Exposition Concerning Presuppositions I
Most of my errors are errors of assumption (Hall of Fame Quarterback Fran Tarkenton).
All scientific observation is to some extent interpreted through a paradigm. However neutral he or she might pretend to be, the scientist always filters data through a set of unspoken (or unconscious) presuppositions. Perfect objectivity is impossible, at least for mere mortals. Yet some persist in claiming that science gives us an objective, unfiltered view of the world. For scientists are not immune to the influence of their own beliefs and values as they do their research and theory formulation (James Spiegel: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief).
Varied Use of the Term Presupposition
He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians1:15-17).
The term “presupposition” has developed in various categories of philosophy (including in the branch of pragmatic linguistics) as an assumption concerning reality. It can also be thought of as the back-setting belief involving an assertion, for this belief is assumed and understood in a communication act. This use is similar in some ways to my use, but with important differences. Nonetheless, an exposition on linguistic use will help the reader better understand its employment within an ontological basis.
Notice how these linguistic presuppositions function:
• I stopped attending the opera.
This statement presupposes I have been to the opera before.
A necessary precondition for my discontinuing the act of going to the opera is that I must have attended an opera previously.
One of the most remarkable aspects about arguing from presupposition is that the negation of an assertion does not affect its truth. In linguistics one can assert:
• I need to eat again.
• I do not need to eat again.
Notice that both of the aforementioned assertions, the affirmation and the negation, presuppose that I had eaten previously. Thus one can see that a presupposition is differentiated from what is implicated or what can entail from the assertion.
• My lawn is green.
• My lawn is not green.
Both statements presuppose I have grass; if true both statements require that I have a lawn.
If one says that your car looks like a Ford, yet your car is a Chevy, his mistaken assertion presupposes that you own a car. Regardless of whether he was correct concerning the trade name of your car, he still presupposes that you own a car. In addition to linguistic presuppositions, there are epistemic presuppositions: things one must assume within the knowledge enterprise (the laws of logic, moral law, and predication).
Presuppositions and Christian Truth
Unbelievers “are presupposing the Lord whenever they claim to possess any knowledge, discern any truth, use logic, etc.” (Steve R. Scrivener: Speaking the Truth in Love).
Helm notes: “We all have presuppositions, the non-Christian as well as the Christian, the Islamist, the Mormon, the secularist, and Uncle Tom Cobbly and All. Another word for ‘presupposition’ in this sense would be ‘premise’ or ‘assumption.’ So we start our arguments, all of them, from premises, or from assumptions, things we take for granted. An assumption may simply be that, an assumption, taken to be true for the sake of the argument. But it may also be something that the arguer holds to be true. We all have such assumptions, from the least of us unto the greatest, matters which we take to be true and which form the basis of other claims that we make. Besides, we all have agendas too” (Paul Helm: HelmsDeep.blogSpot.com).
Presupposition = narrative = worldview (Helm: HelmsDeep).
What I do know of myself, I know by Thee enlightening me (Augustine: Confessions 1:1).
I employ non-lexical or non-linguistic presuppositional (ontological: relating to being, nature, ontic status; and not to be confused with a utterly different argument such as an ontological argument for the existence of God) focus in my arguments for the existence of God as I amble through epistemological and ontological fields to contend for the truth of the CWV (for more see the E-book here). I contrast non-theistic presuppositions with Christian presuppositions using ultimate rational standards such as the laws of logic, predication, and moral absolutes. I often employ an ontological TA (o’er, not to be confused with an Anselm’s Argument form) that seeks to prove the necessity of God’s ontological status to account for some essential element within human experience.
The prefix “pre” in presupposition does not concern a temporal position, but I use it as a position of preeminence, superiority, and importance. It concerns a belief that takes preeminence, the more ultimate criterion or standard providing the conditions for intelligibility; the ultimate presupposition is the triune God as He supplies the a priori essentials to make sense of human experience.
It’s hard to see the rainbow through dark glasses (Johnny Cash).
James Spiegel continues to expose the biases of atheists inasmuch as they suffer from “paradigm-induced blindness. Their theoretical framework prevents them from seeing the truth, even when it is right in front of them” (Spiegel: The Making of an Atheist). Atheists are rationally and ethically blind in their assessment of Christian theism (CT).
