Monday, September 26, 2005

Don't Presuppose My Supposition...

In a post entitled Atheistic reasoning concerning the Bible and God made on Sunday, September 25, 2005 at Atheism Presupposes Theism (I could not find a direct link), Christian Theist attempts to even the playing field, so to speak, and show that both teams – atheists and theists – are equally biased.

That our respective positions, in the arena of debate, are intellectually, though I’m sure still not morally, essentially equal.

He gets to the heart of atheistic logic, demonstrates it as inherently and fatally flawed, and then quickly reminds us that this is all entirely inconsequential, because, not only is he right, he is so right that there is an “impossibility of the contrary.” How is this so? Because “without [his] God, you could not prove anything.”

It may appear that he is taking a great liberty here by making a momentous assumption and allowing it to be taken for granted, but remember, he is a Van Tillian presuppositionalist. Also remember that is precisely his point. He asserts this as so for both sides, but I can’t help envisioning him as putting his thumbs to his ears, revealing his palms, shaking them, and singing, “nanny-nanny boo-boo” while doing so.

He begins with a categorical syllogism purportedly demonstrating, well, atheistic reasoning concerning the Bible and God:

Syllogism A (“A” for Atheistic)

Premise #1: God doesn't exist
Premise #2: The Bible claims to be inspired of God and therefore true
Premise #3: Since God doesn't exist, the Bible isn't inspired of Him
Premise #4: The Bible claims God exists
Conclusion: The Bible is not true and God does not exist

followed by the rhetorical inquiry:

Can anyone say “circular”? No? Can you say, “begging the question”?

It’s all moot, as no valid argument would be built on such a syllogism: Any interlocutor who is not masochistic or mentally Schiavo’d would never grant such a premise by the proposer, as it would be tantamount to conceding the point.

Nevertheless, I will address it.

The real issue is ascertaining Premise #1, no matter if presented in the positive or negative.

Of course, we could grant that both sides, by definition, presuppose #1 (+/-) and therefore, no arguments could even be brought about without it. This, though, isn't exactly an honest representation of the situation, which I'll examine momentarily.

As CT plainly illustrates when saying: “But of course, God does exist and His revelation about Himself in the Bible is true because of the impossibility of the contrary”, presuppositionalism (in a generic sense, not just in Christian Apologetics) nullifies any need to even argue, as it creates a no-lose situation.

“Can anyone say ‘circular’? No? Can you say, ‘begging the question’?”

The syllogism he’s created here, and taken upon himself to put in our laps, is nothing more than a modification of one we've presented from day one (or at least since about 150 CE when the closest thing to a Christian canon was recognized – only to later be declared heretical. Protestant Christians like CT would have to wait until about 1647 CE when the Bible – as it is canonized, closed, and presented today – was essentially voted into existence. But I digress.)

The syllogism is as follows:

Syllogism C (“C” for Christian)

Premise #1: God exists
Premise #2: The Bible claims to be inspired of God and therefore true
Premise #3: Since God exists, the Bible is inspired of Him
Premise #4: The Bible claims God exists.
Conclusion: The Bible is true and God does exist

“Can anyone say ‘circular’? No? Can you say, ‘begging the question’?”

But what if we reduce it one level further, and substitute “D” (deity) for “God” and “R” (revelation) for “Bible”:

Syllogism T (“T” for Theist)

Premise #1: D exists
Premise #2: The R claims to be inspired of D and therefore true
Premise #3: Since D exists, the R is inspired of Him
Premise #4: The R claims D exists.
Conclusion: The R is true and D does exist

Deity and Revelation replaced with God and Bible, Christians have no trouble with this.

But experiment replacing D and R with any OTHER belief system-appropriate substitutes (e.g. Allah/al Qu'ran, Ahura-Mazda/Vesta, Zeus/Illiad, Devi/Devi Mahatmyam, Necronomicon/Cthulhu, The Book of the Dead/Thoth, YHWH/Tanakh, et al.*) and Christian approval won't be so forthcoming.

This is another reason why, from anything other than a presuppositional perspective, this is a flawed syllogism. It relies on far too many conditions.

Alas, I present, as an objection to CT’s Syllogism A:

Atheism does not claim God does not exist - not explicitly. Atheists lack a belief in god. There is a difference, and it is pertinent enough to eradicate his syllogism.

