Here is a burgeoning list of Frequently Asked Questions/Common Objections we’re slowly adding to. Stumped? Do you suspect you will stump us? Have questions? Please peruse these resources, as we consider them to be a helpful tool for believer and unbeliever alike when they consider
Presuppositionalism/Covenantal Apologetics. Feel free to visit the chatroom to submit others, should you desire, and have further questions.
What is the presuppositional method?
In the Words of Van Til
1. That we use the same principle in apologetics that we use in theology: the self-attesting, self-explanatory Christ of Scripture.
2. That we no longer make an appeal to “common notions” which Christian and non-Christian agree on, but to the “common ground” which they actually have because man and his world are what Scripture says they are.
3. That we appeal to man as man, God’s image. We do so only if we set the non-Christian principle of the rational autonomy of man against the Christian principle of the dependence of man’s knowledge on God’s knowledge as revealed in the person and by the Spirit of Christ.
4. That we claim, therefore, that Christianity alone is reasonable for men to hold. It is wholly irrational to hold any other position than that of Christianity. Christianity alone does not slay reason on the altar of “chance.”
5. That we argue, therefore, by “presupposition.” The Christian, as did Tertullian, must contest the very principles of his opponent’s position. The only “proof” of the Christian position is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no possibility of “proving” anything at all. The actual state of affairs as preached by Christianity is the necessary foundation of “proof” itself.
6. That we preach with the understanding that the acceptance of the Christ of Scripture by sinners who, being alienated from God, seek to flee his face, comes about when the Holy Spirit, in the presence of inescapably clear evidence, opens their eyes so that they see things as they truly are.
7. That we present the message and evidence for the Christian position as clearly as possible, knowing that because man is what the Christian says he is, the non-Christian will be able to understand in an intellectual sense the issues involved. In so doing, we shall, to a large extent, be telling him what he “already knows” but seeks to suppress.
This “reminding” process provides a fertile ground for the Holy Spirit, who in sovereign grace may grant the non-Christian repentance so that he may know him who is life eternal.
CH: My Credo and Rodney King Methodology
What are the differences between methodologies?
While in some ways this is an easy question to answer, in other ways it is quite difficult. It is easy insofar as it is understood that a Covenantal apologetic is a Reformed apologetic, while an evidentialist/classicalist apologetic has its roots in Roman Catholicism. There are those who disagree with this assessment, of course which is what makes the answer quite difficult in some ways. It becomes important, once you reach this level of disagreement, to carefully define the terms which are being disagreed upon.
In some sense, this is part of the problem and in another sense, the consistency with which you carry through on the implications of those definitions is another part. The term presupposition has unfortunate postmodernist connotations which has led to Westminster encouraging the use of Covenantal apologetics to distinguish the VanTillian methodology, as distinguished from presuppositionalism. Within the greater term of evidentialism there are schools such as classicalism, cumulative case, moral apologetics, and the like, so we ought to be careful to distinguish between these proponents when it is necessary to do so.
However, there is a fundamental agreement within the evidential camps, and that agreement rests in the assumption of mans autonomy when it comes to dealing with evidence and argumentation.
This is contrasted with the fundamental agreement between even the varied presuppositional camps that man cannot be considered to be autonomous when it comes to evidence and argumentation. This is a simple assessment, true and the difficulty lies with the consistency of either group in adherence to their principle.
Obviously, we would assert that someone arguing in accord with Van Tils seminal method would be more consistent than a Clarkian, Schaefferian, or Framean would be, methodologically.
It isnt quite as clear, superficially, which of the evidential schools is more consistent with their principles, however. Whether one uses Aquinas Five Ways, a cumulative case argument, or other modern versions of classical theistic argumentation, it could be argued that each is consistent with the evidentialists principles, in various ways. The point that wed like to make is that all of these assume the Romanist conception of natural theology, as distinct from the Reformed conception, espoused and exegeted by Reformed theologians.
Were these theologians necessarily consistent in their application of their natural theology? No, they were not. This is not to say that their exegesis is therefore invalid. It is indicative of inconsistency, not of exegetical failure.
An evidentialist begins, following Sproul, with an uninspired Bible, and argues for miracles. [F]rom miracles, they argue from an inspired Bible. If, like all Reformed believers, you believe in Sola Scriptura, this seems quite problematic.
Again, it is stated that Apologetics cannot begin with the inspired Bible or even with a divine Christ. It is not our intention to argue this point currently, but you see the issue involved, surely. There is the assumption made, in the argument, that the Bible is uninspired, from the outset.
There needs to be argumentation provided to get to an inspired Bible. Instead of the authority of Scripture being presented as not dependent upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; it is presented as being, in fact, if not formally, dependent upon that self-same testimony. It seems to be received not because it is the Word of God, but because it is acceptable to our reason.
Similarly, the evidentialist argues not from [t]he whole counsel of God, but from the standpoint of minimal facts concerning the Christian faith.
Lastly, the evidentialist tends to argue probabilistically it is more probable that their conclusions are true than the denials of their conclusions are true.
As Van Til puts it, How could the eternal I AM be pleased with being presented as being a god, and probably existing, as necessary for the explanation of some things but not of all things, as one who will be glad to recognize the ultimacy of his own creatures? Would the God who had in paradise required of men implicit obedience now be satisfied with a claims and counter-claims arrangement with his creatures?
These are all serious issues to be found with the evidentialist schools, and cannot be merely dismissed as unimportant by serious believers in Reformed doctrine. The questions must be addressed, and addressed seriously, as our theological commitments demand.
CH INTRO: Evidence that Christianity is true
CH: A Christian Epistemology of Testimony
CH: Answering the Evidentialist Objection
CH: Addressing a Common Evidentialist Retort
CH: Problems with Authority in Evidentialist and Classicalist Apologetics
CH: Are Sunglasses Evidence of God?
CH: Not Overly Surprising
CH: Is it sinful to call evidentialism sinful?
