A Selection of Presuppositional Arguments

One criticism of presuppositional apologetics is that its advocates rarely if ever offer serious arguments for their distinctive claims (e.g., the claim that our ability to reason presupposes the existence of God). The criticism is overstated, but there is a measure of truth to it. I count myself a presuppositionalist, but I’ve been frustrated in the past by presuppositionalists who seem to imagine that declaring what Van Til’s “transcendental argument” purports to demonstrate is tantamount to actually making that demonstration. Simply asserting that “without God you can’t prove anything at all” or that “your very ability to reason presupposes the existence of God” does nothing whatsoever to explain why those weighty assertions should be believed. Likewise for the failure of non-Christians to answer questions asking them to account for their ability to reason, to know truths about the world, to make meaningful moral judgments, etc., in terms of their own worldviews. Questions cannot substitute for arguments, no matter how pointed those questions may be.

So it’s important for presuppositionalists to present arguments in support of their claims, and to ensure their critics are aware of those arguments so that they can be critically evaluated. In that spirit, I thought it would be useful to gather in one place my own presuppositional arguments, as well as my attempts to explain or reconstruct the arguments of other presuppositionalists:

In addition, my book Why Should I Believe Christianity? offers a broadly presuppositional (and evidential!) case for the biblical Christian worldview.

2 Responses to A Selection of Presuppositional Arguments

  1. Dan Johnson

    This is a really useful list. To add to it:

    – The Sense of Deity and Begging the Question with Ontological and Cosmological Arguments (Faith and Philosophy, 2009) — An essay in which I argue that many ontological and cosmological arguments can be stronger if understood as John Frame-style “broadly circular” presuppositionalist arguments. (I don’t mention Frame in the paper, but he’s the inspiration.)

    – Skepticism and Circular Arguments (International Journal for the Study of Skepticism, 2013) — A development of the epistemological account of circular arguments that lies behind the first essay.

    – Foundational Beliefs and Persuading with Humor: Reflections Inspired by Reid and Kierkegaard (co-authored with Adam Pelser, Faith and Philosophy, 2014) — A development of a presuppositionalist-friendly alternative form of apologetics, focused on the use of ridicule and humor, together with examples of this type of argumentation. (We published a popular treatment of the same strategy in the Christian Research Journal, December 2012, under the title “Affective Apologetics.”)

    Links to published versions and pre-print versions of all three can be found at: https://sites.google.com/site/danielmjohnsonphilosophy/research-and-writing/published-work-and-work-in-progress

    One more note: Alexander Pruss, in his comprehensive survey of Leibnizian cosmological arguments, surveys the strategy I give in the first paper above for supporting the cosmological argument by interpreting it as a circular argument. That shows, by the way, that developments of traditional cosmological arguments etc. can actually be presuppositionalist in spirit and be appropriated by presuppositionalists. See section 2.2.8 of this essay: http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/LCA.html