Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part V

As I embark on the fifth installment of my series of posts directly engaging Dave McPhillips’ faltering comments campaign against reason and objectivity, I ask readers to pay close attention to the pattern that Dave’s objections continually exhibit, namely a pattern of reaching for skeptical angles aimed at undermining reason, intellectual integrity and confidence in one’s own faculties.

Presuppositionalists are in the habit of relying on such patterns, not only because their worldview requires men to renounce their minds and prostrate themselves before authoritarian mystics and witch doctors whose say-so is supposed to serve as the end-all, be-all of knowledge, but also because it is so effective on many non-Christians who have themselves already accepted skepticism’s core premises.

On those few occasions when presuppositionalists are confronted with firm, sustained and uncompromising endorsements of reason, they can typically be found replying with a “yeah, but” sequence of utterances and quickly proceeding to deploy skeptical tactics intended to undermine reason and one’s confidence in his own ability to use it. Apologists recoil at reason as though it were Kryptonite to their inflatable superman. The bible does not lay out an epistemology of reason, and it’s obvious to anyone who reads it that believers are expected to swallow everything it says uncritically on its own say-so, regardless of the fact that its claims are unsupported by evidence and contrary to reason. That’s the express opposite of reason. In the “good old days” of the Dark Ages, Christians could be more open and forthright about their worldview’s pronounced antagonism against reason. Martin Luther, one of the Reformation’s most outspoken exponents, was notorious for his explicit rejection of reason. Luther recognized the threat that the Renaissance posed to the religious worldview, and in response to this threat he dug his heels in and put even greater outspoken emphasis on Christianity’s aversion to reason. This was no accident.

Since Luther’s time, the Renaissance culminated in the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, with the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the United States as its shining achievements. Consequently, Christians in the west have had to develop ways to conceal Christianity’s hostility towards reason, including the guise of pretending to be on cozy terms with reason when in fact it is entirely the opposite. I suspect this is shifting some as apologists rely more and more on skepticism’s premises, thanks to the corruption that spews out of the philosophy departments, and consequently find that candid opposition to reason is not quite so stigmatized as it once was.

This is where Dave McPhillips enters, against the backdrop of a growing willingness among apologists to openly declare war against reason. Only Dave still finds it necessary to pay lip service to reason through the teeth of a “yeah, but” parlance that’s quickly ready to come out of the closet and drop the façade, gleefully disclosing its enmity against reason.

This is the pattern that remains constant throughout Dave’s running commentary. It can be observed in previous installments in this series, which can be accessed here:
Up to this point I have been showing how Christianity cannot offer either suitable or coherent answers to questions which Dave himself had posed to me. In the present post, we will explore Dave’s emphasis on unidentified “presuppositions” and “assumptions” which he routinely treats as though they were unquestionable primaries.

Dave asserts:
You must first presuppose certain things about reality before you devise or apply a method to discover reality.
Dave nowhere presents an argument for the view which he affirms here. Like the mystics who have come before him, he simply asserts it as though his own say-so were sufficient to make it true. But notice how expressly rationalistic in nature the view he affirms here turns out to be: it assumes that we must begin with some internal mental content (e.g., “presuppositions” or “assumptions”) from which we derive subsequent truths or “apply a method to discover reality.” Notice also how it implies that the “presuppositions” or “assumptions” themselves could not be the product of any kind of a method used to discover reality, so, on Dave’s own assumptions here, whatever he “must first presuppose” cannot itself be derived from reality. That’s rationalism with a vengeance – i.e., deduction without reference to reality.

Also, Dave’s statement ignores the fact that we are in direct contact with reality by means of perception as well as by means of conceptual knowledge, so long as we are forming our concepts according to the objective theory of concepts. We perceive things before we do any conceptualizing, and we do in fact conceptualize based on the objects we directly perceive. Dave’s worldview does not explain this process (the bible presents no theory of concepts), so he has no defense against the claim that we begin with “presuppositions” rather than with direct perceptual awareness of objects. The problem is that, since his worldview does not provide him with an informed understanding of how the conceptual relates to the perceptual, he’s been made vulnerable systematically for just the kind of insidious assault on the human mind that he recycles here.

Moreover, we do not need to “devise” a method to “discover” reality. Since perception is automatic, no devising is needed to put us in perceptual contact with reality. What we need is a method of identifying and integrating what we perceive, but the nature of our consciousness already provides us with the tools by which we can do this quite easily, namely the process of abstraction. Again, one will not learn how this works by reading the bible.

Dave wrote:
You cannot start with epistemology and move to ontology without having certain ontological presuppositions.
We do not “start with epistemology and move to ontology” to begin with. We begin with perception, which is pre-conceptual and therefore pre-epistemological. Perception itself is metaphysical – it is a natural function of the human organism, just as respiration, circulation and digestion are. Consciousness is just as biological as any other function of the human organism.

I had written:
Facts exist in nature. We discover and identify them by means of reason.
Dave responded:
I disagree with your definition of facts. Facts are truth claims based on our experience of nature.
My view is that facts are entities in specific contexts – where the concept ‘entities’ here denotes distinct things which exist independent of the conscious activity by which one becomes aware of them. Dave disagrees that facts exist in nature. Rather, he asserts that “facts are truth claims.” But here I would say that Dave is confusing facts with statements which identify facts. There are two things involved here: on the one hand, there are the facts which exist in the world, in nature, independent of consciousness activity and which we may or may not discover; on the other, there are identifications, statements, propositions, claims or what have you which refer to or denote the facts which we discover in the world. The two are not the same: the former is metaphysical – existing in nature apart from human cognition (such as a plant growing beside a road or a rock sitting on a sidewalk), the latter is epistemological. By equating facts with statements about facts, Dave has blurred the distinction between both, which is symptomatic of a worldview which fails to distinguish properly between consciousness and its objects.

