Fides Quaerens Intellectum: What Is Presuppositionalism?

Editors’ Note: The Bible calls Christians to always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask for the reason of the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). And so, from the very beginning of church history, Christians have publicly and privately labored to show the reasonableness of our faith against the objections of skeptics.

In the last century, Christians debating the relationship between reason and faith have divided into sometimes warring camps of classical, evidential, and presuppositional apologetics. If you’re wondering how these views relate, then this week’s series of five articles is for you. The Gospel Coalition welcomes apologists and pastors who will define, critique, and defend particular methods commonly used among Christians. But we don’t want to stop at method, as if apologetics were just meant for the lab. We also hope to provide resources to not only firm up your grasp of the debates, but also to put apologetics into practice in preaching and evangelism.


After a considerable time of hibernation, partly due to living in a fearful world, partly due to Karl Barth’s skepticism about defending the faith, apologetics is enjoying a comeback. But which of the many schools is the most biblical and the most useful to the task of persuasion? We find revivals of the classical proofs, updates of the ontological and cosmological arguments. We find many varieties of evidentialism, from ID (intelligent design) to arguments from Jesus’ trial, the empty tomb, the New Testament documents’ reliability, and so on. And we find various forms of “humble apologetics,” using less aggressive arguments, such as teaching rather than preaching, clarification rather than dogmatism, focusing on Jesus, and the like. We find specialists answering Islam, race matters, or the New Atheists. And there is lots of eclectic apologetics, using insights from many sources, literature and the arts, culture studies, the sociology of knowledge, and much more.

One of the contenders is “presuppositionalism.” In its modern form, the pioneers include Abraham Kuyper, H. G. Stoker, Cornelius Van Til, and, in their own manner, Francis Schaeffer, Richard Mouw, John Frame, and Michael Goheen. To begin with, presuppositionalism is not a great word. It implies circular reasoning, or worse, fideism, a leap of faith. A better choice might be “covenantal apologetics.” The idea is that the apologist begins by frankly acknowledging divine condescension. Unlike the classical approach, which begins with a logical demonstration, or the evidentialist view, which appeals directly to the facts, covenantal apologetics begins (positionally, not in every conversation) with the authority of divine revelation. One of its slogans in that there is no neutrality. If you appeal to logical demonstrations you may be ignoring the doctrine of the “noëtic effects of sin,” that is, the fallenness of reason. If you appeal to the empty tomb or to “irreducible complexity,” you may be ignoring the human tendency to observe the world with prejudice, or what James K. A. Smith calls the fall of interpretation.

So, then, how does the covenantal apologist actually argue for the faith? Do we ignore evidence and simply engage in a shouting match? No, the opposite. First, we strongly believe in a point of contact. It is what Calvin calls the “sense of deity,” based on passages such as Psalm 19 or Romans 1. An unbeliever knows God. Not just about him, but God himself in his many attributes. Certainly an unbeliever seeks to process that knowledge in a wrong direction, to his advantage (Rom. 1:18-23). But the knowledge is there, in the heart. Second, assuming this innate knowledge-cum-suppression, we move over onto the ground of our unbelieving friend. From there we attempt to show, on his own grounds, that there is a disconnect between the presuppositions and the claims. If this is God’s world, then we cannot succeed living in it if we deny him. Third, we invite our friend to “taste and see” how good the Lord is. As C. S. Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

This is not a ten-step method, or a lock-step procedure leading people from unbelief to faith. The covenantal approach is more of a wisdom than a scheme. It requires spending time with our interlocutor, and not the elevator speech. Peter tells us to commend the hope we have, but with gentleness and respect, not aiming first at winning an argument, but at lifting up Christ in our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15-16). Last, it is crucial to realize that only with the Holy Spirit’s work of inner persuasion will my arguments achieve the desired goal. Of course, that is not our call. Jesus invited the rich young ruler to sells his possessions and follow him. He used covenantal apologetics and exposed the fellow’s deepest aspirations. At that point, he didn’t win the argument, but he honored the Father.

