Another Presuppositionalist Fails

The following appeared in my Twitter feed:

check out new #apologetics post “Logic Grounded by God vs. Atheistic Emotional Assertions”

— Applied Apologetics (@Apologetics2020) March 20, 2015

I decided to follow the link to see if anything has changed since the last time I read a presuppositionalist apologist.

Atheists get very angry at God and His followers but they have no proof

I am an atheist. I am not angry at God or any other non-existent being. So much for that universal generalization. Next:

If there were no God there would be no atheists (G. K. Chesterton).

Chesterton presents a non sequitur. If there is no God, it doesn’t follow that there is or would be no atheists. Next:

The Confused Worldview of Atheism

Some questions for atheists:

Is the atheist worldview as aimless, confused, ad hoc, and faux-intellectual as it appears?

This question commits a fallacy of interrogation, namely, the fallacy of the loaded question. The presuppositionalist is asking a question whose answer would require accepting a presupposition (“the atheist worldview appears aimless, confused, ad hoc, and faux-intellectual”), one which atheists deny.

Are the New Atheist leaders beginning to fear, in their minds and hearts, that maybe there is a hell?

This question doesn’t expose the allegedly ‘confused worldview of atheism.’ It exposes the confusion of this particular presuppositionalist. News flash: atheists don’t believe there is a hell.

The problem is not just that atheists do not have a coherent worldview.

Notice what he is saying. He’s not just saying that atheism is false because God exists. He’s saying that atheism is incoherent. The author gives no reason to believe that an atheist worldview is incoherent, however.

It is that they deny God, not deep down, because they know He exists.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Sort of like how Christian presuppositionalists ‘deny Islam, not deep down, because they know that Islam, not Christianity, is the true Abrahamic religion.” Or not. Two can play this game. Or we could stop pretending to read other people’s minds.

The anti-religious rants of atheistic leaders tend to be pretty emotional. Worldview reflection is not a practice regularly employed by the superstars of New Atheism, who might be terrified of looking exposed and defenseless. And to be sure, if someone has spent a career telling tall-tales, who can be surprised if unscrupulous words flow from their nefarious hearts. …

Even if these statements about the “Four Horsemen” of the ‘New Atheists” were true, it doesn’t follow that other atheists also offer emotional, anti-religious rants instead of sober “worldview reflection.”

Let’s skip down just a bit to where the author finally gets around to offering a presuppositional apologetic.

When one attempts to construct a worldview based on anything but the true God, one will find, under rational scrutiny, he cannot justify or account for anything in the cosmos. The person who denies the existence of God uses the laws of reason (A = A; A~~A) to articulate his disbelief. Yet he cannot justify the use of the necessary, immaterial, and universal laws of logic. The laws of logic must be used in the knowledge quest inasmuch as they are transcendent, universal, unchanging, and immaterial. Only a being that is also transcendent, universal, unchanging, and immaterial has the required ontic stature to account for the laws of logic. Van Til informs us, “The law of contradiction [a law of logic also known as the law of non-contradiction], to operate at all, must have its foundation in God.”1

1. In this paragraph, the author commits another logical fallacy typical of presuppositional apologists: falsely equating atheism with materialism. I am an atheist. I am not a materialist. The existence of impersonal, immaterial entities–such as abstract objects or the laws of logic–fit just fine in my worldview.

2. A much more interesting question is whether the laws of logic need a foundation. In theological terms, why can’t the laws of logic exist a se? The assertion  that the laws of logic require an ontological foundation is just that: an assertion. I do not find an argument for that assertion in the apologist’s article.

One may try to flee from the true and living God, but everyone who attempts to avoid the truth that God exists, falls into a trap he cannot escape. This is true because he must use the laws of logic. This point is well made in Van Til’s illustration of a man made of water, who is trying to climb out of the ocean by means of a ladder that is made of water. He cannot get out of the water for he has nothing to stand on. And without God, one cannot make sense of anything. The non-Christian has nothing to stand upon, and nothing to grip or climb. God is necessary, unavoidable, and certain because He provides the pre-essentials for the laws of reason that must be used in understanding and in knowledge attainment.

In my experience, this paragraph is very typical of presuppositional apologists, who excel at offering various analogies to paint a picture of what incoherence looks like. They do not excel, however, at offering arguments to support their claim that the the laws of logic require an ontological foundation, much less that they presuppose Christian theism. (Why not Jewish theism? Islamic theism? Or just ‘mere’ theism, aka “the god of the philosophers”?)

The necessary truths of logic … are representations of the way God’s mind essentially thinks. Theologically, such a doctrine ties in beautifully with the prologue to John’s Gospel on Christ’s being the Logos of God (William Lane Craig).

As a side note, it’s interesting to note that William Lane Craig rejects presuppositionalism.

The ultimate norms for human knowledge are found not in any human mind or minds, or anywhere else in creation, but in the mind of God (James Anderson).

The laws of reason are transcendent and universal. Only a foundation that is transcendent and has universal reach can provide the necessary rational pre-environment to account for fixed logical-norms since they are transcendent, fixed, and immaterial. When anyone attempts to escape the truth that God is alive, he’s trapped in a divine snare because he must utilize the laws of logic. Atheistic philosophies fail to justify continuously enduring logical-norms and can only be asserted at the pain of contradiction. Van Til went on to summarize that “unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else.” This is undeniably correct because Christianity is “shown to be the position which alone does not annihilate intelligent human experience.”2

If atheism is self-contradictory, then presuppositionalists should be able to start with the definition of atheism, substitute synonyms for synonyms, and derive a statement which contradicts itself. No one has ever been able to do that because it doesn’t do that. Atheism is coherent.

Sin is a plague, yea, the greatest and most infectious plague in the world; and yet, ah! How few are there that tremble at it, that keep it at a distance! (Thomas Brooks).

To make sense out of our world an atheist, implicitly, presupposes Christian theism. This is spot-on because Christianity supplies the required pre-essentials for the laws of thought. These laws are necessary for communication and for the intelligibility of human experience. The confrontational New Atheist has a hollow philosophy that works on the assumption that sweeping assertions made with nasty, vicious, and bitter force are settled facts—this is so because they are made with doctrinaire stridency. Insults and unsighted conviction, flowing from a sinful heart, do not just make for bad arguments; they are shameful and embarrassing. Only Christian theism alone can supply the pre-essentials needed for debate, evidence, and knowledge.

The problem with this argument is not just that it assumes, without justification, that the laws of logic need an ontological foundation. The argument has another, deeper problem: the gratuitous assumption that Christianity “supplies the required pre-essentials for the laws of thought.” The many denominations of Christianity do not all agree with the theology which underlies presuppositional apologetics; it takes hubris for the presuppositionalist to arrogantly assume that Christian theism is identical with his version of Christianity. To cite just one example, Richard Swinburne, arguably the leading Christian philosopher of religion in the world and (I think) a Greek Orthodox Christian, would reject the presuppositionalists’ claim that the laws of logic presuppose theism.