What is Presuppositional Apologetics?

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This week I saw in my Twitter feed this claim from an atheist

Presuppositional Apologetics is conversational violence

Some of the subsequent discussion helped me to see that most people, like this skeptic, do not understand what the term means. Many people think it means one of the following

  • I’m right, you’re wrong, that’s the end of it
  • I have blind faith in the deity of my family/culture/choice so I’m right
  • I don’t have any evidence, so I just assume God

This leads many skeptics to wrongly think they have defeated a presuppositional argument with the following fallacies

  • “You have faith in your sky-daddy, but I have evidence”
  • “Your blind faith is simply a result of you being born into a Christian family in America. If you were born in India, you’d be a Hindu”
  • “You have no evidence, so you have to resort to word games”
  • “Presup (presuppositional apologetics) is conversational violence”
  • “I assume FSM/Sasqatch/Allah is the true god, so that has as much validity as your biblegod.”
  • “That’s just word salad. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Definitions – The Place to Start

Those are misconceptions that I’d like to try to clear up in this blog post. Let’s start as basic as we can. What is a presupposition? The Google dictionary says it is

a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action.

Presuppostion

A synonym for presuppositions is worldview. A worldview is the way a person sees reality and how they justify it. One’s worldview typically provides answers to these fundamental questions.

  • Where did I come from? What is the origin of the universe/earth/life?
  • Where are we headed? What does the future hold?
  • What is my purpose?
  • How should I behave? What is moral? Is justice/forgiveness possible?
  • How do I know things (epistemology)? What is truth?

We’ll answer these below in analyzing worldview.

What is apologetics?

reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine

Christians start with the presupposition that there is no higher authority than the One, who knows everything & is eternally faithful, and his revelation in creation, in the Bible, and through the incarnation cannot fail to be wrong. Therefore presuppositional apologetics is

The defense of the truth of Christianity, by analyzing the assumptions of those who would challenge it from a precarious foundation that cannot sufficiently justify the tools (logic, induction, morality) necessary to make a rational objection

Presuppositional apologetics is distinct from other main types of apologetics like

While these methods of apologetics have value to Christians to edify and build up the church, they are not as effective as tools for persuading the skeptic for the 4 reasons shown below. To be clear, there is overwhelming evidence and philosophical corroboration for the truth of God’s revelation, but since God is the Source of truth, no evidence or philosophical authority can refute or be the substantiation for God. God and his revelation are the ultimate authority.

Someone, like me, who thinks presuppositional apologetics gets to the heart of the issue quickly, will not present classical or evidential arguments to a skeptic because

  1. Everyone interprets evidence according to their worldview. So, it is a futile effort to throw evidence back and forth because in an argument since everyone has access to the same evidence. All evidence proves God
  2. We have all been infected by the curse of sin. Even a person’s reasoning is corrupt
  3. God is the ultimate authority. There is no higher authority by which to confirm/refute what He has chosen to reveal.
  4. The skeptic is not the judge of what’s true or false. God is the judge, and presenting evidence to the skeptic makes him/her the judge of whether they think the evidence is sufficient to convince them. This puts the sinner in the judge’s box and God in the place of the defendant.

Everyone has presuppositions. The Christian presuppositions are shown above. The skeptic presupposes that “the cosmos is all there is, ever was or ever will be.” The skeptic is bound by particles

Worldview Test – Presuppositional Scrutiny

So, rather than comparing one’s interpretations of evidences (as an evidential apologist would do), it is more incisive to compare presuppositions/worldviews. A worldview should be both internally consistent and externally consistent. When I say internally consistent, I mean that it should not contain contradictions in trying to provide rational answers to the worldview questions. For example, if someone claims that the flying spaghetti monster is the creator of all things, but then realizes that Sicilians invented spaghetti in about the 12th century, there is an internal contradiction. They cannot both be true because the FSM is made of matter and is supposed to be the source of matter. Internal contradiction. Being externally consistent would mean that the worldview has to account for all of the reality.

Secondly, when looking to test presuppositions, one should look for arbitrariness. Is a claim within a worldview arbitrary? For example, secular humanists claim that morals should be defined by empathy (To be clear, empathy is a good thing and should be considered. Christians can justify empathy by referring to Matt 22:39 2nd greatest commandment.) But considering their worldview, which says that humans are simply accidental aggregations of stardust in a blind pitiless indifferent cosmos, why did they arbitrarily choose empathy as a standard for morality? It is arbitrary, because they could have chosen setting morality to the strongest or smartest or prettiest or cleanest or tallest or fastest…Arbitrary.

When doing presuppositional analysis, test each claim for consistency and arbitrariness.

Testing the Presuppositions of Naturalism

  • Where did I come from? – The cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. The belief is that at the big bang all matter sprang forth and over billions of years dust coalesced to produce stars, galaxies, planets, life, and humans. It is inconsistent to claim that particles can produce consciousness, justice, logic, math, beauty…
  • Where are we headed? – Ultimately, there is just death and collapse of the cosmos through entropy. If human life is simply the brief interruption of non-consciousness in a universe bound for frozen emptiness, there is no hope. It is inconsistent for the naturalist to assume hope or justice.
  • What is my purpose? – Richard Dawkins says “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no good no evil just blind pitiless indifference.” There is no purpose in the cosmos. There are internal contradictions here because people act with purpose. People strive to achieve purpose, but since the cosmos cannot provide purpose, it is a quixotic quest to conjure up purpose.
  • How should I behave? What is moral? – Everyone recognizes morality, but in a cosmos made only of particles, it is arbitrary and inconsistent to claim that some behaviors are good and others bad. At end, the naturalist can claim only to prefer one set of behaviors to another since there are no binding morals.
  • How can I know what is true? – For the naturalist, all “knowledge” is provisional. At any moment the current learned paradigm can be replaced by new findings, so there is no path to certainty. A person’s senses and reasoning can only be validated by a person’s senses and reasoning, which is viciously circular. There is also no valid reason to trust one’s senses and reasoning to provide truth since according to naturalism, senses and reasoning were produced by accidental natural forces for survival. It is an internal contradiction then to expect survival tools to provide truth. This does NOT mean that naturalists cannot know things. They do know things, but they cannot justify that knowledge. Because of their epistemic assumptions, their attempt to justify knowledge  will eventually be impaled on one of the prongs of the Münchhausen trilemma.

