A Common Thread

Needle with  thread on jeans materialThere seems to be a common thread in presupp encounters all across the web these days. I’ve seen it on Twitter, in chat rooms, in FaceBook discussion groups, and on podcasts.  It’s everywhere, and it’s growing, which is what concerns me.  That thread is the use of a stunted, limited, incomplete apologetic.  It frustrates the unbelievers we use it against, but not for the right reasons.  It causes presuppers to be seen as irrational tricksters who don’t have anything valid to bring to the discussion.  It is philosophically vacuous and ultimately does not honor God.

Before looking at the problem, let’s quickly review just what presuppositional apologetics is.

By way of review, a presuppositional argument is an indirect argument.  It does not argue from premises that are given, to the conclusion that God exists.  Rather, it demonstrates the absurdity of denying God’s existence by demonstrating what the result is when your presuppositions are not Christian Theistic.

The method proceeds by taking that which the unbeliever gives you – either explicitly or implicitly – and then shows how the unbeliever’s presuppositions, if true, could not account for this “given”, and that the Christian worldview, if true, would account for it.  It can operate on any “given” at all, but it generally makes the most sense to work with whatever the unbeliever is bringing to you by way of a criticism of the Christian worldview.

For instance, if the unbeliever criticizes the morality of God’s actions in the Bible, then their “given” is the concept of an absolute moral standard.  If they say that Christianity is full of contradictions, then their “given” is the law of non-contradiction.  If they say that science proves the Bible is untrue, then their “given” is the uniformity of nature that the scientific endeavor depends upon.  If the unbeliever claims they know the Bible is untrue, then their “given” is their ability to know anything at all.  These are the most common “givens” that are used in this method, and all of them are valid, but they aren’t the only ones available.  Anything that the unbeliever brings to you may be (and should be) used.

It is helpful to remember that this is a battle between two competing world views – yours (the Christian) and theirs (the unbeliever).  Since there are two world views in competition with one another, it should be no surprise that there are two steps to the method.  However, many are only offering up one step.

This is the very problem of which I speak.  All too often only one of the two steps is being performed.  All too often only half the story is told.  More to the point, all too often only the negative case against unbelief is presented and the positive case is never revealed.

Let’s look at both steps, and see why they are both crucial.

Remember the “given” I mentioned above?  A complete presupp method will first take that “given” and will show how their unbelieving friend’s presuppositions – if true – could not account for it.  By “account for” I mean act as a foundation for, offer a basis for that “given” being what the unbeliever believes it is, or “underwrite” it in a philosophical sense.  Accounting for the “given” is to offer a set of presuppositions which are consistent with and explanatory of the “given” in question.

Second, a complete presupp method will take this same “given” and show how Christian Theistic presuppositions – if true – would account for it.  On the one hand, we are showing the failure of the unbeliever’s worldview.  On the other hand, and just as important, we are showing the success of the Christian Theistic worldview.  Both steps matter.  Both steps are crucial.

It is not enough to criticize the unbeliever’s worldview and leave it at that.  If that is all you do, you have only completed half the task at hand.  If that is all you do, then you have failed.  If you do not offer the good news of the Christian Worldview, then you’ve done nothing more than show that your opponent doesn’t have a leg to stand on.  What you have not done in this case, is show that you do have a leg to strand on.  After all, just because one person in an argument is wrong, doesn’t necessarily make the other person right.

If you are unsure whether you have done a good enough job presenting the Christian Theistic side of the story, consider how your opponent is responding to you.  Listen to what they say about the argument you are making.  Your opponent is likely to let you know if you have failed in presenting the second step, even if they don’t expressly know that is what they are doing.

Here are some things to look for.  If your opponent says something like “you are in the same boat as I am” or “we all suffer the same limitations” or “just because I don’t have an answer, it doesn’t mean God exists”, then you have likely failed in presenting the Christian Worldview.  Why?  Because the Christian worldview, if true, would answer these complaints before they were ever made.

Let’s look at an example of a common criticism that stems from an all-too-common way presupp is presented.  Let’s say your opponent argues that there is no way to know for sure whether God exists.  Of course, on their worldview this would be true (not only because no god exists in their purportedly true worldview, but more importantly because their worldview does not offer them any tools that would lead them to any gods with any sense of certainty).  You can (and should) agree with them that if their worldview were true, then they would be right.  Then you must remind them that there are two worldviews being compared, and that if your worldview were true, then it is possible to know for certain that God exists.  In fact, in the Christian worldview, every person knows that God exists.

Of course, they may complain very loudly at this claim of yours, but that complaint is easy enough to silence.  Simply ask them – “My unbelieving friend, if the Christian Theistic worldview, as I have presented it, is true, then does everyone know God exists?”  Now, of course you can only do this if you actually have presented the Christian worldview.  That’s step two.  Hopefully you did both steps.

If you did, then they have to answer “yes”, if they are to answer truthfully.  They may not agree that the Christian worldview is true, but they don’t have to agree with you that it is true in order to agree that if it is true then everyone knows God exists.  Help them see this truth.  After all, you would have to agree with them that if their worldview is true then the Christian God of the bible does not exist.  You don’t agree that it is true, but you can agree with the consequences of it being true – if it were true.

