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James Hilston's Presuppositional Argument


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Hello everyone,

 

I am interested in your opinions on another debate I had on www.theologyonline.com.

 

It was an argument with a presuppositional Christian called James Hilston. He was articulate and seemed to mean what he said.

 

Our initial exchange starts on this thread back in January (from post 115):

 

http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=88890&page=8

 

Our final exchange started on this thread last month (from post 413):

 

http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=92629&page=28

 

What he initially set out to do was keep peeling back the layers about how do we account for knowledge, reason, logic? Once he’d asked sufficient questions, he then declared that atheists and anti-theists had no foundation on which to base anything. He called me a “walking contradiction” - which may or may not be true! He asserted his Christian God gives Christians the correct starting point because they can calibrate all their actions against that. He kept on declaring that “reverence of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge.”

 

On the final exchange just recently I suggested he lay out a logic argument for how he gets from “atheists have no starting point” to “the Christian God/The Bible is the correct starting point.” He said that because God is infinite this necessarily precludes him from being analysed by non-theists. He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

He then seemed to change the goalposts and said that this wasn’t how he became saved. The mechanism for this was that God /The Holy Spirit had intervened in his life after he read the Bible and that his initial attack on my reasoning was a theme in the Bible but an important one.

 

I can summarise my criticisms below:

 

  • All he kept doing was assert that the Christian God necessarily exists. How does he know?
  • All he did was push the question one level back and he had no decent answer either (it’s like asking me whether I believe the universe to be infinite or bounded and then claim victory when I can’t give an honest answer – how can anyone possible know?). Why is his “God did it” any better than my “It just is”?
  • Atheism is a response to theistic claims. A dodgy unsafe bridge cannot be knocked down until it has been built first. So by necessity he should define and demonstrate first ANY claim including his particular God. However, he shifted the burdon of proof so that I was not entitled to even make those statements, apparently.
  • Instead of claiming “what’s right with the believer”, his argument from the very beginning was “what’s wrong with the unbeliever.” A double negative.
  • There may be an underpinning foundation to reality. Hilston might be right. If that’s true, how does he know it’s a God and not something else? How does he know it authored the Bible? How does he know it didn’t author The Book of Mormon as well or The Koran? Or perhaps it only authored Judaism version 1.0 (The OT).
  • Hilston could avoid addressing any difficult question, such as the inconsistent accounts of the death of Judas or the atrocities in the OT by saying “you have no grounds for measuring this because you are an anti-theist. Who are you to say what’s an atrocity or not and that we should have less atrocities.” !!!

 

In brief then,

  1. Both Spectrox and Hilston should agree that some concepts are axiomatic, requiring no explanation.  For Hilston, the axiom is God.  For Spectrox, reality and logic are axiomatic, and God is a needless insertion.
  2. Hilston cannot assert that the existence of logic requires justification, unless he also attempts to offer a justification of God.  If he believes that this is unnecessary, then he should grant point (1).
  3. If the assumptions for all parties are arbitrary then Hilston has failed to meet the burdon of proof that he implied when stating that atheism is impossible or a contradiction.  If the belief in God is merely Hilston’s preferred assumption, then it is not necessary, and may be discarded due to Occam’s Razor.
  4. Hilston should justify how a God would go about “creating” the laws of logic, without himself being subject to logic.

Theists are in the same position as non-theists once enough layers are peeled back. The goal of TAG (Transcendental Argument for God) and other presuppositionalist arguments is to stay on the offensive and keep asking "why" and "how do you account for" questions until you hit bedrock at "The just universe exists and behaves consistently".

This is a brute fact and it makes no sense to ask for "why" beyond this point, however the TAG proponent will declare victory if you don't have an answer, then baldly assert that they do (God did it).

This usually trips atheists up because they don't realize that they are being asked an impossible question that equally applies to ANY worldview, including the theistic one. Mirroring the questions the theists ask you exposes the fact that they also don't have answers to the "why" question at the bottom of their worldview.

