Sunday, December 8, 2013

Defending the Transcendental Argument for God

Kelly James Clark levelled the following criticism against Covenantal Apologetics: “Whenever I read presuppositionalists I almost always think, “Saying it’s so doesn’t make it so.” Saying that Christianity is the criterion of truth (whatever that could mean), that Christian belief is the most certain thing we know, that Christian faith is not defeasible, and that Scripture supports these views, does not make it so. There are few apologetic approaches that are so long on assured proclamations and so short on argument.” [Clark, Five Views On Apologetics, 371]

The charge levelled by Clark, “saying it is so does not make it so,” really depends on one’s view of reality. For the Christian, when God says it is so, it is so. Moreover, if Christian theism is actually true, then it is so whether we say it or not. The central problem with Clark’s criticism is in fact the problem of the criterion. For Christianity, justification begins and ends with God. Knowledge is revelational in nature. Faith provides the basis for all human predication, science, and logic. We do not subject the Christian faith to unbelieving criteria. It is entirely inappropriate for apologists to permit unbelievers to subject Christian faith to the unbelieving criteria of human reason. Christian theism is the only way we can account for the intelligibility of human experience. Contrary to Clark’s criticism, Covenantal Apologetics does a little more than just say it is so. The transcendental argument for God (TAG) destroys all speculations and every pernicious thought raised against the knowledge of Christ. Not only does it demonstrate that the Christian worldview is necessarily true, it refutes the non-Christian worldview in every form it takes by reducing that view to absurdity. TAG accomplished this by refusing to surrender the ultimate authority of Scripture and by performing an internal critique of every competing worldview. It shows that only the Christian worldview provides the precondition of human experience.

Non-Christian reasoning leads to self-contradiction. As Van Til points out in his Survey of Christian Epistemology, this is not only true from a theistic perspective, but from a non-theistic point of view as well. This is exactly what covenantal apologists mean when they say that we must reason from the impossibility of the contrary. What TAG seeks to do is show that it is logically impossible to account for the uniformity of nature (scientific knowledge) and the laws of logic (rational thought) within the non-Christian worldview. TAG takes the most basic assumptions of the non-Christian worldview and subjects those assumptions to a brutal and devastating internal critique.

The non-Christian scientist, for example, claims that the universe was not created. There is no purpose behind or meaning within the universe. It is simply there. But in order for the scientist to do science, she requires uniformity. She needs the laws of science, such as gravity. With these scientific laws in hand, she is free to set about working with the particulars of natural phenomena and work toward scientific discovery. This is how the scientist attains knowledge about the physical universe. The necessary presupposition that is indispensable in order science to work is the uniformity of nature. Without this uniformity, the process of induction collapses.

The scientist relies on the validity of inductive reasoning in order to do science. However, the scientist embraces basic presuppositions about the universe that in no way can account for the uniformity of nature. There is no scientific basis explaining why there is such a relationship between the general and the particular. Without the relationship between the general and the particular, induction becomes impossible. This is a basic problem of science that remains unsolved to this day. Moreover, this is not an ancillary issue for science. It is foundational to the entire field. Hence, one would think that science would have come up with a better answer than the one it presently offers: that’s just the way it is. Carried to its logical end, science becomes impossible if it is true that the universe has no intelligent cause.

Taken on its most basic presupposition, science cannot even account for its most basic claims. Hence, science is unable to provide for an intelligible account for how the scientist knows anything at all. Therefore, science is reduced to absurdity on its own terms. What TAG argues is that the existence of the Christian God is the necessary precondition of such experiences. And it proves this by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary. [Michael Butler, The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence, article] In other words, TAG says for science to be possible, God must exist since God is the precondition for all science. Science exists therefore, God exists. 

The transcendental argument observes ordinary human experience and asks, “What must be true in order for that experience to be possible.” In contradistinction to this, classical arguments, such as the one from causality, do not take this form. The causal argument states that there are causes in the world. There cannot be an infinite number of causes. Since there are a finite number of causes in the world, there must be a first cause. The argument concludes that God must be that first cause. TAG states that for causality to be possible, God has to exist since the existence of God is the precondition of causality. Since there is causality, God exists. [From Butler’s article mentioned above]

The wheels upon which TAG moves is simply this: the non-Christian worldview cannot account for the intelligibility of human experience given its most basic presuppositions. If the world is intelligible without reference to God, then Christian theism is false. That is precisely what the unbeliever knows and seeks to demonstrate. We don’t need God in order to possess knowledge about the world is the drumbeat of the unbeliever. When the apologist allows the unbeliever to pretend this is the case, he has no way of recovering his position. The minute he assumes that the unbeliever can make sense of reality without God, he assumes that his position is wrong. TAG refuses to compromise this basic fact and takes a much different approach. First, God created all things to include how we know anything at all. Therefore, knowledge about the universe apart from God is actually impossible. Second, every stripe of the non-Christian worldview fails to survive basic internal critiques. That is to say, their most foundational beliefs cannot rise to their own standards for justified belief. This is the basic and simplified approach of TAG.

