"Oh jeez not this shit again." Bear with me!
I'm currently interest-high knowledge-low on the topic of presuppositional Christian apologetics. Having done some reading and watched some videos and debates I think I've absorbed just enough of how it works to get myself destroyed in an actual debate with a presup Christian- not because I think I'm a total dummy but the wordplay seems trippy. Nonetheless, I want to share a couple ideas for refuting the argument- probably nothing original; there seems to be nothing new under the sun, especially with the internet around. But here are my baby-step attempts:
My refutations work on the back end of the argument. The front end of presup seems to be to get the non-Christian to concede that there is no solid basis for her knowledge, that reason, logic, even coherent conversation are invalid without God. I would like to concede this step for now with a couple quick comments. It seems a waste of time to argue for the primacy of reason, logic, or sensory input knowing you're just going to be bombarded with “Okay, but how do you know that?” and “Could you be wrong?” I mean you knew that going into the debate, right? I know and you know reason and logic are valid ways to obtain truth and knowledge, but to the presup there are no axioms that can be trusted besides God, it's not even turtles any part of the way down. So for now, let's just concede the point: we non-Christians don't know anything for certain and could be wrong about everything. Let's play for a tie.
(Quick disclaimer: I know the presup wordplay is supposed to leave the victim unable to affirm anything with any certainty, but it seems one claim is impervious to this: “I am conscious.” “How do you know, could you be wrong?” Well hell, what's the damn alternative? And technically if I'm right about that it follows that my puny logic and I could stumble into other truths as well. But let's leave that aside.)
As we concede the validity of any of our methods of knowledge-attaining, the presup asserts that he knows the truth because the Christian god has planted it directly in Christian heads. And further, it can be distinguished from error or confusion because God is infallible and an infallible God can infallibly put true knowledge into the Christian mind in such a way that it is recognizable to the Christian as true. How? The how needn't concern us, says the presup, all that matters is: “Is it possible for an infallible God to put true knowledge in the minds of Christians in a way that makes it recognizable to the Christian as true?” This seems hard to say no to. So I say yes (with reservations; it almost sounds like a “can an all-powerful God make a circular triangle” question, or “can an all-powerful all-knowing God conceive of the highest possible number?” In other words, I think this could be a no. I'm not sure. So for now, to paraphrase the Lord, I will let my yes be yes.)
Be they ever so humble, then, here are my two rejoinders. (disclaimer: I realize these are back-end arguments, I already conceded the front end. Meaning these rejoinders will have to be delivered as if mail by your trusty mailman through rain, sleet and snow. Expect a storm of “Stop talking, you already admitted you don't know shit.” Persist! Hold steady!) First rejoinder: “Is it possible for an infallible God to put falsehoods in the minds of Christians in a way that makes it recognizable to the Christian as if it were true?” Having admitted early that I am new to this topic, again I make no claim of originality here...but what is the come-back? “It is impossible,” the presup might continue, “for an all-benevolent God to put falsehoods in the minds of Christians in a way that makes it recognizable to the Christian as if it were true.” Well, “Doing it for a benevolent reason that we mere mortals can't comprehend, is it possible for an all-benevolent God to put falsehoods in the minds of Christians in a way that makes it recognizable to the Christian as if it were true?” Mustn't this be yes? This could go on but that's the idea. There is no way for Christians to be sure truth has been divinely revealed to them.
My second rejoinder: How does God know he is putting truth directly into the minds of Christians? What takes him (her? It?) off the hook that the rest of us are allegedly stuck on? My last refutation was that God was purposely lying to his Christians (if even for benevolent reasons), in this one let's assume he isn't. But that doesn't make him right. Presup: “God reveals truth to his Christians because he is all-knowing.” How does God know he is all-knowing? “God reveals truth to his Christians because he is infallible.” How does he know? “God doesn't lie.” How does God know he doesn't lie? “God is incapable of lying.” How does God know he is incapable of lying? “God reveals truth to his Christians because he is all-” STOP! How does he know he's all-anything? How does he know he is not a puppet on strings pulled by some higher higher power or that he's not a computer simulation?