 

Any comment I made he just says I have no grounds to make that comment. It was pathetic really. But also deeply annoying.  What do you think?

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Any comment I made he just says I have no grounds to make that comment. It was pathetic really. But also deeply annoying.  What do you think?

 

Really pathetic, but also deeply annoying is a fairly accurate description of presuppositional apologetics.

 

Based on your summary above (I didn't read the thread), I think you covered most of the major problems, save one of the biggest ones, IMO. That is, the propositions they seek to safeguard (i.e. the ones contained within the 66 books of the Protestant Bible) are internally inconsistent to a high degree. This, along with the question of "Which Bible?" is the reductio ad absurdum that undercuts the very "intelligibility" they're special pleading for in what amounts to an argument from consequence.

 

Presuppositionalism is a paper tiger guarding the inhabitants of a house of cards. It's much better at convincing its practitioners that they have intellectual justification for their nonsense than it is at getting unbelievers to convert. I'm pretty sure that's what it's designed for, anyway. I've never met anyone who was converted to Christianity because they read Van Til, Bahnsen, Clark or Frame, but I've met quite a few Christians who sought them out when it became apparent that Natural Theology and classical Thomistic arguments weren't getting it done for them anymore.

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OK, I read some of the thread, and it appears you did indeed bring out a few of those internal inconsistencies in the Bible as defeaters and they were, of course, summarily dismissed with "you have the internet, go figure them out for yourself"...as if. I also noticed the typical tactic of "you're using logic and you can't do that because you have no justification for it" every time you made a point that he apparently couldn't deal with.

 

I never did see a real answer to the question of how to get from "we are subjective creatures incapable of knowing any objective truths" to "I know the objective truth is the Bible." Maybe I didn't read enough of the thread. My takeaway from it: you have more patience than I do.

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Any comment I made he just says I have no grounds to make that comment. It was pathetic really. But also deeply annoying.  What do you think?

 

Really pathetic, but also deeply annoying is a fairly accurate description of presuppositional apologetics.

 

Based on your summary above (I didn't read the thread), I think you covered most of the major problems, save one of the biggest ones, IMO. That is, the propositions they seek to safeguard (i.e. the ones contained within the 66 books of the Protestant Bible) are internally inconsistent to a high degree. This, along with the question of "Which Bible?" is the reductio ad absurdum that undercuts the very "intelligibility" they're special pleading for in what amounts to an argument from consequence.

 

Presuppositionalism is a paper tiger guarding the inhabitants of a house of cards. It's much better at convincing its practitioners that they have intellectual justification for their nonsense than it is at getting unbelievers to convert. I'm pretty sure that's what it's designed for, anyway. I've never met anyone who was converted to Christianity because they read Van Til, Bahnsen, Clark or Frame, but I've met quite a few Christians who sought them out when it became apparent that Natural Theology and classical Thomistic arguments weren't getting it done for them anymore.

 

Dear H A

 

thanks for your response. I think you're right that Hilston's approach was more to do with safeguarding his presupposed nonsense than an honest pursuit of truth to convince a non-believer.

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I found Hilston's definitions of hope and faith unusual. But they best support his argument, so I shouldn't be surprised

 

 

Hilston wrote:

"The Biblical definition of “hope” is not a mere wish or vague anticipation. Rather, hope is defined as certitude and absolute conviction of things yet unrealized (not yet seen). Faith is the substance of those things that have not yet been realized, for which the believer has absolute certainty and unshakable conviction."

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Me? I'd go back to those axioms. A statement may be axiomatic, assumed to not require proof, but it can be tested. When the rubber hits the road, does it work? Does this structure I'm basing my argument on have any predictive power? Spectrox - reason. Hilston - faith.

 

Reason... lessee here... what has reason accomplished for the world as a system of prediction and knowledge gathering?

 

And faith? Number of diseases extirpated? New materials designed? Better food crops developed? People landed on the freakin' moon?? Zip. Zilch. Nada.

 

Go back to those axiomatic assumptions, and wipe the floor with him.

