Not Overly Surprising

A few months ago a close relative of mine visited a church gathering. The person who “preached” that day is a well known evidentialist apologist. If I wrote the name of the person the majority of the readers would undoubtedly know this person.

So what happened? Well, according to my close relative, the Bible was never opened during the entire course of the “sermon”. I told her that I was not surprised.

One’s apologetic is generally indicative of and affects one’s view of Scripture. Evidentialism is grounded in philosophy. If we are to compare it to presuppositionalism, the chart might look something like this:

Classical/Evidentialist/Cumulative/Etc.
Philosophy -> Apologetics -> Theology

Presuppositionalist
Theology -> Apologetics -> Philosophy

Many presuppositionalists describe theology, apologetics, and philosophy as being the same thing viewed from different perspectives or as theology with a greater emphasis placed here or there. Meanwhile the evidentialists build their worldview by starting with philosophy. This allows plenty of room for the secularization of their thoughts. Indeed, philosophy divorced from Scripture is encouraged. Once this secular base is present apologetic arguments follow suit and it is often the case that theology is afterward molded to fit the unbiblical scheme laid out “in defense of the faith”.

Please note that this is not to say that such consistency always exists in any school. There are obviously those with a high view of Scripture who are not presuppositionalists (R.C. Sproul) and those who adhere to presuppositionalism but still somehow manage to let Scripture drop out of the picture (do not let it be your name here). What has been presented are generalities. A lack of consistency is often to blame when it comes to an inability to categorize positions into such nice little packages.

May you be challenged to be consistent and to let what you claim to believe shape everything else rather than the other way around.


15 Comments

Mitchell LeBlanc

It’s merely the division of faith and reason. All matters of demonstrating God’s existence are in the realm of Philosophy. Even for the presuppositionalist, it is merely a philosophical defense of God with a specific set of alleged Justified True Beliefs.

There is a definite reason as to why the major theistic philosophers of religion today (that is, those who are published regularly in journals) are evidentialists. The closest that presuppositionalism has come to having any foothold in analytic philosophy is Plantinga’s work on the aforementioned Justified True Beliefs, this is not coincidence or conspiracy.

On another note, Mach is going to be busy with his new job and I’ve lost your e-mail. So if you could e-mail me so that I have your e-mail, that’d be great!

C.L. Bolt

“It’s merely the division of faith and reason.”

What is?

“All matters of demonstrating God’s existence are in the realm of Philosophy.”

I am not sure that this is true, but I did not deny the use of philosophy in either school.

“Even for the presuppositionalist, it is merely a philosophical defense of God with a specific set of alleged Justified True Beliefs.”

Still unclear about the referent of “it”.

“There is a definite reason as to why the major theistic philosophers of religion today (that is, those who are published regularly in journals) are evidentialists.”

What is that definite reason?

“The closest that presuppositionalism has come to having any foothold in analytic philosophy is Plantinga’s work on the aforementioned Justified True Beliefs, this is not coincidence or conspiracy.”

Plantinga is not a presuppositionalist.

I will try to send you an email in the next couple of days.

Mitchell LeBlanc

By “it” I was referring to the division between presuppositionalist apologetics and evidentialist apologetics.

I also meant that presuppositionalism is a philosophical defense of God with a specific set of alleged JTB’s.

The definite reason is that presuppositionalism insofar as it contends that all logic presupposes the existence of God simply does not work. This is why it is not discussed amongst the heavy-hitters in the philosophy of religion, and why it has not gained any academic warrant.

I’m aware that Plantinga is not a presuppositionalist, I was merely stating that his work on belief in God as a Justified True Belief is as close as anything has come to being presuppositionalism and being discussed in the relevant literature of our time.

On the whole (though I know you will disagree) the professors of the philosophy of religion with whom I have conversed have all expressed that presuppositionalism espouses misunderstandings of the issues at hand and attempts to capitalize on them.

Do you not find it troubling that there is not one peer reviewed article on presuppositionalism in a contemporary philosophical journal whereas there are literally hundreds on the Kalam (for example)? Do you not think that this speaks for the content of presuppositionalism?

C.L. Bolt

“The definite reason is that presuppositionalism insofar as it contends that all logic presupposes the existence of God simply does not work.”

I disagree, but we already knew that. 🙂

“This is why it is not discussed amongst the heavy-hitters in the philosophy of religion, and why it has not gained any academic warrant.”

Except that those who popularized it over the last century were heavy hitters.

“On the whole (though I know you will disagree) the professors of the philosophy of religion with whom I have conversed have all expressed that presuppositionalism espouses misunderstandings of the issues at hand and attempts to capitalize on them.”

