On presuppositionalism

Here is an exchange I had recently with a brother in Christ on the topic of presuppositionalism and it’s possible pitfalls when it comes to being a basis for apologetics and evangelization:

They:

when the presuppositionalist claims there is no common ground, how duz the classical apologist respond?

Because one of my seminary buddies (he’s in seminary, I’m not) said that all we can do is deliver the Gospel and if God wants to save He will. Then my buddy quotes something from Romans 10 about how faith comes from the Gospel.

My response:

I think your friend needs to take a few courses or read a few good books on epistemology. Specifically, I would recommend Alvin Plantinga’s work as it is widely recognized as some of the best epistemological work in that area. I think Plantinga still comes down in the presupposionalist camp, but his exploration of the topic shows that there is a lot more there than Van Til (the father of presuppositionalism) thought.

As for faith, I don’t think it is accurate or logically valid to say that faith is given to us by something/someone else. I would contend that the Biblical view of faith is “to trust” and that it ultimately falls under the category of epistemology or how you know what you know. Faith is not an object and therefore cannot be given or taken away from anyone. Here is a piece I wrote on the dynamics of faith.

As for the common ground. Not all presupposionalists take that view. Some (like myself) will use presuppositionalism to point out that different sets of presuppositions lead one to different conclusions so that a philosophical naturalist and a theist will approach the subject of the resurrection differently. In that case presuppositionalism is used more as a line of argument in a cumulative case for the rationality of Christianity.

In that respect I find great value in presuppositionalism. However the other side, what you elude to, is the view that since we start off in different epistemological camps and since man cannot change his own mind (which entails the negation of limited freedom in any meaningful sense which is quite beyond the scope of this post), there is no use even attempting to change someone else’s mind through reason and evidence.

It is that view of presuppositionalism that I find quite unfortunate in the Christian community as it necessarily undercuts any sort of evangelism as it essentially requires the other person to come without any objections.

Since our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity I also believe the second view of presuppositionalism is not only unwise and unhelpful but downright dangerous and detrimental to the Christian church as the clear message it sends to non-believers is “we will not engage you, you must just accept what we say on blind faith”.

I believe that persuasion is the center piece of evangelism. Therefore I think anything that hinders or nullifies our ability to persuade others (in an intellectually honest fashion) is unhelpful and wrong.

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