Defending the Lion:
Presuppositionalism or a Classical Approach,
Must We Choose?
Pastor of All Saints' Presbyterian Church, Lancaster, PA www.allsaintspresbyterian.com
Charles Spurgeon remarked once that defending
the Bible is like a defending Lion. Scripture is its own defense. Nevertheless,
we must obey Scripture where it teaches us to defend our faith, and part
of that faith is the belief in the inspiration and authority of the Bible.
Part of the purpose of this paper is to discuss and critique the presuppositional
of Scripture. In the process I hope to suggest a biblical method of defending
the Scriptures and perhaps suggest that we may not have to choose between
presuppositional and "classical" or evidential defenses. It is important
to understand the way the Bible defends itself as revelation and the way
we should defend it toward others since it is our standard. Though this
discussion is part of the intramural debate on the nature of apologetics
and should not be a matter which in any way divides believers, we are commanded
to defend our faith and inasmuch as that faith rests upon the Scriptures
we must defend their veracity.
The exact type of Presuppositionalism
I will be referring to is the apologetical method of
Cornelius Van Til
3, 1895-April 17, 1987). It fits within the tradition of Dutch Reformation
Theology and has been influential as an alternative to evidential apologetical
methods. To understand the presuppositional method of defending the Scripture,
one must see its connections with the entire philosophical\theological
apologetic. It would do a great disservice to the accurate presentation
of presuppositionalism to neglect mentioning a few foundations.
DESCRIPTION OF PRESUPPOSITIONALISM
First, the general presuppositional apologetic
is grounded in a Calvinistic view of salvation and, the Calvinistic view
of history. God is the absolute monarch and predestinating king over every
realm of reality. Second, the presuppositionalist believes that there are
three basic consciousnesses of man:
Adamic Consciousness--This does not exist
now, but was the original state of man's reason, will, and emotions that
were in total submission to God and receptive to God.
Unregenerate Consciousness--This was, of
course, due to Adam's willful transgression of the law of God. This state
is characterized by man's rebellion and unwillingness to accept the revelation
of God. Now man represses the revelation and law of God rather than receiving
Van Til makes these implications concerning
this state of man's consciousness: (1) man sets himself to be judge (2)
man denies God's control of the universe (3) man's thoughts and ideas are
not "thinking God's thoughts after Him," but are claiming pure originality
and truth in their interpretation of the external world (4) man views the
external factual world as brute facts without their interpretation
in God and thus, the universe is controlled by chance. The unregenerate
consciousness is viewed as the abnormal state, biblically. All unregenerate
reasoning reflects these implications.
Regenerate Consciousness--This is the renewed
state of believers in which the mind, will, and emotions seek submission
under their Creator. The intellect no longer assumes the ultimate place,
but seeks revelation that it might be brought to total submission (Halsey,
1978, pp. 28- 30).
This view of three different consciousnesses is fundamental to the presuppositional apologetic. There are many references in Van Tillian literature to the autonomy of man and the independent reasoning of man. That is simply a term referring to the unregenerate consciousness and all its implications. The most important implication is that fallen man cannot reason aright or seek the God of Scripture by his unregenerate assumptions (the autonomy of reason).
Man's intellect, will, and emotions were affected by the fall in such a way that no amount of empirical or rational argument or evidence of any nature can effectively lead him to believe in the God of Scripture. Unbelieving man will distort any such argument simply because he is a rebel against God.
Several other considerations may complete
our prerequisite foundation. According to the presuppositionalist, there
are two main presuppositions that Christianity entails: the personal- infinite
God and Scripture as His authoritative revelation. These two foundations
are necessary for what is (metaphysics) and what we know (epistemology).
Van Tillians argue that only the Triune God of Scripture is adequate to
account for what exists. God must be infinite to be ultimate and triune
to be personal. To have knowledge, we must have a Word from God to know
reality. The Bible is thus authoritative since it interprets reality giving
us truth about the world and absolute moral prescriptions.
PRESUPPOSITIONAL DEFENSE OF SCRIPTURE
Though these introductory comments could
be extended to many volumes, let us focus on the presuppositional defense
of Scripture. Thus, to Scripture, we will turn. As noted above, the presuppositional
view of Scripture is orthodox and rightfully high. But how
does the presuppositionalist defend this belief in the Scripture? Van Til,
himself, answers this question.
