Notes from Greg Bahnsen’s lecture, The Aim of Apologetics: How to Argue with the Non-Atheist.
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
The presuppositional method of argumentation is to place yourself on the unbeliever’s presupposition and reason in the way that he reasons to show how his position destroys reason. Then we invite him to step into our position and show him how things are intelligible.
We should not answer the unbeliever in terms of his system of thinking that led him into his dire place in the first place or we will get stuck in his philosophical outlook. On the other hand, we should demonstrate where the unbeliever’s worldview leads by adopting his position for the sake of showing where it leads. We must show the unbeliever by way of internal critique where is system of philosophy leads. It cannot justify science, logic and morality etc. This is how you answer both the atheist and non-atheist in the same way.
There are four categories of non-Christian theists
A. World Religions
Hinduism: It teaches that everyone is on the wheel of life in which the Law of Karma determines how you will live your next life. The goal of life is to get off of the wheel of reincarnation. We want to accomplish moksha-liberation from the wheel of life and enter nirvana. Entering nirvana means to be merged into the whole of reality and lose consciousness. Everything is one and there are no true distinctions. Because all his one, everything that you see and think is illusory–maya. The problem though is every time I think, I am affirming a distinction between me and what I am thinking about, but they deny a subject object distinction. The Hindu says we cannot rely on our reason and we must rely upon mystical insight.
Hara Kirshna: You’re not in nirvana; you’re in a world of maya. You are on a wheel of life and if you don’t get things right, you’ll be reincarnated to lower life forms until you finally get enlightenment.
Christian: The real problem in my life is that we draw artificial distinctions when in fact ultimate reality is one.
Hara Krishna: Yes.
Christian: And I haven’t entered into nirvana because I keep drawing these distinctions and I need to be enlightened and give up that way of thinking.
Hara Krishna: Yes.
Christian: Then I am already in nirvana.
Hara Krishna: No you’re not because you are still here in this world that sees things in an illusory way.
Christian: Wait a minute, when you say that you’re assuming that there is a distinction between maya and nirvana. And if there is a distinction between maya and nirvana, then you’re wrong that ultimate reality has no distinctions.
Hara Krishna: You must be a philosophy student! You’re trying to trap me in your logical debate games.
Christian: No No. I was just trying to follow along with what you told me. You told me that there were no distinctions, so I’m not buying the distinction that I’m not in Nirvana.
Hara Krishna: The whole problem if your mentality is that you want to think in terms of logic!
Christian: Oh, you have a worldview that renounces logic. If you renounce logic, then you can’t be upset with logical contradictions. In fact, your entire worldview is made up of them. You want to renounce logic, yet you assert that your religion is true and mine is false?! Okay, I will now follow your lead and renounce logic. If your religion is true, then I profess that your religion is false. If you’re right, then you’re wrong.
B. Revelatory Religions
Muslims: The doctrine of Mukhalafa makes the revelation of the Koran impossible. It teaches that nothing can be postulated of Allah. He is utterly mysterious and beyond human comprehension. The doctrine of tanzih says that Allah is so different and utterly transcendent that nothing is like him. If nothing can be said of Allah, then how can the Koran speak of Allah in human language? The Koran teaches the authority of the Bible. They say Jews, Christians and Muslims are people of the Book. If the Koran teaches the authority of the Bible, then the Koran cannot be what it claims to be, since the Bible condemns the theology of the Koran. The Koran has embarrassing contradictions. It teaches that the mother of Jesus was the sister of Moses.
C. Christian Cults
Mormons: They teach polytheism and the idea that man can become gods. This theology is supposed to be consistent with the theology of the OT and NT. Deuteronomy says, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 13: 1-5)
If the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible, then it is false. They might claim that the Bible is corrupted and that their KJV Bible is the corrected one. They claim that their authority for doing so is Joseph Smith. Before Smith became the prophet of God, he was a con-man who stole money from people through trickery. We have one man who says the Bible is wrong, but is a criminal. Would you want to place authority upon him?
D. Nondescript theism (there is some god out there)
This view is arbitrary speculation. They have a god after their own making.
Objections against Christianity
A. Challenges based on consideration of logic and consistency
1. The Problem of Evil
God is all-powerful and all-loving, and yet there is evil in the world. Therefore, Christianity cannot be true. How do you deal with this challenge? We must do an internal critique of this objector. When the unbeliever poses this problem, one of his premises is that there is evil. We must challenge him to give an account of morality and being able to condemn evil on his worldview. We Christians only have to say that God decreed evil for a morally sufficient reason that we don’t know about.
B. Challenges based on considerations of factuality
1. The creationist view of the origins is wrong, because of evolution.
First, evolution demands empirical evidence. On the other hand, evolution runs counter of this claim. They have no idea why there are huge metaphysical leaps.
a) How did inorganic matter become organic? b) How did organic matter become sentient matter? c) How did sentient matter become intelligent matter? d) How did intelligent matter become moral matter? The evolutionists have no idea how they got the leaps between these things.
Secondly, if naturalism is true, then we can’t trust the results of our brain. Every event in the world has a naturalistic explanation. Our brain operates on natural principles and material forces. If so, then we can’t help but think the way we think. If naturalism is true, then we have no reason to believe in naturalism.
Thirdly, the nature of the evolutionary hypothesis is not scientific. It is a philosophical view.