I should also emphasize that atheists rarely attempt to disprove god “by an appeal to the Bible”, nor does one necessarily have and “axe to grind” with either the Bible or its god. The former is usually thrust upon us when the Christian introduces the Bible as defense in our argument against the existence of adequate evidence for a god, and the latter is an unfortunately common and equally false misconception, which is only perpetuated as an appeal to emotion.

The entire concept of an atheist appealing to the Bible is rather absurd. The Bible is completely irrelevant to our position until made so by parties outside our ranks (remember here that athiests existed before the Bible, and it can be argued that all humans are born atheist). Even once the Bible has been injected into the argument, an atheist's “appeal” to it is usually no more than a simple prompt for one to read it sans bias and compare its content to its adherents assigned properties of its god.

One of my personal peeves regarding Christians centers on, as I see it, an incongruence with their (modern popular) beliefs and what the Bible in fact contains. I, as an individual, may then use the Bible to argue the qualities or characteristics ascribed to their god as a preliminary to attempting to provide a case for there being no sound reason to belief in any god. But I am in no way the representative embodiment of all atheists.

I will not address CT’s vaulting of the Christian worldview's “account for universal, invariant laws of logic and morality, and the uniformity of nature” above all others. This is far too broad a statement, far too arrogant, and far too unsupported in and by world history.

Finally, I will address an issue I realize with his proclamation:

"My position is that Christian Theism is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. If Christian Theism were not true, you could not prove anything."

His status as a Presuppositionalist explains the “impossibility” part, but he MUST insert some prepositional phrase before that period (aside from "at all").

“Impossibility” and “anything” are absolutes to the superfluous, and this is just an unfinished statement.

CT begins presenting an argument for God, but in this statement extends that with a presupposition that Jesus existed in the most full-blown, glorified sense – complete with deification. I realize that to CT, Yoshua ben Yosef IS God, but what of every theism that existed before, parallel with, and since - completely independent of - Christianity?

If it is impossible to be false, then nothing else can be true (am I assuming here, or is everyother theistic belief also true?). So, before some people got together and decided what they were going to believe as Christians, depending on which writings they were going to accept, nothing was true?

What about Judaism before Christianity? Christians can’t just claim to be an extension or continuance of Judaism, because the bulk of their fundamental dogma completely conflicts with Judaic belief (thus non-Christian Jews remain). It’s comparable to Jews being considered Babylonians by faith. Some could argue that Islam has an equal or greater claim as such an extension.

Predestination aside, CT would be declaring the religion his is (loosely) based on – the very religion his supposed messiah would have practiced – false.

(So, God knew that everything he was “inspiring” these “prophets” to write was temporary, and could later be completely contradicted? Why not? He “knew” that Eve would fuck up and He would have to kill everybody but Noah and eventually have to kill even himself.)

The only way to fix this is with predestination, and thus CT is adding yet one more piece to his puzzle. It appears his original assumption is quite a bit more specific than “God exists”: “An omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, Protestant Christian God exists” seems more along the line, and such a precise supposition is QUITE different than one as broad as “god doesn’t exist.”

His field is hardly level.

*I’ll grant I took a liberty with some of these as “revelation,” but my point stands.


mountmccabe said...

Heh. I followed the post before this one over from the comments section at the Evangelical Atheist's blog... and I thought I was going to drop by and explain a little bit about presuppostionalism.... but it looks like you've got it.

I'll just add a few bits before heading away... more for myself than because I think I'm adding anything you don't know.

1. Presuppositionalism is not terribly popular. Not every is analytical enough, thorough enough... whatever enough to need anything like this. And it's complicated enough that you basically don't bother with it if you don't feel the need.

2. It isn't about practicality or convincing others... it's about self-justification. This fits with predestination and total depravity and such: there are no non-believers (so the story goes) just haters of God who won't listen.

3. The key bit with presupp is that everyone is biased... that there are no blank slates; neutrality is not possible. This is what CT is going on about (at I AM's blog at least; I have not yet had a chance to go to the APT blog you link to here) : saying that you can't talk about burden of proof without a common ground on epistemology.

Oh well. I am not trying to argue these points; I'm merely attempting to explain them as well as I can.

Also it is my plan to catch up as it were and go check the APT post and see what that changes.

Also this reminds me that I need to change my Blogger display name to mountmccabe since that's what I've been using elsewhere. I don't know if that'll change this retroactively or not.

Anyway, good post.

DUB said...

Thank you.

I'm very relieved at point 1.

