In a podcast on presuppositional apologetics, I noted that it does in fact contain the kernel of a significant type of argument for theism. But what I have never appreciated is the combative “all or nothing” approach that many presuppositionalists take. Unfortunately, some of them see all arguments for God’s existence – all arguments apart from their own transcendental argument – as intellectual treachery, as selling out, and as borderline sinful. This has a couple of harmful consequences: It creates needless squabbling between Christians who are really serving the same end, and it frankly makes Christian apologists look crazy in the eyes of onlookers.
Here’s an example. A presuppositionalist apologist with no time for any method of defending Christianity other than by using presuppositional apologetics recently wrote a brief blog post called “Pascal’s wager is a bad bet.” In it, he takes a line used by a number of other presuppositionalists, charging that any conventional (i.e. non-presuppositional) argument for God’s existence takes the stance that God is only probable, and not certain. This time he has Pascal’s wager in his sights:
Is God a probable God or a certain God? In church we know the answer: “The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 14:1) It’s not “The Heavens might declare the glory of God–if he exists, and the skies might proclaim the work of his hands–if he exists.” Could we really say that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39) if we worshipped a probable God? Of course not! In Church, we worship a certain God, yet what do we do? – We go out into the world and tell unbelievers that we could be wrong! We give them “Pascal’s Wager.”
Brothers and sisters God is not a good bet, God is not even the best bet, God is the certain God that has revealed Himself to us, such that we are certain of His existence (Romans 1: 18-21). Blaise Pascal said some wonderful things, but his wager is a terrible bet.
I looked up Pascal’s Wager on a search engine, and could not find one thing written negatively about it by Christians. What are we doing?!? We worship a certain God, yet defend a probable ‘god!’ Folks, a probable “god” is not God–a probable ‘god’ does not exist.
Unfortunately, in his zeal for presuppositional apologetics, Sye has misconstrued Pascal’s wager. Pascal’s wager does not amount to the claim that Christianity might be false, nor does it make the claim that God’s existence is merely probable. In fact, the argument contains no premises or conclusions about whether or not God exists! Presuppositionists of this ilk (and I have to say, not all presuppositionalists do this) need to lift their game and realise that we are actually on the same team.
I left this comment at the above blog:
Sye, Pascal’s wager does not claim that God’s existence is probable or improbable. That is not the point. It is not an argument about whether or not God exists, or about how likely God’s existence is. It is an argument that you definitely should live as though God exists.
It is not fair to accuse it of being an argument for a “probable God,” no matter how catchy that phrase might be.
At the moment my comment is still awaiting moderation over at that blog.
- Episode 011: What is Presuppositional Apologetics?
- Lest we Forget, Loftus
- When the Christian Brain Ceases to be Relevant
- Episode 012: Plantinga and Presuppositional Apologetics
- The Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit and Christian Confidence
63 thoughts on “Presuppositionalists vs everyone else”
The comment is visible for me at the time of writing this.
Ah yes, it’s there now. I decided to add the image this time, because the last time this happened at someone’s blog, my comment with “Your comment is awaiting moderation” disappeared altogether, but when I pointed this out at my blog, the author of the other blog started denying that my post had ever been in moderation to begin with. So now I safeguard myself against that by taking a screenshot when it happens.
Oh dear, I used to believe this kind of rubbish once too, and heavily criticize others views for not being the same as mine:( Learning about philosophy and logic helped me break out of it. It’s a good defense against poor thinking of this sort. Christians like this fella (with his ill-founded certainty)are the exact reason I want to live in a secular state(not atheistic secular). If these guys were running the place, not only would atheists suffer for not agreeing with them, but Christians too would have to worry about what was going to happen to them for not agreeing with every exact, precise detail of ‘certainty’, in the exact same way they believe. God helps us and save us from fundamentalists.