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I found Hilston's definitions of hope and faith unusual. But they best support his argument, so I shouldn't be surprised

 

 

Hilston wrote:

"The Biblical definition of “hope” is not a mere wish or vague anticipation. Rather, hope is defined as certitude and absolute conviction of things yet unrealized (not yet seen). Faith is the substance of those things that have not yet been realized, for which the believer has absolute certainty and unshakable conviction."

 

I'm not surprised either. Frame similarly offers a definition of miracles that essentially robs the word of semantic purpose as well. At the very least it's not what virtually anyone else means when they speak of miracles.

 

It just points out how important it is to nail down definitions in any debate. Oddly enough, I have observed that if you don't press for their often unique definitions before making your case against them, you'll be the one accused of committing the fallacy of equivocation.

 

In appealing to the "biblical definition" of words, they seem to be trying to skirt another problem with presuppositionalism, which is that propositions from sources external to the Bible must be appealed to in order interpret the propositions contained within it. Those sources are not unchanging and make no claim to inerrancy or infallibility. The Protestant Bible doesn't exist in a vacuum.

 

The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of their god stands forever is subject to reinterpretation and revision with every passing generation.

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I would invite him to write up his argument and send it to a refereed, international philosophy journal - NOT an evangelical publication but one of the standard journals in the field, like The Monist or American Philosophical Quarterly or Mind or The Review of Metaphysics.  

 

If he isn't willing to put his presuppositions out there for critical analysis, I would dismiss them as the question-begging moves that they are.

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He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

If this statment is true, then as a Holy Spirit filled believer he should show signs of having tapped into this "self-evident" entity, which promises that believers will be able to do things ordinary humans cannot do.

That includes healing the sick and manifesting food.

All takes is faith the size of a mustard seed to empower this ability.

I seriously doubt if this person has ever emptied a hospital, an old folks home, or a mental ward.

If this person is the genuine article, then they should be able to provide clear evidence of their ability to do at least some of these things.

This person should be famous and known all over the world if they're the real deal.

I suspect they're all talk, complete with a truckload of excuses as to why they can't do what their "God" promised.

Self evident in this case is self delusion.

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He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

If this statment is true, then as a Holy Spirit filled believer he should show signs of having tapped into this "self-evident" entity, which promises that believers will be able to do things ordinary humans cannot do.

That includes healing the sick and manifesting food.

All takes is faith the size of a mustard seed to empower this ability.

I seriously doubt if this person has ever emptied a hospital, an old folks home, or a mental ward.

If this person is the genuine article, then they should be able to provide clear evidence of their ability to do at least some of these things.

This person should be famous and known all over the world if they're the real deal.

I suspect they're all talk, complete with a truckload of excuses as to why they can't do what their "God" promised.

Self evident in this case is self delusion.

 

I'm pretty sure that's going to be a nonstarter for folks of his theological persuasion who believe such extraordinary manifestations of the holy spirit's activity are now unnecessary. Unfortunately for them, to an outsider it looks conveniently no different from what we would expect if the holy spirit didn't actually exist. However, they will claim that in fact their god has made himself evident to you and you already know their god and they know that you already know their god. How do they know this about you? Because their god told them so (Rom. 1:20-21).

 

That's really what it all boils down to. They know something because their god told them so. That's how you know stuff too, except you just won't admit it. They have as epistemological peers every madman in any asylum anywhere who claims a god speaks to him.

 

It's pathetic and deeply annoying, just as Spectrox described it.

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Me? I'd go back to those axioms. A statement may be axiomatic, assumed to not require proof, but it can be tested. When the rubber hits the road, does it work? Does this structure I'm basing my argument on have any predictive power? Spectrox - reason. Hilston - faith.

 

Reason... lessee here... what has reason accomplished for the world as a system of prediction and knowledge gathering?

 

And faith? Number of diseases extirpated? New materials designed? Better food crops developed? People landed on the freakin' moon?? Zip. Zilch. Nada.

 

Go back to those axiomatic assumptions, and wipe the floor with him.

