Tag Archives: Apologetics

Presuppositional Apologetics as a Weak Point

This post will be brief, but I’ll still provide a disclaimer: Theologically conservative Reformed churches are Christian churches, and this topic is an internal one between fellow Christians. I myself am not a Calvinist (for what I believe are very good reasons), but I don’t deny that Calvinists have true Christian faith. With that out of the way…

Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til developed the concept of presuppositional apologetics (PA from here on out in this post) as a result of his theological work. When you combine the central tenets of Calvinism and push them to their most extreme form, you end up with the view that nothing in the entire world can be properly understood without the “light of the main doctrines of Christianity”, in Van Til’s words. In his mind, there is no such thing as a neutral ground of reason where both Christian and non can debate ideas. Even offering evidences outside of Christianity thus grants non-Christians their own presuppositions, meaning an apologist fails before he starts*.

If PA is the naturally outworking of a fully formed Reformed theological system, though, we have a problem. The Bible has many accounts where evidence is offered to non-Christians. The context of these passages makes it clear that such evidence is offered to convince people of the truth of Christianity (Jesus does this, for example, with His miracles and His fulfillment of prophecy. Paul does it as well, “reasoning” with the Greeks).

That means Jesus Himself and the Apostles don’t seem to understand the importance of PA, which is unattested in Scripture. More likely, Jesus and the Apostles do not see the value in PA (if they did, they presumably would have used that tactic).

This isn’t just a problem for PA, though. If PA really is the logical outworking of a strong Calvinist theology, then to reject PA is to reject the theological framework which necessitates it. That makes PA a huge liability for extreme Calvinists:

  • Logical conclusion of reformed theology -> Presuppositional apologetics
  • Presuppositional apologetics are not Biblical (it is both not attested, and its inverse offering evidence is well attested)
  • Therefore the logical conclusion of reformed theology is not Biblical
  • (Modus Tollens: P -> Q. Not Q. Therefore not P)

 


*I once got into an argument on social media with (Calvinist) James White, only to have my faith impugned because I didn’t agree with PA. This view really is the logical outworking of Calvinism, so much so that it seems to hold its own against doctrines like the Divinity of Christ and His death by the cross when some Calvinists determine if people are genuine in their faith.

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