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

So, the merging of the two lends one to say that presuppositional apologetics is

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

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
  • 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.

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
  • 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 know 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 in Jesus. 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 oneself 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

Presuppositional Apologetics Grounds Acumen

man wearing gray and red armour standing on the streets

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#PAGA

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. 

  1. Expose the irrational/arbitrary/inconsistent thinking of the skeptic since their epistemology (theory of knowledge) has no logical foundation
  2. 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.

SkepticEpistemology

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.

  1. How do you know what is real?
    1. “What my senses and reasoning tell me is real.”
      1. How do you KNOW that your senses and reasoning are valid?
      2. 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.
    2. “I don’t know. I could be trapped in the matrix.”
      1. 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)
  2. Why do you think your senses are reliable?
    1. “That’s all I have to work with”
      1. Fallacy of assuming the consequent
    2. “What my senses tell me is in agreement with what other people’s senses tell them”
      1. Fallacy of ad populum
      2. 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
    3. “I don’t know”
      1. Fallacy of ad ignorantium
      2. Then, it is not knowledge since knowledge is justified true beliefs
  3. 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?
    1. “I don’t know”
      1. Are there people who reason incorrectly? How could you know if you were one of them?
      2. Fallacy of ad ignorantium
    2. “Because it works”
      1. 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:

  1. There is an objective standard by which something can be shown to be wrong
    1. How does the purposeless, blind, pitiless, indifferent cosmos produce standards whereby something could be determined to be right/wrong?
    2. Is-ought fallacy
  2. That standard has greater authority than the Bible
    1. 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.
  3. There are unchanging, abstract, absolutes like laws of logic, morality, and induction by which to determine truth
    1. How does a chaotic cosmos made only of matter produce unchanging, abstract absolutes?
  4. The Bible is not revelation from God
    1. 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:

Certainty

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.

PositiveCase
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. 

https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/frequent-mistakes-skeptics-make-with-alleged-bible-contradictions/

https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/collection-of-posts-responding-to-bible-contradictions/

https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2019/07/05/100-alleged-bible-contradictions-answered/

So, when the skeptic accuses God or a Christian about injustice or foolishness or contradictions in the Bible:

  1. 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
  2. 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

ProvisionalTheory

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:

  1. Test the claim
    1. Skeptics cannot justify knowledge, so I questioned his provisional theory and why he thinks it can refute what I am saying
    2. 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
    3. 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.
  2. Give them the gospel
    1. 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.”

ZeroPhilosophers
Test the claim:

    1. “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
    2. “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. 
  1. Give the gospel
    1. Truth is not determined by percentage. Truth is determined by revelation from God. 

WrongAboutEverything
Test the claim:

    1. “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.
    2. Since Haywood cannot justify his own epistemology, he cannot show that any other epistemology (specifically Christianity) is either right/wrong
  1. 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”.

The Fear of the LORD is the Beginning of Knowledge

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For I want you to know how…to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. – Colossians 2

To truly have knowledge and wisdom, you must start with God, who has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus. Mike Robinson writes a short article on why this is so important as today’s culture erects arguments against the knowledge of God.

It doesn’t seem to make sense to argue that immaterial objective truth comes from a material-only world; therefore, for the consistent materialist, immaterial objective truths do not exist. I will maintain that the only consistent and righteous system of thought comes from Christian theism. It is justified and it is impossible for it not to be true because Christianity supplies the necessary veracity conditions for immutable truth. Mutable materialistic atheism ultimately tumbles into epistemic nihilism.

Atheism is impossible because it falls into absurdity inasmuch as it lacks an ontic base for its epistemic rights; it is self-befuddling. Non-theistic worldviews lead to conclusions that are incongruous with their knowledge claims.

Authority Matters

When you were in high school, did you choose which parent to go ask for certain events or privileges? Which of your authority figures would provide the greatest freedom?

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Determining your authority in matters of worldviews and ultimate truth are not much different today. People tend to choose the authority that would grant them the greatest perceived amount of freedom. The choices seem to be limited to scientism or revelation from God. Can science be the ultimate arbiter of truth? Can science answer all of the origins questions regarding matter, energy, laws of logic, morality, mathematics, origins, biology, chemistry…? Scientism falls short in explanatory power in those categories

The other option is God’s revelation. The omnipotent Creator has revealed himself through the prophets (scripture) and most recently through Jesus (Hebrews 1). The One who perceives reality perfectly has revealed history in a trustworthy manner such that we can know his revelation to be true. The writers of the old and new testaments (including the recorded words of Jesus) believed the scriptures to be a true recording of history.

