2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
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I. Hume vs. Kant
- David Hume: (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism (wiki).
- Immanuel Kant: (1724-1804) was a German philosopher who is a central figure in modern philosophy. Kant argued that the human mind creates the structure of human experience, that reasonis the source of morality, that aesthetics arises from a faculty of disinterested judgment, that space and time are forms of our sensibility, and that the world as it is “in-itself” is independent of our concepts of it. Kant took himself to have effected a “Copernican revolution” in philosophy, akin to Copernicus‘ reversal of the age-old belief that the sun revolved around the earth. His beliefs continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political theory, and aesthetics (wiki).
- Major Difference: Hume believed you couldn’t know anything unless it could be proven with logic and science (evidence). Kant taught you couldn’t know anything without first having a properly functioning mind (presuppositional).
- Van Til: (1895-1987) was a believer in Kant’s ideas and formulated them into a Christian presuppositional argument.
II. The Transcendental Argument for God (TAG)
- Metaphysics: The theory of the fundamental nature of reality.
- Epistemology: The theory of knowledge.
- Transcendental: Things relating to the spiritual or non-physical.
- Three Components of a TAG: (1) Logic & Rationality, (2) Morality & Value and (3) Science & Uniformity of Nature are all grounded (best explained and accounted for) in God.
- TAG from Grounding: You can only exist because of God.
- Premise 1: If God is the transcendental ground of X, he exists.
- Premise 2: God is the transcendental ground of X.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. (p. 77, loc. 2343).
- TAG from Intelligibility: You can only know things because of God.
- Premise 1: If anything is intelligible (coherent, meaningful), God exists.
- Premise 2: Something (causality, motion, banana peels, Augustine) is intelligible (coherent, meaningful).
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. (p. 78, loc. 2363).
- TAG from the Trinity: Only the Triune God of the Bible can be the one true God.
- Premise 1: If Jesus rose from the dead, God is Triune and known only through the Bible.
- Premise 2: Jesus did rise from the dead.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God is Triune and known only through the Bible.
- The Impossibility of the Contrary: In logic, reductio ad absurdum (Latin for “reduction to absurdity”; or argumentum ad absurdum, “argument to absurdity”) is a form of argument which attempts either to disprove a statement by showing it inevitably leads to a ridiculous, absurd, or impractical conclusion, or to prove one by showing that if it were not true, the result would be absurd or impossible. (wiki).
- If one were to deny a well-formed TAG, they would be essentially denying logic, morality and science; and thus casting the debate and their existence into meaninglessness.
- It’s important to let people know that without the Triune God from Scripture, they couldn’t even have an argument about His existence.
III. More Examples of TAG
- Frame’s TAG from Personhood: God is source of all personality.
- Premise 1: The universe is either ultimately personal or ultimately impersonal.
- Premise 2: If it is ultimately impersonal, it cannot justify rational discourse, including whatever you may be saying to me.
- Premise 3: Therefore, if you want to carry on rational discourse, you must presuppose that the universe is ultimately personal.
- Premise 4: Only the Bible, and views derived from the Bible, contains a consistently personalistic account of the world.
- Conclusion: Therefore, we should give careful consideration to the Bible and assess its truth on the assumption that a personal God may have inspired it.
- Application: Pray that God’s Spirit would open blind eyes to that truth. (p. 91, loc. 2624).
- Joe’s TAG from Mind: Your mind is needed for everything you do.
- Premise 1: To deny your non-material mind with your non-material mind is absurd.
- Premise 2: To understand absurdity is evidence of your non-material mind.
- Conclusion: Therefore, your non-material mind exists (Gen. 2:7).
- Joe’s TAG from Warrant: God is the reason for warrant (justification) for proper function and true beliefs.
- Premise 1: Warrant entails proper function.
- Premise 2: God is the ground for proper function.
- Conclusion: Therefore, without God there can be no proper function (Col. 1:2-3).
- Conclusion 2: Therefore, if you have warrant for any belief because of proper function, God exists.
- Joe’s TAG from Preconditions: God is the precondition for everything.
- Premise 1: God is the precondition for “X.”
- Premise 2: “X” exists.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists (Rom. 11:36).
IV. Frame’s Four Main Parts of Presuppositional Apologetics
The presuppositionalism that we are talking about is:
- A clearheaded understanding of where our loyalties lie and how those loyalties affect our epistemology.
- A determination above all to present the full teaching of Scripture in our apologetic without compromise, in its full winsomeness and its full offensiveness.
- Especially a determination to present God as fully sovereign, as the source of all meaning, intelligibility, and rationality, as the ultimate authority for all human thought.
- An understanding of the unbeliever’s knowledge of God and rebellion against God, particularly (though not exclusively) as it affects his thinking.
And if some apologists maintain these understandings and attitudes without wanting to be called Van Tillians or presuppositionalists, I am happy to join hands with them. (p. 93, loc. 2683).
V. Review Questions
- Who were Hume and Kant? And how did they differ?
- What did Van Til contribute to Christian apologetics?
- What does transcendental mean? And how does it apply to presuppositional apologetics?
- What are the three main parts of TAG?
- Describe what the phrase, “the impossibility of the contrary” means.
- Give an example of TAG.
- Describe Frame’s four main parts of presuppositional apologetics.