Monday, February 18, 2013

Presuppositional Procedure - some details

I found a Presuppositional Procedure written by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Since I've now caught the “counter-presuppositionalist bug”, let me make a few comments on this brief essay.

The piece begins with the presumption that the non-believer holds certain beliefs:

The unbeliever says that he knows that miracles are impossible, that a personal almighty God does not exist, that ethical principles are not normative across cultural boundaries, etc. Or the unbeliever says that the believer cannot know that the Bible is God’s Word, or that Jehovah exists, or that Christ was His Son, etc.

This is meant, I suppose, as an example of possible attitudes that the non-believer may have, but Bahnsen then (rightly) encourages the apologist to find out exactly what those might be:

The Christian apologist must seek to uncover what this unbeliever’s personal convictions are regarding metaphysical and (coordinated with it) epistemological matters which are relevant: e.g., what is the nature of things which are real, how does the world operate, where did it come from, what is man’s place in the world, what is man’s nature, are there moral or epistemological norms which are not chosen by the individual, what are the criteria of truth, what are the proper methods of knowing, is certainty possible, etc.? Once the believer has a fairly good grasp of the general kind of worldview assumed (or explicitly advocated) by the unbeliever, we can suggest that it should be compared to the worldview of the Christian

There is an immediate problem with Bahnsen’s procedure so far, and it will probably manifest itself quickly, as it did in the Russell Glasser - Pastor Stephen Feinstein web debate on God. The main problem is that the non-believer credits logic, consistency and intelligibility to natural means, and the believer does not. The believer assumes that a supernatural agent is at work: God.

To be as direct as possible - using the Bahnsen Procedure, the believer assumes God exists without any proof, and that God can be invoked to answer any metaphysical or epistemological question. And yet, the absence of that God stands astride this whole charade like a colossus. It renders the entire presupp procedure inoperative IMHO.

There is a lot more in Bahnsen’s essay, but let me dwell on this point for a bit, and trim it down. It might be worth becoming familiar with, should the non-believer become subject to a line of questioning in the style of Bahnsen above. In general, the Bahnsen Procedure instructs the apologist to question the non-believer’s way of thinking about the world (...what is man’s nature, are there moral or epistemological norms..., what are the criteria of truth ... etc.), and to continue the questioning until they can declare the non-believer’s stance “arbitrary, and/or (2) inconsistent with itself, and/or (3) lacking the preconditions for ... intelligibility”. Here - as in Pastor Feinstein's performance - is where the believer can say that he has an answer (God) where the non-believer does not. The problem is that God has not been shown to exist.

I’ll leave it there until next time.

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