Now notice that Dave does not cite the bible as his source of a definition for the concept ‘fact’. Thus we might ask: does the bible provide a definition of the concept ‘fact’? What if anything does the bible have to say about facts? Blank out.

Dave wrote:
We have no certainty that a “fact” of nature will exist tomorrow unless we assume uniformity.
Again, Dave offers no arguments here, but it’s clear from what he does say that he assumes that certainty rests ultimately on assumptions (he does not indicate whether these assumptions themselves also need to be certain, in which case we would have an infinite regress). Again, this is rationalism – i.e., deduction without reference to reality. Dave assumes that we must begin with assumptions, and presumably reality will conform to whatever those assumptions might happen to be. What else can one infer about his position on this score? It’s clear that he has no conceptual understanding of induction, so he is forced into the subjective nervosa of theistic rationalism. At no point does Dave explain how the unidentified “assumptions” to which he appeals make contact with reality. Thus he gives no indication of how his assumptions could have any objective basis. And if his assumptions are ultimately informed by his theism, then it’s clear that they could have no objective basis, for he has already conceded that the primacy of consciousness is the ultimate foundation of his worldview.

Dave wrote:
But on what basis do you assume uniformity? This is what I keep trying to ask.
For one thing, we do not have to “assume” the uniformity of nature. Dave errs in assuming that “assuming” as such is the only alternative open to us – that we must blindly suppose that something is the case and then hope that reality conforms to whatever we happen to suppose. On the contrary, we begin with axioms - i.e., fundamental recognitions based on perceptually self-evident facts stated in explicit form. I have already explained to Dave that “uniformity” as I understand it is essentially the concurrence of identity with existence. This is something we discover about reality, not “assume” on some baseless hope or act of faith.

Even though I explained this already, I’m guessing that Dave has not given this much thought for it’s clear that he has not grasped it (otherwise, why would he be asking this again?). To exist is to be something specific. This fact is perceptually self-evident, and the axioms make these recognitions explicit. Thus, in essence, the recognition that nature is uniform is axiomatic. Dave’s worldview cannot allow for this, for his worldview suffers from the chronic yet insatiable apologetic need to characterize uniformity as a product of conscious activity: his god wishes that nature be a certain way, and reality conforms to its wishing. That’s “wishing makes it so” – that’s subjectivism.

Dave had written:
Anyone can reason, however your reasoning must be measured against a standard in order to determine weather [sic] you are reasoning properly or coherently.
I responded:
Yes, that standard is the primacy of existence. Your entire worldview denies the primacy of existence, and yet you assume the primacy of existence whenever you assert that your worldview is true (unless of course you say that Christian is true simply because you want it to be or believe it to be true, which perhaps you do).
Dave replied:
No. the standard is not the “primacy of existence” the standard for validating ones reasoning is the laws of logic.
Dave apparently does not recognize the fact that he is applying the primacy of existence right here as a standard while denying its status as a standard. Dave says that the standard is “the laws of logic.” But is the case because Dave wants it to be the case? Is it the case because Dave says it is? Is it the case because Dave imagines it is? Most likely Dave is going to say that the laws of logic constitute the standard of one’s reasoning, not because he or anyone else wants, says or imagines it, but because it’s a fact that obtains independent of anyone’s conscious activity (including but not limited to wanting, saying and imagining). But that is the primacy of existence right there! The primacy of existence is the formal, explicit recognition of the fact that existence exists independent of consciousness and its application to knowledge. Thus any time a person states “X is the case” and he means that this is so independent of anyone’s wishing, wanting, fantasizing, feelings, preferences, say-so, etc., he’s making use of the primacy of existence right there. The issue is not that the primacy of existence does not figure into one’s knowledge, but that one has not explicitly identified it and consequently does not understand what it is and/or how it functions throughout one’s knowledge. I suppose in Dave’s case it’s a combination of each.

As for the laws of logic, they only tell a portion of the story. Logic provides the form according to which the hierarchy of knowledge is constructed. Logic will tell us when we’ve made an error in inference.

Consider for example the following example:
P1: Kyle’s chemistry students love disco. 
P2. Tony is one of Kyle’s chemistry students. 
C: Therefore, Tony does not love disco.
Clearly the conclusion here does not follow from the given premises. We can know this by applying logic (again, something we never learn about by reading the bible).

But are the premises true?

Logic by itself will not tell us this. Logic cannot serve as a substitute for factual investigation. We need facts to inform the content of our knowledge, and the primacy of existence tells us essentially this: that knowledge is knowledge of existence, not of something other than existence; existence must supply the content of our knowledge, not wishing, preferences, prayer, imagination, revelation, etc. So while logic provides the formal template for relating some bit of knowledge with another, it does not supply the content of knowledge. This we have to get from reality by means of investigation, whether systematic or otherwise. Hence we need reason proper.

Also, the primacy of existence teaches a thinker to bear certain fundamental distinctions in mind throughout his acquisition and validation of knowledge, such as the distinction between the objects we perceive and/or consider and the conscious activity by which we perceive and/or consider those objects; the facts we discover and our wishing and emotions; what is real and what is imaginary, etc. Thus the primacy of existence sets the fundamental boundaries of genuine knowledge of the world, and in this very sense it is the supreme standard.

Dave wrote:
Such laws must be universal, absolute and invariant.
And that is why they must be conceptual. Only concepts have universal reference. No concretes do this. Universality is essentially the open-endedness of conceptual awareness (see my blog Demystifying Universality for more pointers on this).

Concepts are formed by omitting specific measurements. Concepts apply invariantly and absolutely because time and place are omitted measurements. The concept ‘chair’ for example includes all chairs regardless of their individual distinguishing characteristics, regardless of when they exist, regardless of where they exist. This is only made possible by the process of abstraction, specifically the operation known as measurement-omission. For a detailed analysis of this, see Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

One will not learn about the process of abstraction from the bible any more than he’ll learn about the laws of logic from the bible. Christians must seek outside their bibles to learn about logic and concepts, for their worldview provides no knowledge on these matters. Unfortunately, because of their worldview’s failure to provide any knowledge regarding the nature of logic and the nature of concepts, many Christians adopt the ignorance-riddled notion that they come from their god, which would mean that logic and conceptual reference as such find their basis in the primacy of consciousness metaphysics – i.e., essentially in the view that wishing makes it so. But this is simply false and completely needless.