Building a Positive Case for Christian Presuppositions

  • Where did I come from? – Genesis 1 explains the origins of the universe and humanity
  • Where are we headed? – Because of sin and because of what God revealed about the punishment of sin, those who do not repent of their sin and humbly submit to the authority of Jesus will face condemnation. But those who repent will be resurrected to abundant life
  • What is truth? – Truth is what conforms to the mind of God
  • How should I behave? – According to God’s morals. Because humans have been created in God’s image, we should reflect his character. When we fail to accurately represent God, there is punishment. But God, who is rich in mercy, has made a way to find forgiveness and abundant life through turning away from sin and trusting Jesus, who died and defeated death on our behalf.
  • How can we know the truth? Because God (who knows everything and is eternally faithful) has revealed some things so that we can know them for certain, knowledge is possible. He has revealed Himself in creation, in the Bible, and by the incarnation. These revelations are interdependent and self-authenticating.
    • Jesus is the Creator of all things as attested in the Bible
    • The Bible claims to be the Word of Almighty God. The prophetic claims in the Bible have come true. The Bible claims that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” and “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are in Christ” and “God is the foundation of wisdom and knowledge”. One does not have to believe the Bible to know things, but because people can know things, we know God’s revelation is true. The Bible is the justification for knowledge.
    • God is revealed in creation. Romans 1:18-20
  • How can I know what is true? – Christians do not know everything, but we know One, who does know everything. Because the One, who knows everything and is eternally faithful, has revealed some things in his word, we can be certain that those things are true.

The skeptic may not LIKE the Christian presuppositions, but since they provide both internal and external cohesiveness (and Christianity claims exclusivity), it is the only justified source for knowledge, reason, and logic.

Addressing the Claim of Biblical Contradictions

The skeptic many times says, “But the Bible is full of contradictions!” Let’s see if this is true.

As we have already pointed out, the skeptic has no grounds to complain about contradictions because naturalism cannot coherently justify laws of logic the misuse of which produces contradictions. What is a contradiction? Dictionary.com defines it as “assertion of the contrary or opposite, a statement or proposition that contradicts or denies another or itself and is logically incongruous, direct opposition between things compared; inconsistency.

Most skeptics think that the following is a logical contradiction in the Bible

Who was Jesus’ paternal grandfather?” But as shown in the link, it is not a contradiction for several reasons.

The skeptic should familiarize himself or herself with the nature of contradictions, and before accusing the Bible of being filled with them, be familiar with the reasons why there are no contradictions in the Bible.

The skeptic can look here for a primer on mistakes they make when claiming contradictions in the Bible

The skeptic can look here for a list of resolutions for common claims of biblical contradictions

The skeptic could purchase the book, Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason by Dr. Jason Lisle, who addresses the 400 most common claims of biblical contradictions.

Is Presup Conversational Violence?

In the conversation that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the claim was made that presuppositional apologetics is conversational violence. I responded to him with the questions “Why is conversational violence wrong from the atheist perspective? Doesn’t violence help drive conversational evolution, so that only the fittest arguments persist to the next generation?”

Conversational violence would be expected from the naturalist point of view to be a pressure for selection to weed out bad arguments

He responded

You may be onto something here…An evidential apologist is like the soldier, they ostensibly address legitimate topics like providing evidence for their SN claims. A presup has figured out they can’t play on this field so they instead try to frustrate and weaponize fear (shut mouths like Sye, cause confusion with obscure philosophical conundrums…)

It’s not a terrible analogy, but the conclusion is wrong. Let’s continue the analogy. If truth is the ground being fought over and the bullets are arguments, the presup is doing the opposite of creating conversational violence. Presuppositional analysis is a way to disarm the naturalist because all of his “bullets” require the great Designer. The Christian presuppositional apologist is showing the skeptic that by using his “bullets” to form rational arguments, he is confirming that there are unchanging, abstract, absolute standards like laws of logic, truth, morality and induction which only the unchanging transcendent, absolute Eternal Monarch can justify. Naturalism completely fails to provide sufficient justification for the assumptions needed to create arguments.

Presup disarms the skeptic and causes them to be skeptical of their own claims. A Presuppositional apologist should be ready to share the gospel of repentance and submission to the King when the skeptic’s worldview collapses. Preach the word. Read your Bible and believe your Bible so that the Word pours forth in every conversation. Let the Holy Spirit use the preaching of the Word to convict of sin and of the need for forgiveness through Jesus.

Romans 10:17 “Consequently faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”

For additional resources and greater depth, see

39 thoughts on “What is Presuppositional Apologetics?

  1. Reblogged this on a simple man of God and commented:
    Basically, yep.
    True, sometimes folks like Sye Ten Bruggencate and Jeff Durbin get stuck in the loop of saying things like “By what standard?” or “Do you know that is true?” (And they are not wrong.) But they also usually do a great job with argumentation.
    Also, isn’t it more conversationally violent to resort to ad hominem attacks and trying to shout down and ridicule others, as many prominent/vocal atheists do.

    Daniel

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  4. You are the first pre sup apologist that I have read to execute an internal critique of worldviews utilizing life’s big questions.

    After studying and wrestling with this presuppositional notion, I finally understood and accepted that this apologetic is the only apologetic that honors the gospel of Christ and the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures.

