Common Objections to Presuppositional Apologetics

This is a collection of common objections to presuppositional apologetics from across the web to think through.

Circularity Objections
1: “Properly speaking, the beliefs of (a particular interpretation of) God as true and the Bible as true are not presuppositions, they are conclusions. One does not begin with the assumption that God and the Bible are true. One arrives at this point after having read/heard the biblical text, interpreted such text, developed of a particular doctrine of God from the text, and so on. However, such positions cannot be gained unless one first presupposes the truthfulness of logic whereby the very process of interpretation could be meaningful. One cannot engineer a (particular) conception of God inside a logical framework only to turn around and say that their (particular) conception of God is the presupposition that allowed them to form such a conception. That is horrendously and viciously circular!”

2: “”Van Tillians seem to have a notion that all presuppositions except the most circular ones are on the same level. Since no one can be neutral, we must all begin with some sort of prior notions. Given such a stance, they can basically begin with the truth of Christian theism in at least some form. But somehow Frame proceeds from here to Scripture, as if this entire body of truth is justified by the need for a starting point.”

“Here Frame commits the informal logical fallacy of false analogy. He argues that rationalists must accept reason as an ultimate starting point, just as empiricists assume sense experience, and so on. So the Christian may begin with Scripture as a legitimate starting point. But these are not analogous bases. While the rationalist uses reason and the empiricist uses sense experience as tools from which to construct their systems, Frame assumes both the tool of special revelation and the system of Scripture, from which he develops his Christian theism. In other words, he assumes the reality of God’s existence, his personal interaction with humans, plus a specific product: Scripture. Does Frame not realize that, in the name of everyone needing a presupposition, he has imported an entire worldview when others have only asked for tools?”

“But these presuppositions are not all created equal! Frame allows rationalists and empiricists their methodological hook, while he demands the hook, line, and sinker for Christianity!”
(Habermas, Five Views on Apologetics, 242)

3: “”Presuppositionalism commits the informal fallacy of begging the question, for it advocates presupposing the truth of Christian theism in order to prove Christian theism. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could with a straight face think to show theism to be true by reasoning, ‘God exists, therefore God exists.’ A Christian theist himself will deny that question-begging arguments prove anything.”
(William Lane Craig, Five Views on Apologetics, 233)

Necessity of the Christian Worldview alone to Provide the Preconditions of Intelligibility
1: “Why should Christians privilege their particular god as the justification for induction? Why not suppose the source of induction is Allah, Zeus, Amon-Ra, a time traveler, sufficiently advanced technology, or entities from another planet? Why is the Christian god a better explanation for the source of induction than the Muslim god or a Greek god?

The Christian, in asserting the Christian god as an explanation for induction, unfairly privileges his/her particular god without any justification or explanation — at least from presuppositial apologetics — about how the properties of god are known. How does the Christian know that a particular god — one which is active in human affairs, sent his son to die on a cross, and is concerned about the actions of humans — is responsible for or the explanation for induction?”

2: “The advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument claims that he is able to prove that the Christian world-view alone can function as a sound epistemological presupposition. Given that there are an infinite number of alternative world-views, such must be shown to be the case. It is not enough to shift the burden of proof to the non-Christian, for to do so would be a defense of Christianity rather than a proof of it. It would be inductive reasoning – which is fallacious – to conclude that, given that a finite number of non-Christian world-views are evinced to be unsound, all other non-Christian world-views are likewise unsound. The burden of proof, then, is on the advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument to show that no world-view other than the Christian world-view is able to justify knowledge claims.”

Conceptual and Ontological Necessity of the Christian Worldview
1: “This is the most powerful and hardest objection to answer. This objection goes as follows: By proving the conceptual necessity of a worldview does not prove its ontological (or actual) reality. In other words, just because one can show that the Christian worldview is conceptually necessary does not mean that it is actually the way reality is. The challenge to the transcendental argument is this: to bridge the gap between having to believe the Christian worldview because it provides the necessary preconditions of human experience and showing that the Christian worldview is true.”

Against Two Worldviews
1: “The contention that there are only two world views, Christian Theism and non-Christian Theism, invokes the category error known as the fallacy of composition which I have exposed multiple times now in this thread as it is a favorite of Bahnsen’s supporters.
The fallacy of composition erroneously applies an attribute of a class member to the class itself. To say that there are only two worldviews consisting of Christianity and non-Christianity is like saying there are only two types of animals: cats and non-cats. While dogs are a single type of animal and giraffes are a single type of animal, it does not follow that the class that contains dogs, giraffes and all non-cats is a single type of animal. Similarly, while each specific member of the class of non-Christian worldviews may be a single worldview, it does not follow that the class is a single worldview.”

