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Archive for the ‘Cornelius Van Til’ Category

 

Sproul Theology

Introduction

I was unable to attend RC Sproul’s session at the Inerrancy Summit.  After Sproul’s message there were several guys at the Conference that asked me what I thought about Sproul’s swipe against Presuppositional apologetics.

I finally got to see the video and if you want to see it yourself the video is below:

I thought it was ironic that Sproul spoke out against Presuppositional apologetics at the Inerrancy Summit in which many of the other speakers and audience subscribe to Presuppositionalism.

In what follows I can only give a quick response to Sproul’s objection found within the first eight minutes.  However, I think the brief summary written here does pose serious challenges to Sproul’s objections to Presuppositionalism.

 

Issue #1: Did Sproul accurately represent Presuppositional apologetics’ argument?

Sproul’s discussion of Presuppositionalism first identified two proponents of Presuppositionalism: Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til.  Keep this in mind as we want to see his description and criticism of Presuppositional apologetics being relevant to these two men rather than some random Internet keyboard warrior.

Sproul goes on to level his first charge against Presuppositional apologetics by giving what he claimed was the Presuppositionalist’s argument:

 

P1: The Bible is the Word of God

P2: The Bible claims to be the Word of God.

Conclusion: The Bible is the Word of God.

 

Then Sproul charged Presuppositionalists for being circular on the basis that the above is the Presuppositionalists argument.  However, did Gordon Clark and Van Til argue in this way?

Clark definitely wouldn’t have presented the above argument.  That’s because Clark’s apologetics is more axiomatic in his approach.  Note Clark stated “Our axiom shall be, God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.”[1]  In the same essay Clark also clarified how “axioms” cannot be proven: “But the axioms are never deduced. They are assumed without proof.”[2]  If something cannot be proven than by definition it can’t be “argued” for (moving from one premise to another), since it is merely assumed.  And assuming something is different than arguing for something.

If Sproul is talking about Van Til’s approach here it seems that Van Til is actually more complex than presented.  The closest I can see Van Til saying something approximating with what Sproul claim of how Presuppositionalist argues is with the following quote below:

To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting-point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.”[3]

While admitting the role of presuppositions and worldviews makes things “circular” in one’s reasoning as in the sense of it being in one’ system of beliefs, Van Til elsewhere has also shared the kind of argumentation needed to get around this potential impasse:

The Christian apologist must place himself upon the position of his opponent, assuming the correctness of his method merely for argument’s sake, in order to show him that on such a position the “facts” are not facts and the “laws” are not laws. He must also ask the non-Christian to place himself upon the Christian position for argument’s sake in order that he may be shown that only upon such a basis do “facts” and “laws” appear intelligible.[4]

Note here that Van Til’s argument is not merely providing “The Bible claims to be the Word of God” as a second premise.  There is a lot more going on here.

 

Issue #2: Circular reasoning

We have noted above that Sproul did not do the best job representing the argument of the Presuppositionalist.  With this straw man argument Sproul also fault the Presuppositional apologist for committing circular reasoning.  Sproul notes that the Presuppositionalists are not bothered with this since they say all reasoning are circular.  He counters this by asserting “Circular reasoning invalidate any argument.” But if circular reasoning invalidate any argument, can Sproul give further argumentation proving that this is true?  And after he provides this argument can Sproul also provide additional supporting arguments which in turn be supported with additional round of arguments, etc?  If one truly believes circular reasoning invalidates every argument then Sproul would need to ground every premise with an argument to be rational and here Sproul would be caught in an infinite regress.  I would also encourage the readers to read this article that further address the issue: Is Circular Reasoning Always Fallacious?

 

Issue #3: Presuppositionalists commit a fallacy of equivocation?

Sproul also fault Presuppositionalists who argues “All arguments are circular” as commiting the fallacy of equivocation in that they change the definition of circularity within the discussion.  Sproul’s assertion raises several questions: Where did the Presuppositionalists changed the definition of circularity during the discussion?  If there is equivocation going on, what are the multiple different meanings of circularity being used by the Presuppositionalists?  Sproul is obligated to demonstrate that there really is the fallacy of equivocation being committed and not merely assert it.

