Having been recently promoted to associate professor, I was invited to give a short lecture at our Fall convocation service last week. The audio of the lecture (“The Atheist’s Guide to Intellectual Suicide”) is now available on iTunes U.
On a closely related note, check out these good thoughts by my colleague Mike Kruger on the current state of public debate over moral issues.
The Gospel Coalition is running a series on methods in apologetics. The latest installment is “Questioning Presuppositionalism” by Dr. Paul Copan, who raises four criticisms of presuppositionalism, one of which is the old canard that presuppositionalists engage in fallacious circular reasoning. (I think all four are misguided in one way or another, but the other three will have to wait for now.) He writes:
First, it engages in question-begging — assuming what one wants to prove. It begins with the assumption that God exists, and then concludes that God exists. Such reasoning would get you an “F” in any logic class worthy of the name!
Dr. Copan is a gentleman and a scholar, so I’m sure he doesn’t realize quite how insulting this sounds to presuppositionalists! (For comparison, imagine someone claiming that evidentialists commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent because they use inductive inferences.) This criticism has been answered many times, so it’s disappointing to find it cropping up yet again (although perhaps presuppositionalists should take comfort from the fact that Dr. Copan doesn’t offer any new criticisms!). Even so, I’ll try to explain one more time why this complaint so badly misses the mark.
By this rejection of God, agnosticism has embraced complete relativism. Yet this relativism must furnish a basis for the rejection of the absolute. Accordingly, the standard of self-contradiction taken for granted by antitheistic thought presupposes the absolute for its operation. Antitheism presupposes theism. One must stand upon the solid ground of theism to be an effective antitheist.
(Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, p. xi)
“Antitheism presupposes theism” is one of Van Til’s best lines, because it captures in a nutshell the genius of presuppositional apologetics. It’s not merely that theism is true; it’s not merely that theism can be shown to be true; it’s that theism can be shown to be true by any attempt to prove it false. One can prove theism to be false only if, as a matter of fundamental metaphysical fact, theism is true — which is just to say that antitheism is self-defeating.
Philosophia Christi has kindly permitted me to post on my website a preprint of “The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic”, which I co-authored with Greg Welty. I wrote the first version of the paper, but Greg did all the heavy lifting; the argument is indebted to the ideas he developed in his DPhil dissertation on theistic conceptual realism.
Here’s the abstract:
In this paper we offer a new argument for the existence of God. We contend that the laws of logic are metaphysically dependent on the existence of God, understood as a necessarily existent, personal, spiritual being; thus anyone who grants that there are laws of logic should also accept that there is a God. We argue that if our most natural intuitions about them are correct, and if they’re to play the role in our intellectual activities that we take them to play, then the laws of logic are best construed as necessarily existent thoughts — more specifically, as divine thoughts about divine thoughts. We conclude by highlighting some implications for both theistic arguments and antitheistic arguments.
While we don’t discuss Van Til or presuppositional apologetics in the paper, those so inclined will recognize this as a more robust exposition of a common presuppositionalist argument and they’ll also appreciate (I hope) the concluding remarks.
The editor of Philosophia Christi has kindly permitted me to post on my website a preprint of my article “No Dilemma for the Proponent of the Transcendental Argument: A Response to David Reiter”. The article is scheduled to appear in the Summer 2011 issue along with a short rejoinder from David. It was a profitable exchange, and it’s gratifying that Philosophia Christi considers TAG to be worthy of critical scholarly discussion. Van Tilians should also be thankful for sympathetic, well-informed critics like David. May his tribe increase!
I was recently interviewed for the Christ the Center program by the good folk at Reformed Forum, and they’ve just posted the audio on their website. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from listening to a number of their podcasts over the last couple of years, so I was honored to be invited to contribute to one of them. Among other things we discussed presuppositional apologetics, John Frame’s perspectivalism, and my book on theological paradox.
P&R Publishing have kindly granted me permission to make available on my website the essay I contributed to the festschrift in honor of John Frame: “Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology,” in Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John M. Frame, ed. John J. Hughes (P&R, 2009), 431-459.
The essay didn’t turn out quite the way I’d hoped — you know how ideas always seem better in your head before they make it onto paper — but after looking over it again I’ve concluded it’s not as bad as I thought when I submitted it! It’s basically a defense of Frame’s epistemology and presuppositionalism, with some concrete apologetic application.
Anyway, the festschrift is packed full of insightful and stimulating material, both from Dr. Frame and from the other 36 (count ’em) contributors. If you don’t have a copy, get one. P&R Publishing have generously offered a 50% discount (yes, really) on the price of the book for any readers of this blog who order before March 31, either via their website or by telephone (1-800-631-0094), and use the discount code ANATH. (If you post this info elsewhere, please link back to here.)
Is there such thing as a “biblical epistemology”? Van Tilian presuppositionalists are among those who insist there is. Christian philosophers in general, however, tend to be skeptical of the idea. They’ll suggest that it makes no more sense to say there is a biblical theory of knowledge than to say there is a biblical theory of gravity. After all, the Bible is no more a philosophy textbook than a science textbook. Right?
The following is the unexpurgated version of a review of Robert L. Reymond’s Faith’s Reasons for Believing (Mentor/Christian Focus, 2008) published in Themelios 33:2 (September 2008). (The published version had to be trimmed to around 1000 words.)
Question: What do you get if you cross Gordon Clark’s apologetic with Cornelius Van Til’s apologetic and sprinkle it liberally (so to speak) with J. Gresham Machen’s historical evidences? Answer: Something like the case for the Christian faith recommended by Robert Reymond in Faith’s Reasons for Believing
The subtitle gives a fair impression of its purpose and tone: “An Apologetic Antidote to Mindless Christianity (and to Thoughtless Atheism)”. Reymond’s goal is to counter not only the attacks of “militant atheists” like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, but also the “mindless Christianity” of believers who are unable or unwilling to offer any reasons for the faith they profess.