  • Michael Liu

    Soli Deo gloria! I repent! May the Name of our Lord be praised, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever!

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “One of its slogans in that there is no neutrality.”

    Non-believers are sometimes loath to concede that there is no neutrality. For that matter, some believers too.

  • Steve Martin

    Apologetics may be helpful. And there are some great tips in this article on how to go about it.

    But then again, of course, some will just not believe.

    Probably the biggest mystery (or certainly right up there), is why some come to faith, and others don’t.

    I mean, they looked into Jesus’ eyes and saw him raise the dead…and yet did not believe.

    But I’m all for trying everything when it comes to exposing them to that gospel Word.


    • McFormtist

      John 3:8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

      Apart from pragmatic considerations with regard to Apologetics which are somewhat misguided (e.g. “Is it helpful?” “Does it work?”), stands the singular consideration of obedience to God. We are called to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) It could be seen as a corrollary of the Great Commission in the sense that, while proclaiming a positive Gospel, we tear down objections to it. Furthermore, a proper Theology will determine what we consider either “to work” or not “to work.”
      We essentially leave the unbeliever without an argument.

      Just a thought :)


    • CG

      Indeed, it is not our clever argumentation that wins people to Christ. Rather, it is the Spirit who opens blinded eyes and replaces hearts of stone with hearts of living flesh. That being said, we are commanded to defend the faith, and it is often our actions that are the MEANS by which He brings unbelievers to belief.

      Presuppositional apologetics is simply the most God-honoring method of defending the faith, because it acknowledges God’s authoritative position, rather than putting the unbeliever in a hypothetical position of authority over God.

  • Jason Bradfield

    “In its modern form, the pioneers include Abraham Kuyper, H. G. Stoker, Cornelius Van Til, and, in their own manner, Francis Schaeffer, Richard Mouw, John Frame, and Michael Goheen.”

    Don’t forget Gordon H. Clark.

    • taco

      Clark’s method is not of the lineage Dr. Edgar is writing about here.

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  • Paul

    Michael Goheen! Glad to know he ranks among those other names. Wonderful explanation, Dr Edgar, I definitely like convenantal apologetics over presuppositionalism.

  • Dr Giacomo Carlo Di Gaetano _ Italy

    I am not convinced by the presentation of prof. Edgar. Naturally I am conscious of relevance of presuppositionalist tradition despite its young age.

    I am perplexed for three reasons (biblical, methodological and historical)

    1. If presuppositionalism or in the new term (covenant apologetics) we mean declare in advance the proper starting point, we could conclude that this was not the approach of Apostle Paul. As all remember in Athen he started from presuppositions shared bay all and only at the end he expressed the proper point (the revelation of Jesus Christ). Naturally we could say that his reading of common grounds was almost founded in Old and New Testament.

    2. Presuppositionalism uses as almost all apologetics and philosophical positions general rule of logic and argumentations. There is an old debate (from Aristotle) if we could renunce to argumentations. And there is a debate among presuppositionalist if logic is or is not neutral.

    3. Historically presuppositionalism is only one of the different positions coming from A. Kuyper; but this is not a problem.
    The problem is, I believe, that starting all in proclaming own position (belief in revelation) or believe in an other naturalistic assumption is not a big and positive gain. It is the postmodern way to put the questions.

    Naturally this kind of general atmosphere in this case is a positive opportunity to defend or reason to support the christian faith, also from the important point of presuppositionalist school.

    So, in spite of some preplexity I agree on the contemporary resurgence of a christian and evangelical apologetics.

    • McFormtist

      1. I do believe Paul *contrasts* God with their notions of God, and in fact affirmed that their ability to reason came from this “unknown god.”

      2. That presuppositional apologetics makes use of logical argumentation does not mean it is dependent upon natural reasoning.