    Early on, I kept trying to formulate a simple way in which I could draw out the antithesis between Christian theism and unbelief. I then recalled a lecture that I heard when I was an evidentialist. It was a lecture by the late Dr. Ravi Zacharias. He mentioned that all worldviews posited a view of the four big questions. These are Origin: Where do we come from? Meaning: What is our purpose? Morality: How do I know right from wrong? And Destiny: What happens after we die?

    I have since used these questions when trying to flush out and establish the antithesis with an unbeliever. Great job on this article.

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  7. One of the straw descriptions of Presuppositional Apologetics you give is “I don’t have any evidence, so I just assume God”
    Your description of what it actually is is this: “In defense of the truth of Christianity, before the argument begins, the Christian assumes Yahweh to be the Source of reasoning, logic, & knowledge as was revealed and justified by his Word, in creation, and in Jesus”
    Well, that assumption is the entire contention of the argument. Of course *if* we assume that Yahweh is the source of reasoning, logic and knowledge etcetera, we must conclude that He exists. From Wikipedia: “In classical rhetoric and logic, begging the question or assuming the conclusion is an informal fallacy that occurs when an argument’s premises assume the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it.”
    This is, pretty much by definition, “just assuming God”.
    As for the “I don’t have any evidence” part, you might have some evidence, but that isn’t what presuppositional apologetics is all about, and you certainly aren’t resting your case on it, since you say “since God is the Source of truth, no evidence or philosophical authority can refute or be the substantiation for God.” and “it is a futile effort to throw evidence back and forth because in an argument since everyone has access to the same evidence.” and “presenting evidence to the skeptic makes him/her the judge of whether they think the evidence is sufficient to convince them.”
    We can argue evidence if you want, but that doesn’t seem to be what you’re interested in. More so, you are interested in assuming the existence of God.

    Like

      • Well, if we assume “Yahweh to be the Source of reasoning, logic, & knowledge as was revealed and justified by his Word, in creation, and in Jesus” then there’s no argument at all, since we already granted the conclusion. So I’m not sure what you mean… Why should I accept that assumption if I don’t already?

        Like

      • The question of whether/which God exists! Isn’t that what this whole argument is about?

        Your assumption directly implies that Yahweh exists and is the one true God, which is the whole claim under contention. So, why should I accept it? How is this not begging the question?

        Like

      • But that’s not the question. There is NO question whether God exists since He has revealed Himself. To deny God’s existence is suppressing the truth. If you think there’s some other way to account for knowledge, truth, induction, logic, matter, space, time, consciousness, minds, love, beauty, information, math then try to make your case

        Like

      • “But that’s not the question. There is NO question whether God exists since He has revealed Himself. To deny God’s existence is suppressing the truth.”

        How do you know God revealed Himself?

        You’re just saying it’s true, no question. Sounds to me a lot like “I’m right, you’re wrong, that’s the end of it”.

        “If you think there’s some other way to account for knowledge, truth, induction, logic, matter, space, time, consciousness, minds, love, beauty, information, math then try to make your case”

        Put another way:

        “If you cannot explain all of philosophy, then your worldview is untenable and mine is therefore correct.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

        I cannot explain all of that, since there are a lot of very hard, unresolved questions in there. But logic and mathematics, at least, can be justified without presupposing God. For example, in Principia Mathematica, much of mathematics is built up in airtight logical steps, from simple axioms. Nowhere is the assumption of the existence of God needed to establish the theorems proven in the book.

        One might say the assumption of the axioms is unjustified, but so too is the assumption of the existence of God. And, if the existence of God implies those axioms, then it is a stronger assumption and therefore less likely to be true. If it does not, you have to assume the axioms as well anyways, and so why bother assuming the existence of God?

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      • What demonstration? If your idea of an “effective tool for persuading the skeptic” is just assuming that the skeptic already knows deep down that you’re right and is arguing in bad faith, then you don’t know much about persuasion.

        All you’ve done is state that there is no question that you’re right, and give me a leading question which assumes that the Bible is true. You’ve not even attempted to defend your position, simply stated that it is ridiculous and/or impossible to believe otherwise, without offering any justification for this claim.

        Why do you accept the Bible as true?

        Like

      • God demonstrated His love for us (Christians) in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us

        Why do you reject God’s revelation/demonstration?
        By what objective standard do you determine these words to have meaning:
        “right”?
        “bad faith”?
        “justification”?

        Like

      • “God demonstrated His love for us (Christians) in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us”

        So, we are not perfect, and somebody died for his beliefs about saving us. What about this shows the existence of God?

        “Why do you reject God’s revelation/demonstration?”

        Because you make huge claims about the nature of the world and back them up with nothing more than vague philosophical arguments and a 2000 year old book which makes a bunch of supernatural claims, claims of things which at least at first glance appear to be impossible, none of which are independently verified and a few of which contradict our best understanding of the world based on multiple lines of evidence from astronomy, geology and biology.

        And then you ask me to answer every hard philosophical question at once, and since I cannot do that, you claim victory by simply saying that “God” is the answer to all of them.

        I get that all philosophy, fundamentally, requires unjustified presuppositions. As you mentioned, the Munchausen Trilemma is a thing. But your philosophy is no different, as is abundantly demonstrated by you stating over and over again without justification your thesis that God exists, and that evidence isn’t really the reason you believe. So I don’t see why pointing out this weakness of secular philosophy is any reason to accept theistic philosophy instead.

        “By what objective standard do you determine these words to have meaning”

        What are you talking about? Words are constructs, they have the meanings we agree on assigning to them. If they didn’t, languages would be permanent and unchanging, and they are not.

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      • You should re-read the sections of the post titled:

        Worldview Test – Presuppositional Scrutiny
        and
        Building a Positive Case for Christian Presuppositions

        Since we have different presuppositions, we have different answers to the questions posed. Christian presuppositions are both internally & externally consistent. Those who reject God’s revelation with have both internal and external inconsistencies and/or arbitrariness.

