A Confession

The more I read about presuppositional apologetics (PA) the more I like it as an apologetic method.  I’ll confess that I find it superior to others.  To start I think it’s more honest since it recognizes the gaping chasm that exists between believers and non-believers and it doesn’t pretend like there’s some sort of middle ground bridging the two sides.  It really is true that when you try to start out in neutral that you’ve already conceded your position.  Second, I appreciate that it does make use of evidence, it just doesn’t treat supposed evidences as unassailable proofs that no unbeliever could deny.  All evidence has to be interpreted and our presuppositions are vital to our interpretation.  Believers and unbelievers simply don’t see the same things when looking at the same evidence.  I could list some other things that I like about it but I’ll leave it here for the time being.  I will confess one more thing though: the more I read about PA the more I see just how vital the inerrancy of Scripture is—in fact I don’t think PA could exist without this foundation.  When I look back to old debates and exchanges that I used to have I see that the presuppositional method was somewhat intuitive and I was using it at times without even knowing it.  It’s probably not a coincidence that at that time I staunchly defended the inerrancy of Scripture as well.  Maybe things will come full circle; who knows?

If you’re interested in reading about PA then I’d recommend the following books (I’m sure there are others but these are the ones I know; perhaps Jeff Downs could weigh in with some recommendations):

You’ll notice a lack of reference to Van Til’s work directly (for the record I’ve yet to see anything of the Clarkian variety of PA that impresses me that it’s superior to Van Til’s approach); this is because Bahnsen’s book quotes Van Til extensively (he is, after all, offering an “analysis” of Van Til’s apologetic) and he’s quite difficult to understand.  Thank God for Bahnsen’s analysis!  But if you’re smarter than me (which is highly likely) then go to the source and read Van Til for yourself!

B”H

30 thoughts on “A Confession

  1. Have you seen it in action in any modern debates? I listened to a couple of lectures on it and I have to admit I’m a bit skeptical. It seemed kind of slippery and a bit sneaky. For some reason it kind of reminded me of the ontological argument. One of those things where something seems wrong with it but you just can’t put your finger on it.

  2. Bryan: Yeah, I’ve seen (= heard and read) Greg Bahnsen steamroll over Gordon Stein, and I’ve also seen a guy named Brant Bosserman use it in a debate on the Trinity with a Unitarian named Sean Finnegan. I think it’s the least sneaky of them all to be honest. It says up front that the believer and the unbeliever have no neutral ground on which to proceed and then makes its case from there taking the God’s Word revealed in Scripture as the ultimate authority and standard. What do you think is sneaky or slippery about it?

  3. Nick,
    I love presuppositional thinking, but am not the biggest fan of TAG. I think it can definitely win plenty of debates, but I think it cheapens the actual thinking that led to it. As for inerrancy, I’m an inerrantist, but in a more traditional sense of (as Jesus said), we err because we do not know the Scriptures. I don’t think inerrancy in the rigid sense (which is actually more common in evangelical churches) is necessary though.

    What’s most important is our (typically Reformed) understanding of reality. Christ lays claim over everything, and therefore no information, data, evidence or anything else is neutral. For an intro read Is There a Christian View of Everything from Nuts to Soup? by Roy Clouser. The best intro is actually Al Wolters book, Creation Regained. It honestly changed my thinking about theology/biblical studies and life more than anything outside of Scripture that I’ve ever read.

    The philosophy underlying presuppositional apologetics situates more clearly in Dutch Calvinistic thinking ala Dooyeweerd, Kuyper, Bavinck, Janse, Runner and others who haven’t yet been translated into English (although I wish they would). Here’s a mega-link with a ton of PDF downloads:

    http://www.reformationalpublishingproject.com/rpp/paideia_books.asp

    Even in Old Princeton (especially in the Machen/Ridderbos/Van Til period right before the fallout) it was only associated with inerrancy of the Warfield sense, which I think all of us would agree is much more nuanced than what your typical evangelical puts out there today.

