FF has responded to my first post in the combox of that post. Here I shall examine his remarks and add some new thoughts of my own. Unfortunately, he has not yet picked up the argument I made, neither has he relented from adopting his own position as normative. Now, I freely admit that if his outlook was normative I would not be arguing as I am. But neither would I be arguing at all, since, at least as far as I can see, all reasoning would be illusory; composed of the deterministic forces of matter and motion. I would have to agree with Sam Harris that there is no such thing as free agency. I believe what I do because that is the way my synapses are firing. FF believes the way he does for the same reason. There seems to be nothing but a futile finger-pointing available to us. Neither his Atheism nor my Christian Theism relate to anything outside our respective brain activity. That FF is debating shows that he believes free agency (here defined as ‘the ability to formulate judgments which transcend the laws of physics and chemistry, which may connect to the extended world, and for which we are responsible’), is not illusory but meaningful. Again, worldviews are at issue here.
Thank you for your response. I want to apologize for the wait. My schedule allows for limited time for this kind of interaction. Still, here is my reaction to your extended comment. I hope I shall be able to clear away some of the rubble which appears to be in the way of your seeing and evaluating my argument properly.
“No” to Natural Theology and Common Use of Reason
I want to begin by agreeing with you about the classical arguments for God’s existence: the ontological, cosmological (Kalam or otherwise), and teleological arguments. These all rest on a notion of what is called “natural theology,” which assumes a kind of neutral buffer-zone where Christians and non-Christians can meet to discuss their differences. Such a point of view is thoroughly unbiblical, as well as unsatisfying. I argue here that a Christian ought not to use natural theology. You are right that employing such “proofs” for God cannot end up with the Triune God of the Bible. One cannot use non-biblical philosophies to argue for the Biblical Worldview. It is for this reason I do not use them!
This admission effectively dismantles your whole comment (though you may not see it). This is because your response assumes I am in agreement with your use of reason, which is what I deny. On the contrary I hold that you are using a gift of God in rebellion to God. It is that denial and its basis which must be engaged. You still seem to assume you are on neutral territory. I tried to deal with that notion last time. You are assuming your worldview is able to account for the logic you are using. I contend both that neutrality is impossible, which is why I have admitted my own bias, but that you cannot justify logic in the first place, nevermind using it the way you do. You will understand at least from this that, if I am right, I have, in effect, issued you a call to repentance. In saying this I want you to know that I only stand where I do by grace, not by anything in me.
Restatement of TAG
The argument I have given you is a transcendental argument. One which inquires after the necessary conditions for something to be what it is. You said on FB that this presuppositional argument (or TAG) was “plainly fallacious.” But you have not really touched upon it in your response. This argument is that unless the God of the Bible is presupposed we are not able to make sense of anything in our experience. On the positive side, once we do accept the God who has revealed Himself supremely in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the foundation necessary for a coherent philosophy of life. For this reason you will see that it would be nonsensical of me to have the same starting point as you: for my whole assertion is that your starting point actually cannot “start.”
Now, even calling TAG “fallacious” implies that you stand outside of a worldview whose claim is that your use of logic cannot be justified from within your atheistic philosophy. I realize, of course, that you wholly reject this assertion (if you didn’t you would be a Christian 😉 ), but that is the position I am arguing for. All you have to do is to rebut the argument by supplying the preconditions for the intelligibility of logic (or justice, science, order, and the rest) from your naturalistic worldview. The TAG argument of Van Til and others is that the proof of the Christian position is that unless you presuppose it you cannot make sense of anything. That is, to use Van Til’s phrasing, the truth of the Christian worldview is established by what he called “the impossibility of the contrary.” He stated,
“Christianity alone does not crucify reason itself…the best, the only, the absolutely certain proof of the truth of Christianity is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no proof of anything.” – quoted in Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, 61.
Certainly there is more to say than that, and Van Til’s books are not easy reading, but that is the assertion. What he means here is not just challenging the unbeliever to make sense of the world, but positively making sense of it via the biblical revelation. That amounts to “certain proof.” By contrast, from what you say, your philosophy of life floats on a Sea of Skepticism. You would make sense of miracles only when you believe a worldview which explains them. And what I say about miracles, holds true for rationality itself.
So far, the only thing I can make out is that you believe logic is eternal and absolute on the one hand, and that humans “created it” (by which I think you mean “identified & categorized it”) on the other.
The presuppositional apologetic stands upon a revelatory theory of knowledge. Giving some instances (which I am not here pulling out as proofs per se): if we are really created in God’s rational image, in distinction to the animals, we would expect to be rationalizing and theorizing agents, able to express ourselves verbally, mathematically, pictorially, and architecturally in the world out there. The filling out of this sort of thing is the job of Theology, which I try to do through TELOS. But what would you put in place of these instances?
You see, this is where worldview meets everyday experience. When Newton and Kepler conceived of science as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”, that was a natural result of their worldview. But the atheist is left with a world without plan or purpose. He has no mandate to explore and analyze creation and exult in the wonders of nature. Therefore, the “why?” in “why do science?” is a colossal word. Why should he trust his senses? How can he know the real world beyond himself? If he is just a part in the inexorable evolutionary machinery of the universe, how can he hold to absolutes, and how does he escape from the clutches of subjectivity? These are huge questions.
Recall that the Christian Bible asserts that the unbeliever is utilizing concepts and criteria borrowed from God and smuggled into unbelieving interpretations of life. Reason, justice, normativity, ethical norms, induction, truth, goodness, scientific laws: these lay outside of those unbiblical outlooks. It is the importing of these good gifts of God into philosophies which cannot support them nor account for them, which renders the unbeliever culpable (John 3:19-21; Romans 1:18-25). The Christian worldview is expressed in the treatment of Christian Theology. If you stood within it you would not be making the jibes against it that you do.
‘Q’, Pantheism and Deism
Now, I love ‘Q’ from Star Trek. I wish he had been in one of the movies. Q is depicted as omnipotent. But he is part of a continuum of omnipotents (who in one episode strip him of his power). Of course, that is a contradiction in terms. He is selfish, immature, unethical, vengeful, and ignorant of many things. He always is coming to knowledge. Hence, Q is more like a Greco-Roman or Norse god. He is very unlike the Trinitarian God of Scripture! Compare, for example, Q with Jesus Christ. There just is no comparison.
Pantheism is the view that God and the universe is one. As such it is monistic. If all is really one then there can be no differentiation, and hence no predication at the core of existence. This destroys rationality and so is false.
Deism is the belief in an absentee god. Hence this god is not the God of the Bible. Who then is he/she? (or what?). What are its attributes? How do we make such a god the cause of all predication? How can a coherent world and life view get going under these conditions? Again, we end up not being able to account for experience.
This says enough for now. I look forward to your reply whenever you can fit it into your schedule.