the Website of Timothy McCabe Follower of Christ; Student of Epistemology, Apologetics, and Theology
Home Articles Questions Philosophy and Proofs Other Writings Software

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.
Read more

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.
Read more

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.
Read more

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.
Read more

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

New!

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

Unitarianism, as opposed to Trinitarianism, is the view that divine sovereignty is not shared in any way. Effectively, in unitarian views, there is not only just one God, but He is only revealed through just one person. In Trinitarian Christianity, the one God is revealed through three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Theism is true: a simple proof

Theism includes any philosophy which claims that some kind of God or gods exist.

"If everything was created by God, was Buddha also created by God? Buddha actually denied the existence of a single being that dominates/governs the whole world. Did Buddha go to hell for denying his existence?"

Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, was created by God, yes. Everyone who is not God was created by God (Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Isaiah 46:9), and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), and is never wrong (Colossians 2:3; John 21:17; 1 John 3:20). If Buddha claimed there is no ultimate creator God, then either he was wrong or he was lying, thereby identifying himself as not-that-god, since God cannot lie and is never wrong.

"Here is another contradiction of the millions in the bible: Hebrews 6:18 vs. Ezekiel 14:9, if you think this isn't a contradiction, please respond with proof from scripture."

Hebrews 6:17-18 (NKJV) Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

"Is it possible for God to be both all-loving and all-powerful if he allows Hell in the form of eternal suffering and torture?"

What is intended by the phrase "all-loving"? Does it mean that God loves everyone and everything? A God like this loves evil. He loves rape, murder, Satanism, the hatred of Himself, idolatry, etc. He loves the rejection of love. Such a God would love hell and would love sending people to it. Thus, if that is what it means for there to be a God who is all-loving, then the answer to the question is certainly, an all loving God could send people to hell for eternal suffering and torture.

"Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Jesus teaches us that no one is good but God (Mat 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, Rom 3:12). According to the Bible, every one of us has failed at what we have been called to do (Rom 3:23). Even the best people in the world have been dishonest, greedy, selfish, or lustful at some point in time. All of us have done something we shouldn't have, and as a result, our connection with our perfect Creator is damaged and broken.

All articles