You Have Been Warned
The prophet has already warned us that we should be careful not to think that God has any form or likeness, saying: “Watch yourselves most carefully, since you saw no image” (Devarim 4:15); “But you saw no image – there was only a voice” (ibid. 4:12). “Watch yourselves…..carefully” means: be careful – in your thinking and imagination – not to represent the Creator by any shape, nor to conceive of Him in any image or likeness, for your eyes beheld neither image nor form when He spoke to you, as it says: “To whom, then, will you liken the Almighty? What likeness will you compare to Him?” (Yeshayahu 40:18); “To whom, then, will you liken Me, that I should compare to?’ says the Holy One” (ibid. 40:25); For who in the skies can be compared to God? Who is like God among the heavenly beings?” (Tehillim 89:7); “There is none like You among the gods, HaShem, nor are there works like Yours” (ibid. 86:8); and there are many similar passages. (source pg. 133 Duties of the heart)
The Divine attributes of action are those that are ascribed to the Creator as a result of His actions. It is possible that in attributing these qualities to Him, He is made an associate of some of His creatures [to whom they are also attributed]. Nevertheless, we are permitted to ascribe these qualities to Him, because of our urgent need to know Him and recognize His existence, so that we may assume His service. We find extensive use of this kind of Divine attribute in the Torah and the books of the prophets, as well as in the praises offered by the prophets and the pious. Such attributes are used in two ways:
1) Attributes are ascribed which indicate image and bodily form, as in the following examples for Scripture: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him” (Bereshis 1:27); for in God’s image did He make man” (ibid. 9:6); “By the mouth of God” (Bamidbar 9:18); “My hands alone stretched out the heavens” (Yeshayahu 45:12); “in God’s ears” (Bemidbar 11:1); “and under His feet” (Shemos 24:10); “O arm of God!” (Yeshayahu 51:9); who has not sworn falsely by My Name” (Tehillim 24:4); “in the eys of God” (Bereshis 6:8); “and God said in His heart” (ibid. 8:21) and there are other similar attributions of bodily organs to God.
2) Attributes are ascribed to God which indicate movements and bodily actions, as it says: “God smelled [the pleasing fragrance]” (ibid. 8:21); “God saw…regretted…and He was saddened at heart” (ibid. 6:5-6); “God came down” (ibid. 11:5); “God remembered” (ibid. 8:1); “God heard” (Bemidbar 11:1); Then God awoke as one that had slept” (Tehillim 78:65); and there are many other similar attributes to Him of human actions.
The foolish and ignorant person will conceive of the Creator, may He be exalted, according to the literal sense of the Scriptural phrase.
Which is a terrible argument, since we know for certain that He does.
It’s called a wager for a reason Glenn. One does not wager on certainties.
Sye, yes it’s called a wager, but it’s not about whether or not God exists. You portrayed it as an argument that presents God’s existence as probable. That is a misrepresentation.
You keep saying that, but do not support your claim with an argument.
Wagers deal in probabilities, not certainties.
Sye, I don’t think Glenn is questioning that wagers deal in probabilities. He’s saying this particular wager is not a wager about the existence of God, probable or otherwise.
In fact, my very meager understanding of Pascal’s Wager is that it not only doesn’t argue for the existence of God–probable or otherwise–but that it doesn’t have to do with the probability of anything at all.
My comment got through also!
I cannot see how it deals in anything BUT probabilities, but am open to hearing the argument that it does.
It seems to me that without any assumption whatsoever about the likelihood of God’s existence, the wager says one should live a certain way because he has nothing to lose in doing so if God does not exist, and everything to gain if He does. It doesn’t appear to trade at all on the probability or certainty (or lack of either) of God’s existence or of anything at all.
//”and everything to gain if He does.”//
It makes exactly zero difference to live as if God exists, or as if He does not. One has nothing to gain IF God exists. One has only anything to gain because God certainly exists, and has certainly sent His son to die for sinners.
I agree, Sye. I didn’t say it’s a good wager. I’m just saying the wager doesn’t argue for or assume the probability of anything, let alone God’s existence.
It assumes that God’s existence is not certain, which is the problem.
Again, I agree. But it’s not an argument for the probability of God’s existence, and that’s Glenn’s point.
It’s an argument BASED on the probability of God’s existence, which is MY point.
