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Presuppositional Apologetics

What's a Presupposition?

pre·sup·po·si·tion
/ˌprēˌsəpəˈziSH(ə)n/
noun: presupposition; plural noun: presuppositions
a thing tacitly assumed beforehand, or taken for granted, at the beginning of a line of argument.
synonyms: presumption, assumption, preconception, supposition, first-principle, premise, postulation

Why Should I Care?

Everyone has presuppositions. Sometimes, our presuppositions are true. Other times, they are not. Often in conversation we take for granted that others share our presuppositions. Frequently, however, they don't. Being able to recognize one's own presuppositions and those of other people can be very helpful in understanding why people come to differing conclusions and can often help prevent us from committing logical fallacies or errors in our thinking.

Analysing the most basic presuppositions of any worldview, faith, or religion is often the fastest way to discern if that worldview is true or false. Sometimes, when the presuppositions are actually considered, the errors in the view are blatant and undeniable.

How Does This Work?

Presuppositional apologetics involves a very simple procedure or method. Any specific application of the method may be difficult or get complicated, but the method itself is very simple. It involves two steps, one offensive and the other defensive.

  1. Offense: Internally analyse the non-Christian's worldview and show how it is contradictory.
  2. Defense: Internally analyse the Christian worldview and show how it is consistent.

Notice that each worldview must be internally analysed. A worldview cannot be analysed from the outside. To analyse it from the outside is to make assumptions (presuppositions) about it that are false. This leads to what is known as "straw-men fallacies", where the worldview is mischaracterized while it is being investigated.

Many people in our empirical age will want to look at evidence before accepting a worldview. However, these individuals fail to realize that evidence is always understood based upon one's worldview, not the other way around. The process of interpreting evidence works differently in different worldviews -- it is not an objective and universally accepted process. If we interpret evidence according to our own worldview in order to investigate someone else's worldview, we will only ever see a mockery of their view.

While a full presuppositional apologetic involves both offensive and defensive steps, sometimes only one or the other step is provided, depending on the context. Generally, if having a one-on-one conversation with a non-Christian, employing both steps is very important. But the offensive and defensive arguments can often stand alone as well. For example, a Christian who understands the coherence of their own view does not need to be taught how to defend its coherence, but he may need to learn the flaws in another view. In such a circumstance, if we were teaching him, we may only present the offensive measures, since he already knows the defense. Alternatively, if a Christian's faith is being challenged, we may only present a defensive response and leave out the offense. Judge based on circumstances.

Examples: On the Offense

None of the following examples are intended to be a full conversation with an unbeliever, though the arguments presented therein can certainly be a piece of such a conversation. Rather, they are intended to be offensive arguments against non-Christian worldviews: only one-half of a full presuppositional apologetic. Each argument begins with premises the non-Christian worldview accepts, and each ends with a conclusion the non-Christian worldview does not accept, but the conclusions deductively follow from the premises. This demonstrates the contradictory nature of the non-Christian's worldview.

Please keep in mind that the word offensive simply describes the direction of the analysis in that it is analysing the other person's worldview, entering their territory to tear down their false system. Offensive is not intended to describe the attitude of the analyser.

Deductive Argument that Atheism is False

Atheists presuppose two things that are in fact mutually exclusive: they cannot both be true. The first is that their own conclusions are rationally justified, and the second is that there is no sovereign rational creator. The combination of these two presuppositions makes the worldview of the atheist inherently contradictory.
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Deductive Argument that Polytheism is False

Polytheists also presuppose two things that are mutually exclusive. The first is that non-contradiction is both universal and invariant, and the second is that there are multiple sovereign creators. But as Socrates pointed out in Plato's Euthyphro, the combination of these two presuppositions makes the worldview of the polytheist completely incoherent.
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Deductive Argument that Deism is False

Deists likewise presuppose two things that are mutually exclusive. The first is that their own conclusions about the present are rationally justified, and the second is that no sovereign rational entity has authority over time. These two views, however, cannot both be true.
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Deductive Argument that Unitarianism is False

Unitarians, too, presuppose two things that are mutually exclusive. The first is that their version of god is rational. The second is that his ultimate reason for his actions is not himself. As the proof demonstrates, this makes unitarianism incoherent.
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In Printed Form

Along with numerous other authors like Don Landis, Bodie Hodge and Roger Patterson, Timothy McCabe contributes analyses of various world religions and cults in this volume from Master Books.

World Religions and Cults (volume 2)

Also by Timothy McCabe

"What does your religion say about homosexuality?"

The Bible makes it very clear that homosexual behavior is in direct opposition to God's commands for us (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; Romans 1:26-27; Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13). The Bible also makes it clear that everyone is born with a predisposition toward sin (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10-23, 5:12).

Atheism is false: a simple proof

Atheism includes any philosophy which claims that no God or gods exist, including any rational or reasoning creator of the universe.

"According to the bible, God created earth before our sun. How would you justify that? That sounds illogical."

We read about God's creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1. Genesis 1:9-10 (The Third Day) Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

"Where is the justice in punishing us for Adam's sin?"

According to scripture, we are not punished for Adam's sin (Ezekiel 18). Rather, Adam's fall from perfection has impacted us (Romans 5). For example, if you are descended from a dog, you will be a dog. If you are descended from a parrot, you will be a parrot. If you are descended from a sinner, you will be a sinner. We have inherited Adam's sin-nature, not Adam's punishment. Thus, we are not punished for Adam's sin, but rather, we are punished for our own sin.

"What's an easy way to demonstrate that Atheism is false?"

If Atheism is true, then Everything is ultimately the direct result of purely random, uncoordinated and undependable accidents. Note that "Everything" includes Our Conclusions. If Our Conclusions are ultimately the direct result of purely random, uncoordinated and undependable accidents, then Our Conclusions are entirely random and undependable. No Atheist believes that his own conclusions are random and undependable, so no Atheist really believes in Atheism.

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