Presuppositionalists in the Dock

Internet gadfly, Jacob Brunton, believes presuppositional apologetics is maddening idiocy and any sound-minded believer who thinks presuppositionally and utilizes the methodology is a fool. He has taken to both Facebook and Twitter to rail against presuppers like myself.

Before we begin with a response to his missives, let’s remind ourselves of the main presup distinctives.

– Presuppositionalism desires to reform apologetic methodology. An apologetic approach that honors the sovereignty of God in salvation and the self-attesting nature of Scripture. It also focuses in upon the antithesis between believing and unbelieving thinking and philosophical worldviews. It then structures the Christian engagement with unbelievers according to a biblical framework. Classicists, like Jacob, will say they hold to the sovereignty of God in salvation, but they typically reject the self-attesting nature of Scripture and operate from the notion that proofs and evidence can be self-authenticating, as well as reasonably considered by unbelievers.

– The Christian begins his defense of the faith by setting apart Christ as Lord (1 Peter 3:15). He is the ultimate authority over our reasoning, argumentation, and confrontation with the unbelieving world.

– The Christian also acknowledges the fact of fundamental presuppositions. What would be considered elementary, unquestioned assumptions and axioms, govern the thinking, opinions, personal beliefs, and the ultimate heart commitments of every person.

– John Frame notes in his book analyzing Van Til’s theology, that man’s ultimate heart commitment, “plays an important role in our knowledge. It determines our ultimate criteria of truth and falsity, right and wrong. As long as we consistently maintain our ultimate commitment, we cannot accept anything as true or right that conflicts with that commitment.” [Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, 136].

Robert Reymond writes in his systematic theology that the word “presupposition” can be used both objectively and subjectively. When used objectively, “it refers to the actual transcendental foundation of universal meaning and intelligibility, namely, the triune God.” When the word is used subjectively, “it refers to a person’s most basic, personal heart commitment, this commitment having (1) the greatest authority in one’s thinking, being the least negotiable belief in one’s network of beliefs, and (2) the highest immunity to revision.” [New Systematic Theology, 145]

– With all of that in mind, a Christian’s apologetic and evangelistic encounter involves challenging an unbeliever’s ultimate heart commitments and presuppositions with the truth of Scripture. There is a trust in the work of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the mind of the unbeliever so that he will recognize his sinful rebellion against God, relinquish his commitments/presuppositions that stand in defiance of his creator, and bring his every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Presuppositionalists don’t tend to bother with trying to “prove” the truth claims of Christianity or the existence of God with various philosophical arguments and evidences. It’s not that they won’t engage in philosophical arguments or utilize evidence, for they certainly will. They just recognize what the Scriptures tell us about the nature of  mankind: that men have an innate knowledge of God (see Romans 1:18ff) and they are merely suppressing that knowledge, excusing it away. The issue is not that the unbeliever has a lack of compelling evidence or never heard persuasive philosophical arguments. It’s that unbelievers refuse to believe any evidence or philosophical arguments that contradict those non-negotiable heart commitments, and according to Scripture, those heart commitments are at enmity with God and hate anything to do with God. Until those heart commitments are overcome and defeated supernaturally, no presentation of any evidence reasonably presented will convince an unbeliever of the truth claims of Christianity.

The Thomist/classicist like Jacob don’t agree with that assessment of fallen men. The way presuppositionalists engage with unbelievers is considered inconsistent, confusing, irrational, and a whole lot of other similar descriptors. Hence his objection which I will now turn.

He lays out a summation of his complaint in a seven part tweet thread. Let me consider them in turn.

Here is the objection to the self-sufficiency of Scripture. The classicist insists that Christians can never use Scripture to prove the claims of Scripture, because that’s circular reasoning or some such nonsense. God doesn’t seem to agree with that notion, however. Scripture is a source of knowledge, because God declares it to be a source of knowledge. The entirety of Psalm 119, for example, is a declaration of Scripture being a source of knowledge. Just do a search of the word “truth” in Scripture and note how is is synonymous with Scripture itself.

Well, what about stuff the Bible never speaks to? Like what exactly? Rarely are genuine examples provided. How about Neanderthals? The Bible doesn’t say a word about Neanderthals. Okay, I’d agree. But I do know that Scripture tells us Adam and Eve were the first living humans on earth, that they did not evolve from some common ancestor between modern humans and Neanderthals, and it is denies the fundamental theology of sin and man when we try to speculate how we can harmonize modern day secular paleoanthropological interpretations of Neanderthals with the Bible like the majority of classicist apologetic ministries attempt to do. See Reasons to Believe, for instance.

We include general revelation? General revelation is usually understood to be the “evidences” an unbeliever can reasonably consider. He seriously seems to be under the impression that presuppositionaists never consider general revelation. If that’s the case, it’s a terrifically ignorant claim and one of the reasons why, as we will see in a moment, presuppositionalists say people like Jacob misrepresent them.

Van Til had a robust theology of general revelation. He understood general revelation to be what the Christian apologist appeals to when talking with unbelievers. He wrote about it extensively in his works. The disagreement presuppositionalists have with classicists regarding general revelation is how it is related to the unbeliever. Presuppositionalists believe, as the Bible tells us, that general revelation is misunderstood by unbelievers and they use it to suppress their knowledge of God rather than submit to him. It does not stand alone as self-sufficient to explain God, but works in tandem with the explanatory grid of special revelation.

The fact of the matter is that classicists DO compromise the doctrine of total depravity. Well, certainly those who claim to be Calvinistic and Reformed in their soteriology. What is the extent of “total” in the mind of the classicist? How total is total? I get the impression that they compartmentalize man. Man is fallen; but his reasoning ability is left untouched or intact so that he makes rational and reasonable evaluations of evidence, proofs, arguments, etc, and forms correct conclusions.

But the Bible says that man’s mind, the organ for his reasoning capacity, is severely impacted by sin. For instance,

– Romans 8:7 states that “the mind set on the flesh (all fallen men without exception) is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” “Not able” has the idea of incapable.

– Second Corinthians 4:4 states “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.”

– Ephesians 4:17, 18 states that the gentiles, who would be all the world of men not Jewish by birth, walk with futile minds and their understanding, you know, their reasoning ability, is darkened.

– Paul reminds the Colossians in 1:21 how they were once “hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds.”

– Paul warns Timothy in 6:5 of “men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth” who will stir up all sorts of strife in the church. The word for depraved can have the meaning of disabled, not working.

– Paul tells Timothy in his last letter to him, 2 Timothy 3:7,8 about the difficult times coming in the last days when men with depraved minds will oppose the truth. Not only are they morally corrupted, but they are marked as ones who are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Just with that smattering of verses, the Bible is telling us that fallen, unregenerate men CANNOT reason rightly and Christians would be foolish to think they are capable of doing so. So we are not confusing soteriology with epistemology because the two concepts are intertwined with each other when it comes to men thinking and reasoning rightly about their lives and the world they live in. The world God created and endues with meaning.

Of course every epistemic standard is presupposed. Any so-called “epistemic standard” has to exist outside ourselves. Something greater has to be informing what it is that we know and establishing the rules that carries one to that knowledge.There is one, absolute, authoritative epistemic standard, and that is God revealed in Scripture. He is not arbitrary (I mean, God is God for crying out loud!) and it is not arbitrary, or “postmodern,” to declare that to an individual in an apologetic encounter.

Jacob likes to boast that he has these defeaters against presuppositionalism by asserting that they confuse philosophical categories and the like. His big one he will throw out is that presuppositionalists confuse metaphysics, philosophy that attempts to understand and explain being, with epistemology, philosophies that theorize about knowledge and systems of knowing. What he refuses to acknowledge is that those two philosophies are inextricably bound together. Only metaphysical beings with minds (metaphysics) can seek knowledge (epistemology). And metaphysical “first principles” must be in place in order to know them and how exactly do we know we are knowing about those first principles rightly? Honestly, this is a conundrum that has been mocking men for thousands of years. Ultimately, one has to take their understanding of those categories by faith (*cough* presuppositionally *cough*) just like Jacob is doing here.

Or virtue signalling by throwing down some fancy-smancy philosophical words to sound, like, really smart. Accusations of misrepresenting presuppositionalism will only continue if he raises these kind of sloppy objections and though he insists he has read the basic presuppositional literature, he gives no indication of actually engaging it.

Apologetics is not only a defense of the Christian faith against all the detractors, but it is meant to focus on evangelism. While Jacob may roll his eyes and accuse me of inconsistency, being postmodern, or whatnot, I will maintain my simple-mind ways of preaching the Word of God when I do apologetics. I don’t believe I have to prove it’s authenticity to anyone (and I am happy to answer questions if asked) and I am not ashamed of miracles, or telling someone I believe something by faith, or otherwise appearing foolish before a group of chortling Youtube skeptics. It is the preaching of the Word of God alone that God has promised will tear down loft thoughts raised against God and destroy the wisdom of this world.

Ken Ham vs. the SES Apologetic

I wanted to spend a few moments interacting with this article over at the Southern Evangelical Seminary blog,

Does Ken Ham’s Defense Biblical Authority Lead to Biblical Skepticism?

It’s an article written by my past internet foil, Adam Tucker. He has provided us with a helpful treatise expaining the methodology behind how SES teaches apologetic engagement. He excellently contrasts a classical/Thomist approach to apologetics from a presuppositional/Bible-based one that I believe lends us insight for sharpening our apologetic focus.

Bear with me, this is gonna be a long one

A Little Background

Now the first thing one is probably wondering about is what exactly does Ken Ham have to do with all of this. Well, since about 2012, folks over at Southern Evangelical Seminary have expressed dismay at Ken Ham’s presentations defending biblical creationism. The first real vocal critic was SES professor, Richard Howe, who wrote an emotional critique of a talk he heard Ken Ham give at a church in his area. I wrote a response to Howe’s article that can be read HERE.

His critique eventually grew into a written journal dialogue between him and Jason Lisle who now operates the Bible Science Institute. A discussion on creation was also held at the 2013 SES apologetic conference between Howe, Lisle, and Scott Oliphant, and eventually a discussion between Howe and Ham at the 2017 SES apologetic conference.

