The Package Deal of Christianity

“…as a method of defending the faith, does not seek to build up a worldview element by element, with one argument for this, another argument for that, etc., etc. Presuppositionalism does not use its specific arguments as though this argument helps put one of the pieces of the puzzle in place, this argument puts another piece of the puzzle in place, and we keep using our arguments, or a series of arguments, until all the pieces of the puzzle are put in place. To change the metaphor, Dr. Van Til said, “Presuppositionalism doesn’t [_______296_____] like a blockhouse method” —you know, where you build the house block, by block, by block. Now it is true that we can only talk about one thing at a time—depending on how you individuate things—but we can’t say everything that can be said about the faith, nor can we use every argument that’s usable about the faith at the same time. However, don’t confuse that fact that we can only deal with one thing at a time with the idea that presuppositionalists are trying to bargain for one limited point, then another limited point, and they finally want to add all them up to the house of knowledge, or the house of faith, whatever it’s going to be. Even though we can only talk about one thing at a time, or focus attention on a particular aspect of our philosophy, or even pursue a specific line ofargument one at a time—these specific arguments are part of a larger more basic strategy, they are not a series of demonstrations of developing isolated points. And that’s why I believe when you’re a presuppositionalist, of course there will be a large variety of arguments. I might put it this way: a large variety of illustration are available for the point of our fundamental argument. Our basic strategy as presuppositionalist—to prove the possibility of the contrary, or how it’s impossible to make sense out of anything apart from the worldview, however you want to state that major point that we’re all trying to do—there are a variety of illustrations for that. But don’t confuse those illustrations with proving something about logic; now let’s use something about rationality; now let’s prove something about the uniformity of nature; and we’ll add all these up and we’ll finally get the Christian worldview. Presuppositionalists don’t believe that you build the Christian worldview. To put it very simply, the Christian worldview has been delivered to us as a packaged deal. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but you know what I’m getting at. God has delivered to us in His Word the entire picture. We don’t always see Him correctly, obviously. We could have another lecture about the hermeneutical circle, when He wrote the theology, and so forth, and the better we understand the faith the better we can defend it. That’s all true. But all I’m getting at here is that ideally or in theory we begin with an entire worldview, and then we go and we set that over against whatever the unbeliever has to offer by way of contrast.

You need to be remembering that the unbeliever might not be able to tell you what his worldview is. Many unbelievers, many believers, don’t talk that way. You have to learn to communicate, obviously. And Dr. Van Til said we mustn’t expect that unbelievers walk around with all of their philosophical, you know, system worked out ready to just give it to us. So when we get into an argument and somebody challenges our faith, he says what you have to is start inquiring into the presuppositions that this person is using—even though he or she didn’t know that she was using them. Okay. You may take a while to set the stage if you do this correctly; but eventually, in theory, to whatever degree we can with the time, and circumstances, and personalities involved, we want to set out the entire Christian worldview against the entire worldview of the unbeliever. And as we start arguing then, we’re dealing with isolated elements and illustrations of the presuppositional challenge.”

(Bahnsen, Answering Frame’s Critique of Van Til)

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