Today, many scientists have assumptions and present models that require interpretations of evidence which are in direct conflict with the history revealed by the Creator. When those conflicts arise, which authority determines truth?

Many Christian apologists take the view that scientism is the ultimate authority and should determine how to interpret God’s special revelation. William Craig is such an apologist. In his most recent blog post, Dr. Jason Lisle reveals the inherent contradictions with Christians upholding scientism as the ultimate authority.

Dr. Craig: But YEC as a hermeneutical hypothesis is quite another matter. I want to approach the text with an open mind, despite the terrifying prospect that YEC might actually be correct as a hermeneutical hypothesis. In that case, we would face some very hard choices. Given YEC’s failure as a scientific hypothesis, we should have to conclude that the Bible teaches scientific error and therefore revise our doctrine of inspiration to accommodate this fact. That is a route one would prefer not to take.

Dr. Lisle’s response is critical for us as faithful Christians to understand and preach with regards to authority and the gospel:

What do you do when the Bible clearly teaches something that is at odds with the opinions of the majority of scientists?  Craig’s answer is clear: you accept that the Bible is wrong!  Such an answer is very revealing.  What is the ultimate standard for Craig’s faith?  It cannot be the Bible…Therefore, when there is a conflict between God’s Word and the popular opinions of man, the presuppositional Christian says, “Let God be found true though every man be found a liar!” (Romans 3:4)…From this, we conclude that Craig is strongly motivated to interpret Scripture in a non-exegetical way in order to accommodate his unjustified presupposition of the big bang.  May I humbly suggest the reverse?  I advise Craig (and everyone else) to let God be true, to take His Word as written, in grammatical historical context, and then use God’s Word to discern which of man’s ideas are virtuous, and which are fallacious.  Why not base our thinking on the infallible, and use this to evaluate the fallible?

His closing remarks highlight the critical issue:

Do we interpret the Bible to align with our view of the world, or do we adjust our view of the world to align with the Bible?  How you answer that question will reveal the true standard of your faith.

William Craig seems determined to give his apologetic in defense of a general theism that has the backing of naturalistic scientific assumptions. From this foundation, He feels free to interpret the Bible on the latest interpretation of evidence and cultural preference. What will happen to his apologetic when the latest assumptions are changed to accommodate new interpretations of evidence?

Dr. Lisle encourages Christians to uphold God’s revelation as the authority, and letting that authority control the assumptions held for interpreting evidence.

Scientific interpretations of evidence change over time:

  • Prior to the 1500s, scientists believed and modeled that the earth was the center of the solar system. – Falsified
  • Prior to the 1600s, scientists believed in alchemy and phlogistonFalsified
  • Prior to the 1700s, scientists believed that bloodletting and leeches removed bad blood from sick patients. – Falsified
  • Prior to the 1800s, scientists believed in spontaneous generationFalsified
  • Prior to the 1900s, scientists taught that the universe eternal (steady state theory) – Falsified
  • Prior to the 2000s, scientists taught impending contradictory catastrophes would destroy humanity in the subsequent decades: ice age and unstoppable heat wave. – Falsified

 

Have people misinterpreted the Bible to justify terrible things? Yes, and each time, it is scripture itself that has revealed the false understanding and correction.

Will you put your trust in the ever-changing assumptions that guide scientific interpretations or can we trust the unchanging nature of God’s revelation to guide our thinking and behavior?

Evidence for the Almighty

SunsetLCC2

Interact with people long enough online when discussing God, and the inevitable demand for “evidence for your sky daddy” (or other pejorative) will arise. So, let’s talk evidence.

Evidence

That’s a decent definition for evidence. As another prerequisite, we need to define God. God has revealed Himself through his creation, through his Word, and through Jesus as The All powerful and All Knowing Eternal Creator.

