Thursday, May 30, 2019

Don't bring a knife to a gun fight

When evidentialist bloggers and apologists attack presuppositionalism, I sometimes see well-meaning people tell them that they should just watch or interview Jeff Durbin or Sye Ten Bruggencate. Now, I've already had my say about the Syeclones. Regarding Durbin:

i) My knowledge of Durbin is admittedly quite cursory. It's my impression that his constituency overlaps with the ill-fated Mark Driscoll. In a way he's the successor to Driscoll, but without Driscoll's inner demons. Due to his martial arts background, Durbin can reach a demographic group that's less accessible to starchy preachers and apologists. 

ii) That said, Christian apologetics is not about handing out participation awards. There's no substitute for winning the argument. I appreciate Durbin's ministry, but from what I can tell, he'd be no match against atheists like Graham Oppy, Elliott Sober, or Erik Wielenberg (to name a few).

iii) His fans might complain that my standards are elitist. But there's a necessarily niche for elitism in apologetics. Although we know from 1 Cor 1-3 that high IQ doesn't get you to heaven, high IQ is a great advantage in apologetics, since there are super smart unbelievers. It's important to have Christians who can operate at the same level as the intellectual competition. We need folks on our side who can beat secular philosophers, Bible scholars, and scientists at their own game. That doesn't mean every Christian apologist, or even most, have to be at the top of the Bell curve, but we're in trouble if we don't some who can engage the best the opposition has to offer. That's why I plug Reformed apologists like James Anderson, Vern Poythress, and Greg Welty. That's why I go outside the Reformed stable to plug philosophers, scholars, and scientists who aren't Reformed, but can outargue their secular (or Muslim, or Mormon) opponents. If you get into the octagon with an opponent well above your weight class, you're likely to be pounded into the ground. 


  1. It takes a fair amount of sophistication to really make presuppositional arguments that have meat on the bones. To deploy a transcendental argument and not just a transcendental claim (not that variations of TAG exhaust the presuppositional approach).

    I'm not sure why you left out (consciously?) John Frame. I think he really helped get the ball down the court after VanTil and Bahnsen. I know he influenced a young James Anderson.

    I think we can distinguish between good arguments and sophisticated arguments. Good arguments might lack the philosophical rigor that an expert in philosophy would demand. For instance, I often use a sorta-presuppositional argument from morality and meaning for God's existence. It perhaps isn't rigorous, but I find that people innately perceive that the universe can't just be atoms bouncing around if morals and meaning are anything more significant than an individual's preference for ice cream flavor. They can go around in circles intellectually until they are blue in the face, they will never be able to jump over the is/ought gulch.

    Now that doesn't select for Christianity, but the remaining contenders are very few in number. Almost as if God is trying to make it easy for us, if we are honestly looking for the one true God. And we can bring in many lines of traditional evidence to get us to Jesus of the Bible. If God is really speaking to us humans, there really is only one good contender.

    1. Frame's books are generally written at a popular level (in fairness, the same holds true for Poythress). I'd say his books with a primarily apologetic thrust are:

      • We Are All Philosophers: A Christian Introduction to Seven Fundamental Questions

      • Nature's Case for God: A Brief Biblical Argument

      • Christianity Considered: A Guide for Skeptics and Seekers

      • A History of Western Philosophy and Theology

      • The Doctrine of the Word of God

      • Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief

      • Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought