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Some further comments on presuppositionalism

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Some further comments on presuppositionalism
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  Some further comments on PresuppositionalismBy Billy Sichone P resuppositionalism has been under heavy artillery attack for many years now. Reasons for  these attacks are not hard to find which I think emanate from the “militant” approach that the school has adopted in promoting the perception as the closest view and apologetic approach tothe Bible, which should be the aim of every apologist. In this paper, I give a brief explanation of what the school holds as taught by the leading proponents of this view from inception and in the process attempt to reduce or perhaps mitigate the animosity that exists with other brethren. In aword, let me make these preliminary statements: The first is that the goal of any apologeticapproach is not to win an argument but to present Christ to the seeker or opposer of the faith. Thesecond is that whatever approach we make must be in sync with the revealed will of God.Having asserted the above, let us then proceed to briskly explain WHAT presuppositionalism positively stands for: TruthThis school of thought has been associated with the work and writings of Cornelius Van Til whotaught, wrote and laboured at the Westminster Theological seminary, USA. Basically, he heldthe following views:1.   Everything in creation is under the Lordship of our God and thus is accountable to Him.This view rises from the fact that Van Til considered the whole of creation as revelatoryof God or pointing to God as the source and sustainer of the same. Whatever else there isin the world, whether discovered or not must therefore point to God as the srcin of allthings. That explains why Van Till maintained that God is known by various ways inwhich he has revealed himself and only right to acknowledge him in everything. The apologete‟s task there fore is to explain things to the unbeliever standing on a wrong premise for viewing the world to the correct one which is God centred. This calls for wisdom, right thinking and correctly knowing your position in God. Salvation is thereforecritical if you are to successfully undertake this work. Remember, the aim of apologeticsis not to win an argument but to present the truth as objectively as possible.2.   Any true knowledge about God and His creation must start with God or else people endup with wrong or distorted conclusions. This point really emphasizes the knowledge of God and not the mere acquaintance with him. This view says (and I believe is consistentwith scripture) that people after the fall have been affected by the fall so badly thatanything they say, do or imagine is tainted with sin and is subject to be abused or distorted. That is to say that a person can know the truth even in their natural statewithout grace but when they process the facts or interpret findings, their fallen naturetends to distort their conclusion and do not do things as they ought. For instance, insteadof giving glory to God, they instead give glory and attention to created things rather than  God who is forever praised. In other words, the ramifications of the fall as highlighted inRomans 1 are ever so true. Secondly, humans can and do inherently know the truth aboutGod but have elected to suppress this truth and thus conveniently squeeze God out of the picture or their lives and reasoning. This means that they are aware and to some extentconscious of the presence of God but blinded as well as confused by the fall so much thatthey do not obey God at all.3.   While knowledge about everything else may be generated and know by the natural mind,only the believer has light form God to know themselves and thus genuinely give glory toGod as they should. By that token, only the regenerate mind is enlightened sufficiently tomake rational decisions as opposed to the depraved mind that does not have the ability toresist sin as a consequence of sin. The grace of God has appeared to all men and teaches the Believer to say “no!” to sin and thus live a righteous life. This is not possible for the unregenerate and thus end up sinning against God at all times, hence the need to start andend with God. True salvation is critical to attaining true objective knowledge. That is notto say that the truth cannot be known in a factual way, it can but the problem lies in thedistortion and interpretation of the same.4.   All arguments are to be based on the word of God and all other “evidences” subservient to this. If you notice very carefully, I am not despising other approaches which genuinelygive light and truth about God. They may and are to some extent helpful but what raisingconcern and objections is when people use wrong approaches and means only to win anargument for the sake of it. The Bible should remain central because only there do wefind all the answers as to how we are to proceed in interpreting things.5.   The school holds that everything srcinates from God, including the world views and tosome extent cultures (generated from world view). If the relationship with God is notsound, then expect wrong ethical practice as well as wrong rational thinking. Conclusion As can be seen, the misunderstandings around this view largely have to do with HOW the presuppositionalists come across rather than the subject matter they propagate. It is clear that the presuppositional approach seeks to remain as close to the scriptures as possible therebymaintaining the glory of God rather that promoting the resting on the wisdom of men, thougheven this sometimes may be helpful in our quest to defend the faith. We advise people to focuson the facts presented rather than the way these arguments are presented though this too is agrowth area for presuppositionalists too. Objections and replies  Qn: If what you are saying is true, why is it that Presuppositionalists often come across asabrasive and combatant, literary insulting everyone (Christian or not)?Ans: This ought not to be and I think this is a misconception that has been created by both sidesof the coin. There could be reasons for this but I think it is probably the weakness on the hand of those that would communicate and find it difficult to express themselves hence the unpalatablelanguage. It could also be that their views have not