We need to talk about three more things before we talk about evidence:

  1. All evidence is interpreted by your worldview. Evidence does not speak for itself. Let me give you an example of how people interpret evidence according to their worldview. The evidence is a fossilized dinosaur bone.
    • A Christian will look at the fossil and interpret it to be exactly what one would expect to find when digging in sedimentary rock layers because the dinosaur was rapidly buried by water-born sediment. Since the animal now exists as a fossil, it avoided decomposition from scavengers/bacteria, so it had to be buried quickly by a massive flood like the one revealed as historical evidence in Genesis 7-9. We know from calculations on ages and historical markers that the flood took place about 4500 years ago, so the bone has been buried for about 4500 years.
    • A non-Christian will look at the fossil and interpret it to be exactly what one would expect to find when digging in sedimentary rock layers because dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and so the rock layer in which the dinosaur is buried is also that old. Because the rock layer has this fossil in it, we know that the fossil was buried about 65 million years ago.
    • Same evidence.Wildly different conclusions. There is no special atheistic evidence, and there is no special christian evidence. There’s just evidence that people interpret within their worldview framework. Can evidence ultimately convince someone of God’s existence? So, we have to ask how valid is it to put out evidence to convince someone that God exists.
  2. What things count as evidence?
    • Laboratory evidence or repeatable evidence. There are all kinds of examples for this, but let’s go easy: Water at sea level boils at 100 degrees Celsius. This is repeatable and consistent. Most of the time, when I have interactions with people online, they want this kind of laboratory evidence to prove that God exists. We’ll talk more later about why a demand for evidence of the Almighty on this level is absurd.
    • Historical or Forensic evidence. Clearly, one cannot go into the laboratory and prove with repeatability the existence of Ghengis Khan or Thomas Jefferson, but one can, with a high degree of certainty, rely on historical records. Biases play a major role in the documentation of historical records, so it’s helpful to recognize bias and read multiple accounts of a historical event to get the truest picture of the past.
  3. This is not specifically about evidence, but the demand that people make of God. “God you appear before me or you’re not real!” To demand this of the Eternal Almighty is audacious, prideful, and dangerous. On a much smaller scale, it would be similar to saying, “The President of the USA better show up to my birthday party and light my candles, or he’s not really the president.” This demand is completely unreasonable for his authority/position, and it ultimately has no bearing on the president’s authority/position.

What is the evidence for God?

  1. Since God is the Creator, all evidence is evidence for God. Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities-his divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” A key question would be: What evidence would convince you that God exists, even though he says you already have enough evidence?
  2. Without God, you couldn’t prove anything at all. As the Ultimate Truth shows, God can fulfill the necessary preconditions for intelligibility. To be absolutely certain of something, one must know everything or have revelation from Someone who does know everything. We all know things, therefore God exists.
  3. There are immaterial, invariant, universal entities. Those who believe in a naturalistic worldview cannot account for these entities, because the naturalist is bound by constantly-changing matter. Since God is immaterial, invariant, and transcendental, He can substantiate both the material and immaterial entities. Because there are things like good, beauty, truth, mathematics, and information we know that God must exist to be the source for these things.
  4. The Bible. Scripture claims to be divinely inspired. These claims are internally consistent and continually verified by forensic science. As verification of their divine nature, fulfilled prophecies have been recorded throughout scripture and later come true. Ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the pivotal point in history. Multiple lines of evidence are compelling for this miracle.
  5. Theologetics.org has collated a great deal of arguments and evidence for the existence of God. I highly recommend you research the overwhelming evidence that he has collected
    1. Laws of logic confirm God’s revelation
    2. Teleological Argument
    3. Moral Argument
    4. Ontological Argument
    5. Consciousness Argument
    6. Information Argument
    7. The Truth Argument
  6. Specified Complexity – DNA is a biological code that exhibits specified complexity. It is both highly ordered and elaborate. Scientifically, only intelligence is known to create specified complex code like computer programs. DNA is not just a code, but exhibits informational capacity in multiple dimensions. Complexity of this magnitude requires a magnificent Power.
  7. Irreducible Complexity – “A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, & where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced gradually by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, since any precursor to an irreducibly complex system is by definition nonfunctional.” God shows Himself to be a master designer by creating mechanisms that cannot function with any missing parts. Examples of IC are most of the biological systems: respiratory, circulatory, immune, etc…
  8. Fine Tuning – There are properties of the universe that could have any number of values. If any of these values were different in even the slightest degree, life would not be possible. The universe appears to be not just perfectly fine tuned for life but perfectly designed for the flourishing of life and scientific discovery.
    1. A sub-category of the fine-tuning evidence is the specific evidence for earth being designed for human life:
      1. Perfect distance from the sun provides for liquid water and optimum temperatures for humanity
      2. Unique near-circular orbit prevents massive climate swings
      3. Protective atmosphere – The atmosphere deflects or absorbs much of the dangerous radiation and meteors. It also provides the right amount of heat preservation for life on earth. Its composition fosters the water cycle that sustains life on earth.
      4. The earth is the perfect size for generating a magnetic field of the right strength. The Van Allen belts protect humanity from dangerous radiation. As a secondary benefit of the belts, the beauty of the northern lights can be enjoyed by humanity.
      5. Transparent atmosphere allows us to use the visible light spectrum for vision. Because of this, humanity can observe evidence both inside and outside our atmosphere.
      6. The atmosphere is also the perfect ratio of elements for respiration, combustion, flight, photosynthesis, condensation, evaporation, and UV protection. The atmosphere is also a great medium for passing smell and sound.
      7. The proximity to the moon and sun provide perfect amount of force to control tides and keep the oceans from becoming stagnant.
      8. We can view a perfect solar eclipse because the moon appears to be 400X smaller than the relative distance of the sun, which is 400X further away. Coincidence or design?
      9. The placement of the earth within the solar system protects the earth from most meteor strikes. The large gas planets “vacuum” up most of the dangerous ones.
      10. The placement of the earth within the Milky Way appears to be perfectly designed because it is in a relatively safe part of the bands of stars that allows for the greatest level of discovery.
  9. Symbiosis – Symbiosis is defined as “interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.” Unrelated biological systems that cannot exist independently are best explained by a master Designer, who planned their advantageous interactions.
  10. The Moral Argument – While not a specific piece of evidence, the argument that there are ultimate moral laws necessitates a moral law giver. Again, naturalistic worldviews cannot account for universal, immaterial, and invariant moral laws.

