f The Wittenberg Door: Challenges to Presuppositional Apologetics

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Challenges to Presuppositional Apologetics

The Gospel Coalition has posted a series of articles about apologetic methodology. The three major schools were represented: Classical, Evidential, and Presuppositional. The Aristophrenium provides a handy list and links to each of the respective articles here.

Being of the Van Tilian Presuppositional stripe, one of the articles that piqued my interest was Dr. Paul Copan’s challenge to the Covenantal approach, particularly his charge of question begging. Reason being, this was my main objection when I was still in the Evidential camp. Dr. Oliphant answers this objection and the others Dr. Copan raises in his article titled, Answering Objections to Presuppositionalism. Here’s part of his answer to the question begging charge:

Van Til is not advocating fallacious reasoning here. Though much more needs to be said, a couple of points should be remembered when Van Til wants to affirm circular reasoning:

(1) Circular reasoning is not the same as a circular argument. A circular argument is one in which the conclusion of the argument is also assumed in one or more of the premises. Van Til's notion of circularity is broader, and more inclusive, than a strict argument form. For example, in William Alston, The Reliability of Sense Perception (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), Alston argues that it is impossible to establish that one has knowledge in a certain area without at the same time presupposing some knowledge in that area. His example is an argument for the reliability of sense perception. Any argument for such reliability presupposes that reliability. And it does so because of the epistemic situation in which human beings exist. Alston is right here, it seems. Not only so, but, to go deeper, the epistemic and metaphysical situation in which human beings exist is one in which the source of and rationale for all that we are and think is, ultimately, in the Triune God of Scripture. Circularity in this sense is inevitable. We will never be outside the context of image of God as we think and live---not in this life or the next.

(2) Van Til's affirmation of circular reasoning should be seen in the context of the point he makes in various places about "indirect" arguments. Any petitio principia is, by definition, a direct argument---containing premises and a conclusion. Van Til's indirect method moves one out of the context of a strict proof or direct argument, and into the context of the rationale for any fact or law assumed to be, or to be true. Thus, circularity is inextricably linked to the transcendental approach, and is not meant to be in reference, strictly speaking, to direct argumentation.

You can read the entire article here.

--The Catechizer

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