To be continued…

by Dawson Bethrick


l_johan_k said...

I learn so much when I read your blog.

Justin Hall said...

My non existent god you are a roll here Mr Dawson. I am greatly enjoying this. I recently had an interaction with a presupper that I know. In the past I have completely stumped him in verbal debates yet here he was regurgitating the same old assertions as if non of our past discussions had occurred. The rigid myopic tunnel vision of the authoritarian presupper is breath taking at times. They don't understand and don't wish to understand, only feel smug in their own ignorance and lack of honest curiosity. I am going to use some what I have learned here in your last few posts to advance my discussion with him. Even if I fail to convince him I will strive to achieve one goal. To hammer home that far from not being able to account for my reasoning that it is the complete opposite. I have a firm certain grounding for my reasoning while he builds his house of cards with a foundation in his imagination. Knowing that I believe this will surely greatly frustrate him.

Justin Hall said...

@Christian James

I don't start with god. I start with sense perception and the perceptually self evident irreducible concepts I can conceptualize from them, existence, identity and consciousness. Where is god, a rather complex and hardly irreducible concept to be found in what I have listed?

Further I find it amusing that you would invoke the law of non contradiction, a corollary to Aristotle's law of identity, A is A. However the law of identity is only meaningful within the framework of an objective metaphysics which is in direct opposition to the christian subjective metaphysics. By employing non contradiction you are refuting yourself with your own words.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

You wrote: “In the past I have completely stumped him in verbal debates yet here he was regurgitating the same old assertions as if non of our past discussions had occurred.”

The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but this is what Christianity requires a man to do – to throw his mind away by systematically compartmentalizing his knowledge into various quadrants that can be opened and closed at will. “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men,” wrote Paul (I Cor. 9:22), “that I might by all means save some.” The Christian evangelist has to be practiced in the art of changing faces, to feign a variety of appearances before men, in order to manipulate and entrap them. Of course, here Paul is suggesting that he has the ability to “save some” men, yet Christians today tell me that only Jesus saves.

In some comments submitted yesterday evening by Dave McPhillips to one of the other blog entries in this series (comments which I have not released yet), Dave is emphatically stating that conceptualization precedes perception – that perception cannot come before concepts, that concepts – in the form of “presuppositions” – are necessary for perception to happen. For example, in one comment he writes:

And yes babies do presuppose the reliability of their senses otherwise babies couldn’t develop and take what there senses tell them as information about reality. If a baby didn’t presuppose the reliability of its senses how would it know that certain things are painful? If a baby burns it’s finger on the stove it interprets and associates that sensation with pain and will likely not put its finger on the stove again because it takes for granted that the information received from its senses is reliable indicator of reality. If it didn’t, it’s likely that the baby will put its finger on the stove again because it would not trust the information previously obtained through sensory experience.

In another, he writes:

First of all I don’t accept the claim that perception is pre-conceptual. When you perceive things you are presupposing certain things about perception which is conceptual. As I have stated sense perception presupposes the reliability of the senses and presuppositions are conceptual in nature. Therefore perception cannot be pre-conceptual.

Now, if he is speaking on behalf of Christianity here, then we should expect to find uniformity amongst Christians on this matter, since the relationship between the conceptual and the perceptual levels of awareness are of basic epistemological import. However, I have never found anything in the bible which speaks to this matter, either in favor of what Dave has stated here, or against it. Since this issue is not even addressed, the biblical worldview allows its adherents to adopt a dopplegänger non-position on the matter, for purposes of expedience of the moment. Coupled with the compartmentalization which Christianity requires in order to cordon off the contrary horns of various contradictions they must adopt in order to sustain their beliefs, this expedience of the moment allows believers like Dave to affirm the most baffling statements. This essentially allows apologists to make things up as they go, apparently for the sake of disagreeing with their "adversaries."


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Christian James,

Thanks for your comment. I have a question for you, and I'd really like to know your thoughts.

It's clear that Jesus requires sacrifice from believers. I'm supposing you will not dispute this (but maybe?).

Given this, is there anything that you would *not* give up for Christ? Is there anything that you would resist sacrificing as part of your duty to serve Christ?

If so, what would you refuse to sacrifice?


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Christian,

You wrote: “Thanks for allowing me to comment.”

You’re welcome!

You wrote: “I apologize for the multiple postings, that silly brain of mine.”

This happens sometimes with many commenters. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it did not appear to go through on your end when it actually did, and you simply made another attempt for good measure. There’s nothing wrong with that. I tend to approve comments in a quick sweep, before reading them, so if more than one posting of your comment appears, you can delete the unneeded ones if you like.

You asked: “Before I answer your question, I respectfully would like to know first why you ask?”

That’s fine.

Many people come here professing to be Christians, and Christianity calls for self-sacrifice. At, a Christian writing under the name Armen states that following Jesus is “about what we must be prepared to do to follow Jesus. It’s about giving up everything, even our very lives for Him,” and asks: “as His followers, are we willing to place Him in first position and place the most important people in our lives in second place?”

I would like to know who is authentic in his devotion to his god and to what degree. According to Genesis, Abraham was so devoted that he did not wince one iota when commanded to prepare his own son as a sacrifice. I don’t know if you have any children, but supposing you did, would you be willing to sacrifice your own child, or your wife perhaps, or mother or father, if commanded by your god? I’m not asking if your god would ever require this. My question has to do with your character as a Christian, your devotion, your willingness to sacrifice.