This list is not comprehensive, but it is a good start when studiously researching the evidence for the existence of God.

I mentioned earlier that most atheists demand a level of evidence for God on par with 2+2=4 or the repeatable boiling point of water. This demand is absurd, because it is a category error.

God is by definition beyond nature, so demanding a natural evidence for a supernatural event/entity does not make sense. As an example of this, a miracle was recorded in the Bible where Jesus changed water into wine. Jesus did not use a law of nature or mathematical formula to perform this miracle. It is by definition supernatural and does not produce evidence that can be repeated or the process described step-by-step. It’s very much like the character in a video game who demands that the video game designer bring himself into the video game to prove his existence.

So, if your limited worldview has barriers that ignore/suppress/disallow the supernatural, no evidence will ever be good enough.

To know the Creator, you must admit and repent of your rebellion against Him. He is faithful to forgive and only faith in his Son can bring the mercy and peace that we all need.

Subjectively Objective

So again I was inspired to write a blog post based on Justin Brierley’s weekly podcast. This past week, he hosted a debate between Frank Turek and Alex O’Connor. The topic of the show was actually whether evil disproves atheism because atheists need absolute morals to make judgments against anything (in order to call it evil.)

I do try to keep my blog posts short, so as not to lose people’s attention, so I won’t go into my discourse about how the atheist, Alex, empowered evolution with creative abilities. If that does interest you, I’ve written extensively about how and why Christians should not embrace evolution.

The important thing that I want to point out about this debate is when they talked about the objective nature of the Laws of Logic. I’ll have to paraphrase since I cannot find the transcripts anywhere, but essentially, the Christian tried to push the atheist into saying that the laws of logic were objective, but Alex said (paraphrase), “They can’t be objective, because we are both using the laws of logic and we disagree.”

Alex is incorrect here, and this is the power of presuppositional apologetics. The atheist and the Christian have different presuppositions/axioms/assumptions regarding reality, so when both use the laws of logic, they come to different conclusions. It does not mean that the laws of logic are not objective, it means there are different starting points. Different starting points mean different conclusions.

The Christian can say, “since the Eternal Creator is immaterial, universal, and unchanging, we can account for things in reality that express these properties because of what he has revealed to everyone.”

