Thursday, May 8, 2014

Presuppositionalism Made Simple

Too often there is more dispute on how Presuppositional apologetics should be performed and less practical instruction on how to put it to use. 

There are many great men who have made successful efforts to fill in these gaps in presuppositional apologetics application. John Frame, Greg Bahnsen, James Anderson, Jason Lisle and Sye Ten Bruggencate all come to mind. 

Where Do We Start?

We show existence, truth, goodness, justice, and beauty, can only be made sense of by the truth of Christianity alone. This can take effect in various ways. But it always involves comparing worldviews. We show Christianity to be true by demonstrating its logical opposite is false. Two principles must be followed in this process, (1) no one can be religiously neutral in their beliefs, and (2) no one, except God, can claim the rights of power and authority over all things, especially in intellectual or moral judgements. 

Some one-liner objections I recently encounter on the college campus. 

1. That's your interpretation. 
2. God is prideful
3. God is unloving if babies go to hell
4. The Bible is not God's word.
5. The Bible has been corrupted
6. Genocide is not justice. 
7. The heathen goes to hell without any hope. 

How can all these objections be answered properly without getting away from the gospel? All these questions can successfully be addressed by attacking the underlying presuppositions. Make God in all reasoning the ultimate standard. Man cannot be elevated to the position of God to judge Him. Man must be brought down intellectually to face his position before God--a mere limited creature dependent upon God for everything.   Let's try to do this. How would you answer these above one-liners?    

1. That's your interpretation. Often this objection is given to a particular passage or doctrinal teaching of scripture. You can always quote the disputed passage of Scripture. Ask the objector, "why do you say I am not interpreting this passage correctly?" And then proceed to tell the person its a quotation.  Notice the objector has made a fatal move in his objection. By pressing hard against the scripture's plain meaning, the objector substitutes its content with his desired meaning. He thinks the text has more than one valid interpretation. One interpretation is no better than another. The problem is the objector cannot possibly claim to know the text has multiple valid interpretations unless the objector also claims to interpret the text better than you. Thus the objector refutes himself. The objector claims, "nobody's interpretation is any better;" but in the same breath utters, "except my interpretation that nobody's interpretation is any better." To keep God first in handling this objection one can always simply say, "since you are limited in knowledge how can you know?  You are not God, yet you elevate yourself in the place of God to judge God. By who's authority, power, and right do you sit in judgement of God? If you arbitrarily appoint yourself as judge over God, you are no less than irrational, and no better than insane."                

2. God is prideful. This objection takes pride to be immoral. One could challenge the objector to make sense of morals without God. Or one can say the objector is a hypocrite, since he judges God as prideful, yet the objector makes the objection out of pride. He says in his heart, " at least I am not like that." The objector can rightly be corrected by biblical theology. God is the most perfect being and thus there is no pride that resides in Him. He ought to be praised, honored and glorified, not merely because he commands it, but, since he deserves it. He commands, deserves, and is worthy of, worship.    

3. God is unloving if babies go to hell. This is a sensitive issue which should be answered with precision and caution. I'd say Christ died for all those that will, or physically cannot (i.e. mentally disabled or infants), believe. Other plausible positions can be argued for as well. Let us assume though God sends babies to hell. How would this be unloving or unjust? Where can love or justice exist without God? God is the source of love and justice. Does not God have the right to do what He wants with His creation? Who are we, as limited humans, to question God? Is it not possible that God would still love them even in hell? The Scriptures teach us no one is innocent of sin. All humans are guilty of sin. Thus God would be perfectly just to send all mankind to hell. Yet God chose in His mercy to redeem and transform people from their sins in Jesus Christ. And I believe God, in His providence and compassion, saves those He has not given the time or physical ability to exercise faith in Christ to magnify His justice, mercy, love and grace.       

4. The Bible is not God's Word. Such an objection assumes the objecter knows the Bible is not God's Word. But how can a creature with limited knowledge know this? How does the objector know there is no evidence proving the Bible is God's Word?  Often this objection is made with a cluster of beliefs that drive it. So probe the objector with questions to get to the root of the problem. Underlying all these objections is the commitment that the objector is the standard of truth. This commitment must be challenged by the Bible itself. First, do this by showing the objector's prejudice against the Bible. Second, demonstrate the necessity of starting first with God to even approach the question of whether or not the Bible is or isn't God's Word. Third, reveal the glaring gaps in the objector's knowledge by explaining the historical reliability of the Scriptures, fulfilled prophecies, and archaeological  discoveries. Show the Bible alone provides us with explanation, consistency, coherence, conscience, hope, fulfillment and livability. It takes us from a limited perspective to an incorporation of the normative, existential and situational perspectives that finds completeness, an objective perspective, in Christ. That is to say, it brings us from the limited to the complete in Christ alone.         