I agree. I was simply trying to help you understand what Glenn’s point was, which was that the wager is not an argument for God’s existence. Your comments in response to him suggested you didn’t understand his point.
His whole article misunderstands my point. Glenn says that people of my “ilk” need to realize that we are on the same team, but that gets hard to do when he uses terms like “ilk” and argues against my position at every turn. I even had an atheist quote him to support an argument in one of my debates. Not feeling the love 🙂
I don’t disagree that he missed your point, and will let him discuss that with you. As for the feeling of love, I suspect he feels similarly. I think the tenor of the conversation could improve.
“I cannot see how it deals in anything BUT probabilities, but am open to hearing the argument that it does.”
OK Sye, how about you quote the part of the wager that talks about probability. I’m happy to show you that it does not. His Pensees are reproduced here.
First, at the very start of the section in which Pascal discusses the wager (paragraph 184), he heads the section: “A letter to incite to the search after God.”
This tells us what Pascal is setting out to do. There’ no indication here that he is about to argue that it is likely God exists. Instead, he deliberately says that he is trying to incite people to search after God. That is, he wants to provoke people to examine for themselves whether or not God exists, but not to tell them.
Starting at paragraph 195, Pascal stresses how sinful human beings are and blinded by sin, and also how serious the issue of eternal life is. So much is at stake.
He eventually gets to discussing the wager directly, in paragraph 233: “Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then?”
It is quite clear here what he means by “wager.” He means that you must decide one way or the other about God, and of course he is correct. Now he has set the scene: There is so much at stake, and we must choose one way or the other. The wager is thus crucially important.
Then comes the key:
He stresses again the sinfulness of fallen man: “But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour then to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions.”
He is correct here, for trust is an act of the will. So far we have: 1) You have no choice but to live one way or the other. 2) The stakes are unspeakably high, 3) wagering that God is risks little for much gain, but wagering that God is not risks everything 3) we are lost in sin, and mere reason alone may easily fail to persuade us. Trust is an act of will.
You’ll notice that so far nothing at all in this argument is about the probability of theism. Nothing at all. Instead the issue throughout is about prudence in choosing.
In other words, this is an anti-realist argument for adopting Christianity; an argument that does not seek to persuade a person that Christianity is true, or even probable.
So it is just not true that this is an argument based on the probability of God’s existence.
What’s more, realist arguments (e.g. classical apologetics) are also not based on the probability of God’s existence. Instead, they argue for the probability of theism. But that’s another issue. The point is, Pascal’s wager does not do this.
Since your point was about treating God’s existence as certain rather than probable, and since you accused Pascal’s wager of arguing for a “probable God,” you were not fair to it. I’m sorry if my directness is unpleasant, but I do not think you are fair to fellow apologists. I note that this is unfortunately common among some presuppositionalists, and that is why I used the word “ilk.” Maybe I could have said “mindset.” But it’s a common problem, and one that really bothers me to see. Now, it may be that Pascal does think that he can only show that God’s existence is probable, but that’s certainly not the point of the wager. I really wonder if you’d read the wager in pascal’s words prior to commenting on it.
What bothers me most of all, however, is the way that all other apologetic methods are dismissed – not merely as wrong but as somehow unfaithful. That’s a real shame, and I think presuppositionalists can end up missing out on much of what their peers offer by approaching the world this way.
Sye had an epic bout with Stephen Law last year. Check Law’s blog archives.
“Sye had an epic bout with Stephen Law last year.”
Must have been a pretty even contest then.
Is there any possibility everyone here is missing the point–surely Pascal’s wager is aimed at people who at best are doubtful about the existence of God, not people who are convinced of His existence. The terms of the wager address the uncertainty [ probability or improbability ] in the minds of the people to whom the wager is addressed, not to believers. Hence it makes no actual comment on God’s existence in an absolute sense.
Jeremy, that’s what I was saying. It’s about prudence, how undecided people should choose, and not about how likely it is that God exists.
I see nothing but probabilities in Pascal’s wager:
That is not the God that I believe in. The existence of God is not a “chance.” Scripture tells us that everyone knows that God exists, and are “without excuse” for denying Him (Romans 1:18-21). Any apologetic which denies the truth of Scripture is sinful, period.
