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Thread: One-on-One: The futility of atheism, Hilston and SUTG

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    One-on-One: The futility of atheism, Hilston and SUTG

    About a week ago, I challenged the users on TOL to deliver a Truthsmack displaying the futility of atheism as proclaimed by the TOL mission statement:

    TOL is a place to expose the lie of false religions and the futility of atheism.
    There were several interesting responses but, like my career as a NFL linebacker, the thread quickly went nowhere. That is, until I received a PM from Knight asking if I'd be interested in a one-on-one with Hilston."Excellent!", I thought. I find Hilston to be one of the more interesting and entertaining posters on TOL, and would welcome the opportunity. All that remains is an agreement with Hilston on the subject of the discussion. The most obvious to me seems to be the answering of the question "Is Atheism futile?", with Hilston arguing in the affirmative and me arguing in the negative.

    So, Hilston, if you're out there and still interested, I'll invite you to have a seat on the virtual barstool to my right, accept my offering of a virtual Bitburger Premium Pilsner, and begin our discussion.

    cheers,
    SUTG

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    Hi SUTG,

    You write:
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    About a week ago, I challenged the users on TOL to deliver a Truthsmack displaying the futility of atheism as proclaimed by the TOL mission statement:

    TOL is a place to expose the lie of false religions and the futility of atheism.
    For clarity, I should state a disclaimer up-front: Although I was viewed as "TOL's guy" in the Battle Royale IX debate ~ and I appreciate the cordiality afforded me by my most vociferous TOL opponents during that debate ~ a cursory look at my posts and the treatment I receive from the most active TOLers will show how widely I am hated. That said, I don't think TOL, meaning the vast majority of those who post here, can live up to the aforementioned "mission statement." I wish it were, I truly do, but the existentialist Enyartian theology and anti-biblical humanism that pervades this site suffices to disqualify it as a place where atheism can truly be challenged and exposed as the empty and irrational worldview that is ultimately is.

    Thank you for your kind words and invitation to discuss the topic.

    First, I suppose a definition of "futile" is in order. This is from www.dictionary.com:

    1. Having no useful result.
    2. Trifling and frivolous; idle:

    Given the above definition, I would have to admit that the question, "Is Atheism futile?," does not quite capture the problem that I see with Atheism. But I will try to work with it nonetheless.

    Definition of "atheism" provided by SUTG here, which I quote below:

    I prefer to use the distinction between strong and weak atheism, but call them both atheists. But before you accuse me of redefining words, note that most dictionaries lean towards the weak atheist definition, almost all philosophy texts acknowledge the definition, and the term 'atheism' suggests the weak interpretation, leaving room for a word like 'antitheist'.

    Here is the difference:

    Atheism or weak atheism: Lacking belief in god(s).

    Strong Atheism: Having a belief that no god(s) exist.

    The difference is that the strong atheist goes further believeing that the proposition "God does not exist" is true, while the weak atheist does not. Neither one believes that the proposition "God exists" is true. [Emphases in original]

    My first question is: To which kind of atheism do you align yourself and why?

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    So, Hilston, if you're out there and still interested, I'll invite you to have a seat on the virtual barstool to my right, accept my offering of a virtual Bitburger Premium Pilsner, and begin our discussion.
    That Bitburger Pils looks amazing. I'm sure it has a taste to match. The next time I visit the Kleiner Deutschmann (German Restaurant here in Pittsburgh) I'm going to see if it's on their menu.

    Thanks again for the invite; I look forward to a fruitful discussion.

    Cheers,
    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston
    That said, I don't think TOL, meaning the vast majority of those who post here, can live up to the aforementioned "mission statement."
    We agree so far.

    To your question "To which kind of atheism do you align yourself and why?" I would have to reply "It depends."

    I am a weak atheist regarding all supernatural, personal gods, and a strong atheist in regards to certain particular definitions. My reason for not believing is that I don't see sufficient positive reasons for believing! This is the same reason I do not believe in ESP, astrology, fortune-tellers, etc.

    We can change the the topic if you'd like to something you think captures our dispute better. Or, you can attempt a defense of the IOTC claim that presuppositionalist apologetics often make.