Notice what was key in the above exchange.  You sharing the Christian worldview, and how it answers a particular complaint that they made – knowing God exists, in this case.  If you never got to step two, then you would have nothing to appeal to in order to show that it is possible to know God exists if Christianity is true.

This takes work.  This means studying the types of complaints that unbelievers might raise and being ready to answer them from scripture.  Just do it.

BK


23 Comments

Greg Bronson

Presuppositional apologetics fails because its an unsound argument trying to defend an irrational world view. Take your example of if the Christian world view were true then everyone would know Yahweh exists. Not everyone knows Yahweh exists therefore the Christian world view is false. My proof of this is the fact that I know for certain that I do not believe Yahweh exists and since knowing something implies belief then it is impossible for me to know that Yahweh exists since I don’t believe it.

BK

Greg – Is self-deception a real phenomenon?

BK

Greg Bronson

I’m not sure that self-deception is a real phenomenon but even if it were it would not help your argument since the self deceiver would need to believe both that Yahweh existed and that Yahweh did not exist. I do not know of anyone that holds both of these beliefs.

Since belief is a requirement for knowledge your argument still fails. You even admit as much in your article when you refer to the “unbeliever”. One cannot know something they do not believe to be true. Can you provide an example of something you know but do not believe to be true?

BK

// I’m not sure that self-deception is a real phenomenon

Does that mean you believe it is possible that it is?

// but even if it were it would not help your argument since the self deceiver would need to believe both that Yahweh existed and that Yahweh did not exist. I do not know of anyone that holds both of these beliefs.

Actually, it does help the argument. If you’ve read much of Bahnsen, you will know he speaks in great detail about the unbeliever suppressing the truth in unrighteousness as self-deception. He also clearly lays out his argument that the unbeliever *does* believe God exists, but s/he doesn’t believe s/he believes God exists. It is the difference between a first order and second order belief.

// Since belief is a requirement for knowledge your argument still fails.

As I have now clarified my argument above for you to show that the unbeliever does, actually believe, I hope you see it does not fail after all.

// You even admit as much in your article when you refer to the “unbeliever”.

Considering I did not define “unbeliever” as “one who *professes* unbelief” in the post, I see your point. However, my position is now quite clear.

// One cannot know something they do not believe to be true. Can you provide an example of something you know but do not believe to be true?

One can know something, but not believe that they know it. Again, first vs. second order belief.

Hope this helps.

BK

Greg Bronson

“Does that mean you believe it is possible that it is?”

It means I don’t now if self deception is possible. You have not shown that it is possible and I have never experienced it my self so I just can’t say much about it. Since as far as I can tell self deception would require one to actively participate in the act of forming a belief they know to be false I can say with certainty that in this case (belief in Yahweh) I have not done so.

“He also clearly lays out his argument that the unbeliever *does* believe God exists, but s/he doesn’t believe s/he believes God exists. It is the difference between a first order and second order belief.”

Well, I think Bahnsen is wrong. The idea that one could believe something yet not believe they believe it is nonsense. I could just as easily say that you don’t actually believe in Yahweh, just that you believe you believe in Yahweh. It is the difference between your first order belief (that Yahweh does not exist) and your second order belief (that you believe you believe Yahweh exists).

This if you believe in the first order second order nonsense what about third order beliefs or one millionth order beliefs. Heck, it could go on forever and you can never know anything because you would have to constantly doubt that the you actually hold the first order belief. I don’t even know if you would be able to identify what your actual first order belief would be. You would always be in a skeptical position that maybe what you think is your first order belief is just some other order of belief and you don’t actually believe it.

“Considering I did not define “unbeliever” as “one who *professes* unbelief” in the post”

Unbeliever does not mean someone who believes something yet professes that the do not. According to Webster an unbeliever is: “a person who does not believe something; especially : a person who does not believe in a particular religious faith”

Notice there is nothing about first and second order beliefs. Maybe there is some other term you should use so it’s clear what you are referring to.

“One can know something, but not believe that they know it. Again, first vs. second order belief.”

Again as I have shown above, your concept of first vs. second order belief is just nonsense. I do think it is a clever way to try to get around the problem of the claim that everyone knows Yahweh exists but it fails.To make things worse for you, you have created this situation where you can never know that you even believe your own claims.

BK

// “Does that mean you believe it is possible that it is?”

// It means I don’t now if self deception is possible.

So, from your perspective, there is no reason you can think of to argue for the impossibility of such a concept?

// You have not shown that it is possible and I have never experienced it my self so I just can’t say much about it.

I can think of no reason why it is not possible. I can find plenty of “evidence” out there that such a thing is not only possible but occurs quite frequently. So the reasonable position for me to hold is that it is possible.

That’s an argument standing in *your* worldview, by the way.

Of course, in the *Christian* worldview, it’s not only possible, but it is certain that those who profess unbelief are victims of it. In addition, there is plenty of evidence that it happens in all walks of like regarding all sorts of beliefs. I would recommend doing a little Googling on the subject if you have not already.

But as you said – you “can’t say much about it.”

// Since as far as I can tell self deception would require one to actively participate in the act of forming a belief they know to be false I can say with certainty that in this case (belief in Yahweh) I have not done so.