You are DEAD ON with point 2.

The "everyone is biased so we are too" goes with the logical fallacy of "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right.

Jesse Gritter said...

"(I could not find a direct link)"

I know what you mean. It's hard to find. The direct link is that little "#" sign at the bottom.

I reponded to some of the comments made in reaction to that post with another post. And reading your post here, I believe I dealt with some of the things you said.

As for the whole impossibility of the contrary thing, I'd be happy to interact with you on that. We don't really even need to debate, just to share thoughts.

Have a good one!

Jesse Gritter said...

DUB said: "The 'everyone is biased so we are too' goes with the logical fallacy of 'Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right.'"

But DUB, no one is "neutral" (which was the term I used, or tried to use) with respect to their final epistemological standard/authority. If you prove your final authority by appealing to your final authority, then you're reasoning in a circle. If you prove your final authority by appealing to something other than it, then you deny your final authority. If you have no final authority, then you can't know anything for certain, or, you end up with the problem of infinite regression (and you still can't know anything for certain.)

Tanooki Joe said...

Presuppostionalism ends up sounding alot like postmodernism, in many ways.

Bahnsen Burner said...

CT: "As for the whole impossibility of the contrary thing, I'd be happy to interact with you on that."

Dub and Mad Dog, you might be interested in what I have written in regard to the presuppositionalist claims about "the impossibility of the contrary" in my blog Is the Contrary to Christianity Truly Impossible? Perhaps you'll agree with me that this matter has been put to eternal rest.


DUB said...


I will read your post ASAP. I have no issue at all with sharing our thoughts on this, and possibly other matters. My email is dubtla at yahoodotcom.

I concede that the idea of a human being completely neutral is, ultimately, approaching impossiblity.

I do see that you didn't say "bias" per se, and you did use the term "neutral", but, as I'm sure we can both agree, if one is not neutral, one is biased.

"If you prove your final authority by appealing to your final authority, then you're reasoning in a circle."

True. But if there is such a thing as a "final authority", although you'd be commiting a fallacy, your argument would nonetheless be true. IF, there is indeed a "final authority". Is it impossible to "prove such a thing without appealing to it?

"If you prove your final authority by appealing to something other than it, then you deny your final authority."

I don't agree. How would ultimately PROVING something be allso DENYING it?

"If you have no final authority, then you can't know anything for certain"

We're really going to have to define this final authority. I hate infinite regression, lol. I am not a big fan of continuously stripping something down ad infinitum. It is my major qualm with most all debates.

tanooki joe (TJ or Joe?):
I have yet to fully comprehend this whole "postmodernism". It is so debated as to what it even is.

Thank you for commenting, I have a good amount of respect for your work. That being said, I will be also reading your post, ASAP.

Jesse Gritter said...

I said: "If you prove your final authority by appealing to something other than it, then you deny your final authority."

Dub said: "I don't agree. How would ultimately PROVING something be also DENYING it?"

What I meant is that one would have to deny it as final.

dub said: "IF, there is indeed a 'final authority,' is it impossible to prove such a thing without appealing to it?"

No. Perhaps not explicitly, but one's final authority is always assumed in his reasoning. That's why I argue for God's existence from the impossibility of the contrary.

Tanooki Joe said...


You can call me Tanooki or Brian (yes, my name isn't Joe. Yes, I know that doesn't make sense). :P

DUB said...

CT: "What I meant is that one would have to deny it as final."

Point taken. I may not agree, but you have clarified.

We're getting into that whole gray area that makes me dislike being logical. "Proof" is really such an allusive thing.

I think that a god could be proven in the sense that satisfies us materialists and empiricists and positivists. All we ask for "proof" of anything is enough evidence. If said god was indeed the creator of all things, then ultimately proving god through evidence found in its creation would indeed be proving god by appealing to god. By extension. Am I making sense?

What am I saying anymore?

DUB said...

But the Bible may be inconsequential in proving a god. Maybe even in proving the christian variety.

Assuming God's status the ultimate creator and final authority (sounds like an action flick - "Steven Segal stars in Final Authority") the Bible would still merely be a creation. Granted, a darnded important one, but still not nearly as authoritative as the Author. In this light, relying on just scripture to find god would be rather blasphemous.

According to Christian belief, Noah and Abraham and such believed without the Bible. Of course, there was much more personal interaction back then. And much less psychotherapy and Lithium.

Again, I'm tired: Forgive me.