been readily acceptable and thus, to be “heard” they speak out louder. Finally, it could be a “Reformed “culture” which people have inherited across the centuries and unconsciously practice now. All these reasons are notsufficient to justify such an approach and action but I hope helps to understand the presuppostionalist better. My encouragement to people is to read and understand what the schoolof thought seeks to advance as I have explained above.Qn: I thought one of the tenets of Presuppositionlism is that only regenerate Christians can havea consistent, logical and correct world View?Ans: Not exactly, what we stand for is that anyone with an unregenerate heart may actually have the facts right but interpret them in ways that may not be in line with God‟s ways. There is a  propensity to distortion. For example, they may do the correct things but the motive is wrong.The regenerate heart on the other hand has the assistance of God and rightly does all things well.Lets never forget that the ramifications of the fall are really grave.Qn: If you say that all things are sustained by God and he is the one that gives wisdom to men, how can “unbelieving thought” not be successful?  Ans: Get me right, Presuppositionalists do not at any point deny that the unbeliever can never beright or get anything correct rather the point is that an unbeliever is not consistent and distortedin their thinking by the effects of the fall. They may do something correctly but not consistentlyor with the right motives. On the contrary, the circumcised heart depends on God at all times andthis will be consistent and logical. That is the argument, hence the necessity of the new birth. Theissue is not intelligence as much as morality and correct motive.Qn: Does that mean then that unbelievers and believers can never connect at some point and talk on the same plane and wave length?Ans: We have stated that God has revealed himself through general and specific revelation. Bycreation, he has implanted his image in all human beings meaning that nobody is 100%unbeliever so that is the starting point. We need to guide them through from that premise andexplain the gospel from a correct premise, not their distorted view. In short we are saying that nosystem is totally ignorant of God, although they may suppress his expression or knowledge. Qn: Presuppositionalism talks about some “Transcendental argument” relating to defendin g theChristian faith, can you say something about that?  Ans: I do not think there are transcendental arguments as such but strategies that we use indefending the Christian faith. Greg Bahnsen used that term more than Van Til to communicate the latter‟s thought. The question seems to suggest that there is some „transcendental proof‟ of the existence of God akin to Thomas Aquinas‟ logical arguments, I think that should not be our  approach. However, we may use some proofs, that may act as such, for example using theindirect proof. We may further say that Christianity does not need proof as such because all people know or are aware of the existence of God by virtue of having been created in Hi image.That is presuppositionalism in the Van Tillian sense! Christians are thus never neutral but mustdemonstrate the foolishness of idolatry and other vices using the correct premise of faith.Qn: Are you saying that Unbelievers are culpable for their unbelief? I need to be clear here.Ans: Yes we can say they are culpable (guilty) because of the attitude of their hearts to God preferring to idolise created things rather than the creator who is forever praised. Qn: What makes you so sure that all human beings are “aware” or conscious of God?  Ans: The Bible makes it clear and we have seen or confirmed this in experience. Qn: Granted, Romans 1 declares that evidence of God‟s existence has been made manifest in creation but what if someone does not honestly have the ability to discern this fact, what wouldyou say?Ans: There is no way a person cannot know the basic minimum about God‟s existence for his general revelation is so clear. They may not come to faith per se as special revelation is essential but one thing is clear to all, God exists by what he has made.Qn: I still find it hard under stand why they should be blamed for unbelief is all they have isgeneral revelation at best.Ans: All of us should thank God for his mercies though the unbeliever must still be urged toclose in with Christ.Qn: But how can an unbeliever respond with thanks giving and praise to God since s/he is lost?Ans: That is what God has ordained. Acknowledge him in everything. Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord, says the scripture. Qn: What good is this mere “awareness” of God s ince they stand condemned already?Ans: This should point them to the saviour so that they may be saved. They should ceasesuppressing the truth or exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  Qn: You keep referring to Romans 1 for your argument, I think it is possible to give a differentrendering to the text you refer to. In my thinking, the book is not meant to bring out that psychology per se but to give a historical account of things.Ans: Romans is part of the canon of scripture and explains the Gospel, first by stating that all aresinners and then giving the remedy in later Chapters. So we need to read in context as weinterpret. This book also proves that Christians are not superior either. Other parts of scripturealso attest to the truths brought out in Romans 1. Qn: I must admit that every time I read Van Til‟s work, I get put off by his attacks on people like Karl Barth. He really ridicules and harangues the man to the extent that I find it difficult toconcentrate on the substance of what he is actually saying. Ans: That‟s unfortunate but you need to develop an objective mind so that you focus on what really the man is saying. Admittedly, his aggressive militant combative style may not sit well butthe substance of what he is communicating, what is it? Also, understand the context in whichVan Til was writing. He was at war and pulling away from liberalism or other wrong teachingsthat were cropping into the church at the time. References Garver Joel S, A Primer on Presuppositionalism,Morey Robert, Introduction to defending the faith, Crowne publications Inc., 1989Geisler L Norman, Christian Apologetics, Baker Academic, 2008 edition
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