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.

Monday, October 25, 2021

"He walked among us"

I recently had a discussion with an acquaintance of mine about beliefs, worldviews, religious assumptions, the whole shebang. It was a fascinating conversation, and frankly I wish I had a recording of the whole thing. A number of topics came up and I both listened and provided some of my own points. This person, whom I’ll call Bill, identifies himself as a Christian and has, from what I could gather, at the very least dabbled in apologetics. So while it was not a full-blown debate, we did enjoy an engaging discussion and I hope to pick it up again sometime.

One of the points I did emphasize, as in my writings, was the believer’s need to rely on imagination as a substitute for knowledge acquired and validated by means of reason in order to be a faithful believer. It was clear from context that when I spoke of the role of imagination in religious belief and when Bill spoke of faith, we were essentially talking about the same thing. It’s as though this natural correspondence between the two had an irresistible centrifugal force of its own.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Christianity and Socialism

Throughout my life it has been clear to me that many Christians assume that capitalism has its roots in Christianity, and that a proper defense of capitalism must begin with an affirmation of the Christian worldview. Some even seem to think that where you find Christianity, you’re likely to find capitalism, as if the latter were a natural corollary of the former. With some two and a half billion Christians in the world (source), how’s that going?

I suppose that much of what gives impetus to this view is the famed Protestant work ethic that Max Weber wrote about in his highly influential book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which begins by observing that in nations “of mixed religious composition” there is a strong tendency that “business leaders and owners of capital… are overwhelmingly Protestant” (p. 35). In contravention to this, Michael Novak argues that capitalism was actually created by the Cistercians, a Catholic religious order which branched off from the Benedictines (because the Benedictines weren’t Benedictine enough), given their masterful use of profits and venture capital.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

David Wood, Star Trek, and the Inevitable Persistence of Religion

Some weeks ago an acquaintance of mine asked me to comment on a video uploaded to a YouTube channel called Acts17Apologetics. This is David Wood’s channel – the would-be bomber who clobbered his own father over the head with a ball-peen hammer. That’s according to his own testimony. But I was not asked to explore David Wood’s daddy issues, so that can be left for another occasion.

The video of Wood’s which I was asked to review is called What Star Trek Got RIGHT about Jesus, which Wood published back in May this year. In this video, Wood reacts to “an atheist meme” which pokes fun at Christianity using the 1960s television series Star Trek as an exemplar.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021's Article on TAG

A reader asked that I give my thoughts on’s response to the question What is the transcendental argument for the existence of God? So here goes.

The so-called “transcendental argument for the existence of God,” or “TAG” for short, has created quite a sensation among many faithful believers and valiant apologists ever since it took to the debate stage. Both professional debaters and lay apologists have exhibited strong enthusiasm for TAG, many apparently believing that just mentioning it is like showing a crucifix to a vampire. I suspect that, given the hyped-up expectations believers have poured into TAG as a defense of the Christian faith, many believers have been fed a false hope that their faith can once and for all be vindicated and consequently all those nagging doubts about the truth of Christianity’s claims can finally be put to rest. It pays to be careful who you listen to.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Anderson versus Materialism, Part II: The Problem of Personal Identity over Time

Back in February this year I posted an entry in which I interacted with the first of several “daunting philosophical problems for materialists” culled together by James Anderson in a blog entry of his own titled Materialism and Mysteries. Anderson himself cited statements made by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman in a blog post of his own about his relationship to materialism, where Ehrman states that he has been “more-or-less a complete materialist for about twenty years.”

In my own entry, I examined what Anderson dubs “the problem of the unity of consciousness,” which consists of a single question (mind you, not an argument): “How could a material object like the brain, extended across space and composed of billions of discrete physical parts, serve as the basis for the unity of our conscious experience?” The way Anderson frames this “problem,” I get the impression that he thinks the elements of each brain are scattered all over the universe.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Answering the Epistemologist

A reader who contacted me privately asked a number of questions the proper philosophical starting point and related matters. This reader, in spite of all the material I’ve assembled on my blog, apparently persists in thinking that some cognitive structure or mental operation (e.g., beliefs, faith, reasoning, inference, etc.) must be the proper starting point, apparently unaware of the fact that mental operations must always have some independently existing object to which said mental operations must refer and conform, and without which those mental operations would simply have no basis or purpose. 

After I made several attempts to explain why the human mind must start with the objects of consciousness rather than with some cognitive structure or mental operation, the reader announced that we had basically reached an impasse and that we were “going to agree to disagree.” However, where exactly the disagreement lies remains a bit of a mystery, at least to me. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

“Faith in the reasoning process”

Recently a visitor to my blog stopped by and took some time to submit a comment on my latest entry. The visitor did not give a name, posting under a moniker consisting exclusively of the Greek letter Psi. At first, with my still ailing eyes (cf. here), I thought the visitor was self-identifying as a pitchfork, and perhaps that was the intention (you know what they say about first impressions…). Or perhaps it’s supposed to be a psitchfork? Or perhaps the commenter is a fan of Sye Ten Bruggencate and the Greek letter is now being used as a fraternal symbol for this, or it’s code for allegiance to Pat Robertson, given that the Greek letter also carries the value of 700. Or, perhaps it’s a physics reference. Who knows!