There are no undecided people, merely people “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” Until we agree on what Scripture says, we will not agree on apologetic methodology, or on the sinfulness of Pascal’s Wager.
“Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.”
This has nothing to do with probabilities. Probability deals with the likelihood that something is true based upon observations of a subset of phenomena. Pascal presents the wager as an either or proposition. This is a truism, not a probability: God either is or is not. There is no in between part.
A probabilistic statement refers to the likelihood that something is true based upon inference from an observed sample set. There is a 1/6 probability that if I roll a six-sided die it will come up 4. If the election were held today, 48% of the total number of voters (living and dead) would vote for Barak Obama based upon our survey of 1000 registered voters. These are probabilistic statements because they are based upon past observations of rolling dice and surveys of a subset of voters. In contrast, the statements that “the die came up 4” or “Barak Obama received 48% of the total vote” are not probabilistic statements. They are descriptions of reality.
Descriptions of reality — statements that a proposition (e.g., “God exists”) is true or is not true — are not subject to probabilistic description. There is no sample set from which to draw inferences. Or rather, the sample set has complete identity with the thing being described, making probabilistic statements irrelevant. “The die came up 4” describes the 100% likelihood that the observed sample describes reality. Likewise, with respect to the existence of God, there is a sample set of 1 God that corresponds completely to the total universe of 1 God. Everything you could infer from the sample set has complete identity with everything you could describe from the total universe of the described phenomenon.
The odds are NOT in the degree of likelihood that God exists, but in the CHANCE that He does not. This option is NEVER presented in Scripture. The unbeliever is never presented with the option that “God is not.” Doing so, is contrary to what Scripture teaches. Again, our disagreement is with Scripture, not with equations.
How are we defining the term “Certainty” here? There is a range of possible meanings:
I have come to the conclusion that “Certainty,” defined as “perfect knowledge that has total security from error” (per the first of the Wikipedia definitions) is not available to human beings. To have perfect knowledge in this sense seems to me to require omniscience, which would make such adamant insistence on certainty pretty presumptuous. But maybe we mean something more like “the mental state of being without doubt?” But it seems that to insist on this version of certainty then reduces apologetics to merely preaching at the unbeliever without any genuine attempt to persuade.
The reference.com definition gives definition # 2 as: “something certain; an assured fact.” This is interesting because it does not involve epistemology: it is just the bare objective fact that some proposition is true, regardless of what anyone thinks about it. So here we have a difference between the objective fact of God’s existence versus the epistemic state of individual humans with regard to that fact. So when insisting on “Certainty,” I wonder which of the two following statements is in mind:
1. There is an objective fact that God exists, regardless of anyone’s beliefs about it. The Presuppositionalist when constructing arguments assumes this fact to be true without question as an axiomatic, …well… presupposition.
2. There is an objective fact that God exists, regardless of anyone’s beliefs about it. The Presuppositionalist has perfect knowledge of this fact with total security from error (or at least is has the mental state of being convinced without doubt), and insists that everyone else join with him in this form of epistemic certitude.
I guess you could say there is something you could call “ontological certainty,” and another thing called “epistemic certainty.”
The important thing you need to understand about Sye is that he does not do apologetics to persuade people or to argue for the existence of God. He does it because, as far as he’s concerned, everybody already knows for certain that God exists, so when Sye argues with people, he’s doing it to “catch them red-handed” denying what they already know. It’s not to teach people things they don’t know or haven’t understood, it’s so he can go “gotcha”!!
This, frankly, does apologetics a disservice. The TAG is actually very thought-provoking and effective, but not the way Sye approaches it. I find presuppositionalist apologists like Doug Wilson far more effective, because they at least seem open to critiquing how they’re going about their reasoning, even if the conclusion turns out to be correct.
With Sye, I get the impression that he would never change his mind, even if his own “brand” of apologetics is riddled with fallacies that even God himself could point out to him.
