Van Tillian Presuppositional Apologetics One Last Time

I've taken an afternoon and read some things about Van Tillian apologetics. I will waste no more time on it. It's stupid and incoherent to me, and that's all I can say. How intelligent people can actually believe this stuff, much less defend it, is simply beyond me. All they would have to do is to step back from their own arguments and they would see them as ridiculous and not worthy of the energy to type them into the computer.

Take for instance, Van Tillian presuppositionalist John Frame, who wrote: "But are we not still forced to say, 'God exists (presupposition), therefore God exists (conclusion),' and isn't that argument clearly circular? Yes, in a way. But that is unavoidable for any system, any worldview. One cannot argue for an ultimate standard by appealing to a different standard. That would be inconsistent." Five Views on Apologetics, ed., Steven B. Coven [(Zondervan, 2000), p. 217].

William Lane Craig: "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." Five Views on Apologetics (p. 233).

Gary R. Habermas: "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!" Five Views on Apologetics (p. 242).

Four other comments from me:
1) There is no reason why the existence of logic and reason demand that Christian theism is true when the Jew, the Muslim, or the Deist could make the same kind of argument. Jumping to Christian theism is a non sequitur. Hence there is no reason for presuppositionally preferring Christian theism to these other faiths, especially since a true "internal critique" is impossible (from the presuppositionalist's perspective). Even if a particular faith is found to be internally consistent, we still may ask if it corresponds to reality, if that is even possible.

2) To assert that God is the basis of logic is to fall within the same trap of the Euthyphro dilemma with regard to moral truth. Is something reasonable merely because God proclaims it so, or does God proclaim something reasonable because it is?

3) If God does not exist, then logic and reason may have no ultimate foundation, much like morals do not have an ultimate foundation. The way we reason may be nothing more than a Wittgenstein language game. Maybe reason has merely shown itself trustworthy by pragmatic verification based in the anthropic principle evidenced in the universe--it just works. Of course, it may be that reason doesn't work as well as the presuppositionalist proclaims. While the law of non-contradiction corresponds to reality, once we apply that law to a specific case in the empirical world, opponents will still disagree whether or not it applies. Oriental philosophers may reject logic outright as maya because it's based on a world-view they reject, due to their own presuppositional approach. [How presuppositional apologetics can make a dent in Oriental beliefs is a puzzle to me]

4) Chance cannot be rationally explained. If this universe took place by chance, then the fact that reason cannot figure it all out is exactly what we would expect. We would not be able to ultimately justify our use of reason, and so all we would have left from which to justify ultimacies of any kind are presuppositions. But the problem with presuppositions is that they can sometimes be viciously circular, disallowing any true internal critique. Hence if this universe took place by chance, then the fact that we have over 25,000 different religious sects in the world is just what we should expect to find. Why? Because reason is impotent to help decide between ultimacies here--each sect must presuppose what it must prove, and each one is thereby incommensurable with the others.

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