by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
On this, the fifth annual Question Evolution Day, I thought it would be helpful to discuss presuppositional apologetics (or "covenental", or "transcendental", or other names) and how it relates to biblical creation science, but also why this approach is important to apologetics in the first place. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on this, but I do have a good working knowledge of it. There are also various versions (VanTil/Bahnsen, Gordon Clark, John Frame, Michael Butler, and others). Some of they get mighty arrogant, wanting to slap leather with each other because their version of presuppositional apologetics is "wrong". I want to slap faces and say, "We're here to honor Christ, not Clark, VanTil or some other jasper who did not die for our sins!" If you have a preferred method, great! Just don't attack others who differ in their presup methods. You savvy? And some will probably be upset because I use presuppositional apologetics, and I do not claim the labels of "Reformed" or "Calvinist".
But I digress. I tend to do that, don't I? But it was important.
Although this is intended for Christian readers, there will undoubtedly be professing atheists and agnostics who take a gander at it. But they will not be able to understand it. Not necessarily from lack of intelligence, but because it's a spiritual matter (1 Cor. 2:14, 2 Cor. 4:4). Still, they may get a little something out of it. I hope Christians get a great deal from the material contained herein.
|Paul Preaching at Ephesus / Eustache Le Sueur, 1649|
In simplest terms, presuppositional apologetics means to have a consistent approach to knowledge and reasoning from our biblical foundations; there is no "neutral ground". Atheists and evolutionists are not consistent in their worldviews, using arbitrary assertions and ad hoc arguments with many logical fallacies thrown in. They hate and ridicule presuppositional apologetics because it's bad medicine for their incoherent paradigms, and claim that they have "refuted" it through straw man arguments and ridicule. (Ironically, they are hardcore presuppositionalists themselves, basing their worldviews on naturalism and humanistic philosophies.) We all have our starting points, and the Christian's starting point should be to elevate God's revealed Word above man's philosophies.
We believe that the unbeliever is in no position to put God on trial and determine through his intellect whether or not God exists and is worthy of his worship. That's extremely arrogant, if you study on it. The limited created ones who are in rebellion against God thinking they can reason about the infinite Creator, a spirit, using naturalistic methods? That's called the category mistake, pilgrim.
Unfortunately, there are Christians such as RC Sproul who misrepresent presup based on biases and a misunderstanding of the method. Just like the squabbling over who is "right" in the presup method, misrepresentation is not Christ-honoring, either. Yes, presups use evidence, and evidential apologists use presuppositions. We happen to present our evidence in a presuppositional framework, going back to the foundations, and do not make evidence our primary focus. Our worldview is all-encompassing, not just about science, logic, and creation, because Jesus has authority over all things, not just religion and morality.
To have coherent logic, certain things must be true about the world. Presups start with God, unbelievers start with humanism. Science needs consistency and logic, neither of which can be accounted for in a naturalistic worldview. When an atheist performs science or uses logic, he is tacitly admitting that God is real (Heb. 1:3, Col. 2:3, John 1:3, Col 1:9), because they are abandoning their worldviews and standing on ours (for example, Bill Nye). A professing atheist can reason and do science stuff because of the truth of God's Word, and because he is created in the image of God — but they cannot account for logic, morality, and so on.
There have been times when atheists have complained about my inconsistencies, both real and imagined. For instance, a complaint that we ban people from The Question Evolution Project, and I reject obstreperous and defamatory comments elsewhere (Prov. 22:10): "Do your own fascist tendencies not bother you? Apparently not since you have set up a north korean [sic] style propaganda blog for creato-fascism and suppression of unwanted facts". I have challenged atheists by asking, "So what? If that is true, why is it wrong in your worldview? Why can't I act like an atheist? Why can't I use 'survival of the fittest' and do whatever I think is right that helps me to better survive?" Indeed, to quote Mr. Gordons, we are "meat machines" — that is, in an atheistic and evolutionary worldview, we are bundles of chemicals responding to our electrochemical impulses; there is no right and wrong. Not only do they have no business complaining about a Christian's perceived faults (and irrationally using those to conclude that, therefore, there is no God), they have to live with it — we were born this way!
Just like some people will say that biblical creation creates barriers to people receiving the gospel message, the same accusation is made about presuppositional apologetics. I reckon that this charge is based on biases and lack of understanding. I have to continually refine my own apologetic, and can see that not only was it rather poor a few years ago, I've made headway, but I still have a long trail yet to ride.
Dr. James White had Pastor Jeff Durbin as a guest on The Dividing Line. This was rudely scheduled at a most inconvenient time for me, just before Christmas 2015 and then Question Evolution Day coming up. (As a Christian, I have to forgive them for their lack of consulting with me about my convenience, but also for ignoring my efforts to contact them about Question Evolution Day. Atheists cannot account for forgiveness, even on real infractions, in their worldview.) The video was a response to a video posted by Noah Adam, who roundly criticized Jeff Durbin.
I really hope that you will spend time on the video (or audio download). Yes, that bad boy is quite long, but you have the option of taking it in installments. (I got excited about it, saved it, and re-listened with extensive note-taking on January 22, 2016, the day I wrote this article.) If you do, you will notice that I drew heavily from material in the first half hour (can you hear that much, at least?). You will learn about presup, and also see it in action.
Side note for the presenters: Maple syrup on an Arby's roast beef sounds good to me. Try it with duck sauce sometime.
Dr. White and Pastor Durbin were too charitable to apostate Noah Adam in my opinion. That owlhoot was downright disingenuous, acting like a concerned Christian who wanted to give suggestions to Durbin, but is actually an agnostic. Pretending to be a believer and offering suggestions is an all too common manipulative trick that unbelievers employ. What would be the final goal if Durbin took Adam's advice? He would be abandoning a biblical apologetic method in favor of sinful man's philosophies. Ain't happening, old son.
It would also mean that White and Durbin are stupid, because Adam offered tribble-droppingly bad arguments based on lack of research, bigotry, and prejudicial conjecture, which brought to mind not only Psalm 53:1, but also Prov. 18:6). He also used loaded terminology in an effort to poison the well against Pastor Durbin. One thing I emphasize is that people need to learn how to spot basic logical fallacies and employ critical thinking. F'rinstance, you can see that Noah Adam is assuming that Durbin is wrong, and then attacking that position.
Enough of my presentation. I hope you'll watch or listen, go to this link: "Responding to Noah Adam’s Criticism of Jeff Durbin (with Jeff in Studio)". In addition, I recommend Dr. Jason Lisle's "Ultimate Proof of Creation" (a video on that topic is here). A video by Dr. Greg Bahnsen on "The Myth of Neutrality" is extremely helpful, but you may want to act quickly because those tend to disappear from YouTube. Speaking of Bahnsen, you can also get the book Always Ready. Jeff Durbin recommends another book in the video, pay attention for that one. I'll stop with the philosophy of science series by Michael Butler on Sermon Audio.