Here is a burgeoning list of Frequently Asked Questions/Common Objections we’re slowly adding to. Feel free to use the Contact Form above to submit others, should you desire.
While in some ways this is an easy question to answer, in other ways it is quite difficult. It is easy insofar as it is understood that a Covenantal apologetic is a Reformed apologetic, while an evidentialist/classicalist apologetic has its roots in Roman Catholicism. There are those who disagree with this assessment, of course - which is what makes the answer quite difficult in some ways. It becomes important, once you reach this level of disagreement, to carefully define the terms which are being disagreed upon. In some sense, this is part of the problem - and in another sense, the consistency with which you carry through on the implications of those definitions is another part. The term "presupposition" has unfortunate postmodernist connotations which has led to Westminster encouraging the use of "Covenantal apologetics" to distinguish the VanTillian methodology, as distinguished from "presuppositionalism". Within the greater term of "evidentialism" there are schools such as "classicalism", "cumulative case", "moral apologetics", and the like, so we ought to be careful to distinguish between these proponents when it is necessary to do so.
However, there is a fundamental agreement within the evidential "camps", and that agreement rests in the assumption of man's autonomy when it comes to dealing with evidence and argumentation. This is contrasted with the fundamental agreement between even the varied presuppositional "camps" that man cannot be considered to be "autonomous" when it comes to evidence and argumentation. This is a simple assessment, true - and the difficulty lies with the consistency of either group in adherence to their principle. Obviously, we would assert that someone arguing in accord with Van Til's seminal method would be more consistent than a Clarkian, Schaefferian, or Framean would be, methodologically. It isn't quite as clear, superficially, which of the evidential schools is "more consistent" with their principles, however. Whether one uses Aquinas' Five Ways, a cumulative case argument, or other modern versions of classical theistic argumentation, it could be argued that each is consistent with the evidentialist's principles, in various ways. The point that we'd like to make is that all of these assume the Romanist conception of natural theology, as distinct from the Reformed conception, espoused and exegeted by Reformed theologians. Were these theologians necessarily consistent in their application of their natural theology? No, they were not. This is not to say that their exegesis is therefore invalid. It is indicative of inconsistency, not of exegetical failure.
An evidentialist begins, following Sproul, with an "uninspired Bible", and argues for miracles. "[F]rom miracles", they argue "from an inspired Bible". If, like all Reformed believers, you believe in Sola Scriptura, this seems quite... problematic. Again, it is stated that "Apologetics cannot begin with the inspired Bible or even with a divine Christ". It is not our intention to argue this point currently, but you see the issue involved, surely. There is the assumption made, in the argument, that the Bible is uninspired, from the outset. There needs to be argumentation provided to "get to" an inspired Bible. Instead of the authority of Scripture being presented as not dependent "upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof;", it is presented as being, in fact, if not formally, dependent upon that self-same testimony. It seems to be received not "because it is the Word of God", but because it is acceptable to our reason. Similarly, the evidentialist argues not from "[t]he whole counsel of God", but from the standpoint of "minimal facts" concerning the Christian faith. Lastly, the evidentialist tends to argue probabilistically
- it is "more probable" that their conclusions are true than the denials of their conclusions are true. As Van Til puts it, "How could the eternal I AM be pleased with being presented as being a god, and probably existing, as necessary for the explanation of some things but not of all things, as one who will be glad to recognize the ultimacy of his own creatures? Would the God who had in paradise required of men implicit obedience now be satisfied with a claims and counter-claims arrangement with his creatures?"
These are all serious issues to be found with the evidentialist schools, and cannot be merely dismissed as unimportant by serious believers in Reformed doctrine. The questions must be addressed, and addressed seriously, as our theological commitments demand.
CH INTRO: Evidence that Christianity is true
CH: A Christian Epistemology of Testimony
CH: Answering the Evidentialist Objection
CH: Addressing a Common Evidentialist Retort
CH: Problems with Authority in Evidentialist and Classicalist Apologetics
CH: Are Sunglasses Evidence of God?