2: “I’m not a philosopher, but it seems to me that making a distinction between “Christianity” and “every philosophy and worldview that is not Christianity” is arbitrary. Couldn’t one make the same claim about Islam, or Judaism, or Scientology, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? What would prevent someone from saying that there are two worldviews, “Scientology” and “not-Scientology,” and since the Flying Spaghetti Monster is in the group “not-Scientology,” and is demonstrably false, therefore Scientology is true?
I would think that if you’re going to claim that a particular worldview is the only correct one by default, you do have to take the time to refute each competing worldview. I would also think that you have to look at each claim within each worldview as well. For example, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all agree on the existence of a monotheistic God. So you have to define what is meant by any of these and get everyone to agree, otherwise, just saying “Christianity” is meaningless.”

Distinctiveness of the Transcendental Argument from Traditional Arguments
“Against Van Til, Frame argues that transcendental arguments may be either direct (positive) or indirect (negative). For example, in Apologetics to the Glory of God, Frame asks: Are indirect arguments really distinct from direct arguments? In the final analysis, it doesn’t make much difference whether you say “Causality, therefore God” or “Without God, no causality, therefore God.” How are we to understand this? Interpreted one way these two arguments are really the same. The first is an enthymeme which when spelled-out reads: “There is causality and therefore God exists [for without God there could be no causality].” The second is also enthymematic which when spelled-out reads: “Without God there is no causality [but there is causality] therefore God exists.” Understood this way, Van Til would have no disagreement. This interpretation is not what Frame means by a direct or positive argument though. In his book on Van Til he writes: We can certainly conceive of a positive argument that would lead to a transcendental conclusion. We might, for example, develop a causal argument for God’s existence, prove that the ultimate cause of the world must have the attributes of the biblical God, and thus establish that all intelligibility in the universe derives from God. Notice that he is speaking here of a causal argument. Specifically, he is speaking of the traditional cosmological argument (an argument that concludes there must have been an Ultimate Cause, and this Ultimate Cause is God, since there are causes in the world). And this is certainly something Van Til would take issue with. The question before us then is, is the traditional cosmological argument (or other traditional arguments for God’s existence) a version of the transcendental argument stated in a direct or positive way? Put differently, was Van Til right about the distinctiveness of his argument for the existence of God? or is Frame right in saying that the transcendental argument is just a restatement of traditional arguments?”

Sufficiency of the Transcendental Argument
1: “First, I question whether the transcendental argument can function without the help of subsidiary arguments of a more traditional kind. Although I agree with Van Til’s premise that without God there is no meaning, I must grant that not everyone would immediately agree with that premise. How, then, is that premise to be proved? Is it that the meaning-laden character of creation requires a sort of designer? But that is the traditional teleological argument. Is it that the meaning-structure of reality requires an efficient cause? That is the traditional cosmological argument. Is it that meaning entails values, which in turn entail a valuer? That is a traditional values argument.”
(Frame, AGG, 71)

2: “If we grant Van Til’s point that a complete theistic argument should prove the whole biblical doctrine of God, then we must probe more than that God is the author of meaning and rationality. Ironically, at this point, Van Til is not sufficiently holistic! For besides proving that God is the author of meaning, we must (or may in some cases) prove that God is personal, sovereign, transcendent, immanent, and Trinitarian, not to mention infinite, eternal, wise, just, loving, omnipotent, etc. Thus, for another reason (in addition to the fact, already discussed, that it can not function without the help of subsidiary arguments of a more traditional kind), the transcendental argument requires supplementation by other arguments.”
(Frame, AGG, 73)

Other Objections
“For the presuppositionalist commitment to the concept of worldview is falsely imposed upon non-Christians. There is nothing inherent in the Bible or in the (Christian) conception of God that demands that human beings have an internally consistent, non-contradictory, and coherent “worldview.” Thus, the presuppositional apologist is himself inconsistent, for nothing in the Christian worldview demands that human beings have a systematically coherent worldview, and, therefore, nothing in the Christian worldview requires Christians to demand such a worldview of others, namely, non-Christians.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s