    Schools like Calvin College are definitely not inerrantist in the non-nuanced sense, but clearly hold Scripture in high esteem. They use a presuppositionalist method to put out the most rigorous transcendental critiques of non-Christian thought available today. Guys like James K.A. Smith are constantly using transcendental critiques to find the underlying liturgies of consumerism, secularism and Americanism.

    So yeah, whereas I like the books above (especially Revelation and Reason), I think books by Kuyper such as Calvinism (which is hardly about what most of us think of when we say the word Calvinism) are also necessary for a more robust transcendental critique of non-Christian thought.

  4. I’ve heard about that Stein debate before, I was wondering about any debates with atheists that were more recent. I’m partial to the WLC way. I think there probably is some neutral ground that can be agreed upon. Now in the end you may end up debating particular suppositions (like naturalism) but then that’s a debate that can be had on neutral ground it seems. I’d be interested in hearing WLC’s take on presuppositionalism.

    It’s hard to put my finger on what I find sneaky and slippery about it. I am weary about it’s dependence on inerrancy though. That’s the thing. It seems like it may need to assume too much and then take a sneaky way of arguing for those assumptions. I would like to learn more about it though.

  5. Kyle: Ya know I’m actually impressed with TAG. I’ve yet to encounter anything approaching a successful refutation of it and in the hands of a skilled debater it’s a devastating weapon.

    The necessity I see for inerrancy in PA is basically this: if the Word of God can err then God can err and he’s no more trustworthy than any other errant authority. God ceases to be an ultimate standard on this reading.

    It’s going to be a long while before I’m able to get around to all those Dutch guys. Would that I had the time, the resources, and a facility with Dutch to read them all! Thanks for the links!

    Bryan: Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens is more recent but I’ve only read their written exchanges. I haven’t seen any of their live debates past the promo video for Collision.

    As a debater I think WLC is one of the best because of his rhetorical skill and his vast knowledge of secondary literature (which always seems to be current) but the real problem with WLC’s method is that he he concedes his position from the onset and then tries to get it back. Gary Habermas does the same thing (as does Mike Licona) with regard to the resurrection.

    I’m curious what neutral ground you see though. If the debate is over naturalism then you’re either a (philosophical?) naturalist or you are not, right? You’d have to argue for one or the other, wouldn’t you? How can one be neutral there?

    As far as WLC’s take on PA it’s pretty much like mine used to be before I read more broadly in the field (not that he hasn’t read broadly; I’m sure he’s more familiar with it than I am!). But he thinks it’s a question begging method of apologetics (see Five Views on Apologetics, p. 232). I’d still agree with him that the argument is circular but the strength of PA, as John Frame argues, is that literally all systems are circular. Something has to be taken for granted without being defended (i.e., our most basic and foundational presuppositions). So the rationalist takes reason as their ultimate standard and argues according to reason yet never bothers to prove that reason exists or defend why reason is a better starting point than anything else. Likewise, the Christian begins with God as their ultimate standard and bases all that follows on this starting point.

  6. Hmm, I think presuppositions do have warrant, but I think appealing to “middle ground” has scriptural warrant too. I’m thinking particularly Paul in Athens and the early church in general in the synagogue. I think part of “becoming all things to all men” is arguing with them on their terms, at least some of the time. Granted there is a huge gap, but I think we’re called into it rather often.

  7. Alex,
    I think a presuppositionalist would say that Paul was doing an internal critique of their worldview at first, but brings his hearers back into his worldview to give an apologetic. Paul still uses their language, but he’s making a thoroughly Christian argument based on Christian presuppositions.

    Nick,
    I think some Dutch Calvinists take our Trinitarian God as their ultimate foundation and see his acts in history and His revelation in Scripture as confirming their core presupposition. Maybe Jeff can correct me, but it seems to me that both Van Til and Frame set the core presupposition as Scripture which reveals our Trinitarian God (although in Van Til it’s specifically Scripture as interpreted by the Reformed confessions).

  8. Humm, it is May 21, not April 1; so this is not an April Fool’s joke. I do know you’ve been reading material on PA. Humm, do I trust this is a serious post……..I’m skeptical, but I’ve got a smile on my face. :)

    First, for a more recent debate see Dan Barker and (I know, you love to hate him) James White (interestingly, the Website seems to be down). Also, check out Paul Manata’s debate with Dan Barker here.

