Presuppositional Apologetics – Begging the Question

English: Dr. Greg L. BahnsenIf I were to drive in a 6 inch nail it would take me a few blows to do it. Trying to get Presuppositional Apologetics into my brain is very similar and when a concept gets driven home – by many blows – it seems like a good idea to post on it to test my own understanding. This way I have to try to explain it simply to myself and you the reader.

I’ve been listening to Greg Bahnsen (many times) and have recently started reading his ‘Always Ready’ book (Kindle) on defending the faith. So here’s my initial attempt an explanation of how the method used is consistent with the conclusion to be reached. Suppose I seek to prove to you the Lordship of Jesus – because He is Lord. I presuppose His Lordship in order to reach my conclusion – Jesus is Lord. This is sometimes called ‘Begging the Question’ (or petitio principii, “assuming the initial point”). But suppose someone else comes along and seeks to prove there is no such thing as the Christian God. Are they not also ‘Begging the Question’? What is this person to assume at the start of his investigation – there is no such thing as the Christian God. The conclusion – no Christian God. But the Atheist might well then retreat into a ‘neutral’ position and assume Agnosticism. But this is just to try to slide into a place that in the end confesses no more than ignorance – though it would be ‘sold’ as being really smart.

English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture base...The arch Atheist Richard Dawkins pours scorn on the Christian and yet says he does not know (6.9). Never mind begging the question this is called ‘trying to have your cake and eat it’. Is someone, anyone, going to tell me Richard Dawkins does not already assume what he’s trying to prove – that is, the Christian God is a figment of our imagination. And if it (the Bible) might just be true ( even 0.1 of 7.00) then why go to the trouble of name-calling Christians at almost every opportunity. (I have a theory about why but I’ll share it in another post.)

4 thoughts on “Presuppositional Apologetics – Begging the Question

  1. Hi Mike, Yes I think this post gets to the heart of the presuppositional method. I agree presuppositional apologetics is a “brain hurter” especially if you try reading Van Til. Bahnsen was a loyal follower of Van Til. I remember thinking “Always Ready” was quite impressive though I found it hard to forget Bahnsen’s theonomism.

    I found Pratt’s “Every Thought Captive” easier to digest (= it is simpler to read!) and you might also try John Frame’s “Apologetics to the Glory of God”. Frame is always interesting to read and he is not afraid to criticise Van Til on some points (as a fellow presuppositionalist) though basically agreeing with him.

    I used to think that presuppositionalism was all we needed and “classical apologetics” was not much use. Now I’m not so sure. I think we need to ask ourselves who is apologetics for? Is it for us? Is it for God? Or is it for the person we are trying to lead to faith? Surely the last. Yet if that is so, how helpful is it really – when doing rather than just thinking about apologetics – to say “you should believe this is true, because you can’t know what you believe is true.” There could be an irrational argument at the heart of that, don’t you think?

    After reading Keller’s “Reason for God” I’m now wondering if we need both approaches. That’s typical of me though – I often look for a third way between two extremes in theology.

    Anyway, these are just a few random thoughts to stimulate further thinking.

    1. Hey brother!
      I don’t know if Presuppositional apologetics is much about ““you should believe this is true, because you can’t know what you believe is true,” since that would indeed be somewhat irrational or strange to say the least. I think the Presuppositionalists’ argument is more better stated as, “you should believe this is true, because apart from presupposing these truth, you have no foundation for believing X.” I think there is a slight difference, let me know if you see it being the case =). I see you like Pratt, I do like his book as an introduction. God bless you brother!

    2. Hello James,

      Thanks for dropping by, it makes a change to ‘see’ you in another place. I mentioned to one of my tutors a book I was reading and he said read it how you would read any book – critically. So I’m trying hard not to take everything Bahnsen says as absolutely right – but I’m persuaded most of it is. I’ve not read the Frame book, but I should.

      I just couldn’t see the Presup position at one time but have now swung back to it but can see how an evidential or classical approach would work but it can’t be from the point of view that God is in the dock. It’s where it stands in terms of authority. Bahsnen has a series of 4 lectures / files on Van Til and he goes into the proofs for God and evidences that I think put them in the right context. I’m halfway through Keller’s book – I’m enjoying it but slowly.

      The correct approach it seems to me is to try and make the unbeliever see how flimsy his own autonomous foundation is without God. But it’s all a learning curve.

      Ultimately it must be for the unbeliever but to the glory of God.

      Thanks again for the visit.

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