In the first place it must be affirmed
that a Protestant accepts Scripture to be that which Scripture itself says
it is on its own authority. Protestants are required by the most
basic principles of their system to vindicate the existence of no other
God than the one who has spoken in Scripture. But this God cannot be proved
to exist by any other method than the indirect one of presupposition.
No proof for this God and for the truth of his revelation in Scripture
can be offered by an appeal to anything in human experience that
has not itself received its light from the God whose existence and whose
revelation it is supposed to prove. (1967, p. 108-109) [emphasis mine]
Thus, Van Til says that everything in the universe gets its meaning from God and Scripture. How then, can something which derives its meaning from Scripture give meaning to or judge Scripture? Halsey says "the Bible must be self-attesting; if Scripture judges all things, there can be no judge of it" (p. 37).
Others argue the same principle. Epistemological suppositions which are deeper than can be proven must be presupposed to be true since they have a transcendental necessity (Sproul & Bahnsen Debate, [Bahnsen]). The basic argument for these presuppositions is this: if a thing must be used for its own proof or refutation, then it must be presupposed to be true.
For example, the law of non-contradiction (A is A and not non-A) must be used in order for its own defense or refutation. Therefore, it must be presupposed as true. The presuppositionalist uses this kind of argument as a defense of the Scripture.
G. Weaver (1990), a distinguished student of Van Til, points out the logical form of the presuppositional argument is the disjunctive argument (P or Q, not P, therefore, Q). It can be stated in this way. The non- Christian presuppositions are true or the Christian presuppositions are true. The non-Christian presuppositions cannot be true because they do not adequately account for what is or what we know. Therefore, the Christian presuppositions are true.
The logical form the second premise is the reductio ad absurdum (If P then not P). This may seem strange (If P then not P), but can be illustrated in this way. If there is a largest integer, there is not a largest integer. This is true because you can always add one more number to an integer; thus, the concept of a largest integer is incoherent (Weaver, 1990).
The presuppositionalist reasons in this
way: If there is no Word of God then there is no basis for certain knowledge
about anything. There is no basis for rationality or for our thinking to
correspond to reality. Thus, God and His authoritative Word must exist.
On the other hand, the presuppositionalist seeks to show the absurd conclusion
of the non-Christian's presuppositions by pushing him to the logical end
of them. Thus, the ground in the middle must be cleared; there is either
full-orbed Christian theism or utter nihilism ("nothingism," no values,
meaning or reason). This (negative/defense) strategy can be seen on the
popular level in Francis Schaeffer's (1968) work.
ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
Clearly, the above arguments are effective
weapons in the Christian apologist's arsenal. However, the presuppositionalist
makes exclusive claims about this method. As Van Til stated, "this God
cannot be proved to exist by any other method than the indirect one of
presupposition" (1967, p. 108). This is claim to exclusivity is the hear
of the issue. Even more, some have even chided evidentialist's methods
saying, "If . . . trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical
evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received
as the ultimate authority" (Pratt, 1979, p. 79). The rhetoric of some of
Van Til's students is stark in its authoritarianism. The Bible must be
presented to the unregenerate world in this way:
Accept the Scriptures as the Word of God
based solely upon the Bible's own self-attestation and thereby gain coherence
and meaning to life, or continue to assume the ultimacy of the human reason
and thereby lose all coherence and meaning to life. (Halsey, 1978, p. 96)
In order to reply adequately to the method of apologetics, one must first consider the presuppositions underlying the method. First, if we agree on the Calvinism, we must also agree that God ordains the means as well as the end in salvation. What, then, is the means of salvation? The gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). Romans, chapter one continues by teaching that all men are condemned on the basis of general revelation, more specifically, what is "evident within them." This internal witness is explained. "For God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19b-20).
In quite clear terms we see that what is
evident within man is evidenced through creation. So then, the evidence
(creation) is used of God for condemning them. They "knew God" and the
evidence for God was "clearly seen, being understood through what has been
made." God, then, uses evidence to witness to the truth of the gospel,
since the foundations upon which the gospel is based are creation and the
Creator. As B. B. Warfield (1948) said,
Without general revelation, special revelation
would lack that basis in the fundamental knowledge of God as the mighty
and wise, righteous and good, maker and ruler of all things, apart from
which the further revelation of this great God's interventions in the world
for the salvation of sinners could not be intelligible, credible or operative.
When Paul was arguing for the resurrection to the Corinthians (I Cor. 15), he used four arguments: (1) it was according to the Scriptures (2) there were witnesses (verifiable external evidence) (3) Paul's personal experience in seeing the risen Christ (perhaps that would correlate with personal testimony of Christ) and (4) Paul dealt with their belief by taking it to its logical conclusion (if He has not been raised we are still in our sins). Incidentally, I learned this from Richard Pratt (presuppositionalist).