But of course, if you were a “victim” of self-deception, this is exactly what you would say, is it not? That is, if you had truly deceived yourself, then you would claim that what was actually true (you believe God and you deceived yourself) was not true. That’s just what the term “self-deception” means.

// “He also clearly lays out his argument that the unbeliever *does* believe God exists, but s/he doesn’t believe s/he believes God exists. It is the difference between a first order and second order belief.”

// Well, I think Bahnsen is wrong.

That’s fine. If you have interest, you can read his PhD Dissertation where he argues for this very thing: http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA207.htm

// The idea that one could believe something yet not believe they believe it is nonsense.

Why?

// I could just as easily say that you don’t actually believe in Yahweh, just that you believe you believe in Yahweh. It is the difference between your first order belief (that Yahweh does not exist) and your second order belief (that you believe you believe Yahweh exists).

And if you said that, I would say “let’s talk about how that would happen, what it would look like, and what it would ultimately mean”. I’m game.

// This if you believe in the first order second order nonsense what about third order beliefs or one millionth order beliefs. Heck, it could go on forever and you can never know anything because you would have to constantly doubt that the you actually hold the first order belief. I don’t even know if you would be able to identify what your actual first order belief would be. You would always be in a skeptical position that maybe what you think is your first order belief is just some other order of belief and you don’t actually believe it.

You do realize you are arguing here from *your* worldview, right? Not the *Christian* worldview. Of course, this is *exactly* what would happen in the non-Christian worldview – your ability to know anything at all would be ultimately destroyed. However from the Christian worldview perspective, there are some things we know for certain because God has revealed them in such a way that there is no reasonable way to doubt them.

// “Considering I did not define “unbeliever” as “one who *professes* unbelief” in the post”

// Unbeliever does not mean someone who believes something yet professes that the do not.

That’s what *I* meant when using the term, and that’s what most any other Biblical Christian who uses the term means. Of course, this doesn’t really matter at this point since I have clarified *exactly* what I meant for you when using the term. In the future I am happy to use the term (professing) unbeliever if it will help.

// According to Webster an unbeliever is: “a person who does not believe something; especially : a person who does not believe in a particular religious faith” Notice there is nothing about first and second order beliefs. Maybe there is some other term you should use so it’s clear what you are referring to.

I wouldn’t expect a dictionary to speak about first and second order beliefs in the context of unbelief. That’s a rather deep philosophical/psychological concept.

// “One can know something, but not believe that they know it. Again, first vs. second order belief.”

// Again as I have shown above, your concept of first vs. second order belief is just nonsense.

Actually, you’ve shown the concept is nonsense if your worldview is true. You have *not* shown the concept is nonsense if the Christian worldview is true. But of course, that’s the very thing we are ultimately debating about here, isn’t it?

// I do think it is a clever way to try to get around the problem of the claim that everyone knows Yahweh exists but it fails.To make things worse for you, you have created this situation where you can never know that you even believe your own claims.

Again, if Christianity were true neither you nor I would fall into the absolute skepticism that you have presented above; that is only a consequence of the (professed) unbeliever’s worldview.

BK

Greg Bronson

“So, from your perspective, there is no reason you can think of to argue for the impossibility of such a concept?”

I don’t have any reason to think it is possible. At least in the way you are using it. If you were referring to self deception in the sense of something like I think I am better at Chess than my opponent when in reality I am he is the better Chess player then I would agree that self deception in this sense does exist.

“I can think of no reason why it is not possible. I can find plenty of “evidence” out there that such a thing is not only possible but occurs quite frequently. So the reasonable position for me to hold is that it is possible.”

Give one example outside of the context of religion and maybe it will be more clear of what sense you are using the term.

“That’s an argument standing in *your* worldview, by the way.”

I don’t know what you mean by this. I don’t claim Christians are deceiving themselves, just that their belief is incorrect. I do believe in such a thing as confirmation bias but I would not consider it a form a self deception.

“Of course, in the *Christian* worldview, it’s not only possible, but it is certain that those who profess unbelief are victims of it. In addition, there is plenty of evidence that it happens in all walks of like regarding all sorts of beliefs. I would recommend doing a little Googling on the subject if you have not already.”

Your claim is that I believe one proposition to be true while at the same time I don’t believe that I believe that proposition to be true. This is not something I think is possible, at least not in my world view.
“But of course, if you were a “victim” of self-deception, this is exactly what you would say, is it not? That is, if you had truly deceived yourself, then you would claim that what was actually true (you believe God and you deceived yourself) was not true. That’s just what the term “self-deception” means.”

This just sounds cultish to me. You are telling people they can’t trust their own beliefs because they are “victims” and any argument they put forward to show they aren’t you just say that’s what a “victim” would say because they are deceiving them self. This creates a no win situation because anything someone says you are just going to claim that they are only saying that because they are a “victim” of their self deception.

“That’s fine. If you have interest, you can read his PhD Dissertation where he argues for this very thing:http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA207.htm”

Thanks, I will read it when I have time. I have read other articles on the topic and have yet to agree with Bahnsen on the topic.

// The idea that one could believe something yet not believe they believe it is nonsense.
“Why?”

Because belief entails that the believer knows they hold the belief. It is a conscious state of believing. You either believe a proposition is true or you don’t.