    Bitburger Pils looks amazing. I'm sure it has a taste to match. The next time I visit the Kleiner Deutschmann (German Restaurant here in Pittsburgh) I'm going to see if it's on their menu.
    Drink it as your first beer of the night, as it is kind of light. I would have preferred to offer you a Boddington's, but their website was down.
    Last edited by SUTG; February 2nd, 2006 at 02:43 PM.

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    Hi SUTG,

    It's taken me a little while to get back to this. I hope you are well and that you had a good weekend. My rejoinders to your post and some explanations of my views are below.

    I. Positive Reason and Presumed Autonomy

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    To your question "To which kind of atheism do you align yourself and why?" I would have to reply "It depends."

    I am a weak atheist regarding all supernatural, personal gods, and a strong atheist in regards to certain particular definitions. My reason for not believing is that I don't see sufficient positive reasons for believing!
    I would say that the very fact that you are looking for a positive reason is itself a positive reason. In other words, the very use of reason presupposes the existence of a personal, volitional, relational and logical God, the existence of Whom accounts for and justifies your proceeding on the assumption that reasoning and the attending laws of logic will continue to hold and make your experience intelligible.

    Furthermore, I would say that your presumed autonomy by which you make the assessment concerning the alleged lack of positive reasons is sinful in itself, and that if you do not repent of this sin and embrace the God to whom you are accountable, God will hold you judge for trying to be your own god and to judge good and evil autonomously, by your own standards. If you're familiar with Genesis chapter 3, you might recognize these descriptions as being very similar to the sin that resulted in the fall of man by Adam in the Garden of Eden. The original sin was not merely eating a fruit. Rather, it was Adam wanting to be his own god, to be his own judge of good and evil, that is, he wanted autonomy in his reasoning, as opposed to depending upon the Supreme Judge and thinking God's thought after Him.

    II. Touching on the Doctrine of Scripture
    Something else I'd like to touch on, but it's going to require a bit of background. My belief is that the Bible in its original autographs is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Furthermore, I believe that once the first-century writings were compiled by Paul (formerly, Saul of Tarsus) and his entourage, copies were being made and distributed throughout the civilized world. This was God's intent from the start, and built in to that intention was the acknowledgement and recognition that errors would creep in, things would be miscopied and mistranslated, biased agenda-driven gainsayers would attempt to distort the original meaning, etc. But the message of God's Word, that is, the intended meaning that rides upon the letter-symbols that comprise the words that make up the sentences in the text, is so robust that those errors are not significant enough to undermine the full teaching contained in Scripture.

    I compare it to CD technology. Assume the original CD is error-free. Every time a copy is made, errors creep into to the data. A fourth generation copy is likely to have more errors than a second-generation copy. Yet, to the human ear, those errors go undetected. Suppose that the copies not only have encoding errors, but also scratches and nicks on the medium surface itself. As long as the damage is not too severe, given a sufficiently robust algorithm in the software of the CD player, those artifacts go undetected by the human ear. Similarly, God's Word is sufficiently robust as to withstand errors and artifacts that result from handling and multiple-generation copies and translations. When one studies the scripture in the original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and compares it with various translations, as well as translations of translations (i.e., translations not out of the original languages), one begins to see how irrepressibly pervasive the message and meanings are. It is God's preservation of His own word that restrained the degree to which errors and distortions entered the canon.

    III. Proper Approach to Scripture Interpretation
    Just as we would any other type of literature, we should seek to understand the biblical text in the same way the original audience ought to have understood it. When we read Sophocles or Homer or Plato or Shakespeare or Darwin, we take into consideration the syntax and semantics of their language, their culture, figures of speech, analogies relevant to their lifestyles and pulled from their daily experience, etc. This is no less true of the Bible. It is only by approaching the Bible in this way, logically, consistently and to read it as if one were reading it over the shoulder of the original recipient, that the true intended meaning is ascertained.

    IV. No Miracles Today
    The Bible teaches that we no longer live in a time of miracles; that such events ceased in the first century with the final compilation of the canon of scripture (contrary to what is taught by so-called "orthodox" Christendumb). The purpose of miracles was to confirm and validate men of God, their teachings and their writings. With the completion of the canon, this was no longer necessary and those powers, gifts and abilities faded.