All of these were rational evidences (even the one about Scripture/prophecy) and presumably, when all these were put together, it was strong enough to refute the heresy. Further, we can confidently expect that it was used of the Holy Spirit to convince them of Jesus' bodily resurrection. In another instance in the Scripture, Jesus made reference to the relationship between evidence and faith. When he was reproaching the cities in which He had done the most miracles He said, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Matt. 11:21). This would have been a pointless statement if miracles or generically, evidence, were not used by the Holy Spirit to bring about His holy purposes.
The presuppositionalist's attitude toward evidence and arguments based on evidence is that it is without merit in the process of conversion. "All the arguments in the universe will not bring an unbeliever to truth; he must be converted" (Pratt, 1979, p. 75). In their view he sets himself to be judge and interprets all the facts as "brute facts" that could have just as well happened by chance. Even more, the difficulty is with the view of the unregenerate person's ability to reason. The result of this in very crass terms is that unbelievers need a sort of "zap" by God in order to believe or reason toward God.
For example, Pratt (1979) critiques Paul Little's book, Know Why You Believe. Little (1978) discusses theories on the resurrection and its relationship to the deity of Christ. He concludes that "the only theory that adequately explains the empty tomb is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (p. 27). Pratt says in reply that "even if Little could prove the historicity of the resurrection, he has not proven the deity of Christ." He continues by saying that there are other accounts of resurrections and anyone can derive whatever meaning they want to out of "the empty tomb," but it proves nothing toward the deity of Christ without dependence on the scriptural information.
It must be admitted that one must rely on the scriptural information to say anything historically accurate about the resurrection. But if someone can, as Pratt says, "establish the historicity of it," would any rational objector miss the relationship between Jesus' claims with the resurrection as a validation of those claims? Thomas (John 20:28) certainly had no trouble with the empirical evidence as validation of those claims. Further, in this case it does not seem that Jesus used the exclusive presuppositional (indirect) methodology. He certainly granted Thomas' evidential requests. The presuppositionalist may reply, however, if a man reasons independently of God, autonomously viewing all the events in the universe as purely by chance, there would be no connection between the cause and effect of the claims of Christ and the resurrection.
Here we must come down from the world of the theoretical and talk about flesh and blood people that live in the light of probabilities and don't walk in front of trucks because their conscious reliance upon cause and effect. If a person is totally committed to a chance universe idea, and he's not committing suicide, he is inconsistent with his own beliefs. John Cage might write "music" (it may not be music) "by chance" (of course it really isn't by "chance" since chance has no ability), but he doesn't pick mushrooms with the same random technique, as Francis Schaeffer (1968) so keenly observed.
The presuppositionalist may be ultimately correct if unbelievers would be absolutely consistent with their non-Christian presuppositions. Even more, they are certainly correct in arguing that only the Christian worldview provides the preconditions of intelligibility. However, our apologetic for Sola Scriptura must be consistent with the Bible's own defense of revelation and effective for actual people, not theoretical people. In defending Scripture, we must think about what is both true and effective. To only argue indirectly as the presuppositionalist often insists, may be avoiding the question the unbeliever is asking and thus be, ineffective. We speak as Christians about the Word of God so frequently and those seekers outside of faith ask how we know the Bible alone bears that description as the Word of God. Should we then try to show him how absurd life would be on the basis of non-Christian presuppositions? Or, should we present arguments that answer the question with direct evidence? If we answer directly, we will be using the kind of argumentation that would generally be used in other fields. Further, evidential apologetics for Scripture usually correct the misguided higher critical views which have been vaguely transmitted through books, the media, liberal clergy and college professors.
Perhaps my point is simply a pragmatic concession. If so, it is still important since our apologetic should be applicable to real people. This is not to preclude ineffectiveness since unbelievers may be committed to their non-Christian world view by virtue of their depravity to such an extent that they will not be convinced by any proof or argument.
Herein is the difference between proving and persuading. We may be able to prove something to the non-Christian in the way it would be proven in any other field of study. Even so, the non-Christian may reject it because "he loves darkness and his deeds are evil." He may know that the gospel is true, without trusting and be as lost as the demons who also know. We cannot, of course "argue a person into the kingdom." There is then a difference between the reasons for our faith and cause of our faith. The Holy Spirit imparts faith (Phi. 1:29). Yet, the apostolic precedent and command is to seek to persuade with argument (Acts 16, I Pet. 3:15).
