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Biblical examples of presuppositional principles

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

This is part 2 of our practical apologetics series. Be sure to read part 1 here, as it will give a good overview of the theoretical side of the practical examples discussed here.

Adam and Eve

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3: 1b - 6, ESV

After spending some time in Bosserman's Trinity and Vindication of Christian Paradox, I was fascinated when he placed the origin of the problem of the one and the many at the point of the fall: It's the fallen reason of man that gives rise to the problem of the one and the many when we try to interpret the unity and plurality we find around us without reference to the Creator.

If it is the case that God has created all facts, and that there are no brute facts (facts that are a result of pure chance, uninterpreted by God), it means that if we are to correctly interpret any fact, our interpretation of the fact is can never be wholly original. It's always a finite reflection of God's thoughts, hence, analogical, thinking God's thoughts after Him.

Reasoning before fall

Before the fall, Adam immediately knew and could draw distinctions between His Creator, himself, and nature. At the point of Creation, he received special revelation from God.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2: 16, ESV

It is important to note there never was a time when God did not speak. This is important because you'll sometimes hear the criticism against presuppositional apologetics in the form of "but how would you defend the faith before we got the Bible?". There was a Word from God at all points in time.

So, Adam, in addition to his other commands (“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”, Genesis 1:28), was not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Adam was then able to relate the animals to each other, giving them names, grouping them into categories based on common features under the guidance of God, full-well knowing the created reality will sustain the features the God created in it, which will allow Adam to subdue and have dominion over it.

The whole point of this section is that the normative way for Adam to form ideas was always in faithful submission to the Word of God that He received. Thinking in this way, Adam could have full confidence (without the corruption of sin) that his knowledge of the world would grow into ever greater fruition as time progresses, never having to fear that future development in knowledge will outright contradict (rather than expand) something that he's learned so far.

Reasoning over the serpent's proposal

In Genesis 3 we are introduced to the serpent. The serpent is out to deceive Eve to eat the fruit that God commanded her not to eat. He doesn't attempt this by giving her a command in opposition to God's command (e.g. "Eat of the fruit"). Rather, he approaches the subject with questions to set Eve up to think in a particular way that is contrary to how God intended man to function.

Did God actually say? The first question introduces Eve to a new way of thinking about God's Word. Is God's Word clear (perspicuous)?

You will surely not die.

After allowing Eve to question the perspicuity of the word, Satan introduces the contradiction. If Adam and Eve were to eat the fruit, they will not die as God said.

Now, what is Eve to make of this? How would you have reacted in this situation? Would you have rebuked the serpent? We'd like to say so, yes, but how?

Here we have two claims. One from God, one from the serpent. God says, "You'll die if you eat", the serpent says, "God's a liar, you'll not die, you'll be like Him!". How would you know who to believe? There's nothing inherent in the claims themselves that would indicate which one is true. Moreover, looking at the fruit itself cannot help us to determine who is right. The fruit actually seems to lean to the serpent's claim!

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.

Genesis 3:6, ESV If you accept the serpent's reasoning, there's only one way that you can know who's talking the truth. Take the fruit, eat it and see. If you die, God was right. If you live, the serpent was right. Easy enough! Wait, what? Was Eve really just doing an honest test between two claims when she was eating the fruit? That doesn't sound ominous, does it? What's going on here? The point is that God's Word is not the be tested. The correct thing for Adam and Eve to have done was to reason in the way described in the preceding section (not the overview above). Man forms ideas in submission to God's Word. Hence, when the serpent approached with a claim that contradicted the revealed word of God, the claim ought to have been immediately dismissed on those grounds.

Like we said before, as humans our interpretation of any fact is never wholly original. The facts sustain relations between them as determined by God. The proper way of reasoning is analogical - thinking God's thoughts after Him. Thinking in this manner, it is impossible to look at the fruit and be uncertain with regards to the effects of eating it. Since God said that the fruit will bring death, and since our proper way of thinking is analogical, it is the case that the fruit will bring death if eaten. Any claim to the contrary is false.

Reasoning after fall

How does the above have bearing on our reasoning today? The same principles apply. We are to form our beliefs in submission to the Word of God. The difference between Adam pre-fall and our situation today is the effect of sin.

The natural man can't turn their mind to God in submission to Him to form their beliefs. This is one part that I appreciate of the work of Bosserman and Bahnsen. They don't try to pretend that morally fallen man (in principle) can gain knowledge without regeneration.

Bahnsen writes the following:

However, a serious difficulty arises when the epistemological significance of the resurrection is separated from its soteriological function. It is correct to hold that God’s raising of Jesus from the dead saves us both from sin and agnosticism, but it would be mistaken to understand by this that the epistemological problem could be handled independently of the (broader) moral problem which is at its base. It is with regret that one notices neo-evangelicals severing the justifying efficacy of Christ’s resurrection from its truth-accrediting function. In reality, the latter is dependent upon the former. Only as Christ’s resurrection (with its ensuing regeneration by the Holy Spirit of Christ) saves a sinner from his rebellion against God and God’s Word, can it properly function to exhibit evidence for God’s truthfulness.

Bahnsen, The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection

Post-fall, we have a moral problem that can only be rectified by hearing the Gospel and the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we need to form our beliefs in submission to the Word of God. As apologists, we need to be relentless in holding to the authority of God's Word, arguing with unbelievers that unless they presuppose God's Word, they do not know the principle. Lastly, as evangelists, we need to relentlessly preach the Gospel.

The resurrection of Jesus and unbelief

The second example I'd like to spend some time with is the resurrection of Jesus.

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’

Matthew 28:11-13, ESV

The question to ask is this - the guards knew Jesus rose from the dead. They knew this with more 'certainty' than all of the evidential arguments of today could provide. Yet, despite this, they opted to bribe the guards to keep quiet about it. Moreover, the guards were willing to accept the bribe to keep quiet about it.

What does this tell you about the apologetic procedure? Skeptics today can use a million more arguments to counteract the points regarding Jesus' resurrection. Many times it can feel like we're hitting our heads against a wall when discussing our faith with unbelievers (cause they keep on rejecting these persuasive facts!) - and this happens only when we fail to recognize that as the chief priests in the days of Jesus, so the unbelievers today are not neutral observers of the facts.


As we have a Christian worldview, the unbeliever has another worldview (non-Christian) that precludes the Christian interpretation of the facts. If we don't deal with this as part of our apologetic encounters, we fail in two ways:

  • We falsely let the unbeliever think that their interpretation of the facts is ok as far as it goes, not stressing the absolute necessity of analogical reasoning and submission to the word of God.

  • We fail to argue in a manner that is persuasive by attacking the foundational false beliefs (idols) that the unbeliever has about the world and themselves. We should call them to bring every thought captive to the Word of God.


Published by Apologetics Central

At Apologetics Central, we are committed to providing biblically grounded, Reformed presuppositional apologetics resources to equip believers in defending the Christian faith. As a ministry, we strive to uphold the truth of God's word and present it winsomely to a world in need of the gospel.


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