    V. A Time of Miracle-less Science
    I explain all this in order to point out something that I find quite fascinating. You and I would probably agree on many things concerning the methods of science and mathematics, in particular, the exclusion of the extra-natural and the miraculous to directly account for phenomena experienced on a perceptual and sensory level. Since we live in a time in which miracles have ceased*, we are not to appeal to the extra-natural for explanations of phenomenal events in the world. This is biblical; and this is how the original audience would have understood those writings. However, that is not to say that we should ignore the very foundation and extra-natural "fabric" of the universe, meaning the understanding that God holds the ingredients of the universe together, that matter itself, its very essence, is held together by God.

    *Note: There is one miracle that still occurs today, but not in the hands of men. It is the miracle of regeneration, a power that is solely and singularly wielded by the Holy Spirit for those for whom Christ died, chosen of God to receive it.

    VI. Shared Skepticism, Different Reasons
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    This is the same reason I do not believe in ESP, astrology, fortune-tellers, etc.
    This doesn't seem to align with your previous statement regarding weak atheism. I'm curious to know why specifically you do not believe in ESP, astrology, etc. Have you ever seen an ESP demonstration or anything ostensibly "paranormal" that you could not explain?

    By the way, I agree with your non-belief of these things, but not for the same reasons.

    VII. The Impossibility of the Contrary and Contradictions
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    We can change the the topic if you'd like to something you think captures our dispute better. Or, you can attempt a defense of the IOTC claim that presuppositionalist apologetics often make.
    The IOTC claim is inherent in all of my arguments, so it's fairly inevitable that it will come up.

    The main problems I see with atheism, besides the presumed autonomy I touched on above, are the contradictions that must be tolerated in order to espouse that view. On the one hand, atheism insists on empirical evidence to support truth claims, yet when held to the same standard to support truth claims concerning their methodology, it's suddenly OK to have blind faith commitments apart from empirical evidence.

    VIII. The Non-Existence of Atheists
    I should also point out my aversion to the term "atheist." While I'm OK with "atheism" as a system of thought or worldview, I don't acknowledge there really is any such thing as an atheist, because deep down, all men know that God exists and that they are accountable to Him, yet they suppress that truth in their presumed autonomy, unrighteousness and self-will.

    They come to snuff the rooster,
    Jim

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    Hello Hilston,

    Sorry for the delay. The weather has been nice in my neck of the woods and, for once, my social calendar has been full. I am hoping to respond in a more timely manner in the future.

    I. The Topic to be Debated

    It seems we still haven't settled on an official thread topic, but it seems like they would all be covered by our dispute regarding the IOTC claim of the presuppositionalists. This claim, or an equivalent claim, such as "only the Christian God can account for such-and-such" seems to be used by all of the presuppositionalists I have encountered. (Clete, Hilston, Bahnsen, Clark, Van Til, Frame, Cheung, and others)

    This claim, if true, would entail the truth of the TOL claim of the futility of atheism. However, if the claim cannot be justified ( ), the arguments of the presuppositionalists all fail.

    II. Atheism: What it is, and what it ain't

    I have already given definitions of atheism, strong atheism, and theism. "Atheism" was defined simply as a lack of belief in any god(s). This is a pretty wide ranging definition, since it makes no positive claims on what the consisutents of atheism believe. All we can say is that a god-belief is not among them.

    On these definitions, Hilston's claim that "atheism insists on empirical evidence to support truth claims" is false. Even if there were no actual atheists who beleived in synthetic apriori (which there are), it still does not follow that atheism entails such a belief.

    Finally, the range of the phrase "the contrary" in the IOTC claim covers not only atheists, but all worldviews that differ from the worldview of the presuppositionalist Christian.

    III. Common Ground

    Is there any common ground between the non-believer and the Christian presuppositionalist? I would answer in the affirmative since even the staunchest presuppositionalist agrees that we all must use induction to even communicate and argue. The fact that we are engaging in this thread admits to a large, common agreement on a the application of a system of logic and induction. Whether or not either of us has any justification for doing so is another issue. Do atheists and theists come to different conclusions when applying modus ponens, modus tollens, and other rules of inference?

    Can the existence of the Christian God be shown from within this shared system? Van Til says no - in other words, it can't be shown that the Christian God exists. He must be presupposed. Of course, if he is presupposed as Ultimate, he can not be disproven. Doesn't this same fact hold for all objects of thought? If they are presupposed as Ultimate and above or outside of logic, they cannot be disproven.