There is a crucial relationship between understanding something to be true and placing faith (in the biblical sense) in something, especially in the case of the gospel. The testimonies of many such as Josh McDowell and C.S. Lewis illustrate that very clearly. Thus, the non-Christian may be convinced of the truth of the Scripture and still lack saving faith. However, if the Christian apologist has defended his hope in Christ and thus, the truth of Scripture, his work as an apologist is done. It must be the grace of God working through His means (this is individually relevant) which convinces a man to trust Christ.
Beyond effectiveness in relation to evangelism, we must consider an answer to the presuppositional polemic on the self-authentication of Scriptue. The presuppositionalist argues Scripture cannot be judged since it is the judge of all things. Or to restate the same idea, God and Scripture define everything in the universe; what in the universe can then become a standard to evaluate whether the Bible is true or not? Perhaps an illustration would answer this question well.
A man walks into the courtroom to go on trial. He is to stand before a judge and the judge will sentence him. It is not totally unfeasible that a very ignorant man convicted of some felony in a lower court would not be able to recognize the judge if the judge were not on the bench. It is even possible that he would think another courtroom official to be the judge. But if he were to investigate the seating place of a judge, the dress of a judge, and the claims of others concerning a judge, surely he would be able to locate the judge in the courtroom. The condemned man would not be judging the judge by searching for him. He would not be exerting his own authority over the judge by seeking some standards to discern what a judge would look like. He would submit himself to the judge after first discovering him.
Now comes the question of authority. Would
the condemned man need to submit to the judge as authority after his search?
Yes. The evidence pointed him to the judge and then he was able to know
the judge and the judge was his authority.
RECONCILING PRESUPPOSITIONAL INSIGHTS WITH EVIDENTIAL TACTICS
In the case of the Christian God, the evidence
we display to verify the truth claims of Scripture (in its defense), are
not independent witnesses to God (in this Van Til is correct). After all,
if there is no God, the whole enterprise of examining the evidence would
be impossible. Yet, if one could conceive of the evidential approach within
the larger presuppositional framework (a concentric circles), the evidential
arguments are simply stipulative to the larger worldview conclusions of
Christianity. In other words, when we point to history as evidence for
the veracity of a Scriptural claim, inadvertantly we have already stipulated
the truth of the Christian worldview since only it makes sense of the very
concept of history.
A SCRIPTURAL APOLOGETIC FOR SCRIPTURE
The miracles of the Bible were given to be signs. A sign must have an object. The miracles were given to substantiate the claims of Jesus and to validate the message of the apostles. "The works that I do in My Father's name, these bear witness of Me" (John 10:25). God is the one who calls unto salvation, but the point of this discussion is what means He uses. We can agree with Nicodemus that "we know [Jesus] came from God...for no one can do these signs...unless God is with him" (John 3:2).
It must be admitted again with the presuppositionalist that without God we could not have evidential arguments or rational coherence (theism alone accounts for the preconditions of intelligibility). All the proofs in the world are meaningless if reality is irrational and there is no God. What we are assuming within the course of argument is the validity and applicability of the laws of logic and the general reliability of sense perception. In one sense the presuppositionalist is simply pushing the question back one step by asking for the unbeliever to account for logic and empirical correlation, etc.
The polemical value of that kind of argument is certainly strong and especially effective when the unbeliever has not considered the difficulty of accounting for such things given his non-theistic presuppositions (cf. Bahnsen vs. Stein Debate; an excellent illustration of the force of the presuppositional method).
However, what if we are talking to a Muslim or brute theist like Immanuel Kant? They could account for logic and sense perception's correlation with reality. They agree that there is a God and the universe has meaning because of that God. Weaver (1990), a presuppositionalist, when asked about this responded, Allah (God) "has no companion" and therefore, is a solitary, monistic being. This does away with personality and the ground behind our personality. Thus, another conception of God other than the triune God of Scripture does not adequately account for reality.
However, when one begins to argue with a monotheist (non-Christian) about the Trinity, the argument will sound like this: What can account for man's personality? Answer: a Triune God. As the argument develops, the presuppositionalist must end up saying, in effect, "We know from our experience that there is personality. There must be an adequate Cause for personality. The Christian concept of God, alone, is the adequate Cause."
