01 May, 2010

More musings on presuppositionalism

Following a discussion which started here and ended up here, I have had a few more thoughts on the presuppositionalist position. If you are unfamiliar with presuppositionalism I suggest you start here.

I'm going to address three presuppositionalist claims in turn. (Sorry if the following is a bit slapdash but a lot of it has been copied and pasted from my comments at the threads linked to above and is very train-of-thought-ish)

1) God being the source of logic/truth is the presuppositionalist's original presupposition.

Claiming that this is the original presupposition is clearly flawed from the start. For example, how can you presuppose that God is the source of anything prior to presupposing that God exists? Surely they must presuppose that God exists first, and so their claim is already defunct. But even that presupposition, God existing, would not be their original one.

In order to presuppose anything, one must first presuppose several other things, including logic and truth. Any presupposition that is claimed to take precedent over presupposed logic and truth can be dismissed as both illogical and false, due to the absence of presupposed logic and truth.

Put simply, without first presupposing logic and truth, the claim that 'God is the source of logic and truth' is the same as the claim that 'God is not the source of logic and truth'.

It means nothing.

Think about it. How can something be true in the absence of truth, or logical in the absence of logic?

Importantly, this argument is not affected by the reality of the situation. For example, even if we grant that God is the source of logic and truth (which we don't, of course, but bear with me), claiming that this is your original presupposition is still fallacious for the reasons outlined above. Thus, the presuppositionalist's position is fallacious, regardless of what the truth actually is.

Logic exists. Any attempt to prove the opposite must use logic, thus making logic an axiom.

Same for truth and knowledge. Try and disprove them without using them in the disproof. Impossible!

The concept of God is not an axiom because a potential disproof of God would obviously not rely on the existence of God

So you see I don't need God to account for logic (it is axiomatic), but on the contrary, you need logic to account for God. If you disagree that you need logic to account for God, then this automatically makes your account for God illogical, by virtue of the fact that you are not initially presupposing logic.

2) Christian presuppositionalists have a source of absolute knowledge.

Presuppositionalists often claim that they have a source of absolute knowledge. It's a defensive mechanism they use to get out of answering difficult questions. Essentially, it's like saying: "I don't know, but I know a guy who does".

But, of course, when pressed on this source of absolute knowledge, the details are very vague. For example they never seem to be able to access this absolute knowledge if you ask them an answerable question. So it's a bit inaccurate to claim to have a source of absolute knowledge if you don't have access to it. Unless you can tap it at any time, then you actually don't have a source of absolute knowledge.

Secondly, since all knowledge of God comes from Scripture, this means that everything there is to be known must be found in Scripture (for that is what absolute knowledge is - literally everything).

Including, for example, a list of Best Movie awards from the Oscars, and the proof of Fermat's last theorem. If this information isn't in there somewhere, then Scripture does not contain absolute knowledge, meaning the claim of a presuppositionalist that they have a source to such knowledge is wrong.

If a presuppositionalist's response to this is that 'source of absolute knowledge' means just 'God has absolute knowledge', then so what? You just believe in a smart guy. Big deal.

3) Christian presuppositionalists have a basis to expect the uniformity of nature.

A major tenent of presuppositionalism is the claim that their worldview has a basis for expecting the future to be like the past. That is, they can induce what will happen in the future by observing what has happened in the past - induction. This is also known as the uniformity of nature.

As Greg Bahnsen, a famous presuppositionalist, says:

Which worldview may reasonably expect that causal connections function uniformly throughout the universe or that the future will be like the past?

Well, certainly not the Christian worldview. One word - miracles.

If God can literally turn water into wine, then a Christian can never know for sure that the water they are about to drink will remain water. Pretty much anything can be turned into anything else at the whim of an omnipotent God, so Christians have no reason or basis to expect uniformity.


Ryk said...

Excellent post. I haven't been encountering many presuppicons lately. Scmike seems to have vanished and I haven't run into Sye. There are a few half baked Sye fans like Bob on Comforts blog but they get shut down before they can even start on their how do you know shtick.

I almost miss them they are great punching bags but after the pummeling Sye got in the last run on your blog it wouldn't even be necessary to discuss anything with him. Just link back to all the times he got shut down.

Scmike is more fun because unlike Sye he isn't clever or honest enough to know when he has been backed into a corner. He just ignores the point and starts repeating how do you know over and over like an invocation for some of that absolute knowledge his God supposedly gives him.

Have you had any good sparring partners lately?

rhiggs said...

Nope. I've been sparring with Dan (as linked in the post). It's not much fun as, strange as it might sound, I honestly believe I could defend his position better than he can.

It's a bit like playing chess with a novice. I'm thinking several moves ahead and he's still trying to figure out what way the pieces move. I kinda feel like making a few moves for him.

But I agree with you about almost missing them. Despite it being repetitive nonsense, presuppositionalism is still an entertaining topic to discuss, or more accurately, to debunk.

Ryk said...

Yowza Dan is ScMike. I haven't gotten involved there because everything he writes bores me but I may have to start just for the presup. I would like to take him to task over why the laws of logic must be eternal,invairiable and whatnot. In fact I would like to see if he can present a good case for the existing as anything other than rules humans use to think about things. I am guessing that he would do the same thing he does with you and just mindlessly repeat himself.

rhiggs said...

Head over there if you like Ryk but I doubt it will satisfy your presuppicon-bashing needs.

He tends to copy and paste whole paragraphs written by Sye from previous debates, so it takes another 20-30 comments to go through the tedious process of deconstructing the already refuted argument.

I'm surprised Sye hasn't shown up there in recent times, especially since the discussion has turned to presuppositionalism. It was once a favourite haunt of his. Plus, Dan actually linked to Sye's blog in one of the posts. That usually attracts him faster than flies on shit...