Naïve Presuppositionalism

Naïve presuppositionalism is that brand of apologetic methodology which emphasizes – as the characteristic mark of traditional Van Tilian apologetics – the observation that everyone holds presuppositions in virtue of which evidence is evaluated. Through implicit abstract philosophical disregard for revelational epistemology, naïve presuppositionalists reject the use of evidence in apologetic practice, and often in apologetic principle, summarizing their argumentative approach in terms of the so-called ‘Transcendental Argument for God,’ or ‘TAG.’ Consistent with the aforementioned view, TAG is thought of as an a priori argument providing absolute epistemological certainty. This notion of epistemological certainty parallels that of rationalistic philosophy of the Enlightenment Era. The naïve presuppositionalist elevates ‘certainty,’ in the aforementioned sense, to the forefront of apologetic interaction.

The elevation of certainty to the forefront of apologetic exchanges can take many forms. However, naïve presuppositionalists generally assume epistemological certainty a prerequisite or necessary condition of knowledge, and posit actual certainty given a Christian worldview. Thus, the Christian is actually certain, and hence possesses knowledge, whereas the unbeliever is uncertain. The attempt to demonstrate such claims often degenerates into the naïve presuppositionalist leveling a series of skeptical questions at his or her opponent ad nauseam.

In actual practice, naïve presuppositionalism can be difficult to distinguish from other types of presuppositionalism. A particularly troubling aspect of this method is the rhetorical affirmation of biblical fidelity, the rhetorical rejection of worldly philosophy, and the repeated dogmatic assertions that something has actually been demonstrated or accomplished through the use of this method. Unfortunately, such rhetoric runs counter to the unstated theoretical elements of naïve presuppositionalism, which implicitly dismiss the need to prove anything like epistemological certainty through biblical exegesis, implicitly embrace worldly theories of certainty, and tend to anger the apologetic adversary, rather than closing the mouth or answering any questions or challenges.

In recent years, presuppositional apologetics have grown in popularity. Unfortunately, the growing popularity of any theological theory means the growing popularity of imposters. While some may view this article as nothing more than an honorable attempt to split ignorable hairs, perhaps defining and differentiating between naïve presuppositionalism and its more biblically and philosophically informed counterparts may serve as the beginning of a helpful corrective for newcomers to the presuppositional apologetic world.

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Gubmint iz Gud

Government is good. Scripture is certainly not silent about government. Government exists in the family. Government exists in the church. Government exists in the state. Conflating the categories of government and state can lead to serious confusion about the role of government and the role of state.

The United States government is not the government. The United States government is a government. Semantic quibbling? Perhaps. But how often do people refer to the church as ‘the government,’ or the family as ‘the government’? They don’t.

Instead, the term ‘government’ is readily applied to and equated with the state. The two have become synonymous in our thinking, and that is a problem, since the two are not synonymous. The implication of the conflation is the superiority of the state. That’s a problem, because Scripture limits the governance of family, church, and state.

For example, the state is not granted the authority to prevent corporal punishment within family government. The family derives its authority from God, and God commands the use of corporal punishment in the family. The state likewise derives its authority from God. (Perhaps those words “one Nation under God” are not so frivolous after all.)

Stalinesque states, crooked churches, and flagitious families plague this fallen world. But government as government does not. Government is a good gift from God.

Newspaper Exegesis

Sadly, ‘newspaper exegesis’ is one of the most popular hermeneutics of our day. People practice newspaper exegesis when they mistakenly take biblical prophecy as describing what is happening right now in the news. They read Scripture through the lens of the news. Suddenly the president is the anti-christ. Computer chips are the mark of the beast. Helicopters are locusts.

Newspaper exegesis is nothing new. Ancient Hebrews failed to find Jesus in their prophets. First-century Jews thought their Messiah would end Roman rule. People were running around saying, “I am the Christ.”

Myopia may be to blame. Egocentrism. Ethnocentrism. Sociocentrism. Many other centrisms besides. We tend to view ourselves, and those around us, as being at the center of world history. Thus, if our life, culture, or country are coming to an end, we mistakenly believe the world is coming to an end. Hence, newspaper exegesis maintains credibility. At least in our eyes.

Now, at least, we can understand one reason why future events in the Bible are described in such sweeping terms. The close of a major chapter of redemptive history through judgment – which culminates in the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD – is prophesied, in some senses, as though it were the end of the world.

Because that’s what unbelieving Jews would have thought it was.