Hello there everyone,

As a presuppositionalist, I am looking for a bit of help from other presuppositionalists. I have an agnostic friend whom I often debate with over the truth of Christianity. In explaining to him that the truth of Scripture and the God of Christianity is my presupposition upon which I justify everything else. Yet he brought up a point that has caused me to wonder if I misunderstand presuppositionalism. He said that it is impossible for the truth of Christianity to be the founding presupposition because before that, I have to assume that I exist, my senses are correct, and language in order to have any thought and even understand Scripture. I then wondered if by presupposing these things (my existence, the reliability of my senses, and language), I am presupposing the existence of God. For example, if I say that I am typing right now, I am presupposing the existence of myself and the keyboard because those are conditions that must be met for typing to be possible (although most are not aware of these presuppositions). Likewise, it is only under the condition of the existence of God that I can exist, my senses be correct, and for language to have any meaning. But I am wondering if Bahnsen or Van Til meant what I just said. Even if they did, it still seems that our senses, existence, and language take precedence over the assumption of the truth of Scripture and God. In any case, I am not certain and so I am wondering if anyone could shed some light on this topic.

Thank you.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi there David! It's been quite a while since I've gone through all the presuppositional apologetics stuff, so I might be a bit rusty, but from what I remember, I think Bahnsen and Van Til's way of looking at this WAS that we take the existence of God as precedence over our own senses. Why? Because only if that worldview is true, can we account for the reliability of the senses in the first place. Now, I assume you are already familiar with the general concept of the Transcendental Argument for God that Van Til put forth, and as such that you know that only the Judeo-Christian God will suffice (not just any theistic entity(ies). If we say that we must first presuppose our existence, we are essentially saying the Descartes principle ("I think therefore I am") carries the ultimate standard, which is flawed in itself. We are more apt to follow the cynical philosophers in concluding we can't know anything, which of course leads to absurdity (i.e. I can't even know that I don't know anything!). Since it is a battle of worldviews, the problem isn't the fact that we are presupposing that we already exist... Where the key is - what worldview can account for that presupposition to actually be correct? It is the Transcendental Argument's line of reasoning that only the Judeo-Christian worldview that adequately accounts for this - and all other presuppositions, for the matter.

You might find this resource helpful: VanTil.info

It is a collection of articles, media, etc. from individuals much more experienced with the apologetic than me, outlining, clarifying, expanding, and in some cases critiquing Van Til's presuppositional thought.

Thank you for your replies. I do find this website to be very helpful.
 
Tony J. Bowe said:

You might find this resource helpful: VanTil.info

It is a collection of articles, media, etc. from individuals much more experienced with the apologetic than me, outlining, clarifying, expanding, and in some cases critiquing Van Til's presuppositional thought.

Jason Lisle does a great job of condensing the presuppositionalist position in The Ultimate Proof of Creation. Per the arguments in his book, I think you could point out the following:

How does your friend know that it is impossible for the truth of Christianity to be the founding presupposition? Both sides must make a starting assumption of intelligibility, however, only the Christian has a basis for this. Both sides must first assume that their memory, senses, and logic are reliable – but it is only the Christian who has a reason as to why he can assume he can rely on these things.

Christians have an absolute, fixed standard for our reasoning b/c we pattern pattern our thoughts after God's - the laws of logic reflect how God thinks. 

The skeptic on the other hand, has no such basis for believing his reasoning - his belief that logic is reliable is arbitrary (same goes for his morality). He must assume without basis that things like logic and morality are fixed standards b/c nothing else in his evolutionary worldview is anchored in anything eternal or unchanging, but rather in chance and accident. In other words, he must borrow the Christian belief that the laws of logic are eternal and unchanging.

For a fuller explanation please check out Jason's book.

Thank you for your comment. I will definitely look into this.

Bill Foster said:

Jason Lisle does a great job of condensing the presuppositionalist position in The Ultimate Proof of Creation. Per the arguments in his book, I think you could point out the following:

How does your friend know that it is impossible for the truth of Christianity to be the founding presupposition? Both sides must make a starting assumption of intelligibility, however, only the Christian has a basis for this. Both sides must first assume that their memory, senses, and logic are reliable – but it is only the Christian who has a reason as to why he can assume he can rely on these things.

Christians have an absolute, fixed standard for our reasoning b/c we pattern pattern our thoughts after God's - the laws of logic reflect how God thinks. 

The skeptic on the other hand, has no such basis for believing his reasoning - his belief that logic is reliable is arbitrary (same goes for his morality). He must assume without basis that things like logic and morality are fixed standards b/c nothing else in his evolutionary worldview is anchored in anything eternal or unchanging, but rather in chance and accident. In other words, he must borrow the Christian belief that the laws of logic are eternal and unchanging.

For a fuller explanation please check out Jason's book.

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