    I don’t like the fact that presuppositionalists are not on the front line debating, but that’s another issue.

    Secondly, I would recommend any from Scott Oliphint on apologetics. You can grab some audio from Oliphint on WTS’s Website here For example, is lecture titled “Plantinga and the Problem of Evil” is great stuff. It is a critique of Plantiga.

    Third, I would recommend you put this site into your reader. See also this important post from a good friend of mine.

    Those are a few resources. You’ve already mentioned the books. Perhaps one more might be Tom Notaro’s book Van Till and evidences.

    Lord willing, after seminary I will pick this stuff back up and work on some things.

    You’re almost there Nick!!! :)

  9. G. said …it seems to me that both Van Til and Frame set the core presupposition as Scripture which reveals our Trinitarian God (although in Van Til it’s specifically Scripture as interpreted by the Reformed confessions).

    A very important and neglected point in presuppositional apologetics (notice the absence of it in Bahnsen’s Reading and Analysis. An important work on this would be Lane Tipton’s dissertation on Van Til’s Trinitarian Theology.

    You can listen to an interview with Tipton on this topic here, but I remember after listening, I wasn’t impressed with the interview. If I remember correctly, the did not stay on the topic…there was much more to be said.

  10. Hey Nick, do presuppositionalists deny the existence of objectivity in all areas, or just when the debate is about the authority or inerrancy of Scripture?

  11. Nick:
    I’ll have to see if I can watch that debate. It appears like presuppositionalism might not be used that often in debates though. Am I right?

    “the real problem with WLC’s method is that he he concedes his position from the onset and then tries to get it back.”

    I’m not too clear on what you mean by he concedes his position from the onset and tries to get it back. Can you give me an example?

    “I’m curious what neutral ground you see though. If the debate is over naturalism then you’re either a (philosophical?) naturalist or you are not, right? You’d have to argue for one or the other, wouldn’t you? How can one be neutral there?”

    It depends on what the debate is over. I guess if it’s over whether naturalism is true or not then the neutral ground would maybe be logic and experience. Neither side starts with an advantage since it’s up to both to make a positive case for their position so they both must utilize the same tools to form their arguments.

    “I’d still agree with him that the argument is circular but the strength of PA, as John Frame argues, is that literally all systems are circular. ”

    Hmmm. I guess that may be true and it would be interesting to look at that. Is presuppositionalism viciously circular though? Is that what WLC thinks of it?

    “So the rationalist takes reason as their ultimate standard and argues according to reason yet never bothers to prove that reason exists or defend why reason is a better starting point than anything else. Likewise, the Christian begins with God as their ultimate standard and bases all that follows on this starting point.”

    This is something I’m a bit stuck on. How do you prove reason apart from reason? What other starting points could there be for trying to convince someone of something? I might be misunderstanding you here.

    You’ve raised some interesting issues that would be neat to explore.

  12. Alex: I’d echo what Kyle said while also noting that Paul is adamant about the unbeliever being hostile toward God in Romans. This lies at the foundation of PA. The unbeliever is quite literally God’s enemy while the believer submits to God in all things (to include their reasoning and arguments). PA allows the believer to assume the position of the unbeliever for the sake of argument and then show them its inconsistency. In Athens the Greeks had a statue devoted to an unknown God. Paul doesn’t bother to preach a sermon about worthless idols. Rather he adopts their position that all these gods exist. But of the unknown God he doesn’t say, “well, that God can be any number of gods and here’s why I think it’s the God I worship.” Instead he says, “the one you worship without knowing, him I proclaim to you.” He’s not making a cumulative case there but rather proclaiming the truth of his worldview.

    Kyle: I think your assessment is generally correct from what I’ve read. I’m comfortable with either approach but I’d prefer to take God as the starting point rather than Scripture. But judging from Reformed Creeds (and the systematic theology that follwed) it seems that it’s commonplace to begin with Scripture.

    Jeff: It’s not a joke. I’m not all the way there yet but it keeps getting more and more appealing. Thanks for all the resources!