Those who are more familiar with Presuppositional apologetics will note that Van Til does talk about vicious circularity and broader circularity but the Presuppositionalists are not using those two terms equivocally since they are not switch-referencing the term “circularity.”  Note also as well that just because Presuppositionalists sees different kinds of circularity that does not mean that the meaning of circuliarity itself is being changed.  Rather the distinction between vicious and non-vicious circularity are seen by presuppositionalists as two different subset of circularity BUT NOT as two different meanings of circularity.  I must note the obviously: Presuppositionalists wouldn’t want to equivocate the two kinds of circularity anyways lest they want to make all circularity equally fallacious (Sproul’s view, and a view which he acknoweldge is not that of the Presuppositionalists) or equally virtuous (which would make the endeavor of apologetics pointless if every circular argument is right).  Sproul’s charge of an equivocation fallacy is unfounded.

 

Issue #4: What about other religious Scriptures?

According to Sproul anyone could make such claim that their book is the book of God such as the Book of Mormon and the Quran.  He seems to be bringing this objection as a defeater to the Presuppositionalist’s commitment to the Bible as the Word of God in their apologetics.  This is where Sproul’s misrepresentation of the way Presuppositionalists argues brings obstacles to the discussion rather than help it.  If Presuppositionalists merely claim that the Bible claim to be the Word of God and therefore it is, then the defeaters with the example of other religious scripture might work.  However, the Presuppositionalists view of Clark and Van Til include the element of examining the other worldview and demonstrating how they are internally problematic.  In fact, one can adequately counter both Mormonism and Islam within a Presuppositionalists’ framework.  For an example on Mormonism see my review of Presuppositional Apologetics Examines Mormonism: How Van Til’s Apologetic Refutes Mormon Theology by Mike Robinson.  Concerning Islam see my outline WITNESSING TO MUSLIMS: THE QURANIC VIEW OF THE BIBLE.

 

Issue #5: What does Sproul believe is self-evidencing?

I want to turn the tables around.  As a presuppositionalist I am aware that everybody presupposes something in their belief system that is so foundational it is taken as self-evidencing.  Of course people disagree with what truths are self-evidencing.  Sproul hinted at what he thinks is self-evidencing:

“Obviously if it were God speaking and we heard his voice directly from his lips we won’t have to construct to have an argument to defend his infallibility or his inerrancy because we know that God is incapable of deceit and lying.”

Apparently sensation of the supernatural physically taken place is self-evidencing enough in Sproul’s view to establish that God did speak and that God is incapable of deceit and lies.  “Obviously.”  That’s Sproul’s own words.  Sproul brings this up in juxtaposition to his objection to the Presuppositionalists view that the Bible’s claim for itself is sufficiently self-evidencing.  So we see here that on the one hand the supernatural hearing of God speaking audibly is obviously self-evidencingly while the Bible claims as God’s Word is not as obviously self-evidencing.  Does the Scripture support Sproul’s perspective?

Jesus in Luke 16:31 tells a story in which Abraham tells someone how to weigh the evidential value between the miraculous with the Scriptures: “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

[1] See more at: http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=50#sthash.73rgGFRo.dpuf

[2] Ibid.

[3]  Cornelius Van Til, Apologetics, Chapter 4.

[4] Van Til, Defense of the Faith, Third Edition, 100-101.

 

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Worldview dilemmas blog series veritas domain

Here’s the round up of our series on Worldview Dilemmas in the Movies and Comics.  I plan to have perhaps one or two more posts after the Shepherd’s Conference that is going on this week.

Principles

Film Reviews

Graphic Novels Reviews

Free Movies Online

Book Reviews

Speaking Out

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485709_10150775869778862_707938886_n

Here are Presuppositional apologetics’ links gathered between February 22nd-28th, 2015.

Enjoy!

1.)‘God’s Not Dead’ Author Supplies Proof for the Divine Inspiration of the Bible: So Do You Believe?