If you feel uncomfortable answering this question, you don’t need to answer it. But then I admit, I’d be curious why you’d be uncomfortable answering it…

You wrote: “And secondly how will what I am willing to sacrifice be beneficial to this discussion?”

That depends on how the discussion takes shape. But already I think it’s a good topic for discussion itself. Also, this would be a chance to broadcast to readers of this blog the nature of your devotion to your god. Think of it as an opportunity to testify on behalf of your devotion to your god.


Justin Hall said...

Man do you have any idea how many times I have mistakenly posted multiple times. It happens to all of us. OK so here is my reply to your post. I tend to be snarky and I admit it. Please remember it is the ideas and not the man I take exception to. I think you have the concept of hate the sin not the sinner. To be blunt please do not take this personally, it is attack on theism not you and it is my hope that you can see that you are not your conclusions. You are the man that reached those conclusions and you as the man can reach still others.

“I'm glad that you are amused. However, I think you are misrepresenting my position. This is what I said, "You must start with an absolute before you can make valid truth, value, or moral claims. This doesn't mean people don't make such claims I'm just saying relativistic claims are simply illogical because they violate the logical law of non-contridiction." Do you agree that relativism is bunk?”

By absolute I assume you mean what objectivism identifies as an axiom. If so then yes I start with one, three actually. They are existence, identity and consciousness. They are irreducible primaries that would have to be presumed even in the act of denying them.

You claim that relativistic claims are simply illogical. I suspect you are conflating relativistic with subjective, they are not the same thing. Two different phonemes meaning to different concepts. Lets look at the law of non contradiction. “A cannot be A and not A at the same time within the same respect”. Keep in mind the same respect. Now take a hypothetical, you are standing on the east side of Mt Hood and I am standing on the west side. I don't see a glacier but you will. Our respective viewpoints are relative and yet each is objective and valid. Objectivity vs subjectivity deals not with what is seen in particular but the relationship to what is seen. I can not wish a glacier to appear on the west slope no matter how hard I will it and neither can you. Thus our view points are both relative and objective. Relative does not equate to subjective.

Relativism is a wide concept and I do not wish to make blanket assessments of it here. General and Special relativity for example says that two observers can have radically different reference frames and view the universe differently and this theory is hardly bunk. However any argument that reality is subjective, remember this deals with the relationship between subject and object is by definition self defeating. Claims about reality presume objectivity.

Justin Hall said...

“Let me clarify my position - this blog is about "incinerating presuppositionalism," generally you incinerate things that are useless or hazardous. Thus I'm assuming that the intent of the writer is to say presuppositonalism is bad (value/truth/moral claim) and to equip Atheistic followers on the art of combating said tactics. This is eerily similar to the church might I add. My thesis is that this is hypocrisy, that is if the writer holds to a relativistic truth view and or no absolute truth view. If not I stand corrected. I also wanted to point out errors regarding Christianity that I've noticed amongst those outside the faith.”

Again I remind you that relativism is not the issue here, the issue is the subject object relationship, is it objective or subjective. Objectivists start with the objective perceptually self evident truths of existence, identity and consciousness. However they meet your criteria of non relativism as well. For each and every one of us regardless of our reference frames will observe existence, identity and consciousness. They are axioms invariant to ones view point on what the particulars of existence identity and consciousness happen to be. What I am referring to here are the roots to a conceptual hierarchy that are the same regardless of what form that hierarchy takes on once the thinker starts to conceptualize more complex concepts form these initial axioms.

You accuse Mr Bethrick of hypocrisy and yet you by your own words have displayed a lack of understanding or even awareness of what objecitvism has to say on these matters. You are correct that yes we have a very dim view of presuppositionalism and that is because it is founded on age old and debunked philosophical skepticism. This skepticism is nothing less then an assault on the mind and the integrity of man as well as a vehicle of selling the equivalent of intellectual snake oil. It is also a prime example of laying claim to what has not been earned, in the case knowledge.

Over and over we hear the presuppoer go on and on about the importance of this or that concept to epistemology and yet when asked they can not point to anything in the bible that even defines what a concept is or how they are formed or validated. What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens indeed. Dim view does not come close to exhausting what I think of presuppositionalism.

Justin Hall said...

“Nonetheless, I've spoken truth, relativistic claims are illogical because they are self-contradictory. The presuppositional argument is a logical argument based in scripture which states that God has made himself known to all men, but men (you) suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Roman 1:18-23).”

An argument that begins with scripture and god intended to convince an atheist begs the question for the atheist does not accept scripture as authoritative at the outset nor does he by definition believe in god. Second even if we over look this I would hardly characterize an argument that has as a primary premise the existence of an being that currently can not be distinguished from the imagination a logical one. Lastly you cite Romans 1:18-23. This is what is called a non falsifiable claim. The biblical authors claim to know what I am thinking and here is the insidious disingenuous nature of the claim. If I accept the claim I am conceding to your conclusion and if I deny it you will say “see you deny it but in your heart you really believe it”. This is no different then the conspiracy theories if you can dignify them with the word theory surrounding the moon landing and 911. There is no way to falsify them. The defenders will will just say any counter evidence is evidence of the cover up. This is not arguing, this is trying to subvert logical debate and claim victory without having earned it, it is stealing.

Claims that can be accepted without evidence can likewise be rejected without evidence. So I reject the claim of romans 1:18-23 without either evidence or argumentation. I dismiss it out of hand without a second thought for it deserved none.

Justin Hall said...

“The fact that you can't see God doesn't deny him as a valid source of objectivity nor does it deny his working in my own life or others. The fact that you would implore that our reasoning is subjective shows that you do not have a good grasp of what we believe and also that you believe in objectivity (very good I agree!). God exists whether we believe or not, that objective reality will not change. Regarding objectivity, yes I appeal to the Bible as my objective source on who God is. Again I declare the bible is an objective source whether you agree or disagree with its validity. Based on your worldview, how will you condemn it or believers? What perfect, absolute authority will you appeal to that people should obey and bow the knee and or repent?”

