Monday, November 5, 2012

Presuppositional Apologetics: Without God, Atheists Can't Argue Anything

From a 1993 university debate recorded on Youtube, an atheist demanded that if God exists He should appear instantly to prove it. The Christian apologist replied that besides the foolishness of man declaring he himself worthy to judge God, for the atheists’ sake, Christ’s return would be the Judgement and then this would cease to be merely an interesting academic debate. 

That particular debate takes a line of reasoning which departs from the usual and important combat of evidences, and it addresses the presuppositions of truth, morality, and logic.   Instead of arguing the plenary examples of how the physical scientific evidence shows a young earth, or the historical evidence of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the logical assertion of presuppositional apologetics is that the absence of God is impossible. The presuppositional argument proves the negative of the atheist argument that ‘there is no God.’  

Inductive Knowledge
As Christians we understand that all knowledge is in God. We accept that as a matter of foundational belief because God says so (Prov. 1:7, Col. 2:3).   Though the atheist rejects this in his own worldview, we can show him that in his own worldview he cannot make any knowledge claim whatsoever!  Even the science and naturalism to which he clings is dependent on God.    Does the atheist hold his breath when he walks down the hall just in case the air at the end of the hall has floated to the top and he'll suffocate?  No, of course not.  He thinks he has reasonable certainty that he can rely on past experience. He thinks the same is true for the usual scientific experiments and observation.  But in an atheist’s random-chance worldview, how did it come to be that any experience or predictive experiment is reliable in the future?   The atheist again may claim probable reliance on past experience to infer a future reliable result, but this results in the problem of induction. It is philosophically unreconcilable. {Footnote: René Descartes asserted his own mind as the beginning of truth claims, “Je pense, donc je suis./ I think therefore I am.” However, this is of course reversible for any thinker and therefore not an absolute, universal truth.} Only the Christian worldview resolves this, knowing that God promises consistency for Creation (Gen 8:22) and to “uphold all things with the Word of His Power” (Heb 1:3).  The atheist assumes uniformity of nature, mathematics and logic, but cannot account for it in his own worldview. He is in the unfortunate untenable position of having to rely on God in order to claim God doesn’t exist.  

Arbitrary Morality
Even if the atheist asserts the Bible is merely a tale of morality, he has a tremendous void to fill.  A common response for substitute morality is, “Whatever brings the most good to the most people.”  It is simple to see that such a claim is arbitrary and relative without the Biblical God to author morality.  Even if a group of people might themselves decide what moral tenets are good for a particular time and place, any one objection nullifies it as arbitrary. As Christians we see the Golden Rule echoed in their claim of “do good to people” but they still cannot answer in their own worldview, if we’re just rearranged pond scum, why submit to any morality rules in the first place?   

Bill Nye famously recently asserted that it’s abusive to teach children Creation. He hits the trifecta of making an ad hominem error and false moral and false knowledge claims all in one sentence.  As Christians we of course reject his premise, but in the bigger picture, in his worldview, why not lie to children?  We —as Christians — know it’s wrong to lie, but again, if Bill Nye thinks we’re just rearranged pond scum it’s probably advantageous to lie and cheat to benefit our personal survival.  In the atheist universe, he has no absolute claim that doing so is wrong.  Only in our worldview — God's worldview — is lying absolutely wrong.  (And if the atheist insists there are no absolutes, ask him if he's absolutely sure!)

Even a naturalist believing the universe is only matter in motion without morality can’t make sense of science, mathematics, or logic.  He may claim that thought is merely following electro-chemical brain impulses, but as arbitrary as those are, why not also follow stomach rumblings or caffeine jitters? He may retreat to his reliability/repeatability claims, but those have already been dispatched. 

God Cannot Deny Himself
Logic is available to us because it reflects God’s thinking. (“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” 2 Tim. 2:13) The Law of Non-Contradiction is unyielding in our thinking and experience. If I describe feathered, clucking chickens laying eggs for your breakfast, only a fool would say,  “Come and see my flock of non-chickens in the coop.” Non-contradiction is evident that what an object is, it is.  Not even the atheist can bend that rule. (Ayn Rand was honest enough to say that someone stranded on a desert isle can’t create his own reality and start drinking beach sand.  Her error is holding logic above God and refusing to worship God who authored that logic.) 

