole). Despite its length, I was engaged and found it all very interesting.

I've heard TAG denounced once before by TheoreticalBullshit, but as much as I enjoy his answer, I think I like yours more. Great job.

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02-05-2012, 06:56 PM (This post was last modified: 02-05-2012 10:42 PM by Lilith Pride.)
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
I just never really find interest in presuppositional arguments. Just by using the statement it's already admitted that the people are supposing something with absolutely no understanding. I'm fine with speculation but when posing an argument, it suggests you're trying to convince others of your opinion. I can't stand the dishonest who will not accept being convinced when they are out to convince.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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02-05-2012, 08:11 PM
RE: Presuppositional Apologetics
The apologetic arguments are enigmatic, circular, and above the burden of proof. How can you have a debate with someone entrenched so?
I love that apologetics as a word is so similiar to apology. Puts a smile on my face.

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