Archive for the ‘presuppositionalism’ Category

article-0-1FFAC81500000578-674_964x870These are links related to Presuppositional apologetics gathered between August 25th-31st, 2014.

1.) Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [2]

2.) Down babies

3.) Van Tilian Turf Wars (Part 1)

4.) Objective Moral Values Necessitate a Living God

5.) Plantinga on Van Til: Unbelievers can’t know anything?!

6.) Van Tillian Links for Middle of August 2014

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Pagan Heart of Today's Culture

This work can be purchased for a discounted cost if you click HERE.

This is a fascinating booklet and a new addition to the Christian Answers to Hard Questions series this is the result of the partnership between the faculty of the Westminister Theological Seminary and P&R Publishing.  Early in the booklet Peter Jones argues that the three “isms” of Postmodernism, Gnosticism and Polytheism provides “the lens through which we can understand what is sometimes called the New Spirituality” (7).  The booklet defines Postmodernism, Paganism and Gnosticism and then argues that the transition from Modernity with its atheism and emphasis on logos is now being replaced by the spirit of postmodernity, pantheism and mythos.  Paganism attempts to join opposites (good and evil, male and female, Creator and creature, etc) which Gnosticism also does too.  The irony that Jones note is that modernism’s skepticism and atheistic outlook in attacking Christianity gave rise to polytheism instead in its wake.  This is because man is incurably religious, though they suppress the truth and make idols instead according to Romans 1.  Jones make the argument that atheism and paganism has more in common with each other (“cousins”) because they both shared in the belief that all reality is ultimately one (Jones calls this “Oneism”); at the end of the day there is really two worldviews competing, that of the Christian worldview’s “Two-ism” and that of Monism.  This book is an excellent summary of Jones’ life work in the area of Paganism and our culture.  It is well researched and for a small booklet it has 121 footnotes.  I only wished he employed Van Til’s argument of the one and the many to refute “Oneism.”  I do recommend the book.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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Here are some links on Presuppositional apologetics sometime between August 8th-24th, 2014.

1.) Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [Introduction]

2.) Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [1]

3.) Introduction to Apologetics Seminary Course

4.) On the Success of Secular Transcendental Arguments (Much Ado About Nothing)

5.) Early August 2014 Presuppositional Apologetics’ links Round Up

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Editor’s Note: I (“SlimJim”) am away in a family trip and this is a pre-scheduled post.  It is written by our guest Ben Holloway who is a brother in Christ that is working on a PhD with Dr. Greg Welty .

Ben Holloway

The key to good apologetic strategy is knowing where to begin and where to end a debate. It requires getting at the heart of an objection and knowing what one is going to argue for in response.

The best way to find the heart of an objection is to watch out for key words or phrases. Whereas traditional apologetic methods rely on answering questions directly, presuppositional methods emphasize an indirect method, asking what would have to be the case to make the objection intelligible.

For example, take the question, “why should I believe the Bible is true?” A traditional response would be to give evidence for the trustworthiness of the documents making up the Bible. Presuppositionalists take a different tack. The issue is truth, not whether or not the Bible is true, but what would have to be the case in order for anyone to know any truth or for there to be such a thing as truth.

Knowing the key idea leads to developing a conclusion or a goal to one’s argument.

In the case in question the presuppositionalist should aim for an argument from truth to God. She might respond by arguing, “because if the Bible was not true, there would be no way to know if anything was true.” This is only the conclusion to the argument and would involve several steps to get to it, but it helps to know what one is going to argue for.

This method works as long as one spots the assumption behind the question and is able to show how such an assumption is only possible because Christianity is true.

Take another common and slightly more postmodern objection: “Christianity is a particular community’s interpretation of reality, but it is not necessarily true.” It is tempting to respond by showing that Christianity is true, but the objection is not concerned with truth (at least not in the correspondence sense). The objection focuses on the ability of human beings to interpret experience within particular linguistic communities. Consequently, the presuppositionalist may argue something like: “the interpretation of reality by communities using language is only possible because Christianity is true. Language did not emerge in human confrontation with events, but pre-existed in the intra-trinitarian language game of God. If it did not then there would be no meaning to language.” Again, there are multiple steps required to reach this conclusion, but the key is to be clear in one’s aim.

Another common objection relies on a moral assumption: “Christians have carried out many evil actions in history.” A common presuppositional response to this is: “Actions could only be judged as good or evil if Christianity is true. Human moral judgement relies on an absolute moral judgement determined by the nature of God.” It is crucial to note what that response presupposes. The objection refers to an observable event–an “evil action”–but the response refers to a conceptual framework by which one is able to asses actions. The action of kicking a soccer ball and the action of kicking a person is the same action, but what one needs in order to judge one action to be evil and the other to be good is a moral concept. Presuppositionalists do well when they show how the two are connected, in this case by the ability to judge actions according to moral concepts. Moral concepts would only arise if there is a prior standard by which human beings can discern between good and evil. And such a prior standard requires a moral judgement that is binding from God who is Holy and sets the standard of moral law.

