Against Presuppositional Apologetics

I was recently asked what I thought about Presuppositional apologetics. Here is my lengthy response in its entirety and unedited:
I don't bother with them much. They're in a world of their own. One simply cannot presuppose the truths of disputable historical events prior to investigating whether or not those events actually took place and keep a straight face.

21 comments:

Eternal Critic said...

Too bad presuppositionalists have a tendency to forget how to stfu.

unBeguiled said...

John,

Would you classify Plantinga's assertion that belief in God is properly basic as presuppositional apologetics?

John W. Loftus said...

unBeguiled, no.

Rev. Ouabache said...

Isn't "presuppositional" just another way of saying "begging the question"?

Thomas said...

John,
Which presuppositionalist has written that they presuppose the truths of disputable historical events prior to investigating? Any quotes or people you could name? Just curious where you got this from.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John,

You PRESUPPOSE naturalism. So what's the difference?

ahswan said...

John, just curious, how do distinguish your Control Beliefs from presuppositions?

SwimmerBoy84 said...

Actually, naturalism is not a necessary presupposition of the scientific method. But naturalism does fit the collective evidence of four centuries of scientific inquiry. If naturalistic theories were unsuccessful in describing and predicting events, it would be reasonable for scientists to abandon naturalism.

Jeffrey said...

LOL. I didn't expand the post the first time I saw it, because I didn't feel like slogging through a long contra-presup debate.

John W. Loftus said...

ahswan, here's my answer.

John W. Loftus said...

Thomas, whenever a presuppositionalist presupposes the whole Christian worldview then s/he is presupposing the truth claims of a host of disputable historical events.

John W. Loftus said...

District Harvey, my naturalism is not a presupposition. It's a conclusion I arrived at by the process of elimination and from the very fact that methodological naturalism works very well. I am first and formost a skeptic, a freethinker, and then secondly I'm an atheist.

floyd said...

Naturalism is a conclusion that people have come to, not an assumption that people began with. Materialism, naturalism and such are broad ontological views that was arrived at in the very teeth of religious dogma because of the unprecedented successes of the natural sciences. Theistic assumptions just proved irrelevant.

The presuppostionalist is caught in the following problem: "If God exists and serves as the guarantor of my beliefs, then I know what I think I know and I have a correct picture of reality. But if he does not exist or is not the guarantor of my beliefs, then I don't know what I think I know. I wonder which it is?" Now, as an epistemology, this is laughable.

As someone pointed out on another blog, presuppositional apologetics really just boils down to this: 1) Present opponent with insoluble problem. 2) Claim that opponent’s inability to solve insoluble problem invalidates their position. 3) When asked for solution to insoluble problem, run like hell.

Thomas said...

John, I asked for evidence that presuppositionalists presuppose disputable historical events prior to investigating (which was your original claim). Do you have any evidence (quotes, sources, etc.)?

John W. Loftus said...

Thomas, of course they do. One cannot assume the Christian worldview without doing so. If you want to read up on this approach to apologetics check out chapters 12-15 in Ken Boa & Rob Bowman's Free online book, Faith Has Its Reasons. It's right there plain as day for all to see.

Joe Staub said...

From the Christian's point of view the basis for presuppositional approach to apologetics is Romans 1, where Paul says the unbeliever suppresses the truth about God that is evident to him. Paul also says that the truth of God's existence is "evident" by the things God has made. Therefore, on this basis, the Christian argues from his world view, not for his world view. His world view is evident both externally and internally.

SE said...

Joe Staub, one could as easily say that it is evident that you are suppressing the truth about reality and the non-existence of your god and the imaginary nature of your fairy tale worldview.

For those interested in an atheist response to presuppositionalism, Dawson Bethrick's Incinerating Presuppositionalism is a good place to start.

Joe Staub said...

SE, I didn't mean to be insulting. As I think you took my comment. All I was pointing out was the basis for a presuppositional approach, which no one else stated. Furthermore, I don't think the "fairy tale" comparison is fair. No offense here, but if you think the gospel record is mere fair tale then I don't think you have done your homework. Myth and Legend do not developed in the same manner as what you find in the gospel records. You are not on the side of consensus scholarship, liberal or conservative.

Personally, I find the presuppositional approach to apologetics lacking, because you do have to respect the rational process in order to accept something as true and presuppositionalism doesn't do that. It is "too" cicular in its approach. It assumes too much.

SE said...

Joe, you seem like a nice guy. I was just responding to your comment, that's all. Points taken anyway.

On the fairy tale thing, it's much broader than the gospel stories representing myth and legend (though of course they do). It comes down to the fact that the Christian believes in magic, with stories of people walking on water, changing water into wine, and ascending into the air without the aid of a balloon or a flying machine, the sort of things people in fairy tales can do.

goprairie said...

if the stuff that god has made is proof of god's existance, what does all that candy i saw at walgreen's today say to the easter bunny's existance? my son has newly repaired shoes that must speak to the existance of a shoe repairman. the existance of the volcano must prove the volcano god exists.
oh, wait, the candy was made in factories, my son repaired his own shoes, and the volcano is the molten innards of the earth seeping out a thin spot in the crust? well, but god must exist cuz we attribute EVERYTHING to him and we can't explain where EVEERYTHING came from exactly, so it MUST be god. mustn't it?

earl said...

I read chapter 13 of Boa and Bowman. I'm not getting the warm fuzzy that you're being honest. I've also never heard a presuppositionalist use specific historical claims, and the philosophers of presuppositionalism specifically ABSTAIN from such specific historical claims. Presuppositionalism is so nonsectarian that it's nearly an apologia for deism, relying only on episgemology and axioms, metaphysics and reason, because only the Christian worldview gives unified applicable internally consistent meaning in those realms. Presuppositionalists first argue the necessity of A god, then later argur the necessity of the Christian God, then turn to historical arguments as they depart from presuppositionalism to classical apologetics.