CH: Can the existence of God be proven?
CH: Some thoughts on the upcoming debate
CH: A Feminist Examines Presup
CH: The Same Tired Assertions
CH: Debate Opener
Do you reject the use of evidences?
No. Rather evidences are always offered in accordance with the presupposition of God’s revelation to humanity. Evidences are offered in Scripture.
There is a difference between using evidences and using evidentialism. Evidences are not a method of apologetics, they are entities used in apologetics. Dr. Bahnsen presented an enormous list of evidences during his debate against Dr. Stein, but he did not use evidentialism.
Does Scripture warrant evidentialism? No. Psalm 19 and Romans 1 state that God is known to exist. God is clearly seen through what has been made, so much so that people are without excuse. God is known and God is seen. Clearly.
Evidentialism doesn’t start at the right place.
Evidentialism doesn’t use evidences properly, because it doesn’t start at the right place. The right place to start is with Christian Theism as a unit, not with minimal facts. Only then can you argue as you should with all facts as Gods facts.
CH INTRO: Evidence that Christianity is true
CH: A Biblical Foundation
CH: Are Evidences Even Useful?
CH: Everything is Evidence
CH: Are sunglasses evidence of God?
CH: Where to Start
CH: Is it sinful to call evidentialism sinful?
CH: A Feminist examines presup
CH: Proof and Persuasion Confusion
CH: My Credo and Rodney King Methodology
CH: Models, Frameworks, Circularity, and Blind Faith
CH: Providence and Presuppositions
CH: No, Dr. Craig; I will not and I cannot
CH: Apologetics and the Arminian
What is Presuppositionalism/Covenantal Apologetics?
If someone is serious about understanding what PA is, he must understand what Reformed Theology is. It’s that simple. The proper application of Reformed Theology in an apologetic context is what gives us the Presuppositional Apologetic.
Our goal is to set the presuppositional commitments of believer and unbeliever in antithesis – not to make a pseudo-cosmological argument. What we are concerned with is arguing by “presupposition” – not by “prime mover”. All too often, neophytes to the study of Reformed theology and its commensurate apologetic pack the baggage of non-Reformed theology and argumentation over into that sphere. This is not the “silver bullet” they think it is – it is, unfortunately, a simple error, and quite commonly made.
When we speak of the problem at hand, we are speaking of the ability of a worldview to provide the preconditions of intelligibility. This may be expressed in the context of several different subjects, but chiefly, it must be said that it is only being expressed in terms of entire worldviews. We are speaking of the “nature of facts”, not of the “facts themselves”, as if facts are simply “there”, and uninterpreted. When speaking of a worldview, you are speaking of everything the worldview posits – be it metaphysics, epistemology, or physics.
“Rather than wedding Christianity to the philosophies of Aristotle or Kant, we must openly challenge the apostate philosophic constructions of men by which they seek to suppress the truth about God themselves, and the world…It is only if we demand of men complete submission to the living Christ of the Scriptures in every area of their lives that we have presented to men the claims of the Lord Christ without compromise. It is only then that we are truly Biblical first and speculative afterwards. Only then are we working toward a Reformed apologetic.” – Cornelius Van Til
“In terms of theoretical principle and eventual outworking, the unbeliever opposes the Christian faith with a whole antithetical system of thought, not simply with piecemeal criticisms. His attack is aimed, not at random points of Christian teaching, but at the very foundation of Christian thinking. The particular criticisms which are utilized by an unbeliever rest upon his basic, key assumptions which unify and inform all of his thinking. And it is this presuppositional root which the apologist must aim to eradicate, if his defense of the faith is to be truly effective.” – Greg Bahnsen
“Christianity offers the triune God, the absolute personality, containing all of the attributes enumerated, as the God in whom we believe. This conception of God is the foundation of everything we hold dear. Unless we can believe in this sort of God, it does us no good to be told that we may believe in some other sort of God, or in anything else. For us everything depends for its meaning upon this sort of God. Accordingly, we are not interested to have anyone prove to us the existence of any other sort of God but this God. Any other sort of God is no God at all, and to prove that some other sort of God exists is, in effect, to prove that no God exists.” – Cornelius Van Til
“The apostle Paul lays great stress upon the fact that man is without excuse if he does not discover God in nature. Following Paul’s example Calvin argues that men ought to see God, not a god, not some supernatural power, but the only God, in nature. They have not done justice by the facts they see displayed before and within them if they say a god exists, or that Godprobably exists. The Calvinist holds to the essential perspecuity of natural as well as biblical revelation.” – Cornelius Van Til
William Edgar: What is Presuppositionalism?
K. Scott Oliphint: Covenantal Apologetics and the Doctrine of Scripture
Is there an argument made by Presuppositionalism?
The most common argument employed will be a transcendental argument an argument which deals with the preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience.
You will most typically see the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God, or TAG, employed for this purpose. As a whole, however, Presuppositionalism is an argument on the worldview level; and per the Christian worldview, there are two worldviews Christianity, and not-Christianity. The denial of Christianity necessitates the affirmation of its antithesis, or its opposite.
As such, we deal with concepts such as The impossibility of the contrary, or internal critique, which serve to demonstrate that the contrary position does not provide the preconditions for intelligibility, by its own standards. Put in simple terms, the denial of Christianity is itself a worldview; but not a worldview which can account for human experience, reality, or anything else.
This lack of an account for such things renders the worldview impossible to consistently hold. Further, it involves the borrowing of elements of the Christian worldview, in order to make its objections, or its claims in the first place.
The argument stated in several forms:
“The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything.”
Premise 1A: “If knowledge then God”
Premise 2A: “knowledge”
Conclusion A: “therefore God”
X presupposes CT;
What do you mean by “borrowing from the Christian worldview?”
By borrowing from the Christian worldview, we mean that something that only the Christian worldview accounts for is being appropriated for use in a worldview which does not account for it.