“And if you said that, I would say “let’s talk about how that would happen, what it would look like, and what it would ultimately mean”. I’m game.”

I wouldn’t actually take that position because I will give you the courtesy of believing you when you say you believe something. My point is that it is your world view that claims this kind of self deception occurs so it is a problem you would have to deal with in your own epistemology.

“You do realize you are arguing here from *your* worldview, right? Not the *Christian* worldview. Of course, this is *exactly* what would happen in the non-Christian worldview – your ability to know anything at all would be ultimately destroyed.”

Actually my point is coming from your world view. I don’t claim first, second, third, etc… orders of belief, you do. This does not seem to pose any issue for my world view.

“However from the Christian worldview perspective, there are some things we know for certain because God has revealed them in such a way that there is no reasonable way to doubt them.”

The problem is that since you believe in different orders of belief you can never know what your first order belief actually is. You claim you believe that Yahweh has revealed things to you but in your world view you have no way of knowing that that is not a second or higher order of belief that that you actually don’t believe Yahweh has revealed thing to you. My point is that if you believe in multiple orders of belief you can never know what any of your first order beliefs are. I don’t have this problem because in my world view there are not multiple orders of belief.

“Actually, you’ve shown the concept is nonsense if your worldview is true. You have *not* shown the concept is nonsense if the Christian worldview is true. But of course, that’s the very thing we are ultimately debating about here, isn’t it?”

Actually I have shown the concept is nonsense in any world view. It’s just that it is your world view that holds to it not mine.

“Again, if Christianity were true neither you nor I would fall into the absolute skepticism that you have presented above; that is only a consequence of the (professed) unbeliever’s worldview.”

Then it is up to you to show how you escape the infinite regress of multiple orders of belief. You will no doubt say something like above were Yahweh revealed that he exists such that you can know it for certain. If you are to be true to your belief in multiple orders of belief then you have to ask yourself if you really believe that or if you only believe you believe it when you don’t actually believe it. I just don’t see how you escape this problem you created for yourself.

BK

Hey “Greg” – sorry this took so long …

// “So, from your perspective, there is no reason you can think of to argue for the impossibility of such a concept?”

// I don’t have any reason to think it is possible. At least in the way you are using it.

Right, but my question was whether you could argue for the impossibility of the concept, not whether you had any reason to think it possible. Can you?

// Give one example outside of the context of religion and maybe it will be more clear of what sense you are using the term.

This is one of the reasons I suggested reading Bahnsen’s article. He provides multiple examples under the section titled “An Enigmatic yet Familiar Notion”.

Here’s one such (all too common) experience .. “… when the son of Mrs. Jones has been caught red-handed stealing lunch money out of students’ desks at school, and Mrs. Jones continues to protest her son’s innocence – despite this being the third time such an incident has taken place, despite her discomfort and red face when the subject of dishonesty comes up in casual conversations, despite the fact that she does not trust her son around her purse any longer – and she continues to explain his innocence with strange explanations (like the school officials have a vendetta against little Johnny, they were framing him, etc.) nobody finds it awkward to say the poor lady “is deceiving herself.” You see, self-deception is part of our common experience, and familiarity with it breeds acceptance of it as a genuine reality of life.”

// “That’s an argument standing in *your* worldview, by the way.”

// I don’t know what you mean by this. I don’t claim Christians are deceiving themselves, just that their belief is incorrect. I do believe in such a thing as confirmation bias but I would not consider it a form a self deception.

I think I may post an article that deals specifically with this concept, as it seems to me this is something else that is being overlooked by many Neo-Presuppers.

You have a worldview. I have a worldview. And while we both know this and try to point out the short-comings of each other’s beliefs, we must keep in mind that we are arguing *from* that worldview, even while we are having this “debate”. This worldview is a collection of beliefs/assumptions/presuppositions about reality, truth, knowledge, right and wrong, etc. It is what drives the conclusions we come to. So, what I am trying to get you to see here is that your argument above about self-deception is one that is arrived at based on *your* worldview. Remember, in *my* worldview such a thing exists – it is called out explicitly in scripture, which is ultimately where my worldview is grounded.

The reason I keep asking you whether you (from your worldview) think such a thing as self-deception is *possible*, is because I am trying to get you to see that (from your worldview) there is no argument you can offer that would show that it is *objectively* not possible. That is, that it is not even possible in my worldview. Remember, the argument here is whether *your* worldview is true, or whether *my* worldview is true. The way we compare the two is to allow the other person to present their worldview for the sake of argument, and then look at what results if we assume it is true.

// “Of course, in the *Christian* worldview, it’s not only possible, but it is certain that those who profess unbelief are victims of it. In addition, there is plenty of evidence that it happens in all walks of like regarding all sorts of beliefs. I would recommend doing a little Googling on the subject if you have not already.”

// Your claim is that I believe one proposition to be true while at the same time I don’t believe that I believe that proposition to be true. This is not something I think is possible, at least not in my world view.


Right. I am saying you hold the following …

1. I believe God exists
2. I do not believe #1

// “But of course, if you were a “victim” of self-deception, this is exactly what you would say, is it not? That is, if you had truly deceived yourself, then you would claim that what was actually true (you believe God and you deceived yourself) was not true. That’s just what the term “self-deception” means.”

