Presupposition: When You Assume…

God_the_FatherOver the last few days, I’ve run into a few Christians who use ‘Presuppositional Apologetics’. They threw around big important sounding words like ‘presupposition’ and ‘Epistemology’. Having never run into this sort of apologetic before, I decided to do some research to see if there was anything to this philosophical view or whether it was just smoke and mirrors.

Turns out it was just smoke and mirrors.

So here is what this type of apologetic involves in layman terms:

This form of Christian apologetics deals with presuppositions.1 A Christian presuppositionalist presupposes God’s existence and argues from that perspective to show the validity of Christian theism.2 This position also presupposes the truth of the Christian Scriptures and relies on the validity and power of the gospel to change lives (Rom. 1:16). From the scriptures, we see that the unbeliever is sinful in his mind (Rom. 1:18-32) and unable to understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).  This means that no matter how convincing the evidence or good the logic, an unbeliever cannot come to the faith because his fallen nature will distort how he perceives the truth.  The only thing that can ultimately change him is regeneration.  To this end, the presuppositionalist seeks to change a person’s presuppositions to be in conformity with biblical revelation.

In other words, this type of apologetic assumes that the Christian worldview is the correct view, and that every other view is distorted by their fallen nature. Non-Christians are unable to see the truth clearly.

Of course, any religion can use this same argument. Muslims can say they presuppose Allah. Hindus can presuppose Vishnu. Any religious person can presuppose that their religion is true, and every other one is flawed. Considering there are thousands of gods and religions, the presupposition apologetic doesn’t offer us a way to figure out which claims are true and which are not. The Christian in this case, has already jumped to the conclusion their scriptures are correct, their deity is real and their brand of religion is the truth. If you don’t accept that this is true, then you lack the presuppositions required for reasoning.

Man, what a tangled web we weave. This has got to be one of the funnier apologetic I’ve run into. I thought perhaps there was something to it, but it’s nothing more than an attempt to stick  fingers in their ears, and pretend everyone else lacks the means to reason because they don’t necessarily believe in their specific deity.

Why not this god?

Why not this god?

When this apologetic is turned against atheists, the Christian often asserts that the atheist’s presuppositions all suppose there is no god, because we deny or refuse to believe that god exists and sometimes, that god isn’t even a possibility.

Of course, this isn’t the stance of many, many atheists. I’d go so far as to say the vast majority of atheists wouldn’t say there is absolutely no possibility of a god. Speaking for myself, I don’t presuppose there is no god. I merely see no evidence for one and I won’t believe a Christian’s claims (or any other theists) without evidence that their deity exists. If I wasn’t open to the possibility, I wouldn’t have bothered to do the research on this article. I would have ignored the idea that maybe there was a form of apologetic that made sense of god.

Instead, I found flawed reasoning, mixed with big words to make a relatively simple concept seem too complex to handle. The first inkling I had that this was some more woo on the part of theists was the word ‘presupposition, which literally means, ‘a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action.’

In other words, this isn’t a technique for debate or to try and figure out the truth. Anything the theist doesn’t agree with can chalk it up to their opponents flawed view, and they’ve already arrived at their conclusion and they suppose everyone else is wrong.

Ganesha

Can I presuppose this is the correct god?

I can see why this apologetic would seem attractive to a theist. It allows them to comfortably ignore any other point of view, excuses them from having to satisfy the burden of proof, and gives them permission to view the majority of people as flawed and fallen – it even gives them the chance to use fancy words so that their apologetic stance seems more sophisticated than it really is.

Unfortunately for the Christian who uses this form of apologetic, the burden of proof still lies with you. Not only must you provide evidence for your deity, but you must explain and provide evidence that your god is the right god, instead of the thousands of other gods we’ve dreamed up as a species.

Assuming your right and everyone else is wrong isn’t good enough.

The best form of apologetic would be to come up with some form of evidence for the existence of your specific deity. Then you wouldn’t need faith or apologetics.