        You mention astronomy, geology and biology. Each of these branches are science were started by Christians and require preconditions (logic, math, morality, induction) for them to be valid for which only Christianity can provide.

        Like

      • Each of these branches are science were started by Christians and require preconditions (logic, math, morality, induction) for them to be valid for which only Christianity can provide.

        Well then, since they stem from Christian presuppositions, and all of them refute the idea that Earth is only a few thousand years old, which is also implied by Christian presuppositions, this is an internal inconsistency.

        As for logic and math, those don’t require Christian presuppositions to make progress on, as I explained in an earlier comment.

        As for morality, when we talk about astronomy, geology, and biology, these fields deal only with descriptive facts, and therefore normative presuppositions about morality are not required. At least in the context I’m talking about, where they provide evidence against the idea that Earth is only a few thousand years old, which is a descriptive issue.

        As for induction, I simply presuppose the idea that inductive reasoning works. We have to presuppose something, but this is a weaker presupposition than the existence of God (since the existence of God implies it, and not the other way around), and so is more likely to be true.

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      • PS: “all of them refute the idea that Earth is only a few thousand years old”
        Jedi: There are several things wrong with your claim. 1) Age is a question answered by history not science, so you are committing a category error. Yes, forensic science can provide direction towards a conclusion of age, but science cannot determine age. For example, if you want to know how old you are, you check historical records, you don’t get yourself carbon dated. If you want to know when Genghis Khan conquered Asia, you don’t mix sodium bicarbonate and vinegar; you check history. If you want to know how old the Washington monument is, you don’t get a ruler; you check history. There are MASSIVE assumptions that go into all scientific ‘dating’ techniques. You should familiarize yourself with these assumptions, so that you do not make these irrational claims anymore. 2) The branches of science do not ‘speak’ as one voice. You would be committing the reification fallacy. Everyone brings presuppositions to their scientific work. Those who reject the God of the Bible, bring their presuppositions to their scientific work and conclude that the earth is not young as the Bible says. Those scientists who submit to God’s revelation bring that presupposition to their scientific work and corroborate the teachings from the Bible. This is why presuppositional apologetics is to powerful. Those who reject the God of the Bible have no foundation for truth, logic, induction, math, life, consciousness, life, information…

        PS: “As for logic and math, those don’t require Christian presuppositions to make progress on, as I explained in an earlier comment…from simple axioms”
        Jedi: So, your explanation for logic/math is “simple axioms”. This is deficient for proper justification. At BEST those who reject God have only particles with which to explain unchanging abstract absolutes like logic/math. How do you propose that particles can produce “simple axioms” let alone unchanging abstract absolutes? Why do you think the accidental aggregations of stardust (humans) can ascertain abstractions from a purposeless chaotic cosmos? Why do you think the only mechanisms for observing reality (senses/reasoning) which were allegedly produced by forces meant to preserve fitness can yield knowledge of Truth?

        PS: “As for morality, when we talk about astronomy, geology, and biology”
        Jedi: Do you expect the scientists who tell you about their findings to do so truthfully? Without financial/ideological/hedonistic motivations? Absolute morality is required for science to work correctly. How do you account for absolute morality in a universe made only of particles?

        PS: “I simply presuppose the idea that inductive reasoning works”
        Jedi: Everyone presupposes it. Why do you think this is consistent/rational with the assumption that there is no God? ProTip – do a search for Hume’s problem of induction. What is your solution to Hume’s problem of induction?

        Like

      • (sorry for the long delay and the long response, I had work, and it was a lot to respond to)

        Jedi: Age is a question answered by history not science, so you are committing a category error. … If you want to know how old the Washington monument is, you don’t get a ruler; you check history.
        PS: We work with the best tools we have. Of course we don’t determine dates with scientific measurement when the events in question are recent enough that we have reliable records of them (though we sometimes carbon date things from thousands of years ago that we also have historical records of, and this can provide additional support for the accuracy of those methods). But when records are unavailable, scientific techniques must be used.

        Science can answer questions about the past in the same way it can answer questions about anything else which cannot be directly observed: by making predictions about what we will find based on our ideas about the past, then revising those ideas whenever they make incorrect predictions.

        The currently accepted model of the history of earth and the universe explains the vast majority of observations we make: whether they be from observing rocks, life, or the sky. This shows that it only needs minor revisions and refinements, not fundamental change.

        Jedi: There are MASSIVE assumptions that go into all scientific ‘dating’ techniques. You should familiarize yourself with these assumptions, so that you do not make these irrational claims anymore.
        PS: You are right that assumptions must be made, since we cannot directly observe the past. The main assumption I’m familiar with is uniformitarianism. (If there are other big ones please let me know) This assumption is that the laws of physics don’t change over time. It is a reasonable assumption to make, using inductive reasoning: the laws of physics and chemistry that go into these dating techniques have never been observed to change, and if they did do so in the past, it would be expected to interfere greatly with life, which is adapted to and relies on current physical and chemical laws.

        However, inductive reasoning doesn’t always work so this assumption may still seem quite flimsy. Indeed, some methods of dating are unreliable since they can be disrupted over very long spans of time. The thing is, though, there are many different methods of dating, based on different principles, so scientists use more than one method when possible, and the methods generally agree with each other. Errors tend to be random, so when multiple different methods agree with each other, they are more likely to all be correct than to all have the same error. This way, evidences can be far stronger when paired together than they can be individually.

        This is part of why it is so hard to quickly explain why the Earth must be old: there is no single piece of evidence that proves the case, as mistakes and wrong assumptions can be made, but the weight of all the evidence taken together is irrefutable. All the mistakes and mistaken assumptions would have to agree with each other too much.

