Over 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.
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.
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.