The main complaint against Ham is the manner he goes about defending the historicity of Genesis and his young earth views. If you hear his talks or read the literature of Answers in Genesis, the creation ministry founded by Ham, his talking points remain consistent. In sum:

We must begin with Scripture as our starting point for understanding origins. Any attempt with revising the straightforward interpretation of the creation week from Genesis with the constructs of Darwinian evolution or deep time ideas is reading man’s interpretations of the world onto Scripture. Men, according to Scripture, are fallen and their interpretations are fallible. Thus, we allow the revelation of Scripture to inform and shape our interpretation of the world and the history of it’s origins, and we should never allow man’s fallible interpretations of the world apart from Scripture shape our reading of Genesis.

Adam insists Ham’s apologetic “starting point” ultimately spirals into skepticism. After he lays out some of Ham’s main arguments from his written articles, fundraising letters, and various talks, Adam summarizes his apologetic methodology,

I think the reader is intelligent enough to recognize the pattern of thought here. It seems Mr. Ham’s position is that because of our fallen state, introducing outside ideas, or man’s word, into the mix of our interpretation of God’s Word ultimately undermines biblical authority. The problem is that there are at least two reasons why this position actually leads to biblical skepticism instead.

He the goes on to explain what he means by skepticism by framing his critique around those two reasons he mentions. Let me outline each one in turn.

First, he says Ham has a “knowledge problem.” By that he means when Ham uses such descriptions as “worldview,” “worldview neutral,” “autonomous human reasoning” or says everyone has the same evidence and that evidence must be interpreted based on a belief system, he is essentially contradicting himself. He is in fact bringing human reasoning to bear upon the Bible, Ken Ham’s reasoning. That’s because none of those concepts, worldviews, autonomous reasoning, etc., are directly talked about in Scripture.

Additionally, if it is universally true that all evidence is interpreted according to one’s specific worldview as Ham insists, then that fact is true across the entire spectrum of human worldviews making that fact “worldview neutral.” That in turn makes his position false. Laws of logic, Adam, goes on to note, are the same across ALL worldviews. They don’t differ from one culture to the next, and that again falsifies Ham’s position. He also asks how Ham knows the Bible is the starting point and not the Quran or the Book of Mormon. He has to make that determination from outside the Bible, so his starting point begins elsewhere, not from Scripture.

He goes on to write that the Bible is a part of the very reality that Ham claims one cannot know apart from Scripture. That view creates a glaring inconsistency, because as Adam asks, “If all of my thinking is skewed by my “fallen” and “fallible” worldview, how can I in principle “let God speak to me to the best of my ability to not try to impose my ideas on Scripture”?”  In other words, a person has to properly understand a specific part of our reality, the BIble, before having a starting point for properly understanding any other part of reality. That, Adam insists, is “a contradiction and rules out the possibility of properly understanding anything!”

Secondly, Ham has an interpretation problem. While it is true that Ken Ham employs the grammatical-historical hermeneutic for interpreting the Bible, his problem is that the Bible nowhere teaches that interpretive method. Ham is using the right hermeneutic, but he came to the use of that hermeneutic apart from Scripture. In other words, he is again starting with “man’s ideas” to read the Bible, not the Bible itself. Additionally, the Bible Ken Ham uses is translated into English from Hebrew and Greek. How does he know the language scholars translated it correctly? In fact, in his talks, he often appeals to what Hebrew scholars say about the Hebrew in Genesis 1 to defend his hermeneutic. Is he not trusting in man’s words?

Moreover, why exactly is Ken Ham’s interpretation the correct one? Adam points out that he says in his talks that anyone can read the Genesis account and plainly see that it speaks of creation happening in six days. But if that is true, why are there so many different interpretations of not only Genesis, but other biblical doctrines like those who deny the deity of Christ or affirm open theism? Those various groups are claiming they are plainly reading the Bible to draw their conclusions. With all those different interpretations, why is Ham’s the right one? Especially if everyone is fallen, as he says, and cannot trust their human senses to know things about the history of the physical world.

What can we say about Adam’s critique?

First, there is a huge failure with understanding what Ken Ham is saying. The most significant problem with Adam’s article is he fails to actually engage with what it is Ham is saying. He is providing a biblical defense of young earth creationism. When he says “we don’t bring man’s autonomous reasoning to Scripture” or take “man’s words and add them to Scripture,” he is NOT saying there is nothing of value outside of Scripture human beings can learn that helps us understand the Bible. Rather, his point is that Genesis chapter one clearly states that God created the known universe, the earth, and all life contained with in it in six days. The reason Ham’s says that is because the Bible says that. The language of the text is unambiguous. Hence, if we, as Christians believe the Scripture is our ultimate authority, we believe what it says regarding origins. We allow it to direct our understanding of origin history and how we evaluate the scientific evidence.

What Ham is arguing against are those individuals, especially Christians, who are influenced by Darwinian deep-time views of earth’s origin history (earth came into existence 4 billion years ago after a big bang event several billions years before that) that allow those views to reread the creation narrative of Genesis. Instead of Genesis revealing God creating everything over the course of six days and then resting on the seventh day, our understanding of a week, Sunday through Saturday, those individuals influenced by deep-time insist that Genesis must be reinterpreted. The creation week is something of a theological tract explaining God’s purpose of redemption, or a polemic against ANE mythology, or whatever, rather than an historical narrative providing real, historical information about the origin of the earth. Ken Ham is essentially upholding article 12 (XII) of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy which reads,

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

 

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

He is also affirming what is written in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics under article 19 (XIX) and article 22 (XXII) that denies the teaching of creation in Genesis can be overthrown by “scientific hypothesis,” which is another way of saying “Man’s autonomous reasoning.”

Second, he misunderstands Bahnsen’s distinction between the knowledge of sinners and the saved. Adam cites two quotes on logic from Greg Bahnsen’s posthumous work, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended for the purpose of demonstrating that Ham creates a false dichotomy between what fallen men know and what the Christian knows. He implies that Ham, following Van Til, Bahnsen, and other presuppositional apologists, is saying fallen men cannot truly know reality with their senses. Adam asks, “Why can man not trust his senses to reveal truths about the creation timeline?” The answer, according to Ham and Bahnsen, is that the minds of men are fallen and the conclusions they draw with their knowledge cannot be trusted.

Consider the fuller context of what Bahnsen wrote,

Even though the Christian and the non-Christian have the facts of the objective world in common, they have radically divergent interpretations of them. For the Christian all facts are pre-interpreted by God, created by God, and revelatory of God; they must be handled in such a way that glory is brought to God. But the non-Christian views these facts as meaningfully interpreted only by his own mind, as uncreated and free from God’s control, as ambiguous and contingent; he uses them to bring glory to man. Hence the Christian and non-Christian have different interpretative schemes.

Even when the believer and unbeliever share the same rules of logical inference, they nevertheless can be said to have different “logics.” For the believer and unbeliever differ as to the use, significance, ground, and authority of these rules; basically one subordinates logic to God while the other does not. [emphasis mine]

If one reads the entire section from his book, Bahnsen is demonstrating that all men without exception evaluate any factual evidence according to a set of preconditions concerning how they view the world. The scientific materialist for example, will never consider the possibility of the supernatural, because in his mind, the supernatural doesn’t exist. The idea of a miraculously created world, or even a resurrected man, is dismissed out of hand as fantasy and not worthy of serious thought. Whereas the Christian believes the supernatural does exist, because God has provided revelation telling us it does, so he accepts the historicity of a miraculously created earth and the resurrection of Jesus as really happening.

So neither Bahnsen, nor Ham, is saying fallen men can never learn things about reality using their senses. Fallen men do live in God’s created world and they bear the image and likeness of God, which means all men are designed to learn things using their senses. Rather, the conclusions they draw from their learning is often skewed, or mistaken, and many times untrustworthy, especially when it comes to so-called evidence regarding origins, mankind, and history. The fallen man, with the use of all his senses, will only default to a Darwinian model and deep time when it comes to evaluating any such evidence, because he is convinced his senses is telling him the truth about it. The believer, on the other hand, while using his senses to gain knowledge, submits that knowledge to what he knows is absolutely true regarding God’s revelation contained in Scripture. That’s why Ham says we start with Scripture.

Third, he has a deficient anthropology. A number of times throughout his article, Adam chides Ken Ham for his distinguishing between the thinking of “fallen” men, those men who are unregenerate, and the thinking of men who are regenerated. The general consensus among classic, Thomist apologists, what is advocated and practiced at SES, is that even though man is fallen into sin, his fallenness is merely moral and has no direct influence on his rational faculties. In other words, fallen men are in bondage to sinful desires and are morally corrupt, but their mental abilities that gather information with their human senses can draw accurate and honest conclusions about that evidence.

But is such a dichotomy within human nature biblical? As Christians, we should gather our understanding about humanity from the very One who created us and has left us a lengthy record documenting mankind’s interactions with both his Creator and each other. When we evaluate Scripture, the Bible doesn’t paint for us a picture of men who are bifurcated into a morally corrupted person, but has a mind freed from the taint of sin allowing him to make sound judgments about the evidence they gather with their senses. Certainly, men are created in the image of God. He has created them with their sense organs to interact with the world. However, that doesn’t mean their minds are freed from sin.

The Scripture, especially the NT, frequently speaks of the bondage that traps the mind of men so that they corrupt any use their natural senses may provide them. Man is said to have a “depraved mind” (Romans 1:28), a mind imprisoned by “law of sin” (Romans 7:23), a mind “set on the flesh” (Romans 8:6,7), minds that are satanically blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4), minds that indulged the desires of the flesh (Ephesians 2:3), and minds hostile to God that engage in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21). Additionally, Paul describes spiritual warfare as destroying speculations and those lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4,5). In other words, areas of the mind that are fed by our senses.

Further, salvation brings renewal of mind (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10). That means a fallen man, while he may have a general understanding of reality with his senses, is most certainly deceived, and operates in a state of hostility toward God causing his five senses to serve his fundamental rebellion against God. Sinners need regeneration in order to accurately interact with God’s world so that his sense carry him to the correct conclusions about reality. For if our minds were untainted by sin, then there would be no need for the call to “renew our minds.”