While it is true that if god (whatever that is) exists that would be an objective fact it does not answer the real question. How do I distinguish what you call god from what you may simply be imagining. Any discussion between an atheist and a theist will always come back to this eventually regardless of what stripe of atheist or theist we are dealing with. You have made a claim, why should we accept it?

Moving on to your other points. I disagree, I would say I have a very good grasp of Christian metaphysics. The book of Genesis makes it plain that god created reality by his mere wishing it to be so. He did not pick up so much as one celestial hammer and nail. He did not employ means with identity, he just wished it so. In fact universe literally translate into English as one word, god spoke and it happened. You simply can not get anymore metaphysically subjective then this. In fact this is the arch type example of subjectivism. Everything past present or future is by the whim and desire of god without limit. In such a reality there can never be even in principle an objective yard stick against which to measure a claim. There can not be objective knowledge, morality or anything else. The law of identity, A is A would be meaningless.

You claim that the bible is an objective source of knowledge and I ask how would we test that. If reality is what it is regardless and invariant to the wishes or even awareness of any consciousness then we could compare the bible via experimentation to said reality and see how it compares knowing that in any disagreement the objective reality would trump the bible. We have in fact done this and the bible has come off rather badly as a predictor of reality. Genesis has not been born out in the only court that matters, reality. However matters are worse then this.

If god exists then just how would we verify the bible? What objective yard stick exists against which to compare the bible. If god or any god exists he can shape and change reality on the fly to suit his whim. A honest man can be turned into a lair at a moments notice without warning or hope of prediction thus destroying the very concepts truth and falsehood. Worse still such a god could have reality present in a relative sense within the same respect. Two men in the same time and respect say on a train track except that only one sees and is in danger of being hit by a train, the other blissfully unaware of the danger posed to the other. End result one man dead the other unhurt. Such a set of events is impossible in an objective universe. You can assure me all you like that god would not lie but in the end you have no way of testing the word of god. What yard stick could you compare his word to? Blank out.

Justin Hall said...

Then you asked this “What perfect, absolute authority will you appeal to that people should obey and bow the knee and or repent?”

This question simply does not translate into my world view. The question is meaningless. I am not an authoritarian. One thing I have observed over and over again in my discussions with authoritarians is that they seem incapable of grasping that someone else might not be an authoritarian. To them everyone is an authoritarian and it is only a question of what authority they bow to, the right one or all the other competing ones. That someone might actually have the temerity to think for themselves seems to not even cross their minds. Only time will tell if you prove to be the exception to this observance of mine.

Justin Hall said...

“At this point I would like to note that we Christians are privy to the same evidences that you folks try to use to disprove God.”

I can not speak for any other atheist but I will state for myself that I am not using any evidence to disprove god. I am still awaiting a coherent and non contradictory definition of god. Only when I have that could I evaluate what could and could not stand in as evidence for god. Also it is not my burden to disprove god. I was not born into this word with any knowledge of god. I recall at the age of 5 when I first conceptualized the hazy meaning of god that I have. I did not accept it then and I have never heard a compelling argument for it in the 38 years since. I am under no obligation to refute that which can not be demonstrated and distinguished from what might simply be a case of imagination.

“With compassion, I say, my friend, your issue is not informational, your issue is sin. Until you deal with the sin issue, you will never be able to deal with the objective evidences regarding the existence of God i.e. Psalm 19,

"The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above1 proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.And that's why I've come to tell you that you have a sin problem and this problem will inevitably cause bias when knowing God."

So you imagine, I am not concerned with what you feel or imagine. I am only concerned with what you can justifiably claim to know. As for sin, this is a Christian concept that is meaningful only within the framework of the Christian paradigm. I as a atheist simply care not for sin, it is meaningless to me. I can do wrong and I can do right but these concepts are meaningful within my framework of ethics. I doubt very much that you and I would even again what what ethics even are so this particular point of disagreement is unlikely to lead to a fruitful discussion.

Justin Hall said...

“In conclusion, lets look at your statement: "I don't start with god. I start with sense perception and the perceptually self evident irreducible concepts I can conceptualize from them, existence, identity and consciousness. Where is god, a rather complex and hardly irreducible concept to be found in what I have listed?"

Read very intellectual, I'm surprised my simple Christian brain could comprehend. My question to you, how do you know that your perceptions are true? What objectivity in your world view will you use that is not relative or subjective?”

percepts are neither true nor false, they simply are. My senses are automatic and supply my mind with precepts that are pre conceptual in nature. My pet lizard for example is aware of her surroundings via her senses but has no conceptual awareness of them as such. What is true or false are the conceptualized conclusions I integrate from them. Something Lucy my lizard is unable to do. This process is called induction and the conclusions it furnishes are by there nature tentative and subject to revision when and if new precepts are supplied. This is a hallmark of my world view, built in error correction, something I suspect yours lacks.

The objectivity in my world view is the perceptually self evident truth that reality does not conform to my wishes, desires or whims. That things are what they are irrespective or my feelings or even knowledge of them. If I wish to understand the world my senses report back to me automatically then I must employ reason which is the application of logic to ones thinking. Logic is the art of non contradictory identification and it has but one law, A is A. None of this would be possible unless reality was what it appears to be, objective. If it were subjective as the book of genesis makes clear there would be no foundation upon which to build the outline of my epistemology. In short if god then no knowledge, we have knowledge therefor god belief is not justified.

“To answer your question "where is God?"

Psalms 115, "Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases."

he does all that he pleases”

Yes very subjective.

Anonymous said...

Christian James,

I'm sorry to inform you that your diatribe about the relative is so badly thought that it causes pain.

Let's try piecemeal:

This is what I said, "You must start with an absolute before you can make valid truth, value, or moral claims. This doesn't mean people don't make such claims I'm just saying relativistic claims are simply illogical because they violate the logical law of non-contridiction." Do you agree that relativism is bunk?