CH: Not Overly Surprising
CH: Is it sinful to call evidentialism... sinful?
CH: Can the existence of God be proven?
CH: Some thoughts on the upcoming debate
CH: A Feminist Examines Presup
CH: The Same Tired Assertions
CH: Debate Opener
The most common argument employed will be a "transcendental argument" - an argument which deals with the preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience. You will most typically see the "Transcendental Argument for the existence of God", or TAG, employed for this purpose. As a whole, however, Presuppositionalism is an argument on the worldview level; and per the Christian worldview, there are two worldviews - Christianity, and not-Christianity. The denial of Christianity necessitates the affirmation of it's antithesis, or it's opposite.
As such, we deal with concepts such as "The impossibility of the contrary", or "internal critique", which serve to demonstrate that the contrary position does not provide the preconditions for intelligibility, by it's own standards. Put in simple terms, the denial of Christianity is itself a worldview; but not a worldview which can account for human experience, reality, or anything else. This lack of an account for such things renders the worldview impossible
to consistently hold. Further, it involves the "borrowing" of elements of the Christian worldview, in order to make its objections, or its claims in the first place.
The argument stated in several forms:
“The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything.”
Premise 1A: “If knowledge then God”
Premise 2A: “knowledge”
Conclusion A: “therefore God”
X presupposes CT;
You certainly don't have to use the term. Van Til primarily expressed it in different terms; "Christian theism as a unit", "Christian life-and-world view" (which is similar), "Christian totality picture", "Christian faith as a whole", or the like. If it is understood that this is what we mean when we say "worldview", all is well. It must, however, be distinguished from a mere "worldview apologetic", or the Kantian “weltanschauung”, and be placed within the proper context, if you're going to use it as a Reformed, Covenantal apologist. The Reformed worldview is the worldview where Scripture Alone is "the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience." As Warfield puts it, it is "Christianity come to its own". It speaks to all of life, and does so perfectly. Its antithesis is the non-Christian worldview - and on its particular basis, also has something to say about all of life. It is these two "worldviews" which which we have to deal; as long as it is understood what is meant by "worldview".
CH: Answering an Objection to Christian "Worldview"
CH: Did Van Til set Christianity alongside other worldviews?
GPTS Theological Conference - K. Scott Oliphint: The Reformed Worldview
First, we are saying this: From ~CT, there a strong case for a systematic distrust of the reliability of the senses. What we are not saying: That from CT, there is a strong case for a systematic distrust of the reliability of the senses. This is only the case when the revelation of God to us is excluded from the equation of knowledge from the outset of the discussion.
CH INTRO: Starting Point of Knowledge
CH INTRO: Severing the Senses
CH INTRO: Memory, Senses, Reason, and Belief
CH: The Discussion, Part I
CH: The Discussion, Part II
CH: Do we know anything at all?
CH: Science is not that simple - Part I
CH: Science is not that simple - Part II
CH: Faith and Final Authority
CH: A Feminist examines Presup
CH: A Study in the Nature of God's Word, Part 3
CH: But you use your senses to read the Bible!
There is more. That, however, should suffice.
In dealing with other religions, first, it must be clearly stated that superficial similarity is just that; superficial. Secondly, it must be stated that from Christianity, other religions are individual manifestations of a *single* contradictory worldview; the worldview which denies the true God of Scripture. As such, any other religion, when arguing from Christianity, is treated as a denial of Christianity. For our purposes, we'll call it ~CT. ~CT, in any manifestation, is a denial of CT. The superficial resemblances of any ~CT manifestation to CT can be easily dealt with, however, because we are arguing on the level of entire worldviews, not on the level of individual "facts". This is, of course, because CT claims that all facts are interrelated and inseparable from the meaning of those facts; all of which is by the express ordination of God.
CH INTRO: There are Two Worldviews
CH INTRO: Religions that share our authority
CH: Borrowing From the Christian Worldview
CH: Covenantal Apologetics and Other Religions
CH: Did Van Til set Christianity beside other worldviews?