Fourth, the relegation of Scripture to a secondary importance. A truly frustrating area with Adam’s article was the dismissive approach to the use of Scripture as the primary means in apologetic engagement. This has been a sticking point when I have exchanged responses with him on apologetic matters in the past. One thing that can be said about Ken Ham is that he consistently appeals to the authority of Scripture when he reasons with unbelievers and defends the faith. He doesn’t try to prove the reliability of Scripture first, but just presents it as truth whether or not the person believes it or not. Though I am sure Adam, and others who utilize the SES apologetic, maintain a high view of Scripture, the tone presented in his article leaves the reader wondering if that is really the case.

For instance, one reason he states as to why we can never start with God’s Word is because there are so many various interpretations of the Bible. Why is Ken Ham so certain HIS interpretation is the right one? Adam points out how open theist heretics like Greg Boyd read the Bible but see passages that talk about God changing His mind and so conclude that God doesn’t know the future. And other cultic groups read passages that speak of God having eyes, or arms, and even wings and conclude God is made up of physical parts. Even passages that tell of the “four corners of the earth” imply the earth is square or flat. So because of all those confusing views on Scripture, no one can genuinely start with the Bible because we don’t know which view is the right one.

That sort of petty reasoning, however, generates as much skepticism as Adam accuses Ken Ham of causing. He is essentially saying that understanding the Bible is a big toss up because there are so many possible interpretations no one person can really say he has the correct view. Why even bother using the Bible to begin with if it has such potential for confusion.

Again, no one is saying we can’t use teachers or learn from the expertise of the translators of biblical languages. However, when God gave the Scriptures, He did so with the intent of being understood. He made Revelation clear. Of course there are metaphors, types, analogy, and all the other areas of grammar all human language utilizes found in the Bible. Moreover, a consistent and careful study of Scripture, empowered by an unction from the Holy Spirit, is definitely necessary to cut the meaning of Scripture straight (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

However, the fact that God made man in his image and in his likeness means He created man to communicate not only with Him, but with each other. Human language, logic, grammar, and the rules of hermeneutics (interpreting written material secular or religious) was hardwired into humanity at man’s creation, and that ability exists in all people today. It had to be or men couldn’t even begin to communicate with each other, reason with each other, understand even how to make sense of what it is their senses sense.

How Exactly Do Men Know Stuff?

What is missing in Adam’s critique is what we do know about reality. That being, lost, fallen men, even though many of them may be smart and leading experts in various fields of study, are by nature cut off from their Creator because they are born in sin. That is what Scripture proclaims AND it is what we see played out in everyday society. Their fallenness has a debilitating effect upon their rational faculties, particularly when they draw conclusion about the reality they are exploring.

Take for instance genetic researchers discovering that  humans share Neanderthal DNA. The fallen man, using his autonomous reasoning and starting with his anti-supernatural worldview, boldly shouts that this is proof men share common evolutionary traits with Neanderthals. Evolutionary theory is proven. Biologos and other theistic evolutionary “ministries,” insist the evidence is overwhelming and Christians must reinterpret the Bible so as to take this evidence into consideration. Christians run the risk of creating stumbling blocks before unbelievers if they don’t, even if it means overturning preciously held traditions like inerrancy and biblical creationism in 6 days like Answers in Genesis teaches. The Christian, on the other hand, like Ken Ham, allows what Scripture says about creation to inform his reasoning. He takes the same evidence and draws the conclusion that rather than Neanderthals being some lost evolutionary link in humanity’s past, insist that evidence only proves Neanderthals were humans. [By the way, I wrote an article for Creation Ministries addressing the very issue how such compromise is a disaster for apologetic ministries – SEE HERE].

Fallen men draw those conclusions about various areas of reality apart from God’s Revelation, apart from the power of the Gospel to set men’s minds to think rightly. And while people, both saved and fallen, may derive benefit from their work due in part to a shared general grace everyone experiences from one degree to another because they live in God’s world, that work is often times mistaken and directs us in the wrong way to think about the reality. As Christians, we do want to think correctly about reality, but that only comes in it’s purest form from a mind set free from sin, who filters what he gathers with his senses through the starting point of God’s Word and our ultimate authority.

Knowing Stuff

gijoe

I wanted to offer some comments on an article over at Frank Turek’s Cross Examined website,

An Open Question to Presuppositionalists

There have already been some solid responses since it has been posted. James White gave his thoughts during his October 4th, 2016 Dividing Line podcast and Steve Hays posted one of his withering beat down blog articlesI imagine there may be other rebuttals forthcoming.

The author presents a lot things I’d love to touch on, but with my purposes here, I wanted to focus in upon some specific comments he makes regarding methodology, particularly how we know what we know as presuppositionalists. I believe he provides some important thoughts to ponder.

I consider myself a presuppositionalist in my apologetic methodology, though I wouldn’t necessarily be a pure and clean Van Tillian drawn from the veins of covenant theology. I think Van Til did much to set apologetic methodology aright, especially wresting apologetics from the hands of Roman Catholics and Arminians, and anchoring it in a historical, apostolic, and biblical approach. I know for myself, presuppositionalism caused my evangelistic efforts engaging unbelief to leap light years beyond the canned soul-winning presentations I was taught in my Baptist churches growing up.

I have written quite a bit on the topic of apologetics over the years (articles are cataloged HERE for folk’s convenience). Though the bulk of those articles are critical of classic apologetics, I do have my criticisms of the current expressions of presuppositionalism as it is presented online and in social media contexts. Mainly, I am concerned that presuppositional practitioners complicate the terminology and methods to the point no one knows what it is the person is talking about. That presents a real problem. When someone like myself wishes to teach others to think presuppositionally regarding apologetics, I want to make sure folks are not confused as to what it is I am telling them.

I think because presuppositionalists can speak in cryptic terms, the author of the article interacts with what really amounts to a strawman version of presuppositionalism, and that makes it difficult to respond to his phantom. However, I believe his article is none the less useful, because those misconceptions he presents are founded upon what could possibly be an inadequate definition given to him by presuppositionalists. If he received bad information from folks, we cannot fault him when he attempts to offer a rebuttal with bad arguments.

Here is where we can seize the opportunity to sharpen our apologetics. There are two misconceptions he notes in his article I think are important to consider and correct. That in turn will help presuppositionalists to articulate clearly their theology.

The first one concerns what he falsely believes presuppositionalists teach regarding human reasoning. He writes,

… It is my understanding that according to the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile. Unless and until the Holy Spirit regenerates the reprobate mind, a person will continue to suppress the truth regardless of how well it is articulated or argued for.

That is not at all what Calvinism believes about total depravity. Total depravity doesn’t mean utter depravity, in that human beings are as wicked as they could be and totter on the brink of savagery and descending into a Lord of the Flies existence (even though that is a real possibility). The idea of total depravity is that sin effects the whole person, the entirety of his being. Every aspect of who a person is, is tainted by sin.

That would certainly include man’s reasoning ability. In fact, Ephesians 4:18 states that men’s minds have a darkened understanding. In other words, their reasoning abilities are clouded, or are the opposite of illumination.

So how does that play out in their ability to reason? Presuppositionalists are not saying men have no ability to reason, nor that they can never understand the Gospel message. What they are saying is that the sinner’s so-called reasoning is at its core hostile to the faith, and will more than likely just lead him to make even more excuses why he should continue rejecting Christ. Thus, a sinners reasoning will never save him, and thus he cannot be reasoned to saving faith.

The author seems to conflate the idea of reasoning with the idea of believing or making a commitment that is efficacious for an unbeliever’s salvation. Certainly a sinner can understand the content of the Gospel. I have personally spoken with a number of hostile unbelievers about the proofs of the Resurrection, the claims of Jesus, and argued passionately for the existence of God. Those unbelievers clearly understood what I was saying, a few acknowledging I made a good case. However, they reasoned in themselves that I was an idiot and rejected my compelling presentations none the less.

While I personally am willing to entertain the unbeliever’s demand for “proof” or answers to his or her hard questions about the Bible, some in my presuppositional circles are not. They are of the conviction that doing so is putting God on trial and conceding to the unbeliever’s rebellion against God.

I, on the other hand, recognize what the Bible tells me about an unbeliever: his reasoning is darkened, and unless God regenerates his heart, he will only remain in that darkness. That doesn’t mean, however, that I never speak with him about the Gospel, answer his pointed questions, or present so-called evidence when asked for it. A lot of the time, the presentation of evidence merely shuts the mouth of the scoffer and exposes his intellectual folly.

carlSure. Whatever, Carl

Secondly is the author’s understanding regarding how it is that we know the interpretation of Scripture. In an imaginary conversation he makes up between a classical apologist and a presuppositional apologist, he states the following,

“In other words, you can REASON from the text. The words of Scripture clearly do not interpret themselves. If that were the case we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You and I disagree about what the implications of Scripture are and therefore you have to attempt to demonstrate that your view is true by engaging in reasoning. Didn’t you say that our reasoning capabilities are fallen and that we should never place human reasoning above God’s Divine Revelation?”

Here is where the author touches upon one of the cornerstone, foundational differences between classicists and presuppositionalists. That being, what is it exactly that informs our understanding of Scripture?

Now a person may ask, “How exactly is that foundational?” It has to do with with ultimate authorities that shape our ability to know. Anyone who gets into a discussion about epistemology and Scriptural authority with a classical apologist will eventually reach the place where the classicist will insist that no one can really know what the Bible is saying or interpret it correctly WITHOUT first having a philosophical grid in place through which we filter our reading of Scripture.

For instance, Richard Howe, at Southern Evangelical Seminary, says that he presents a three-fold formula that builds a cumulative case for the Christian faith. He begins with philosophy that defines our “reality,” that moves him to demonstrating general theism, and then eventually the viability of Christianity. The authority of Scripture in defining Christianity is essentially the caboose in his apologetic train. When I have interacted with graduates of SES, my most notable foil being Adam Tucker (folks can find my articles addressing our exchanges HERE), that is the exact same model they all employ.

