Brief Response to Paul Copan – Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics

I am not an expert in Apologetics. I am not a Philosopher. I am not a high-flying high-achieving Evangelical academic either. But I can see that Paul Copan has shown, or it seems to me he has shown, that he has not been listening to the same PA material that I’ve listened to. Below is Critique No1 from Paul and my brief response to it.

First, it engages in question-begging—assuming what one wants to prove.It begins with the assumption that God exists, and then concludes that God exists. Such reasoning would get you an “F” in any logic class worthy of the name! [Note: For a broader critique of Frame’s starting points, see Harold A. Netland, “Apologetics, Worldviews, and the Problem of Neutral Criteria,” Trinity Journal 12/1 (Spring 1991): 39-58.]

While we begin our worldview examination from somewhere, universal logical laws like the law of non-contradiction or excluded middle are inescapable for assessing and critiquing worldviews. In his debate with Henry, Hackett said that without some set of “neutral criteria” that are logically prior to consent or commitment to a particular worldview, “there is no way to show that one worldview perspective is more plausible than another” since both parties are “starting from totally different assumptions.” Indeed, the statements of Scripture themselves presuppose the validity of logical laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle; they also appeal to criteria beyond Scripture—the court of appeals of historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-19)—things that were not done in a corner (Acts 26:26).

This is not good. And for the following reason. The article began with an Editors Note:

Editors’ Note: The Bible calls Christians to always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask for the reason of the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). And so, from the very beginning of church history, Christians have publicly and privately labored to show the reasonableness of our faith against the objections of skeptics.

First off, does Paul really want me as a believer to start with the non-existence of God? Wouldn’t that be the same as expecting an atheist to start with the existence of God! This reminds me of an instance when the Mormons came knocking on my door: They asked me to pray for God to open my eyes to the truth (especially about Jesus Christ). I told them I could not do that. Because I already have the truth it would be an act of unbelief, even rebellion to ask God to show me something that He has plainly revealed to be true. Namely, Jesus is God or that He (God) exists. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1.

Copan must have missed the Editors Note because if he had read it, and looked up the full text of 1 Peter 3:15 he would have seen how first of all we are to set apart Christ as Lord. This is the first thing we do as apologists and as Christians. But what Paul is suggesting here prevents us from doing that very thing. As Dr Oliphint has pointed out several times: Philosophy must be in service to Theology. If we first get the Theology right, in this case, God exists, the rest will follow. So we must go into any discussion already presupposing the Lordship of Jesus and that God has created all things. This must be especially when the Bible says quite plainly that regarding the creation God has made it plain.

If we do not do this then some other person or thing must be Lord instead of Jesus. What this is about is Ultimate Authority. So, we as Christians are not to enter a  discussion already presupposing the existence of God. Now I’m just a nobody in the Christian world but this seems completely wrong. I must admit to being quite surprised that Paul of The Gospel Coalition doesn’t want me to believe the Gospel or at least begin any discussion with that presupposition. Sorry Paul, I can’t do that.

3 thoughts on “Brief Response to Paul Copan – Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics

  1. Mike, your post capture the problem that I believe is at the core of non-Presuppositonal “Classical” types: It fail to understand what our ultimate commitment must be and see the Lordship of Christ over everything including apologetics

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