5. The Bible has been corrupted. This objection can be taken as a shot in the dark. Simply ask, " can you prove this?" The objection is at its heart autobiographical information of the objector. It is merely the objector's opinion.   

6. Genocide is not justice. Why is genocide wrong to the objector since he rejects God? How can justice make sense if God is not taken as King in our beliefs? Once again, though, the objector is ignorant of Biblical theology. First, God has the right to dispose of His creation however He sees fit. Second, God is the locus of moral perfection, therefore, He alone is the standard of goodness. Third, all humans are guilty, so God can never be charged with Genocide.  God can only be seen as enforcing justice. 

7. The heathen goes to hell without any hope. There are multiple views on how to rightly answer this objection. I will simply say, that given general and/or special revelation, no one can claim to be without hope of knowing God since He has given us all sufficient knowledge of Himself. The heathen that goes to hell goes willfully rejecting God. He had enough revelation from God, to exercise faith in God, but He chose to fashion an idol in His place. 


wakawakwaka said...

"First, God has the right to dispose of His creation however He sees fit. "
might makes right and subjective morality

"Second, God is the locus of moral perfection, therefore, He alone is the standard of goodness."
once again might makes right is not objective morality

" Second, all humans are guilty, so God can never be charged with Genocide."
even if that was true god is still commiting genocide

" God can only be seen as enforcing justice."
how laughable can you get? your god set up everyone to fail and punishes them for it if you beieve that is "justice" then you have to believe its okay to frame someone for a crime and even after its been proven he as been framed that person would still be punished

you are a really hoot

wakawakwaka said...

"Show the Bible alone provides us with explanation, consistency, coherence, conscience, hope, fulfillment and livability."

unevidenced assertion that is impossble for you to prove and it can easily be shot down with the countless absrudities in the bible anyways

R.C. Dozier said...

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify what I said. I can summarize my position as follows:

God to commit genocide is logically impossible given

(1) God is the most perfect being, which includes moral perfection.
(2) God has the right--as the most perfect being, creator, sustainer and purpose of all things--to do what He wants with His creation (this entails God wants all things that is consistent with His good nature and plan, thus compatibilism is presupposed here). [1]
(3) All mankind is sinful and deserves nothing less than hell. My reasoning here is that sin is an infinite offense against an infinite God. The punishment must be proportionate to the crime.
(4) God is perfectly just in sentencing a person to death as part of punishment for sin. In fact, death is a punishment for sin.

R.C. Dozier said...

You want to deny (1) and (2) to replace it with:

'(1) God's power gives Him merely the ability, not right, to do what He wills with His creation.

But why think '(1) should replace (1) and (2)? By what grounds do you deny (1) and (2)? How are they logically incoherent?

You charge me with volunteerism. But this is misplaced. I have never argued that the good is merely what God arbitrarily decrees. I have argued that God decrees something qua good because He is essentially good. Thus I do believe there are objective (i.e. universally binding independent of one’s beliefs) moral values that come from God’s commands(

R.C. Dozier said...

Given your rejection of God, how do you make sense of objective moral values? If you take up, any given form of, naturalism there is no room for objective moral values. So how do you make room for them? You obviously object to genocide as objectively morally wrong, right? So do I! But given my worldview I can consistently object to it, but how, from your worldview, can you consistently object?

I do not believe God created everything whereby He is the only agent acting in this world, such a view would be occastionalism, I take it that God created a world of human creatures that can freely choose to act by what they most want to do. Divine determinism and creature determinism meshes together. So, for example, the Canaanites were punished not because God forced them to sin merely to punish them. The Canaanites were punished because they choose to act wickedly in the face of God’s grace. They could have chosen to repent, but they wanted sin more than God. God gave the Canaanites what they wanted by giving them over to their hearts lusts. Next, God rightly punished them for their sinfulness.

R.C. Dozier said...

You say my argument is impossible and absurd. I take it you mean logically impossible? In any case, I would gladly demonstrate my claim. Lets take up my claim that only by starting first with God can you have consistency. Consistency requires the laws of logic. You have said in previous posts these laws are true by definition. But this is merely a description. This does not even get near to an explanation for how one can make sense of these laws without God. These laws possess the properties of incorporeality, conceptuality, necessity, immutability, and normativity. All these properties only make sense given the fact that God is logical and has created us in His image to be logical. Sin, obviously, affects how well we are, but this is not relevant here. [3]