You have refuted what you just said. You are saying that you have to start with an absolute (I think that you meant objective) before you can make judgements. But judgements are, by definition, relative. Your own proposal is one where every claim you make would be relative to that "mysterious" "absolute" (again, I think you meant objective). So, since you think that relative claims violate the law of non-contradiction, well, your proposal would violate the law of non-contradiction. Your ideas are incoherent and self-refuting.

You cannot claim that the Christian worldview is "better" than any other worldview without implying a comparison, and therefore without it being a relativistic claim. A claim that tests a relationship, by definition, cannot but be relative.

So, by claiming that relative claims violate the law of non-contradiction, you have declared that every value, every claim, that you could try and make against other worldviews is invalidated by your own position, and therefore you have no way of doing anything for or against any other position. Not even your own.

Nice conundrum you have created for yourself.

I cannot resist visiting this one:

Nonetheless, I've spoken truth, relativistic claims are illogical because they are self-contradictory.

Therefore any claim you make is self-contradictory, but then, how would you be able to make sense of this sentence? You depend on language, grammar, logic, etc, etc, which makes your whole structure relative to those things. Wow!

The presuppositional argument is a logical argument based in scripture

Since it is relative to "scripture" it is therefore self-contradictory.

which states that God has made himself known to all men, but men (you) suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Roman 1:18-23).

Sorry, but the idea is incoherent even before you declared that it is self-contradictory according to your worldview. A logical argument is not the same as a claim. Not a good start by any means.

I appeal to the Bible as my objective source on who God is.

Good luck with that.

Again I declare the bible is an objective source whether you agree or disagree with its validity.

Yet the Bible is still a mix and match of book of stories, ancient laws, ancient cosmologies, ancient fables, etc, which reflect the culture of the peoples who wrote it, regardless of whatever declarations, preferences, wishes, etc that you, me, or anybody else might hold.

Based on your worldview, how will you condemn it or believers?

Worldviews have no effect on the veracity or falsity of a claim. Whatever my worldview might be, the Bible will remain being exactly what it is.

What perfect, absolute authority will you appeal to that people should obey and bow the knee and or repent?

The idea that you need a "perfect absolute authority to which to appeal, obey and bow the knee and or repent" before judging the Bible to be the composition of book that it is, is the most ridiculous idea I have ever read from a Christian. Why would anybody need to repent before noticing that the Bible is written exactly like any other books? Why would anybody need to bend the knee before judging that Harry Potter is a book of fantasy? This is so incoherent that I'll leave the rest to someone else before I start talking about the state of your mind and you take it for an offence.

Anonymous said...

Christian James,

As noted, you have no idea what the terms you use mean. Namely, you don't know the meanings of such words as absolute, relative, objective, and subjective. Furthermore, you have no idea what comparisons and judgements are.

I could try and translate your incoherent presentation into something a tad more coherent out of compassion, and then answer that. Yet, I have learned the hard way that there should never be the slightest compassion when it comes to presuppositionalists. So I won't.

That leads to the following note: since, as I said, you have no idea of what you're talking about, since you hold to an absolutist black and white way of thinking that propelled you to make those blatant mistakes (which you could have avoided by just a tiny bit of thinking), and since you had not noticed some quite basic self-refutations and obvious faults in what you presented, What makes you think that you are right otherwise? Why not question your indoctrination into the presuppositionalist bullshit instead?

Bahnsen Burner said...

Christian James,

I had asked you if there is anything you would *not* sacrifice for Jesus.

This is known in English as a polar question: it is answered by either a yes or a no. Otherwise, it can be challenged given some faulty assumption it supposedly makes.

But I did not see a clear yes or no in your response. So let's ask again:

Is there anything that you, Christian James, would not give up or sacrifice for Jesus?

___ Yes, I would not sacrifice [fill in the blank]

___ No, there is nothing I would not sacrifice for Jesus

How do you answer?

I do not see how Christians could find this to be an unfair or improper question since they are out evangelizing the world and looking for converts who would be expected to make sacrifices as part of their conversion to Christianity.

So please address this question before raising any others, as this is the first order of business in my discussion with you right now.


Ydemoc said...

Christian James,

"It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master." (Ayn Rand, "The Soule of a Collectivist," For the New Intellectual, p. 73)

What Rand has identified stands in the sharpest contrast possible to what we read in Ephesians 6:5: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ."

What's fantastic about what Paul writes and what the defenders of Christianity ignore, is that he (Paul) had a golden opportunity to condemn slavery once and for all. But did he? No. He accepts it as a given, as the norm, indeed as a moral standard for people in bondage, and proceeds from there, as if to say, "Hey, slavery is cool. It's a part of what's going on, and I don't see a problem with it. Sure, you don't want to threaten or beat your slaves, because then they may not be able to work for you as well if you hurt them, so try not to beat them where they can't work, But as far as slavery itself goes -- that is, owning other human beings as property -- well, it's all good. After all, doesn't Christ own us?"

I guess all those runaway slaves who escaped their bondage of the South and fled to the North for some semblance of freedom during the mid-19th century weren't really obeying Paul's dictate here, were they? Were they obeying their earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as they would obey Christ by fleeing and seeking freedom?

"Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others." (Ayn Rand, Galt's Speech, For the New Intellectual. p.128)


Bahnsen Burner said...

Chrisitan James,

You wrote: "Sacrifices aren't part of the conversion process my friend."

And I nowhere stated that it is. Whether it is part of the conversion process or not is neither here nor there. Nevertheless, sacrifice is still required. The passages which you have quoted and the quote I gave all confirm this. Their role in salvation as Christianity conceives of it is not the topic of discussion here. The fact that sacrifice is required, is the topic.

That is why I have asked you: is there anything that you would not sacrifice for Jesus?

