Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Terminology Tuesday: Presuppositionalism

Presuppositionalism: A variety of classical evangelical apologetics often associated with Cornelius Van Til. Presuppositionalists assert that any system of belief is built on certain foundational presuppositions (unprovable assertions that must be believed to make experience meaningful). As a result, the best means of Christian apologetics is not to prove certain specific assertions such as the existence of God, the historicity of the resurrection or the authority of the Bible. Instead the presuppositionalist Christian apologist explores the foundational presuppositions of competing belief systems with the goal of showing that human experience makes sense (or has meaning) most clearly when viewed in the light of the foundational teachings of the Christian faith.1

1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 95.


CBelle said...

It's worth it to also read the Wiki article on Van Til and try to understand epistemology (ack!) - all this digging to get at Aristotelian truth can easily be lost on an atheist or apathetic agnostic. Their rigidity and pride will often get in the way so they will stick to making you prove the assertions. Early in my spiritual journey I discovered the Christian worldview and it did make the most sense, so my faith was solidified when I chose to believe. (Yes, I'm an Arminian.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quotation, Brian.
You should probably know that Stan's last name is "Grenz" not "Grantz."
David Guretzki

Brian said...

Thanks for the correction, David.

Brian Colón said...

Atheism presupposes Theism. The best proof for the existence of God is that without him, you can't prove anything!

D. A. N. said...

The best explanations about presup apologetics that I received was from the late great Dr. Greg Bahnsen. If anyone wishes to get knee deep into it, I suggest getting some of his books. Start with "Always Ready" and go from there.

I guess we should also mention one of Dr. Bahnsen's students named Sye over at ProofthatGodexists.org which guides you through the argument.

Thanks Brian.

Theophilus said...

I am sure that most presuppositionalists will disagree with the definition that presuppositions are "unprovable assertions that must be believed to make experience meaningful."

That the definition is flawed should be clear since presuppositionalists state that there is an absolutely certain proof of Christian theism. The point of the transcendental argument is that certain presuppositions of the atheist would be false in the atheist's world view and that they are only true in the Christian world view. Another statement of this is that the presuppositions of atheism are inconsistent and arbitrary. Thus presuppositions are provable.

A better definition would be that presuppositions function as "central or ultimate propositions that are taken as self-evidencing truths, non-negotiable and incapable of revision."

The rest of the description also is a misrepresentation. One particular one is: "showing that human experience makes sense (or has meaning) most clearly when viewed in the light of the foundational teachings of the Christian faith." Presuppositionalism emphatically rejects the idea that Christian theism makes the "most" sense among competing faiths/worldviews -- its point is that Christian theism is the *only* rational position to hold and the alternatives make *no* sense since they destroy the possibility of human knowledge of any sort.

In conclusion, Grenz's definition is based on a continued misapprehension of presuppositionalism.

apolojet.wordpress.com said...

Thank you Theophilus for setting the record straight. I've noted in many places that presuppositionalism continues to be misrepresented at the definitional level. No wonder so many non-presuppositionalists continue to misunderstand it, the references they're checking are getting it wrong!

Paul D. Adams said...

Here's something that may be of interest to those new to apologetics. It's a taxonomy of methods. See http://inchristus.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/apologetic-taxonomy-methodological-approaches/

Slimjim said...

I wanted to comment about the definition of Presuppostionalism (at least Van Til's variety), but I see someone has beat me to it. Theophilus, would you consider emailing what you wrote to the editor or Grenz so that if there is a future possible updated edition of this book they would consider correcting it?

Theophilus said...

Its been a while since I've visited this site. Slimjim, I would be glad to forward my comment to the editor or Grenz. Now I'll need to find an email address.

Theophilus said...

Thank you apolojet for your comment. It behooves a dictionary compiler to characterize a school of apologetics according to the writings of those who are within that school. Direct quotes of Van Til or Bahnsen would be preferred rather than a retelling of what they (erroneously) think presuppositonalists are saying.

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