K. Scott Oliphint echoes previous scholars as he notes: “Given any fact or experience, it (TA) asks the question as to the presuppositions behind that fact, and which make it possible.” Michael Butler adds that “only the Christian worldview provides the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience. That is, only the Christian view of God, creation, providence, revelation, and human nature can make sense of the world in which we live.”
John Frame contends: “Among all the sources of divine revelation (including nature, history, human beings in God’s image), Scripture plays a central role. Indeed, though the point cannot be argued in detail here, my view is that Scripture is the supremely authoritative, inerrant word of God, the divinely authored, written constitution of thechurchofJesus Christ. Scripture is therefore the foundational authority for all of human life including apologetics. As the ultimate authority, the very word of God, it provides the foundational justifications for all our reasoning, without itself being subject to prior justification.” Thus the complete CWV, in principle, must be presupposed for the intelligibility of human experience.
What’s the condition of the possibility of the world being intelligible? God (Bernard Lonergan: Intellectuals Speak Out About God).
The skeptic Tom Paine asked Benjamin Franklin what he thought of the book he wrote that aimed to undercut Christianity. The only reply fromFranklinwas: “Tom, he who spits against the wind spits in his own face.” And the non-believers who attack the CWV have more than epistemic spittle on their faces given that they have to presuppose the truth of CT even in their attacks against it.
Stephen Prothero rightly notes (concerning judges) that when it comes to scholars and their biases, there are “only two types: those who acknowledge their biases and therefore try not to succumb to them, and those who are ignorant of their biases and therefore succumb to them unwittingly” (USA Today, 5/17/10). All men have their own controlling presuppositions; no one is truly detached but is empowered by a priori biases and engrained assumptions.
Recognizing One’s Rational and Ethical Predispositions
Belief in God is ultimately, of course, the presupposition that controls even one’s concept of reason itself (John Frame, DKG).
The man of science is a poor philosopher (Albert Einstein).
Dr. Lennox presses the need to recognize one’s biases and presuppositions when looking at the world as well as science: “What about bias? No one can escape it–neither author nor reader. We are all biased in the sense that we all have a worldview that consists of our answers and partial answers to the questions that the universe and life throw at us. Our worldviews may or may not be even consciously formulated, but they are there nonetheless. Our worldviews are … shaped by our experience and reflection” (John Lennox: God’s Undertaker).
On pre-theoretical commitments concerning science Michael Polanyi notes: “These maxims and the art of interpreting them may be said to constitute the premises of science but I prefer to call them our scientific beliefs. These premises or beliefs are embodied in a tradition, the tradition of science.” Foundational beliefs are important, essential, and cannot be avoided.
Admitting our biases is the best way towards rational discussion (John Lennox: Expelled).
All men approach the pursuit of truth or science with rational precommitments and personal biases. The wise man recognizes this and the honest man admits it. I have a rational precommitment to the CWV forasmuch as it is true and it provides the necessary pre-essentials to account for knowledge.
Greg L. Bahnsen’s Definition of Presupposition
Presuppositions form a wide-ranging foundational perspective or starting point in terms of which everything else we believe is interpreted, in terms of which everything else we believe is evaluated and interrelated. And that’s why presuppositions are said to have the greatest “authority” in one’s thinking. Presuppositions will turn out to be the least negotiable beliefs a person has. People will grant to their presuppositions the highest degree of immunity to revision (Greg L. Bahnsen).
Nothing is demonstrable, unless the contrary implies a contradiction (David Hume).
The contrary of the the worldview resting upon the True God implies a contradiction inasmuch as the denial of this WV leaves one without the ontic (ontic: relating to ontology; relating to existence, being) foundation to ground immutable universals such as the laws of thought and moral laws, which are required for knowledge. The denial of knowledge (or its ground) is a self-contradicting endeavor.
McDurmon summarizes the ontic necessity of God to account for the laws of logic: “From the biblical point of view we learn that God makes orderly experience possible because of His own self-consistent, self-authoritative, and faithful nature… Man must think God’s thoughts after Him” (Joel McDurmon: Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice).
The God of Christian Theism
The God I profess is revealed in the Old and New Testaments and His person and divine nature is summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter Two, Of God, and of the Holy Trinity:
I. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.
II. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleases. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.
III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Herein my apologetic foundation is the biblical worldview revealed by the Lord God Almighty of the Bible and not any other professed god or gods.
Part 2 will be posted later this week.