Presuppositional Objectivity

“Both believer and unbeliever – to the degree they take apologetical dispute seriously – want to maintain that their positions are objectively true (or at least closer to the objective ideal of truth than the other’s). However, as Van Til realized, this should not lure us into thinking naively that the conflicting worldviews will understand the concept of objectivity (or how to achieve it) in the same way. A difference is to be expected because objectivity is a fundamental value, and is therefore defined by the presuppositions of the worldview itself…

Van Til wanted apologists who aimed to be thoroughly self-conscious in their philosophical reasoning and faithful to their Christian worldview to realize that different schools of thought maintain different conceptions of objectivity (in accordance with their underlying metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical commitments). Christians reject any idea that truth is subjective. Indeed, it would be selling out the Christian faith to defend it as only subjectively true (or to suggest that religious truth is  a matter of one’s subjective choices or feelings). Nevertheless, if we hold consistently to our Christian commitments, we find ultimate objectivity in God’s point of view – in divine revelation, not in human reason. The non-Christian will not accept God’s revelation as the ultimate standard of truth, and he will therefore accuse the believer of “subjective prejudice” for evaluating all things according to that presupposition. Inevitably, arguments over objectivity become “circular” for the way in which one views it stems from one’s controlling presuppositions. There are really no two ways about it, nor is there any middle ground. The two worldviews operate with different notions of objectivity.

…By working with the notion that objectivity is the presuppositionless (neutral) activity of reason as it sorts “the facts” that are outside the mind and isolates “our restricting assumptions” that are within the mind, Beegle had to admit that reason is not really objective (neutral), but influenced by unconscious assumptions. Somehow reason, which is not objective in itself, is supposed to regain objectivity for itself! And under this artificial and incoherent conception of objectivity, Beegle subjects God’s word to an assessment of its objectivity by man’s reason as it explores the facts (a process admittedly nonobjective, but feigns self-objectification). For Van Til, objectivity in the Christian worldview is not a matter of having no presuppositions (and letting a pretended neutral reason to find the pretended external truth, which is actually organized by the subjective mind of man), but a matter of having the right presuppositions – that is, having the divine point of view gained through revelation.

So then, if we may summarize, the worldview of the Christian and the worldview of the non-Christian – the context within which their epistemological disagreements will be debated – subtly, yet profoudly disagree with each other. There is an antithesis in philosophical outlook that touches on the personal or impersonal nature of both reality and reasoning, the random or divinely reinterpreted (preplanned) character of events, final authority and value, the self-sufficiency of man’s mind as an interpreter, man’s nature and environment, facts, abstract concepts or principles, universals, logic, possibility, objectivity, etc.”

(Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 283-86)

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  1. Pingback: Early December 2015 Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links | The Domain for Truth

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