// This just sounds cultish to me. You are telling people they can’t trust their own beliefs because they are “victims” and any argument they put forward to show they aren’t you just say that’s what a “victim” would say because they are deceiving them self. This creates a no win situation because anything someone says you are just going to claim that they are only saying that because they are a “victim” of their self deception.

I am telling people (professing unbelievers, specifically), that they have deceived themselves about this particular belief. I am not making a broad-brush statement here about beliefs in general, which is what you seem to be trying to say I am doing. Please let me present my beliefs (for the sake of argument), and don’t tell me I am telling people something other than what I am actually telling them.

// The idea that one could believe something yet not believe they believe it is nonsense.

// “Why?”

// Because belief entails that the believer knows they hold the belief. It is a conscious state of believing. You either believe a proposition is true or you don’t.

OK, I get your argument – I just don’t agree with it. Regardless, you need to argue for why you believe this is true. You can’t just stipulate this definition of “belief” and expect me to fall in line with it. What makes you believe that belief entails that the believer knows they hold the belief?

// “And if you said that, I would say “let’s talk about how that would happen, what it would look like, and what it would ultimately mean”. I’m game.”

// I wouldn’t actually take that position because I will give you the courtesy of believing you when you say you believe something. My point is that it is your world view that claims this kind of self deception occurs so it is a problem you would have to deal with in your own epistemology.

I’m challenging you to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. If you believe you can consistently reverse my argument against me, then let’s try it out for the sake of argument.

// “You do realize you are arguing here from *your* worldview, right? Not the *Christian* worldview. Of course, this is *exactly* what would happen in the non-Christian worldview – your ability to know anything at all would be ultimately destroyed.”

// Actually my point is coming from your world view. I don’t claim first, second, third, etc… orders of belief, you do. This does not seem to pose any issue for my world view.

Then you clearly aren’t listening to what I am saying about my worldview. I’m neither arguing for an infinite regress of beliefs, nor do my comments entail such a thing. Again, if you read Bahnsen’s article he addresses this very thing in detail (see “Incompatible Beliefs, Motivated Rationalization, and Self-Covering Intention”).

// “However from the Christian worldview perspective, there are some things we know for certain because God has revealed them in such a way that there is no reasonable way to doubt them.”

// The problem is that since you believe in different orders of belief you can never know what your first order belief actually is. You claim you believe that Yahweh has revealed things to you but in your world view you have no way of knowing that that is not a second or higher order of belief that that you actually don’t believe Yahweh has revealed thing to you. My point is that if you believe in multiple orders of belief you can never know what any of your first order beliefs are. I don’t have this problem because in my world view there are not multiple orders of belief.

Again, let me to return to what my worldview actually says. It says God exists. It says all people know God exists (note I didn’t say that it says all people believe that it says that all people know God exists). It also says that self-deception is not only possible but that it is a reality in the case of unbelievers. What my worldview does *not* say is that nobody can ever really know what their first order belief is. That is a conclusion you are drawing by importing the cognitive limitations of *your* worldview into *my* worldview. If our conversation about competing worldviews is going to work, you need to let me state what my worldview believes. If you want to show the logical conclusion of my worldview in regard to something specific, then you must continue to “wear” my worldview in all aspects of your reasoning process. If not, you are just arguing a strawman.

// “Actually, you’ve shown the concept is nonsense if your worldview is true. You have *not* shown the concept is nonsense if the Christian worldview is true. But of course, that’s the very thing we are ultimately debating about here, isn’t it?”

// Actually I have shown the concept is nonsense in any world view. It’s just that it is your world view that holds to it not mine.

In *any* worldview? Really? How exactly did you accomplish that? Have you evaluated every single worldview’s beliefs – specifically as they pertain to how knowledge is acquired, whether beliefs may be self-covering, etc, and then shown that this particular concept is nonsense in each and every one of these worldviews? Of course you haven’t.

// “Again, if Christianity were true neither you nor I would fall into the absolute skepticism that you have presented above; that is only a consequence of the (professed) unbeliever’s worldview.”

// Then it is up to you to show how you escape the infinite regress of multiple orders of belief. You will no doubt say something like above were Yahweh revealed that he exists such that you can know it for certain.

Yes, that is exactly what I will say. That is exactly what the Christian worldview states – that we know God exists. The Christian worldview claims that the one who created us (the knowers) has revealed himself so clearly to us that we are without excuse (i.e. we have no “apologetic”). The knowledge is real, and can be shown to be real by demonstrating the absurdity of trying to make an excuse for claiming a lack of knowledge of God’s existence, when there is no excuse available.

Greg Bronson

“Right, but my question was whether you could argue for the impossibility of the concept, not whether you had any reason to think it possible. Can you?”

I don’t believe that self-deception as one believing something to be true while not believing they believe it to be true exists in reality but I do not know how to demonstrate it either way. Since I am not the one make the claim that it does exist then I will leave it up to those that do to demonstrate that it is the case that it does.

I would suggest that you’re example of Mrs. Jones is more an example of cognitive dissonance or maybe just wishful thinking where the mother naturally wants to believe her son is innocent even though she has had experiences that would contradict that fact. This would be a major stressor for a parent. What the example does not do is demonstrate that Mrs. Jones both believes her son is a thief (first order belief) and also doesn’t believe he is a thief or doesn’t belief she believes he is a thief (second order belief).
What method would you have to measure or verify if someone had contradicting first and second order beliefs?