      3. Part of the method is showing how even unbelieving thought depends upon Christianity being true. We’re not merely contrasting belief systems, and proclaiming our beliefs, while they just do the same. We show them how even their unbelieving worldviews depend on ours being true.

      Hope this helps,

  • Roger Patterson

    Let us not forget Dr. Greg Bahnsen as well. I work for Answers in genesis, and we try to be as presuppositional as possible because our focus as a ministry is biblical authority. We have many articles and other resources on the website (shameless plug).

    Why would I want to leave the Bible out of an argument if I believe it is God’s revealed truth?! That would be like asking a soldier to leave his sword on the sidelines of the battle. I understand this is an oversimplification of classical and evidential apologetics (some may accuse me of a straw man here), but I trust God’s Word and His gospel is the power of God unto salvation and why not just start from there? I will be interested to see where these next articles head.

    Another thing that is interesting to me is that these three major camps look to Acts 17 to affirm their view (as the professor from Italy noted above). As I see it, Paul spends about 30 words before he proclaims God’s authority. By verse 24, he tells them who God is and what He has created. Paul starts his argument from the truths of God revealed in his Word–very presuppositional in my mind. He didn’t try to get them to agree there was a supreme Creator, he told them there was and that He would judge everyone apart from Christ.

    • John Carpenter

      Hi Roger,

      Certainly we shouldn’t leave the Bible out. Nevertheless, the problem with young-earth creationist apologetics is that they add to the challenge of defending the faith the greater challenge of defending a particular interpretation of the Bible. Indeed, some of them argue that to disagree with their literalistic interpretation of a passage that mentions “evening and morning” three days before the sun is created, using a word (“day”) often used figuratively in scripture, — to disagree with that interpretation is to disagree with the faith. It seems to unnecessarily complicate apologetics.

      I like the ministry of Hugh Ross, “Reasons to Believe”:

      • Roger Patterson

        John, My point was to direct people to the presuppositional apologetics resources we have on our website, not to promote a young-earth view. I was not trying to hijack the thread, just to point to some resources.

        We have articles from Dr. Bahnsen, Dr. Jason Lisle, and others on the topic of presupp. apologetics if you are interested.

        You present an interpretation of the “days” of creation just as I do. I could make the same assertion you have made–to insist on the big bang makes it harder to do apologetics because then you have to defend the big bang interpretation of the Bible. Let us not digress into pragmatism and experience, but cling to what Scripture teaches.

        • John Carpenter

          I’m sure you have some good resources. But I wouldn’t see why another apologetics resource, not so tied to one interpretation of Genesis 1, could not have the same resources without the encumbrance of having to defend something current science generally doesn’t agree with. I believe the approach of people like Ross is to accept the prevailing science and then make apologetic arguments based on that; if the science found against a “big bang”, then I doubt they’d be defending it. Whereas a “young-earth” approach has the added burden of having to defend something the prevailing science rejects and, by the way, encourages the erroneous view among skeptics that Christianity has been opposed to science.

          • Roger Patterson

            I understand Dr. Ross’ approach quite well, and it is far from presuppositional. As you have stated, Ross starts with what scientists think, not with the Bible. I believe that approach will be presented in one of the following posts–maybe tomorrow(?).

            One can study presuppositional apologetics without embracing a young earth view, though there would seem to be some difficulties of consistency in my opinion.

            • John Carpenter

              Since the Bible doesn’t clearly teach a young-earth, there is no inconsistency. “Reasons to Believe” requires all their staff to agree to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. So they can’t fairly be said to start with science and not with the Bible.

              Young-earth creationism maybe popular in some Christian circles — where they will insist that to truly believe the Bible one must accept their interpretation — but I’d doubt it is particularly effective at defending the faith in a secular environment. Indeed, in my very limited experience, I believe it is a handicap. Whereas Ross’ approach (or Francis Schaeffer’s presuppositional approach) has no such handicap.