Cheers ExCB

 

Thanks for the advice. I already tried that on him but he engaged in more solipsism and said that how can we trust our own senses about anything? How do we account for the scientific method, logic, reasoning, etc? If the inductive principle stopped working tomorrow, how would we know?

 

It's another impossible question, which he can't explain either.

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I would invite him to write up his argument and send it to a refereed, international philosophy journal - NOT an evangelical publication but one of the standard journals in the field, like The Monist or American Philosophical Quarterly or Mind or The Review of Metaphysics.  

 

If he isn't willing to put his presuppositions out there for critical analysis, I would dismiss them as the question-begging moves that they are.

He says he has debated atheists on line formally but I'm not sure he will have done what you said. I might suggest it to him, if I can be bothered speaking to him again!

 

Thanks Ficino

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He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

If this statment is true, then as a Holy Spirit filled believer he should show signs of having tapped into this "self-evident" entity, which promises that believers will be able to do things ordinary humans cannot do.

That includes healing the sick and manifesting food.

All takes is faith the size of a mustard seed to empower this ability.

I seriously doubt if this person has ever emptied a hospital, an old folks home, or a mental ward.

If this person is the genuine article, then they should be able to provide clear evidence of their ability to do at least some of these things.

This person should be famous and known all over the world if they're the real deal.

I suspect they're all talk, complete with a truckload of excuses as to why they can't do what their "God" promised.

Self evident in this case is self delusion.

 

He said that miracles stopped in the first century - it was a quote from Corinthians. Convenient that.

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He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

If this statment is true, then as a Holy Spirit filled believer he should show signs of having tapped into this "self-evident" entity, which promises that believers will be able to do things ordinary humans cannot do.

That includes healing the sick and manifesting food.

All takes is faith the size of a mustard seed to empower this ability.

I seriously doubt if this person has ever emptied a hospital, an old folks home, or a mental ward.

If this person is the genuine article, then they should be able to provide clear evidence of their ability to do at least some of these things.

This person should be famous and known all over the world if they're the real deal.

I suspect they're all talk, complete with a truckload of excuses as to why they can't do what their "God" promised.

Self evident in this case is self delusion.

 

I'm pretty sure that's going to be a nonstarter for folks of his theological persuasion who believe such extraordinary manifestations of the holy spirit's activity are now unnecessary. Unfortunately for them, to an outsider it looks conveniently no different from what we would expect if the holy spirit didn't actually exist. However, they will claim that in fact their god has made himself evident to you and you already know their god and they know that you already know their god. How do they know this about you? Because their god told them so (Rom. 1:20-21).

 

That's really what it all boils down to. They know something because their god told them so. That's how you know stuff too, except you just won't admit it. They have as epistemological peers every madman in any asylum anywhere who claims a god speaks to him.

 

It's pathetic and deeply annoying, just as Spectrox described it.

 

Yes, they always refer to their pathetic disclaimer from Romans. As if that explains anything...

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He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

If this statment is true, then as a Holy Spirit filled believer he should show signs of having tapped into this "self-evident" entity, which promises that believers will be able to do things ordinary humans cannot do.

That includes healing the sick and manifesting food.

All takes is faith the size of a mustard seed to empower this ability.

I seriously doubt if this person has ever emptied a hospital, an old folks home, or a mental ward.

If this person is the genuine article, then they should be able to provide clear evidence of their ability to do at least some of these things.

This person should be famous and known all over the world if they're the real deal.

I suspect they're all talk, complete with a truckload of excuses as to why they can't do what their "God" promised.

Self evident in this case is self delusion.

 

I'm pretty sure that's going to be a nonstarter for folks of his theological persuasion who believe such extraordinary manifestations of the holy spirit's activity are now unnecessary. Unfortunately for them, to an outsider it looks conveniently no different from what we would expect if the holy spirit didn't actually exist. However, they will claim that in fact their god has made himself evident to you and you already know their god and they know that you already know their god. How do they know this about you? Because their god told them so (Rom. 1:20-21).

