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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11 responses to “Naïve Presuppositionalism

  1. Pingback: Impostors in Presuppositionalism

  2. I feel this needs some clarification. For those of us whom you would likely place into the category of “naive”, are you able to state your point in a way that appears less dismissively elitist, and takes the route of constructive criticism instead?

    For example, can you refer us to a specific definition and differentiation between naive presuppositionalism and the more biblically and philosophically informed counterparts that you speak of? I would find such a clarification and discussion most beneficial at this point.

  3. Pingback: TAG is the Pits! | POUSTO

  4. Pingback: Naïve Presuppositionalism | Pure Antithesis

  5. “which implicitly dismiss the need to prove anything like epistemological certainty through biblical exegesis,”

    Really? Have you even read Bahnsen? Please find a book with more scriptural references than “Always Ready.” Also, nobody is arguing that the unbeliever cannot have knowledge or certainty but rather the opposite. The fact that they have knowledge betrays their stated presuppositions. It is blatantly obvious that you do not have a grasp of the presuppositional method. Did a philosophy professor at Stanford pay you to write this?

    • “Really?”
      Yes, really.

      “Have you even read Bahnsen?”
      Yes, I have even read Bahnsen.

      “Please find a book with more scriptural references than ‘Always Ready.'”
      T. Schreiner’s NT Theology has more scriptural references than Always Ready.

      “…nobody is arguing that the unbeliever cannot have knowledge or certainty…”
      Bahnsen writes, “given his defective worldview and spiritual attitude, the unbeliever cannot justify any knowledge whatsoever.”

      “The fact that they have knowledge betrays their stated presuppositions.”
      Yes, I am familiar with the argument, and so I know you are merely playing at semantics.

      “It is blatantly obvious that you do not have a grasp of the presuppositional method.”
      Oh, I don’t?

      “Did a philosophy professor at Stanford pay you to write this?”
      No, I was not paid to write this post, much less by a “philosophy professor at Stanford,” but if you know of someone who would be willing to pay me for posts like this one, or can tell me who pays you to write comments opposing posts like this one, then please let me know!

  6. Pingback: More on Naïve Presuppositionalism | POUSTO

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