My Choice of Apologetics, Part IV: What Do You Suppose about That?

So, by now you’ve figured out Presuppositionalism is the one I have a problem with. I suppose part of it is that my first encounter with it was the video series How to Answer the Fool, which it seemed the producer was trying to present in the most confusing manner possible. He had the film cutting back from scene to scene in a most disjointed manner. I think I got the gist of it well enough, though, and I didn’t like what I understood. The basic premise, I believe, is that subjecting God to the kind of objective human analysis involved in Classical apologetics and Evidentialism is an affront to His dignity and sovereignty and that your senses are too unreliable to base any conclusions off of them anyway. The answer, they say, is to start with the assumption that God exists, and then everything makes sense and you have a 100% sure basis for your knowledge.

Now, I respect that the Presuppositionalists want to uphold the glory of God. I also agree that, once you start off with the premise that God is good and man is evil, everything starts to make more sense. What they do, though, is, I think, different from the way Scripture does it. First of all, I don’t think it’s demeaning to God to try to reason with others based on evidence and logic. What then is the point of all the signs throughout the Bible? Dr. Sproul would have stood me down that the miracles in the Bible are to validate the prophet’s authority rather than prove God’s existence, which is already assumed in the Bible, and that’s true for many, if not most of them, but there are some signs that are clearly for God proving Himself. Just looking at Isaiah, God welcomes Ahaz to request any sign he wants to prove His promised deliverance. He gives Hezekiah at least two signs of that deliverance, which is clearly not to validate Isaiah since Hezekiah knows he’s a prophet already. Most importantly, He challenges the idolaters in Chapter 41 to pick their God/gods based off of whose prophecy comes true in a manner very pleasing to an Evidentialist. And let’s not forget that the whole point of the sign in Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal is to show Israel that the Lord is their God and Baal isn’t. Granted God gets very angry at those who demand more proof than He has given them, but He doesn’t seem to mind giving us reasons to believe.

In what I think is Presuppositionalism’s biggest flaw, though, take Romans 1. Paul says that we know God exists by seeing Creation and reasoning back to a Creator. That’s what Classical apologetics and Evidentialism do, but not only do Presuppositionalists refuse to do that, some of them say the others are ethically wrong to. Paul also refers to God writing His law on humanity’s heart in Romans, so the Moral argument is also Biblical.

As far as sensory perception goes, I agree it’s not 100% reliable. I will also point out, however, that the Apostle John makes his apologetic defense in the first verses of I John based off of his senses: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life.” That’s three of the five senses right there! John is giving his senses as one of the reasons he believes. In other words, they’re usually reliable enough to form reasonable opinions based on.

Not only that, but this approach is a logically flawed theory that rests on circular reasoning. Circular reasoning, from a logician’s point-of-view, is where you start with your conclusion as one of the premises. Basically, Presuppositionalism says, “God exists. This further premise. That further premise. Therefore, God exists.” You haven’t proved anything because you assumed what you were setting out to prove from the get-go!

I don’t know how effective Presuppositionalism is in practice (if it converts souls, never mind my objections!), but it’s not nearly as logically sound as Classical Apologetics, Evidentialism, or the Moral Standard. I take strong exception to the claim that those three are sinful methods because I can find them in the most apologetic chapter in the Bible (Romans 1). Presuppositionalists are of course right when they point out that the Bible assumes the existence of God on page 1 of Genesis and works from there, but consider the context. Moses was writing to a nation whose fathers had worshipped God for centuries and who had just seen miracle after miracle performed by them. He didn’t have any reason to go into proving the existence of God! When Paul is writing to Gentiles who are the first in their family line to believe in God, however, he takes a few words to explain how they know who He is, and it’s not with Presuppositionalism.

It’s worth pointing out that the man behind the series How to Answer the Fool admitted he himself was converted by Evidentialism. The Moral Standard was the method preferred by one of the great apologeticists of all time, C.S. Lewis. And Classical Apologetics is called that because it used to be the standard apologetics used by the Church’s influential thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas. I hope you found an approach you can use in these posts and urge you to follow through with it with the sources I’ve mentioned so that you can “give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”