Again, I don't know why any Christian would not be happy to answer this. But reluctance to answer it may suggest insecurity on the part of the believer who resists answering it. But if a person really believed Jesus is real, why would he have any insecurities?


Anonymous said...

Christian James,

OK, we visited one side of the incoherence of your presentation. You declared, without a shadow of a doubt in what you stated, that any relative claim was necessarily self-contradictory. That alone rendered your whole comment incoherent and self-refuting. You basically declared that whatever was to follow, it was necessarily self-contradicting. That's a good job in making the case for rejecting Christianity out right.

Now I want to focus on the admission to subjectivity that you made while trying to deny that your worldview was subjective.

Here's what you said, and my comments:

... The fact that you would implore that our reasoning is subjective shows that you do not have a good grasp of what we believe ...

Actually, it is an unavoidable conclusion from every angle that we have examined "what you believe."

God exists whether we believe or not, that objective reality will not change .

Self-refuting statement, given that you don't believe that reality is objective, but, rather, subjective: the whims of some god. As if this contradiction wasn't enough, you openly declare that your foundation for this declaration is subjective, as we are about to see.

Regarding objectivity, yes I appeal to the Bible as my objective source on who God is.

Which makes your "knowledge" of this god, relative to whatever the Bible states. By your previously declared standards, your declaration that "God" is real whether we want it or not, is self-contradictory, even before we visit the subjective nature of your worldview at that level.

Again I declare the bible is an objective source whether you agree or disagree with its validity.

If you declare that the Bible is an objective source, then your worldview is completely and abjectly subjective. This is an open admission to subjectivity no matter how you try and twist it around.

Based on your worldview, how will you condemn it or believers?

I don't even need to look at any other worldview before noticing the hypocrisy of this statement. You openly declare that your basis is subjective, and then you think that nobody else should judge you on your contradictory claims, unless they have an objective worldview. I don't even need to talk about my worldview and its reliance on objectivity. All I need to do is notice that your worldview is incoherent and irrational and be done with it. Your worldview oozes through self-inflicted cuts.

Anonymous said...

I see that I did not write this part clearly enough, so here with a few corrections:

Again I declare the bible is an objective source whether you agree or disagree with its validity.

If you declare that the Bible is an objective source, then your worldview is completely and abjectly subjective. A mere declaration, no matter how strongly stated, cannot be an objective foundation. A mere declaration is necessarily subjective. This is an open admission to subjectivity on your part no matter how you try and twist it around.

This naturally leads to the realization that presuppositionalism is necessarily and openly subjective. It declares that you have to start with a presupposition, where the "presupposition" consists on imagining your stating point, and use that as foundation for the rest. It therefore declares that there's no objectivity at all. Presuppositionalism is self-refuting nonsense It's truly amazing that Christians would not notice these obvious flaws..

Bahnsen Burner said...

Christian James,

You wrote: “Let the ‘Christian’ tell you about Christianity.”

If I am going to take this route, then I need to confirm whether or not the person who claims to be a “Christian” is a genuine Christian. That is why I’ve asked the question that I’ve posed to you. If you’re holding something back from Jesus, then how can I be sure that you’re a genuine Christian and therefore a proper spokesman for Christianity?

You wrote: “You are insinuating that there are ‘sacrific(es)’ that need to be made prior to conversion”

I don’t think I’m insinuating this at all, nor do I intend to. I’m asking you as someone who has already converted: is there anything you would not sacrifice for Jesus? I really don’t see why this question is so difficult to answer, but, like most people who *claim* to be Christian, you are exhibiting the same kind of reluctance to answer a straightforward question about your faith.

You wrote: “I'm telling you that there is only one sacrifice that needs to be made and that is one's life.”

Good, that’s at least a little progress. So, is there anything in your life that you are not willing to sacrifice for Jesus? How about your mind? Your children (if you have any)? Your wife (if you have one)? Your parents, siblings, family, friends, strangers in your neighborhood? Would you hold any one of these things back? Would you refuse to sacrifice any of these?

You wrote: “Your question is short sighted in this.”

If it’s making you squirm this badly, it must have hit the bull’s eye.

You wrote: “It seems that you are asking the question as if I am not a Christian and considering Christianity.”

How so? I’m asking someone who claims already to be a Christian whether or not there’s something he would not sacrifice for Jesus. That is the context of my question.

You wrote: “I am a Christian,”

That is the claim I would like to verify.

You wrote: “I belong to Christ, my continued devotion there after is no longer a requirement of conversion as I am already converted.”

I’m not talking about conversion. I’m asking whether or not there is anything you would not sacrifice for Jesus. It’s that simple.

But given your reluctance to state clearly whether or not there is anything you would not sacrifice for Jesus, I think we have your answer. Therefore, I will have to wait for a real “Christian” to come along and speak on behalf of Christianity. You may now excuse yourself from the discussion, Christian James.



Anonymous said...

Christian James,

sorry my friend for leaving you hanging.

I wasn't expecting an answer. I was just pointing out your nonsense for easy spotting by other readers.

First how do you know this to be true? What authority are you appealing to that I should conform to?

I know this to be true because you demonstrated so. Further, you think that I need some authority in order to recognize those flaws. It follows that you don't reason, you obey "authorities" instead.

I don't care if you accept this or not. It's you who came here to "declare" that you have an objective worldview, and it is you who demonstrated the opposite.

Second, your statement does not even take in to account the possibility that I myself have a relationship with the God of the bible

First, you said that you "declare the bible to be an objective source," you offered no objective means to verify so. Instead, you insinuated that, "given our worldview" (whatever you might imagine that to be), we could not condemn Christians for such declaration. That's an open admission that your declaration is subjective.

Second, I know that it's impossible for you to have a relationship with the god of the bible because this god is nonsensical. It's like saying that you have a relationship with a square-circle.

Third, presuppositionalism is a commitment to subjectivity. You "start" with that imaginary being as a "foundation" for your "worldview."

or that biblical writers have seen manifestations of God's presence in history.