        If the Earth is only a few thousand years old, then there is either a ridiculously huge coincidence that generates all the evidence against it, or there is some powerful being, more powerful and thorough than any human organization could be, trying to trick us. The starlight coming from more than 10000 lightyears away would all have to be manufactured to give the illusion of a longer history than exists, or else the speed of light would have to change, which there is no evidence for. The fossils in the ground would have to be organized in neat order by chance, or they would all have to be moved around to fool us.

        The idea that one ancient book could be wrong is much more palatable by comparison.

        Jedi: Those who reject the God of the Bible, bring their presuppositions to their scientific work and conclude that the earth is not young as the Bible says.
        PS: Their presuppositions are generally ones you share i.e. that induction works. They don’t need to assume that God doesn’t exist to find their results; generally scientists aren’t out to prove or disprove the existence of God, in fact a lot of them think that’s not even a scientific question. One doesn’t need to presuppose that God doesn’t exist to assume that the laws of physics weren’t different in the past. If anything, according to your view the existence of God would support an orderly universe where the laws of physics don’t arbitrarily change to make it appear as though the universe is older than it actually is.

        Jedi: At BEST those who reject God have only particles with which to explain unchanging abstract absolutes like logic/math. How do you propose that particles can produce “simple axioms” let alone unchanging abstract absolutes?
        PS: Ah, I see. I had thought you were asking “how can you justify mathematical knowledge without God?” You justify mathematical knowledge with proof grounded in axioms. But instead you were asking “how can logic and mathematics exist without God?”

        I simply don’t know the answer to that question. Now, to be clear, I don’t think particles produce unchanging abstract absolutes, I think it’s the other way around. I think that this universe is itself a mathematical structure. As for why the mathematics itself exists, though, I don’t know and I’m not sure we can know that. But I’m not sure how it exists with God either…

        I never denied the existence of unchanging absolutes. As far as I can tell, the laws of physics are such. I never claimed the universe is “chaotic”, it is orderly in that it obeys laws, I only say that as far as I can tell, these laws act robotically and predictably rather than with some intelligent purpose behind them.

        I would assume you claim that mathematics exists because God created it (correct me if I’m wrong). I would object first that I’m not sure what it even means to create mathematics, given that it is unchanging and absolute. More importantly, though, it doesn’t really solve the problem. First we didn’t know why mathematics existed, so we said that God created it. But now we don’t know why God exists! So, we’ve added more parts to our system to try to explain why it exists, but we still don’t know why it exists! Why bother?

        Jedi:Why do you think the accidental aggregations of stardust (humans) can ascertain abstractions from a purposeless chaotic cosmos? Why do you think the only mechanisms for observing reality (senses/reasoning) which were allegedly produced by forces meant to preserve fitness can yield knowledge of Truth?
        PS: Senses which can perceive reality correctly improve fitness. If you fail to see a predator that is there, you get eaten, but if you see a predator that isn’t there, you waste energy and take risks running away from nothing. If you fail to see food that is there, you will miss an opportunity to eat, but if you see food that isn’t there, you might eat something that isn’t edible. If you fail to see a cliff, you fall off and die. You get the idea.

        Minds which can reason well improve fitness for similar reasons. If you can build a good model of the world around you, and reason about it correctly, then you can predict how it will behave and make plans for how to get what you want. Abstractions are useful for this purpose as well. For example, if you have a store of food, and you want to know how much you need to gather for the winter, being able to correctly reason about abstract concepts (numbers in this case) can help you not starve.

        Many of the systematic ways that humans fail to reason correctly also exist because they provided better fitness to our ancestors. For example, argumentum ad populum exists because believing the same thing as your social group improves fitness, especially in old times where abandonment was basically a death sentence.

        Jedi: Do you expect the scientists who tell you about their findings to do so truthfully? Without financial/ideological/hedonistic motivations?
        PS: I expect them to do so because their work is scrutinized by their peers, and they don’t want to get called out for fraud. And also because most people have learned not to lie unless they have a strong reason to, since it doesn’t often work. The question of whether there are objective moral facts is distinct from the question of how people will behave. Even if there were no moral facts at all, society would still reinforce codes of conduct, because it couldn’t survive without doing so.

        Jedi: Why do you think this is consistent/rational with the assumption that there is no God?
        PS: I didn’t assume that there is no God. I didn’t even say there wasn’t. I simply rejected your reasons for believing so. But why would it be inconsistent? Why can’t induction work without God? That’s what I don’t get.

        Jedi: ProTip – do a search for Hume’s problem of induction. What is your solution to Hume’s problem of induction?
        PS: Hume’s problem of induction is the question of how we can justify the method of induction. I have no solution, because I presuppose that it works.

        As far as I can tell, you also presuppose that it works, but as part of your stronger presupposition that God exists. This doesn’t solve Hume’s problem of induction, which asks why induction works, but only pushes the question back to God, turning the question to “why did God make the world in such a way that induction works?”

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      • All of the objections you are making require a foundation for knowledge, truth, logic and induction (which as has been shown) you are unable to justify.

        Presuppositional apologetics exposes the deficiency of Godless assumptions

        PS: Their presuppositions are generally ones you share i.e. that induction works
        Jedi: The Christian presupposition that induction works is justified (Col 1:17). There is no justification for God-deniers. It’s an unjustified arbitrary assumption

        PS: “I think it’s the other way around. I think that this universe is itself a mathematical structure”
        Jedi: Why do you think this? You make an unjustified assumption. It’s a fine story, but it is a post hoc assertion meant to salvage a refuted worldview

        PS: “Senses which can perceive reality correctly improve fitness”
        Jedi: This is another just-so-story. Your unjustified assertion does not tell us how reasoning evolved…just that reasoning magically emerged because some creatures had it while others did not.

