You think this hashtag will begin trending? Probably not
When I first started hearing about presuppositional apologetics several years, ago, I’ll admit, it took me a while to get the concept. It’s not a way of thinking that I was taught growing up.
I was first introduced to the philosophy by Jason Lisle’s book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation. Dr. Lisle builds a strong case for the layman to understand, but I was unsure how or when to ask questions. I watched videos from Sye Ten Bruggencate, James White, Jeff Durbin, and Greg Bahsen. Each time I learned a little more, and after practicing with in my own interactions online, I feel more comfortable with sharing the gospel through presuppositional apologetics.
How does one start? Ten Bruggencate puts it this way: “Read your Bible and believe what it says.”
Recently, I had an interaction with a skeptic on twitter, and I want to play it out here to help those who may be working to better understand how think biblically and speak the gospel with the authority it deserves.
I want to do it in 2 parts to show why I think presuppositional apologetics is such a powerful tool for the gospel.
- Expose the irrational/arbitrary/inconsistent thinking of the skeptic since their epistemology (theory of knowledge) has no logical foundation
- Build a positive claim for the truth of God’s revelation in scripture, so that people will face the decision to repent or continue in their rebellion
Expose Skeptic Thinking
About a year ago a skeptic with the username, Haywood and I interacted for a few days. Haywood is friendly and has not resorted to mockery or ad hominem attacks in our interaction, so I have continued to discuss with him.
This past week, he accused me of cognitive dissonance and failing to back up my claims. So, let’s walk through the process of showing how Haywood’s claims (step 1 from above) are impotent since his theory of knowledge (epistemology) is insufficiently justified.
Haywood explains that his epistemology or worldview needs only reality, his senses and his reason. This is where as an apologist, we can check to see if the skeptic’s worldview has either internal or external consistency. So, we ask questions about his claim to see if his worldview makes sense.
- How do you know what is real?
- “What my senses and reasoning tell me is real.”
- How do you KNOW that your senses and reasoning are valid?
- It is inconsistent to assume both that humans progressed from non-reasoning stardust to reasoning human beings via natural processes AND that reasoning is then trustworthy.
- “I don’t know. I could be trapped in the matrix.”
- This is a retreat into absurdity. Haywood chose this retreat instead of answering the question. This is the point, when the apologist can say: You can put your trust in Jesus or retreat into absurdity (solipsism)
- Why do you think your senses are reliable?
- “That’s all I have to work with”
- Fallacy of assuming the consequent
- “What my senses tell me is in agreement with what other people’s senses tell them”
- Fallacy of ad populum
- One would still need their own sense and reasoning to determine that other people’s senses and reasoning are in agreement. So, that argument is also the fallacy of vicious circularity
- “I don’t know”
- Fallacy of ad ignorantium
- Then, it is not knowledge since knowledge is justified true beliefs
- Without God, you’re left to conclude reasoning came about by natural causes. What reason do you have to trust your reasoning if it came from a non-reasoning source?
- “I don’t know”
- Are there people who reason incorrectly? How could you know if you were one of them?
- Fallacy of ad ignorantium
- “Because it works”
- Fallacy of assuming the consequent
I want to spend some time on his last comment: “the Bible is still wrong.”
Here, Haywood assumes at least four things:
- There is an objective standard by which something can be shown to be wrong
- How does the purposeless, blind, pitiless, indifferent cosmos produce standards whereby something could be determined to be right/wrong?
- Is-ought fallacy
- That standard has greater authority than the Bible
- Why do you think such a standard has higher authority than the Bible, which God revealed as true? As an example of this, Author A could say that based on historical documents the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt. Author B claims that based on historical documents, the Hebrews were not enslaved in Egypt. Which author or historical documents have the highest authority by which something can be said to be true. In the worldview of any skeptic, all knowledge is provisional and leads to an infinite regression of necessary provisions. In the case of claims against the Bible, there are no standards that have higher authority than revelation from the One who knows everything and is eternally faithful.
- There are unchanging, abstract, absolutes like laws of logic, morality, and induction by which to determine truth
- How does a chaotic cosmos made only of matter produce unchanging, abstract absolutes?
- The Bible is not revelation from God
- To know this for certain, one would need to have all knowledge
Later, I asked Haywood what he knew for certain, and this was his reply:
So by claiming that he cannot be certain of anything, it follows that he does not KNOW anything. His worldview lacks the pre-conditions of intelligibility. Anything that could conditionally be known is just tentative. For Haywood (or other skeptic), some future discovery could be made that would refute any current provisional evidence. So, any claim that the skeptic makes can be refuted with “but since you are only tentatively knowledgeable about this and don’t know anything for certain, you could be wrong.”
The Christian is not burdened with this cumbersome epistemology. As we will discuss in the next section, God (who has all knowledge) has revealed some things, so the Christian can have certain knowledge of those things.
That section exposed the impotence of skeptics to refute Christianity because of their deficient worldview. In this next section, I want to show how we can build a positive case FOR The truth of Christianity
Build a Positive Case
Haywood made a recent claim that presuppositional apologetics doesn’t present a positive case for Christianity.
Is this true? Let’s see.
The Christian theory of knowledge (epistemology) is built on God’s revelation. God has revealed Himself in creation, in the Bible and in Jesus.