The same basic approach is utilized when interpreting Scripture. For the classicist, the proper interpretation of Scripture cannot be determined by just reading the Bible. A system of hermeneutics must be established first before anyone can read the Bible properly. So, for the classicist, it is naive, and a bit dishonest, for the presuppositionalist to say he starts his apologetics with Scripture. The presuppositionalist has smuggled in an outside authority, that being his system of hermeneutics, which is the true ultimate starting point, not the Bible. That system is ultimately determined by philosophy that interprets reality. Again, see this article I wrote responding to this very argument made by Richard Howe against presuppositionalism.

The presuppositionalist, however, understands that God desires to communicate with mankind and has thus created man with the ability to communicate not only with Himself, but also other men. In other words, the hermeneutics needed to read and understand Scripture is hardwired in men.

Think about it: people don’t need to learn a separate, philosophical grid first before they can read cook books, or instructions for changing engine oil, or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As long as they have the basics of reading, a person can instantaneously determine if what it is he is reading is history, or poetry, or a story, or even a recipe to make a pie. The same is with Bible. A Christian doesn’t need to have memorized Aristotle’s philosophy for reality to understand Scripture, especially the Gospel. It is how God made man to communicate.

Presuppositionalists need to recognize the importance of clarifying these two truths. If they are concise in explaining what is meant by the totality of human depravity and its impact upon man’s basic reasoning, along with how it is we know about God and what it means when we say Scripture is our starting point, they will be making great strides in helping Christians understand how to defend the faith in a biblical fashion.

Thomistic Irony

learningtoflyI wanted to offer some comments on this post,

Aquinas or Van Til? Testimony of a campus minister

It was written in response to a talk that Scott Oliphint gave at the ReformedCon 2016 conference called Reformed or Romanist? Dr. Oliphint reviewed and critiqued a book entitled Evangelical Exodus, a collection of testimonies by former students and faculty from Southern Evangelical Seminary who had apostasized to the Roman Catholic Church. As Dr. Oliphint points out in his lecture, according to their testimony, those individuals went to Roman due in part to their exposure to Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy.

Thomism is the backbone philosophy behind Roman Catholicism and classic apologetics, and because it is the philosophical methodology taught at SES, Dr. Oliphint’s talk obviously ruffled some feathers. The author of this article took umbrage with Dr. Oliphint’s lecture, and so he in turn attempts to alleviate his criticisms by explaining why classical Thomism is more robust an apologetic methodology than presuppositionalism. However, in doing so, he offers up some head scratching irony, at least in my opinion.

He begins by telling us how he held to presuppositionalism for nearly 15 years after having read Van Til who he says gave him the certainty he longed for; but then he moved to classical apologetics.

Those remarks makes me wonder about his overall theology. Presuppositionalism is derived from a Calvinistic soteriology. In other words, when the presuppositionalist engages the lost person with the Gospel, the revelation of Scripture informs him of specific anthropological descriptions of the person with whom he is speaking. The Bible tells us that all men are separated from God and blinded in their sins. Hence, what is needed in the conversation is a proclamation of the Gospel message that will bring that person to a saving knowledge of Christ.  For the presuppositionalist, answering apologetic objections is a secondary matter in the overall encounter with a lost person.

I can only assume he still maintains a biblical understanding of man’s sin nature and the noetic effects of the fall, but I find that hard to believe given that he writes, “The classical method, however, is rooted in realism and the reliability of sense-perception, and is therefore the better path.” and “Rather, because sense-perception is reliable, I can have common ground with unbelievers, and show them the evidence for Christianity in a robust, yet simple way.”

Like all classicists, he naively places a lot of faith in the “sense-perception” of unbelievers. If he held to presuppositionalism for 15 years, I would think he understood what Van Til taught about unbelievers and the so-called reliability of their “sense-perception.” While it is true that they may perceive things with their senses, that doesn’t mean their perception is reliable. God intends for mankind to perceive reality according to the manner in which He created it. Scripture declares, however, that unbelievers suppress that truth in unrighteousness. Put another way, they intentionally deny or explain away the reliability of their perception, because they hate God and want nothing to do with Him.

I was also curious about his comparison of Van Til’s apologetics to that of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. He writes,

…presuppositionalism was my meat and potatoes for nearly a decade and a half, ever since reading Cornelius Van Til. Van Til gave me the certainty I longed for. That is, Hume’s radical skepticism was solved by the Kantian notion of transcendentals, but with a different spin: it is the Triune God and Holy Scripture which are the necessary preconditions of knowledge.

He then goes on to conclude why Thomism is a better apologetic method by stating,

I can demonstrate important truths, like the existence of God i.e. Aquinas’ 5 Ways, and the historical reliability of Scripture without resorting to lengthy discussions about Hume’s problem of induction, Kantian transcendentalism and resultant idealism, and the supposed epistemological certainty that presuppositionalism attempts to offer (a form of realism, it seems, based upon presupposing the ontological Trinity and the Bible as the Word of God). 

Now it is important to distinguish what Kant meant by the word “transcendentals,” because it is not the same thing Van Til meant.

I would encourage folks to pick up John Frame’s massive work, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, so as to get firm overview of the development of general philosophy and all the accompanying terms, as well as how philosophy interacts with biblical theology. Frame has an extended discussion on Kant’s philosophical worldview that is insightful.

Without getting bogged down in a lot of the philosophical gobbledygook, Kant’s predecessors, like David Hume, believed philosophy was essentially an exploration of discovery: a person started at one philosophical landmark and followed a trail to the next.  The starting point was self-evident axioms (rationalism) or sense experience (empiricism). The method was to follow the axioms or the sense data wherever they seemed to lead the person, [See Frame, 254].

Considering what I have learned from the classic apologists I have interacted with for a while now, that is exactly how they describe their apologetic methodology. They affirm what they call “first principles” or “self-evident” truths regarding reality, and then using Aristotelian philosophy and the five proofs of Thomism, build a cumulative case for the existence of God and the reliability of the Christian faith.

Coming back to Immanuel Kant, he believed that our most basic knowledge comes about not by the world’s impressing it on the mind (following the “self-evident” landmarks and building a case), but by the mind’s imposing various concepts on the raw data given to it by the world, [see Frame, 256]. Put simply, for Kant, in order to understand the nature of reality, a person must examine the reasoning process that governs the nature of experience. Philosophical knowledge begins with men who already know because they are men with minds, and how it is they interpret the world with that knowledge.

Van Til, on the other hand, speaks of transcendentals and the need to confront the reasoning process that men employ when interpreting the world, but he is building his apologetic approach from the revelation of Scripture.

The Bible provides us with specific descriptions of fallen man’s nature and reasoning abilities, which, according to the Bible, is hostile to God, Romans 8:7. They want nothing to do with their creator. So what may be considered “self-evident” truths for the classical apologist is not at all “self-evident” for a hostile person in spiritual rebellion against his creator. His reasoning will bring an entirely different set of interpretations to those so-called “self-evident” truths and he will draw entirely different conclusions about them.

Van Til recognized the spiritual dimension to man’s fallen reasoning and his interaction within the world where God, his Creator, has placed him. Because man, according to Scripture, hates God, he will not reason about that world in the way God expects him to do. Van Til zeroes in upon that inconsistent disconnect between the way the fallen man wrongly reasons about the world in which he lives and challenges him with the Gospel. Man’s reasoning problem is his spiritual separation from his Creator. When Christ saves a person, that individual is now clothed, as it were, and in his right mind, Mark 5:15.

Having stated all of that, those points were not the most glaring examples of irony. Keep in mind that this post was written as a brief rebuttal to a talk Scott Oliphint gave in which he suggested that Thomistic philosophy was turning a number of SES graduates into Roman Catholics.

In his effort to respond to Oliphint, the author highlights a book he says is recommended by SES faculty entitled The Last Superstition: A Refutation of New Atheism, by a guy named Edward Feser. The book allegedly demonstrates the intellectual ability Thomism has in trouncing the foggy thinking of new atheism, because Thomism, based upon Aristotle’s four causes, explains reality much better than what Kantian transcendentalism can.

The irony: Feser is a Roman Catholic!

I hope we can appreciate the humor here, because it is as obvious as the pope’s funny hat.

funnyhatIn fact, if you go to Feser’s Wiki page, it tells how he was an atheist for about a decade before his reading of Aristotle — and get this, THOMAS AQUINAS — led him back to the Catholic Church.  A book written by a Roman Catholic, explaining how he read Thomas Aquinas’s apologetic philosophy that led him back to the arms of Rome, is recommend by the faculty of SES for the students to read. Hello?

In a podcast put out by the folks at SES, it was suggested that it may be a good thing to shore up their teaching on the Reformers by exposing the students to them in class. That, I would agree, would be a fabulous idea. The problem, however, is that I can never see that happening as long as Norman Geisler is alive; I don’t believe he would allow it if he has any say in the matter.

However, if that does happen, may I suggest that the administrators at SES secure some solid lecturers on the subject and require all the student body to hear from them, rather than assigning an associate professor to teach a few elective classes on a general overview of the Reformation. There are a number of excellent teachers the students would benefit from immensely, like Stephen Nichols at Ligonier Ministries, or Sinclair Ferguson, or Carl Trueman, or even, *gasp,* James White, who I know would be absolutely elated to come and teach. Pulling together classes like that would go a long way in inoculating the kids from the bitter waters of the Tiber.

Sinners and Their Knowledge of God – A Rejoinder

adamandevePrepare yourselves. This is a long, withering, geeky post. Pack a sammich.

I recently participated in a podcast discussion on the topic of apologetic methodology with Adam Tucker, the director of evangelism and missions at Southern Evangelical Seminary. The discussion was meant to highlight the key differences between classic Thomistic apologetics and presuppositionalism.

During our two hour conversation, we had a spirited exchange on the subject of man’s knowledge of God. Referencing the 24 theses of Catholic philosophy, Adam affirms the Thomist perspective that argues man’s knowledge of God is mediate, meaning mankind must learn about God through our sense perception. Thus, the goal of a Christian apologist is to build an accumulative case for the existence of God with the use of various perceptible lines of evidence that start with effect and leads back toward an ultimate cause, that of course being God.

