Arguing Presuppositionally

Debates about God and Christian theology get very complex; this is all the more reason for the lay-apologist to utilize presuppositional methodology.

While debating atheists last night, I heard (not for the first time) an attempted internal deconstruction of Christian theology. One atheist argued that if God was immutable as most Christian theologians believe (meaning, if God is eternally unchanging) then it would be impossible for Him to have created anything.

This is undesirable for the Christian because it (supposedly) puts us on the horns of a dilemma; either we must give up the doctrine of Immutability, or we could do (as the atheist wants) and admit that “creation” has existed eternally (thus vindicating his materialist worldview, which requires the material universe, in some state or other, to be eternally existent).

The non-presuppositionalist would try to answer this theological argument head on (indeed, a few of the Christians present for this discussion tried doing just that). They’ll turn to Google and find the latest and greatest discourse in the philosophy of religion department, and rigorously seek out some complex philosophical quip that will allow them to reconcile the doctrine of immutability, with the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

Whatever they find, be it William Lane Craig’s arguments about the nature of Time, or Castaneda’s complex discussion of indexical references, they will ultimately get bogged down in a very difficult philosophical debate which results, in the end, with the atheist making Christian theology look as if it is completely unreasonable.

As presuppositionalists however, we aren’t kind enough to allow the atheist this luxury.

Instead, I ended the debate. I caused the atheists to back out (though they did it with wailing, gnashing of teeth, and chest-beating bravado), by arguing presuppositionally.

“I’ll gladly discuss this problem in Christian theology with you”, I say, “but before we do, we must first come to some sort of agreement on which conceptual scheme we’ll be presupposing in order to have the conversation to begin with.”

In other words, I argue that the *only* way to even have a discussion about Christian theology, is if we first grant the truth of Christian theology (even if only hypothetically, for the sake of argument).

In this way, the Atheists, who wish to utilize logical argumentation, must either accept Christianity at the outset (for the sake of having the discussion) or give a non-Christian account of “logical argumentation”.  In either case, before we take their criticisms seriously, they must provide us a rational reason to do so.

Think about it this way:  the atheist is making the following claim…

“immutability is inconsistent with creation”.

Before we take this claim seriously, we must first assume the legitimacy of logical laws.  If logical laws were not legitimate (if they say nothing true about the world), then why would it matter if “x” is inconsistent with “y”?  It wouldn’t).

The atheist assumes the Christian will naively grant him the authority to make use of such things (as logic) in order to make his criticism.  But outside the context of a Christian conceptual scheme, I’m not sure how we would be justified in utilizing things like laws of logic to begin with.  In fact, that’s exactly the claim of the Presuppositionalist:  without Christianity, you can’t even reason (1).

This is the superior argumentative method; not only does it honor God (because we never forsake Him during the debate), it doesn’t give the atheists the opportunity to lob complex philosophical questions at us, one after the other. If we let them do that to us, they will, eventually, throw something at us we’re not ready (off the top of our heads) to refute, and they strut around as if they defeated Christianity.

Arguing presuppositionally, however, ends their debate before it even begins.


(1):  To illustrate this, imagine the following scenario:

Suppose you are arguing with a man who believes that the universe is completely illogical.  He believes every one of his experiences are capricious, spontaneous, uncaused, and irrational.

Imagine then, if this man tried to offer logical arguments for some claim or other.

We would be well within our rights to say:  “pardon me sir, but given the truth of your worldview, you wouldn’t be able to make logical arguments, as you believe logic is impossible”.

In order for him to even have an argument, he would have to give up the truth of his worldview, and accept a worldview which makes sense out of things like “argumentation” to begin with.

In the same way, Christian presuppositionalists demand that the atheist, before using logic, prove that he has a worldview capable of allowing for things like logic to begin with.

This is only reasonable.  If we are to take an assertion seriously, it must be justified.