CH: The Unfortunate Case of the Missing Argument
For one, we don't always frequent the places you want us to frequent. We often don't want to be forced to do so in order to keep up with a conversation elsewhere, either. None of us do this for a living, remember. For another, it's often needless duplication. We typically already have that response archived here, on our site. This particular section, in fact, should be an aid to you in finding what we have written. Perhaps, instead of insisting that we post at some particular place, why don't you 1) Link to the information we've already presented or 2) Present it yourself, with proper attribution? That way, the answer is presented, and the one with the interest in seeing it presented *at that particular place* is also satisfied. Remember, our intent is primarily to teach. We do not, however, necessarily intend to be peripatetics ;)
Well, frankly, that assumes _x_ hasn't been answered. In most cases, it really has. As Reformed Christians, we have probably the most extensive and detailed body of theological literature in the world. In that immense amount of material, it is vanishingly unlikely that your particular point has gone unaddressed. Further, most of the questions that are inserted in the place of _x_ are, in fact, common objections that we have addressed multiple times. If you really think your objection hasn't been answered, submit it above, in the contact form. The other issue is, we are hardly "running scared" because we don't address your particular objection right stinking now. It's much more likely that 1) We've answered it before
or 2) It's a faulty objection
First, it might be because we've answered your question many times before. Second, it might be because you didn't really ask - you poisoned the well and then expected someone to decontaminate the water. Third, it might be because it's answered so frequently, and so thoroughly by historical theology that it's really pretty obvious that you didn't study it. There are many reasons. Most commonly, however, it might just be because most objections really don't address the Christian faith, but a straw man of it. If you really need a serious question answered or an answer explained RIGHT NOW - come to our chatroom
Well, let's talk about evidence. First, who determines what is "evidence", and what is not? If the claim is that we have this "definition" in common, we reject that claim, on the basis of our doctrine. So, to insist on it is to beg the question in your favor. Second, what is meant when we speak of evidence? To the materialist, valid evidence consists purely of material evidence. To the immaterialist, evidence consists of only immaterials. When we speak of evidence, we are not speaking of evidence as if it is something self-existent. Everything has a context; a sense in which it fits into one's presuppositional commitments concerning the nature and meaning of reality. As such, to speak of evidence is to speak of evidence as it is seen from your own worldview; from your own framework of presuppositional commitment which determines the meaning of the facts in question. Since this is so, we seek to point out that the *meaning* of fact is what is at issue, just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. Evidence presupposes your final authority; that is, your final authority will determine what you consider to be evidence, and what that evidence means. Our response is to say that evidence has preconditions; preconditions which must be met in order for your worldview to meaningfully speak about evidence in an intelligible way. Evidence presupposes the existence of God, and His revelation of what the "facts" we deal with really are, and what they mean. The unbeliever cannot account for the intelligibility of evidence; the Christian can. This is why we won't simply "give you the evidence" - because we need to address whether meaning is even intelligible in your worldview, and show that it is, in ours, first. In Christianity, everything whatsoever is evidence for the truth of Christianity. Apart from God, "evidence" is an impossibility.
Commonly Misunderstood Terms
Well, keep this in mind. First, you're on a Reformed website. This means that you shouldn't assume that an RCC definition suffices, a Jehovah's Witness definition suffices, or what have you. Second, not only do you NOT need to look in the WRONG place, you DO need to look in the RIGHT place. The most general way is someplace like theopedia
. More specifically, Monergism.com
. Even more specifically, the Reformed Confessions
. Most specifically, you can find many systematic theologies online - Like Gill's
, Calvin's, Hodge's, Berkhof's, or Boyce's. The latter 4 can be found here
. Link is provided for Gill. In short, there is no end to the availability of direct, systematic instruction in Christian doctrine. “Systematic Theology is more closely related to apologetics than are any of the other disciplines. In it we have the system of truth that we are to defend.” - CVT
CH INTRO: A Brief Introduction to Systematic Theology
CH: Van Til and Systematic Theology
IA: In Antithesis
, Volume 1, Number 1; The Doctrine of God in Reformed Apologetics
It is impossible, or absurd, to say that one can both not exist and affirm one’s non-existence; the one affirming non-existence would have to exist in order to affirm one’s non-existence. Likewise, we may argue for logic by the impossibility of the contrary or absurdity of the opposite; in denying logic one is affirming it.
