The Use of Evidence in Presuppositional Apologetics and the Cosmological Argument

Updated: May 4



One of the common misconceptions about presuppositional apologetics is that it refuses to use or give evidence for the Christian faith. This is far from the truth.


Consider the following quote by Van Til's Defense of the Faith:

Accordingly I do not reject ‘the theistic proofs’ but merely insist on formulating them in such a way as not to compromise the doctrines of Scripture. That is to say, if the theistic proof is constructed as it ought to be constructed, it is objectively valid, whatever the attitude of those to whom it comes may be.

Defense of the Faith


What does Van Til mean with 'formulating them in such a way as not to compromise the doctrines of Scripture'?


John Frame writes the following:

The short story is that you may and should use all the evidence you can muster, but you should use it only as Scripture directs; that is, you should use it in the context of a transcendental argument, with a presuppositionalist epistemology. It's OK to use evidence of intelligent design, for example, in an argument for God's existence. But you should never claim neutrality. That is, you should never pretend that intelligent design is meaningful on any other basis than the biblical worldview.

However, Greg Bahnsen also wrote in Always Ready:

Our approach to defending the faith is shallow and ineffective if we think that the unbeliever simply lacks information or needs to be given observational evidence.

So how should we approach the theistic proofs, especially in light of Bahnsen's previous quote? Van Til raised five concerns on the traditional formulation which all are so used to hearing:


Van Til and the Theistic Proofs


Van Til was not against theistic proofs, evidential proof, or historical proofs. He was against the foundation that they were laid on, and here are his five main concerns with the classical apologetic.

  1. The traditional proofs suggest that the evidence for God's existence is ambiguous.

  2. The traditional proofs argue as if there are matters that are epistemically more certain than God and His revelation of Himself in creation, conscience, His Word, and in Christ.

  3. That unbelievers espoused presuppositions about reality and knowledge are sufficient to account for the intelligibility of his experience and his reasoning. Which says that he has every philosophical right to question God, on his own terms.

  4. The unregenerate man can be intellectually neutral, can be open minded and can be fair about this subject. Rather than being self-righteous and self-deceptive about his suppression of the word of God.

  5. The traditional proofs have assumed that a God that is rationally proven may or may not be the god of the Christian scriptures. When we do this we are dealing with isolated truth claims and not an all-encompassing worldview.


The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Consider for our purposes the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause

  2. The universe began to exist

  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.


Awesome argument to prove the existence of God. However, what's the problem? This argument cannot be formulated without first depending on the Christian worldview.


Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.


How do we know this? We can only appeal to past experience, but this will cause us to run into two problems.

  • We have not experienced everything that has ever began to exist, therefore we cannot with certainty accept premise 1.

  • We can only use our limited experience of the past, and assume this will apply in the future and has applied since the beginning of time. But then we run into the problem of induction which has no solution apart from God's revelation in His Word.

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.


How do we know this? The answer is mostly answer by referencing Big Bang Cosmology, but as scientists like Jason Lisle pointed out, this is not without its own problems. Read more here.



Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.


If we grant premise 1 and premise 2 the conclusion should follow right? Yes, but only if the laws of logic are binding.


We know that the laws of logic are:

  • Immaterial

  • Unchanging

  • Invariant

  • Transcendent

  • Universally applicable

J Warner Wallace gets it when he writes:

[God] is the absolute, objective, transcendent standard of truth. The Laws of Logic are simply a reflection of the nature of God.

Read his article here.


So if we try to reach the aforementioned conclusion without first starting from the Christian worldview, using God's revelation as our epistemological starting point, how can we account for these laws of logic? We can't. Therefore the consistent position would be that the laws might not really apply so we might as well conclude: therefore, the universe always existed!


Sounds crazy? Sure. But if we can't ground the laws of logic, why ought we apply the law of non-contradiction? Why not use some law of positive contradiction?


Conclusion

This was what Van Til meant. The arguments are valid and the evidence can be used, but only in a framework that can make sense of them.


The Christian ought to use a revelational epistemology - that is the Word of God is their authority for everything, including how and what we know. We can now justify all of the premises mentioned above:


Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.


We can know this from experience, but we won't run into the problem of induction because God has revealed that He created the universe and continues to uphold it in a consistent manner.


Premise 2: The universe began to exist.


God has revealed that in the beginning he created the heavens and the Earth.


Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.


We can deduce this from the above two premises by applying the laws of logic which find their ultimate foundation in God. The laws of logic are a reflection of God's rational thinking, and for this reason, they are as eternal as God Himself. You and I, as humans, have the ability to discover these laws because we have been created in the image of God, but we don’t create or invent the laws.


Therefore, the four attributes of the laws of logic are justified, and we can consistently make the conclusion of the argument.


Notice however how the argument can only be formulated by first referencing the CHRISTIAN GOD and His Revelation. No other framework will allow us to do this.


For a very complete look at the subject, listen to this lecture by Dr Greg Bahnsen.

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