Here’s a couple quick quotes from Pascal, if it be possible that the point could be made any more clear,
“Man is so made that if he is told often enough that he is a fool he believes it. By telling himself so often enough he convinces himself, because when he is alone he carries on an inner dialogue with himself which it is important to keep under proper control. Evil communications corrupt good manners. We must keep silence as far as we can and only talk to ourselves about God, whom we know to be true, and thus convince ourselves that He is.” (that’s from 98 I believe)
“That is why those to whom God has given religious faith by moving their hearts are very fortunate, and feel quite legitimately convinced, but to those who do not have it we can only give such faith through reasoning, until God gives it by moving their heart, without which faith is only human and useless for salvation.” -110
(it seems important to me to understand from that last quote that Pascal likely does not think that a person who takes his wager has got themselves in a position that is ‘saved’. Rather, he is suggesting reasons for putting themselves in the proper place for bumping into God, as it were. So the wager, as Glenn has already noted, has nothing to do with why one should believe God exists since it is an argument designed to convince someone that they should seek after God who will not fail to providentially endow them His gift of faith, which is effective for salvation.)
and since I can’t resist, a gem from earlier in 98,
“How is it that a lame man does not annoy us while a lame mind does? Because a lame man recognizes that we are walking straight, while a lame mind says that it is we who are limping.”
It’s sad that non-presuppositionalists are thought of as unfaithful apologists — we are all tying to show non believers the urgent need for God in this life; a life that smashes people hard with all kinds of grief, hurts, distractions from God, sins which harden the heart etc. So it’s a hard job with many disappointments and frustrations (even though it’s a joy to share about God).
I think its a respectable thing that we keep trying despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of people we talk to wont respond positively to God — many hostilely.
It seems to me that no matter which way you go about it, the genuine ‘sheep’ will surely follow the call of the Sheppard won’t they Sye? I think they will. So as Peter Byrom says, this approach becomes more about backing non-believers who object into a corner so you can say gotcha! But I dont think that approach is necessary, because that the end of the day God will do that, and it’s not about winning an argument surely, but about winning a person (not sugar-coating it, please don’t think I mean that). But what good does it do if a non-believer’s encounter with a believer leaves them hating God more because of our approach? Why not use the encounter to open up something that can grow — maybe even drop in some ‘seeds’ from the fruit of the Spirit? Peace, love, gentleness, kindness etc? And I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t be firm in showing non-believers (AND BELIEVERS in this case lol) how they are incorrect, but the tone and method are like the content, very important!
Sye, even the part that you quoted from Pascal to prove your point did just the opposite; “Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is.”
That is what you quoted, Sye. What is he weighing? The probability that God exists? No, let’s read again: “Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is.”
I can’t put it any more clearly than that. What is being measured is not probability in that sentence, but the severity of the consequences of being wrong. Sye, can I assume that until I commented about your claims, you had never even read Pascal’s Pensees?
And Sye, it is not wise to assume that I do not realise that Scripture teaches that all men know God, but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. I do realise that. Remember, I have no problem with a transcendental argument. I think that Bahnsen’s article, “The Crucial Concept of Self Deception in Presuppositional Apologetics” should be required reading for every apologist. There’s no need to rush to conclusions about me. I am not anti-presuppositional-apologetics. I am opposed to what I think is the graceless and intellectually disappointing attitude of some presuppositionalists, who treat all other apologists for the same Lord as though they are traitors.
I didn’t consider myself unfaithful when I was doing it wrong.
Then why not use a gun?
Not at all, it is to affirm what Scripture teaches, that they are “without excuse,” rather than deny it.
If it is a Biblical approach, then indeed some people will hate God more. The same sun that melts wax hardens clay. “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” 2 Corinthians 2:16
The problem is that it includes the possibility of being right.
I am glad that you believe this, but it is inconsistent with your take on Pascal’s Wager.
Not all other arguments, just the ones that deny what Scripture teaches.
Well that’s a relief, since Pacal’s wager – along with other kinds of apologetics, like evidentialism – does not deny the Scriptural teaching. They are fully compatible with the belief that all men know God and suppress the truth. I wish all presuppositionalists saw this.