Many objections that unbelievers have are related to what we can know from the Bible. Consequently, when asked what grounds one has for belief it is legitimate to cite one’s source. Consider the question, “what makes you think that Jesus is the only way to heaven?” This objection does not require one to show, philosophically, why it is rational for there to be only one way to heaven or to show empirically that Jesus rose from the dead thus verifying his claim to uniqueness. Rather, it requires an explanation of one’s source or grounds for believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven. In short, because the Bible tells me so. To argue that there is sufficient warrant for a belief provided by scripture is a legitimate line of response. However, one should be prepared to answer the follow up objection–“What makes you think that the Bible is true?”–to which one might respond giving the answer I gave at the top of the post.

Sometimes the word one is looking for is hidden or implied. For example, an unbeliever might suggest, “given the preponderance of evil in our world the likelihood that God exists is small.” The issue at hand is related to empirical evidence. “Likelihood” is a probability statement related to something we can observe. Therefore, one might reply that the human ability to observe, analyse and draw conclusions from empirical evidence is only possible because God exists and Christianity is true. The human ability to observe, analyze and draw conclusions relies on the predictability and intelligibility of the world and the matching human ability to assess probability and “likelihood” of the existence of certain objects. In this case the existence of a sovereign and omniscient God is the necessary condition for such a situation.

Often apologetic debate can be stifled by an objection that contains multiple starting points. In this case it is always best to seek to find out what underlying objection one’s interlocutor is wanting an answer to. Consider the objection, “aren’t all religions the same?” The objection sounds like it requires the refutation, “no, there is one true religion and many false religions.” However, it is unclear as to how one defends this answer. I have found that a conversation with someone committed to religious pluralism is difficult because there are so many lines of objection. Take the standard Hickean thesis: There are many different religions. Most people are equally rational and living in the same world. Therefore, all or most religions are equally warranted. Hick’s argument relies on several assumptions, each requiring a different response. Is the objection about justice? (It is not fair that God chooses some and not others). Is the objection about culture? (religion is a cultural product and no one chooses into which culture one is born). Many pluralist objections are rooted in epistemological skepticism. Their basic objection is that no one really knows what religion is true. Each of these objections starts with a separate (if related) assumption and it is worth exploring what is most important to one’s interlocutor.

Many apologetic debates get derailed by an inattention to what the heart of an objection is and an unclear goal in response. Perhaps you might light to practice your strategy with more common objections to the Christian faith. Try a search for “common objections to Christianity” and try to identify the key idea behind the objection and work out what you want to argue for. Then think through how you would get there.

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These are our collection of Presuppositional apologetics’ links from around the World Wide Web between August 1st-7th, 2014.


1.) Atheism Fails as a Worldview: It Lacks Objective Moral Values


3.) Why Materialism Cannot Object to The Miraculous

4.) Cornelius Van Til’s lectures on Modern Theology

5.) Late week’s installment of Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links 

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For the World Essays in Honor of Richard L. Pratt Jr

I first heard of Richard Pratt when I discovered his Third Millennium Ministries and not too long after that I read his short book on Presuppositional apologetics and some assorted articles that he wrote.  This particular book is a festschrift in honor of Dr. Pratt.  I really enjoyed how various contributors throughout the book gave readers their portrait of the man and his ministry; it was quite encouraging for me given how I have benefited from his writing but didn’t know much about him.  As a result of reading this book I have a greater respect for Pratt for his desire to make theological education cheap and affordable for the rest of the world through his online ministry.  In many instances these multimedia resources are available in many languages for free!  I did not fully realize how great an impact Third Millennium Ministries was until I read this book.  It has also lead me to pray for this ministry to increase many fold!

I also found the various essays within the volume stimulating with its various topic dedicated to Dr. Pratt and his field of interests, some of the highlights which I shall discuss below.

The second chapter of the book was titled, “Saying It Anew: Strange-Making as a Pedagogical Device” in which the contributor Scott Redd talked about the pedagogical device of defamilarization.  Defamiliarization is a technique in which someone says something strange for the sake of the learner to think more carefully about a certain truth.  As Redd explained, “Ironically, defamilarizatoin can result in clarity, in part because, when skillfully applied, defamiliarization causes the hearer to encourage the idea in a new way, as if for the first time, thereby bringing its elements into stark relief” (21).  This chapter also defended this idea biblically, nothing the various use of literary devices and also nuance word order in the Bible was meant to draw the readers’ attention with something unusual so as to slow them down and make them think more carefully.  I thought defamilarization can be a useful tool for pastors, Bible teachers, professors, evangelists and the apologists.  Certainly it has made me more conscious of incorporating defamiliarization as a way of being a clear and fresh communicator of God’s timeless truth.