CH: Borrowing from the Christian worldview
CH INTRO: Religions that share our authority
CH INTRO: Islam
CH: Does God exist? Opening statement
CH: Covenantal Apologetics and Other Religions
Why use "Worldview"?
You certainly don’t have to use the term. Van Til primarily expressed it in different terms; Christian theism as a unit, Christian life-and-world view (which is similar), Christian totality picture, Christian faith as a whole, or the like.
If it is understood that this is what we mean when we say worldview, all is well. It must, however, be distinguished from a mere worldview apologetic, or the Kantian “weltanschauung”, and be placed within the proper context, if youre going to use it as a Reformed, Covenantal apologist.
The Reformed worldview is the worldview where Scripture Alone is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. As Warfield puts it, it is Christianity come to its own. It speaks to all of life, and does so perfectly. Its antithesis is the non-Christian worldview and on its particular basis, also has something to say about all of life. It is these two worldviews which which we have to deal; as long as it is understood what is meant by worldview.
We are speaking of the “nature of facts”, not of the “facts themselves”, as if facts are simply “there”, and uninterpreted. When speaking of a worldview, you are speaking of everything the worldview posits – be it metaphysics, epistemology, or physics.
CH: Answering an Objection to Christian Worldview
CH: Did Van Til set Christianity alongside other worldviews?
CH: The Unfortunate Case of the Missing Argument
CH: Adventures in Missing the Antithesis
CH: Why Shouldnt Paul Bird Choose Hats?
CH: On Speaking to Brick Walls
GPTS Theological Conference K. Scott Oliphint: The Reformed Worldview
Why the sensory skepticism?
First, we are saying this: From ~CT, there a strong case for a systematic distrust of the reliability of the senses.
What we are not saying: That from CT, there is a strong case for a systematic distrust of the reliability of the senses.
This is only the case when the revelation of God to us is excluded from the equation of knowledge from the outset of the discussion.
CH INTRO: Starting Point of Knowledge
CH INTRO: Severing the Senses
CH INTRO: Memory, Senses, Reason, and Belief
CH: The Discussion, Part I
CH: The Discussion, Part II
CH: Do we know anything at all?
CH: Science is not that simple Part I
CH: Science is not that simple Part II
CH: Faith and Final Authority
CH: A Feminist examines Presup
CH: A Study in the Nature of Gods Word, Part 3
CH: But you use your senses to read the Bible!
CH: Presuppositionalists are too negative!
There is more. That, however, should suffice.
What about other religions?
In dealing with other religions, first, it must be clearly stated that superficial similarity is just that; superficial.
Secondly, it must be stated that from Christianity, other religions are individual manifestations of a *single* contradictory worldview; the worldview which denies the true God of Scripture. As such, any other religion, when arguing from Christianity, is treated as a denial of Christianity.
For our purposes, well call it ~CT. ~CT, in any manifestation, is a denial of CT. The superficial resemblances of any ~CT manifestation to CT can be easily dealt with, however, because we are arguing on the level of entire worldviews, not on the level of individual facts.
This is, of course, because CT claims that all facts are interrelated and inseparable from the meaning of those facts; all of which is by the express ordination of God.
CH INTRO: There are Two Worldviews
CH INTRO: Religions that share our authority
CH: Borrowing From the Christian Worldview
CH: Covenantal Apologetics and Other Religions
CH: Did Van Til set Christianity beside other worldviews?
CH: The Unfortunate Case of the Missing Argument
What are the most common objections to the apologetic methodology itself? Here are our picks.
Objections Concerning Methodology
Why don’t you respond _insert place here_?
For one, we don’t always frequent the places you want us to frequent. We often don’t want to be forced to do so in order to keep up with a conversation elsewhere, either. None of us do this for a living, remember. For another, its often needless duplication.
We typically already have that response archived here, on our site. This particular section, in fact, should be an aid to you in finding what we have written.
Perhaps, instead of insisting that we post at some particular place, why don’t you 1) Link to the information we’ve already presented or 2) Present it yourself, with proper attribution?
That way, the answer is presented, and the one with the interest in seeing it presented *at that particular place* is also satisfied. Remember, our intent is primarily to teach. We do not, however, necessarily intend to be peripatetics 😉
What about the uniformity of nature?
The Christian believes that God has created the world, controls it, and wants us to have knowledge concerning it. God has established an order in the cosmos that is representative of His own character. God has revealed to us general and specific claims that there is a uniformity of nature.
Certainly there have been occasional signs (miracles) in history which were caused by God as a part of His revelatory acts and interpreted by Him, but the abnormality of these signs supposes that there is and will be norms in place, else they would not have possessed the odd character that they did.
As we have already discussed, there is not an absolute uniformity of nature, but there is uniformity of nature according to the Christian worldview.
CH INTRO: Uniformity of Nature
CH INTRO: The Problem of Induction
CH INTRO: The Impossibility of Science
CH: Knapps Induction and the Unbeliever
CH: Helping Dawson recognize a TA
CH: Mitch LeBlancs proposed solution to the problem of induction
CH: With a wave of his wand
CH: Wallis debate recap continued: Induction
CH: Ben Wallis responds to induction again
CH: Wallis debate recap continued: Theism, Presuppositionalism, and Induction
CH: Logical fallacies in presuppositionalism
Why didn't you answer MY question?
First, it might be because we’ve answered your question many times before, or the same question in different words.
Second, it might be because you didn’t really ask you poisoned the well and then expected someone to decontaminate the water.
Third, it might be because its answered so frequently, and so thoroughly by historical theology that its really pretty obvious that you didn’t study it. There are many reasons.
Fourth, it might be because you are either really smart, or because it is expressing what is called a theological novum, or novelty, that is not representative of Reformed confessionalism.
Most commonly, however, it is probably because most objections, in our experience, really don’t address the Christian faith, but a straw man of it.
If you don't answer _x_, you're running scared!