I, however, believe man’s knowledge of God is immediate, meaning that because mankind is God’s special creation, the knowledge of God as sovereign creator is imprinted upon the hearts of all men, as it were. Human beings bear God’s image, and because we are the image bearers of God, we do not need to have God proven to us; we know intuitively that He exists. If that was not the case, men could not be held accountable for their rebellion against Him.The goal of the Christian apologist in this instance is to confront man’s active rebellion against God that they know is real, with the totality of the Christian worldview and the Gospel, and call them to repentance.

Now, I attempted to point out during our discussion that my position is derived from holy Scripture, most specifically Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18ff, particularly verse 19 which states, that which is known about God is evident within them. Meaning, that man’s knowledge of God is written on his conscience or upon his heart.

I posted a follow up blog article that marked out the differences between the mediate and immediate views of man’s knowledge of God and that explained why Paul in Romans affirms an immediate view of God’s knowledge — What Romans 1 tells us about man’s knowledge of God.

Adam has since responded with a rebuttal to my article posted over at the SES blog, Romans 1 and Man’s Knowledge of God: A Response to Fred Butler (that’d be me!)

He is insistent that my take on Romans 1 was eisegetical. In other words, I’m reading my conclusions about the immediate knowledge of God into the text of Romans. Really? In the spirit of online debate, I wanted to offer a rejoinder and prove to everyone why Adam is dead wrong.

But before I get to the heart of the article, let me set the stage with his opening remarks, he writes,

First, it is interesting that the post begins with a poisoning the well/begging the question fallacy as Fred classifies his brand of presuppositional apologetics (as opposed to my classical apologetics) as “what [he] like[s] to call biblical apologetics.” … Merely labeling one’s position as the “biblical” position from the outset is not an argument, and as our two hour dialog demonstrated, we both consider our differing views as the “biblical” view (in the sense that it is in line with what Scripture reveals about man’s knowledge of God).

Rather than subliminally manipulating my readers to think Adam’s classic apologetics are unbiblical, my primary reason I call my form of presuppositionalism, “biblical apologetics,” has to do with the foundation upon which we build our methodologies. It really has nothing to do with well poisoning.

dilbertAdam, by his own admission during our conversation, stated that he begins with philosophy in order to build his accumulative case for the Christian faith. When he provided his definition of classic apologetics in his opening remarks, he even cited Richard Howe’s methodological formula that begins with philosophy defining “reality,” moves to proving general theism, and then the viability of Christianity.

His basic position is what I have always encountered with every classic apologist I have interacted with. Rather than having the Bible and biblical Christianity as the engine driving apologetics, philosophy (of the Thomist/Aristotelian stripe) is the foundational starting point; the key presupposition, as it were. From there, a case for general, vanilla-style theism is made, and Christianity and Scripture is the caboose, coming along at the end.

When distinguishing my position as “biblical apologetics,” I am merely pointing to the approach I take when engaging in apologetics. I am not fixated upon what Aristotle has written. Nor do I care what his confused surrogates in Christendom past who assign greater importance to his work than is warranted have stated concerning the role philosophy should take with shaping our theology.

I begin with a comprehensive Christian theology derived from the exegesis of Scripture alone and move out from there. Any “philosophy” that may be intertwined in the discussion flows from the exegesis of biblical texts. Thus, the Bible and Christianity is the engine driving apologetics and any necessary philosophy is the caboose in my scheme.

boethius2Boethius has spun his wheel of fortune and he wants you to know
he thinks
Thomas Aquinas was a hack

Let me move along to Adam’s main presentation of his complaint against the thesis of my article.

Recall that I argued from Romans 1:19 that Paul tells us that what knowledge men have of God is evident within them. The language here, particularly the word within translated from en autois, means that knowledge is manifested or innate to all humanity, and is not acquired over time or discovered by reading effects back to causes as Adam insists. In fact, the reason why men can even utilize the concept of reading effects back to causes has to do because of that basic knowledge they have of their creator. God has created man so he can rationalize and understand His creation and be drawn to worship.

Sin, however, has marred that image of God so that men intentionally reject, and in nearly all cases, fight against the truth of what  that knowledge communicates to them regarding their creator God.

Additionally (and I didn’t draw this out in my article), the next clause of verse 19 tells us God’s revelation is clear and known. The gar, translated as for, connects the explanatory phrase, for God made it evident to them with the previous, that which is evident about God is known within them. God is the subject of the word “evident,” translated from ephanerothe. Thus, He is the one doing the revealing of Himself to them, meaning all humanity.

And then thirdly, I pointed out that as Paul develops his case about the culpability of sinners before God, he states in Romans 2:14-15 that gentiles do instinctively, or by nature, the requirements of God’s moral law. How exactly do they have knowledge about what it is God requires? Because, as Paul goes on in verse 15, that knowledge of the law is “written on their hearts.” In other words, all humanity have an immediate knowledge of God.

So with that overview in mind, I’ll work through the remainder of Adam’s article and respond to specific points he raises.

He writes,

I would argue this is a classic example of eisegesis, or reading a view into a text rather than extracting the meaning from the text.There is no reason to conclude from the English phrase “within them” that Paul is talking about innate (or preprogrammed if you will) knowledge of God.

To suggest that what I presented is eisegetical is laughable. If that is the case, that means John Calvin, indeed, pretty much all of the magisterial and Puritan Reformers, John Gill, Charles Hodge, James Boice, S. Lewis Johnson, Leon Morris, commentators William Sanday and Arthur Headlam, John Murray, and James White, just to name a few, are all employing eisegesis.

Moreover, given the review of the exegesis I just laid out, I find it difficult to understand how he could make such a claim. Honestly, as I work through his points in the remainder of his article, I have to confess that I was a bit disappointed he didn’t really interact at all with any of the key arguments I raised in regards to what Paul wrote in Romans 1:19 and 2:14,15.

As much as Fred chides those holding my view (built as it is from the thinking of Thomas Aquinas and thus from Aristotle) for adopting “pagan Greek philosophy,” Fred is espousing a view of innate knowledge that would be right at home in the writings of Plato and Enlightenment philosophy.

Good for Plato for acting upon his God-given cognizant abilities that come along with being made in the image of God. That knowledge helps him recognize the obvious. That doesn’t mean, however, that his views of Forms and Ideas supply a filter through which I read the Bible. Anymore than me believing in the Resurrection of Jesus means I’m right at home with Mithra cults.

Though the words for “evident” in this verse are related, they have slightly different meanings. The first means something’s ability to be clearly known, while the second is more active in the sense of something being made clearly known.

Two thoughts. First, the word phaneros, translated as “evident,” is the same in both instances. The difference being that the first occurrence, “that which is known about God is evident…” is nominative, whereas the second, “God made it evident to them” is aorist.

Then secondly, I am at a loss why he believes that difference helps his position. All that Paul is saying is that the reason all of mankind has knowledge of God evident within them is because God purposefully made in evident to them. If anything, the grammar here only continues to solidify the idea of an immediate knowledge of God.

But he continues,

Human knowing is a metaphysical, and thus immaterial, event that occurs “within” man as it were. How could man have knowledge “without,” that is, how could man’s knowing happen outside of the man? That would be incoherent. The question is, how is that something, God’s existence in this case, made clearly known? The context gives us a clear answer.  The very next verse tells us, “For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made” (Rom. 1:20). Paul essentially says that we can argue from effect to cause (via sensible reality) and reason to God’s “invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature.” There is no reference here to innate knowledge of God.

This is another mystifying comment. If we read carefully verse 20, Paul writes that those invisible attributes and eternal power are “clearly seen” and “understood.” Both seeing and understanding take place inside the person, not outside. The point Paul is making is that God is clearly on display for every person in the world, including in the outward created world, as well as directly within the creation, that being, within them. Men see God on display and understand that what they are seeing is their creator. In other words, they know there is a God.

That is why men are “without excuse,” as Paul goes on to write. They are all held accountable for what they know. There is never any point when men are without the knowledge of God. If they had no knowledge of God, they could potentially have an excuse as to why they didn’t submit to Him. Yet the Bible never offers that as a possibility.

Concluding my thoughts, let me interact with this paragraph, especially the last comment and pose three questions,

Fred jumps to Paul’s reference to natural law in Rom. 2:14-15 in a failed attempt to further his case for innate knowledge. Those verses are about man’s knowledge of natural law (or the basic moral law known via sensible reality) and have nothing to do with man’s knowledge of God’s existence being “immediate” or innate. In fact, this passage is precisely where classical apologists go to show that the natural moral law is known by all normally functioning men because it is based on what we are by nature, that is, human beings (Fred seems to agree with this much). Yet, this is another example of effect-to-cause reasoning regarding God’s existence. We can reason from the fact that this natural moral law exists based on human nature to the fact that God is the author of human nature and the creator and sustainer of all men. This passage is clearly about man’s knowledge of morality, not man’s knowledge of God.

Given what Paul writes in Romans 2:14,15, his comments here are amazing. The last sentence is especially perplexing, “This passage is clearly about man’s knowledge of morality, not man’s knowledge of God.” But the text specifically states that when the gentiles do instinctively, a word that means naturally, the things written in the law, you know, act morally, they show the law written in their hearts.

That raises three questions I have for Adam, What law is this? What does it mean that it is written on their hearts? and Who wrote it there? I would hope that his response is 1) God’s law, 2) it is innate, meaning it wasn’t acquired, because 3) God wrote it there. If that is the case, how can one conclude that Romans 2 is about man’s knowledge of morality apart from his knowledge of God? Seeing that God is the one who established absolute morality, it is impossible to be moral without an innate knowledge of God.

One final comment before wrapping this up. I get the impression, and I could be wrong, that maybe Adam is thinking I am conflating general revelation with special revelation. What Paul presents in Romans 1 and 2 is general revelation, revelation about God that is seen in nature and understood in men’s heart and expressed in the way people live in our world. That revelation only makes mankind culpable before God because he is without excuse to act upon what he knows to be true about God. To truly know God in a salvific way, there must be a special revelation that comes only from God’s Spirit working through the Scripture. We have to keep those categories distinct in our discussion.

