What's a Presupposition?
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.
- Offense: Internally analyse the non-Christian's worldview and show how it is contradictory.
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Also by Timothy McCabe
"Who founded or discovered your worldview?"
Christian doctrine has been gradually developed over several millennia since the time of the very first people. However, since the time of Jesus of Nazareth, also called Jesus Christ, and his immediate followers, approximately 2000 years ago, essential Christian doctrine has not changed at all. Thus, fully developed Christian doctrine came through Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. It is from His title, "Christ", that we get the word "Christians".
"Does evolution (and with that, the evils that have occurred in the name of natural selection, prior to the fall of man) disprove the existence of God?"
In short, no. There is absolutely no evidence that evolution, in the sense in which this question is referring to it, has ever happened. Evidence of the lack of evidence includes the "theory" of Punctuated Equilibrium, developed by evolutionary paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. One of the celebrated functions of this theory is its demonstration of why, if evolution were actually true, there would be no fossil evidence for it.
"Mr. McCabe, with all due respect you have contradicted yourself on at least one occasion in the answer to my previous question when you said "The three persons of the trinity have three distinct roles" , and "There is only One God"."
It is often argued that Trinitarian doctrine is contradictory. How can three be one and one be three, all at the same time? It sounds like bad math. First, we need to recognize what is meant by the label "contradiction". A logical contradiction is something that makes a claim and then also claims its exact negation. A logical contradiction cannot possibly be true. It is impossible for something to both be and not be at the same time and in the same way.
"How do you explain your god's genocidal bloodlust in Deut 7 1-2?"
Deuteronomy 7:1-2 When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
"Why does God allow charlatans to use His name to extract money, sex, attention and even their very lives from devout believers, who truly, honestly believe that they are listening to the word of God?"
There are several assumptions made in this question. The first assumption made, is that God actually does this. I'm not convinced that God does do this, because I'm not convinced that these things happen as described. I haven't seen any evidence for it. Granted, this website does not allow for very lengthy questions that could include evidence, but regardless, my point is that I see absolutely no reason to accept the question as asked.All articles