Well, frankly, that assumes _x_ hasn’t been answered. In most cases, it really has. As Reformed Christians, we have probably the most extensive and detailed body of theological literature in the world.
In that immense amount of material, it is astonishingly unlikely that your particular point has gone unaddressed. Further, most of the questions that are inserted in the place of _x_ are, in fact, common objections that we have addressed multiple times.
If you really think your objection hasn’t been answered, submit it via the contact form. The other issue is, we are hardly running scared because we don’t address your particular objection right stinking now. Its much more likely that 1) We’ve answered it before probably in this FAQ or 2) Its a faulty objection. (See Below)
Why do you insist that there's a problem with my objection?
That depends, typically, on the nature of the objection. Most commonly, there is a problem with your objection when it takes the form of a straw man.
A straw man fallacy arises when the objector ignores the stated position of his opponent, and substitutes a distorted, or misrepresented version of their opponents position.
This often occurs when the objector is describing the Christian faith at various levels. When this occurs, the objector misrepresents, or distorts, the actual position held by his opponent makes it out to be something other than it is, and typically without argumentation to demonstrate that his perception is, in fact, correct.
CH: Attributal Argument for Gods ordination of possibility
CH: On Divine Simplicity and Malformed Arguments
CH: A Further Example of the Importance of Divine Simplicity
IA: In Antithesis, Volume 1, Number 1; The Doctrine of God in Reformed Apologetics
This only works on atheism, right?
No. It applies to all non-Christians. More to the point, it applies to not-Christianity, or Not-CT, or ~CT, as you will often see us express it.
Has there been perhaps an overabundance of focus on atheism, in comparison to the focus on other religions? Yes. This is something were attempting to rectify, at least to the extent that were able.
CH INTRO: Islam
CH INTRO: Religions that share our authority
CH: Covenantal Apologetics and other religions
CH: TAG and Islam
CH Debate: Is the Quran the Word of God?
CH: Responses to the Assertions of Yasser Ali
CH: Islam: A few brief considerations
CH: Seven reasons why Mormons are Christian?
CH: Infallibility and the Church
CH Debate: Sola Scriptura
Why won't you just give me evidence?
Well, lets talk about evidence.
First, who determines what is evidence, and what is not? If the claim is that we have this definition in common, we reject that claim, on the basis of our doctrine. So, to insist on it is to beg the question in your favor.
Second, what is meant when we speak of evidence? To the materialist, valid evidence consists purely of material evidence. To the immaterialist, evidence consists of only immaterials. When we speak of evidence, we are not speaking of evidence as if it is something self-existent.
Everything has a context; a sense in which it fits into ones presuppositional commitments concerning the nature and meaning of reality.
As such, to speak of evidence is to speak of evidence as it is seen from your own worldview; from your own framework of presuppositional commitment which determines the meaning of the facts in question. Since this is so, we seek to point out that the *meaning* of fact is what is at issue, just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. Evidence presupposes your final authority; that is, your final authority will determine what you consider to be evidence, and what that evidence means.
Our response is to say that evidence has preconditions; preconditions which must be met in order for your worldview to meaningfully speak about evidence in an intelligible way. Evidence presupposes the existence of God, and His revelation of what the facts we deal with really are, and what they mean. The unbeliever cannot account for the intelligibility of evidence; the Christian can.
This is why we wont simply give you the evidence because we need to address whether meaning is even intelligible in your worldview, and show that it is, in ours, first. In Christianity, everything whatsoever is evidence for the truth of Christianity. Apart from God, evidence is an impossibility.
Is Presuppositionalism Circular?
Probably the most common objection of them all; also the one that the fewest objectors seem to have even googled. Hopefully you’re the exception.
Anderson: Van Til FEM AII2
Pratt: Common Misunderstandings of Van Til’s Apologetic, Part 2 – Misconception #6
Oliphint: Around and Around We Go
CH: Agreus Attempts to Tackle TAG
CH: That Ol’ Time Atheist Religion
CH: William Lane Craig’s Inconsistent Objection to Presuppositional Argument
CH: A Feminist Examines Presup
CH: Van Til’s Argument I
CH: Mr. White, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Black II
CH: Mr. White, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Black IV
CH: Mr. White, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Black V
CH: Mr. White, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Black VI
CH: Questioning Copan
CH: Three Very Different Philosophers: Necessity of Epistemic Circularity
CH: Lex Lutheran and Caleb Keith Discuss Presuppositional Apologetics
CH: When Possibility is Impossible: Answering a Rawlsian Ruse with Radical Retortion
What if I am (or was) a sincere Christian and I disagree with you?
If this is the case, then first we have to address what we respectively view to be the definitions of Christian and Christianity.
There are some minor disagreements, to be sure; the disagreements between Presbyterianism and Baptists come to mind. However, were typically speaking of disagreements on the order of I disagree with you on what the Bible says, or I disagree with you about what should be orthodox, or I disagree that Scripture is the only infallible rule for faith and practice.
For the unbeliever, it tends to be along similar lines. The unbeliever will assume their own worldview to critique our own. As a former Christian, they will define Christian doctrine as they now see it or insist that how they now see it is correct typically without demonstration.
Alternatively, they will insist that group _x_ is the true expression of Christian belief (again, sans demonstration), as opposed to group _y_. Unfortunately, it is often the case that they will distort the views of both groups. When dealing with Christian orthodoxy, it must be understood that in a historical sense, Sola Scriptura has been the rule of faith throughout.
This is demonstrated throughout the Scripture, the writings of the Early Church Fathers, and the doctrine developed and exposited over that period of time. Secondly, it must be understood that there is 2,000 years of historical theology to back up this claim. Addressing Jehovahs Witnesses, or Mormons as Christian stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point. Insistence on holding Protestants to Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox dogma is similarly a strikingly incredulous claim. When making claims as to what is Christian, the putative believer (or former believer) needs to be cognizant of the history of the church, and her doctrines; otherwise, they are simply offering a straw man up to the blaze. For those who call themselves believers who disagree, keep in mind where your disagreement lies.