2.) Responding to Non-Inerrancy Challenges

3.) Around and Around We Go

4.) Adam4d: Burden of Proof

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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coffeeshop

New Horizon Magazine, a publication of Orthodox Presbyterian Church, has focused on their topic on Apologetics for their February 2015 issue.  This issue is available online.

Thanks to Jeff Downs for letting me know about this.

The entire issue is available in the following formats: PDF  ePub  and  Mobi

Apologetics at Starbucks

When we think about “doing apologetics,” too often (in our circles, at least) what first comes to mind is a debate over apologetic methodology. Are we going to be presuppositionalist-covenantal or “classical”-evidentialist? As a friend of mine used to say, “We seem more concerned with sharpening and polishing our swords than with actually carrying them into the battle.”

Doing Apologetics

Read more

The Witness Needed by a Weary World

Postmodernism is rightly critical of modernism. It recognizes that modernism is unable to account for its closed, naturalistic, materialistic worldview. Modernism’s failure may be seen in its scientism (the conviction that the scientific method is the only path to objective, public knowledge), in its rationalism (which is purportedly autonomous and anti-supernatural), and in the myth of human evolution and progress. Postmodernism does not turn to Christianity, though, to provide the preconditions that make logic, science, ethics, love, and beauty intelligible.

In its critique of modernism, postmodernism embraces irrationalism and thus commits intellectual suicide by attempting to “establish” irrationalism through rational argument. That is an internal inconsistency not unlike a Hindu monism that argues against distinctions and at the same time urges its adherents to develop good karma. So postmodernism argues against the best aspects of modernism—the affirmation of objective truth, the reliability of the senses, the importance of the use of reason, and the laws of logic—denouncing them as mere conventions concocted by society’s masters. Thus, postmodernism may rightly be seen, not as completely different from modernism, but as the logical outcome of a worldview that cannot account for itself—modernism gone to seed, in which “anything goes.” Read more

We Are Weak, but He Is Strong

When Erick and Kristyn Nieves of Reformation OPC in Queens, New York, learned they were expecting a baby in 2013, the couple was happily surprised. The Nieveses already had two daughters, ages 4 and 1, and hadn’t anticipated an addition to their family so soon.

They quickly learned the addition would be bigger than they expected. Read more

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Inerrancy Summit 2015We’re trying to wrap our blog series on the Christian worldview, film and Comics soon because next week all three bloggers from Veritas Domain would reunite at The Shepherd’s Conference.  This year’s theme is on Inerrancy and is the biggest ever.  They have called it The Inerrancy Summit and have brought many different speakers that normally don’t come out but they are for this occasion such as Kevin DeYoung and Carl Trueman.

Lord willing we hope that next Tuesday through Sunday we would be able to blog our notes from some of the sessions along with recommended resources from the Bookstore and book sales.

Stay Tune!

 

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THE_JOKER

In a previous post, “Pursuing Worldview Apologetics and being Culturally Informed Without Compromise” I argued that there is a way where we can be biblicalengaging, and informed in our cultural apologetics while achieving that without sacrificing our sanctification:

…one way to not compromise our norms while also being informed is to see what other informed social critics have to say about a particular pop figure or cultural phenomenon.  I think one doesn’t have to experience every form of media and entertainment to critically reflect upon it as a Christian.  An example of how a Christian can be informed and reflect critically without “seeing” something is with the current crisis with ISIS.  You do not have to watch the beheading of 21 Egyptians or the burning of a Jordanian pilot to be informed about it; one can find detailed written analysis of the videos, scholarly evaluation of it’s meaning, purpose, etc.  If one put the effort one might find in-depth evaluation of ISIS militarily, geo-politically, economically and theologically.  I can’t imagine many people looking down on someone who is informed about ISIS while making the deliberate choice of not watching ISIS’ sick videos.  To demand that one can only intelligently talk about something through the experience of watching it it is really a form of audio-visual Gnosticism.

Here in this post I wanted to give an example of what that would look like with a Christian character study of the supervillain Joker.