 

That's really what it all boils down to. They know something because their god told them so. That's how you know stuff too, except you just won't admit it. They have as epistemological peers every madman in any asylum anywhere who claims a god speaks to him.

 

It's pathetic and deeply annoying, just as Spectrox described it.

 

Indeed, there will always be a rationalization that validates whatever they want to believe.

Magical skymanism is an overpowering force that renders all form of logic or objectivity moot.

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He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

If this statment is true, then as a Holy Spirit filled believer he should show signs of having tapped into this "self-evident" entity, which promises that believers will be able to do things ordinary humans cannot do.

That includes healing the sick and manifesting food.

All takes is faith the size of a mustard seed to empower this ability.

I seriously doubt if this person has ever emptied a hospital, an old folks home, or a mental ward.

If this person is the genuine article, then they should be able to provide clear evidence of their ability to do at least some of these things.

This person should be famous and known all over the world if they're the real deal.

I suspect they're all talk, complete with a truckload of excuses as to why they can't do what their "God" promised.

Self evident in this case is self delusion.

 

He said that miracles stopped in the first century - it was a quote from Corinthians. Convenient that.

 

Yeah, that's pretty much what I would expect as a response.

However, there is no statute of limitations on the promise of Jesus in Mark 16:

 

Mark 16:17-18

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

 

Also,

John 14:12-14

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

 

"Them that believe" and "He that believes" implies believers in general and isn't confined only to one time period.

 

I'm not suggesting you use these because I'm certain it would be a waste of time.

You've run smack into a brick wall already with this person.

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Hello everyone,

 

I am interested in your opinions on another debate I had on www.theologyonline.com.

 

It was an argument with a presuppositional Christian called James Hilston. He was articulate and seemed to mean what he said.

 

Our initial exchange starts on this thread back in January (from post 115):

 

http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=88890&page=8

 

Our final exchange started on this thread last month (from post 413):

 

http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=92629&page=28

 

What he initially set out to do was keep peeling back the layers about how do we account for knowledge, reason, logic? Once he’d asked sufficient questions, he then declared that atheists and anti-theists had no foundation on which to base anything. He called me a “walking contradiction” - which may or may not be true! He asserted his Christian God gives Christians the correct starting point because they can calibrate all their actions against that. He kept on declaring that “reverence of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge.”

 

On the final exchange just recently I suggested he lay out a logic argument for how he gets from “atheists have no starting point” to “the Christian God/The Bible is the correct starting point.” He said that because God is infinite this necessarily precludes him from being analysed by non-theists. He said that the Christian God was self-evident and that he had proved his argument whereas anti-theists had a blind faith.

He then seemed to change the goalposts and said that this wasn’t how he became saved. The mechanism for this was that God /The Holy Spirit had intervened in his life after he read the Bible and that his initial attack on my reasoning was a theme in the Bible but an important one.

 

I can summarise my criticisms below:

 

  • All he kept doing was assert that the Christian God necessarily exists. How does he know?
  • All he did was push the question one level back and he had no decent answer either (it’s like asking me whether I believe the universe to be infinite or bounded and then claim victory when I can’t give an honest answer – how can anyone possible know?). Why is his “God did it” any better than my “It just is”?
  • Atheism is a response to theistic claims. A dodgy unsafe bridge cannot be knocked down until it has been built first. So by necessity he should define and demonstrate first ANY claim including his particular God. However, he shifted the burdon of proof so that I was not entitled to even make those statements, apparently.
  • Instead of claiming “what’s right with the believer”, his argument from the very beginning was “what’s wrong with the unbeliever.” A double negative.
  • There may be an underpinning foundation to reality. Hilston might be right. If that’s true, how does he know it’s a God and not something else? How does he know it authored the Bible? How does he know it didn’t author The Book of Mormon as well or The Koran? Or perhaps it only authored Judaism version 1.0 (The OT).
  • Hilston could avoid addressing any difficult question, such as the inconsistent accounts of the death of Judas or the atrocities in the OT by saying “you have no grounds for measuring this because you are an anti-theist. Who are you to say what’s an atrocity or not and that we should have less atrocities.” !!!