That you believe that the bible is history is but a manifestation of your commitment to subjectivity and irrationality.

Essentially, you subjectively assume that there is a high probability that God has never been seen and therefore won't be seen in the future. Despite that fact that you are unable to prove otherwise.

Given the nonsense of Christian doctrines and of the gods described in the Bible, this "God" is fictitious. Since you know that you can't prove otherwise, all you are left with is the presuppositionalist rhetorical system, a.k.a. bullshit.

You clearly haven't read enough of the bible. If you had you would see that some of the writers are claiming that the observed - externally, independent of their emotions and bias manifestations of God in history. Examples of this are seen in Exodus, the burning bush, the pillar by day and fire by night, and my favorite Moses seeing God's back in cleft of the rock. Also Moses talking with God face to face on Mt. SInai. There is also Gideon, Isaiah, Jesus. Not to mention the Gospel accounts and the resurrection of Jesus.

There's plenty of fictional characters who "meet" other fictional characters in countless stories and fantasies. Not very impressive.

There is one whose authority outranks you and he has called me to Preach the Gospel and make disciples.

Yet, you present contradictory claims that betray the irrationality of your worldview, and, when confronted, you declare that you don't reason, that you instead take orders from some "authority."

That is what I am doing.

Not a very good job.

My presuppositions are logical in light my worldview which states God exists and utilized men to write His Bible.

Yet, instead of logic you use commands from some "authority." You don't care whether what you present is self-refuting or not.

So if God tells me through the bible that he has left enough evidence for men to believe that he exist than logically I'm going to trust the One who hasn't sinned instead of the one who has.

Sure. An imaginary being told you so. Why reason instead?

Thanks for playing. Given your commitments to irrationality, I see no point in continuing. Have a nice life.

Ydemoc said...


You wrote: "Second, I know that it's impossible for you to have a relationship with the god of the bible because this god is nonsensical. It's like saying that you have a relationship with a square-circle."

Great way to put it! I gotta remember that one.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Christian James,

You wrote: “With all respect, whether I am a Christian or not is not for you to decide”

But you see, this is not what you would say if I simply accepted your claim that you are a Christian. If I accepted your claim that you’re a Christian, you would not come back scolding me like this. It’s only when I ask you to demonstrate your credentials as a Christian that you balk.

I’m supposing that you do not want to answer my question because either way you answer it has implications that you want to avoid. For example, if you say that you’re willing to sacrifice your mind or your family members for Jesus, what does this say about your character? On the other hand, if you say you are not willing to sacrifice either your mind or your family members (or both) for Jesus, what does this say about your faith? You're stuck. My worldview didn't put you there. Yours did.

Mind you, it is not my worldview that requires people to sacrifice anything. It is not my worldview that requires people to hate their fathers, their mothers, their siblings, their spouses, their children, even themselves. Christianity does, but my worldview doesn’t.

My view, after hundreds of hours of discussions with believers of various “denominations,” is that most people calling themselves “Christians” in the west are posers and charlatans. So far, I see no good reason to exclude you, Christian James, from that category. You will not even make clear whether or not there is anything you will not sacrifice for Jesus. I think that says a lot.

You wrote: “I know there is no condemnation that you can bring against me as I am in Christ.”

It is not I who condemns you, Christian James. Christianity did that already before you were even born. Unfortunately, you’ve taken the bait and fallen for the whole thing. You had no rational worldview with which to defend yourself against Christianity’s mind-game devices. And here you are, stumped speechless by a simple question.

You wrote: “I think I've said enough.”

Yes, you certainly have. When enough nails have been driven into the coffin, it’s time to bury it. Go now and start digging.

You wrote: “May Christ be kind to you all and bring you into his love.”

May you get what you *deserve*, Christian James.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Christian James stated: “You clearly haven't read enough of the bible.”

How much is “enough”?

How much of a Harry Potter novel do I need to read in order to know that it’s all fiction? How much of a Tolkein novel do I need to read to know that it’s fiction? How much of the Koran do I need to read to know that it is fiction?

Why is “the Bible” any different? It reads significantly like these other sources which I categorize as untrue. It’s got invisible magic beings, it’s got super-human heroes, it’s got tales of wonders and signs, it’s got the unmistakable marks of legendary expansion, etc., etc.

Christians do not contest the view that Harry Potter novels and Tolkein novels are fiction. But they would have us suspend our judgment when it comes to their bible. In fact, even here, if one were to say that the bible is true, he is making a judgment. But on what basis? Is he making this judgment on a circular basis? Presuppositionalists clearly are: they tell us outright that they “presuppose” their god. So they’ve already rigged their “reasoning” with a preferred conclusion already in place. This is just more ‘wishing makes it so’.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Christian James,

I have read through your two most recent comments and have posted a reply to them in a new blog entry.

You can find it here:

A Response to Christian James


Unknown said...

Hello Dawson: A facebook user, Jeff Sosnowski, has posted the following in response to the primacy of existence argument. If you get time, please direct me to your blog entry that best responds to Jeff's statement.

// Existence may be a prerequisite, but that isn't what makes a valid first principle for an epistemology. How can we have knowledge? Uh... because existence exists? No incorrect. Existence does not exist. Something exists, but existence is not anything in and of itself. Existence is the state of being of something that does exist. So existence exist, is really nothing more than a tautology. Because it says nothing of what does exist. It's a state of being, but what exactly has that state of being you can not know with out appealing to your reasoning and sense perception. So "existence exists" can not be your starting point to justify how you can know things. In fact if you start with existence exists, all you can know is that existence exists... but even that is meaningless when used by itself. It's like saying blue is blue. So what? What's important is being able to know which objects are blue and which are not. Knowing that the color blue is blue, gets you no where with regards to knowing what in existence shares the color blue.

This is the same with existence exists. .. //

Thank you and Best Wishes too.