A Conversation with a Presuppositional Apologist

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There are several well-developed forms of apologetics used to give a witness to Christ and His Truth, which He reveals through Scripture. This Truth includes the Creation, the Genesis Flood, the history in Scripture, the nature of God, and the gifts, ministries, offices, and ordinances God has revealed about the Church, the called out Body of Christ. Many Christians haven’t heard of apologetics. Some haven’t considered that God is real and that He is willing and able to reveal Himself and His Truth–that the Holy Spirit is our teacher and guide. That He will teach us all things.

The word, “apologetics,” comes from 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify [purify] the Lord God in your hearts [your inner being]: and be ready always to give an answer [apologia = rational response] to every man that asketh you a reason [Logos–Christ is the Logos/Utterance] of the hope [a firm vision from God about what He’s going to do] that is in you [your inner being] with meekness [a gentle spirit] and fear [reverence or terror].”
The word, “apologia,” is often taken out of context. It’s used to justify human debate tactics and logic that doesn’t have true premises.

The following is a conversation between a presuppositional apologist and a revelational apologist. It illustrates the difference in thinking.

Presupposition: Flawed premise – scripture never advocates mindlessness

Revelation: “Mindlessness” is your own straw man. A true premise is needed for rational thought. Otherwise, all thought is based on some form of axiomatic thinking fallacy, since the premise isn’t proven true. How do you prove a premise without Divine revelation as the proof? Do you make up another premise you can’t prove and use that unproven premise as proof?

Presupposition: This is pure Calvinistic thinking. It implies that the non-Christian is incapable of rational thought because he doesn’t have a ‘true premise’. Just as a matter of empirical observation this is patently absurd. Clearly the Christian does have ‘true premises’ so any argument against presuppositional apologetics on this basis fails – nevertheless, its appeal is to the God-given rationality of the other party. Were that my assertion were a ‘strawman’ but I’m old enough to have witnessed the effects of anti-intellectuals in the Church.

Revelation: How do you prove a premise without Divine revelation as the proof? BTW, I’m not a Calvinist. That misses the point. How do you prove a premise without Divine revelation as the proof?

Petros: Note that the presuppositionalist didn’t answer the question, “How do you prove a premise without Divine revelation as the proof?” That question was never answered rationally, since there is no way to be rational without Divine revelation.

Presupposition: We have Divine revelation – it’s called Scripture – the unregenerate is called upon to prove it for himself – our role is to give him rational grounds to do so.

Revelation: So, your position is that you have to prove God to yourself. From that position, how do you prove a premise that proves God’s existence without Divine revelation as the proof?

Presupposition: All knowledge is personal -simple fact.

Revelation: To clarify your statement about knowledge being personal, is this the philosophy of post modernism or relativism–each person has his or her own reality?

Presupposition: Divine revelation = Biblical truth + personal knowledge of the indwelling Spirit.

Revelation: What is meant by personal knowledge of the indwelling Spirit. Is that Divine revelation from the indwelling Spirit?

Presupposition: The individual’s perception of reality is inherently subjective. Christianity avoids solipsism because we share the Spirit. and . . . yes it is but the unregenerate has to be brought to that point – that is the power of presupp.

Revelation: When you say, “…yes it is…” do you mean that it is Divine revelation?

Presupposition: Yes – if we are not aware of the Spirit in our lives He probably isn’t – but that is no help to the unsaved.

Revelation: So, you’re saying that Christianity avoids solipsism because of Divine revelation from the Holy Spirit and from the Bible?

Presupposition: Yes – the promise is that He will, ‘lead us into all truth’. He is our common source of objectivity – the only source for the unsaved is the Spirit speaking through us. Presup relies on the fact that Christianity is the only rational worldview.

Revelation: I agree. Would you agree that the Holy Spirit teaches through Scripture and through every means of Divine revelation that He reveals through Scripture?

Presupposition: Yes I agree.

Revelation: OK. We’re in agreement, but there may be a difference in the use of terms. How do you define the word, “supposition?”