        PS: “I didn’t assume that there is no God. I simply rejected your reasons”
        Jedi: Again, reasoning REQUIRES God. An a futile attempt to explain away your inherent knowledge of God, you must assume the very thing (reasoning) that only God provides.
        P1: Any belief ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes is ultimately believed without reason
        P2: IF there is no god, every belief is ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes
        C: Therefore, if there is no god, every belief is ultimately believed without reason

        Your assumptions are that non-reasoning causes produced reason. This is absurd
        My assumption is that God grounds reason, so knowledge, truth, logic and induction are possible. So, since we have knowledge, ascertain truth, trust logic, and use induction, my assumptions provide reasonable conclusions. Your assumptions are inconsistent

        I’ll leave you with this: The Bible says that everyone has knowledge of God. There are no such things as atheists, only God-deniers. To try to incorporate all of your incompatible assumptions, you must suppress the knowledge of God. I urge you to repent of your rebellion against the Holy One. For the skeptic, no evidence can convince you of the God that says you have enough evidence. Thankfully all evidence corroborates God’s revelation

        https://apolojedi.com/2018/05/11/evidence-for-the-almighty/

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      • I apologize for getting sidetracked with an evidential argument. I think we can both agree that this discussion would be more productive when focused only on presuppositional apologetics, as no matter what evidential argument I make, you will respond with presuppositionalism, so that is what I must address.

        The main thrust of my argument, and what I was trying to say with my original comment, is not any attempt to show that God doesn’t exist, but only that presuppositionalism doesn’t contribute to discussion around the issue.

        To this effect, I will attempt to clarify my argument here. I’m interested to see exactly where you disagree. Remember throughout that, even if you contend that I am unjustified in believing something, if it follows from your worldview, then that is no reason for you to object to the argument.

        The Munchausen Trilemma
        I think you are familiar with the Munchausen Trilemma. It is a fundamental problem with epistemology: that any final justification for knowledge cannot, by definition, be justified itself. The trilemma does not assume, and does not rely on, the non-existence of God. There are three (or maybe four) possible responses to the trilemma, and none of them are particularly satisfying.
        Foundationalism: assuming certain first principles without justification
        Infinitism: giving an infinite chain of justifications for knowledge, with no starting point
        Coherentism: accepting a circular justification, so long as it is internally consistent
        Pyrrhonism: forfeiting any claim to knowledge at all. Neither of us respond this way, since we both make claims.

        I am a foundationalist. I claim certain things without justification, as I have said upfront multiple times.

        As far as I can tell, you are a foundationalist as well.

        “In defense of the truth of Christianity, before the argument begins, the Christian assumes Yahweh to be the Source of reasoning, logic, & knowledge as was revealed and justified by his Word, in creation, and in Jesus”

        Although you say that this assumption is justified by the Word, creation and Jesus, this does not square with what you say later: “but since God is the Source of truth, no evidence or philosophical authority can refute or be the substantiation for God.” The Bible is evidence that you find in the world: in order to even know what it says, you need to be able to trust your senses, which by your own argument you cannot do without first presupposing the existence of Yahweh. So, the Bible cannot justify your assumption. The same goes for anything else you see in creation, or relating to Jesus.

        I get the feeling this might be the crux of the argument. You have claimed multiple times that my worldview is unjustified while yours is justified, and I have claimed multiple times that neither of our worldviews are ultimately justified. If you think that you have found a way to escape the Munchausen Trilemma, please tell me so, because if you actually have, then that decides the whole argument in your favor.

        If you are a foundationalist as well, on the other hand, then there is no a priori reason to favor your view over mine. You could still argue for your view over mine by pointing out an internal or external inconsistency, but the process of pointing out an internal inconsistency would be a logical argument, and so would be classical apologetics, and the process of pointing out an external inconsistency, or an inconsistency with the world, would be evidence, and so would be evidential apologetics. In either case presuppositionalism has contributed nothing, and relied on the other two forms of apologetics.

        2) Strength of presuppositions:
        Since both of us are foundationalists, the way to compare our worldviews is to see who assumes more without justification. Whoever makes stronger unjustified assumptions is on shakier footing, since it is more likely that some of them are false. This is why the claim I made that my presuppositions are mainly things you believe matters. I’m pretty sure your presuppositions are stronger than mine. Do you disagree?

        =======================

        RESPONSES:

        Jedi: “All of the objections you are making require a foundation for knowledge, truth, logic and induction (which as has been shown) you are unable to justify.”
        PS: You didn’t need to show that I have no ultimate justification, I already knew that.

        Jedi: “The Christian presupposition that induction works is justified (Col 1:17). There is no justification for God-deniers. It’s an unjustified arbitrary assumption”
        PS: There is no ultimate justification for your ideas either. Induction has an immediate justification in the Christian worldview, unlike in mine, but in neither worldview does it have an ultimate justification (since you assume without justification the veracity of the Bible). See above.

        Jedi: “Why do you think this? You make an unjustified assumption. It’s a fine story, but it is a post hoc assertion meant to salvage a refuted worldview”
        PS: I think this because it makes more sense then saying mathematics emerged from ever-changing reality, for much the reasons you outlined. It’s not an assumption of my worldview, just something I suspect. And, what do you mean it’s a “post hoc assertion”? Are you implying that I didn’t believe this before I talked to you? You only argued against a worldview of strong eliminativism, that there is literally nothing except particles, no abstract entities or anything else. This is a worldview I never put forward, but one you seem to assume all nonbelievers have. Since you keep making the claim that every non-christian philosophy is internally or externally inconsistent, you should be able to show that all of them are such, not just one very particular one.

        Jedi: “Your unjustified assertion does not tell us how reasoning evolved…just that reasoning magically emerged because some creatures had it while others did not.”
        PS: What do you mean? Are you saying accurate senses and reason don’t improve fitness?

        Jedi: “Therefore, if there is no god, every belief is ultimately believed without reason”
        PS: Even if there is a God, beliefs must either have no final justification, or be based on an unjustified assumption. See above.

