Saturday, May 21, 2022

Apparently I don't have the right...

Cornelius Van Til writes:
No human being can explain in the sense of seeing through all things, but only he who believes in God has the right to hold that there is an explanation at all. (Why I Believe in God, emphasis added)

Really?

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Some Thoughts in Response to Anderson’s Argument on Propositions

Last month, the Ivy League International Apologetics Database, aka ILIAD Forum, published an article by Christian apologist James Anderson titled In What Ways is God the Foundation for all Knowledge? The ILIAD Forum is new to me, and it may be new to readers here at Incinerating Presuppositionalism as well. In its obligatory About page, it states that it “was founded in 2021 by undergraduate students from all across the Ivy League, who wanted to provide an online, accessible, and rigorous database of answers to common questions about the nature and commitments of orthodox Christianity.” The site hosts articles by some of the more familiar names (e.g., Vern Poythress, K. Scott Oliphint, William Edgar) and some not so familiar (to me at any rate). Without having explored much of it, already it appears to be a promising quarry for future reading.

In Anderson’s article (cross-posted on his own blog here), he includes a paragraph which demonstrates how apologists can pack so much distortion into so little space. Brian May must be green with envy!

In this entry I will first quote that paragraph in its entirety, then I will follow that with my own interaction, and readers can post their own reactions in the comments section.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Incinerating Presuppositionalism: Year Seventeen

The years keep rolling by, and the past one is no different – at least so far as “the passage of time” is concerned. This blog started on March 26, 2005 with its initial installment, and seventeen years later here it is, still chugging along! At this point, it’s quite a collection – more than I ever expected it would be when I first set out. I suppose that if anyone out there ever encounters presuppositionalism and needs a go-to source for a second opinion, this little corner in the internet might provide a few insights.

As I do for every anniversary of my blog, I dedicate a post listing all the entries I’ve posted over the past year starting with the previous anniversary post. The link to the new anniversary post is then added to the handy Blog Chronology in a panel on the right-hand side of my blog, so it’s always at your fingertips!

So, without any further ado, here is this year’s list:



493. Answering the Epistemologist - May 21, 2021




497. Christianity and Socialism - September 28, 2021

498. ”He walked among us” - October 25, 2021

499. The Specter of Antithesis - November 24, 2021




Over the past year, I posted my 500th blog entry (special thanks to Jason mc for helping me to figure that out!). While that may not seem like a major milestone when compared to some blogs, keep in mind this blog is dedicated to a fairly narrow range of topics, most entries are full-length explorations of the topics they address, and I’m not a very fast worker (at least not so far as writing for this blog is concerned). I have a fairly arduous work schedule and my family gets most of what’s left over after that.

Over the next few months, while I have some entries in the planning process, it’s going to be a demanding task to keep up even with my current single-entry-per-month posting rate as I’m in the process now of selling my house and preparing for a move across the country. Plus, I expect work to be very busy this summer as a few new projects are lining up. But I’m up for the challenge, so don’t be surprised if I manage to keep up with my already meager pace!

Thanks to everyone who stops by and reads what I have to say! And for those who even take the time to provide feedback or just post a comment about whatever, thank you even more! I very much appreciate the dialogue.

by Dawson Bethrick

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

An Examination of Van Til’s "Argument from the Uniformity of Nature"

A typical strategy of presuppositionalism is to focus on some area of philosophy which has historically been surrounded by controversy – a “problem” of philosophy in which consensus has historically been elusive and debate continuously ever-raging – and proclaim that the controversy is neutralized by adopting a specific brand of theism. It does not seem to matter to apologists that such a move does nothing to increase our understanding of the problem in question or that it invites yet new problems which apologists cannot resolve. This is because solving the problem was never their actual goal in the first place. On the contrary, their goal is to convince themselves of the alleged truth of their self-imposed delusion and to bamboozle as many unwitting sideliners as possible. This assessment is only confirmed by the fact that, even when the defects of their theistic “solution” to such philosophical quandaries are pointed out, apologists will continue on as though their defenses were entirely tenable. 