If it is a disagreement of a second order, such as ecclesiology, this is non-problematic, for the most part. There are places where this disagreement will have repercussions, as is necessarily the case, but if we are in agreement on the major elements on the faith, such as the Solas of the Reformation, the nature of the Gospel, or theology proper, there is no fundamental problem involved.
If your disagreement is on one of the major topics of orthodoxy, the issue is more serious, and we will be at odds on many, many points; some of which will be concerning whether you have the right to call yourself Christian. In any case, please keep these points in mind.
Why isn't _x_ special pleading?
This revolves around what _x_ happens to be. If _x_ concerns the nature of God, you likely need to be introduced to something that Van Til called the Creator-creature distinction.
This distinction is a theologically driven one, revolving around the transcendent nature of God. As such, God is not bound by what He creates. God, to the contrary, is who has instituted the bounds which His creatures live within.
In essence, this reduces to a category error; when God is being placed within the category of creature, this is a faulty categorization. God is not of the same category as His creatures.
Objections regarding the Christian view on Abortion
What is abortion?
There are two general types of abortion.
First, and most common, by far, is a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage.
Secondly, there is the induced procedure specifically designed to intentionally murder a human child before birth.
Objections? See the FAQ entries below.
What do you mean, Murder? It's...
What, a clump of cells?
I’m going to pretend that this makes sense for a minute, and bears any resemblance to what you no doubt believe is a scientific claim.
While it is true that an embryo is a clump of cells – so are you. Just a bigger clump. Cells, of course, differ, as well. What we are talking about is a particular kind of cells – cells with a unique DNA sequence – a unique combination of genes from mother and father. These cells are NOT genetically identical to the mother’s cells. They are NOT genetically identical to the father’s cells. They are a separate combination entirely.
These cells are a combination of the genetic sequences of the father and mother – and are just as unique as either of them are. Unless they have an identical twin, they will be just as unique, genetically, as any of their siblings would be – from their parents, and from each other. After their birth, identical twins have slight differences due to environmental factors – and then, they begin to differ markedly by their differing experiences – and, obviously, genetic similarity is not the only marker of ontological status – but if you are attempting to make a scientific claim, this must be understood.
They are not the father’s cells. They are not the mother’s cells. They are a newly formed, developing body – a different body – a life, a human, and a person that is demonstrably separate, as well as distinct from, that of the mother or father. Whether at the zygote, morula, blastocyst, or embryo stage, this is a unique individual. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, for example, presupposes that this is the case.
If this argument is taken to its logical conclusion – what you’re actually saying is that the technical differentiation between the DNA of disparate individuals that you, on the one hand, think is positive, and remarkable – is, on the other hand, irrelevant to the very field in which it operates – because it doesn’t fit your argument. How does that make sense? How, my friend, is that scientific? If this is just “a clump of cells” – what makes you any different? This isn’t an argument. This is a fallacious misdirection, and should be abandoned as a serious response.
What, not really a person (yet)?
We’ll pretend that you didn’t just commit to proving a negative. I mean, sure, go ahead, if you want to.
We’ll assume, for the sake of argument, that you are interested in the truth or falsity of your claim, too.
The legal definition of “person”, prior to Roe vs. Wade, had a spotty track record. It must be said, immediately, that the spottiness of that track record seems to be wholly immured in the denial of personhood, or in the reducement thereof, to groups deemed to be somehow inferior. For instance, the imposition of the three-fifths compromise by the Constitutional Convention, the treatment of Native American tribes in the United States, the treatment of Jews in Europe, and the underlying cultural ethos which gave rise to the Bataan Death March. Essentially, it must be understood that modifications to the value of human life, and especially to their dignity, are almost uniformly downward.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed – and as I am sure you are about to protest – the en vogue conception of “person” is a purely legal matter. There is a difference, you might say, or might have read (I’ll wait, if you’re googling right now), between a “natural” and “juridical” person. Yeah, we know. We also know that the pro-death crowd has their definition of “natural person”, and we have ours. We also know that it is often the pro-death crowd’s contention that a “Personhood amendment” will only create juridical persons. In that assertion, however, they go from merely begging the question to taking the helm of a leading, multi-national corporation of professional beggars – and all the kickbacks to and from the Beggars Union that this implies.
What I’m trying to say is that by making that assertion – they assume, without argument, their own definition of “natural person;” and on that basis, an ipse dixit, are insisting that a personhood amendment can only create juridical persons – and put the onus on their opponent to prove otherwise. Unfortunately for that sort of argumentation, there is, actually, a burden of proof for both sides of the argument. Which means, of course, that they have to demonstrate why their particular and peculiar limitations to the definition of “natural person” that they present are, in fact, necessary.
What, not really human (yet)?
Oh? So, just out of curiosity – how does that work with the “my body” argument? Do you leave the human race while pregnant, or do you just like contradicting yourself? If that blows by you, here’s another question – what species is your child? Do you hatch chickens? Gestate bears? Incubate llamas? Seriously – what is it, then? Pretend to be scientific all you want – this is not a serious assertion by any meaningful standard.
“Human” is a classification of which species we are. We are of the family Hominidae, genus Homo, species Homo Sapiens – it derives from the Latin hūmānus, the adjectival form of homō – “man.” My middle schooler can do better than this in Biology. This isn’t anything particularly difficult, or involved. What kind of eggs do you buy from the grocery store, typically? Chicken eggs. They are not usually fertilized eggs – right? If not, are they chickens? No. They are, of course, chicken eggs – but they aren’t chickens. Of course, you can get fertilized eggs; they taste just like unfertilized ones, by the by – because they haven’t been incubated, and they have been placed into refrigeration. If you incubated them, you’d likely get a chicken to hatch. However, the fertilized chicken eggs contain… embryonic chickens, at the initial stage of development. Have you ever looked into the subject? Have any clue? If not – you probably haven’t looked much into human embryology, either, have you? If you haven’t – why are you even confidently asserting the things that you’re asserting? If you have, and you’re still asserting such things – I suggest that a review is in order. Species don’t change because you want them to.