Presupposition: In the case of the unsaved?……………unsubstantiated assumptions they proceed to treat as axiomatic!

Revelation: What is the difference between a supposition and Divine revelation?

Presupposition: Oh we have presuppositions based on our experience of God but apologetics require us to see things from the point of view of the unsaved and spot the dichotomy in his thinking . . . here always is one.

Revelation: OK, but what’s the difference between supposition and Divine revelation?

Presupposition: My ‘suppositions’ are the result of my revelation – with the proviso that the word ‘supposition’ can imply doubt! The difference is that the Christian has rational justification for his suppositions! ie they cohere with the manner in which reality is constituted.

Petros: This sounds like double-talk. Suppositions are made-up things. Divine revelation is absolute because God is absolute. Suppositions can be made about Divine revelation, adding to God’s Words or diminishing them. Perhaps that’s what Presup means. It’s possible that PreSup has never previously given this any thought, and this response was off the cuff. It’s not rational.

Revelation: Are you then defining “supposition” as what God has revealed to you with the caveat that your own mind may have added to God’s Words or diminished God’s Words without your awareness? It doesn’t sound like you’re justifying adding to or diminishing His Words. When I say, “His Words,” I’m referring to Him speaking through Scripture and through every means that He reveals through Scripture. When I say, “His Words,” I’m referring to Him speaking through Scripture and through every means that He reveals through Scripture. For instance, no man can say, “Jesus is Lord?” but by the Holy Spirit. This implies that Christians can speak by the Holy Spirit. Other Scriptures indicate that when you speak by the Holy Spirit, it’s not you speaking, but Christ.

Presupposition: our constant touchstone must be Scripture–Berean at all times.

Revelation: I agree that the Holy Spirit reveals that the Scripture is God’s Word without error, and that other means of Divine revelation are checked against Scripture. For instance, a person may think he’s called to the mission field, but wouldn’t be able to then support his family. That’s not the calling of God, since it’s in conflict with Scripture.

Presupposition: Unless we believe the Spirit is using us I see no point in speaking.

Revelation: Getting back to the word, “supposition.” I notice that some presuppositional apologists use the term, “supposition,” for “Divine revelation” and other presuppositional apologists use the term for “assumption.”

Petros: There certainly are equivocation fallacies in the use of the words “presupposition,” “supposition,” “assumption,” and “axiom.”

Presupposition: The word, “assumptions,” is fair enough.

Revelation: I generally admit that I know Christ. I’m not ashamed of Him at all. That brings on the appeal to ridicule fallacies. I point out the fallacies and presuppositions. I point out the fact that the Münchausen Trilemma is a Secularist-only problem because of Divine revelation. That causes the Secularist, after a fight, to admit that you can’t make stuff up and call it true, so the human mind has no method to self-generate knowledge without the benefit of either Divine revelation or observation. The Secularist will invariably claim that Divine revelation doesn’t exist and that Divine revelation is assumption. At this point I explain two things. First, I explain that the Secularist’s statement is an unsupported assertion of a universal negative. Second, I point out that the Secularist doesn’t have to take my word for it. The Secularist can test it. Everyone who follows Christ is led and taught by the Holy Spirit moment by moment. The Secularist needs only to yield themselves in submission to Christ in sincerity, confess the fact that they have fallen short of perfection and need forgiveness, and ask Jesus to be their Lord and Master. He will then reveal Himself to them. The vast majority then reveal that it’s not an intellectual problem but a spiritual problem.

Presupposition: You appear to be a presuppositional apologist since you set out to undermine the notion of human intellectual autonomy . . . at least that meets my definition! The test is Revelation 3.20!

Revelation: I don’t use the term, “presuppositional,” because of the connotation of the word “supposition.” I find that different presuppositional apologists define the word differently. Most seem to have an aversion to even the concept of God being able to reveal. Most express an opinion that it’s rational to base reasoning in presuppositions. The trouble is that to suppose is actually to pretend, but most people don’t think that through, since Secularists, who run all the universities, are largely Secularists or Secularistic thinking people who have no other means of thinking than making stuff up and declaring it true. When I say, “most,” I mean most whom I run into–not a statistical sample.