Now, is this exchange an important one or is it just the equivalent of a group of geeks arguing whether the Enterprise is faster than the Millennium Falcon? I certainly would think both of us believe it is important. I know for myself, I recognize my apologetic methodology has direct bearing on what I know about the lost, what they are thinking, and how I expect them to react to our discussion. My objective is to have an apologetic methodology that is biblical and the most effective. That is why I want it to be driven by the Word of God, and not filtered through the pagan philosophy of Aristotelian scholastics.

What Roman 1 tells us about man’s knowledge of God

judgementI recently had a nearly 2 hour discussion on the subject of apologetic methodology with Adam Tucker, the director of missions and evangelism at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Our conversation highlighted the key differences between classical apologetics of the Thomistic stripe and presuppositionalism, or what I like to call biblical apologetics. The discussion can be downloaded HERE.

Probably one of the more significantly important distinctions between our positions has to do with what we believe about the knowledge man has of God. Adam insists man’s knowledge of God is mediate, whereas I believe it is immediate.

An article I noted during the discussion explains the difference.

The 24 Fundamental Theses of Official Catholic Philosophy

Under theses 22, the first sentence reads,

That God exists we do not know by immediate intuition, nor do we demonstrate it a priori, but certainly a posteriori, that is, by things which are made, arguing from effect to cause.

The commentary for this point states in part,

Since the proper object of our intellect is the essences of material things, it is clear we have no immediate intuition of God’s spiritual essence, and, consequently, neither of His existence. Since the notion we have of His essence is an abstract notion, the existence implied in that notion belongs to the essential order and in no way to the actual. Still, we can demonstrate His existence with a rigorous demonstration, which goes from the effects to their ultimate cause.

The commentator seems to suggest that human intellect can only gain knowledge about material things, or things that are experienced with our senses. That would then exclude spiritual things because they are not perceived by our senses, or so I guess. Thus the classic apologist believes unbelievers are born as blank slates as it pertains to God. They learn and acquire knowledge about reality through sense experience overtime.

In order to prove God to the unbeliever, an apologist must build an accumulative case for God beginning with what he knows about reality, and moving from the experienced effects of that reality back to the ultimate cause, the God of the Bible Who is the only logical ultimate cause.

I, on the other hand, believe the exact opposite. I believe man’s knowledge of God is immediate and by intuition. I believe that because that is exactly what the Scriptures teach. In other words, all men are born as the image bearers of God, because they are His creatures. The apologist does not have to prove God’s existence to an unbeliever. He already knows God exists. It is a matter of the unbeliever turning from his sin and submitting to his creator as Lord and Savior as the Gospel truth is brought to bear upon the person.

One of our points of contention during our discussion had to do with Romans 1:18 ff. and whether or not Paul is teaching that man’s knowledge of God is mediate or immediate.

I am not entirely sure how Adam would exegete the passage, but from what I gather from our conversation, if I am understanding him correctly, he seems to take the position that when Paul writes that God’s attributes and eternal power is understood through what has been made, he is saying unbelievers take in knowledge about God with their sense experience. It goes back to what that theses point stated above: we learn about God from things which are made arguing from effect to cause.

I don’t think that is at all what Paul has in mind. In fact, I believe he is quite clear that men understand God’s attributes and divine power because when they see the world and how it operates, they know intuitively God is their creator. The problem is they refuse to have anything to do with him and thus rebel against what it is they clearly understand. That is the whole idea of them actively suppressing the truth in unrighteousness as it says in Romans 1:18.

Let me show you what I mean.

Romans 1:19 states, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Notice the word “within.” What is known about God is evident within them. That is knowledge internally known, not experienced and learned over time. Notice it further states the reason they know about God is the fact God has made it evident to them. He actively created man with that knowledge.

Now, some translations have a footnote by the word “within” that claims “within” can also be rendered “among” or “in the midst of.” That would lean the interpretation of the phrase to suggesting that the knowledge of God is knowable or obtainable from external sense perception if the unbeliever just considers the evidence rationally as the classical apologist insists. However, there is no exegetical warrant in the overall context of Romans that affirms that understanding of the text. In fact, the context stands against it.

For example, consider Romans 2:14-15 as Paul continues arguing his case for the purpose of the Gospel,

14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them

Notice the word instinctively, which can also be translated naturally. It is by nature that unbelieving gentiles live according to God’s moral law. Additionally, Paul says they show or demonstrate the work of the Law written where? In their hearts. In other words, their knowledge of God’s moral law is already stamped upon their hearts. They act upon it instinctively and intuitively contrary to what that Roman Catholic theses statement claims. All humanity have both material sense perception as well as spiritual perception. That is why all men without exception are religiously devoted to something, whatever it may be.

If men have to learn about God by their sense observation and remain uncertain of His existence UNTIL AFTER He is proven to them through a presentation that is built upon an accumulative case for His existence arguing from effect back to cause, then what exactly does Paul mean when he talks about instinct and knowing God within? At what point did unbelieving men have the law of God stamped upon their hearts and consciences? After they had enough “proof” so that now they could reject it? And would this mean there could potentially be people out in the world who will have an excuse as to why they can’t be held accountable because they never heard those arguments? They just didn’t know enough?

On the contrary, Paul clearly implies that men are born with that law upon their hearts. It isn’t stamped on there when the person realizes God exists so that now he can actively suppress God’s truth. He is held accountable to the truth he knows about God in his heart that he clearly sees in reality, what would be God’s creation.

Now certainly I would agree that the special revelation of Scripture provides us with the clearest understanding of who God is and provides the fullest knowledge of God than what men know from living as God’s creatures in His created world. Men learn about God through revelation as the Holy Spirit provides illumination. But that does not mean they do not know our God in their fallen, unbelieving state. Their intuitive knowledge of God, their understanding as image bearers of God living in His world, are those first principles that we use to call men to repentance and submission to the Gospel.

Podcast Discussion on Apologetic Methodology

I had an enjoyable discussion this afternoon with Adam Tucker and Devin Pellew on the subject of apologetic methodology. We discussed a number of topics related to the distinctions between Classic Apologetics and Presuppositionalism.

There were some good exchanges that took place, many of them worthy of independent comment in a blog article or two, which will be forthcoming.

It’s a little theologically geeky, but worth the time listening. Maybe play it at 1.5X speed so we sound really, really smart.

A Dialog on Apologetic Methodologies

Debunking Ancient Aliens

aliensI remember as a kid watching an episode of “In Search Of…” that told about how aliens had visited earth thousands of years ago and helped humans build the pyramids and other ancient monuments. I sat transfixed as Leonard Nimoy’s sober narration convinced this 8 year old that aliens used tractor beams and levitation in order to stack giant rocks.

So recently I am driving to work early one morning and I am listening to the replay of Coast to Coast AM, which is like the equivalent of Charisma News or Sid Roth for atheists, New Agers, and UFO enthusiasts. The guy that was being interviewed had put together a documentary that basically debunked the whole ancient aliens idea, with particular focus on the History Channel series. The weekend host was asking him questions that had a tone of sarcastic disbelief, like, “You’re telling me men can move giant, 800 ton stones? Really?” The interviewee patiently explained how ancient societies accomplished such engineering feats and how ancient alien believers tend to exaggerate or outright fabricate the evidence. In other words, they lie.

The guy being interviewed sounded familiar and when the show went to a commercial break, the host says, “we’ll be back with our guest, Chris White, right after this,” I thought, “Yes, I know where I heard him before.” He was once a guest on Echo Zoe radio during which he talked about identifying the Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18.

Knowing the guy was a Christian, I immediately knew I wanted to check out his documentary. It’s available for free on YouTube through White’s main website,

Ancient Aliens Debunked

The video is three hours long, so make sure to pack a lunch; or you can break it up into chapters or sections and return to it when it is convenient.

Now some folks may be wondering why I would recommend a 3 hour YouTube documentary on debunking the claims about ancient aliens. That’s a fantastic question.

Well, if you are like me, I would imagine you have encountered various individuals from internet subcultures that assert with much passion the truth of ancient aliens building the pyramids. Sure, those folks are few, but they are there and they can have an influence on the unlearned.  Additionally, they tend to be really hostile toward God and Christianity specifically, claiming that the aliens that visited the earth were the deities worshiped by the civilizations.

So while it may seem silly to many, I guarantee my readers that they either have come across such people or will eventually. Here you have a fabulous online apologetic resources to answer such absurdities.

Also, the audio of White’s Coast to Coast AM episode is currently available at YouTube,

Chris White Coast to Coast AM interview

That discussion is only an hour and a half or so rather than 3 hours, but you’ll miss seeing all the great visuals. Make sure to fast-forward to around the 40 minute mark where the interview begins.

The only criticism I had with his interview is that he avoided talking about being a Christian. If I hadn’t known of him beforehand, I would have concluded he was just another one of those typical skeptic debunker types. I personally think he missed an opportunity with not making it clear to the audience from where he was coming from as a Bible-believing Christian. He also made the assertion that he thinks aliens can fit into his current worldview and I totally disagree with that, and believe it messes up biblical theology.

Those peripherals aside, I highly encourage folks to check out the documentary when you can. My kids and I watched the first section dealing with ancient monuments and they loved it. It will certainly help to shore up their thinking if and when they encounter friends who believe in ancient alien civilizations.

12 Atheist Statements

From the Hip&Thigh Archives

possumpicSo. In order to prevent folks from thinking Christian doctrine is only believed by hicks and I cannot offer good answers to those statements in my last post, see HERE, I will respond to each of them in turn. The original comments will be in Blue Bold.

To believe your bible in any translation(or original manuscripts) is inerrant & god breathed, here is what you must believe.

#1.A snake can talk remember the snake was cursed to crawl on it’s belly & eat dust.
#2.A donkey can talk.

#9.You have to believe god made the sun stand still when it already stands still or believe god stopped the rotation of the earth which anyone should know would be a disaster in many ways for earth.

#10.You have to believe Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt which is unbelievable.

I took those statements out of sequence because they specifically deal with miraculous interventions and extraordinary acts of providence by God.

Biblio-skeptics tend to ignore the fact that the Bible presupposes the existence of God who has directly intervened in human history past. Because the writers of the Bible treat their writing as a historical record of God’s divine dealings with humanity, particularly God’s redeemed people, I would only expect to read about extraordinary acts of God.

