A Case Study In Presuppositional Apologetics

Presuppositional apologetics does not get a whole lot of attention on Cadre Comments or anywhere else for that matter.

Rather than explain what it is, I would refer you to a debate being carried by Christianity Today between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens. Part one is here. Part two is here.

Here is the money paragraph written by Wilson (the Christian) to Hitchens (the atheist):

"Among many other reasons, Christianity is good for the world because it makes hypocrisy a coherent concept. The Christian faith certainly condemns hypocrisy as such, but because there is a fixed standard, this makes it possible for sinners to fail to meet it or for flaming hypocrites to pretend that they are meeting it when they have no intention of doing so. Now my question for you is this: Is there such a thing as atheist hypocrisy? When another atheist makes different ethical choices than you do (as Stalin and Mao certainly did), is there an overarching common standard for all atheists that you are obeying and which they are not obeying? If so, what is that standard and what book did it come from? Why is it binding on them if they differ with you? And if there is not a common objective standard which binds all atheists, then would it not appear that the supernatural is necessary in order to have a standard of morality that can be reasonably articulated and defended?"

Follow this debate as it unfolds. There is much to learn.


Michael said…
Schaeffer's presuppositional approach was awesome.

Nice blog.
Jason Pratt said…
I've occasionally made the same point myself, though I have yet to see an atheist make an answer to it. (To be fair, this may be only coincidental though.) i.e., it isn't overly difficult to crit a Christian for not being theistic enough. (Heck, I do it to myself on a regular basis. {penitent g!}) But how does one ethically crit anyone for not being atheistic enough? (So, Mao and Stalin weren't being survival-of-the-fittest enough??)

I expect the difficulty lies in this, that ethical and logical crits make more sense per se (at least intutively) if reality is at bottom (despite how it might frequently appear) ethical and sentient. But if reality is at bottom amoral and non-sentient (despite how it might frequently appear! {g}), what ground do our criticisms have to stand on when we want to complain about someone _mis_-behaving along those lines? I'll be curious to see what Christopher was willing to answer. (I can see at least one category error potentially in Douglas' approach, though it might be considered irrelevant by both parties at this point.)

That being said, this kind of tactic isn't necessarily exclusive to presuppositionalistic apologetics (in the general sense of 'start with Christian theology and then argue forward'.) In fact, the tactic is to draw conclusions in favor of accepting the apologized position by appeal to premises hopefully common to both the apologist _and_ the sceptic.

Steven Carr said…
' If so, what is that standard and what book did it come from?'

What book did it come from? WHat book did it come from?

How can a BOOK be a supernatural thing?

You have to admire Wilson for his single-handed attempt to make all Christians look stupid?

But out of interest, which book does Wilson mean where genocide is always condemned, and there are never any instructions in the book to say that whole groups of people should be killed - man, woman and child?
Steven Carr said…
If Stalin told Wilson that he had had a dream where God told him to wipe out the kulaks, then Wilson would be stuffed.

After all, Wilson believes books where people had dreams from God, and books where God tells people to kill other people.
Frank Walton said…
I love the presuppositional methodology!
Jason Pratt said…
{{How can a BOOK be a supernatural thing?

You have to admire Wilson for his single-handed attempt to make all Christians look stupid?}}

This is from the same person who thought it was pertinent in the child-abuse thread to try to draw a dismissive parallel comparison between Witherington and the sceptical Deep Thoughts blogger... (Or anyway due to incompetency that's how the attempt ended up being presented in its structure.)

Some of your other points were better, Steven. Try harder to learn how to accurately gauge a point, though. Wilson never said that an atheist guidebook would be a supernatural thing. On the contrary his point (such as it was), would be that if a natural and atheistic standard couldn't be found to criticise Mao and Stalin with, then they'd have to either be judged by some kind of supernatural (tacitly theistic) standard, or else they couldn't be critted at all.

Admittedly, your point is valid enough that Wilson (especially as a presup apologist probably basing his theology on 'the Bible'--as if doing that could count as 'presuppositionalism' in the first place!) is opening himself up for retorts to the effect that we can't trust 'the Bible' not to sanction genocide. (One might note that according to the larger story contexts the peoples _weren't_ in fact genocided despite the hyperbolic language, but that wouldn't alter the problematic principles involved in appealing to mere 'revelatory' authority and wouldn't change other story contexts like the Flood anyway. Plus appealing to hyperbolic language as a softener undercuts the supposed clarity of the 'revelation' information, too.)

Even so: I notice you weren't providing a crit of that position based on a superior atheistic ethic. If only Wilson and/or those kings in the OT had acted _more_ irrational and/or amoral, then... uh...

At the worst, they weren't representing and understanding God very well after all. A theme not exactly absent from the OT prophets (much moreso Jesus), even if those particular incidents weren't the ones being explicitly targeted. The best you can do is still hang them from an insufficiently rational/ethical petard; which may be well worth doing.

But that's still ultimately a _theistic_ petard--not ultimately an atheistic one.

Frank Walton said…

Steven Carr is not looking for any genuine response. He's only here to hack and troll.

Speaking from experience,
Jason Pratt said…
Speaking from years of experience with him myself, I tend to agree. In fact, I was in the process of writing a comment on the child-abuse thread the other night, in regard to his wretched remark there (alluded to above), that would in effect have been a vote to ban him (which from me is extremely extreme)--but the computer crashed, so I took that as a sign to sleep on it and regain my temper. {s}

Even though he is a troll, though, he is still a child of God, too. That's why I believe I have an obligation to treat him as well as I can, and take him as seriously as I can. Even if he never understands that I really am trying to respect him and his contributions (such as they are) as much as possible, I can still hope for that someday; and I can hope that at least one other person somewhere will appreciate my efforts in his favor (even if he never does).

Wouldn't be much of an orthodox universalist if I didn't. {s}

(Though that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good xcomming, too, when-or-if it comes to that...{g})

Puritan Lad said…
Here is a link to the Bahnsen-Stein Debate from 1985. Enjoy...

Puritan Lad said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
BK said…
Puritan Lad,

Thanks for the link. Excellent.

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