I would be interested in knowing what presentation of presuppositionalism they came into contact with; not that I think that necessarily has any bearing on their conclusions.

“Do you not find it troubling that there is not one peer reviewed article on presuppositionalism in a contemporary philosophical journal whereas there are literally hundreds on the Kalam (for example)?”

That depends on what you mean by “troubling”. Choosing Hats is geared toward explaning and demonstrating presuppositional apologetics and so there certainly is a concern on some level. That is, some of our motivation comes from what you have stated.

We both know that William Lane Craig has recently popularized the Kalam argument and that he is extremely well known. There is no such philosopher in the presuppositional school right now. This is not to say that if there were such a philosopher, he or she would have articles like those you refer to. I can think of many reasons other than the ones you mention that might go toward an explanation of the lack of “peer reviewed articles” on presuppositionalism.

“Do you not think that this speaks for the content of presuppositionalism?”

Not at all.

BK

Mitch –

The acceptance of a particular philosophical methodology is irrelevant to whether or not its use is justifiable. The lack of general acceptance of Presuppositionalism is (in my opinion) nothing more than evidence that the philosophical community as a whole does not entirely understand the nature of the questions being asked in the first place. This fact is certainly demonstrable with philosophers such as Craig.

In other words, there is no *necessary* correlation between the acceptance of a methodology and how tenable it is.

Mitchell LeBlanc

The biggest names in the Philosophy of Religion today are certainly not presuppositionalists. That is (on the theistic side) Craig, Plantinga, Swinburne, Alston (deceased), Maydole, Kraay etc…

If presuppositionalism is truly the be all and end all, solving both philosophy’s biggest epistemological and metaphysical problems, why aren’t the brightest minds of our age utilizing it?

To further say, as BK did, that the reason for this is a lack of understanding is absurd! In fact, if such were the case, why do we not see one of the philosophers who do ‘understand’ it submitting to an academic journal?

It may be the case, as Chris said, that presuppositionalism just hasn’t reached the level of popularity as other arguments. But I find this hard to accept as the origin of presuppositionalism is not recent by any stretch, and the thinkers who are recent publishers (Frame comes to mind) certainly HAD the ability to publish in a philosophical journal, but never did.

Of course there is no NECESSARY correlation between a methodology and how tenable it is, but if the explanation for why presuppositionalism has gone ignored in modern philosophy is that our greatest thinkers do not understand it, I think there is a glaring problem.

Perhaps as a personal challenge Chris, you should go to graduate school and being publishing in scholarly journals ;).

C.L. Bolt

“The biggest names in the Philosophy of Religion today are certainly not presuppositionalists.”

We already established this.

“If presuppositionalism is truly the be all and end all, solving both philosophy’s biggest epistemological and metaphysical problems, why aren’t the brightest minds of our age utilizing it?”

They are. 🙂

“To further say, as BK did, that the reason for this is a lack of understanding is absurd!”

Why?

“In fact, if such were the case, why do we not see one of the philosophers who do ‘understand’ it submitting to an academic journal?”

Since I am not a philosopher in a position to submit an article to an “academic journal” and have not heard a reason from those who are in such a position I am unable to answer this.

“I find this hard to accept as the origin of presuppositionalism is not recent by any stretch”

Indeed, God is eternal. 🙂 Van Til, who developed and popularized the method a great deal, was much more recent than both the Greeks and Medievals from which the traditional arguments stem.

“Of course there is no NECESSARY correlation between a methodology and how tenable it is”

Actually there is a necessary correlation between a methology and how tenable it is. There is no necessary correlation between the acceptance of a methodology and how tenable it is. If you concede this your “argument” is done.

“if the explanation for why presuppositionalism has gone ignored in modern philosophy is that our greatest thinkers do not understand it, I think there is a glaring problem.”

Well what can I say? We are working on them. 🙂

“Perhaps as a personal challenge Chris, you should go to graduate school and being publishing in scholarly journals”

We will see. 😉

Do you mean to endorse the writers and arguments you have mentioned and to imply that they are in some way superior to the presuppositional method?

Mitchell LeBlanc

Speaking very generally (as to break down the individual research interests of each aforementioned scholar would be tedious), yes I would certainly say that they are superior.

I am unsure as to how to answer this question without falling into a debate on presuppositionalism itself.

Presuppositionalism, though it denies such, is actually an amalgamation of a few traditional arguments for God’s existence operating as if the Justified True Belief of God’s existence negates the need to affirm the conclusions of each.