 

In brief then,

  1. Both Spectrox and Hilston should agree that some concepts are axiomatic, requiring no explanation.  For Hilston, the axiom is God.  For Spectrox, reality and logic are axiomatic, and God is a needless insertion.
  2. Hilston cannot assert that the existence of logic requires justification, unless he also attempts to offer a justification of God.  If he believes that this is unnecessary, then he should grant point (1).
  3. If the assumptions for all parties are arbitrary then Hilston has failed to meet the burdon of proof that he implied when stating that atheism is impossible or a contradiction.  If the belief in God is merely Hilston’s preferred assumption, then it is not necessary, and may be discarded due to Occam’s Razor.
  4. Hilston should justify how a God would go about “creating” the laws of logic, without himself being subject to logic.

Theists are in the same position as non-theists once enough layers are peeled back. The goal of TAG (Transcendental Argument for God) and other presuppositionalist arguments is to stay on the offensive and keep asking "why" and "how do you account for" questions until you hit bedrock at "The just universe exists and behaves consistently".

This is a brute fact and it makes no sense to ask for "why" beyond this point, however the TAG proponent will declare victory if you don't have an answer, then baldly assert that they do (God did it).

This usually trips atheists up because they don't realize that they are being asked an impossible question that equally applies to ANY worldview, including the theistic one. Mirroring the questions the theists ask you exposes the fact that they also don't have answers to the "why" question at the bottom of their worldview.

 

Any comment I made he just says I have no grounds to make that comment. It was pathetic really. But also deeply annoying.  What do you think?

 

Where is this "Lord" that we should give reverence to? Bring forth this all powerful God in the flesh so I can give him some reverence. What? That's not how he works? I can't revere what aint there unless you want me to revere my own imagination?

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"Hilston could avoid addressing any difficult question, such as the inconsistent accounts of the death of Judas or the atrocities in the OT by saying “you have no grounds for measuring this because you are an anti-theist. Who are you to say what’s an atrocity or not and that we should have less atrocities.” !!!

 

How could he possibly know anything about non-theism if he is a theist? haha It works both ways. You might have already said that above in the OP.

 

Sounds like you are debating a brick wall.

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Spectrox, HA, Centauri and others, you've posted a lot of good analysis of TAG.  

 

HA, you said that presuppositionalists effectively construct "an argument from consequence."  Do you mean that they commit the classic fallacy of "affirming the consequent," i.e. 

 

If P, then Q

Therefore, P

 

If this is what you mean, I'd profit by your fleshing out how you think their argument affirms the consequent.

 

Cheers, F

 

 

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No, I meant an appeal to consequences. As in, "If we don't posit the omni-god lawgiver of the Protestant Bible, we can't have absolute certainty about logic, induction and morality. Oh noes!" This is what their entire argument seeks to satisfy. It's irrelevant and is a manufactured need that their "epistemology" (I put the word in quotes because PA isn't really an epistemology so much as a debate tactic) doesn't even adequately satisfy.

 

We can desire absolute certainty all we want. It doesn't mean we can have it or even need to have it. Perhaps relative certainty will suffice? Maybe, just maybe we don't really need absolute certainty about things like logic and induction because what most of us experience as reality seems to confirm that logic exists and induction works. I don't know. Call me crazy.

 

 

Edited to add: I do believe TAG affirms the consequent as well, though in more than just the typical "straw man" way in which people who are first confronted with it recognize and which most TAG proponents can easily dismiss. I'll have to go review my notes to flesh it out, but I seem to recall that without an ontological argument to prop it up, it does indeed commit this fallacy as well.

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I'd profit by your fleshing out how you think their argument affirms the consequent.

 

OK, here's my humble offering on that. Keep in mind that this attempt largely rests on the product of notes that I cribbed from a couple of Reasonable Doubts podcasts from last year.

