Epistemology, Part Two:
A Look at Presuppositionalism
It’s been a while since my last heavy post. This topic has been going through my head a lot over the last several weeks.
Farid commented that “the big danger with taking faith over everything is that you’ll believe really crazy things and you won’t see the truth because blind faith is…. blinding!”
For a classic (and somewhat disturbing) example, click here where you’ll see a Fundamental, Independent Baptist scholar trying to prove that the earth is the centre of the solar system. Um, has anyone heard of Copernicus?! Galileo?! For the record, his “exegesis” looks quite intimidating, but the substance of it is that since God created the earth before the sun, the earth must be the centre of the solar system. I won’t mention anything about the mockery this makes of truth. Instead I’ll move on.
Both Bert and Greg highlight the concept of presuppositionalism. This is a direction that is worth following, so here goes.
Presuppositionalism is “a conservative Christian belief that accepts on faith that God exists and that the Bible is true. No attempt is made to prove these beliefs logically or from evidence. Leading proponents of presuppositional apologetics include Greg Bahsen, John Frame, Abraham Kuyper, and Cornelius Van Til.” www.religioustolerance.org/gl_p.htm
Of course this definition ignores the fact that a “presuppositional apologist” must by definition be giving rational arguments; however, for the purposes of the discussion, this definition will work. The question is, do we start out with certain presuppositions/assumptions that don’t require rational proof? This was referred to by Bert as “just trusting Jesus” and by Greg as “assuming things such as divinity of Christ, etc.”
For those who would adopt this approach, I would think there would be two basic presuppositions:
1) There is a God Who is wholly above man.
2) He has revealed Himself accurately to man through Scripture.
If these two presuppositions are true, we can logically (or rationally) formulate a coherent system of belief (which will include the deity of Christ and trusting Jesus). I’ll call this approach “basic presuppositionalism.”
If we argue from a pure fideistic approach, we say, “you just have to believe what the Bible says about this or that.” The skeptic replies “prove the Bible is true” The presuppositionalist says “God wrote the Bible.” The skeptic replies “prove there is a God”! We must admit that we are arguing based on these two basic presuppositions.
But does the fact that we can’t prove these two presuppositions mean that they are irrational (or purely fideistic)? I would suggest that it does not. Here’s why. Every field of study (science, archeology, history, logic, etc.) ultimately supports our presuppositions though there are certainly unresolved questions in each. Therefore, it is possible to be a basic presuppositionalist without being purely fideistic (without regard for rational argument).
A basic presuppositional model will at least force us to abandon pure fideism. Here’s why. When we are faced with a situation that seems irrational (like believing the triune nature of God), we are not choosing “blind faith.” Instead we are choosing to believe that God knows more about reality than we do and that what He has said is true, even though we do not understand it. So while our conclusion may seem irrational, it is not. It is entirely rational to believe that a God such as the One revealed in Scripture could do and know things that His creatures could not do and know. It is fully rational to believe that since such a God can never lie and can never be inconsistent with Himself, that what He has said is in fact accurate, though apparently contradictory (one God, three persons). This is not “blind faith” (fideism). For now, I’ll call it “basic presuppositional evidentialism.”
If you got lost in that, don’t worry. So did I. Hit me with your comments.