Presupposition: I would say there’s a difference between supposition and pretense. Van Til was an advocate of PA but coming from a Calvinist perspective I disagree with him on huge areas. It’s rational to base reasoning in presuppositions if the the presuppositions themselves are rational. On the basis of received revelation, I bring to any discussion the presupposition that Christ died for my sin.

Petros: “It’s rational to base reasoning in presuppositions if the presuppositions themselves are rational.” Presuppositions are assumptions. Assumptions are unknowns treated as if they were facts. How can treating unknown things as facts be rational?

Revelation: The problem is that everyone doesn’t say there’s a difference between supposition and pretense. If suppositions are defined as Divine revelation or what follows from Divine revelation, Divine revelation is reality, so suppositions would then be reality. If suppositions are defined as unsupported assertions, unsupported assertions aren’t known true and can’t be a rational premise.

Presupposition: supposition
[suhp-uh-zish-uh n]
Spell Syllables
Examples Word Origin
noun
1. the act of supposing.
2. something that is supposed; assumption; hypothesis. Supposition

Revelation: as·sump·tion
əˈsəm(p)SH(ə)n/
noun
1. a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Presupposition: I both believe and hope – that is Biblical. I also assume and know.

Petros: This sounds very much like make-believe–as opposed to the faith that comes by hearing the rhema of God. It sounds like the “I hope so” hope of the Secularists–rather than the certain vision of hope that comes from God. How can anyone know anything about anything without a way to prove it? The proof must be true. How does anyone prove the premise true without Divine revelation? PreSup is inconsistent in his thinking.

Revelation: How is assumption different from unsupported assertion? In many minds, there’s no difference. How does the Bible say faith/belief/pistis comes?

Presupposition: by the word – I assume the Bible to be true on the basis of its rational coherence with reality. If, like the existentialist, I agree on the basis of Rationalism that reality is absurd then the basis of my ‘truth’ falls apart and I cannot *prove* anything because all I have left is my personal spiritual experience. In this sense my worldview is without proof and therefore an assumption…………..it just happens to be the most rational one available and on the basis of my assumption my epistemology was changed – but that proves nothing to the unregenerate.

Petros: Here is one great difference between presuppositional apologetics and revelational apologetics. Presup says, “I assume the Bible to be true on the basis of its rational coherence with reality.” He assumes. Assumption is “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.” No Christian has to base belief on “a thing that is accepted as true, without proof.” When God speaks and a Christian acknowledge Him, hears Him, faith comes. Faith is the substance (reality as opposed to making believe) of things hoped for, the evidence (absolute certainty and proof) of things not seen.

Revelation: The basis of my truth never falls apart, and I don’t have to rely on my own mind’s ability to assume. God reveals to me that the Bible is true without error. I know Jesus Christ is real because the Holy Spirit leads and teaches me moment by moment, through the Bible and through every means mentioned in the Bible. This is the simplicity that’s in Christ Jesus.

Presupposition: It would fall apart if you were a Rationalist but you understand that human rationality is finite. The Gospel is only simple when it’s simple to the one to whom it’s preached. Your ‘knowledge’ arises from being sealed by the Spirit – the unregenerate is not in that happy position………………….the atheist would simply say, ‘good for you’!

Petros: Actually, the philosophy of Rationalism falls apart on its own. That philosophy claims that the human mind can self-generate knowledge without the benefit of either Divine revelation or observation. Divine revelation never falls apart. Human rationalism does fall apart.

Revelation: I’m not too concerned about the person who isn’t willing to look at the evidence. I’m not concerned at all about any evidence that’s based on unsupported assertion. I present the evidence that’s not based on unsupported assertion. The evidence is the Person of Christ. The Secularist can test this unless the Secularist isn’t willing to look at the evidence.

Presupposition: ‘Evidence’ is a truth claim – how do you show the unsaved that you have the truth and he doesn’t?

Revelation: Christ is the Truth. It’s plain that the unsaved have no way to have a true premise. How would they prove it true? They also have the option to know Christ, the Truth, so they don’t have to take my word for it.