Through Youtube I discovered that there are clips from a History channel documentary on the Joker.

The longer clip of it is below:

The shorter clip is below:

Joker: A Worldview Villain

Joker really is not merely a psychologically disturbed villain of batman; he is also the outworking of a particular worldview.  In the video clip Rabbi Cary Friedman who authored Wisdom from the Batcave said about the Joker: “He represent a kind of chaos, of meaninglessness, of randomness.  The idea of the character of the Joker is just the luck of the cards.”  Danny Fingeroth, the author of Superman on the Couch also tells us that “the Joker has an agenda of chaos.  He is a unique villain in that he is not even necessarily after money or power or any of those traditional things.  So that’s really the hardest kind of evil to fight because you cannot bargain with it.”  This fascination for chaos reflects Joker’s view of the world and life.  I thought what Professor of Social Psychology Benjamin Karney has to say is insightful concerning the philosophical nature of the conflict between Batman and the Joker:

Batman says philosophically we can acknowledge an imperfect world, we can acknowledge that we have to step outside of social norms but that does not make the social norms meaningless.  The Joker says that the presence of random injustice means that there is no justice.  The fact that innocence can be destroyed means there is no innocence.  So your life is a joke.  Now when someone says your life is a joke that is a challenge.  It is not just a physical challenge it is a moral challenge, it is an intellectual challenge and Batman can’t let that go because the Joker isn’t just threatening him physically, he’s threatening the premise of Batman’s existence.  That’s why it’s such an epic discussion they are having.  Of course it is played out physically and in fights and punches and gunshots.  Ultimately it’s a philosophical conflict and it’s not one that’s easy to resolve.”

I appreciated Dr. Karney’s observation that the fight between Batman and Joker is not merely physical but philosophical.  Philosophically speaking, Joker subscribes to a form of Nietzsche’s philosophy.  Seeing Joker’s application of a nhilistic philosophy of chaos with the goal of merely triumphing one’s will over others should make us repulse at the incarnation of such a philosophy.  We must not forget that ideas have consequences.

Is Batman the Solution?

 

No doubt in Gotham the only one who can challenge the Joker is Batman.  And yet in the comics Joker is never fully contained.  Sooner or later Joker escapes and wreck havoc on the innocent.  While the Batman is the only who could check Joker, the unfortunate reality is that Batman’s own philosophy is against capital punishment.  This in turn leads Batman’s desire to capture Joker everytime so that he can be rehabilitated.  Thus Batman enables the Joker to continue his evil, given Joker’s track record of being able to escape.  Patrick Chan has written more about this dilemma over at Triablogue.

Thinking Spiritually

  • The Joker is a repulsive character.  He is the embodiment of a worldview that believes everything is chaos and that social norms and justice is meaningless.  One might find the character cool as entertainment but when someone does paint their face as the Joker and shoots up a Theatre in real life we all are awaken at the danger of what the Joker and his philosophy means.
  • I’ve always thought the Joker was more of an accurate portrayal of Satan than a red horned figure with pitchforks.  The Joker doesn’t care if he wins and yet continues with his sins.  The Joker also is crafty enough to get others to participate in his evil schemes often by taking advantage of people’s greed and other temptation.  What an illustration of the demonic.
  • No doubt if one reflect deeply on Joker, one want to see him eventually face justice once and for all.  Batman is not enough.  The desire for ultimate justice can only be fulfilled when God judges all the world.  That won’t happen until Christ’s second coming.  We should long for it.

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oxymoron

(Source for Picture)

These are links gathered between February 15th-21st, 2015.

1.) Do You Believe? Worldview Evidence for Jesus Christ

2.) Book Review – The Question of Canon by Michael Kruger

3.) Atheism is Pantheism: A Reflection on Carl Sagan’s Ipsedixitisms

4.) Responding to ISIS with a Christian doctrine of hell

5.) In Which Stephen Fry Steps In It

6.) Van Til’s Concrete Universal

7.) Tea Requires Water: An Analogy (via Mike Robinson)

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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