“The reason I keep asking you whether you (from your worldview) think such a thing as self-deception is *possible*, is because I am trying to get you to see that (from your worldview) there is no argument you can offer that would show that it is *objectively* not possible. That is, that it is not even possible in my worldview.”

If we look at belief as a mental state (e.g. the mental state of A believing P) then the law of contradiction would dictate that it is not possible to be both in the mental state of A while also being in the mental state of ~A. Since both of our world views affirm the law of contradiction then I would have to say based on that alone it is not possible in either of our world views.
“I am telling people (professing unbelievers, specifically), that they have deceived themselves about this particular belief. I am not making a broad-brush statement here about beliefs in general, which is what you seem to be trying to say I am doing. Please let me present my beliefs (for the sake of argument), and don’t tell me I am telling people something other than what I am actually telling them.”

I understand that your direct claim is only about one particular belief but that claim if true would have ramifications about all other beliefs. This would be an internal critique. If for example I made the similar claim from my world view that you only believe you believe in Yahweh but you really don’t and that this was due to first and second order of beliefs then it would correct to challenge this by following it to its logical conclusion. The logical conclusion would be that if it can be true for one belief then it can be true for all beliefs including second order beliefs. I don’t need to import my world view to see the reproductions for the concept.

“ You can’t just stipulate this definition of “belief” and expect me to fall in line with it. What makes you believe that belief entails that the believer knows they hold the belief?”

Well, it would be helpful if we agreed on what *belief* meant. I would define belief as a mental state of accepting or affirming that a proposition is true or false. Both accepting and affirming seem to include awareness. Maybe you can give your definition and we can see where we differ.

“I’m challenging you to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. If you believe you can consistently reverse my argument against me, then let’s try it out for the sake of argument.”

That is fine with me. How would you like to proceed with that? Maybe in your chat room?

“I’m neither arguing for an infinite regress of beliefs, nor do my comments entail such a thing.”

Yes but the implications of multiple orders of beliefs lead to an infinite regress. You would need to show why *second order beliefs* would not be subject to the same as *first order beliefs*. That is, if every first order belief has another belief about it then why doesn’t a second order belief also have another belief about it? And then why is it limited to just one particular belief?

“It also says that self-deception is not only possible but that it is a reality in the case of unbelievers”

Are you suggesting that in your world view only unbelievers fall prey to self-deception?

“What my worldview does *not* say is that nobody can ever really know what their first order belief is.”

How do you distinguish between a first order belief and a non first order belief?

“That is a conclusion you are drawing by importing the cognitive limitations of *your* worldview into *my* worldview.”

It seems to me that it is a logical conclusion from within your own world view. So far you have only stated that it is not but you fail to show why it is not.

“If our conversation about competing worldviews is going to work, you need to let me state what my worldview believes.”

I think I have. Your world view states that first order and second order beliefs exist and that people can have not just conflicting first and second order beliefs but contradictory beliefs.

“1. I believe God exists
2. I do not believe #1”
My question to you is; why not 3. I do not believe #2, 4. I do not believe #3, and on and on and on…..?

“In *any* worldview? Really? How exactly did you accomplish that?”
I may have exaggerated by a world view or two. 🙂

BK

// “Right, but my question was whether you could argue for the impossibility of the concept, not whether you had any reason to think it possible. Can you?”
// I don’t believe that self-deception as one believing something to be true while not believing they believe it to be true exists in reality but I do not know how to demonstrate it either way. Since I am not the one make the claim that it does exist then I will leave it up to those that do to demonstrate that it is the case that it does.

Well, let’s go back to the reason I asked the question originally. You stated in your first comment that “… I know for certain that I do not believe Yahweh exists …”. At the same time you state you don’t know how to demonstrate such a thing as self-deception is impossible, you hold to the statement that you know for *certain* that God does not exist. The problem here is that you could not know such a thing for certain if you were the “victim” of self-deception, as it would not be *true* that you don’t believe God exists. If it isn’t true, then you can’t know it (with certainty or otherwise).

In short, the mere possibility of self-deception is a defeater for your original claim that you are *certain* you do not believe God exists. In other words, I don’t have to demonstrate it is a reality in order to use it to defeat your claim.

Honestly, I think the rest of the comments are irrelevant at this point, unless you demonstrate a problem with this argument I have just presented. I am happy to address them if you would like me to, but my time here is somewhat limited, so it may be awhile And yes, you are definitely welcome to come and visit the chat room at any time.

pat

A Conditional Resolution of the Apparent Paradox of Self-Deception by Greg Bahnsen

BK

Is this what you are referring to, pat? http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA207.htm

Tony Lloyd

I broadly agree that if hypothesis-1 is explanatory of some ” given” whilst hypothesis-2 is not then, (ceteris paribus)we have a good argument for hypothesis-1 over hypothesis-2 for that given. So I agree that online apologists who attack the explanatory power of hypotheses without showing that their hypothesis is explanatory of the given in question miss a crucial part of the argument.