    • Dude

      Yes! Greg Bahnsen! He was the best of Van Til’s expositors and should have been on Edgar’s list!

  • Joshua

    That’s it, blame it on Barth.

    Presuppositional apologetics generally make me laugh. And that verse from Peter is not really meant to be the rallying call for apologetics as we know it.

    • John Carpenter

      I’ve never understood why Barth was popular in academic circles, or at all interesting. His denial of natural revelation seems contradictory to Romans 1:18ff.

      Since everyone has presuppositions, it seems useful to challenge those challenging Christianity to defend theirs over against the Biblical worldview.

      • Joshua

        Barth was/is popular because he was brilliant, and a staunch opponent of liberal theology. His views on natural revelation, however, are very nuanced and *have* to be properly understood. I’d actually say his ideas are some of the most misunderstood in theology. The problem is that he was subtle and pretty dialectical – he’s easy to understand if you’re familiar with Hegel/Heidegger.

        • John Carpenter

          Yes, yes, people always say he was “brilliant” . . . and never give an example of his brilliance. Is it just because he wrote a lot of words?
          Dr. Muller at Fuller (now at Calvin, I believe) said he was basically a liberal, a “conservatizing liberal.”
          I do know that he responded with an emphatic “Nein” to the idea of natural revelation and that his ideas are popular with the neo-orthodox.
          I’ve yet to be presented with a reason why he is worth the time to try to understand.

          • Joshua

            Read some of his work. You can’t really give an example of his brilliance – his work has to be understood as a whole; it’s definitely not something easily grasped, because it’s ridiculously dense, subtle and dialectical (like I said, if you’re familiar with Hegel/Heidegger, you’ll be able to understand Barth better). So I won’t try and provide a soundbite or quote so you can see why I think he’s a brilliant thinker – I’ll just recommend you read some of his work. Maybe start with ‘The Humanity of God,’ as that’s a short piece, or ‘Dogmatics in Outline’. But don’t make the mistake of putting him in the liberal/neo-orthodox category – he was neither :)

            • John Carpenter

              Thanks Joshua, you’ve given further evidence that liking Barth is about on the same level as teenagers smoking: all the cool guys/theologians are doing it . . . even though there’s really no good reason to do it and, if done long enough, it’s bad for you.

              Richard A. Muller, who is one of the best historians of theology around, says he was essentially a liberal.

              I started to read Church Dogmatics once but soon fell asleep. You’ve given me no reason to pick it up again . . . unless I have a bout with insomnia! :)

  • John Carpenter

    I had assumed that “presuppositionalism” challenged the unbeliever to be honest about their presuppositions and try to defend them vis-a-vis Biblical claims. I’ve found that atheists will strongly resist even admitting that they have presuppositions, wanting to claim that they are neutral, faith-less and therefore (according to them) objective. That gives them, they think, the right to attack the faith of others while not having to defend anything. But once they’re challenged to defend their own “faith”, they should see that they are in a weak position (having to explain where the universe came from, for example). But they will steadfastly oppose admitting that they have presuppositions to defend.

    • J. K. Jones

      I agree. I am experiencing that right now at an Aethiset web site.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    FWIW, I definitely prefer the term “presuppositionalist” over “covenantal apologetics”.

  • Joshua

    ‘Church Dogmatics’ is an incredibly boring, technical and not very well translated volume – but well worth it if you invest some serious time and energy into understanding his thought, which is why I recommended a slimmer volume of his to get started with :)

    However, I think criticizing me for being ‘on the same level as teenagers smoking’ somewhat silly when all you’ve done is quote someone who is ‘one of the best historians of theology around’ in regards to Barth being a liberal, which, if you’ve taken time to study Barth, you know is quite false :)

    But at any rate, I’d say read ‘The Humanity of God,’ for a good intro into his thought and style – ‘Church Dogmatics’ is definitely a big chunk to chew on :)If you spend a little time digging into him, I think you’ll find that he was a pretty innovative thinker in almost every area – not that I agree with him on everything, but he is quite the radical theologian. His thought on, say, the vicarious humanity of Christ, time, revelation, etc. are all quite groundbreaking.

