Friday, August 23, 2013
A Presuppositional Approach to the Defense of Scripture - Part 1 of ??
There are a lot of squabbles written in favor of, as well as in opposition to, the claim that the Bible is the Word of God. Most of these arguments are written predominantly from a traditional or classical apologetics perspective. Typically, we come to this question with criteria for evaluating such claims already in hand. The objective is to answer very basic questions about this specific claim that Christians make concerning the Bible, or to put it another way, the nature of Scripture. The question we are asking is first and foremost, Is the Bible the Word of God? The number of those who deny this claim far outweighs the number that affirms it. Turning to the visible Church and Christian scholarship is of little help in answering this question. The fact most people deny the Christian claim cannot be part of the criteria for judging the truthfulness of the claim. We are not interested in committing the fallacy of appealing to the populace. The truth of a proposition is not determined by the number of people who affirm or deny it.
A second question that merits attention centers on the type of evidence necessary for making belief in the Bible as the Word of God rational. What kind of evidence is necessary to conclude that belief in the Bible as the Word of God is in fact a rational belief? That is to say, what type of evidence supports the rational justification for the claim that the Bible is the word of God? Some would argue that the question is a religious question and therefore not subject to the laws of science or logic. It is purely a leap of faith. If this is true, then anything goes when it comes to all claims that happen to have a religious nature. However, Christian theism contends that its views are perfectly rational and consistent with sound scientific methods, properly so-called.
Additionally, what evidence ought to persuade rational human beings to accept the Bible as the Word of God? It is one thing for a Christian to affirm that the Bible is the Word of God. But it is an entirely different matter to claim that there is rational justification for believing that the Bible is the Word of God. If this is true, then every rational person ought to accept the claim that the Bible is the Word of God and respond accordingly. And indeed, this is the message of repentance that is witnessed in and spread by the Christian religion. Men ought to humbly acknowledge God and willingly submit to His authoritative Word, also known as the Bible. Put quite simply, this is the essence of the Christian message.
These questions, in my opinion, are very meaningful and should contribute handsomely to the discussion I am about to conduct. In fact, if one has read the article by Paul Helm "Faith, Evidence, and the Scriptures" in the book "Scripture and Truth," they probably recognize them. Dr. Helm does a magnificent job of framing up the questions for us and a brilliant job of answering them. It is not easy, however, to keep these questions in the forefront of one's mind as they read through the issues that are related to such a weighty topic. And this is especially difficult for a presuppositionalist to do. After all, presuppositionalism fancies itself to situate the foundation of every claim and counterclaim it encounters. It is this way by nature.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a presuppositional approach for the defense of the Bible as the Word of God. My goal is to deliver an argument that is consistent with Scripture itself, and therefore, one that is consistently presuppositional in nature. Presuppositions by nature demand internal consistency. The difference between the presuppositional approach and the traditional approach is that the traditional approach makes numerous external appeals to autonomous human reason and the so-called brute facts of history in order to support its defense of Scripture as the Word of God. The presuppositional approach, as I shall hope to make clear, is distinguished by its unique place in the transcendental argument for God's existence.
A good analogy for the two approaches is the difference between a portrait and a puzzle. They could both be displaying the same scene. However, the puzzle can be taken apart and put back together piece by piece under the supervision of the person creating it. On the other hand, a portrait is a portrait. It is the finished product of the artist and cannot be deconstructed and reconstructed at the mercy of another. The only option open to the observer of a portrait is that of interpretation. So it is with the methods underlying the arguments in support of or in denial of the claim that the Bible is the Word of God. I hope to show how the claim itself is actually part of the complete portrait of the Christian worldview and that it is therefore invalid and unsound to attempt to argue in a jigsaw puzzle fashion, which is what I think the traditional approach actually does.
It seems to me that there is something very curious about Helm’s three questions concerning the nature of Scripture. No doubt it obtains that we must have some idea, about not only measuring claims, but also that we innately know it is right to measure claims. That is to say that we have some preunderstanding about how claims should be measured prior to the fact. We not only know that we should measure, but we also have some basic idea about how we should go about it. The problem enters when we begin to talk about ultimate reference points for measuring. We must ask the question, what must also be true in order for the idea of judging or measuring to be true. Would such a scenario make sense in a world of chance? If the Bible is the Word of God, as it claims to be and as Christianity affirms it to be, it follows that the argument that advances the affirmative must be bound up in and indelibly linked to the argument for the truth of Christian theism.