    Would you agree with Van Til that Christian Theism cannot be proven? It seems that presuppositionalists are indeed trying to prove the Christian God by wrapping up a transcendental argument within a meta argument that says "since the TAG works, God exists."

    IV. Positive Contributions of Presuppositionalism

    Pick up any paper or debate on presuppositionalism. Do a quck skimming of the contents, and you will find 90% of the paper dedicated to showing that atheistic worldviews cannot explain and answer all of the deepest and most ultimate questions about the nature of reality. Almost every paper or debate includes a thourough restatement of the work of David Hume. (From here on out, I will refer to paraphrasing Hume as "borrowing from an Atheistic Worldview")

    The remaining 10% of the paper, if you are lucky, will be devoted to the Christians answering of these same Ultimate Questions. What is logic? It is the nature and character of the Christian God's thought. Why does nature appear to be uniform? Because the Christian God created it that way, and He created us in his image so we can understand it. To borrow a phrase from Hilston, the presuppositionalist 'answers' to the ultimate questions could definitely be categorized as non-exhaustive.

    V. Proof?

    Hilston claims the following statement is a proof of the existence of the Christian God:

    "The existence of God is proven in that, without Him, you cannot prove anything."

    Does this mean that the following statement proves the existence of unicorns?

    "The existence of unicorns is proven in that, without them, you cannot prove anything."

    No. Neither one is a proof of anything. The truth value of either statement depends on the truth value of another statement of the form "The existence of God/Unicorns is a necessary requirement of any proof."

    So, without a proof of the statement "God is a necessary requirement for any proof", we are left with the following statement:

    If God is a necessary requirement for any proof, then the existence of God is proven in that, without Him, you cannot prove anything.

    Again, you can substitute anything in place of the word "God" in the above statement, and you will get a true statement.

    Also note, the presuppositionalist arguments about the Uniformity of Nature. According to presuppositionalists, the atheist enjoys all the benefits of science, but is not justified in doing so, since science presupposes the uniformity of nature and the atheist has no justification for believing in the uniformity of nature.

    However, using what Hilston counts as proof, I can easilty prove that nature is uniform by the following statement:

    The Uniformity of Nature is proven in that, without it science would not work.

    Here is the atheistic proof for the uniformity of nature that the presuppositionalists claim does not exist. The argument form is identical to the form employed by Hilston in the quote above.

    cheers,
    SUTG

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    Hi SUTG,

    You write:
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    It seems we still haven't settled on an official thread topic, but it seems like they would all be covered by our dispute regarding the IOTC claim of the presuppositionalists. This claim, or an equivalent claim, such as "only the Christian God can account for such-and-such" seems to be used by all of the presuppositionalists I have encountered. (Clete, Hilston, Bahnsen, Clark, Van Til, Frame, Cheung, and others).
    To avoid any future confusion, you should omit Clete from your list. He has told me that he isn't even sure what presuppositionalism is. Some of his arguments certainly confirm this.

    SUTG writes:
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    This claim [that only the Christian God can account for such-and-such because of the "impossibility of the contrary"], if true, would entail the truth of the TOL claim of the futility of atheism. However, if the claim cannot be justified, the arguments of the presuppositionalists all fail.
    The reasoning here is flawed. First of all, no finite being can prove a universal negative (i.e. that no other view can account for such-and-such). So the justification of the Judeo-Christian claim will not be proven by refuting all other claims. This would be an impossible task. Also, the Presuppositionalist claim [that only the Judeo-Christian God can account such-and-such] is not based on personal experience or history, but rather upon the self-attesting claims of the Bible, the Word of God. No presuppositionalist would make such a claim based on his own experience or authority, but rather refers to the claims of God Himself.

    SUTG writes:
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    I have already given definitions of atheism, strong atheism, and theism. "Atheism" was defined simply as a lack of belief in any god(s). This is a pretty wide ranging definition, since it makes no positive claims on what the consisutents of atheism believe. All we can say is that a god-belief is not among them.

    On these definitions, Hilston's claim that "atheism insists on empirical evidence to support truth claims" is false. Even if there were no actual atheists who beleived in synthetic apriori (which there are), it still does not follow that atheism entails such a belief.
    I will concede that point. I'm sure SUTG is correct that there are atheists who disagree with the empiricist approach to ascertaining reality. A better way to state it would be: "Atheism insists on godless explanations to support truth claims."