    • John Carpenter

      Hi Joshua,

      Richard Muller took time to study Barth. He was my professor in seminary. Sometimes I have to trust second-hand sources as I just don’t have the time (or inclination) to study everyone. And in this case, over and over again, no one has given me a reason to disagree with Dr. Muller. Also, from what I understand from elsewhere, Barth was universalist, which puts him outside the Christian mainstream. Also, I think being “dialectic” is often just an excuse for being inconsistent. Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards were “brilliant” and I can give you specific citations of why and of the positive impact of their lives on the world and church; I’ve never seen anyone be able to do that with Barth.

      Any way, I wasn’t criticizing you. I was just noting that I think people who say they like Barth seem to do so for no reason they’re able to articulate.

  • Joshua

    Barth was definitely *not* a universalist. He also appears to be ‘inconsistent’ but that’s mostly because he hated systematic theology. He was also a modern – which means he worked through Hegel/Heidegger/ in his thinking.

    The reason I’m not articulating why I think he was brilliant is because it requires more time and space than I have here in a comment box. It takes a fair amount of time to lead someone who isn’t familiar with Barth through his thought, as subtle and intricate as it is. The reasons I personally like him, however, is he profoundly orthodox way of thinking about things like the Incarnation and God and our relation to the Divine. While he was innovative in a lot of ways (such as predestination) in many ways he wasn’t (St. Ephrem the Syrian anticipates a lot of what Barth has to say).

    If you do, however, want to see some of my own commentary on Barth, click on my username and go my blog, then click on ‘Barth’ in the categories. Only two posts – as I’ve only in the last few months started digging into Barth – but those are a couple examples of what I like about him. Please, critique the material if you think somethings wrong – if you’re willing to engage issues in Barth, so am I. But to get into a full-blown exposition of his thought is a bit beyond the scope of things here. However, here’s a couple places that have some good thoughts on Barth:

    (this particular post deals with a fairly common objection to Barth’s thought on revelation:

    • Mark K

      I’ve studied Barth thoroughly at the theological school I am currently enrolled in right now (doing my ThD right now). Having taking several classes on Barth in my 9 years at that school I find him overrated as a theologian. Sure, he is brilliant at times but I sometimes feel he makes some exegetical and theological moves that are not warranted or even plausible.

      I think he’s popular among modern theologians and Christians not because of his brilliant insights but because of socialistic roots and his “flirting” with universalism (something many people seem to be drawn towards even though I think universalism [whether proper or hypothetical] is one of the most destructive and demonic heresies to ever sprout up in the church).

      • Joshua

        I hate socialism and think universalism is silly – so I obviously think he’s brilliant :P Plus, exegesis and systematic theology is something I try to avoid – so that makes him even better :P

  • John Carpenter

    Hi Joshua,

    In my opinion truly “brilliant” people, like Luther, are able to both make simple, emphatic declarations (like “justification through faith alone”) and then also be very detailed in the explanation. I don’t see the former in Barth. For example, I was told by one seminary professor that Barth was univesalist; you say he was not; I just did a google search and scholars have various opinions. That means that on something as simple as saying whether or not you believe some people are going to hell (as traditionally understood), Barth couldn’t give a straight answer. In my opinion, that’s the opposite of being “brilliant.”

    • John Carpenter

      I just read Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” again yesterday. That’s brilliant! And it keeps you awake. :)

  • Joshua

    His stance on universalism was hopeful – but he didn’t hold to it as a dogma. I have the same feelings myself.