- Creation: Romans 1:18-20 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Part of the revelation of God is that there is sufficient evidence in creation for everyone to know that God exists.
- Bible: All throughout scripture, we see the claim that the Bible is the Word of God. These claims include prophecies that were foretold hundreds or even thousands of years prior to their fulfillment
- Genesis 12:3 “all nations on earth will be blessed through you.”
- 2000 years later Jesus fulfilled this prophecy as someone from Abraham’s line that brought salvation to all nationalities
- Psalm 22:16,18 “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they pierce my hands and my feet…They divide my garments among them and case lots for my clothing.”
- 1000 years later Jesus’ hands and feet were pierced on the cross while soldiers cast lots for his clothing
- Isaiah 44:28 “who says of Cyrus ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jersalem “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’
- 150-220 years later Cyrus (prophesied BY NAME) released Hebrews from Babylonian captivity and declared that Jerusalem and their temple be rebuilt
- Jesus: Jesus is the ultimate revelation as God. Jesus is the Creator, so creation confirms his divinity. Jesus claimed to be God several times and his claims were confirmed when He rose from the dead (as prophesied in Psalm 16:10). Lastly, these self-authenticating revelations are confirmed in Jesus by Colossians 2:3 “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ Jesus.”
The things God has revealed in the Bible can know for certain because they were revealed by the One (Jesus) who knows everything and is eternally faithful.
- Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge”
- Proverbs 2:6 “For the LORD gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding”
- Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”
- Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”
- Isaiah 33:6 “The LORD will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”
- Colossians 2:2-3 “Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”
A common objection to the Bible being a justified source for knowledge is that it contains contradictions. Sadly, nearly all skeptics do not know what a contradiction actually is and have only read in online memes that the Bible is full of contradictions. But there are no contradictions in the Bible, because it is from God.
So, when the skeptic accuses God or a Christian about injustice or foolishness or contradictions in the Bible:
- Test the claim of the skeptic, to see if his theory of knowledge can account for justice, logic, truth, reason, or induction. Undoubtedly, any attempt to explain will be inconsistent, arbitrary and/or irrational
- Give them the gospel of Jesus, because it is true as shown above
Here’s how I would answer some of the recent accusations from Haywood
Haywood had claimed that he had refuted by epistemology, so I had asked him, “what provisional theory makes you think you have refuted by epistemology?”
So, putting PAGA into effect:
- Test the claim
- Skeptics cannot justify knowledge, so I questioned his provisional theory and why he thinks it can refute what I am saying
- He has previously mentioned a hypothetical situation (how can you prove you’re not in the matrix?) which he thinks refutes Christianity…or at least presuppositional apologetic. I’ve responded to him, that this hypothetical is a retreat into absurdity, because if he is in the matrix and nothing is real, then his question does not even make sense. It’s ridiculous, so the choice of the skeptic is repentance or absurdity
- He also makes the claim that “it was incorrect.” Any “it” he might be talking about would have to be compared against absolute truth, which his worldview cannot justify. So, any claim he might say that was incorrect, cannot be justified.
- Give them the gospel
- So, a good response to this claim (after exposing it’s impotence) would be “Your thinking and your future can be redeemed by repentance for your rebellion against the Creator. Jesus paid the penalty for the crimes of those who repent.”
Test the claim:
- “We are debating…” – How do you know what is real? You’ve already admitted that you could be in the matrix or that some future knowledge could change what you think you know now. So, you can’t claim to know anything
- “Validity of your version of Christian presuppositionalism, which is held by approximately 0% of professional philosophers.” Again, testing his claim of knowledge to show, that he cannot justify it as knowledge. It is also the fallacy of ad populum: the fallacy that says something is true because most/all people believe it.
- Give the gospel
- Truth is not determined by percentage. Truth is determined by revelation from God.
Test the claim:
- “I can…randomly spit out a hypothetical that shows your epistemology is invalid.” Remember, all “knowledge” from the skeptic, is provisional, so his claim cannot be justified. He makes a particularly grievous claim there, that is clearly false, since because of his epistemology, he could never know or justify such a claim.
- Since Haywood cannot justify his own epistemology, he cannot show that any other epistemology (specifically Christianity) is either right/wrong
- Since my epistemology is true, we do not have to retreat to absurd hypotheticals or “random spit outs”. Jesus came to redeem reasoning along with creation
Many times, the skeptic wants to know from the Christian “Give me proof” or “What proof validates Christianity”
This desire from the skeptic assumes that there is some authority (usually scientism) that has higher authority than revelation from the Almighty. But there is no higher authority than God and his eternal word. Have scientists ever been monumentally incorrect? How could the skeptic be certain that their faith in the current academic paradigm isn’t going to be mocked as ridiculous in the future? Since they cannot be sure of this, why do they insist on bludgeoning Christians with their provisional beliefs?
As Christians, we know there is no higher authority than God, so that desire of the skeptic to try to validate God’s revelation with a higher authority is irrational. But as expected, all evidence does indeed is in accord with what God has revealed in the Bible and in Jesus.
We can trust God with what He has revealed about history, so He is trustworthy with our future.
P.S. Please be polite to online skeptics (and skeptics face-to-face). Give the gospel rather than trying to win “debates”.