Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bosse on Bahnsen: Critiquing The Critic - Part 3

One of Brian Bosse’s criticisms of presuppositional apologetics is that it must face, one by one, each worldview and defeat all of them in order to prove the necessity of Christianity. Concerning the presuppositionalist, Bosse writes, “He never demonstrates that there are no other worldviews that meet the necessary preconditions for knowledge.”[1] However, the nature of the transcendental argument and the claims of Christian theism are such that one does not have to take on each worldview one by one and eventually get to the conclusion, “see, Christianity is the only one that works.” We would never reach a conclusion if we employed such an absurd method.

Michael Butler answers this question in his excellent paper on the transcendental argument, “TAG does not establish the necessity of Christianity by inductively refuting each and every possible non-Christian worldview (as finite proponents of TAG, this is an impossible task), but rather contends that the contrary of Christianity (any view that denies the Christian view of God) is shown to be impossible. And if the negation of Christianity is false, Christianity is proved true.”[2] Butler goes on to provide the structure of the argument as a disjunctive, either A or ~A, ~~A, therefore A. From the perspective of Christian theism, with its exclusive claims, the disjunctive cannot be taken any other way than as a disjunction of a contradiction. Either Christianity or ~Christianity because any view that is ~Christianity is contradictory to the basic claims of Christianity. The Biblical position necessarily requires this position. There is no other option open to the Biblical Christian, logician or not. Bosse may oppose this perspective, but I fail to see how he could do so from a distinctly Christian perspective. Perhaps Bosse thinks it best not to mix logic with theology. This author thinks its intellectual suicide.

The very basic problem with Bosse’s approach is that he seems to ignore the fact that presuppositionalism contends for a distinctly Christian epistemology. He fails to account for the noetic effects of sin. And finally, his approach to the argument seems to be entirely rationalistic. Bosse’s conclusion is that if TAG were an effective argument for the rational unbeliever, it would not have to have a two-step approach. All that would be necessary would be to show that all non-Christian views are autonomous and all autonomy leads to irrationalism and his work would be done. But surely this is a naïve approach that assumes that the non-Christian worldview(s) is anchored in human reason. It ignores the effect of sin on human reason. It assume there is no ethical component in epistemology, in rationality, in human predication. And this it does to its detriment.

Repeatedly Bosse claims that Bahnsen has not established that all non-Christian thought is by necessity autonomous. Apparently Bosse thinks that some non-Christian thought, thought not subjected to the Lordship of Christ, especially thinking at the level of worldviews can be ~autonomous. While Bahnsen spills boatloads of ink providing us with one Christian Scripture after another in his great work on Van Til and his project “Always Ready,” Bosse doesn’t even whisper a single solitary Scripture in his entire paper.

Again and again I read criticisms of the presuppositional method. Repeatedly, men employ one logical syllogism after another to refute the claims of presuppositional apologetics. The techniques of Descartes, Aquinas, and Aristotle litter the pages opposing presuppositionalism. Odd as it may sound, what is lacking or nearly entirely absent from such arguments are the quotes from Moses, Solomon, Jesus, Paul, or any writer of Sacred Scripture. I cannot recall the last criticism of presuppositionalism that claimed it was out of step with the divine revelation of sacred Scripture. Conversely, nearly every presuppositional critique I see of other methods is precisely that it does not remain faithful to the clear revelation of Scripture. From my perspective, presuppositional apologetics, a.k.a. covenantal apologetics, a.k.a., biblical apologetics relies on a distinctly revelational epistemology, holds Scripture as its final reference point, while in contradistinction to this, the classical method and many others rely heavily on human reason as their final reference point. Some are so bold as to claim that we cannot talk about Scripture with the unbeliever until we have settled the philosophical differences between us, as if we can settle such differences with men that Scripture calls fools, enemies of the cross, and inherent haters of God.

Bahnsen's response would be precisely this: unless you presuppose the Christian worldview, you have no basis for the inductive principle and if you have no basis for the inductive principle, then you can make nothing intelligible. 

In summary, It is as if we must first settle our epistemic differences with the unbeliever, and only then, is he or she ready to listen to what Scripture says. To put it another way, Bosse seems to be saying that Scripture is accessible by way of the natural mind apart from God. In other words, Scripture is powerless to change the mind spiritually until the apologist has done so intellectually, philosophically, rationally. One word: poppycock. 

[1] Statements like this make me wonder if Bosse understands presuppositional apologetics and even the basic claims of the Christian worldview. All Bosse quotes are taken from his article here.
[2] In the interest of full disclosure, I am a student of Mike Butler. His article can be found here.

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