        Jedi: “Your assumptions are that non-reasoning causes produced reason. This is absurd”
        PS: Why?

        Jedi: “So, since we have knowledge, ascertain truth, trust logic, and use induction, my assumptions provide reasonable conclusions. Your assumptions are inconsistent”
        PS: I missed the part where you pointed out the inconsistency.

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      • I have appreciated our dialogue. Thank you for not being belligerent or demeaning. Your responses have been well thought out and you have not been fallacious. Uncommon!!!

        I’m putting these 2 links near the top so that you can familiarize yourself with them, as I will refer to them in my responses.

        https://biblicalscienceinstitute.com/apologetics/the-chain-of-reasoning/
        https://biblicalscienceinstitute.com/apologetics/the-ultimate-standard/

        Yes, my presupposition is God. He is the foundation for knowledge (Prov 1:7, Col 2:23.) The difference between our claims is that God as omniscient cannot fail to know everything. Dr. Lisle explains it thusly from his article that I linked above

        “In fact, all of God’s reasoning is necessarily circular. God is all-knowing. So, whenever God draws a conclusion from premises, the conclusion is something that God already knows. Truth is that which corresponds to the mind of God. And the justification for that truth is… that it corresponds to the mind of God. This is not arbitrary, but logically necessary since God’s mind determines all truth. Those people who argue that all forms of circular reasoning are fallacious are in the unenviable position of implying that God’s reasoning is fallacious”

        What you said here is not true
        “Although you say that this assumption is justified by the Word, creation and Jesus, this does not square with what you say later: ‘but since God is the Source of truth, no evidence or philosophical authority can refute or be the substantiation for God.'”

        Your assumption would be that there is some bit of evidence or GREATER authority by which we can refute or substantiate God’s revelation. If your assumption were true, then THAT evidence or authority would be the highest authority under which God must submit. So, your assumption is not my claim. My claim is that since God is the greatest of authorities, then He is not submissive to anything. What He reveals is true. And this has born out in our observations. All evidence falls in line with what He has revealed.

        This statement you make is also untrue:
        “The Bible is evidence that you find in the world: in order to even know what it says, you need to be able to trust your senses, which by your own argument you cannot do without first presupposing the existence of Yahweh”

        God’s Word is eternal. The Bible is simply a copy of God’s Word. God spoke his words through the prophets as recorded in the OT. God’s Word became incarnate in the person of Jesus as recorded in the NT (in accordance with the prophecies spoke BY God in the OT). And we learn from Romans 1 that creation reveals God’s divine power and hidden attributes. So the copy of the Bible that we are blessed to have today is the justification of the eternal truths. Again, Dr. Lisle says it this way:

        “So, the proof of the Bible isn’t a vicious circle such as “The Bible is God’s Word because it says it is.” Rather, the proof is that the Bible says it is God’s Word and makes knowledge possible. This is something the Bible itself indicates (Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:3). The Bible proves itself and is the only basis for proving anything else. It’s not a simple (vicious) circle, but a spiral that goes beyond itself and justifies our other beliefs. The proof of the Bible is the impossibility of the contrary. If the Bible were not true, we couldn’t prove that anything is true.”

        PS: “If you think that you have found a way to escape the Munchausen Trilemma, please tell me so”
        Jedi: Yes, it’s in the articles linked above (and was in my presup article too)

        PS: “PS: I think this because it makes more sense then saying mathematics emerged from ever-changing reality, for much the reasons you outlined. It’s not an assumption of my worldview, just something I suspect. And, what do you mean it’s a “post hoc assertion”?”
        Jedi: Unchanging abstract absolutes like the laws of logic & mathematics are inconsistent with the assumption that nature (matter/energy) is all there is. It is true that you did not make this claim explicitly, but I have assumed from some of our conversation that you are a materialist. If you are not a materialist, what supernatural entities do you propose, and how do you know it? How do those supernatural entities justify mathematics?

        PS: “PS: What do you mean? Are you saying accurate senses and reason don’t improve fitness?”
        Jedi: No, I’m saying that what you have claimed about accurate senses/reasoning doesn’t explain how they emerged. Your assumption begins with ‘accurate

        Jedi: “Your assumptions are that non-reasoning causes produced reason. This is absurd”
        PS: Why?
        Jedi: Here’s an example: (This is the absurdity of the claim that non-reasoning causes produced reason) Hydrogen produced reasoning. The reasoning that hydrogen produced is trustworthy

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      • I’m also glad to have this discussion, as it has helped me to clarify my own position to myself. Worldviews can often be refined and improved when put under scrutiny.

        With that said, your article “The Chain of Reasoning” exhibits the problem that we have already come to, the ultimate justification of knowledge, while the other article “The Ultimate Standard” claims to provide a solution. For this reason it is more productive for me to give my response to “The Ultimate Standard”.

        Two very interesting things that quickly jumped out to me upon reading this article were: 1) It does not seem to claim to provide a fourth option to the Munchausen trilemma, rather taking the circular horn and arguing that this response is reasonable, because circular reasoning is sometimes “virtuous” rather than “vicious”. 2) It gives an argument for the existence of laws of logic, which it states is a virtuous circle of the same variety that justifies believing in God, but this argument does not presuppose or reference God in any way! His argument for the laws of logic would work equally well in a secular text about foundations of knowledge!

        So, what is the difference between a virtuous circle and a vicious circle? In Dr. Lisle’s words:

        “Immanuel Kant argued that it is reasonable to believe in something if you would have to assume that thing in order to argue against it. That is, to make a logical argument that laws of logic do not exist, we would have to use laws of logic – in which case they do exist. Hence, laws of logic exist.
        We cannot prove that laws of logic exist without using them, and hence there will be some degree of circularity. But it is not arbitrary. Rather, it is necessary because proofs require logic. So there is no violation of the principles of reasoning. The argument is self-consistent and non-arbitrary. We might call this a virtuous circular argument.”
        So we see, the difference between a vicious circular argument and a virtuous one, is that a vicious circular argument is arbitrary; there is no good reason to accept the premises. So, what good reason can we have to accept the premises, making a circular argument virtuous? Dr. Lisle uses necessity: since we cannot make any sort of logical argument without making use of logical laws, we have to accept them.