    But if you don’t want to think Barth was brilliant, that’s no skin of my teeth; it just seems rather odd that you are, by your own admission, going on mostly second-hand information and saying that he doesn’t seem brilliant when you seem to be under-informed. But I’ll simply repeat what I said earlier: he was a modern working through modern thought categories which means you don’t get short, simple statements. If you don’t like that, then you should steer clear of Barth. He definitely was not one to make simple, emphatic statements:)I think you should take time to engage with Barth yourself, instead of relying on second-hand sources, but if you don’t, that’s fine :)

    • John Carpenter

      But there’s no reason, that I can tell, to bother with Barth. He has no following in the church; the only people who talk about him are, from all that I’ve seen, academics (or wanna-be academics) who long for sophistication and can’t produce a single reason to pick up a Barth book. Bottom-line: he’ll be forgotten as the 20th century disappears in our rear view mirror. Luther and Edwards will still loom large.

    • Mark K

      Even a hopeful universalism is a heresy. I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that false teachers teach that God’s final judgment is not something to worry about or treat as a genuine threat.

  • Joshua

    Like I said, if you don’t want to read him, no skin off my teeth. But I think it’s silly to make all those assumptions without ever actually having read him – not, of course, that any of those things that you mentioned (lack of a ‘church following’, which is quite untrue, or the nature of the people who read him) have anything to actually do with the quality of his thinking. Of course I disagree with all that, as you probably know by now – I’d consider him one of the most important theologians since Aquinas :) At any rate, sounds like you just don’t want a reason to engage his thought – which is totally cool, and you have my recommendation of ‘The Humanity of God,’ which, IMO, is one of the best Protestant contributions to Christianity ever :)

    • John Carpenter

      I don’t know if there’s ever been a poll taken of lay church members but I would guess that the percent of those who have even heard of Barth would be in the single digits. There simply is no Barthian movement and, frankly, I’m surprised even to find you — as you’re the first person I’ve encountered to even mention him in years. Aquinas was brilliant and is an example of just what I mentioned above: simple statements with a great deal of detailed under-pinnings. I don’t know if any 20th century theologian will be remembered in the long-term. Perhaps Bonhoeffer. On the Catholic side, maybe Karl Rahner. I’d personally like for it to be George Ladd. But it was a mostly bleak century for theology. That even you are unable to give a reason (not just an assertion) for us to remember Barth says it all!

      • Joshua

        Well, again, you by your own admission are just guessing – there’s a lot of people who hold to Barthian ideas – but he didn’t set out to pioneer some great movement of the church, so that’s kind fo whatever. But none of that really has anything to do with the quality of his thought.

        However, the fact that you say that Aquinas made simple statements makes me wonder if you’ve ever read him – if there was one thing Aquinas didn’t do, it was simple statements. Or maybe you’re just a genius. Who knows. But Aquinas was most certainly *not* one who made simple statements – have you read his commentary on John, or ‘Being and Essence’ or the ‘Summa Contra Gentiles’? If those are simple to you, then I salute you, because you’re a genius.

        But at any rate, no, I’m not going to give a reason for anyone to remember Barth, or read Barth, or care about Barth, or advertise about Barth, or convince people to follow Barth – I wouldn’t do that for any thinker I was fond of, ever. If you want to read him, great – I think he’s one of the most brilliant theologians in a long time. I’m going to give zero reasons for why you should care – you can read him or not read him.

        I also happen to disagree about the 20th century being bleak – IMO it’s quite the opposite. Guys like Bonhoeffer, Torrance, Bloesch, Wright, Lewis, Barth, Heschel, and many, many more brilliant guys really make me think the opposite :)

        • John Carpenter

          As for Thomas, the whole structure of his Summa is to (1) pose a question, (2) cite the objections, (3) state in a simple, emphatic sentence his proposition, (4) give rebuttals to the objections. One such proposition (#3): “On the contrary, It is written (Romans 8:30): “Whom He predestined, them He also called.”.” (Q. 23, Art. 1.)

