Confused About Presup

If one “googles” “presup”, he or she will find the video below at the top of the list. This gentleman argues that presuppositionalists undermine their own position in their insistence that reason and sense experience must “find their ground” in God. His argument consists of assuming that his particular version of atheism is true without giving us any reason for doing so.

The author of the video says that, “Presuppositionalists like to tell us that there can be no neutral ground between a Christian and an atheist in a discussion. This move tries to obscure the fact that we are all born in a state of implicit atheism…Implicit atheism is the neutral ground presuppositionalists will tell you does not exist.” We must recognize that the Bible teaches that we all know God (Romans 1.18ff). We deduce from this that we are born knowing God. If God exists then it is the case that we are born knowing God. To state without argument that we are born atheists logically entails the proposition that God does not exist and that atheism is true. It is extremely difficult to miss the assumption of atheism without argument. In using this argument against Christianity the author of the video begs the question. The atheist is not neutral at all, he is assuming atheism. There is no neutral ground between us.

There are many truth claims we have no choice but to accept upon pain of irrationality. One such truth claim is that God exists. The individual in the video is correct that we must accept a “certain set of truth claims in order to become Christians”, but one need not be a Christian in order to know that God exists.

He says that after “becoming…Christian, some people like to invoke radical skepticism to undermine reason and knowledge, the things that enabled them to accept their religion in the first place”. He provides an analogy of “delusional vandals setting fire to their own home” and imagining “they are immune from the flames”. Here he misses the point, which is that the reason and knowledge that were means to these people becoming Christians are not undermined by radical skepticism if Christianity is true, but are undermined if it is false. He understands that the “presuppositionalist claims that Christianity dispels radical skepticism” but errs in asserting that the presuppositionalist “was able to use precisely this untrustworthy, non-Christian, reason and sense experience in order to accept Christianity in the first place”. If Christianity is true then reason and sense experience are neither non-Christian nor untrustworthy. Non-Christians are able to come to know things precisely because Christianity is true. That is, they have intelligible experience only because they are inconsistent. The non-Christian operates on “borrowed capital” as Van Til put it, taking from the Christian worldview what he or she needs in order to make sense of things.

While it is fatally flawed, the best argument the young man in the video puts forth is, “At best the presup apologetic paints acceptance of Christianity as a kind of wishful thinking, accepting a claim because of the perceived negative ramification of not accepting it”. There are at least two problems here. One is that we accept Christianity based on the authority of God. We know that God exists and Christianity is true because God has told us so. The other is that if we reject this, we have no place where we might stand and argue that presup is wishful thinking. If the senses and reason are undercut by a rejection of the truth of Christianity, then we cannot intelligibly make statements like the person in this video. The argument that Christianity is just wishful thinking presupposes that Christianity is true.

Notice too that the author of this video does not give us anything like an answer to the position of radical skepticism. If he accepts it, and I would argue that he must, then he has no place to be making the arguments that he does in the video. We do not dispense with intellect or reason or senses or any other parts of intelligible experience. We do not “embrace…Cartesian skepticism” either. Cartesian skepticism does not even come close to the radical skepticism an unbeliever would be forced to “accept” if he or she were consistent. We do not adhere to fideism, assuming our position to be the case without argument. Our argument is that people like the gentleman in the video reject Christianity at the expense of rationality itself, falling prey to the self-defeating skepticism which inhabits and inhibits philosophy from Thales to Dewey. We have an argument, where is his?

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