Unfortunately, the commenter removed the comment, for reasons unknown to me. But I still have a copy of the comment, so I thought I’d post some thoughts in reply since the question raised by the commenter (to whom I will refer with the ignominiously gendered pronoun “he” at the risk of sending some readers to a padded safe space) provides a good opportunity to make some points. So now that the complicated stuff is out of the way, I will proceed with doing just that. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Incinerating Presuppositionalism: Year Sixteen

It’s that time of year again when we all get to sing a round of “Happy Birthday” for Incinerating Presuppositionalism. At sixteen years of age, this blog is eligible for a drivers license… at least in some states. Just don’t cause an accident!

If my goal is to go a full twenty, I’d say I’m on my way. And for those of you who actually read any of my entries, you have my enduring gratitude! Even more so if you comment! You know who you are. (Yes, I do read your comments.)

As I always do on my blog’s birthday, I list out the entries I posted over the previous year. Then this entry itself goes up in the sidebar section named Blog Chronology. This navigation section used to be really helpful for me – for I had always had it in my mind when I had posted a certain entry I was looking for, and this made it easy to find. But nowadays, I have to stop and think “Was that in Year Seven, or Year Nine? Hmmm…. Let me see….” And then I fumble around until I realize it was in Year Four! My blog is more faithful than my own memory sometimes. But I still think these anniversary pages serve a good purpose, so here goes:

479. WSIBC: “God and Mind” - April 22, 2020

480. WSIBC: “God and Science” - May 18, 2020

481. WSIBC: Presup Enters Rehab - May 26, 2020

482. Reader Email Backlog - June 28, 2020

483. WSIBC Jump Page - July 28, 2020

484. My Refutation of STB: Ten Years On - August 27, 2020

485. Presuppositionalism and Induction - September 28, 2020

490. Anderson versus Materialism - February 25, 2021

In November 2019 – back in Year Fifteen, I had posted the initial entry of my multi-post series examining James Anderson’s book “Why Should I Believe Christianity?” I did not complete this within the period covered in Year Fifteen, nor was that really my intention. But I did complete it in Year Sixteen – I even posted a jump page for this series, probably the longest on my entire blog. So readers can go there and access every installment, if they so choose. I am pleased with this work and provide it as evidence to support my contention that, if apologists think they can vindicate the Christian worldview, they need to take a different path. Judging by the view count of several of the installments, I’m guessing that some readers may think similarly.

In the latter months of Year Sixteen, I began a loose series discussing various aspects of induction and how this amazing cognitive ability relates to presuppositional apologetics. Apologists following Greg Bahnsen and his fellow-travelers have taken Bahnsen’s assertions about induction at face value in a most unself-conscious manner. I admit that I find it gratifying to point this out. Even more intellectually fulfilling is pointing to the conceptual basis of induction as the source answering Hume’s canard. I’ve often noted that Objectivism has the answers apologists wish they could call their own, but cannot, given their allegiance to the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. Since induction is a special interest of mine, I may revisit related issues and continue that series at some point.

My work has involved me in numerous engaging projects over the past several months, some which are more complicated than first supposed, and some with looming deadlines. So while I intend to keep some activity going here on IP, I’m afraid I cannot promise twelve entries per day. Most recently I interacted with the first of several objections which James Anderson has raised against materialism. I have received some positive feedback on that and am encouraged to explore more of Anderson’s objections in future posts. Let’s see what that might raise to surface!

So here’s to another year of Incinerating Presuppositionalism!

by Dawson Bethrick

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Anderson versus Materialism

In a recent post on his blog, Christian apologist James Anderson takes NT scholar Bart Ehrman to task for his (the latter’s) overt confession of materialism. Really, Erhman’s post announcing his materialist views serves as a good opportunity for Anderson to articulate challenges against materialism; tarnishing Erhman’s worldview as an indirect way of undermining his views regarding a historical Jesus may be a meager but happy bonus. For the present purposes, Erhman is just a bystander. The main event here is Anderson’s critique of materialism. 

The springboard for Anderson’s attack on materialism is Erhman’s statement that “This materialist view creates enormous conceptual problems that I wrestle with all the time.” Admissions of internal troubles is like baiting sharks with the smell of blood. Curiously, however, this notion of “enormous conceptual problems” shows up in several places in Anderson’s blog entry, which makes me wonder on behalf of both Anderson and Erhman: If either party is wrestling with problems of a conceptual nature, what exactly is their respective worldview’s theory of concepts? 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Presuppositionalism and Induction: Thoughts on the Uniformity of Nature

It is very common for presuppositionalists, when making the problem of induction a debating point, to center the issue on the uniformity of nature and demand that non-Christians explain their assumption that nature is uniform in a way that does not imply theism. Induction, it is said, presupposes the uniformity of nature, and if one cannot justify his presupposition that nature is in fact uniform, then he has no justification for his inductive inferences. 

In this way, the use of the problem of induction in debate gets stuck in a short-sighted rut, focusing all energy on a discussion of the uniformity of nature and how we can justify the uniformity that is observed in nature, an observation which in itself owes much to our powers of inductive reasoning. In essence, this is a set-up, and once one accepts this approach, his fallacies line up for the picking.