The appeal to ignorance underlying such a strategy should not be difficult to detect. Instead of pointing to empirical evidence demonstrating the existence of supernatural beings (e.g., prayer fulfillment, curing diseases by “laying on of hands,” restoration of amputated limbs, resuscitation of decedents, in-person meetings with angels – or the risen Jesus for that matter, etc.), apologists seek to put non-believers on the spot to “account for” some fundamental recognition about reality and articulate full-blown philosophical explanations solving some centuries-old debate found only in the hallowed chambers of academia. Wouldn’t it be most ironic if the ignorance which such apologetic strategies are purportedly aimed at exposing and exploiting actually haunts the proponents of those strategies in the first place? 

Thursday, January 06, 2022

An Examination of Van Til’s “Argument from the Unity of Knowledge”

In my previous entry we surveyed the salient background features propping up Cornelius Van Til’s arguments for the existence of the Christian god as formalized by apologist James Anderson in his paper If Knowledge Then God (IKTG). The four biggies here are that (a) there can be only one argument (hence Anderson presents a total of seven formalized arguments in his paper, four of them on behalf of Van Til), (b) this argument establishes specifically Christian theism (as opposed to some “generic theism”), (c) the argument’s conclusion is certain (“not merely probable”), and (d) the argument must be a “transcendental” argument (by which means the apologist “discovers” or rather asserts what the necessary preconditions of knowledge must be). Thus we witnessed Van Til boast that “there is absolutely certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian theism” (The Defense of the Faith, p. 103.) and that “this one proof is absolutely convincing” (Common Grace and the Gospel p. 192). 

So the very nature of knowledge as such, which human beings do in fact acquire and possess, is purportedly of vital interest in drawing the conclusion that there must be a god, and accordingly this god must be the god described in the Christian bible. What always strikes me as a fundamental liability to the presuppositionalists’ project here is that their procedure exhibits virtually no awareness of how the human mind forms concepts or even any discussion of whether concepts even play an integral role in epistemology. This omission is evident even in the fourth argument which Anderson attributes to Van Til, the so-called “Argument from Conceptual Schemes” (cf. IKTG, pp. 23-24), which is where one would most expect to find an analysis of concepts, but does not. If knowledge is conceptual (and it is), this oversight is quite a liability. In fact, I’d go even further and wager that not only is it because Christianity lacks an understanding of concepts – their nature, how they are formed, how they relate to and depend on the perceptual level of awareness, etc. – that believers might therefore imagine that knowledge must somehow be sourced in the supernatural, but also that supernatural notions cannot be rationally inferred from an objective understanding of concepts. 

How all this plays out is very instructive when it comes to assaying the intellectual deficiencies of presuppositionalism in particular, and Christianity in general. So with my earlier points in mind, let’s turn to the Argument from the Unity of Knowledge and see how “absolutely convincing” this “absolutely certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian theism” might be. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Preliminary Thoughts on Van Til’s “Argument from Unity of Knowledge”

In his paper If Knowledge Then God: The Epistemological Theistic Arguments of Plantinga and Van Til (hereafter IKTG), Christian apologist James Anderson develops a total of seven arguments, three from Alvin Plantinga and four from Cornelius Van Til, which are intended to draw conclusions affirming Christian theism. What unites Plantinga and Van Til for Anderson is that “both have argued that a successful epistemology… must appeal to God at some point” and also that “a thoroughgoing adherence to naturalism (roughly, the view that there are no supernatural beings) is a recipe for debilitating skepticism” (IKTG, p. 2).

This is all very fascinating to me since, back when I was a believer, one thing that did stand out to me in my study of the Christian bible, is that it had next to nothing to say on epistemology. My guess is that Plantinga and Van Til were going off of sources other than what we find between Genesis and Revelation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Specter of Antithesis

Presuppositional apologists often frame the conflict between their “worldview” and all other worldviews in terms of a fundamental antithesis between Christianity on the one hand, and “unbelieving thought” on the other. The intention behind this notion of “antithesis” seems to be the self-serving portrayal of Christianity as the lone champion of truth contending against every other conceivable worldview as if they were mutually exclusive. This is certainly one of the take-aways of the biblical narrative, which is explicitly tribal in character.

However, in philosophical terms, Christianity is in fact just one among many forms of mysticism. Presuppositionalism’s claim to exclusivity actually underscores a profound lack of philosophical awareness on the part of its defenders. The apologist’s job is to give what is in essence a tribalistic feature of his religion the air of philosophical respectability. I’ll leave it to readers to judge how successful they are at this.