The trouble as I see it, though, is that both steps to the argument are put forward, but at different times and on differing subject. Arguments tend to bounce around and equivocate. Take your example. You’ve come up with an explanation from your “worldview”, but it’s not explaining the “given” of the atheist. He does not accept that people say they do not believe whilst believing. The nearest I can get as the “given” of the atheist is that people say they don’t believe in God which, of course, is perfectly explicable from an atheist “worldview”: they say they don’t believe in God because they don’t believe in God.

Pht

     

This is the very problem of which I speak. All too often only one of the two steps is being performed. All too often only half the story is told. More to the point, all too often only the negative case against unbelief is presented and the positive case is never revealed.

Amen.

Only reducing the anti-christian idea to absurdity just sweeps the room clean – and leaves it open to more horrible options. I’ve seen the downside of, for instance, not giving the positive side in the argument about the taking of the land by Joshua. What a horrible mess that was – the footwork required to show the biblical position was WELL worth it.

Shizm00

[ If your opponent says something like “you are in the same boat as I am” or “we all suffer the same limitations” or “just because I don’t have an answer, it doesn’t mean God exists”, then you have likely failed in presenting the Christian Worldview. Why? Because the Christian worldview, if true, would answer these complaints before they were ever made.]

And how exactly are you not in the same boat seeing as we all are forced to be the initial starting/reference point. Your Christian worldview doesn’t escape Sye Ten’s “You could be strapped face down to a bed in a pysch ward” mantra he loves to spew. Before you come to knowledge of God, read the Bible, etc.. you have to assume this reality is real in the first place and your reasoning/senses/revelation is accurate. Even in Heaven you can’t avoid this problem. So even if your Christian worldview can account for everything, it only accounts for the reality you experience that you have yet to proven real.

BK

Hey Shizm00.

// And how exactly are you not in the same boat seeing as we all are forced to be the initial starting/reference point.

Because in the Christian worldview we are not the *ultimate* reference point.

Look, we both assume a number of things about reality – lots of things as a matter of fact. We assume reality is real and that we aren’t strapped face-down in a psych ward, etc, etc. I think it is *right* for *all* of us to be naive realists (as we basically all are). I believe this *because* of what I *ultimately* believe about reality. I believe that, because the Christian conception of reality is true, then we are justified in holding to these other “assumptions” that we hold to.

// Before you come to knowledge of God, read the Bible, etc.. you have to assume this reality is real in the first place and your reasoning/senses/revelation is accurate. Even in Heaven you can’t avoid this problem.

Yes, you are right. We *do* have to assume this reality is real, and that our reasoning/senses/memory/etc are generally accurate. It is *proper* for both Christians and non-Christians to assume this. However, the argument here is that only Christians have a *worldview* (i.e. a more ultimate set of beliefs) that – *if true* – could account for these other assumptions. The reason, I would argue, that it is *proper* for us to assume these things is *because* Christian Theism is true; it is because reality is what the Bible says it is. It is because God is the creator, is sovereign (in control), has created us for the purpose of bringing him glory, and that the *means* he chose to use is through our reasoning/senses/memory/etc. In that sense, my *ultimate* reference point is different from that of the (professing) unbeliever. In that sense, what sits “behind” these other assumptions about reality is very, very different for me than for the (professing) unbeliever.

// So even if your Christian worldview can account for everything, it only accounts for the reality you experience that you have yet to proven real.

*IF* the Christian worldview accounts for everything, then everything is (generally) what I think it is – that is, the reality I think I am experiencing is probably pretty close to the “real” reality.

Why? Because in order for the Christian Worldview to account for anything, its description of reality must be true. If wasn’t true, it would not be able to account for anything whatsoever. If Biblical Christian Theism (BCT) were true, then I would expect *exactly* what I seem to experience (in terms of the seeming validity of my senses/reasoning/etc.)

BK

Shizm00

So it doesn’t bother you that your worldview rests on uncertainty from unjustified assumptions just like the non-christian? Sure you may have the best explanation and its possible to stumble upon truth from fallacious reasoning, but you have no rational warrant to believe or know its true.

BK

Are you a Christian, Shizm00? Or are you a (professing) unbeliever? I ask, because you seem to have admitted two very interesting facts:

1. The non-Christian worldview rests on uncertainty from unjustified assumptions.
2. The Christian worldview has the best explanation for experience.

BK

Shizm00

Christian, but this whole notion of Sye and his absolute certainty which I assume the people at choosinghats hold to as well, doesn’t seem to flesh out. How can one have complete certainty such as Sye claims when we are forced into initial unjustified assumptions? Even in a 2009 article here Chris Bolt says: “There are many truth claims we have no choice but to accept upon pain of irrationality. One such truth claim is that God exists.” Of course as I posted previously, it may be the best explanation, but it rests on that initial uncertainty.

BK

// Christian, but this whole notion of Sye and his absolute certainty which I assume the people at choosinghats hold to as well, doesn’t seem to flesh out.

I think we need to talk about what we believe here at Choosing Hats independently of what Sye has said he believes. It’s no secret that we don’t use exactly the same method that he does, even though we both claim the name “presuppositionalist.”

Regardless, we would state that all people know, with certainty, that God exists.

// How can one have complete certainty such as Sye claims when we are forced into initial unjustified assumptions?

