Bahnsen Burner's Presuppositional Apologetic For Objectivism, Part 2

Something which is difficult to grasp in apologetic encounters is the massive role of presuppositions. Even those who would label themselves “presuppositional” struggle with this because it is so all-encompassing; presuppositions affect everything. Disagreements between Christians and non-Christians are always traceable to the presuppositions which each party would have as their own even if they do not claim such presuppositions as their own. Even a discussion of the presuppositional method of apologetics, especially with an unbeliever, will ultimately come back to the presuppositions of each party involved. The current discussion with Bahnsen Burner illustrates this nicely.

The Christian worldview is predicated upon a total commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of life including philosophy. There is a philosophy which is according to Christ and there is a philosophy which is not according to Christ. (Colossians 2.8) These two philosophies, or worldviews, are presented as the only two throughout Scripture, and there is no middle ground between them. There is p and there is ~p and there is no in between. Christians are to view everything in terms of its relation to Christ Jesus, and anything which is not in accord with Christ is considered anti-Christ. This is logically required by the teaching of Scripture. Christ is fundamental to Christianity.

Objectivism, on the other hand, takes its view of everything in terms of existence. As Bahnsen Burner writes, “At the fundamental level of philosophy is the issue of metaphysical primacy”. There is a philosophy which adheres to the primacy of existence, and there is a pseudo-philosophy which adheres to the primacy of consciousness. As mentioned before, Bahnsen Burner is essentially offering two circles of his own, a presuppositional model allegedly based upon his worldview. Bahnsen Burner takes issue with my bringing this up and writes, “I didn’t just blow in and say your illustration is wrong because it disagrees with Objectivism.” Of course, I never meant to imply that Bahnsen Burner hand waives my illustration because it disagrees with Objectivism anymore than I would imply that Christian presuppositional apologists engage in hand waiving by virtue of their method but rather mean to highlight the presuppositional nature of this encounter. He continues, “I pointed out that the division on which your illustration is based is not fundamental”.

Now then, upon which presupposition is Bahnsen Burner asserting this statement? It is not upon the Christian’s presuppositions as we can see from the brief description in the paragraph prior to this one. It is not upon neutral presuppositions providing obligatory norms for all worldviews either as this would itself be a worldview set forth in opposition to the Christian worldview leaving us in the same position we are in now. Rather, this statement is made from within the context of Objectivism. This has been shown in the discussion of what Christianity and Objectivism define as fundamental. The disagreement here is presuppositional in nature. Again, “It is based on a non-essential difference, and the various worldviews which you group together in contrast against Christianity are united according to a non-essential”. Non-essential according to whom? According to which worldview? Christ is considered essential to the Christian worldview within the Christian worldview, and any position which excludes Christ because He is “non-essential” is properly placed with other positions that do the same (again, within the Christian worldview). Now again, will non-Christians agree with this? Perhaps not, but in terms of the Christian worldview, taking it as a whole and being fair to what its teachings are, it is impossible to get around. The Non-Christian worldview is characterized by a rejection of Christ even though this may not be claimed by or emphasized by members of that worldview. Characterization involves more than emphases, it is not contingent upon them. For example, Christianity is characterized by a commitment to an independence to Allah, though this is certainly not often emphasized. It is easy to imagine a situation in which such a commitment to independence from Allah may be emphasized though, for example if a Muslim is dealing with a Christian. To insist that a position which is non-Christian (such as Objectivism) is not characterized by being non-Christian or committed to an independence from Christ or however else you may want to put it is absurd; one need equivocate upon the meaning of “characterized” in order to reach this conclusion even given the non-Christian worldview. The Christian may define characterization in the stronger sense of the word as Van Til does in the quote provided, but why this supposedly presents a problem for the Christian worldview is not clear.
Now then, according to the Christian worldview, does Objectivism fit into the Non-Christian circle? Bahnsen Burner’s own words and attitude give us a good look at the answer to this question, so I will let them speak for themselves. My prayer (oh how I bet an Objectivist winces at that) is that the readers will be able to see what I am trying to get across, which is the reality of two worldviews on display here in complete opposition to one another. Remember that Christians are to view everything in terms of relation to Christ Jesus and anything which is not in accord with Christ is considered anti-Christ. That having been repeated, is Objectivism committed to Christ or opposed to Christ? Let us take a quiz.

“The thing that is most characteristic of the philosophy of the unbeliever is its presumption of moral and intellectual autonomy from God.” (Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 109.)

According to Christianity and its affirmation of the Lordship of Christ in every facet of life, are the following statements written in opposition to Christ? Answer “Yes” or “No”.

“Notions of imaginary, non-existent beings are simply irrelevant and have no place in identifying fundamental principles of a rational worldview.”

“A worldview premised on the primacy of consciousness (such as Christianity) can only obfuscate truth and seek to replace it with a fantasy.”
“Your ‘Christ’ is neither here nor there.”

“An Objectivist’s position on Christ is simply not *fundamental*”
“Objectivism is not characterized…by ‘Ultimate commitment... to Christ of Scripture’”

“Objectivism does hold independence as a cardinal virtue”

“A so-called ‘commitment’ (whether ‘ultimate’ or ‘fundamental’ or ‘primary’) for or against your god is simply not a concern whatsoever to Objectivism.”

“the one worldview which is positioned wholly and consistently on the primacy of existence (namely Objectivism).”

“some atheists (like Objectivists) affirm the primacy of existence”

Very well, the encounter here is presuppositional in nature. It appears Bahnsen Burner and I cannot agree on even the most basic (there is a joke in there somewhere) things. Where do we go from here?

The answer to this question is the subject of the next blog post in this series…

Is the atheist a fool?

Scripture has much to say about the fool, especially in its Hebrew poetic and wisdom literature. Proverbs paints the picture of a fool as one who shuns wisdom and will not listen to instruction. The fool rejects any kind of discipline and even gloats about his folly. The fool despises God, who is the source of wisdom and knowledge, and shows Him no reverence. There is no fear of the Lord God before the eyes of the fool.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NASB)

Proverbs 14:15 The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps. (NASB)

Proverbs 17:7 Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, Much less are lying lips to a prince. (NASB)

Proverbs 1:22 "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge? (NASB)

Proverbs 28:4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But those who keep the law strive with them. (NASB)

Proverbs 18:2 A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind. (NASB)

Psalm 14:1 For the choir director. [A Psalm] of David. The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. (NASB)

Psalm 53:1 For the choir director; according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David. The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God," They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good. (NASB)

The passages above are only a small portion of all of the things Scripture states about the fool but they are sufficient to reveal much of the character of the fool. The term "fool" in Scripture describes a particular type of person, it is not just an instance of empty name calling. The fool turns away from the fear of the Lord and finds him or herself enveloped by futility in thought, word, and deed.

In the last two passages we are told that the fool says in his heart, "There is no God". Recognize that when this was penned, there was no idea of a "general theism" or other such nonsense. When the Bible speaks of God, it means the God of the Bible, not some general theistic god found at the end of a philosophical proof. This means that while the atheist is certainly a fool by biblical standards, so are all others who constantly hold the truth of God down and seek after themselves, becoming corrupt and practicing injustice according to their lack of a tenable worldview.