    James: I can’t speak for all presuppositionalists but from my reading of Frame he would deny objectivity on the part of the creature in all areas claiming that only God has truly objective knowledge. This is why God and Scripture are the standards by which all else is evaluated. Bahnsen speaks of believers having an objective faith but he defines this as what Scripture reveals so Scripture is again the standard. You might want to ask someone more learned than me in this area though.

    Bryan: If Jeff’s comment above is any indication then I think that it’s not at the forefront. I think the thing is that plenty of presuppositionalists debate (look at James White who debates like every other day) and I’m sure they employ their method, but I think it lends itself to certain subjects better than others. For example, when I reviewed Gary Demar’s book on Bahnsen’s apologetic I noted how devastating I think PA is against atheism but I struggle to see it as being as strong against other forms of theism which can make the same claims (i.e., they all have their gods and their scriptures to appeal to).

    What I mean about conceding his position is that WLC/Habermas/Licona all start out by saying something like, “There’s any number of possible explanations for why Jesus’ tomb was empty but here’s why I think the Resurrection is the best possible explanation.” The problem is that it assumes that the believer and unbeliever can evaluate the same lines of evidence in the same way. It starts out admitting the possibility that the argument might be wrong and then plays catchup the whole time in showing why it’s probably not wrong even though it possibly is.

    Frame doesn’t think PA is viciously circular and at points he shows that certain aspects of it aren’t circular at all. E.g., he talks about:

    faith governing reason [but being] based on rationality.” He says that while this sounds circular it isn’t really because “the rationality that serves as the rational basis for faith is God’s own rationality. The sequence is: God’s rationality → human faith → human reasoning. The arrows may be read ‘is the rational basis for.’ That sequence is linear, not circular.” (Five View on Apologetics, 210)

    WLC doesn’t call it viciously circular but I’d surmise that’s what he thinks of it.

    Exactly! It’s a foundational presuppositions and such presuppositions are taken for granted without being defended or argued for. But there’s a greater standard than reason (or logic) in God. The very appeal to reason or logic assumes God’s existence since these concepts can’t be accounted for if the unbelieving worldview was consistent within itself. Reason and logic express precision and order while unbelief is chaotic and random. The point isn’t that unbelievers are chaotic and random; it’s that they’re ordered because they’re not consistent in their worldview. They always have to reach into the believer’s worldview whether they like it or not because like it or not our standard is the ultimate standard.

  13. Nick:
    I was wondering how it fared against other forms of theism. It does seem to have limited application and apologetics is quite a bit more than just arguments for the existence of God.

    “The problem is that it assumes that the believer and unbeliever can evaluate the same lines of evidence in the same way. It starts out admitting the possibility that the argument might be wrong and then plays catchup the whole time in showing why it’s probably not wrong even though it possibly is.”

    Given that Habermas was originally an atheist and became a Christian through examining the claims of Christianity (I don’t remember if it was specifically the resurrection) I think believers and nonbelievers can evaluate the same lines of evidence the same way and come to the same conclusions. And regarding playing catchup it seems like the one denying the resurrection is also in the same boat so neither is conceding too much to the other that hasn’t already been conceded to them.

    I wasn’t really sure what Frame was getting at in the quote. I’m curious how he defines rationality and reason since he sees them as different. I guess I usually see them as having a lot of similarity and I often use them as synonyms.

    “Exactly! It’s a foundational presuppositions and such presuppositions are taken for granted without being defended or argued for. ”

    What I’m getting a bit confused at here is that it seems like we’re switching between like foundationalism and coherentism and I’m not sure which they’re relying on in their arguments. Are we looking for foundations or are we just looking for a coherent system? This issue is very much tied to epistemology so I’m wondering what theory of epistemology they’re advocating.

    “The very appeal to reason or logic assumes God’s existence since these concepts can’t be accounted for if the unbelieving worldview was consistent within itself. Reason and logic express precision and order while unbelief is chaotic and random.”

