While digging through ancient discussions on the Internet concerning presuppositional apologetics I came across what is posted below. It is written by an “ex-Van Tilian” who is a friend of mine, and though I do not endorse what is said in the post (at least not all of it) it may be of some interest, provide a critical look at this method from another perspective, or provide fodder for future posts. Enjoy.
Allow me to offer a theistic perspective on this issue (of whether presuppositionalists should be taken seriously).
I believe that if they really want to be “taken seriously” by intellectually sophisticated nonbelievers and atheists, presuppositionalists need to get serious themselves and more of their leading voices actually need to earn Ph.Ds (preferably in philosophy). Seriously.
I can literally count on the fingers of ONE hand (and have some to spare!) the Christians who are both presuppositionalists and have gone on to earn a Ph.D in philosophy so as to be better equipped to think on the issues germane to various aspects of presuppositionalism, e.g. “the transcendental argument for the existence of God” (TAG). It would be nice if the day would come where I actually needed the fingers of TWO hands to count the number of said presuppositionalists.
Some presuppositionalists might say that the very nature of presuppositionalism–with its emphasis on the antithesis of biblical Christianity and secularism–precludes a presuppositionalist from going to secular graduate programs and earning such degrees. Perhaps that is correct. And perhaps that (fact about “antithesis”) also explains the fact why even Greg Bahnsen–who managed to finish a secular Ph.D program at USC–never chose to publish defenses of presuppositionalism in secular journals SUBSEQUENT to completing his Ph.D.
I refute that idea thus: Hogwash. Maybe the world is not yet ready for a full-blown defense of the entire Christian worldview using a presuppositional, (Christian-)theistic transcendental argument. But I can’t believe that no academic philosophy journals, especially one with an emphasis in philosophy of religion (e.g. Faith & Philosophy, Philo, Philosophia Christi, Religious Studies), wouldn’t publish a solid, well-written and rigorous presuppositional “internal critique” of some non-Christian worldview.
In an age where similar, quasi-presuppositional arguments like Plantinga’s “evolutionary argument against naturalism” and Reppert’s “argument from reason” (to name but two examples) ARE being taken seriously and getting published in various peer-reviewed philosophy journals, there is no longer a good excuse for why a similar type of thing can’t happen with a more mainline presuppositional argument.
Having made the case for why more presuppositionalists should earn Ph.Ds (in philosophy), let me say this: going through such a program definitely tends to dull one’s presuppositional edge. Especially if one gets trained in a department that is strongly “analytic” in its orientation, one develops the technical skills necessary for properly assessing the presuppositionalist’s TAG itself (as it has been usually formulated since Bahnsen). And–speaking for myself as a former “hardcore vantilian presuppositionalist”–when one turns one’s critical eye on that argument itself, one might end up seeing it for what it is: a loose metaphor (or an illustrative example) posing as a successful theistic transcendental argument, and not the promised argument itself.
In short, what presuppositionalism needs is more rigor and less sloganizing (and navel gazing). Please, let’s actually try to improve upon Bahnsen, not simply to treat him as an end-all-and-be-all of things presuppositional.
[This maybe] came out sounding rather harsh and disparaging against presuppositionalists (and presuppositionalism) of the vantilian stripe. Despite its tone, I was trying to be helpful. I guess I was just wenting my frustration over the fact that there aren’t more presupp’ers who are willing to do for their apologetic view what Christians like WL Craig, JP Moreland, Gary Habermas, etc. are willing to do for classical apologetics.
On a brighter note, the deplorable situation I mentioned in my last post is being addressed by men like Greg Welty and James Anderson. I consider them (along with David Byron, whereever he may be these days) as being the future stars of presuppositionalism who might actually go beyond Bahnsen.
OK, I’m done venting. 🙂