These refutations may be easily answered, maybe they really suck. If they are valid they only get us to a tie and leave us with a kind of sophistry: ah well, looks like no one can really be sure of anything and we may all be in the matrix. But I can imagine these refutations being used to produce a fun tie. Having typed them, the second one strikes me as stronger than the first and would be better laid out as a separate idea, but I will leave it as is.
I know a Christian apologetic audience would be better for this than an atheist website, but as a beginner this hopefully is a good place for someone to point out any obvious errors.
Comments appreciated, Jerry
Presups are just, plain tiresome. The upside of all this is that the one person who has tackled a presupper and essentially handed him his hat (and his ass!) is Matt Dillahunty, when he debated Sye Ten Bruggencate a couple years back.
If you can tolerate two hours of such BS, the full debate is here. A somewhat shorter version (with some ... INTERESTING effects!) follows.
Thanks Loren...13 minutes I can handle...but interested as I am I don't know if I can swallow 2 hours!
The video (and I guess most of the two hour video) focus on the front end of the presup case which I find not that interesting- the presup isn't going to accept any defense of non-Christian means of knowing truth. (Dillahunty handles it fine, but maybe he would agree with me. You can tell in the short sample he looks like he would rather be binge drinking hemlock than keep going round and round and round with Mr. Are You Sure?)
To me conceding up front that I can't be sure about anything isn't really to “lose” the debate, it's just rolling your eyes and playing along until you can play offense. If I agree to play Dungeons and Dragons, it doesn't mean I really think I'm Oakenshield Trollkiller, it means I agree to the fiction so we can get on to more interesting things, like how many hit points I need to kill an orc, or whatever. Or in the presup case, why God can't be either purposely or mistakenly deceiving his customers.
I have enjoyed watching some of the debates on the topic. I am still mesmerized on the big leap that is not talked/debated about on the huge steps that it takes to go from deism to theism.
Yeah I agree it's a big skip. If it could be the Christian God (only) that transmits truth directly to his peeps, it could just as well be any other supernatural construct, or a cosmic computer program, or whatever.
It's all presupposition. You are so correct in asking how does god know? It's a question that only humans can answer because they are appeasing and defending their god. Gods cannot defend themselves except in fairy tale writings. A look at modern history narratives as compared to thousands of years ago would show a trend for reality as we know it today. Reality appears to have won.
Let me paraphrase a la the Trump way. Religions and holy books are fake news and alternative facts. See. The Donald was good for something even if he is an Orange Clown.
Haha. My bar is set so low for Trump. The world not ending would be enough.
Jerry, thank you for the post. As a former Christian apologetics really irritate me. I still have a high ideal of what Christians are supposed to be....you know honest....
Apologetics is defined as a reasoned defense. Christian apologetics are not based on reason or defense of Christian doctrine normally. Instead it is a manipulative attempt to use philosophy and logic to make the case that something is real that can not otherwise be proven to be real. If you can not prove god is real just throw out a logic bomb! I truly love my Christian friends and family. This kind of deceitful manipulative behavior is a disservice to them, their integrity and their mythical god. If apologetics did in fact lead people to reason such as epistemology. That is discovering how one knows what they know I would actually admire it.
Another great problem with apologetics is that at the end of the day apologetics have solved nothing but distracted from the fact that there is no empirical evidence for god. I believe the main function of it simply again manipulation. That is, if we spend all of our time focused on silly logic mind games we are not asking the questions why do we believe what we believe and why is there no evidence for any god? This is not by any means coincidence, it is intentional in modern apologetics.
Apologetics is much like the TV analysis that the news does after a presidential speech where they talk for an hour to tell you what the president just said. The only real difference is that apologetics is religious.
Well said, "deceitful manipulative behavior" is right. It's literally just so dishonest, it's like the Christian saying she is conducting a miracle right in front of you- the miracle of knowing the true truth (not the fake truth non-believers are experiencing). This is so much less impressive than, say, regrowing an amputee's limb. I would further say that, if true and could be demonstrated, the Christian ability to have truth beamed into their brains in a way that they know to be true, is MORE miraculous than a mere limb regeneration.