The atheist cannot justify the origin of immaterial, universal, and constant entities in a cosmos that they say is defined by a material and constantly changing universe. They are left with the absurd solution of calling laws of logic either subjective or a human construct, which are both self-defeating.

Since we can trust God’s revelation about history, we can trust Him with the future! Praise the Creator!!!

Does Evidence Convince the Non-Believer

I haven’t even finished reading this article yet, but it’s so good that I want to share it on my blog before I forget or something comes up. The writer outlines clearly the point that people interpret evidence according to their worldview, so evidence cannot properly push someone into the Kingdom of God.

People must repent of their sins so that they can see the emptiness of their atheistic worldview. As Romans 1 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.”

There is not enough evidence to convince an atheist that God exists, because they are suppressing this evidence.

There are some big words and complex ideas, but here are a few excerpts that I thought were very good. Still, the whole article is worth the read:

Defending the Christian faith (apologetics) is an injunction that wields a fruitful endeavor. Presuppositional apologetics is a Reformed modus operandi that commences and concludes with God, presupposes the veracity of Scripture, disproves the futility of human contrivance that obstructs truth, and argues that it is inextricable to deny the sensus deitatis (sense of deity) because it is intrinsically recessed internally which leaves everyone without reprieve.

Here’s the quandary: both are given evidence (Scripture), but there are two diametrically opposed conclusions. The affirmations brought into the evidence are their presuppositions. This is the contradistinction between a presuppositional apologist and an atheist: a presuppositional apologist (does not demand evidence for God’s existence) can corroborate their knowledge claims because of revelation from God, while the atheists cannot (demands evidence for God). The former justifies the very concept of evidence, while the latter does not.

This article is not denying evidence as edifying to a Christian. The creation account, the worldwide flood, parting of the Red Sea, and the miracles of Christ: casting out demons, cleansing the lepers, healing a man born blind, healing Peter’s mother in-law, raising the dead, restoring an ear, walking on water, stilling the storm, turning water into wine, feeding thousands and resurrecting gloriously and miraculously are all captivating proofs. Do all of the aforementioned miracles need to be given to a person who demands proof for God’s existence? Absolutely not! According to Thomas Aquinas: “To one who has faith no explanation is necessary. To one without faith no explanation is possible.”

What are the dissimilarities between an atheist and a theist? The atheist cannot account for anything as they appeal to their autonomous reasoning, and seek to justify doing so with their autonomous reasoning. How do they know their reasoning is valid? Apart from revelation, they cannot. A theist (Christian) can account for the laws of logic because of a super naturalistic worldview that is consistent with universal, abstract invariant entities, and is justified by revelation. This is why an atheist has to borrow from the Christian worldview because they are impotent of justifying anything apart from God.

An atheistic worldview cannot account for moral absolutes because they have no justification for absolutes of any kind. Most atheists will say that they are absolutely certain that there is no such thing as absolutes, which is self-refuting babble. Why can’t an atheistic worldview justify moral absolutes? If an atheist denies the existence of God, they lose their appeal to absolute knowledge and nothing could be absolutely morally wrong.

Because we can trust God’s revelation through scripture about the past (and this is corroborated by the evidence we see around us), we can trust God’s revelation about our future. Romans 8

[Rom 8:18-25 ESV] 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

What Could Persuade You?

What Could Persuade You that evolution were not true?
If archaeologists found a rabbit in the Cambrian layers of soil then evolution would be disproven…right?
Well, as it turns out, proverbial rabbits are found all of the time in layers much “too old” for them. The problem is that people do not change their view based on conflicting evidence…they change their interpretation of the evidence to fit their view.
In an article entitled Radiometric Backflip, Volume 37, Issue 1, Creation Magazine describes just such an example. Here’s an example where the “science” (based on absolute radio metric dating) proved suggested that the rock layers of the Santo Domingo rock formation were 200 million years old (Nature 417 (6892):936-938, 27 June 2002).  But when footprints of sandpipers were found in layers of soil underneath the 200 million year old layers, scientists were able to scrub away 175 million years to make the data fit with the idea that sandpipers evolved about 37 million years ago. It must have taken quite a bit of soap to scrub away 175 million years that fast.
And this is not an isolated case. A hominid fossil, KNM-ER 1470 was found beneath soil that had originally been absolutely dated at over 200 million years old. Once the fossil was found, Richard Leakey requested a re-test. Not surprisingly, the new absolute dates of between 2-5 million years fit perfectly in the range that was needed to perpetuate the evolutionary myth. What happened to the original 200 million years? They were donated to a local charity for all we know.
So no amount of evidence will change someone’s mind regarding origins. This is why it is so important for Christians to be familiar with presuppositional apologetics. Everyone has presuppositions that help us to define how we interpret evidence.
Christians presuppose that there is a Creator God and that he revealed himself through the Bible, through creation, and in Jesus. Those who presuppose that there is no God are reliant on billions of years and a creative mechanism (evolution by natural selection and random mutation) to explain the origin and development of life.
So to convince someone that there is a God and that his word is infinitely reliable, you have to show how their atheistic presupposition contains contradictions.
We can trust God’s Word about history, and since it is a reliable history book (and the revealed Word of God), we know that we can trust God at his word regarding salvation and our future hope (Romans 8.)