By “contrary” here we simply mean the denial of whatever is in view. Contrary is being used in an informal and conversational way, and not in its philosophical sense. In the philosophical or logical sense contraries cannot both be true but they can both be false, whereas here we want to say that if the contrary of a position is false or at any rate impossible, then the original position must be true or necessary.
CH INTRO: Transcendental Argumentation
CH INTRO: Illustrating Neccessity by the Impossibility of the Contrary
CH: Helping Dawson recognize a TA
CH: Mr. White, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Black VII
If this is the case, then first we have to address what we respectively view to be the definitions of "Christian" and "Christianity." There are some minor disagreements, to be sure; the disagreements between Presbyterianism and Baptists come to mind. However, we're typically speaking of disagreements on the order of "I disagree with you on what the Bible says", or "I disagree with you about what should be orthodox", or "I disagree that Scripture is the only infallible rule for faith and practice." For the unbeliever, it tends to be along similar lines. The unbeliever will assume their own worldview to critique our own. As a "former Christian", they will define Christian doctrine as they now see it - or insist that how they now see it is correct - typically without demonstration. Alternatively, they will insist that group _x_ is the true expression of Christian belief (again, sans demonstration), as opposed to group _y_. Unfortunately, it is often the case that they will distort the views of both groups. When dealing with Christian orthodoxy, it must be understood that in a historical sense, Sola Scriptura has been the rule of faith throughout. This is demonstrated throughout the Scripture, the writings of the Early Church Fathers, and the doctrine developed and exposited over that period of time. Secondly, it must be understood that there is 2,000 years of historical theology to back up this claim. Addressing Jehovah's Witnesses, or Mormons as "Christian" stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point. Insistence on holding Protestants to Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox dogma is similarly a strikingly incredulous claim. When making claims as to what is "Christian", the putative believer (or "former believer") needs to be cognizant of the history of the church, and her doctrines; otherwise, they are simply offering a straw man up to the blaze. For those who call themselves believers who disagree, keep in mind where your disagreement lies. If it is a disagreement of a second order, such as ecclesiology, this is non-problematic, for the most part. There are places where this disagreement will have repercussions, as is necessarily the case, but if we are in agreement on the major elements on the faith, such as the "Solas" of the Reformation, the nature of the Gospel, or theology proper, there is no fundamental problem involved. If your disagreement is on one of the major topics of orthodoxy, the issue is more serious, and we will be at odds on many, many points; some of which will be concerning whether you have the right to call yourself "Christian." In any case, please keep these points in mind.
This revolves around what _x_ happens to be. If _x_ concerns the nature of God, you likely need to be introduced to something that Van Til called the "Creator-creature distinction." This distinction is a theologically driven one, revolving around the transcendent nature of God. As such, God is not "bound" by what He creates. God, to the contrary, is who has instituted the bounds which His creatures live within. In essence, this reduces to a category error; when God is being placed within the category of "creature", this is a faulty categorization. God is not of the same category as His creatures.
That depends, typically, on the nature of the objection. Most commonly, there is a problem with your objection when it takes the form of a straw man. A straw man fallacy arises when the objector ignores the stated position of his opponent, and substitutes a distorted, or misrepresented version of their opponents position. This often occurs when the objector is describing the Christian faith at various levels. When this occurs, the objector misrepresents, or distorts, the actual position held by his opponent - makes it out to be something other than it is, and typically without argumentation to demonstrate that his perception is, in fact, correct.
CH: Attributal Argument for God's ordination of possibility
CH: On Divine Simplicity and Malformed Arguments
CH: A Further Example of the Importance of Divine Simplicity
IA: In Antithesis, Volume 1, Number 1; The Doctrine of God in Reformed Apologetics
This list is not intended to be exhaustive.