 

 

 

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23 Comments

  1. The best form of apologetic would be to come up with some form of evidence for the existence of your specific deity. Then you wouldn’t need faith or apologetics.
    Yep….what’s the point of always trying to find ”evidence” to back their faith in the first place?
    Didn’t JC have a good old moan at Tom for not taking everything on faith?

    There is another more succinct, vernacular term for the Christian presuppositionalist apologist: Dickhead.

    It tends to cut through the dross when the onset of migraine threatens after reading one of their posts. 😉

      • The problem of course, is that there is no evidence to support their beliefs and the only evidence there is refutes it in fact, thus all the convoluted attempts to justify belief in nonsense.
        ”The consensus agrees that JC was a real live person”….okaaay.
        Yet when it is pointed out that the consensus says that Moses and Abraham were not real live persons the response is so often a sort of petulant “So what?” until it is pointed out that JC mentions Abe and Mo and ‘Da Law’ and suddenly CSLewis’s famous triple isn’t looking so rosy any more and lunatic is looking the red hot favorite.

        Nutters the lot of them.
        But it is children who I feel for….

  2. So, since a/the God does not exist, why do you tilt at windmills? So much energy against, what, nothing? So all your rants are against non-existence? “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” My friend, all is lost for you if Jesus the resurrected Messiah is indeed the only Savior. You will stand alone in front of Him one day and give an account of your life. Every thought, word, deed. But if He’s not, thou tiltest at windmills my friend. Let it go or believe.

    • “So, since a/the God does not exist, why do you tilt at windmills?”

      Believers do exist as well as the outdated, bad ideas of religion.

      ““The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”

      Very original. I’ve never heard that verse before. I don’t believe in your dogma.

      “My friend, all is lost for you if Jesus the resurrected Messiah is indeed the only Savior. You will stand alone in front of Him one day and give an account of your life. ”

      Considering we’ve invented thousands of God, I find that possibility unlikely. Besides, you might find yourself in front of Odin or Vishnu.

      I could just explain that I saw no reason to believe and I wasn’t convinced by the non-existent evidence. I’m sure any God worthy of the name could forgive such a thing, considering it would have known the outcome all along.

      “Let it go or believe.”

      Religion will never get the last word again.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s deeply appreciated.

  3. Hi Mike,

    It’s astounding how quickly atheists dismiss presuppositions. Even if you don’t make a categorical assertion that “no god” exists, everyone has something that they presuppose. Some presuppositions *project* while others don’t. I acknowledge that some who employ this particular methodology don’t truly understand the implicit strengths or weaknesses.

    Some of the comments even go so far as dismissing the method because words like *epistemology* are used. This is a trite objection; and while some Christians/Atheists might not know what the word means it does not follow that one should be dismissive of the implicatures of certain presuppositions.

    The project of presupppositional apologetics is to ascertain whether the entailments of any particular view (including the Christian view) follow without contradiction. This is why the Christian considers the Christian God to be the necessary precondition of intelligibilty. Properly speaking a coherent worldview is a “proof”.

    Let me provide you with an example, if you presuppose the rationality of laws of logic (and)

    1. Laws of logic are immaterial
    2. Laws of logic are invariant
    3. Laws of logic are universal

    Can you account for (1,2,3) in your worldview? I am not asking if you use laws of logic, you have presented yourself as rational and thoughtful. I am asking you to examine your presuppositions and assess whether laws of logic can be coherent is a reductionist, materialist worldview? Are these laws a priori? If so, how can this be if on empiricist presuppositions one must experience the laws of logic before appropriating them?

    Any time a presuppostion is found to be implicitly or explicitly contradictory, reason would tell us that the proposition entailed by the presupposition must be false by way of negation. I wrote an article about presuppostions and projection that details the entailments and the operators that are involved in determining whether presuppositions project. I would welcome thougthful exchange on this topic, however if the degenerates into certain people calling me a dickhead, my interest will wane.

    (http://blogginbaldguy.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/presuppositions-and-projection/)

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