Justin McCurry (Resequitur) is a blog contributor of Presuppositional Apologetics website, Choosing Hats. He has agreed to this written interview regarding answering objections against Presuppositionalism. We hope this material will equip you in your own apologetic endeavors!
Justin, thank you for spending time to be interviewed.
Presuppositionalists claim that the Christian Worldview alone provides the necessary preconditions for intelligibility, but what if one were to posit a worldview which is identical to the Christian Worldview except, the Trinity is a Quadrinity?
Good question! This has boggled the minds of those who participated on the now closed “Van Til List” . There were a lot of good thinkers there wrestling through this, so I think we need to take this kind of thing very seriously. Not for that reason alone, but because it is the Triune God we are speaking about. However, there needs to be a few things that we recognize before going about answering that question
First and foremost, it is apparent that the label “presuppositional” is very unhelpful. Mainly, because it’s such a basic point. We certainly need to point out the presuppositions of unbelievers, and press them where those things conflict. However, this isn’t what is basic to our methodology. The basis of our methodology is the Triune God and His subsequent revelation. Just what is this subsequent revelation? Everything that is made, including man. He created us in His image (which has particular implications) He didn’t stop there though, He spoke to man, and walked with man in the garden. So in the prelapsarian state (that is, before the fall) we have general revelation (the universe, and us) and special revelation (God speaking). Both of these were in perfect harmony. This is understood as a Covenant relationship. There is much more that should be said here, but what should categorize our methodology is our common ground with the unbeliever, which is the fact that believers and unbelievers are in the environment that God created Him in, and that man knows God by virtue of being created in His image. This is something that is basic to Van Til’s apologetic methodology.
So with God and His revelation central to our method, we want to distinguish from those who say something along the lines of “well you have your presuppositions and I have mine so I’ll just presuppose anything ” which is usually what we are told in the post-modern context. We want to address things in terms of God’s and His revelation. That’s what we’d call the starting point. From there we can challenge other starting points, or what Van Til would call “Points of Reference”.
In Fristianity, you have a head nod toward Christianity, only to pick up from there and add another person due to some sort of final appeal to mystery and private revelation. But in the acknowledge of Christian Theism, it destroys itself from the very beginning. In Christ you have the epitome of revelation, the fullness of it. In Him, you have the exegesis of the Father, and the sending of The Spirit (along with the Father). So it excludes itself by simply beginning there. Mystery and Revelation are closely tied, so you don’t have one without the other.
The argument itself is a friendly critique of the metaphysical claims of Van Til, however, in doing so, they seem to forget that Van Til is constraining his reasoning (as should any other Reformed apologetic) the revelation of God in Christ, which speaks to philosophy general, (particularly because it is the only way to do philosophy, as the fear of the LORD is it’s beginning and end). So it simply starts with a non-Christian view of God and ends with a Non-Christian view of God and says “job well done”. It openly parrots it, which concedes the fact that it needs Christian Theism (that is quick reference to The Triune God of Scripture) to make the argument.
Presuppositionalists engage in circular reasoning, they assume the truth of the Bible, which they are out to prove.
This one of the more common objections. But as Van Til pointed out, this shouldn’t be a sticking point for the way we conduct our apologetic. We would only simply point out that the unbeliever assumes many things, such as the reliability of their reasoning, the uniformity of nature, all of which they have no way of proving. So in some sense all epistemologies engage in circularity. This also takes us back to pointing out the silent preconceptions lodged deeply in the mind of the unbeliever, and pressing him to account for these things on his own terms (within his reference).
It’s also helpful to point out that epistemic circularity is not the same as logical circularity.
Presuppositionalists state that God is the guarantor for the reliability of their senses and reasoning because the Bible told them so. However, they need to use their senses and reasoning to find out that the Bible told them so. They are stuck in a vicious circle just like everyone else.
I think something helpful here is the distinction between a “Proximate Starting Point” (or PSP) and an “Ultimate Starting Point” (USP)
PSPs are things like reasoning, senses, and the like, within the environment God has placed us. This is all considered revelation from God (in a general sense). Our USP is the Triune God of Scripture. Now general revelation being interpreted by special revelation (given us our and all of creations “telos”) could probably go back and forth in either category.
I thought Richard Pratt wrote an excellent article here
How do you know that only the Christian Worldview provides the necessary preconditions of intelligibility?
Because Christ tells us in His Word that the fear of the LORD of is the beginning of wisdom. He is also the one in whom all things hold together, invisible and visible. And that all true knowledge and wisdom are deposited in Him.
Presuppositional Apologetics is simply a futile attempt to avoid providing evidences that Christianity does not have.
No, we actually like evidences, and to do evidences correctly, one would have to have a working philosophy of evidence, unlike that of empiricism or scientism.
I can reason, use my senses, be moral, conduct scientific experiments and live life just fine without God.
I agree that the unbeliever can do all of these things, but I disagree with the misconception that he is doing any of those things without God. For the very reason that the unbeliever can argue, ask questions, walk, interact online is because God determined to condescend and to create. Now the unbeliever will deny this, but he must provide for us an intelligible precondition, which makes it possible for him to do all of those said things. That otherwise he just taking them for granted!