Does God exist?

This question is one of the most important questions of this generation. The answer has profound implications for how someone hopes, lives, behaves, and is remembered. So what is the answer?

 

The modern paradigm has presented a case that science and evolution have replaced God. Let’s compare the atheistic worldview to that of the Christian to see which can stand up to scrutiny.

Jason Lisle has submitted a powerful argument for the existence of God: namely that without God, we could not know anything. Since we know things, then there is a God. Check out his article here to follow the progression of the reasoning.

Here’s my understanding of how the logic of objectively proving that God exists is formulated.

Since everyone interprets evidence according to their worldview, then no evidence is conclusive in exposing either the shortcomings of the Christian’s worldview or the atheist’s worldview. An example of this would be the existence of fossils. An atheist would interpret the evidence and say that fossilized dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. A Christian would interpret the existence of fossils as exactly what is expected if the historical flood buried everything under tons of sedimentary layers. Same evidence. Different conclusions depending on one’s worldview. So the answer has to go one level deeper to analyze one’s worldview. Which worldview has contradictions?

The atheist’s worldview assumes that there are only material objects in an ever changing universe.

The Christian worldview assumes that God is the Creator and that He has revealed himself to humanity in his written Word, the Bible.

Which worldview would best account for the existence of the laws of logic, objective morality, objective truth, beauty, and intelligence?

All of these things are immaterial concepts. So, if there are immaterial laws of logic that do not change, how can the atheist account for the existence of immaterial laws in a constantly changing universe? Laws of logic make perfect sense in a Christian worldview as they are the way that God thinks, and he has imparted this ability to humanity. Colossians 2:3

Another inconsistency for atheists would be the behavioral contradiction. Jason Lisle describes it this way:

For example, consider the atheist university professor who teaches that human beings are simply chemical accidents—the end result of a long and purposeless chain of biological evolution. But then he goes home and kisses his wife and hugs his children, as if they were not simply chemical accidents, but valuable, irreplaceable persons deserving of respect and worthy of love.

The Christian does believe that people are valuable, deserving of respect, and worthy of love, but it is because we are created in the image of God. He gives humans value. In the atheist worldview, people do not have intrinsic value since they are simply the culmination of purposeless chemical accidents.

I’m quite sure that the atheist would claim that there are some objective morals if you tried to steal from him, assault someone in his family, or caustically burn his house to the ground. But he would not be able to account for the existence of these morals since they are immaterial, universal, and unchanging. Objective morals exist, but they do not fit in the atheistic worldview. Don’t misinterpret, atheists can act morally (and most do most of the time), but they simply cannot account for the existence of objective morals.

Objective Truth has its roots only in either knowing everything or having someone who knows everything reveal some of it. Christians do not know everything, but the omniscient Creator God has revealed some of his knowledge to us so that we can know things for certain. The atheist cannot know things for certain because he must leave open the possibility that some future knowledge might overturn something he currently thinks is reliable.  If he cannot know anything for certain, then it logically follows that he knows nothing.

This brings us to another contradiction because atheists do know things. They know things and make truth claims all of the time, but since they have no justification for preconditions for intelligibility, then they are contradicting themselves. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that atheists do not exist. Everyone knows that there is a God, but those who claim that there is no God is suppressing the truth.

For further research on this topic, see ProofThatGodExists.org

This video goes through the process of helping someone understand the preconditions of intelligibility, and I found it to be helpful in explaining this very deep question.