I want to close off this series of apologetics posts by considering some more quasi-intellectualism from the critic of presuppositional apologetics whom my debater FF relied upon for most of his reasoning. I have named him “Flaw” since he claims to have found the “fundamental flaw” within presuppositional apologetics. In his eight minute video rebuttal of the transcendental argument for God (TAG), he sounded clever, but sounded was the operative word. Consider that in setting presuppositionalists straight Flaw’s starting point is:
“The necessity of reality itself.”
One might think that this is a natural enough place to begin. But look again at what is being asserted. “Reality” (without God mind you) is “necessary.” Now a necessary thing is something which does not depend on anything else for what it is, but which other things need for their existence. To give a formal definition. “Necessary” is,
“[The] quality of a being that has the cause of its existence within itself; not ontologically dependent.” – William H. Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, (4th edition), 483.
Right from the get-go our critic of presuppositional apologetics is in the mud. Does he really intend to stand on the assertion that “reality” is “necessary”? If so, which part or parts of “reality” are necessary (i.e. non-contingent?). He doesn’t say.
What, we may inquire, is “reality” in this point of view? Perhaps it’s the natural world? But is this planet’s eco-system necessary, in the sense above? Of course it isn’t. The rest of the Cosmos could go on doing its thing without Earth being there.
Very well, is he saying “reality” as the Cosmos? is necessary? He can’t mean the Cosmos is necessary surely? Which astro-physicist or astronomer will agree with him on that one? Not even those who tout the Anthropic principle will go so far as to say the universe is necessary. In fact, not even any Christian theologian will say such a thing, since the universe is created by God.
Flaw pushes God out of the equation. God isn’t part of “reality” for him and his fellow atheists. But again, just what does the guy mean by the word “reality”? Does he mean “matter”? If he means matter is necessary then he must believe it is eternal, which contradicts the law of entropy. Now it is true that you must have matter if you are to have material objects, but then Flaw must be willing to come down off his philosophical perch and admit to using “necessary” in a non-technical manner, signifying something like “constituent.” In that case all he would be stating is the rather bland fact that material objects are made out of matter! A silly statement.
Note also that Flaw is speaking of “reality” as if he knows it is external to himself. Fine, but how does he know that this “reality” is actually what his senses report to his brain that it is? How does he know his brain is not constructing the outside world? And how does he know it is necessary? He philosophizes:
“There cannot be no reality at all. There are always facts. And since facts are about something, something necessarily has to exist.”
Okay, so “reality” is made up of “facts.” What “facts” are these? Are they “facts” about the world beyond his brain? Just what “facts” are those and how does he arrive at them? How does he know there is more than one fact? Eastern monists, for example, would object to any assertion of factual duality.
But Flaw is certain that “facts” (plural) exist. Moreover, he refers to “the relationships between those entities.”
Wow! So not only does this guy know that reality is “necessary” because “there are always facts”, but he knows “the relationships between those entities.” Take that David Hume! Flaw appears to have solved Hume’s critique of cause and effect.
Further, he opines, “the law of identity is a description of the fact of identity.”
Still tracking? He has claimed a great deal about what he “knows”, and yet has said nothing to back any of it up. We are just supposed to shut up and agree with him since he knows there are “facts” which are “necessary” (i.e. not reliant upon other things), and he can point us to “the relationships between those entities” (since he can identify whether they are the same or not by trusting his senses). From this fake ‘solid platform’ he is in a position to tell us that the law of logic we call the law of identity describes identity between things.
I realize readers will think this is all obvious. But the TAG approach asks for what lies behind and supports these obvious things. Flaw, FF, and atheists generally simply take it all for granted. When asked to provide the preconditions for our knowledge of the external world, or the relationships between facts, or the laws of logic, they retreat into the sort of pseudo-philosophy I have been critiquing.
Back on Planet Earth, you will recall that the transcendental argument for the existence of the biblical God is that unless He is presupposed you cannot make sense out of anything. So we have asked (many times), “how does the atheist account for the laws of logic?” The unpacking of that question entails the answers to questions about how we know what the extended world is like (which the laws of logic describe), and how we explain the relationship between concepts, classes, sets, numbers, etc, which are in our minds, and the entities out there (let alone their cause and effect relationships)?
Sound like a tall order? That’s because it is – unless you presuppose the God of the Bible and the teaching of the Bible about “reality.”
Rising Above The Level of Opinion
After we have been graced with a sensible answer to the question of rationality and the laws of thought we can move on to justice or truth, or history, or knowledge. But we will not hold our breath, for we have discovered that, behind the facade of cultured superiority, there nearly always lurks the decrepit supporting columns of arbitrariness and personal pontification.
Flaw is just taking a whole raft of things for granted. These are the very things which TAG wants him to account for! His starting premises are presented as foundational truths, but are really only his opinions.
For instance, in claiming that “there cannot be no reality at all” he is precluding nothingness. But why, from his standpoint, would one preclude nothingness? In answer to the fundamental question, “why is there anything instead of nothing?” the usual reply is something like, “well, there is something so why inquire?” – which is not an answer! But at least we don’t hear that “reality” is necessary.
“Nothingness” is not something. It contains no facts. There are no “facts” which can be identified and pondered. “Nothing” has no properties. It is the total absence of any fact. The only “fact” we can say about nothingness is that the absence of all properties is called “nothingness.” But the name is not the “nothingness” itself. In fact, the only way one can talk about nothing is if there is something.
As Flaw and FF surely see (since they make so much of it in their critique of the transcendental argument), the description is not the thing itself. To paraphrase his own words back to him, “the fundamental flaw is that this argument fails to make a distinction between the concept of nothingness and what it refers to.”
So why is there something rather than nothing? It would not stretch a novice to see that because there is something does not mean that that something is necessary.
To return to my point, Flaw’s statements about knowing “reality” and necessary facts and their relationships is on a par with FF’s views about morality or neutrality or God. They fail to rise above the level of opinion.
Being a Free Thinker
It is always amusing to read atheist self-impressions. They are “free thinkers”; Prometheans in thought. But does their worldview support the idea of freewill and free thought? How do they make sense of being a “free” thinker when their own view of themselves is that they are materially directed evolved machines, fulfilling their instincts? Have you noticed that when one of these “freethinkers” does try to provide a foundation for their position, that it descends from opinion to animal instinct, which terminates in the deterministic forces behind our individual brain chemistry?
These Freethinkers need to tell the truth to themselves. Under the godless regime of naturalistic forces, all their free thinking is “accidental-thinking” – meaning predetermined, and, like the forces they worship, non-teleological; pointless. If that is where their worldview spills them out then, in the end, it appears Bertrand Russell’s sarcastic swipe at William James’s pragmatic account of truth may be applied to many atheistic assertions about “reality” – “a truth is anything which it pays to believe.”
The trouble is, the dubious payment for being a freethinker stops at death and is replaced by payment of another sort (Jn. 3:36). In stark contrast the words of Jesus come down to us through the ages: “everyone that is of the truth hears My voice.” (Jn. 18:37).
It is that voice which makes “reality” intelligible!