          But, yes, I forgot Lewis. He’s the one who will be remembered from the 20th century. Not Barth. And Lewis was an excellent apologists. Oh, forgive my inexcusable omission!

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Q’s for John Carpenter and Joshua:

    How would you evaluate the fruit of Barth’s ministry and teachings?

    Overall net positive, overall net negative, and why?

    • Joshua

      He didn’t have a ministry – but his ideas IMO are some of the most profound in Protestant thought (not that I’m a Protestant). I recommend reading ‘The Humanity of God’ for a overview of his thought :)

    • John Carpenter

      Richard Muller called him a “conservatizing liberal”, meaning that basically he was a liberal who influenced liberals in a conservative direction. In my opinion, the “dialectic” separation of propositional reason and experience was a negative but I don’t think he’s primarily responsible for that and I don’t think it misled many people who wouldn’t have otherwise been misled. The writer of this blog seems to think he was a stumbling block to apologetics, perhaps in his opposition to natural theology. I’m reluctant to give him so much credit (or discredit) because in my opinion he’s simply not important. I agree with Joshua that Barth didn’t have a ministry; I disagree with him that he’ll be remembered. Of course, I could be wrong as Barth has already gotten far more attention than I believe he deserves.

      • littleGoose

        Barth did not do good exegesis or healthy theology, but to be fair it is tough to say that he is “not important”. My philosophy professors at my junior college considered him the greatest theologian of all time. These professors were not Christian, but that says something about how much Barth has to say. I’m at Masters College right now and my professor interacts with Barth on almost everything. Again, my professor (who definitely IS Christian) doesn’t agree with a lot of what Barth says, but constantly compares and contrasts his ideas all the time. The idea that the son is the interpretation of the father in the same way that any interpretation of a sentence is just putting the same sentence to different words that are easier to understand is an example of something rather thought stirring that came from Barth.

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  • David Smart

    Presuppositions are like accents—they’re something only other people have.

    • lander

      That was a very clever aphorism. May I use it?

  • Dan

    I cannot see how presuppositional apologetics is anything but circular reason.

    • John Carpenter

      But isn’t there a place, especially when debating with atheists, for saying (to put it too simplistically): “My circular reasoning is better than your circular reasoning”?. I mean, if we can show the world its presuppositions (and atheists love to deny they have any) and then show the comparative worth of Christian ones, then that seems like it could be positive approach.

    • David Smart

      Broadly speaking all worldviews are ultimately circular, insofar as any worldview is defended and argued for by appealing to its ultimate authority or foundational starting point upon which it is built. Thus John defending his biblical worldview by appealing to the Bible is no more circular than Jane defending her rationalist worldview by appealing to reason. As Van Til observed,

      “To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.”

      And John Frame understood the same thing,

      “Every philosophy must use its own standards in proving its conclusions; otherwise, it is simply inconsistent. … If that is circularity, then everybody is guilty of circularity.”

      But when the presuppositionalist is accused of circularity, it is typically not meant in this broad sense; usually it is meant in the fallacious sense, and that fallacy the presuppositionalist is not guilty of because the truth of his ultimate authority (the content of canonical scriptures) is presupposed, not concluded.

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  • RD

    To be a TRUE Presuppositionalist must one also hold to Amillennialism?

    Thanks in advance for all thoughts and comments!

    • David Smart

      The long answer is… “No.”

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  • drmack

    It is verrrrry interestink that Bahnsen is frequently left out of these lists of presuppositional apologists. Not to mention Dr James White. Makes me wonder. Also, I am perfectly fine with the title Presuppositional Apologetics. I believe it honors the efforts of Van Til, Bahnsen etc. and accurately reflects the Biblical method of defending our Hope.

  • J. K. Jones

    I am more interested in seeing covenantal apologists do apolopetics than listening to arguments about the supperiority of their method.

    Anyone know of some examples on the internet besides Greg Bahnsen’s?

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