Objections regarding the Christian view of Human Sexuality (See our Statement)
Why Does SSM Matter to You, Anyway?
It matters because it is a redefinition of the term marriage and marriage is integral to our theology, our familial structure, and to our exercise of our beliefs.
As Christians, marriage is the earthly picture of our relationship to Christ, as His Church. By redefining the term marriage, you are asking us to redefine what we are, as believers, and who Christ is.
This is not a small matter. Sure, there are those who confess Christ who don’t see the issue but someone who is ignorant of the faith they claim to profess should be given less weight when it comes to other aspects of that profession, should they not? We are not saying that they are ignorant because we dislike them but because it is a statement of simple fact.
In the last half of Ephesians 5, there is a lengthy discussion of marriage, and of its analogy to Christ and His church. Whatever novelties that others want to present, it remains the case that this chapter hasnt changed meaning because societal norms have done so.
The drumbeat of SSM proponents is that an acknowledgement or affirmation of SSM doesn’t affect us, as Christians. That assertion is just that an assertion. We not only will not acknowledge or affirm the validity of that redefinition, but it is the case that we, quite simply, cannot do so.
Marriage, as Christ explains in Matthew 19, is between a man and a woman, and humanity was created with two genders, who are meant to marry each other, and complement each other. That union is that which becomes one flesh.
There cannot be a complementarity of man with man, or woman with woman. There is no union. That union is a picture of Christ and His church. Union with Christ is also a fundamental doctrine and not one which allows for redefinition, either.
This redefinition involves, by the nature of the case, a commensurate redefinition of human nature, of love, of sexuality, of union with Christ, of sin, of scripture, and all the interconnected issues that, in any system, necessarily intersect when any individual point is touched by every other.
You are not dealing with disconnected idiosyncrasies when you address Christian doctrine at any point. You are dealing with a system, at each and every point of Christian doctrine you speak to.
It matters because everything we believe has a necessary connection to each and every other thing we believe. Modifying that belief to suit your preference is not going to happen because it necessarily modifies everything else along with it, or results in a hash of inconsistencies.
If you think that is already what you are dealing with, as I’m sure some of you are thinking right now think again. What you think we believe is probably a lot further off than you know. If you’re really willing to learn what we believe, ask us. We’ll be happy to tell you.
Love Is Love
Love isn’t a non-descriptive tautology with a one-dimensional meaning that applies equally to each and every thing. If we did the same thing with another verb, you wouldn’t even dream of “affirming” it. Try on work is work. Work should be “without labels.”
Every job is just as “affirming” as any other. They are all the same type, all do the same thing, and all result in the same product. Right? Only if the sky is a very different color in your world!
Substitute any other one you want. The same thing will happen. Yes, there are false distinctions. On the other hand, to recognize them as false distinctions is to… distinguish… them from the true ones!
Love without labels is just love without meaning.
Therefore, we have to actually define what love is. Unsurprisingly, we probably dont have the same definition.
I Was Born This Way
Were you? I was born selfish, myself. Ask my mother! It was always about me, me, me. I still struggle with pride, too. Thankfully, however, I was washed, I was sanctified, and I was justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
There’s a problem with this objection, and it may be a problem for you, specifically, in one of a couple ways. First, it could be your assertion that this is a genetic determination. Second, it could be your assertion that this is more of an environmental determination. Roughly, nature or nurture.
In the first case, please realize that our first response is going to be Okay, and why do you think this is true? In our experience, many people claim that science has proven something when they have no basis for making that claim. So, lets hear it.
In the second case, you already have to know that you have to demonstrate this. It isn’t as simplistic an argument as the first tends to be. Further, you also have to know that your methodology for arriving at your conclusion is under just as much examination as your conclusion is.
Lets think through, though, what youre responding to. Remember, you are speaking to Reformed Christians here. We are the folks who think 17th century confessions are excellent, refer more to the writings of people who have been dead for generations than to those of modern, still-living writers. Using phrases like the wrong side of history seem a bit pretentious to those of us who not only like history, but are steeped in it on a daily basis.
Our objection, primarily, to your contention is that even if it were true, so what? Remember, homosexuality is listed as one of a whole laundry list of sins, in multiple places, and can hardly be pointed out as an exception, whatever Matthew Vines or Justin Lee has told you.
If you were born a sinner weren’t we all? The Scriptural reply to this is, of course, and such were some of you. We know that we all have individual predilections to particular sinful behaviors! Our return question, at this point, will be What makes this any different? Self-identifying as homosexual, transgender, or what have you isn’t anything new, when you think about it.
People have always tried to consider their own failings generously, or even positively. In fact, there have always been thieves, adulterers, fornicators, liars, and the like who consider their own behaviors virtues, have there not? So, what makes your besetting sin, so to speak, the exception, and not a proof of the rule?
We dont think you were born gay.
We think you were born a sinner just like us. We think that God redeems sinners from their sin just like He did for us. Your self-identification is just another symptom of the underlying problem. In a fallen world, sin has ramifications at all levels of human behavior and society.
We have no problem being counter-cultural. Neither did you, when the culture was not on your side. The difference is, we as Christians are called to be like Christ and Christ demands that we tell the truth as he has set it down for us. That means that we must call you to repent, as we ourselves repent of our sins. Be washed, be sanctified, be justified. Be gay is not a compatible option. We cannot affirm that, and we wont, no matter who else does.
Racial equality happened, and now it is LGBT equality's turn.
Not only is that pretentious, but it is inaccurate, as well.