 

Anyway, most presuppers will argue that logic exists necessarily as part of God’s nature. We could argue for incoherence on this point with a Euthyphro-style dilemma, but let’s just go with it anyway. If this is true, it becomes a logical consequence that denying the proposition “God exists” necessarily leads to the denial of the law of non-contradiction. But to even attempt to deny the law of non-contradiction one needs to apply logic.

 

We can lay it out like this:

 

1) Logic (i.e. logical principles) is either dependent on God or it is not dependent on God.

 

2) Logic is dependent on God if logic is part of God’s nature.

 

3) If logic is part of God’s nature it cannot exist if God does not exist.

 

4) If logic does not exist without the existence of God the proposition “God does not exist” entails that the Law of Non-contradiction fails.

 

5) There is a possible world in which God does not exist.

 

6) In that possible world in which God does not exist the Law of Non-contradiction must hold as a logical possibility as determined by the Law of Non-contradiction itself.

 

7) It is the case that in a possible world in which God does not exist, the Law of Non-contradiction holds even though God does not exist.

 

8) It is not the case that logic is dependent on God.

 

This argument is sound as long as premise 5 is true. The only way to deny that premise 5 is true is with an Ontological Argument which demonstrates that God exists necessarily in every possible world. Since TAG does not contain an Ontological Argument it must assume that God exists necessarily in every possible world in order for logic to exist.

 

Given that, it seems their argument can be reduced to this:

 

  1. If God exists (P), then logical principles exist (Q).
  2. Logical principles exists (Q)
  3. Therefore, God exists (P)

While it is true that if God exists, then logical principles exist; and it is also true that logical principles exist, it is not true that God existing is the only way for logical principles to exist unless it can be shown that God necessarily exists in every possible world (see 1-8 above). If that’s the case, the argument would seem to be affirming the consequent.

 

Feel free to point out any holes in that as I admit to being a bit of a novice when it comes to formal logical argumentation. For me Presuppositionalism doesn’t fail at this point alone, so it’s no skin off my nose if you find any problems with it.

 

There are other avenues to explore like the very idea that God thinks logically is incoherent. What would it mean for an omniscient being to reason from premises to a conclusion? If God knows every proposition, it would seem that thinking logically is a completely unnecessary attribute. Also, how do doctrines like the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union, which appear to violate the law of identity not conflict with God’s supposedly logical nature? How does any of this comport with the doctrine of divine simplicity (God is identical to his attributes) – a doctrine that presuppers must adhere to in order to make their argument work – and still allow for God to be both personal and transcendent?

 

ISTM that there are just too many holes to plug in this lifeboat. The problem for most presuppers is that, unlike people like William Lane Craig, they’re stuck in that leaky lifeboat because they’ve already abandoned ship when it comes to classical and evidentialist apologetics.

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Hello HA, thanks for giving such thought to my question.  I remember sitting in Van Til's living room with a few other seminarians (his wife emerged to serve tea and then retreated to the kitchen) listening to him explain how things are.

 

I agree with most of what you say.  I haven't given much thought to whether there a TAG person can allow a possible world without God, so I can't comment on your premise 5 right now.  I will say that I see the "if P then Q" thing the other way round, because as I understand TAG, it makes God or God's will or whatever a necessary condition for logic.  If something's a necessary condition for something else, the necessary condition is expressed in the consequent not the antecedent.  E.g. "if it's raining (P), then there are clouds (Q)."  So I think the presup wants to argue

 

If there is logic, then God

 

So their syllogism is valid, as I understand it:

 

If there is logic, then God

there is logic

therefore God

 

Obviously, the first premise itself is not demonstrated as true by this argument.  They have to give good reason for us to think that the whole conditional is true.

 

 

Edited to add:

 

Again, as I understand it, their thing about logic is a subset of their wider epistemological project.  according to that, they seem to want to hold that

 

For all x, if x knows some things (at least one thing), there exists a Y such that Y knows more things than  x and Y makes some things known to x.

