More on Naïve Presuppositionalism

Apparently I ruffled some feathers with my post on Naïve Presuppositionalism. People wondered whom I was writing about. The answer? No one in particular. But if the shoe fits, then wear it.

When I looked around on the Internet at conversation regarding my post, I found that some people thought I was directing my comments at Sye TenBruggencate, a rising star of sorts in the apologetic world. However, naïve presuppositionalism was around long before TB. At the same time, some evidence (!) of naïve presuppositionalism can be found in TB’s material. For example:

In the video, TB assumes a dichotomy between evidences and presuppositions when he speaks of “evidences versus presuppositions.” This false dichotomy is inherent to naïve presuppositionalism. Not only is the dichotomy philosophically problematic, but it cuts against the testimony of Scripture.

Philosophically, evidences are useless without presuppositions, and presuppositions are useless without evidences. Both evidences and presuppositions are necessary to a robust philosophy, and thus also to a robust apologetic. The characteristic mark of traditional Van Tilian apologetics is not the observation that everyone holds presuppositions in virtue of which evidence is evaluated, as important as that realization may be.

Biblically, evidences are the very basis upon which people hold their presuppositions about God, and their presuppositions about God inform their understanding of those evidences. For example, in Psalm 19, the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. And in Romans 1, God is known because He is perceived in the things have have been made. Of course, such overwhelming evidence does not lead the ungodly to honor God as God, but if the sky and creation are not evidence, then I do not know what is.

TB’s courtroom analogy is not as helpful as it initially seems to be. I understand that analogies are not perfect, but the inference TB attempts to illustrate through his analogy does not follow. While someone does provide evidence to the judge and jury in a court case, the evidence is also being presented to the person who is on trial. If we are to hold a fair trial, it only makes sense that the person who is being judged should be present to hear the charges, evidence, and judgment brought against him. The person on trial has the evidence presented to him the same as the judge and jury have the evidence presented to them.

It does not follow from what has been said above that the one presenting the evidence is saying that the person on trial is really the judge. Likewise, it does not follow from the fact that an apologist presents evidence to an unbeliever that the apologist is saying the unbeliever is God. After all, God presents irrefutable evidence to the unbeliever. Is God saying the unbeliever is God? Of course not!

God knows the unbeliever is a judge, though the unbeliever is not the Judge.

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6 responses to “More on Naïve Presuppositionalism

  1. Pingback: More on Naïve Presuppositionalism | Pure Antithesis

  2. Your criticisms of naive presuppositionalism are right on the mark. I have grown frustrated to the extent to which this sort of apologetic has taken root among laypeople, especially in Reformed circles. Its most ardent spokespeople are usually woefully lacking in the philosophical depth to formulate strong versions of the presuppositional arguments, and they compensate for this deficit with loud, pious rhetoric and excessive quotations from Van Til, Bahnsen, and Oliphint. It is also painful to see them trot out oft-refuted arguments from unbelievers like Hume and Kant in an attempt to show that the traditional proofs are unsound.

    • …and they compensate for this deficit with loud, pious rhetoric and excessive quotations from Van Til, Bahnsen, and Oliphint.

      The quotations first being forwarded with “you don’t understand Van Til, et.al.” or some mocking statement about how no one reads their material.

      It’s as if they think they are first to discuss Van Til and co.

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