A) We believe race is an incoherent concept, as did abolitionists throughout history. It has no basis, scientific or otherwise; offers no positive contribution, and has resulted in harm to large groups of people. It is dehumanizing, indefinable, and needlessly divisive.
This is not said to downplay the effects of racism, which does, of course, exist; but to emphasize that creating categories out of whole cloth results in moral and societal destruction. We are equal because we are all likewise created in the image of God.
B) We believe that the so-called equality being presented as such is not equality, but a fundamental inequality; by redefining humanity, they are demeaning it, and defacing it. Dehumanizing behavior and ideals should not be considered equal to those which affirm the true nature of humanity, and propagate it.
C) Comparison to race, racism, and chattel slavery especially when simultaneously equating all historical forms of slavery with chattel slavery, and all historical views of ethnicity with the current view of race is rhetorical suicide in any meaningful sense.
First, because a Biblical exegesis reveals nothing of race as a concept, or as an ideal. Second, because a Biblical exegesis reveals no positive affirmation of chattel slavery.
Three further points to follow:
First, the credibility of the homosexual lobby is undermined by both their atrocious disregard for the real struggles of so-called blacks throughout U.S. history and by their absolute hatred of Christian teaching. Unfortunately for them, the credibility of the civil rights movement and the abolitionists before them are virtually all they have to base their pro-homosexual case on. They are making a me too! comparison which does not, in any reasonable way, follow.
Second, what the homosexual lobby is doing to homosexuals is hateful. They are attempting to normalize something that is not normal by equating sexual sin with “race,” promoting a lifestyle that leads to disease and death, and belittling anyone who would dare to question their actions.
Third, though they fill the media with assertions regarding race and bigotry, they actually have no basis upon which to condemn racism or bigotry, since they have, by definition, precluded the Word of God as the source of moral standards, in favor of either an individualistic or societal subjectivist ethical system. Christians base their rejection of racism and bigotry on the Word of God, whether that racism and bigotry comes from the homosexual lobby or anyone else; and Christians consistently apply their ethic to homosexuality in calling it what it is: sin.
Their opposition to Christian doctrine and their insistence on the redefinition of humanity, on every level, is bigoted. They neither know what they oppose, why they are doing so, nor why they hate it, in any reasoned way. As they are offering only unreasoning opposition, it fits the term bigotry with precision.
CH: The Inveterate Incoherency of Race
CH: The Tyranny of Death
CH: Irrationality is not a Response
CH: Love is Love and Other Tautologies
CH: Why the Homosexual Lobbyists are Racist Bigots, and Why You Should Care
Why Do You Hate Homosexuals?
Let me guess you used homophobe, or homophobic in your head, right? If you have a phobia, you have an unreasoning fear of something. Much like bigotry is an unreasoned opposition, right? Yeah, we get that too. The problem is, it is an inaccurate, and exceedingly shallow description.
We don’t hate homosexuals. That’s your first problem. We don’t hate homosexuals. We don’t hate liars, thieves, gluttons, drunkards, gossips, or slanderers; the envious, the disobedient, the insolent, the arrogant, or even the idolatrous, the God-haters, or the malicious, the murderers, the effeminate, the adulterers, or the fornicators! You know why?
It is very simple. Because these are all sins against a holy God and they define someone only before they are saved from those sins. Why do they define someone? Why, because sins enslave.(John 8:34) When we are freed from the slavery to sin, we are freed from that slavery of identification. A slave is identified by his master.
Thus, the tendency of people to identify themselves as their sins is an age-old problem. Men have been proud of their murderous reputation before. Many thieves have been proud to steal. Adulterer has a more genteel name at many and varied times in history.
None of this makes it right to identify yourself with your sin. It just means that it is an inevitable consequence of slavery. Further, it is inevitable because you are a slave and your freedom from that slavery is not going to be by your own efforts.
When we oppose your self-identification of evil as a good and moral thing, we cannot, in good conscience, do otherwise.(Isa 5:20, 10:1) Hatred is something specifically denied us. (Lev 19:17) We are not opposing sin because we hate you. The issue is, truly, that you identify yourself with your sin, and our opposition of it is, from your perspective, since you refuse to call it such, hatred of you, personally.
We know. We also know that you, in turn, hate everything we stand for – things we are called to identify ourselves with. Thus, your opposition to what we know are virtues, and what we are being sanctified to be, is in many respects the same sort of treatment.
The difference is, we know that this is true.
Second, we don’t fear homosexuals which is what the suffix -phobic actually means. We aren’t closet homosexuals, or closet bisexuals. I know that is a popular claim to make, but it really has no basis in reality, no matter how much creative fancy a researcher wants to pad his study with. The author of this entry, for instance, has 8 children, has been happily married for over a decade, with never even a fleeting sexual desire for someone of the same gender. We don’t fear homosexuals because they are different, because they are in disagreement with us, or because we secretly don’t want to be outed as one of you.
We don’t fear you at all. We have a principled, fundamental difference between us, yes. We disagree on the most basic level about who we both are – you, and me – and who humans are, in general. Returning the discussion to such superficialities as supposed phobias is a waste of my time, and yours.
It is, essentially, the rhetorical equivalent of schoolyard taunting and just as useful. Recognize, first, that we know why you say what you do. We also know why we say what we do. There is nothing mysterious about this. It just requires a modicum of reflection. When you have two viewpoints clashing on the most basic of ideas, is it not inevitable that the clash will be on every other level, as well?
Third, think about what this objections reveals about you. Do you really have any idea what it is we say, or why, if this is the objection you raise? When you use certain objections, we know, to an extent, what you believe yourself, and what you believe that we believe.
You are tipping your hand, certainly, but you are also showing a fundamental ignorance of your opponent and their position. Take the time to actually think through what it is you are saying, to whom and take the time to actually learn what it is we believe, so that you are not attacking a straw man. We believe you should object to the best the other side has to offer.