 

I'm not convinced that they need to posit that Y is omniscient.  That's another discussion.  TAGs of course do posit that Y is god and god is omniscient.

 

I don't think they'd want to affirm the converse of this, i.e. wouldn't want to hold that if Y knows, all xs know, since there are some creatures who have no knowledge (e.g. the brain-dead).  If TAGs want to allow potential knowledge, i.e. the souls of the brain-dead know things potentially, then I guess they can affirm the converse.  That would yield

 

we know things if and only if God knows them and makes them known.

 

So there might be a way of going back to your P then Q thing and making it biconditional, i.e.

 

logical principles exist if and only if God exists

 

but this is getting too complicated for a steamy July 4th, so I'll stop now.  Thanks for stimulating my thought!  Maybe we can pick this up later or start a new thread.

 

cheers, F

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So I think the presup wants to argue

 

If there is logic, then God

 

So their syllogism is valid, as I understand it:

 

If there is logic, then God

there is logic

therefore God

 

Obviously, the first premise itself is not demonstrated as true by this argument.  They have to give good reason for us to think that the whole conditional is true.

Agreed. That's how they frame their syllogism. They want to make God the necessary precondition for logic. What I was trying to do was show how once 1-8 were applied, what's left is logic as a precondition for God. Admittedly it's forced and it would probably be best to stick with simply using 1-8 to demonstrate how the premise "If there is logic, then God" is invalid without an OA rather than try to take it that further step and frame it as an accusation of affirming the consequent.

 

Anyway, I gave it a shot. I never had tea with Van Til. Best I can do is cigars with Michael Horton.

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So I think the presup wants to argue

 

If there is logic, then God

 

So their syllogism is valid, as I understand it:

 

If there is logic, then God

there is logic

therefore God

 

Obviously, the first premise itself is not demonstrated as true by this argument.  They have to give good reason for us to think that the whole conditional is true.

Agreed. That's how they frame their syllogism. They want to make God the necessary precondition for logic. What I was trying to do was show how once 1-8 were applied, what's left is logic as a precondition for God. Admittedly it's forced and it would probably be best to stick with simply using 1-8 to demonstrate how the premise "If there is logic, then God" is invalid without an OA rather than try to take it that further step and frame it as an accusation of affirming the consequent.

 

Anyway, I gave it a shot. I never had tea with Van Til. Best I can do is cigars with Michael Horton.

 

Oh, just saw you were typing as I was typing.  We've got to stop meeting this way.  

 

later, F

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Edited to add:

 

Again, as I understand it, their thing about logic is a subset of their wider epistemological project.  according to that, they seem to want to hold that

 

For all x, if x knows some things (at least one thing), there exists a Y such that Y knows more things than  x and Y makes some things known to x.

 

I'm not convinced that they need to posit that Y is omniscient.  That's another discussion.  TAGs of course do posit that Y is god and god is omniscient.

 

I don't think they'd want to affirm the converse of this, i.e. wouldn't want to hold that if Y knows, all xs know, since there are some creatures who have no knowledge (e.g. the brain-dead).  If TAGs want to allow potential knowledge, i.e. the souls of the brain-dead know things potentially, then I guess they can affirm the converse.  That would yield

 

we know things if and only if God knows them and makes them known.

 

So there might be a way of going back to your P then Q thing and making it biconditional, i.e.

 

logical principles exist if and only if God exists

 

but this is getting too complicated for a steamy July 4th, so I'll stop now.  Thanks for stimulating my thought!  Maybe we can pick this up later or start a new thread.

 

cheers, F

 

I would be glad for any insight whenever you're so inclined. I'm always looking for more angles to approach this method in the event that I ever choose to butt heads with a savvy presupper.

 

A self-imposed reductio ad absurdum is what broke the circle for me and I continue to maintain that the Bible itself is the Achilles' heel for PA (and nearly every other Christian apologetic method, IMO).

 

I am curious why you're not convinced they need to posit that Y is omniscient. Their "in" is usually the canard that without access to omniscience one cannot claim to have knowledge at all.

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