    I don’t see how that follows and it seems like that argument itself depends on reason to validate itself. If nothing else it seems like reason is a neutral ground from which to debate since you are assuming that using reason which the atheist can understand you can convince the atheist that reason or logic is dependent on God. However if they can come up with a probable explanation where reason or logic does not need God to exist then that seems to undercut that argument. And that’s the thing; if you can have that debate then I’m not sure how presuppositionalism helps. You can’t just assume that only God explains reason and logic, but you have to actually make that argument. If you do then you are conceding ground just like you said. If you refuse to make that reasoned argument then you are begging the question which seems to validate the criticism of it.

    Do you know any philosophers of religion that are presuppositionalist? It seems like most are theologians.

  14. Hey guys,
    I’m inviting the Choosing Hats guys to join the conversation since they understand PA better than most of us and could help clarify some of the questions.

  15. Bryan: I’ll offer some thoughts before Kyle’s buddies come over. Keep in mind that I’m very much still a novice with all of this so I might be totally misrepresenting PA (although I don’t think that I am).

    Apologetics is indeed more than arguments for the existence of God, but the existence of God is the underlying presupposition of all Christian apologetics.

    I think Habermas said that before he converted to Christianity he was into some kind of Eastern religion. I think he might have been an atheist before that but no matter. The only way that believers and unbelievers can examine the same evidence in the same way and come to the same conclusions is if one adopts the others worldview. Now the believer can do this for the sake of argument to show the inconsistency or incoherence of the unbelieving worldview but then he wouldn’t be coming to the same conclusion. Unbelievers do very often borrow from the Christian worldview (like when they want to make sense out of anything) but that’s inconsistent with their worldview.

    But let’s take the Resurrection as an example. An unbeliever who holds philosophical naturalism as a presupposition simply cannot evaluate the evidence for the Resurrection in the same way that a believer who holds Christian theism as a presupposition can. From the onset the unbeliever’s presuppositions tell him that there has to be an natural explanation for the evidence. The believer’s presuppositions tell him that there is a divine explanation and it’s the one found in Scripture. Unless one adopts the others worldview then there is no way of viewing the evidence in the same way.

    We’re looking for both since both are tied up in one’s worldview. Gary Demar gives an expanded definition of “worldview” that is essentially Bahnsen’s definition:

    A worldview is a network of presuppositons (which are not verified by the procedures of natural science) regarding reality (metaphysics), knowing (epistemology), and conduct (ethics) in terms of which every element of human experience is related and interpreted. (Pushing the Antithesis, 42-43)

    It’s a package deal in which we look for coherence according to one’s ultimate standard (= foundation). Here’s a portion of my review of Demar’s book that I think is relevant here:

    Metaphysical presuppositions are necessary to reasoning — Every system of thought needs a staring point. Bahnsen says that you must challenge a person’s basic assumptions and demand they provide you with a standard of evaluation. He lists four responses to the question: ‘How do you know that is the right standard?’ [p. 121-22]

    1. He can admit that his standard of evaluation in his worldview has no justification (thus rendering his position arbitrary and irrational).
    2. He can argue that his standard is established by some standard outside of itself (thus admitting that a new standard becomes more ultimate, thereby destroying his previously determined “ultimate” standard).
    3. He can then keep seeking a more ultimate standard, becoming trapped in an infinite regress argument, thereby rendering his standard unknown or unknowable.
    4. He can point to a truly ultimate, self-verifying standard that explains all else, in that it is the ultimate standard beyond which no appeal can be made, as in the Christian worldview which points to God (Heb. 6:13).

    As I see it, the unbelieving worldview would have to rely on #1 in order to be consistent, but very few unbelievers will admit that there is no justification for their beliefs (whatever they are).

    Reason is far from neutral ground. For the believer the very existence of reason is dependent upon an even more ultimate standard of God. Laws of logic exist because God exists to order them. The ability for human to think rationally exists because we were created in the image of a rational God. And the problem is that the unbeliever can’t come up with a reasonable argument for the existence of reason apart from God. In their worldview there should be nothing like reason since everything has come about by random chance. At best they can say that reason is a human convention but then it becomes impossible to standardize. Conventions change and so reason can change with human fancy. And why can you not presuppose (I’d use this rather than ‘assume’) that God grounds reason? Why would you have to argue it? Or to pose the question differently, how can reason be explained in any coherent and consistent way apart from appeal to the existence of God? I’d contend that it can’t be. This is pretty much what Bahnsen calls the “impossibility of the opposite.”