Richard Howe thinks that he has found a way around covenantal apologetics via the rules of human language. What Howe fails to see is that TAG would state the argument thus: For language to be possible, God has to exist because God is the precondition of language. Since there is language, God exists. Covenantal apologetics would not concede that language could be accounted for apart from presupposing the existence of God. Again, if language could be accounted for apart from God, Christian theism is proven false. This is because Christian theism argues that God is the necessary precondition of all experience, and because God is the source of all that has come to exist, it is impossible to account for anything at all without presupposing God’s existence. TAG would insist that the non-Christian worldview defend human language within the framework of their own metaphysical and epistemological commitments. This is the very thing the non-Christian worldview, in all its versions, cannot do.


  1. http://tiribulus/htdocs/index4.html

    2+2 does not equal 4 without God because two, plus, equals and four all have no meaning without Him. The statement I just made has no meaning without Him. Every upcoming protestation to the contrary has no meaning without Him. As my man Van Til was fond of saying. “God is Himself the emplacement upon which men mount the very weapons they attempt to use to destroy Him”. They can't help it,

    Pagans jump and down, stamp their feet with red face glowing while they demand there be no circular reasoning. That is humorous at best. When forced to face the foundation of their alleged beliefs, every time it comes down to the laws of logic. Laws which are invisible, immaterial, absolute and universal. Sounds rather suspiciously like a god does it not? When I demand proof of the validity of the laws of logic they are trapped either re-appealing to those same laws which is circular or hypothetically looking somewhere else which destroys their authority.

    Of course I also engage in circular reasoning (from the autonomous perspective) and make no pretense otherwise because ALL finite reason is by definition and in the nature of the case eventually circular. It never reaches the termination point of ultimate resolution because it's like finite see? The dead logic of unbelievers circles around THEM and hence never ultimately explains anything whatsoever. Mine circles around an infinite intellect and ultimately explains everything. They by utterly preeminent unconditional faith in themselves and their sinful use of finite and fallen atunomous reason loudly proclaim what they fallaciously perceive as the brilliance of their own unavoidably content-less existence. Pure uncertain skepticism if they attempt consistency. I by utterly preeminent unconditional faith in the utterly uncontingent triune God of Christianity loudly proclaim HIS brilliance and rest assured that He is the explanation for everything. Even that which He forbids and detests

    It's not that unbelievers do not advance true knowledge and hence contribute much good to the world. Of course they do, but they do it in spite of and not because of their own foundational beliefs. It's only because my foundational beliefs are true that anything they think or do, works or bears fruit. They hate that. They hate God. They are His enemies. Same as I was. That's why Paul told us in Romans 1 that they "suppress" or as the Greek has it, they "hold under" the truth in their unrighteousness. Picture a beach ball in the water. They keep holding it down, while it keeps popping up. That's how they attempt to hide from their true selves and the God who created them. Paul says they are without excuse. God has reveled Himself unavoidably EVERYWHERE and especially IN themselves as created in His very image, fractured though it is in sin.

    THAT is the discussion that has to happen or any quibbling about this or that particular proof or evidence has no genuine framework to even legitimately take place.


  2. Thanks for the comment Greg. Good points!

  3. Thanks for the informative post! Would you say that other world religions like Mormonism and JWs are able to account for some features of human experience like induction and laws of logic in theory, since they are consistent in some regards to Christian Theism?

  4. Since Christian theism must be taken as a system or not at all, I would say no. In the end, these systems ape Christian theism but are still reduced to absurdity. Both religions have their ultimate source of authority in unreliable men who have long been discredited. However, the challenge to any and all comers is to disprove Christian theism. Unless Christian theism can be disproved, we have no need to work through all systems one by one. Any system contradicting Christian theism is shown to be false when Christian theism is shown to be true. So they would not be able to account for such things as they ought, since they reject the ontological trinity of Christian theism. He, and only He is the source of such relationships in the human experience.