Presuppositionalism and The Transendental Argument for God


Presuppositionalism is a style of christian apologetics that draws inspiration from Calvinism, and is unique in that presupps, for the most part, employ a non-evidentiary type of argument. Rather, they try to get to god by reason alone and “presuppose” revelation as described by the Bible.

TAG, or The Trancendental Argument for God, provides their logical foundation and the late Cornelius van Til is viewed as the ‘father’ of this philosophy.

I know some of you are active over on the “Christian & Atheist Talk” group and you may have noticed that a few weeks ago, a dyed-in-the-wool presuppositionalist named David Lee Chu Sarchet began posting presuppositionalist material. It seems he brought in a few friends in as well but David is, by far, the most active.

Their style is a bit different than atheists are used to encountering, being it’s premises don’t rest on empirical evidence and are rather based on pure logic (or, I’d say illogic!). They tend to be very aggressive and accusatory, charging atheists as being immoral and liars. They honestly believe we all ‘deep-down’, believe there is a god whether we realize it or not. They claim people like us, who have a naturalitic world view, need to “borrow” from the christian world view in order to ground morality and logic.

If you have time, check out Sarchet’s posts. He follows the presupp playbook to a tee. He’s not that good though. I caught him saying something really dumb – something that undercut the very foundation of TAG and he simply refuses to respond to it. Or maybe he’s too proud to admit it. It’s really very funny : )

Hopefully, I’ll have enough time to begin writing some things down in the next few days about how to attack these guys – and attack we must because it’s important to keep them on the defensive. Their style depends upon being the aggressor. I’ll describe some chinks in TAG that can be exposed.

2 Responses to “Presuppositionalism and The Transendental Argument for God

  • David Lee Chu Sarchet
    7 years ago

    Dude do you have a job and have you graduated from preschool?

  • Well, I tried playing the role of ‘expert’ and realized most of my thoughts on how to deal with a presupp arguer would be mere regurgitations of strategies and counterarguments I’ve heard from others who state them far better than I can. The best breakdowns I’ve heard are to be found in the following three links. After the link, I’ll add some of my own thoughts and what I perceive to be most compelling counter arguments. The first two, from the “Reasonable Doubts” podcast consist of an introduction to the presuppositionalist argument and then, in the follow-up episode, a thorough critique including strategies. The two counter apologists of the four podcasters – Jeremy Beahan and Justin Schieber are incredibly informative on all this. The other link is part 1 (of 5) of a little debate Matt Dillahunty had with a presupp apologist named Matt Slick on-air during episode 593 of “The Atheist Experience”. It’s well worth listening to all 5 parts as I think Dillahunty does a fantastic job breaking down Slick’s version of TAG and exposing its flaws.

    Okay, now for my two cents. As I alluded to earlier, I really don’t consider myself an expert in this so I’d love to hear any feedback or critiques of what I have to say. I’d rather be corrected by one of you guys here than by some damn presuppositionalist in some future debate I might have. I’m sure they wouldn’t be so polite doing it : )

    As far as TAG goes, Dillahunty exposes a major flaw in the argument when he demonstrates how Slick is trying to use ‘logic’ (as an application) and “logical absolutes” (as in the standards toward which logic points) interchangeably. Beahan and Schieber add to this critique by referencing an argument that brings up the fact that the entire concept of logic being grounded in god raises a Euthyphro-style dilemma. To this, Matt LeBlanc (who is referenced on the RD podcast) says “Does God think in a certain way because it is logical to do so, or is thinking in a certain way logical because God does it? If the first horn of the dilemma holds, it seems clear that logical principles exist independently of God. If the second horn of the dilemma holds, logical principles seem to be under the whim of God, meaning that God could change them.”

    This actually came up recently when I was debating a presupp in a facebook group and I asked him the simple question of whether or not his god could create a square circle. I was fully expecting him to respond that god couldn’t, and I was prepared to use the Euthyphro approach with him when and he threw me for a loop by responding that “God can do whatever He wants because He is God. I do not know what He is capable of doing.”

    This tells me that this presupp I was arguing doesn’t really understand the distinction between “logic” (an application which I think can, in fact be grounded in naturalistic terms) and “logical absolutes” which serve as the foundation of TAG and purportedly mirror god’s attributes. I think this is a very important distinction to make before entering into a conversation and Dillahunty does fantastic in this regard.

    Here are a few I can think of points I think to remember as well when arguing presuppositionalists. I’ll add some more as I think of them:

    1. Even if we cannot, from a naturalistic perspective, make a full accounting of morality’s grounding or describe exactly what logical absolutes are, the christian cannot either – not without merely asserting, by ad hoc definition, these as a part of god’s nature.
    2. Using Euthyphro’s dilemma itself, attack the immorality of god’ behavior in the Bible and ask the christian to account for a morality that doesn’t resemble a disgusting version of divine command.
    3. Since the presuppositionalist merely asserts most of their position, be prepared to simply reject their premises and turn the entire argument around by presupposing the naturalistic world view as a grounding for their delusional behavior. For example, assert that it is they – the christian who themselves that know deep down that there really is no god and have to borrow from a naturalistic world view to ground logic and morality. In a universe with a capricious ‘miracle-maker’ simple logical methods we depend upon such as induction become impossible if we have to take into account a god that tweaks the laws of physics from time to time. Science itself would become incoherent. Add to this the fact that morality evolved as a solution to the problem of complex minds living in social groups and assert that morality is ‘borrowed’ as well by the christian and claimed as a product of their unfalsifiable deity -all in order to prop up their need for cosmic meaning and desire for an afterlife.
    4. Another subject that I’ve seen brought up is the matter of how an atheist can define or describe what is ‘good” when making moral valuations. I think at that point it is very important to bring up the distinction between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” goodness. From a naturalistic position I think we can easily describe what is good in the context of the latter while the former may not even exist and is an assertion that we can simply reject out of hand.

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