In fact, if the Bible claimed to be a book recording the revelation of the divine, Sovereign Creator, yet contained no record of miraculous works by that Creator in order to establish His divinity, then wouldn’t it raise suspicion in the minds of its critics? Yet, my antagonist would just as easily hammer that point as a means of mockery.

The Bible claims to be a supernatural book with its source being from the mind of our Creator. I expect it to tell of supernatural events. Why is that hard to believe unless you are unwilling to submit to the Creator who produced those supernatural events?

Looking at each point in turn.

#1 – First off, the Bible says it was a serpent. The text is unclear as to what sort of animal that was. The idea of a snake is from the modern day and my antagonist is reading the concept of a modern day python back onto the text. Second, the serpent was satanically controlled. Third, it was cursed AFTER it talked, not before. And fourth, this was an unique, one time event never to be repeated.

#2 – Similar points apply with Balaam’s donkey as with the snake. The Angel of the LORD (who I believe to be Jesus appearing preincarnate) was present when the donkey talked, even giving it the ability to rebuke Balaam.

#9 – Again, similar points apply as with #1 and #2. This was a one time event of extraordinary providence. If our Creator can create His world, He certainly can protect it from disaster when He reveals Himself in a miraculous, cosmological display, so as to deliver His people and bring a crushing blow against their enemies.

#10 – Again, similar points apply here as with the previous three. There were supernatural events that took place in the historical past which show forth God’s character as revealed in judgment, wrath, and even mercy.

Additionally, the description being recorded here may be a metaphorical description explaining how Lot’s wife was merely destroyed in the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah because she tarried behind Lot. The text is not clear how far behind she may had been. Because she refused to take seriously the warnings of judgment delivered by the angels, she was overcome in the cities’ destruction.

#3.That man was so stupid back then that he actually thought he could build a tower to heaven.

Nothing in the text suggests they were building a physical tower that was intended to go into heaven, as in allowing people to ascend into the atmosphere and beyond. The text says the people acted as one in rebellion to what God had commanded when he told humanity after the flood to spread over the earth.

Instead, they worked together to build a great city with a tower with its top in the heavens. Basically a grand skyscraper probably constructed for the worship of false gods. There is nothing stupid about this given the fact the similar relics of ancient societies still exist today like the pyramids and ziggurats.

#4.You have to believe against any logical thinking that all those animals,incl,snakes & all different kinds of insects and enough food to feed all of them(different kinds of food)for almost one year would fit on an ark that size,which is impossible.
#5.You have to believe there was food for them to eat when they came off the ark even though the whole earth was supposedly covered in water.

noahsarkThe subject of the ark’s dynamics and physical feasibility to accomplish what it did according to the biblical record of Genesis 6-8 is vast. There have been countless studies done and papers/books written demonstrating that the ark could carry all the animal kinds (not the entire species we see today), as well as enough food to feed them for a year. The statement is made from a position of scholarly ignorance by a person who is a Christian bigot.

Answers in Genesis also lists a plethora of articles detailing the physical reality of Noah’s global flood and the feasibility of the ark. Of course, the skeptic automatically dismisses anything AiG says, because they claim they are biased, stupid, or whatever. That’s how an atheist shores up his ignorance, by automatically poisoning anything his critics and opponents write. So much for free thinking and doing your homework and all.

#6.You have to believe in a flat earth because these supposedly inspired by god people said so back then.

Nothing in the biblical record suggest the earth is flat. No one claimed as much or believed it. That is anti-biblical urban myth.

#7.You have to believe the earth is 6 to 10,000 years old despite overwhelming proof it is much,much older,even if not 4.5 billion years old.

And what exactly is that overwhelming proof? The variety of radioactive dating methods are wildly inconsistent with each other when tested on just one sample. Moreover, dating methods are subject to speculative interpretations, interpretations that are driven by particular presuppositions.

Again, AiG has a list of technical articles dealing with the issue, but remember, most skeptics refuse to interact with the data and information, but instead choose to attack ad hominem straw men versions of their critics whom they do not respect.

#8.You have to believe all those heavenly bodies out there that they are still finding were created in one literal day(morning & evening)that is despite the fact that even now they are finding suns,stars just now begining [sic] to form.

Usually the person who makes statements invoking the authority of modern day evolutionary cosmology are generally ignorant of the problems inherent to modern day evolutionary cosmology. He is also blissfully unaware of the in-fighting that exists between various proponents of various theories and models that are dreamed up to help explain away those problems.

For example, note the contradiction in his original statement. In #7 he speaks about the earth being 4.5 billion years old. The so-called billions of light years (a “light year” being a measure of distance, not time, by the way) are considered one of the reasons we believe in an old universe. However, in #8, it is suggested one solar day is way too short a time for suns and stars to form, especially now that we are finding stars just now beginning to form. OK, how exactly would we see their light if they are just now beginning to form?

Discover magazine did an article on the youthful galaxies located by the Galex telescope that are 2 to 4 billion light years from earth, but began forming just 1 billion light years ago according to the telescope observations. In the March 2006 issue, a thoughtful reader wrote a letter to the editor expressing curiosity as to how we could even see their light? He writes,

“If the youthful galaxies located by the Galex telescope are 2 billion to 4 billion light-years from Earth but started forming less than 1 billion years ago, how can they be observed at all?”

In other words, it should have taken the light from those 1-billion-year-old galaxies 2 to 4 billion years to reach us. The editors at Discover responded thus:

Your question cuts right to one of the trickiest problems in cosmology: how to refer to the timing of events when there are many different ways to describe them. The conventional solution is to describe everything from the way we perceive it. In this case, that means that when we say that the galaxies started forming less than a billion years ago, we mean that the galaxies AS WE SEE THEM TODAY appear to have started forming less than a billion years ago. Put another way, when their light started heading toward Earth 2 billion to 4 billion years ago, these objects were less than a billion years old. That convention may seem confusing, but the alternatives are even more puzzling. For instance, it would be more comprehensive to say that these galaxies, located 2 billion to 4 billion light-years from Earth, appear to have begun forming less than 3 billion to 5 billion years ago, and then their light spent 2 billion to 4 billion years traveling toward us. More comprehensive, yes, but even harder to follow!

In other words, its a mystery that doesn’t fit into the prescribe view of evolutionary cosmologists.

#11.You have to believe Lot had intercourse with 2 of his daughters on 2 different nights and knew it not.

That comment is strange. The text clearly states he was drunk out of his mind and unaware of what happened. Why is that hard to believe? Such things happen in Las Vegas all the time between total strangers.

#12.You have to believe Jesus was concieved [sic] without human intercourse this despite the fact that at least 20 other dying & resurrecting savior sun gods had this claimed of them long,long before the supposed time of Jesus,you claim them a myth but the same tale about Jesus true.

That comment is a woefully ignorant exaggeration of historical fact. In all of my private email interchanges with my antagonist, he always returned to cut-and-pasted articles from non-scholarly, atheistic websites that try desperately to tie Jesus to some ancient myth.

Mithra is the favorite these days. J.P. Holding of Tektonics has done some extensive research debunking these claims, even interacting with the world’s literary experts on these various myths who also deny the connection between the alleged myth and the historical Jesus.

However, just like he rejects AiG out of hand, my antagonist also rejects J.P. Holding because, a) “J.P.” still goes by the alias he gave himself for security reasons when he worked with hardcore criminals in the state penitentiary where he was employed, and b) he was too mean and direct with my emailer when he was hassling him. Once again, such self-imposed blindness only reveals a heart angry at the God of scripture and who truly doesn’t care for the truth.

So there you have it. I responded to each one of his charges and none of them disprove the inerrancy of the Bible. All we have are baseless charges just like they were asked decades ago, but have once again been proven wrong.

Proofs for the Non-Existence of God

argumentswonBack in October 2005, the first year I began my blogging adventure, I stumbled upon a list of so-called proofs for the existence of God. Oddly, the list had been created by an atheist group, and they had posted it as a means to mock Christianity.

Hundreds of Proofs for the Existence of God

A Christian blog, maintained by a handful of amateur BIOLA trained apologists, linked to the list. While shaking their heads and sighing heavily, they lamented how the “proofs” represented the sorrowful decline in reasonable Christian apologetics. The horrible arguments of those “proofs” demonstrates how church youth groups haven’t been taught apologetics correctly and are the prime reason why high school grads are leaving for college and becoming screeching You Tube atheists. They are also the reason why there is a need for amateur BIOLA trained apologists to lead youth apologetic seminars at your church.

The “proofs” are arranged as various sets of syllogisms with the conclusion always stating, “Therefore, God exists.” For example:

Cosmological Argument
(1) If I say something must have a cause, it has a cause.
(2) I say the universe must have a cause.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

As I was looking over them, two things came to mind. First, they are helpful in noting how poorly Christians can at times argue for their faith. Yet, on the other hand, they reveal how illogical atheists become when arguing for their alleged non-faith.

The atheist website provides a good illustration of what I mean. Linking from the parody “proofs” is an article entitled Why Atheism? that actually attempts to debunk the classic theological arguments. The author lists the tools he uses when critiquing theological arguments: logic and verifiable evidence. Yet he seems to be oblivious to the fact that any evidence must be interpreted and interpretations require faith commitments a person brings to the evidence. He is just switching one faith for another faith.

Always on the look out for blog fodder, when I discovered the list I wanted to attempt a re-write of all of them and post my own list of “300 plus proof for the non-existence of God.”  However, as I glanced over them, the arguments quickly became simplistic as well as repetitive and it even got a little nasty at places.

Instead of the entire list, I posted the first 20 or so and then some of my favorites. I remembered the post recently when I was doing some clean up of my blog and so I thought I would freshen it up a bit and repost if for a newer generation of readers. First, I note the original argument as it appears in the list, and then I followed up with my response-re-write highlighted in blue.