I would argue that their inconsistency with Scriptural teaching, denies it. Any argument which denies the certainty of God’s existence, is not in accord with Scripture.
Sye, claiming that there are arguments for God’s existence is not inconsistent with claiming that everyone has a fundamental knowledge of God’s existence, a knowledge that is suppressed.
Even the claim that there are probabilistic arguments for theism is compatible with that claim.
Do you think you could offer a logical proof of inconsistency here? You say you “would argue” that these arguments amount to denial of the biblical claim. So let’s see the argument that there is logical inconsistency. Basically, you need to demonstrate this:
* If there are sound probabilistic arguments for theism, then it’s false that all people know God but suppress the truth.
Maybe this can be a world first, where a presuppositionalist defends this claim!
That is not the claim. The claim is that PROBABILISTIC arguments reduce the existence of God to a PROBABILITY, rather than the certainty that Scripture teaches everyone has.
Wait a second, Sye, are you accepting that if there are sound probabilistic arguments for theism, that’s compatible with the claim that all people know God and suppress the truth?
If you think those are compatible, then there’s no inconsistency between evidentialism and Romans 1. However, if you think that’s false, then your claim really is: “If there are sound probabilistic arguments for theism, then it’s false that all people know God but suppress the truth.”
So are they compatible or not? I say they clearly are.
EDIT: This would be an interesting thing to discuss on Unbelievable some time!
Since God is the necessary precondition for logic and reason, hypothesizing that God may not exist is neither sound logically nor Scripturally.
Well, I have been looking for an evidentialist to go on with, but so far neither they, nor Justin seem willing to tackle the issue. Justin has said that his show is more geared towards the Christian/nonChristian exchanges, but perhaps you have more pull with him than I do.
“hypothesizing that God may not exist is neither sound logically nor Scripturally.”
Well it’s a good thing that evidentialist apologists don’t defend that hypothesis then. They defend the hypothesis that God does exist, and they defend that proposition in a number of ways, including probabilistic (e.g. historical) arguments. An agnostic would defend the hypothesis that God may not exist.
Not only that, but many evidentialists also subscribe to the classical view that God’s existence is necessary.
It’s just too bad that their arguments present it.
Indeed, and it’s too bad it is merely a hypothesis in their arguments and not the certainty that Scripture gives us.
“It’s just too bad that their arguments present it.”
No, Sye. You’re not listening or reflecting on how you might be misconstruing them. Their arguments do not present the hypothesis “that God may not exist.” They do not defend that hypothesis, and that hypothesis is not part of any argument for theism that I have seen. They defend the hypothesis that God does exist.
"Indeed, and it’s too bad it is merely a hypothesis in their arguments and not the certainty that Scripture gives us."
Sye? You're all over the place! A second ago you said their hypothesis was that God might not exist. Now I have pointed out that this is wrong, and that their hypothesis is that God does exist, and now you're complaining that this is their hypothesis – when a second ago you said it wasn't!
This is just confused nonsense. Little wonder at the way atheists react to it!
This is not new to me Glenn, and I used to be one, so I know of what I speak.
They are probabilistic arguments, which necessarily include the probability (however small) that God does not exist.
What are the odds of a tornado in a junk yard forming a fully functional 747? Heard that one? Design needs a designer, the world exhibits design, therefore must have some generic designer. Heard that one? If God exists, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Heard that one?
They reduce the existence of God to a hypothesis, rather than proclaim the certainty of His existence. Don’t know why you are not getting this.
Which is implicit in any HYPOTHESIS that He does.
No, you have pointed out that you disagree with this.
You are simply not following Glenn. Their presentation of the existence of God as a hypothesis IS THE PROBLEM and includes within it THE POSSIBILITY THAT HE DOES NOT. (Do the caps help?) Not only does it include the possibility that God does not exist, it assumes that man can autonomously reason TO the existence of God, the very thing we are denying. Furthermore, when we present evidence for the existence of God to the unbeliever, just as in court, we are assuming that THEY are the judge, and that God is on trial. I do not present evidence to them, I expose the fact that they are the ones on trial, and that God is the judge.