    I’m not really up on philosophers of religion or presuppositionalists to be honest. I know of only a handful of each and I don’t know that the philosophers are in terms of their apologetic methodologies. I will say that Bahnsen was a trained philosopher and not a theologian. He had a B.A. in philosophy from Westmont College and a Ph.D. in philosophy with an emphasis on epistemology from USC.

    Kyle: Thanks! Hopefully they’ll be able to clear some stuff up.

  16. Nick:
    Thanks for the response. I’m not really following you on the reason issue, mostly because I disagree with some of the assumptions.

    However, I think this is getting a bit too long at this point and I don’t think I have the energy to pursue it any further so I’ll just back out now. Maybe we continue this in email at some point. Thanks.

  17. Bryan: Sure thing. I’d like to hear your position on the reason issue so feel free to email me anytime you feel like typing something out.

  18. While I’m not one of the Choosing Hats gurus, I have occasionally been graced to be granted association with them. :) Let me throw in two or three cents, if I might be so bold. (This was an encouraging discussion to read, by the way and insightful questions and comments were brought in by all parties, imho.)

    The presuppositional method is best explicated in terms of the absolute Lordship of Christ and best exemplified in Proverbs 26:4-5 (http://www.erikwait.com/index.cgi?action=display_one&story_id=499). If Christ is Lord of all, then there can be no neutrality on any issue. Every apologetic argument will either be presented while assuming that Christ is Lord or not, assuming that the triune God of Scripture lives or doesn’t, etc. Nothing can be autonomous if Christ is Lord. To assume that anything is “neutral” is to assume non-Christianity while arguing for Christianity, which is clearly a self-defeating enterprise.

    “How do you prove reason apart from reason? What other starting points could there be for trying to convince someone of something?” or “I don’t know that reason can be proved. It seems that in even questioning it it is assuming reason.”

    These sorts of statements are the beginnings of recognizing the nature of transcendental argumentation (TA). That you cannot deny reason without presupposing reason is one of the best reasons for believing in reason (an informal TA for reason, as such). But shouldn’t every Christian be eager to affirm the same sort of thing about God?

    How do you prove space and time exist without simultaneously assuming their existence? You can not. So how would you prove the existence of *the Creator* of space and time without assuming His existence?

    The point regarding foundationalism and coherentism is important and would require a much fuller response than I can provide right now. Van Til doesn’t appear to have broached the question himself anywhere and Van Tillians have tended to shy away from categorizing our epistemology into either class. Frame advocates a “triperspectival epistemology” (http://www.proginosko.com/docs/FrameFestschriftEssay.pdf). Clarkian presuppositionalism advocates “divine coherentism” (see Gary Crampton’s book The Scripturalism of Gordon Clark). Suffice it to say that there isn’t a consensus on the matter at this juncture.

    The question was raised regarding how presuppositionalism fares in refuting various non-atheistic worldviews. The two-track method of Proverbs 26:4-5 should help make clear how the method is applied across a broad variety of circumstances, showing that every worldview but Christianity fails to provide the necessary preconditions for intelligibility.

    Bahnsen has also lectured extensively on a variety of world religions and philosophies from a presuppositional perspective (http://www.cmfnow.com/).

    Here’s a presuppositional critique of Buddhism from Paul Manata: http://www.rctr.org/journal/3.htm

    And the question was asked about presuppositionalists who also happen to be philosophers of religion. A short list includes Michael Sudduth, James Anderson, Greg Welty, David Byron, Sean Choi and Chris Bolt. :)

  19. Zao: I appreciate your taking the time to share all that. It really helps. And I can’t believe I forgot to mention Anderson as a philosopher who’s a presuppositionalist! The others I’m not familiar with.

  20. Greetings,

    While checking Choosing Hats today for the first time since Friday I followed a link here that someone left for me. As Zao Thanatoo knows, I am currently rather busy.

