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 McCabeNew!
"Isn't it the case that, rather than presupposing god as it claims to, the presuppositional view actually presupposes logic and reason?"
Every human presupposes the possibility of coming to rationally justified conclusions. Presuppositionalists recognize this fact. However, any belief ultimately caused without reason is ultimately held to irrationally. Under most worldviews, all human beliefs are ultimately caused without reason. This demonstrates the irrationality of atheism, polytheism, deism, and unitarianism, as well as empiricism.
"Could Christ have prevented his alleged crucifixion? If he could have but didn't, wasn't that suicide?"
"Could Christ have prevented his alleged crucifixion?" Generally, this type of question, "could someone have done other than what they did?" ultimately means, "was there a point at which the singular cause of the event was the will of the person involved?" If I have correctly understood the intent of the questioner, the answer is absolutely (John 10:18). "If he could have but didn't, wasn't that suicide?
"Do you truly believe, as your god commands, that homosexuals should be stoned to death (Lev 20:13)?"
Those who practice homosexual behavior definitely deserve to be executed (Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:22-27). And so do all the rest of us (Exodus 22:20; Psalm 14:3; Romans 1:28-2:8, 3:23; Galatians 5:19-21). The amazing thing is that our perfect God who demands perfect justice for all of our crimes has provided a willing and sinless substitute for us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 4:10). That would include those who have practiced homosexual behavior (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
"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".
"Is Buddhism compatible with Christianity?"
Buddhism is incompatible with Christianity. Buddhism rejects the concept of a permanent self, or an immortal soul. In Christianity, the concept of "self" and the immortal soul are pervasively important. In Christianity, it is "self" that sins (Ezekiel 18:4), is resurrected (John 5:29, Romans 8:11), and is eternally judged (Matthew 7:23, Revelation 14:11). It is "self" that is offered eternal forgiveness through Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
"While holding rattlesnakes and speaking in tongues, have you ever been bitten? Does it hurt? "
Mark 16:17-18 "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." My son had a snake once, but it was a boa, not a rattler. I picked it up many times and was not harmed. I also studied Spanish in school, but I was never very good at it.All articles