That is, this idea that logic requires warrant (something which itself glares of epistemological misunderstanding) when extrapolated is merely a reformulation of the Cosmological Argument (from the principle of sufficient reason). Furthermore, the ‘presupposition’ that God is a logically necessary being is merely the affirmation of the conclusion of an Ontological Argument. To lay claim that one should not use such arguments, but should be a presuppositionalist instead is laughable when presuppositionalism is merely a concoction of traditional arguments operating covertly.

Even if one is to dispute, or ignore the above and dispute the appeal to the sheer power of modern day analytical philosophy of religion and the mysterious absence of presuppositionalism amongst its texts one cannot ignore the problems of the presuppositional approach.

It is, in effect, a type of Fideism (though it could be argued that it is a type of foundationalism) focused on negative apologetics that presumes, in addition to a wealth of other things by its very nature, that there is such a thing as religious truth… nor will one ever as the negative approach to apologetics does nothing to further the positive case.

I will not say too much, as we do have our discussion coming up shortly, but as a philosophy of religion student on the cusp of graduate school (Masters) I am told by my various advisors that a critique of presuppositionalism is not an ideal path for thesis defense as the approach is considered a non-issue in academic philosophy (and this is coming from some Christian Philosophers!)… that is of course not including Plantinga’s formulation of reformed epistemology, which is still discussed.

BK

Mitch said: The biggest names in the Philosophy of Religion today are certainly not presuppositionalists.

I don’t think either Chris or I said they were.

Mitch said: To further say, as BK did, that the reason for this is a lack of understanding is absurd! In fact, if such were the case, why do we not see one of the philosophers who do ‘understand’ it submitting to an academic journal?

What I specifically stated is is “the philosophical community as a whole does not entirely understand the nature of the questions being asked in the first place.” Now, you can call this absurd, but such a statement is rather hollow without any support.

Mitch said: Of course there is no NECESSARY correlation between a methodology and how tenable it is, but if the explanation for why presuppositionalism has gone ignored in modern philosophy is that our greatest thinkers do not understand it, I think there is a glaring problem.

What I said was “there is no necessary correlation between the ACCEPTANCE of a methodology and how tenable it is.” That was a nice way of saying you are guilty of an making an appeal to authority. 🙂

BK

C.L. Bolt

“I would certainly say that they are superior.”

This is interesting. I find them to be fatally flawed.

“Presuppositionalism, though it denies such, is actually an amalgamation of a few traditional arguments for God’s existence operating as if the Justified True Belief of God’s existence negates the need to affirm the conclusions of each.”

I am not at all sure how you are reaching this conclusion. I take serious issue with the traditional arguments and do not think that putting them together or modifying them while retaining original methodology gets anywhere.

“…the ‘presupposition’ that God is a logically necessary being is merely the affirmation of the conclusion of an Ontological Argument.”

That is a different god.

“To lay claim that one should not use such arguments, but should be a presuppositionalist instead is laughable when presuppositionalism is merely a concoction of traditional arguments operating covertly.”

Still not seeing where it is a concoction of traditional arguments. Also not sure why you keep giving credit to traditional arguments.

Anyway, I do not find your constant appeal to what these different people think about presuppositionalism to be a very convincing argument against it. Save the good one for the debate though. 🙂

Mitchell LeBlanc

I left out the words “acceptance of” in my previous paragraph, feel free to fill in that blank ;).

BK: What is the justification for making the claim that the professional philosophers of religion of our day do not understand the issues?

Chris: Whether you like or dislike them, presuppositionalism makes use of them quite covertly. Also, the God of the “Ontological Argument” is not different than the Christian God insofar as the Christian God is the greatest being that can be conceived. This idea that somehow the traditional arguments suggest a “different” God is just a misunderstanding.

My appeal to other philosophers is not an argument against presuppositionalism, but it was rather an honest question. I do find it perplexing that you espouse certainty with your method, whereas the professionals do not even regard it. This is not an argument, it’s an observation.

C.L. Bolt

“I find them to be fatally flawed” is a bit different from “I dislike them”. Philosophers like Craig do use such language though (“This makes me uncomfortable” and “This makes me squeamish”).

“This idea that somehow the traditional arguments suggest a “different” God is just a misunderstanding.”

Okay. So Aristotle believed in the same God as me?

Mitchell LeBlanc

I was referring specifically to the Ontological argument. But Aristotle’s ‘argument’ for God can meet the uniqueness proof via additional premises and/or a cumulative argumentative approach.

Craig’s apologetic method presents a set of arguments. The Kalam, the Argument from Design, the Argument from Morality and the Argument from Miracles (Resurrection of Jesus).

Together these form an argument for the existence of the Christian God.

C.L. Bolt

I know. 😉

Antiaginmoon

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