It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to reason about our presuppositions.
The most natural approach to reasoning, I believe, is to rest upon our presuppositions blindly, without thinking about them at all. This is apparent to me time and time again in discussions I have with unbelievers. A rather enormous challenge in presuppositional apologetics, therefore, is getting your opponent to see that they have presuppositions, and that they must give an account for them. This is no easy task, believe me! The discussion I had two days ago was no exception.
There is this discussion board that I literally “lived” on for the past 7 years, that I have only now begun to wean myself from. It hasn’t been all bad, actually – I learned a great deal about the beliefs of others, and about what I didn’t know about my own beliefs by spending time on that board. My skin grew thick from the constant abuse I took there, and my skills as an apologist grew greatly from what they were when I started out.
Two days ago I ventured back to that board, and entered into a discussion about prayer. Never one to give even an inch to Christianity, this individual latched on to one of my comments and immediately challenged me to prove that “my god” answers prayer. Seeing an opportunity to challenge his presuppositions, I responded – and we were off!
After a few exchanges, where he challenged me to prove the truth of the Bible, I said to him “I’m not trying to prove the authority of scripture – I am relying upon it“, realizing – hoping actually – that he would challenge me to account for what I was relying upon. Sure enough, he responded with “Well, before you can rely on it, you must prove it is valid“. After some more back and forth, he set the bar with the following – “The ONLY way to demonstrate that the bible is true is by hard evidence and facts“. This was the perfect lead-in to start to challenge him about his standard, which I proceeded to do.
I then asked him “what standard are you measuring [your standard] against” and “why should you use this standard, and not another?” His response? “The validity of my standard can be validated in every observation that that has ever been made that resulted in a hypothesis that was tested and validated (or not) since the beginning of history.“
This was just what I was hoping for. I countered with “So your standard is validated by using the very thing your standard relies upon – evidence, reasoning, and the scientific method“, hoping that he would see the circular nature of his argument. He didn’t. It required another few rounds of back and forth before he finally realized he couldn’t simply assume that his standard was valid, and responded with “Okay then, how would you suggest demonstrating the validity of the scientific method?“.
I will likely return to the board in the next day or so to respond, at which point I have no idea how far I will get with him.
Regardless, this conversation got me thinking. There has to be a way to make presuppositionalism succinct. There has to be a way to get right to the heart of the matter, within just a few minutes, because there is so much time to spend after you reach that point. What is that “heart of the matter” of which I speak? Getting your opponent to realize that they are arguing from a standard – a worldview – that itself needs to be accounted for.
This is one of my goals to tackle – to figure out a “formula” (for lack of a better word) to accomplish this.