TRANSCENDENTAL ARGUMENT
(1) If reason exists then God exists.
(2) Reason exists.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

TRANSCENDENTAL ARGUMENT
(1) Reason and God cannot exist together.
(2) Reason exists.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
(1) If I say something must have a cause, it has a cause.
(2) I say the universe must have a cause.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
(1) Who says something must have a cause?
(2) I say the universe didn’t have a specific cause.
(3) Therefore, the universe has no cause.
(4) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
(1) I define God to be X.
(2) Since I can conceive of X, X must exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
(1) I define God to be X.
(2) Since I have never experienced X, X must not exist.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) I can conceive of a perfect God.
(2) One of the qualities of perfection is existence.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) I can’t conceive of a perfect God.
(2) One of the qualities of perfection has to be existence.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

MODAL ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
(1) God is either necessary or unnecessary.
(2) God is not unnecessary, therefore God must be necessary.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

MODAL ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
(1) God is neither necessary or unnecessary.
(2) God is not necessary, therefore God must be unnecessary.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
(1) Check out the world/universe/giraffe. Isn’t it complex?
(2) Only God could have made them so complex.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
(1) Check out the world/universe/giraffe. You call that complex?
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


ARGUMENT FROM BEAUTY, aka TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) Isn’t that baby/sunset/flower/tree beautiful?
(2) Only God could have made them so beautiful.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM BEAUTY, aka TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) Isn’t that baby/sunset/flower/tree beautiful?
(2) There doesn’t need to be a God to have made them so beautiful; besides beauty is relative.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM MIRACLES
(1) My aunt had cancer.
(2) The doctors gave her all these horrible treatments.
(3) My aunt prayed to God and now she doesn’t have cancer.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM NON-MIRACLES
(1) My aunt had cancer.
(2) The doctors gave her all these horrible treatments.
(3) My aunt prayed to God and she wasn’t cured from her cancer, despite the horrible treatments.
(4) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


MORAL ARGUMENT (I)
(1) Person X, a well-known Atheist, was morally inferior to the rest of us.
(2) Therefore, God exists.


MORAL ARGUMENT (I)
(1) Person X, a well-known Christian, was morally inferior to the rest of us.
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


MORAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) In my younger days I was a cursing, drinking, smoking, gambling, child-molesting, thieving, murdering, bed-wetting bastard.
(2) That all changed once I became religious.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

MORAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) In my younger days I was a church going, preacher loving, Bible-thumping, tongue-speaking, holy roller.
(2) That all changed when I became an atheist.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM CREATION
(1) If evolution is false, then creationism is true, and therefore God exists.
(2) Evolution can’t be true, since I lack the mental capacity to understand it; moreover, to accept its truth would cause me to be
uncomfortable
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM EVOLUTION
(1) If evolution is true, then creationism is false, and therefore God doesn’t exist.
(2) Evolution must be true, since I hate God and don’t care to represent the creationist viewpoint accurately; moreover, to accept its truth would cause me to be uncomfortable
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


ARGUMENT FROM FEAR
(1) If there is no God then we’re all going to die.
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM FEAR
(1) If there is no God then we’re all going to die.
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM THE BIBLE
(1) [arbitrary passage from OT]
(2) [arbitrary passage from NT]
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM THE BIBLE
(1) [arbitrary passage taken out of context from OT]
(2) [arbitrary passage taken out of context from NT]
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM INTELLIGENCE
(1) Look, there’s really no point in me trying to explain the whole thing to you stupid Atheists — it’s too complicated for you to understand. God exists whether you like it or not.
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM INTELLIGENCE (AKA, The Bill Nye Explanation)
(1) Look, there’s really no point in me trying to explain the whole thing to you stupid Christians — it’s too complicated for you to understand. God doesn’t exists whether you like it or not.
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM UNINTELLIGENCE
(1) Okay, I don’t pretend to be as intelligent as you guys — you’re obviously very well read. But I read the Bible, and nothing you say can convince me that God does not exist. I feel him in my heart, and you can feel him too, if you’ll just ask him into your life. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son into the world, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish from the earth.” John 3:16.
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM UNINTELLIGENCE
(1) Okay, I don’t pretend to be as intelligent as you guys — you’re obviously very well read. But I read the Bible, and nothing you say can convince me that God exist. I’ve never felt him in my heart, and I bet you can’t feel him either, I’ve asked him into my life dozens of times and nothing happened. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son into the world, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish from the earth?” John 3:16. Bah, nonsense!
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM BELIEF
(1) If God exists, then I should believe in Him.
(2) I believe in God.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM NON-BELIEF
(1) If God exists, then I should believe in Him.
(2) I hate God.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM INTIMIDATION
(1) See this bonfire?
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM INTIMIDATION
(1) See this bonfire? (or AK-47 for those in North Korea and China)
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

PARENTAL ARGUMENT
(1) My mommy and daddy told me that God exists.
(2) Therefore, God exists.

PARENTAL ARGUMENT
(1) My mommy and daddy told me that God doesn’t exist.
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


ARGUMENT FROM NUMBERS
(1) Millions and millions of people believe in God.
(2) They can’t all be wrong, can they?
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM NUMBERS
(1) Hundreds and hundreds of people don’t believe in God, and some of them are intellectuals.
(2) They can’t all be wrong, can they?
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


ARGUMENT FROM ABSURDITY
(1) Maranathra!
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM ABSURDITY
(1) Order from Chaos!
(2) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


ARGUMENT FROM INTERNET AUTHORITY
(1) There is a website that successfully argues for the existence of God.
(2) Here is the URL.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM INTERNET AUTHORITY
(1) There is a website that successfully argues against the existence of God.
(2) Here is the URL.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM INCOMPLETE DEVASTATION
(1) A plane crashed killing 143 passengers and crew.
(2) But one child survived with only third-degree burns.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM INCOMPLETE DEVASTATION
(1) A plane crashed killing 143 passengers and crew.
(2) But one child survived with only third-degree burns.
(3) If there was a God, he would have prevented it all.
(4) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.


ARGUMENT FROM PERFECTION
(1) If there are absolute moral standards, then God exists.
(2) Atheists say that there are no absolute moral standards.
(3) But that’s because they don’t want to admit to being sinners.
(4) Therefore, there are absolute moral standards.
(5) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM IMPERFECTION
(1) Atheists say that there are no absolute moral standards, even though they live life as if there are.

(2) If there are no absolute moral standards, even though reality says otherwise, then God can’t exist.
(3) Therefore, atheists who don’t believe in God are absolutely sure there are no absolute moral standards, except that God doesn’t exist.
(4) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

PEACOCK ARGUMENT FROM SELECTIVE MEMORY
(1) [Christian asks “stumper” question.]
(2) [Atheist answers question.]
(3) [A lapse of time]
(4) [Christian repeats question.]
(5) [Atheist repeats answer.]
(6) [A lapse of time]
(7) [Christian repeats question.]
(8) [Atheist repeats answer.]
(9) [A lapse of time]
(10) Atheist, you never answered my question.
(11) Therefore, God exists.

PEACOCK ARGUMENT FROM SELECTIVE MEMORY
(1) [Atheist asks “stumper” question.]
(2) [Christian answers question.]
(3) [A lapse of time]
(4) [Atheist makes grandiloquent “truth” claim about how he perceives reality.]
(5) [Christian points out Atheist’s unproven presupposition for such a claim.]
(6) [A lapse of time]
(7) [Atheist misconstrues a handful of biblical passages.]
(8) [Christian points out Atheist’s error.]
(9) [A lapse of time]
(10) Christian, you never answer my questions.
(11) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM BRUTE FORCE
(1) [Christian tears Darwin Fish off car, breaks it in thirds, sticks it to driver’s side window.]
(2) Therefore, the theory of evolution is wrong.
(3) Therefore, creationism is right.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

(1) [Atheist tears “truth” fish eating “Darwin” fish sticker off car (along with the “support our troops” ribbon) and threatens Christian with profanity.]
(2) Christian grabs his children and runs for his life.
(3) Therefore, Creationism is wrong.
(4) Therefore, evolution is right.
(5) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM APOLOGETICS WEBPAGES
(1) I was surfing the Net and came across this really cool webpage of apologetics.
(2) Their arguments were stunning. I couldn’t refute them.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

(1) I was surfing the Net and came across this really cool webpage of atheistic arguments.
(2) Their arguments were above my head and I couldn’t refute them.
(3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (II)
(1) Answers in Genesis copied the full text of an article from Scientific American.
(2) Scientific American sent one email to Answers in Genesis saying that they don’t necessarily want their articles distributed for free in [sic] the internet by just anyone.
(3) See? Scientific American persecutes Christians!
(4) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (II)
(1) Answers in Genesis copied the full text of an article from Scientific American
(2) Scientific American sent one email to Answers in Genesis saying they don’t necessarily want their articles distributed for free on the internet by just anyone.
(3) Answers in Genesis points out that Scientific American is woefully ignorant of copyright and fair use laws and tells them to go educate themselves.
(4) See? Answers in Genesis are dishonest hypocrites
(5) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

ARGUMENT FROM THIS WONDERFUL HISTORIAN
(1) There’s this wonderful historian!
(2) His academic credentials are NEVER doubted by like-minded Christians!
(3) Now, this historian has proved conclusively, to his own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of like-minded Christians, that the Bible must be totally true.
(4) Therefore, both the Old Testament and the New Testament have been proven true.
(5) I hear the skeptic ask: If this is historically true, why do so many historians doubt the reliability of the Bible?
(6) The answer is, there is a conspiracy among the unfaithful to prevent this proof of Christianity being known.
(7) Naturally, the conspiracy must include powerful people like President Bush, or it could not succeed.
(8) Doubt not, O unbeliever, only have FAITH!
(9) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM THIS WONDERFUL HISTORIAN
(1) There’s this wonderful historian!
(2) His academic credentials are NEVER doubted by atheists everywhere!
(3) Now, this historian has proved conclusively, to his own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of atheists, that the Bible must be totally false.
(4) Therefore, both the Old Testament and the New Testament have been proven false.
(5) I hear Christians ask: If this atheist historian is correct, why do so many other historians believe the reliability of the Bible?
(6) The answer is, there is a bias among the faithful to prevent his research against the Bible from being known.
(7) Naturally, that bias must include powerful people, or it would succeed.
(8) Put away your bias, O believer, stop with your blind FAITH!
(9) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.