Thankfully we are not commanded to like others who profess Christianity, cause your attitude makes you entirely unlikeable. You talk about Christian unity, but write like a jerk.
Trying to explain something to this nutter is like hitting your head off the wall.
Have some more respect for Glenn. It is his blog after all.
Glenn, I follow you completely. It’s pretty elementary to see that the wager is on the consequence of unbelief. In order to show a wager, two different scenerios have to be drawn out. So what I understand Sye to be arguing is that PW is a poor argument because scripture does not allow for any proposition supposing that God does not exist since it declares he does. Therefore no arguments which include the non-existence of God can be good arguments.
I think Sye needs to define what a good argument is?
If Sye means a good argument proves God’s existence, then Glenn is right. Because PW is not an argument for God’s existence.
So I agree Glenn, it seems Sye needs to prove that PW is an argument for God’s existence. He’s not doing that, he’s just going in circles decaring God exists.
No, it’s not an argument for God’s existence, it’s an argument for BELIEVING in God, which presents God’s existence as a PROBABILITY.
It’s one thing for presuppositionalists to say that God’s existence is necessary and certain. It’s quite another thing for them to insist that Van Tillian (or Clarkian or Bahnsenian) arguments provide us with certain, indefeasible epistemological certainty of God’s existence. I think Glenn has rightly hinted at the problems with Van Till’s method. Here’s a paper that further demonstrates one of the major flaws therein:
Sye, this is just an honest and sincere question if you don’t mind answering:
One of your major debate points is that the laws of math logic don’t make sense apart from the Christian worldview, according to which they are grounded in the mind of God. But this argument assumes a conceptualist understanding of the laws of math and logic. Why isn’t Platonism or fictionalism or some other model acceptable? And if they are not acceptable, how do we know that? The statement “the laws of logic exist” is self-evidently true, but the statement “the laws of logic are grounded in the mind of God” is not.
Also a word on Pascal:
Even if the presuppositionalist arguments were entirely valid and proved God’s existence with objective certainty, they are not always easy to comprehend and they have not been available throughout the vast majority of church history. A person who has not yet found a “silver bullet” argument for God (let’s say he has not had the privilege of being “enlightened” by Van Till’s disciples) might still take Pascal’s Wager to heart and continue his religious search.
Note that one of Pascal’s major concerns was to make people recognize the personal stake they had in the question of God and eternity and to not regard it as a mere intellectual game. Pascal’s Wager is perfectly fitting for shaking a person out of religious indifference.
This bloke has his “magic bullet” comfort blanket and dynamite wouldn’t separate him from it.
But the function of PW is to show people that there is only destruction for unbelief.
I don’t think it PRESENTS God’s existence as a probability. It presents people with the reality that there is destruction for unbelief. It uses a scenario of a God’s nonexistence to PRESENT that in such a case you would not suffer destruction.
But you seem to interpret it that PW is ARGUING for God’s existence even though you state it’s not. If it’s not then it’s not PRESENTING God’s non-existence is it? It draws between two scenarios to present a choice as Glenn explained. The scenarios are the descriptors to make clear that there is nothing good about unbelief.
You really ought to be open about being wrong. But I understand Glenn, it seems some Pre-sup are so impressed by circular reasoning which makes them invincible, that there is no place for correction – why? Because you’re already assumed your conclusion. I’m sure you understand atheists on those grounds, what doesn’t fly is using it in philosophy becausee philosophy does not allow for circular reasoning.
I’m not trying to be an antagonist. I just don’t understand this type of reasoning.
No it doesn’t present God’s non-existence. It compares the consequences under two different paradigms. What’s wrong with that?
You act as if the two suppositions are truth claims. They’re simply not.
Question to throw in to the discussion –
Is there a difference between truth and the way we communicate it?
For example, Jesus using parables. If he came out with the blunt truth it may not have opened hearts.
I may have missed something, but it seems Romans 1 is much more about our sinful state rather than lacking in logic/reason etc. It is late, so please point out if I’ve got that wrong.