Let me make two points in response to this.

First, all of mankind knows God exists. They don’t know he exists as the result of some argument put forth by an apologist. They don’t know he exists after considering a series of propositions. They know he exists because he revealed himself so clearly to them that they are without excuse. This (culpable) knowledge is what makes them responsible before God.

Second, Presuppers do put forth arguments for the existence of God. But *any* argument that *anyone* makes is always made from within the context of some set of basic assumptions. Neutrality is not possible. “Pure” proof isn’t available. And so, the question becomes “what is the right set of assumptions?”

This is where people get hung up, because the natural desire is to rid oneself of *all* assumptions in order to come to an “objective” conclusion. The thing is, it can’t be done. The continual desire to make an assumption-less argument is what drives people batty. It’s what drives some Presuppers to come up with things like Fristianity. It’s impossible, and ultimately unbiblical to even attempt it. It is the recognition of this that (hopefully) sets apart Presupp from other apologetic methods.

This doesn’t mean there is no proof available – it simply means there is no proof available outside of some set of presuppositions. Whether those presuppositions are unjustified (as you put it) or not depends entirely on what you mean by “unjustified”. If what you mean is that any presupposition that is not first proven to be true is unjustified, then yes, Christian presuppositions are “unjustified” in that sense. Then again, so is every other presupposition or axiom or whatever you want to call them. A presupposition is, by definition, something that is not *already* justified. This doesn’t mean no proof is available, it just means no *neutral* proof is available (in fact, the very idea of such a thing is irrational).

// Even in a 2009 article here Chris Bolt says: “There are many truth claims we have no choice but to accept upon pain of irrationality. One such truth claim is that God exists.” Of course as I posted previously, it may be the best explanation, but it rests on that initial uncertainty.

A couple thoughts on this as well.

First, the claim is not merely that it is the best explanation – the Presupper claim is that it is the only explanation (where “explanation” is taken to mean the ability to account for the intelligibility of experience).

Second, I think we should clarify what is meant by “initial uncertainty”. In one sense of the phrase “initial uncertainty”, there is no uncertainty as we all know for certain that God exists. However, in another sense, there is this initial uncertainty as it pertains to laying out an apologetic. However, the argument is that the Presuppers argument (TAG) can also provide certainty by arguing from the impossibility of the contrary. I realize not everyone is convinced that TAG accomplished what Presuppers claim it accomplishes, but hey, that’s why this website exists!

Pht

Shizm00
August 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm

And how exactly are you not in the same boat seeing as we all are forced to be the initial starting/reference point. Your Christian worldview doesn’t escape Sye Ten’s “You could be strapped face down to a bed in a pysch ward” mantra he loves to spew. Before you come to knowledge of God, read the Bible, etc.. you have to assume this reality is real in the first place and your reasoning/senses/revelation is accurate. Even in Heaven you can’t avoid this problem. So even if your Christian worldview can account for everything, it only accounts for the reality you experience that you have yet to proven real.

It depends on what you mean by “prove” – if you are asking for a perfect proof, you are, of necessity, asking for an infinite proof (you would have to be able to refute EVERY possible point of doubt). Humans do not (and can not) possess that kind of knowing – an intuitive, complete knowing of all possible knowledge. Only God can have a complete, intuitive knowledge of all possible knowledge.

If you think to require this sort of proof from any human you are asking for what, by definition, can’t be given to you by a human.

Humans all presume the truth of logic – you have to in order to think at all. So I simply say to you that any position other than the biblical position is false – riddled with illogic.

As I am sure Razorskiss will point out, your worldview will not be able to account for logic… and he will be right.

God not only IS truth… he IS logic. You cannot attempt to refute him without presuming the truth of logic… which only he can justify.

Shizm00

I understand that, my gripe was with RK’s claim and more so Sye that we aren’t in the same boat as an atheist concerning the initial uncertainty we both face as human beings forcing us to either rest on unjustified assumptions or embrace radical skepticism since we can’t have that “perfect proof”.

Shizmoo

Some reason I had no option to reply to your post

[This is where people get hung up, because the natural desire is to rid oneself of *all* assumptions in order to come to an “objective” conclusion. The thing is, it can’t be done. The continual desire to make an assumption-less argument is what drives people batty. It’s what drives some Presuppers to come up with things like Fristianity. It’s impossible, and ultimately unbiblical to even attempt it. It is the recognition of this that (hopefully) sets apart Presupp from other apologetic methods.]

Is this what caused paul manata to do the whole fristianity thing and drop TAG? I didn’t really read any of the exchanges or know the specifics of the “argument” just curious

[Whether those presuppositions are unjustified (as you put it) or not depends entirely on what you mean by “unjustified”. If what you mean is that any presupposition that is not first proven to be true is unjustified, then yes, Christian presuppositions are “unjustified” in that sense. Then again, so is every other presupposition or axiom or whatever you want to call them. A presupposition is, by definition, something that is not *already* justified.]

Then how do you arrive at absolute knowledge from or with something unjustified in the equation (We *do* have to assume this reality is real, and that our reasoning/senses/memory/etc are generally accurate)? For by definition knowledge is -Justified- true belief. Its equivalent to saying you can get justified true belief from a fallacy.


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