Objections like this may be the best your position can make but they should not be. Put in some work or just ignore us but keep in mind that we wont go away, and objections like this do absolutely nothing to change anyone’s mind. All they do is reinforce an impression that you have no interest in accuracy.
General objections to Christianity
How can we know which religion is true?
Firstly, we have to recognize that you are asking, at bottom, the same question Pilate asks in his examination of Christ, in John 18. What is truth?
Secondly, you cannot, as a friend often says, speak of truth without speaking of consistency. Thirdly, your system of beliefs (or the lack of a system, for that matter) will, and inevitably so, influence your consideration of truth claims.
What religion is true? To answer that, you have to have an answer for What is truth? Jesus tells us in the verse prior to Pilates question: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
The Lord tells Moses and Israel: “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth The Psalmist calls the Lord the God of truth. Truth is over and over said to be Gods, and to be something He Himself is. His works are themselves truth. His word is called truth, repeatedly.
That truth is said to be everlasting. Further, to His people, there is another promise: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
Romans speaks of those who suppress the truth; For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, It goes on to speak of what that suppression involves; For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Paul tells us in 2nd Timothy that repentance leads to knowledge of the truth that the unrepentant are always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
When thinking of truth, you simply cannot do so apart from considering consistency. Thus, when you consider the truth of the religious system, you should consider the consistency of it. Many objections we encounter, when boiled down, are objections on the basis of consistency. That which is internally inconsistent with itself is untrue.
What this must be distinguished from is inconsistency with a) your own system, as distinct from the system under consideration and b) your own conceptions of the system under consideration, not the system itself. The former is also called an external inconsistency. It may certainly be true that this system is incompatible with your own but thats an irrelevancy, at best. You should be measuring the consistency of the system in terms of the rules from that system. Too often, a system is externally evaluated *as if* it operates by the rules the evaluator operates under.
You have to be cognizant of the difference between the two. Bahnsen, for example, calls this being epistemologically self-conscious. Epistemology, as you may have gathered, is the study of how you know what you know.
In some sense, when you confuse the two, you are comparing apples to oranges. It is more of a matter of misunderstanding than conflation, if you are interpreting the other system as if it worked within the framework of your own. When it fails to be consistent in those terms, it is asserted that it fails but what really just happened is that it failed to be what you think it is.
To be truly inconsistent, it needs to have contradictory tenets that the system itself says should be contradictory. That is called an internal inconsistency.
For instance; the Quran asserts that the people of the book should judge by what is therein, in Surah 5. And let the People of the Gospel judge by what God has revealed in it. If any fail to judge by what God has revealed, they are licentious. In Surah 10, Muhammad is told So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters. If a proof, to the Prophet, is supplied by means of asking us what *we* believe, and what we have read, it is safe to say that the Christian Scriptures are considered trustworthy.
However, there is a problem an internal problem. Modern Islamic teachers state that the Christian Scriptures were corrupted. This is an inconsistency between faith and practice. On the one hand, the Quran, in many places, attests to the reliability of the Scriptures which it claims to guard. On the other, we are told that the Quran failed at its task. That nothing remains of the former words of Allah, which the Quran affirms cannot be broken, or fail.
The Injeel is lost, known only to Jesus. Further, the Quran itself fails to properly identify what Christians have believed, from the beginning. When the Quran states: And when Allah will say, O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ? It identifies the Christian Trinity as Father, Son, and Mary!
If the author truly knew Christianity, and what their Scripture teaches, would they not know this is incorrect? These are internal inconsistencies, and are a gauge of truth claims.
When we speak of the impossibility of the contrary elsewhere, and the negative argument it posits, we are speaking, in part, of this topic. Islam, therefore, is self-contradictory, and thus cannot be true. This procedure is necessary to eliminate the false. Which brings us to the next question.
What does theological term _x_ mean?
Well, keep this in mind. First, you’re on a Reformed website.
This means that you shouldn’t assume that an RCC definition suffices, a Jehovah’s Witness definition suffices, or what have you.
Second, not only do you NOT need to look in the WRONG place, you DO need to look in the RIGHT place. The most general way is someplace like theopedia. More specifically, Monergism.com. Even more specifically, the Reformed Confessions.
In short, there is no end to the availability of direct, systematic instruction in Christian doctrine.
“Systematic Theology is more closely related to apologetics than are any of the other disciplines. In it we have the system of truth that we are to defend.” CVT
CH INTRO: A Brief Introduction to Systematic Theology
CH: Van Til and Systematic Theology
IA: In Antithesis, Volume 1, Number 1; The Doctrine of God in Reformed Apologetics
What is "antithesis"?
What is "the Impossibility of the Contrary" (IotC)?
It is impossible, or absurd, to say that one can both not exist and affirm one’s non-existence; the one affirming non-existence would have to exist in order to affirm one’s non-existence.
Likewise, we may argue for logic by the impossibility of the contrary or absurdity of the opposite; in denying logic one is affirming it.
By “contrary” here we simply mean the denial of whatever is in view. Contrary is being used in an informal and conversational way, and not in its philosophical sense.
In the philosophical or logical sense contraries cannot both be true but they can both be false, whereas here we want to say that if the contrary of a position is false or at any rate impossible, then the original position must be true or necessary.
CH INTRO: Transcendental Argumentation
CH INTRO: Illustrating Neccessity by the Impossibility of the Contrary
CH: Helping Dawson recognize a TA
CH: Mr. White, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Black VII
What is meant by transcendental?
Transcendental arguments pertain to the transcendent, but only in the sense that there are beliefs which serve as the basic or foundational beliefs for others and in that sense cannot be denied.
These beliefs are preconditions for intelligible experience, transcendental beliefs, and are only in that sense transcendent, philosophically speaking.
CH INTRO: Transcendental Argumentation
CH INTRO: Nature of the Transcendental
CH: A Brief Word on the Transcendental Argument
CH: An Introduction to the Transcendental Premise and Alleged Problems