Presupposition: How will you prove that Christ is the truth? So you say, “don’t take my word for it”………….the atheist will say………..”ok”

Revelation: Christ proves He is the Truth through Divine revelation. That’s how He proves Himself to me and to any person who will acknowledge Him. I’m learning to acknowledge Him and to respond in submission. Faith (reality, certainty, and absolute proof) cometh by hearing and hearing by the rhema (utterance) of God. There is no method that will force a dogmatic Atheist to accept Christ. Look at your own history. What percentage turn to Christ by any method. They already know God exists. They suppress this truth in unrighteousness.

Presupposition: Yes, but you are asking your atheist to ‘acknowledge Him’ without any reason for doing so but Scripture tells you to give a reason.

Petros: The reason is to look at the evidence. Anyone who refuses to look at the evidence is refusing to face reality. Atheists can’t be forced to look at the evidence. The presuppositionalist is asking the Atheist to acknowledge The presuppositionalist’s assumptions as truth. Atheists aren’t buying into that fallacy despite the marketing of presuppositional apologetics. Depending on Christ is rational. Depending on assumption is irrational. While neither being rational or being irrational will turn a dogmatic Secularist to Christ, it’s better to stay rational by using true premises.

Revelation: They reject because of willing ignorance. God doesn’t ask you to force them to look at Him. God asks you to yield to the Holy Spirit so you can manifest the Christ to them. God says that then when they reject what you say by the Holy Spirit, they are rejecting Christ, not you.

Presupposition: Why would Paul say ‘give a reason for your hope’ since they already know God exists? But scripture says they are blind to the truth – how will you open their eyes? How will you manifest Christ? I suggest words!

Petros: The Scripture just quoted was in my original article with notation of the literal meanings of some of the words. Notice the way the presuppositionalist is missing the meaning of the words. He missed the fact that the word translated as “reason” is the Greek word, “Logos,” which means “Utterance” and is used in Scripture to speak of Christ. “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.”

1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify [purify] the Lord God in your hearts [your inner being]: and be ready always to give an answer [apologia = rational response] to every man that asketh you a reason [Logos–Christ is the Logos/Utterance] of the hope [a firm vision from God about what He’s going to do] that is in you [your inner being] with meekness [a gentle spirit] and fear [reverence or terror].”

Revelation: Christ manifests Himself through His called-out ones in many ways. Words is one of them. However, if you don’t speak as the oracle of God, if you speak your own words rather than His Words, if you speak by the power of your own fallen mind rather than by the Holy Spirit, you can’t manifest Christ.

Presupposition: Well the mind of the regenerate is renewed – we speak the implicit and explicit truths of Scripture – what we don’t say is, ‘don’t ask questions, just believe’ Christianity is not about mindless believism.

Petros: “Mindless believism” is basing belief on presuppositions rather than Divine revelation. “Well the mind of the regenerate is renewed – we speak the implicit and explicit truths of Scripture.” This might be an attempt to say that once a person is born again, they no longer can make a mistake in thinking. That isn’t true. What are the “implicit truths of Scripture.” Would those be the theologies that can only be known by making assumptions that add to Scripture or diminish Scripture? I hope that’s not what Presup means here. The comment, “what we don’t say is, ‘don’t ask questions, just believe,’ appears to be a straw man against Divine revelation.

Summary: It’s impossible to avoid the real Jesus and stay rational. Though many high-sounding, but meaningless, phrases are used to defend a disconnected Christianity, these phrases end up being irrational when put to the test.

The presuppositionalist had previously admitted that presuppositional apologetics doesn’t result in Atheists coming to Christ in his experience, yet he used a pragmatic argument for its use by saying that hardened Atheists won’t come to Christ when you tell them about your own experience with Christ. There is also the problem of inconsistency. The presuppositionalist knows that he can’t know anything based on assumption/presupposition, yet calls Divine revelation mindless and believes that he can know by assumption/presupposition. This is fairly common among presuppositionalists.

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