    Some of the comments here such as “the Choosing Hats guys…understand PA better than most of us and could help clarify some of the questions” and “While I’m not one of the Choosing Hats gurus, I have occasionally been graced to be granted association with them” are undeserved and contain some falsehoods insofar as they refer to me.

    The conversation here is well informed and charitable. It looks like Nick Norelli gets it. Concerning debates – I have used the method in formal and informal debates. Concerning religious worldviews – I had contemplated writing a short post or two on that subject and now I likely will.

    If someone does have specific questions they want to fire my way or even post here I would be happy to help if I am able. chrisbolt@ymail.com

    Looks like a great site that I will add to my ‘Favorites’.

    Grace,
    Chris

  21. Wow,
    Great feedback here.
    Just FYI with some of the comments I see here, concerning the questions of whether there are philosophers that are Presup, Van Til does have a doctorate in Philosophy at Princeton; another more different presuppositionalists name Gordon Clark is also a philosopher. And of course, don’t forget Bahnsen. =)
    Concerning the comment on Greg Bahnsen as a philosopher, and questions of whether or not he’s a theologian, he does have an MDiv., and a ThM from Westminister Theological Seminary, and has taught at Reformed Theological Seminary as well, in addition to writing on theological matters.
    I see some important Presuppositionalists on the internet have also commented. Just for reference Nick, Jeff Downs is a great source of materials on apologetics, though seminary and life has taken alot of time from having an online presence as he use to have. Chris Bolt over at choosinghats is constantly engaging the issues and in the front lines. He’s currently a student at Southern Seminary, and I occassionally pray for Chris, that God will keep him on a strong path with the Lord in the area of apologetics, and also wisdom in defending the truth.

  22. SLIMJIM: Thanks for the info. I read a couple of posts on Choosing Hats blog about Van Til being a philosopher. I’m not as familiar with Clark though. And Jeff is definitely a great source of info. I call him the “data miner.” He’s always alerting me to books, articles, podcasts, etc.

  23. I believe that one’s epistemology must be informed by one’s harmartiology. The compromise here unleashes so much of the biblical inconsistencies in a formal debate format or better yet, a daily conversation between Christian and non-Christian. I prefer the term “sharing” over debate personally. The inconsistency will prove the Christian as naive of the noetic effects of the Fall on the mind’s ability to reason on spiritual matters. We have a common ontological ground, not entomological.

    We need to build a system from the ground up, the ground being God’s Word. Proverbs 3:5-7 sheds a philosophical light on this perspective. The writer tells us that we should trust in the Lord with all our heart and to not lean on our own understanding; in all our ways we are to acknowledge God, and it is God who will make our path’s straight. He then warns us to not be wise in our own eyes but to fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

    A Christian system of apologetics needs to first start with the testimony of Scripture. This testimony is the basis in understanding the nature of reality in its divine, human, and cosmic aspects.

    The internal evidence of Scripture ought to be presented unashamedly from the starting point of the Bible as God’s authoritative Word. It ought to be presented with passion and power, with gentleness and tenderness of heart and the prayer that the Holy Spirit will open the blind eyes of the hearer so they will see the overwhelming Scriptural evidence and bow in repentance and faith. Our theology must supply the presuppositions of apologetics. Apologetics must never come before our theology.

    The key starting point is understanding the image of God in mankind. We must look at the pre-fall state and the post-fall state of humankind. To start with, human knowledge is suppressed.3 People have truth locked inside of them but they have thrown away the key. God has spoken through His natural revelation and men suppress this truth. There is a common ground only in the ‘being’ area, not the ‘knowing’ area.

    Human beings have a suppressed conscience. The conscience or guardian appointed for humans which serves as an inner witness and monitor, is a faulty sense like the intellect.

    Calvin said the secret testimony of the Spirit or the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit is superior to reason. An amazing reflection by Calvin states that the testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason. For as God alone can properly bear witness to His own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit.23 Another reflection states that our mind is too rude to be able to comprehend the spiritual wisdom of God which is revealed to us by faith…it is the Holy Spirit by His illumination that makes us capable of understanding those things which would otherwise far exceed our capacity, and forms us to a firm persuasion, by sealing the promise of salvation on our hearts.

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