If it is not through reason we can see God, then is it through our emotions/volition or is there something else at play here?
Also, how do we account for Acts 17:2 where Paul reasoned with the Jews?
Another question, while I’m thinking – Paul also talks about being all things to all men; in Paul’s interactions it’s not clear to me from scripture that he came across atheists. He came across Jews and polytheists and engaged with them on that front (eg: “Unknown God”).
What is the Biblical & culturally appropriate way to communicate to atheists and agnostics of this day and age?
Anyhoo, would be interested in opinions.
Good point Roy:
If the bible makes certain that the unknown God does not exist then Paul’s just a bafoon for utilizing it to prove the one God that does exist. They’re not compatible.
As someone with an affinity for presuppositional apologetics I am often asked by fellow believers, who know this about me, for my perspective on the value of classical and evidential apologetics. Perhaps not surprisingly I approach this question from a presuppositional stance, which is to say that I think the value of these apologetic schools is determined by the their presuppositional starting point. So for example, if the evidential apologist approaches his task with the assumption that the axioms of logic or science are the most basic principles of reality and God-neutral territory about which mankind can reason autonomously, then his apologetic contravenes not only the essence of biblical Christianity but even the very God he purports to be arguing for (and so he defeats himself).
However, if he approaches his task with the assumption that the God of Scripture is the very ground of all reality—including the principles of logic or science—that he is the only sovereign Lord over all creation, for whom and through whom and to whom are all things and in whom all things consist, then his apologetic is self-consistent with the essence of biblical Christianity and the God he purports to be arguing for and will thus have enormous value (and all the more so if presented in the context of the gospel).
Whether the structure stands or falls is determined by the foundation upon which it stands; as such, classical or evidential apologetics can be highly valuable if the truth of God and his word are the final reference point in all predication. Thus remarks Van Til: “Reformed theology holds to the self-sufficiency of God without compromise. It therefore rejects every form of human autonomy. Only on the assumptions of divine self-sufficiency and man’s complete dependence upon God can the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian points of view be clearly made out. … The Christian has derived his convictions on these matters from Scripture as the infallible Word of God.” And Grover Gunn observes, “The apologist can argue transcendentally that human logic and science have no adequate foundation apart from the Word of the true and living God. [What he cannot do is] make human logic and science his self-authenticating authorities and then use these to prove God. Logic and science derive their [intelligibility] and authority from God, not vice versa.”
P.S. I found your commentary on Pascal’s wager to be highly informative and helpful.
David – I quite agree. I have remarked before that classical and evidential apologetics are legitimate and even effective only because of the truths that presuppositionalism draws attention to.
For example, the cosmological argument is sound because of the consistency and intelligibility of the universe and hence the validity of the scientific method – both of which are properly explained in terms of God as the grounding of reason and science. John Frame pointed this out in his reply to Bill Craig in Five Views on Apologetics. As far as I could tell, Bill didn’t disagree at all.
I just wanted to say I really enjoyed this whole discussion. The original post was interesting but the comments were much more educational.
Thanks to whoever linked to “Pascal’s Pensees”! I’ve put it on my Kindle and I hope to get around to it at some point. 🙂
I came here because Sye linked to this blog entry on Unbelievable’s Facebook page.
Wow, Sye… I heard you referred to as an “apologist,” but this – and I mean your replies to Glenn – are the height of ill-logic that I have seen from anyone calling himself an apologist. I just can’t see you that way now.
I am currently going through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, where he takes a presuppositional posture. I personally do not adopt that approach in terms of defending and articulating The Faith.
But my question to you is could one claim that Christian truth is true, then conclude it is true–if indeed it is without begging the question. I’m thinking of Tarski’s dictum: Snow is white iff snow is white. I remember my first year of philosophy a professor told us that A therefore A is valid if it were in this Tarskian way.
Again, so would it be begging the question for a presupper, if Christian truth corresponds to reality?
Basil, you can certainly say that Christianity is true iff Christianity is true without begging the question. But if you say “Christianity is true therefore Christianity is true” as an argument that Christianity is true then that would be begging the question.
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