The chapter on “Redeeming the ‘R-Word:’ Paul against and for Religion” was intriguing and relevant since it addressed the contemporary Christian cliche that “Christianity is not a religion.”  Reggie Kid, the author of this essay, noted how Paul was against bad religion (what in the Greek is called asebeia) but this in no way implies that Paul or the Bible ever pit Christianity against religion per se.  There is, biblically speaking, room for good “religion,” and good religion is one which adheres to right doctrines and also right practices.  The author made a good point that whatever value and advantages gained in using the mantra that “Christianity isn’t a religion,” it can in the long run be counter-productive against the church’s effort in evangelism and discipleship.  Hipster Christians need to read this chapter!

The book also had a good chapter on metanarrative by the editor Justin Holcomb which is probably the only chapter I was most critical of; nevertheless I found his essay helpful because it helped me to think more clearly and precisely as a result of interacting with what he has to say.  Holcomb argues that Christian scholars have used the term metanarrative incorrectly when they call the Christian faith a metanarrative.  Technically, the term metanarrative as originally used by Lyotard (who brought the term to prominence) meant something more along the lines of a story that is used by people to justify autonomy and man-centered institutions which oppressively silence others, etc; Holcomb argues that Christian must be against autonomy and also against the justification of wicked institutions so we shouldn’t be describing Christianity as the very thing that Christianity is against.  While I agree that the term metanarrative as Lyotard employed it does not describe Christianity, I also think this might be an instance of how the use of a term over time can have a different shade of meaning than how it was originally used.  I doubt most people today in popular parlance use the term metanarrative as narrowly as Lyotard originally used it so I don’t have as much of a problem with Christians using that term in describing the Christian worldview so long as it is qualified and explained.  I did appreciate Holcomb describing how Postmodern were not necessarily all about relativism but that there was some good coming from this camp in their critical assessment of modernity’s autonomy and arrogance; but sadly at the end of the day I don’t think Postmodernism has managed to escape the problem of autonomy either.  Furthermore, since Holcomb discussed quite extensively about Lyotard, I wonder if a secularist using Lyotard’s definition of metanarrative might not call Christianity a metanarrative despite Holcomb’s wishes since Christianity presents the story that justify the Cosmic institution of the Church.

The book also had a helpful chapter on youth ministry in which the contributor David Correa argues that in light of many young people’s search for meaning beyond themselves with the realization that things are not the way it should be, this should be an opportunity for youth ministry to present our theology to make sense of the world, where it is going and how we fit in, in light of God’s Kingdom.

For those involved in teaching theological education in the context of missions and/or to another cultural setting, the discussion in various chapters on the need to make theological education “fit” for the situational context of non-Western audience sets the right direction for the future.  What is neat is to know that Richard Pratt has made a significant inroad with his ministry towards that end which readers can praise God for.  I appreciated John Frame calling for a theological education that is more “boot camp,” that is rigorous also in practical application in ministry; then there is the mentoring-in-ministry discussion by Gregory Perry.

I recommend the book for those who has appreciated Dr. Pratt’s ministry and teaching.  I wished there were more Old Testament contribution within the book besides the one by Waltke in light of the fact that this is a festschrift for an Old Testament professor!  Those unfamiliar with Dr. Pratt and are involved with theological education can also benefit from the essays found within it.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.


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van til edited

I have found over at Sermon Audio a series of lectures that Christian Reformed apologist Cornelius Van Til gave on the topic of Modern Theology.  I don’t know the original context of when and where it was delivered but it seem that it his primarily audience were young people.

I know many people have come to embrace Presuppositional apologetics not so much directly from Cornelius Van Til as it is more likely “mediated” through his disciples (or disciples’ disciples).  Think of his student Greg Bahnsen.  John Frame.  K. Scott Oliphint.  Then there’s others who never personally knew Van Til such as James White, Jason Lisle, Sye Ten Bruggencate, the guys over at Choosing Hats, etc.  In light of this, I thought it was neat to hear Van Til himself teach–and teaching specifically not so much seminarians but young people!  It’s the closest I suspect one might come to see Van Til breaking it down for the general Christian audience.

Here are the five part series:






I myself was surprised at how funny Van Til was (and so did the audience).  I was also surprised to see how much of biblical theology of redemptive history shape his apologetics’ presentation especially in the beginning and I also appreciated his survey of the history of philosophy, which shape the method of “Modern” theologian during his life time.

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