        But then, why can we not assume the reliability of our senses on the same basis, without assuming the existence of God as well? Since we cannot know anything about the world without our senses, we must assume that they are at least generally reliable, and the same goes for reason. Dr. Lisle later argues that it is inconsistent to do so in a nonreligious worldview, because “If evolution were true, then knowledge would be impossible.” I will respond to this together with your similar claim that it is absurd for non-reasoning causes to produce reason.

        Dr. Lisle: “Grass does perfectly well in terms of surviving, yet it does not have reliable senses. How could an evolutionist know – on his own professed worldview – that he is not a blade of grass? How could he know that his sensory experiences are in fact nothing more than the byproduct of photosynthesis? After all, photosynthesis does have survival value.”
        PS: This is by far the weakest part of Dr. Lisle’s argument. His examples show that he doesn’t understand what the claims of evolution are. There’s no reason to suspect that photosynthesis has any sort of sensory byproduct: in fact, such a thing would require an additional mechanism, and therefore additional resources, and provide no advantages in return, since the plant would not make use of these sensory experiences, which have nothing to do with the plant’s situation.

        Jedi: “Here’s an example: (This is the absurdity of the claim that non-reasoning causes produced reason) Hydrogen produced reasoning. The reasoning that hydrogen produced is trustworthy”
        Dr. Lisle: “In the evolutionary worldview, humans are simply an unplanned, chemical accident. So by what reason does an evolutionist conclude that his thoughts are any more rational than any other chemical reaction? You would not look to the bubbles in a bottle of Coke to decide what is true. So why look to the human brain if it too is just chemistry?”
        PS: The fallacy here is overgeneralization and incredulity. By referencing “hydrogen” and “chemical reactions” one brings to mind simple processes, such as gas in space or Coke bubbles, and for such simple processes, it is indeed ridiculous to conclude that there is any sort of reasoning going on. But, to show that there can be no such thing as reasoning if evolution is true, as Dr. Lisle claims, you need to show that reasoning cannot emerge from any combination of chemical reactions, no matter how complex, which is too tall of an order for this sort of intuitive argument, given that we can’t imagine everything that chemistry could possibly do.

        RESPONSES:

        Jedi: “Your assumption would be that there is some bit of evidence or GREATER authority by which we can refute or substantiate God’s revelation.”
        PS: This isn’t what I meant to say, I meant to say the opposite: that there is no justification, from greater authority or otherwise, because belief in ultimate authority of Yahweh is foundational, which you seem to agree with? The reason I make this point is because my worldview works similarly: my presuppositions also cannot be justified, because they are required to do reasoning at all.

        Jedi:
        “This statement you make is also untrue:

        “The Bible is evidence that you find in the world: in order to even know what it says, you need to be able to trust your senses, which by your own argument you cannot do without first presupposing the existence of Yahweh”

        God’s Word is eternal. The Bible is simply a copy of God’s Word. God spoke his words through the prophets as recorded in the OT. God’s Word became incarnate in the person of Jesus as recorded in the NT (in accordance with the prophecies spoke BY God in the OT). And we learn from Romans 1 that creation reveals God’s divine power and hidden attributes. So the copy of the Bible that we are blessed to have today is the justification of the eternal truths.”
        PS: Sure, I didn’t mean to say that God’s word is itself evidence you find in the world. According to your claim it is eternal and unchanging. But, since you are not God, you don’t have inherent knowledge of God’s word, and so you have to access it through the Bible. The Bible was given to us by the prophets. Perhaps the prophets were lying or insane? Or perhaps their words were not recorded correctly? You might say that these things are unlikely, and you might even have a very good argument that demonstrates that these things are very unlikely, but even so, that argument must rely on the foundations of knowledge, which according to your worldview can only be justified when you have already presupposed the authority of Yahweh, and also presupposed certain things about what his authority claims, such as induction. This is why no copy of the Bible that you can access can possibly substantiate that claim, under your worldview.

        Jedi: “Yes (my worldview escapes the Munchausen trilemma), it’s in the articles linked above (and was in my presup article too)”
        PS: The article you linked “the Ultimate Standard” does not escape the Munchausen Trilemma(and does not claim to AFAICT), it rather takes the third prong and accepts a circular argument. It provides a pretty good argument for doing so, too, but I’m not sure that argument supports the existence of God. See my detailed response to the article above.

        Jedi: “If you are not a materialist, what supernatural entities do you propose, and how do you know it? How do those supernatural entities justify mathematics?”
        PS: I presuppose the existence of mathematics itself (similarly to how Dr. Lisle presupposes the laws of logic). This is unjustified, but only because it is foundational, in much the same way that your presupposition of Yahweh’s authority is only justified by itself. The difference is that your presupposition implies mine.

        (note that this isn’t presupposing the natural world to be a mathematical structure, it could be something else entirely, it just seems likely to me that nature is part of math because of the type of order we find in it.)

        Jedi: “No, I’m saying that what you have claimed about accurate senses/reasoning doesn’t explain how they emerged.”
        PS: Of course I can’t explain exactly how they emerged, since I don’t know exactly how they work. If I did, I could make an AI. My point wasn’t to explain how they could have emerged, but why we would expect them to be accurate. Since accurate senses and reason improve fitness (a claim you didn’t contest), it is plausible that evolution would produce them somehow, even if we don’t know how. Of course this argument requires accurate reasoning in the first place, but we have to assume that to get anywhere(as Dr. Lisle says, we cannot completely escape circularity, even in his worldview).

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