This post is my reply to a commenter on a previous short article on Presuppositonal Apologetics. It is too long to go under “comments” so I place it here. I wish to thank the individual for their comment, although, of course, I will take issue with it.
First Assertion: How does the presuppositionalist himself know that his god is not giving him false revelations? By what standard does he measure the truth value of Biblical statements? Upon purely subjective inclinations?
Response: The presuppositonalist reply to your question is in the form of what Cornelius Van Til called the impossibility of the contrary. Unless the Bible’s testimony is believed all claims of truth hang in mid-air. The standard by which the Christian knows the truth is the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. This Word is self-attesting, just as the Jesus whom it discloses is Self-attesting. Please understand, whether one believes the Bible or not is not the point here. The Bible does consistently claim to be the Word of the Creator and Jesus does consistently claim to be the Son of God. Because the Bible is the Christian’s ultimate standard it cannot, of course, be judged by other subordinate standards. If, like you, one rejects the Bible’s authority then another ultimate standard (which likewise cannot be judged by subordinate standards) must be in operation. This other standard must then provide a view of reality which comports with what is actually the case. At this point I would ask you what your ultimate authority is?
Moreover, any final authority must be able to explain its own rejection at the hands of humans. The Bible, with its claim to be the Word of the Creator, actually does provide such a framework. Moreover, other books and truth claims, from whatever non-biblical school of thought, converge upon truth or diverge from it in correspondence with their agreement with or rejection of the biblical witness.
In short, if one agrees with the Scriptural view of God, man and the world one has at hand the answers to the Big Questions: why am I here?; what is life about?; why is there something rather than nothing?; is there any meaning to life?; where am I going?; even, why is there evil in the world and will it always be this way?. One will also have the preconditions for our understanding of any fact (whether of reason, logic, science, beauty, number, etc.). If one disagrees with the biblical picture all that is left are the unsupportable claims and assertions of autonomous reason. Thus, any search for preconditions will end in an aporia of subjectivity. Even when one alleges a particular state of affairs to be so, it will be found that the factuality of that statement will be in direct relation to the agreement with the biblical description of it. Consequently, this is the only outlook which guarantees objectivity.
You ask about the “god” of the presuppositionalist. That is the God of the Bible. There is no other god. Since the God of the Bible is the God of the presuppositionalist, the impossibility of the contrary pertains to Him alone.
Second Assertion: What makes the presupper so certain that the universe does not contain the principles of its order within itself? Why must logic, for example, emanate from the mind of an anthropomorphic deity rather than from the nature of the material universe?
Response: Taking your second question first, the answer is that it shouldn’t. Why? Because you have asked about a false deity. I presume by an “anthropomorphic deity” you mean a god of man’s imagination? That is not a correct description of the Christian Triune God. You might think it is, but your question assumes I would agree with you. You imply that the material universe thinks. What does it think about? I doubt you have had many fruitful discussions with rocks or water. Are the laws of logic material? If not, can you explain how the material universe produces immaterial realities? And if these immaterial realities govern rational thought, don’t they then govern how we should think and talk about matter? By trying to trace the source of logic back to things like primeval gases (unless you have another non-biblical explanation for the universe), are you not attempting to ground rationality upon ultimate irrationality? (unless, of course, you think hydrogen has beliefs). And if reality is ultimately irrational, whence logic, morality, and truth?
Does “the universe contain the principles of its [own] order?” Are you asserting the universe is ultimately rational then? You will help me here by trying to explain how this is possible from your point of view. How does matter form immaterial laws of thought?
Third Assertion: Without an independent ability to verify reality, to trust one’s senses and reason independently of divine influence, the presupper might as well be living in a god-controlled version of the Matrix.
Response: Your statement assumes you possess this reliable independent ability. So how do you “verify reality”? How do you come to objective truth? How do you show those who differ from you they are wrong? If your answer includes items such as logic and scientific inference you will first have to answer the questions I put to you above so I can know how your viewpoint establishes such things. The Bible says we are created in God’s image and that God Himself designed us to relate to the world as He created it. Thus, when we discover a fact we are, in Kepler’s famous phrase, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” This establishes the possibility of objectivity of individual thought.
The Bible does not teach our minds are “god-controlled.” Your line about “a god-controlled version of the Matrix” is answered simply with; “unless reality is the way the Bible says it is, there is no possibility of providing an explanation for logic, science, morals etc. All that will come forth are groundless assertions.” I politely challenge you to try it!
Fourth Assertion: In my experience, presuppositionalist stonewalling is generally met with bewilderment and frustration from those who have any grasp of the general principles of epistemology. It’s a method of winning arguments without even making them, not a true effort to account for religious faith.
Response: And what are “the general principles of epistemology” and how can these principles be derived from mere matter? I thought there was a great deal of disagreement among epitemologists on this. Moreover, the Bible teaches an antithesis between believing and unbelieving worldviews, so I am not concerned with what non-Christians think about this approach. If they can produce the necessary preconditions for understanding their unbelieving assertions let them do it. They haven’t done it yet. Neither will you so long as you willfully resist the revelation of God. I am not stonewalling. I am challenging your assertions. You speak of an “effort to account for religious faith.” Whatever you mean by “religious faith” you have struck the right chord at the last. We must be able to account for the world and our beliefs about the world from our stated presuppositions. I hold that the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible is the Creator and upholder of reality; that He has made man’s mind and has given us the ability to comprehend His creation and to explore it to His glory. The biblical worldview teaches that reality can be known and appreciated. But it also teaches that we are fallen and the world is cursed. When people try to understand themselves and the world without reference to God’s Word their thinking is futile and their conclusions are gratuitous. In other words, whatever they seek to replace the biblical outlook with does not “fit” and is doomed to advancing things like logic emanates from the material universe.
I do not want to appear rude, and I hope you will not misconstrue my tone as truculent. I am just trying to respond from my perspective. I myself used to ask similar questions as those you have put to me. At the end of the day I have to tell you that you are running from the God you know is there in your heart of hearts. Your efforts to find meaning and purpose in life aside from your Creator will be futile, while adding to your condemnation. You might well have encountered people who call themselves Christians who were unloving and hypocritical. Join the club! But do not judge God by their hypocrisy. Don’t avoid Jesus Christ and His words to you because some “Christians” put you off. Perhaps you don’t? But I would be surprised if your animosity is not informed by such things.
In your “bio” you say you are seeking, among other things, “the ethical pursuit of happiness.” That is commendable. But upon what do you base your ethics? And why shouldn’t someone seek happiness unethically? I believe only the Bible has the answer.
I pray you will read about Jesus in the Gospels. Think about His words and His claims and His deeds. You can believe Him!