Non-contradiction is also our basis for language.  Intrepids have written before about the importance of maintaining  and upholding language construction.  Arbitrarily asserting that words mean different things because an individual happens to desire them to mean something different renders communication unintelligible.  In evidentiary debates with anti-creationists, the most common example of this is their use of the Fallacy of Equivocation, e.g. "We see evolution in wolves breeding into German Shepherds, so why do Bible-clingers deny evolution?"  See the abuse of the word 'evolution?' Christians observe and readily admit to variation within kinds (Gen. 1:25) of dogs,  and for the purposes of discussion, we may even agree to calling such wolf-to-Chihuahua variation 'micro-evolution.'  But it's false to equate words which weigh so differently in meaning. It's an untenable leap within logic for observed variation of kinds to prove that in a big bang nothing turned itself into matter, after stellar evolution to chemical elemental evolution some information spontaneously organized itself and wrote itself into DNA from primordial ooze, eventually (shazam!) becoming a rational human being.  Obviously, anti-creationists don't like being forced to recognize they too have a faith-based worldview. 

1 Corinthians 1:20-21
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Sola Scriptura 
We are all made in the image of God, and the law of God is imprinted on all our hearts.  It’s stunning to realize that there really aren’t any atheists. Every single one of them wants to deny that God exists but unknowingly has to stand on God’s ground in order to defend their sense for justice and morality, their pursuit of truth, their assertion of rationality, or study of the sciences.  They can sit on God’s lap and yank His beard for only so long as by grace He lets them. This presuppositional apologetic uses God’s Word to show them their sin of rejecting their Creator.  With sola scriptura still firmly in our minds from Reformation, we should relish  the opportunity to demonstrate to unbelievers who think they have their God-less world figured all by themselves,  yet they cannot flee from needing God’s Word. 

For further resources, I suggest searching Youtube (with the usual Lutheran cautions) for the debates of the late Greg Bahnsen (Ph.D. - Philosophy; M.Div. & M.Th.).  Current leadership in this apologetic is from Dr. Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist with the Institute for Creation Research (, the presenter of several Youtube videos and author of The Ultimate Proof of Creation.  Another interesting website is, managed by Mr. Sye Ten Bruggencate. He’s a self-professed “dude with a website” and ended his engineering career to develop a pointed Q&A on his website. 

The Lutheran application of this presuppositional apologetic is that it does indeed start with Christ In the Beginning (Gen. 1:1, John 1:1) and holds God's Word as authoritative. It uses God's Law to show the unbeliever his folly and his sin of unbelief, and in every debate the Gospel is proclaimed.  It seems a misconception exists that meeting the unbeliever on the debate field requires an antecedent neutrality and wrongly surrendering the authority of Scripture. Both the unbeliever and the Christian come to the debate with their own worldviews, but neither party can claim to be neutral. (Even the very claim of self-neutrality is itself not neutral.)  In the words of apologist Dr. Greg Bahnsen, “The presuppositional argument may not convince the atheist, but it will get him to close his mouth and give the Holy Spirit a Word in edgewise.” 


wakawakwaka said...

" if Bill Nye thinks we’re just rearranged pond scum it’s probably advantageous to lie and cheat to benefit our personal survival."
no its not, lying would not benefit our survival, nor would it benefit science, and logic is a description of reality, you are thinking logic as if its proscriptive, when in fact it is descriptive, as for morality "If people regarded other people's families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself." – Mozi
and to anwser your comment " but they still cannot answer in their own worldview, if we’re just rearranged pond scum, why submit to any morality rules in the first place?"
this is a non-sequitor,this has nothing to do on how we should treat each other

wakawakwaka said...

oh and btw that last comment with a few rebuttals was by Tony Jiang, sorry i didnt see the part about signing your full name

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