This, however, is simply a form of the teleological argument (a classical natural theology argument)! Thus, it is my contention that within the arguments between believers and unbelievers we all must, at some time, either beg the question or lapse into the above a posteriori kind of direct argumentation. In the first statements of the presuppositional arguments, they are by presupposition. Following certain questions, however, they must answer along classical apologetic lines with arguments from effects to cause and give evidence for a conclusion assuming the epistemological common ground. Three essentials of common ground can be identified: (1) The validity of the law of noncontradiction (2) the validity of the law of causality and (3) the basic reliability of sense perception. Any denial of these is "forced and temporary." "No one denies these principles regularly and consistently" (Sproul, Gerstner, & Lindsley, 1984, p. 72). When one has heard the arguments, and is rationally deciding who the judge is and which of those claiming to be judge is actually wearing the robe and carrying the gavel, that decision is based on some kind of evidence. It may be that what he reads in the Bible matches with his experience and he then trusts it to be totally true. Or it may be that he has researched and discovered the Bible to be historically accurate and sees the miracles attest to its authority. There can be greater or smaller amounts of evidence used by the Holy Spirit to convince a person to trust, but He does use that just as He did in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles.
To the exclusivist presuppositionalist
I would ask the following questions. Why did Jesus "[present] Himself alive,
after His suffering, by many convincing proofs..."? What purpose
could the predictive prophecies of the Old Testament serve? Why were the
miracles done in the face of such hostile opposition? Why did the apostles
claim to be eyewitnesses to these things? It would seem if the biblical
method of apologetic was by presupposition, these things would be somewhat
out of place. Let us not to presuppose the authority of the Bible only
to deny the validity of how the Word of God (in those cases) defended itself.
BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATIONS OF APOLOGETICS
Paul appealed to the evidence before Agrippa and in defending the resurrection to the Corinthians (Acts 26:26; 1 Cor. 15:5-9). Peter claimed to be an eyewitness to His majesty and to hear the voice of God. A claim resting on the reliability of his own sense perception (empirical verification) (2 Pet. 1:16-17). John appealed to his own tangible, real life experience with Christ to show his authority in speaking about Christ. What "we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life...we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life" (1 John 1:1-2). John also made very clear the relationship between the signs performed by Jesus and faith in Him. "Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, ...but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:30-31).
It is very clear from the accounts of the biblical writers that the case for believing in Jesus rests on the signs which made it evident the message was from God. Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be from God and the Christ of the Living God. The Scripture says of the apostles, the subsequent bearers of the same message, "God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will" (Heb. 2:4). Further, their assumptions, like the reliability of sense perception, rational coherency and the motivating influence of evidence on belief--are the same assumptions classical apologists assume to have in common with unbelievers. If an unbeliever rejects one of these, then we must deal with his objection. However, if the unbeliever rejects one of these, the presuppositionalist is really no better off. A presuppositional argument is still an argument. And an argument assumes the previously cited epistemological assumptions. A Calvinist presuppositionalist does, to his advantage, recognize the power of one antecedent belief system in interpreting the evidence; and he recognizes the necessity of conversion by the Spirit for any arguments to be ultimately effective.
As a Calvinist therefore, even if one is convinced of the evidential kind of apologetic for Scripture, such proofs did not find their ultimate authority in empiricism (sense perception). They were proximate signs and caused them to believe and therefore, ultimately submit to Christ Jesus the Lord.
In summary, I offer two criticisms of exclusive
presuppositionalism. (1) The biblical defense of revelation from God is
grounded in the miraculous attestation of the message by God and is thus,
And you may say in your heart, 'How shall
we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks
in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true,
that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken (Deut. 18:21).
(2) I see a variety of kinds of classical apologetical arguments represented in the Scripture from miracles, history, cosmological, and teleological argumentation, even the reductio ad absurdum. But I cannot find the exclusive claims of the presuppositional method. What of Van Til's statement, "No proof for this God and for the truth of his revelation in Scripture can be offered by an appeal to anything in human experience that has not itself received its light from the God whose existence and whose revelation it is supposed to prove" (1967, p. 108-109)? Well, in the sense of an independent witness, in the ultimate metaphysical sense, Van Til is certainly correct. But in the proximate sense and the context in which most apologetic encounters take place, the Scripture itself says, "To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
Thus, the Christian apologetic for the Bible must rest on evidence and be discerning as to the presuppositions of the unbeliever. One should not oppose presuppositional argumentation, per se. But granting the larger presuppositional framework (namely, that only the Christian worldview provides the preconditions of intelligibility), from the historicity of the NT, miracles and authority of Christ, a valid and cogent argument can be made for the authority of Scripture (see the Appendix). This method need not supersede the authority of God and exalt man's reasoning independently of God any more than the transcendental presuppositional method does. They both use logic. They both appeal to the rationality of the unbeliever. We use rational means to test matters within the realm of Christian doctrine or matters within any other real of study. We weigh the evidence presented and then decide. We should pay close attention to guiding presuppositions and challenge them when needed. All along we realize those methodological presuppositions only make sense if (in the end) there is a God whose mind is the standard of truth. Thus we need not choose between the two approaches to the exclusion of the other in our task of defending the Lion. After all, the Lion can defend himself. We may open the cage in a variety of ways.
