A Problem with Presuppositional Apologetics

Below is an excerpt from an informal debate on Facebook between myself and a few others. One of the other individuals, the one included in the excerpt below, a man who calls himself Atom, hijacked the original debate, which was about why calling a Christian “not a true Christian” is a No True Scotsman logical fallacy, and turned its focus to presuppositions. Why? The purpose of this Apologetic is to effectively level the playing field between the Christian and the atheist by claiming that both the Christian and atheist hold presuppositions, “beliefs that governs all other beliefs, or the most fundamental commitment of the heart,”* and therefore neither can objectively weigh evidence to reach Truth. Unfortunately, if you accept what the Presuppositionalist tells you, they then begin spinning men of straw about the “nature” of logic and how the only way to objectively look at the universe is to assume the existence of their deity. Of course, this is a load of bull, as the excerpt down below will show.

My Original Question:

If two people can read your Bible and come out with different understandings, why did the supposed author of it fail to make it clear enough to avoid that from happening in the first place?

Atom’s Response:

This is just another example how you get out of it what you take to it. Your presuppositions effect everything you interact with. Just like how you think the bible is “bullshit” so all you see is bullshit… (sic)

My Response:

Actually, Atom, I never thought, like most atheists who were raised in religious households, that the Bible was bullshit until after I did my homework on it so it isn’t an arbitrary presupposition but a reasoned conclusion. Most never went into it the study of their preferred religion with the presupposition it wasn’t true. We went into it with the presupposition it was true and that we wanted to actually understand it. I wonder how, having the same presupposition that you did, the Bible is true, we could have come out of it with the conclusion that it wasn’t. Hmm?

And, not only did you not answer my question, you’re actually begging it. Why would your God create us to have presuppositions to misunderstand the very book we’re supposed to?


* Definition courtesy of Apologist John Frame: http://www.thirdmill.org/newfiles/joh_frame/PT.Frame.VanTil.Glossary.html

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5 Comments on “A Problem with Presuppositional Apologetics”

  1. I will take a piece of this. While it cannot be denied that presuppositions [could] impact interpretation, the majority comes from not reading the particular scripture in the context that was originally intended. Why were we created this way? No one can answer this fully outside of God Himself. We were given freedom to choose and this freedom led to the fall of man and the continuous error which followed. I would be careful, though. The King has not been mated.

    • @Phillip Nicewaner:

      I honestly appreciate you taking the time to read this and taking the time to respond. I do, however, feel a responsibility of sorts, probably since this is my blog, to respond to a few things in your comment.

      1) Unfortunately, while context is incredibly important, it has become just another run-of-the-mill defense. You’d be hard pressed to find any two Christians that interpret the Bible in the same way. That is why I realized that Christians were the wrong people to listen to when it comes to trying to understand the Bible. Why? They’re biased and will give you a biased account. If you would care to, and haven’t done so already, I recommend reading some of the words of Bart D. Ehrman, for example “Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)” and “Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.”

      2) “Why were we created this way? No one can fully answer this outside of God himself.” This question is what I call a bad question. Think of it like this: Suppose you have a very sick family member and instead of asking “Is their sickness a bacterial problem or a viral one?” you ask “What demon or omen is causing this?” Now, it’s pretty obvious why the latter is a bad question and it’s because we’ve learned that demons and omens don’t cause diseases. Similarly, your question “Why were we made this way?” is a bad question. Why? Because we weren’t “created.”

      3) “We were given freedom to choose and this freedom led to the fall of man and the continuous error which followed.” Actually, Phillip, we weren’t given any freedom, at least not any freedom we didn’t already have naturally. If you’re referring to the story of “Adam and Eve,” neither of them really had a choice in the matter when they did wrong because neither knew the difference between right and wrong to begin with. How were they to know that disobeying the orders of God was wrong when they hadn’t eaten from the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to even know it? Why should they be held responsible for the poor planning of God? He could have always placed the tree in a location where it was inaccessible. As a matter of fact, why did he even create the tree in the first place if it was so dangerous? And, for that matter, why should we suffer the fall for the mistakes of a poor designer and two humans that didn’t even know the difference between right and wrong?

      4) “The King has not been mated.” We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

      • No worries. I do appreciate the response and apologize that it has taken so long to get back. I forgot to check that little box asking if I want email alerts for the comments. Nevertheless, I will keep my end of whatever discussions we have as balanced and logical as possible.

        1. I have read some of Ehrman’s work over the course of the last several years of my studies. Just like the explanations and evidence presented by authors addressing contradictions and perceived problem, there are always answers that arise. The main problem that I have with point one, though, is that the biases are not as significant as they are made out to be. Christians typically come from contrary positions and lifestyles to a point in which they submit to Christ wholly and, by association, the Word. Submission to the Word, then, must lead one submit to what it says in light of itself. While there are Christians who possess biases regarding the interpretations that they first understood and were taught, the faithful will acknowledge error, where present, and believe the truth.

        2. The question was not mine – perhaps I misunderstood this point in your response. The answer you provide, though, is quite a conclusion based on what is available to you. The problem rests in the reality that to know this requires a rather complete knowledge or certainty of the processes of this existence and whether there certainly is or is not a supernatural existence beyond. Our limited ability does not afford us the luxury of being able to see beyond our immediate sphere of observation (including through telescopes); this, though, is all due to different variations of the universal negative fallacy with respect to the observer’s relationship with the space in which they are observing.

        3. Adam and Eve did, in fact, have a choice. God told them “you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Eve recalled this when tempted by the serpent, saying, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 2-3). As for God being a poor designer, the issue of the fall being the product of failure is confused when it is actually “a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began” (1Co 2:7). Paul continues with this, writing:

        “What no eye has seen,
        what no ear has heard,
        and what no human mind has conceived”—
        the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.”

        The purpose of the fall appears to be for something associated with love, related to the arrival and propitiation of Jesus and those who would have faith in Him.

        4. We certainly will have to agree to disagree. Only one is right. I will be very interested to see the final move.

      • @Phillip Nicewaner:

        1) “1” is an abitrary assertion. You have effectively said nothing.

        2) “2” is a straw-man.

        3) In “3” you commit the fallacy of equivocation (because you twist the nature of my criticism) as well as make arbitrary assertions (which means you have effectively said nothing).

        Don’t hide behind fancy language. You’ve basically dressed a turd (your argument) in a frilly dress (your language) in an attempt to give it the appearance of validity.

        I realize that by posting this, it’ll probably end the discussion, but I see no point in having it to begin with because while I’m open to changing my mind, you clearly are not.

  2. cultofdusty Says:

    Very good response. I used to try to reason and debate with Christians. But you can not use reason with people who did not use reason to begin with to form their beliefs. That’s why I switch to full out mocking. It seems to be much more effective. For me at least. 😉

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