Nick Norelli recently wrote:
“I think the thing is that plenty of presuppositionalists debate (look at James White who debates like every other day) and I’m sure they employ their method, but I think it lends itself to certain subjects better than others.”
As Nick mentioned in his response to someone concerning the apparent absence of presuppositional apologetics in the realm of debate, James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries is a presuppositionalist and can hardly be charged with not debating. Doug Wilson, who recently engaged Christopher Hitchens in a series of books, formal debates, and discussions (see the movie Collision) also uses presuppositional apologetics. Nevertheless, questions concerning the use of presuppositional apologetics in debate are common. One of the reasons that there may not appear to be many presuppositionalists debating is that there are not many presuppositionalists. Given the popularity of apologetics in general and the so-called “New Calvinism” (as though there has never been a resurgence of Calvinism before; we are quite self-centered people) presuppositionalism is probably on its way to becoming more popular because of the links which exist between Calvinism and presuppositionalism. However, a number of obstacles still stand in the way of the popularity of presuppositional apologetics and their use in debate.
There is not much literature on the subject of presuppositionalism written at an introductory level. Those who are properly introduced to presuppositionalism and become more serious about it are often turned away by the more complex criticisms which have been leveled against it and its respective arguments (namely, TAG). It is far easier and far more acceptable to jump on the Plantingian bandwagon (yes I have read him, yes I do appreciate his work, and yes I did call it that) than it is to work through the various objections to the presuppositional method that have been raised due to an increase in familiarity with the presuppositional apologetic method and its subsequent evaluation by some very bright Christian thinkers in the analytic tradition. No apologetic method or epistemology will ever be found that has not in some way been questioned or had an objection brought against it. Note that this is directly due to the nature of apologetics and epistemology. The difference in the case of presuppositionalism is that the responses to questions and objections are severely lacking.
The aforementioned observation is not intended to imply that the types of questions and objections under consideration have not already been addressed or even sufficiently addressed in primary sources concerning the topic. However, critics have a tendency to attempt to read the primary sources while standing on one leg (charitably construed) and there are few who are up to the challenge of providing them with answers from or in accordance with the primary sources applicable to whatever problem is being discussed. Cornelius Van Til and Greg L. Bahnsen (both of whom held PhDs in Philosophy from accredited universities, by the way) were certainly not infallible, but they were not idiots either. Frankly, some of the complaints that have been raised against TAG as of late do more than just entail that Van Til and/or Bahnsen were mistaken; they imply that the men were not the brightest crayons in the box. Given that Bahnsen was no burnt sienna one must conclude that there is work to be done. Such work requires more than parroted rhetoric and intellectual laziness on the part of those who are familiar with presuppositionalism. To be fair, some of those who are extremely familiar with presuppositionalism have been the same people offering objections. However, one can recognize with Van Til that a midget can see further than a giant when he stands on the giant’s shoulders. It is certainly the case that we need more midgets.
To be continued.