I recently wrote that two of the most popular objections to TAG are in fact inconsistent with one another. The objections are that TAG is circular and that TAG is unstated. These two assertions are far too readily accepted as some kind of meaningful objections. Moreover, they are inconsistent with one another.
Today curiosity got the best of me and I began to wonder if anyone in Five Views On Apologetics might have made the error of trying to use not one or the other of the objections in question, but both of them at the same time. It has been many years now since I read the book, but I still recall quite clearly William Lane Craig’s false assertion that Van Til “was not a philosopher” (p.235). Jamin Hubner recently explained how really uninformed that statement was in this video:
If Dr. Craig is capable of making a mistake like the one above then perhaps he is also capable of affirming the two aforementioned objections simultaneously. If he did not do it, then he came very close:
As commonly understood, presuppositionalism is guilty of a logical howler: it commits the informal fallacy of petitio principii, or begging the question, for it advocates presupposing the truth of Christian theism in order to prove Christian theism…A Christian theist himself will deny that question-begging arguments prove anything…But at the heart of presuppositionalism lies an argument, often not clearly understood or articulated, which is very powerful. This is an epistemological transcendental argument…Unfortunately, Frame fails to develop for us such an argument…Unfortunately the insight [that Christian presuppositions are the only way to think] is not developed. (p.232-233)
Craig objects to presuppositionalism because it is circular. He also objects that Frame has not stated his alleged argument. It appears as though his objections are that TAG is circular and that TAG is unstated, yet these objections appear to be inconsistent with each other. To be fair it appears that Craig is differentiating between presuppositionalism and TAG. He would be correct to do so, but there is a problem with this interpretation.
The problem is that it is difficult to understand what exactly Craig is referring to as being “guilty of a logical howler”. It makes little sense to think that Craig is referring to presuppositionalism itself as being fallacious since presuppositionalism is not an argument. Rather, Craig’s complaint is that presuppositionalism “advocates presupposing the truth of Christian theism in order to prove Christian theism.” Craig is correct in stating this and he is correct in stating that the way that presuppositionalism advocates “proving” Christian theism is through transcendental argument. Thus a second reading still leads to the conclusion that Craig’s objections are that TAG is circular and that TAG is unstated. These two assertions are far too readily accepted as some kind of meaningful objections. Moreover, they are inconsistent with one another.
Craig has even greater worries. For example, his opinion that “presupposing the truth of Christian theism in order to prove Christian theism” is somehow objectionable not only makes me cringe (or as Craig would say – “squeamish”), but makes little sense. Is Craig really saying that he is presuppositionally neutral in his argumentation? If so, then he is arguing against the claims of the very worldview he is seeking to establish as true! If not, then what exactly is Craig really saying? Further, how does Craig respond to the skeptical arguments which have been leveled against particular premises of his arguments for centuries? In light of such skeptical worries Craig begs the question if he proceeds to argue upon the basis of the very assumptions which have been called into question! Finally, Craig actually goes on to defend the use of transcendental arguments as they appear in the work of Alvin Plantinga.