Dr. Van Til has produced an entire school
of apologists that are thoroughly skilled in demolishing non-Christian
world and life views. His attitude within the apologetical task, humbly
submitting to God, was noble and worthy of emulation. It is not that we
are smarter or wiser than the unbeliever-what we know we have been shown
by grace. It must again be emphasized that this is an intramural discussion
with its historical roots in the discussion between the great reformed
theologians, B. B. Warfield and Abraham Kuyper. Warfield being the arch-Princeton
evidentialist learned Dutch for the sole purpose of reading Dr. Kuyper's
works (Sproul & Bahnsen Debate). It is even true that Van Til himself
saw his apologetic task as a synthesis of what is most prominent in Warfield
(that Christian alone is rational) and Kuyper (that the Christian and unbeliever
have, in principle, completely different thought systems). Through discussion
and further consideration of the similarities it is hoped that we will
all advance the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. May we all uncage
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Pet. 3:15 )
Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? Habermas and Flew, Harper and Row, 1987.
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Warfield, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948.
Bahnsen, G. L. & G. Stein, (1985).
(Speakers). The great debate: Does God exist? 24198 Ash Court, Auburn,
CA 95602: Covenant Tape Library,
Frame, J. M., (1987). The doctrine of the
knowledge of God. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed.
Halsey, J. S. (1978). For a time such as
this: An introduction to the reformed apologetics of Cornelius Van Til.
Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed.
Little, P. (1968). Know why you believe.
Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press.
Pratt, R. L. (1979). Every thought captive.
Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed.
Schaeffer, F. A. (1968). The God who is there. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press.
Sproul, R. C. & Bahnsen, G. L. (Speakers).
(1980 ?). Apologetical methodology: Classical apologetics vs. presuppositionalism.Mt.
Olive, MS: Reformed Book and Tape Library.
Van Til, C. (1967). The defense of the faith. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed.
Weaver, G. B. (1990). Cornelius Van Til's theistic argument. John Brown University. (A paper presented at the 1990 Evangelical Philosophical Society Meeting).
1I am aware of the notions of
Plantinga that belief in God is properly basic. The "New Reformed Epistemology"
as John Frame calls it involves the strategy of refuting atheistic evidentialism
by refuting classical foundationalism. However, I would side with Frame,
the presuppositionalist' successor to Van Til in his statement, "The Christian
faith is surely grounded in reasons ([Frame's] definition), whether those
reasons are expressed or not" (1987, p. 395). His definition is similar
to mine. He calls evidence, sufficient reason, and ground synonyms and
insists that they do not have to be articulated; there is a distinction
between reasons we have and reasons we give.
2Many presuppositionalists I
have spoken with have chided evidentialists for being Thomistic and specifically
for accepting the idea that a person can, without the aid of God, reason
to truth about God. This not only demonstrates inadequate reflection on
their own position (which assumes the rationality of the unbeliever in
the course of argumentation) but also may be a misunderstanding of Thomas
For the Christian, natural theology does not mean that humans in their natural state, have the intrinsic ability to rise to a knowledge of God by the sheer force of intellect unaided by divine revelation. Such a view is repudiated by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike, including St. Thomas Aquinas: It seems that a man cannot know any truth without grace. . . . Now however pure it be, bodily sense cannot see any visible thing without the light of the sun. Hence however perfect be the human mind, it cannot by reasoning know any truth without the light of God, which belongs to the aid of grace. . . . The natural light bestowed on the mind is God's light, by which we are enlightened to know such things as belong to natural knowledge (Aquinas; Nature and Grace: Selections from the Summa Theologica...[ed. A. M. Fairweather; 1954; 11:137-139]). (Sproul, et al, 1984, p. 25)