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Finally, the range of the phrase "the contrary" in the IOTC claim covers not only atheists, but all worldviews that differ from the worldview of the presuppositionalist Christian.
    That is correct. As it should be expected. There are no contradictory truths. There is only correct set of truth-claims. The Biblical worldview claims exclusivity over all correct and valid truth-claims, so therefore it should come as no surprise that the Judeo-Christian view is that all other worldviews are false.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Is there any common ground between the non-believer and the Christian presuppositionalist? I would answer in the affirmative since even the staunchest presuppositionalist agrees that we all must use induction to even communicate and argue. The fact that we are engaging in this thread admits to a large, common agreement on a the application of a system of logic and induction. Whether or not either of us has any justification for doing so is another issue.
    While I agree about the common use of induction, I do not view its justification as a separate issue, because it is on precisely that level that we ascertain whether or not a worldview makes sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Do atheists and theists come to different conclusions when applying modus ponens, modus tollens, and other rules of inference?
    No, they do not. And while it may be true that there is agreement on a practical and experiential level, note that the Biblical worldview does not concede agreement with any other worldview anymore than one would agree that Jayson Blair shares common journalistic ground with Macarena Hernandez, the reporter from the San Antonio Times whom Jayson Blair plagiarized. The anti-theist position wields stolen fire, i.e., borrowed capital from a worldview that it rejects.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Can the existence of the Christian God be shown from within this shared system? Van Til says no - in other words, it can't be shown that the Christian God exists. He must be presupposed.
    This is an oversimplification of Biblical worldview. God's existence is indeed shown in all of human experience. That doesn't equate to being seen or acknowledged as such. All men know that God exists and that they are accountable to Him. And it's not an matter of perception or of data, but rather a moral question of authority. The vast majority of people do not want the God of the Bible to rule over them, so they do not acknowledge Him in the way that is consistent with Biblical teaching.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Of course, if he is presupposed as Ultimate, he can not be disproven.
    True.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Doesn't this same fact hold for all objects of thought? If they are presupposed as Ultimate and above or outside of logic, they cannot be disproven.
    Sure, but objects of thought cannot justify or account for themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Would you agree with Van Til that Christian Theism cannot be proven?
    If that is indeed what Van Til says, then no, neither I nor the Bible agrees with Van Til.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    It seems that presuppositionalists are indeed trying to prove the Christian God by wrapping up a transcendental argument within a meta argument that says "since the TAG works, God exists."
    You won't be getting that kind of argument from me. It's not cogent. Nor is it Biblical.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    ... 90% of the paper dedicated to showing that atheistic worldviews cannot explain and answer all of the deepest and most ultimate questions about the nature of reality. ... The remaining 10% of the paper, if you are lucky, will be devoted to the Christians answering of these same Ultimate Questions.
    How is this relevant, SUTG?

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Hilston claims the following statement is a proof of the existence of the Christian God:

    "The existence of God is proven in that, without Him, you cannot prove anything."

    Does this mean that the following statement proves the existence of unicorns?

    "The existence of unicorns is proven in that, without them, you cannot prove anything."
    Is that your belief? If so, let's debate it. If it's not, then I wonder why you want to advance such a notion. If you want to debate the difference between God and unicorns, you'll have to start describing the nature and character of unicorns. In which case, either one of two things will happen: Your descriptions of unicorns will be shown to be self-refuting and internally incoherent, or you will end up describing the very God that you claim not to believe in.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    No. Neither one is a proof of anything. The truth value of either statement depends on the truth value of another statement of the form "The existence of God/Unicorns is a necessary requirement of any proof."
    What about the truth value of of the statement of the form "Statements of the form 'The existence of God/Unicorns is a necessary requirement of any proof'"? This type of argument doesn't get anywhere, SUTG. I can demonstrate the value of the truth claim.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    So, without a proof of the statement "God is a necessary requirement for any proof", we are left with the following statement:

    If God is a necessary requirement for any proof, then the existence of God is proven in that, without Him, you cannot prove anything.
    But there is proof of the statement. You've seen examples of this. The Bible has many, as I've quoted and explained at length in other posts.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Again, you can substitute anything in place of the word "God" in the above statement, and you will get a true statement.
    As I said above: Try it. Put anything in place of God and you'll find either (a) it collapses to absurdity and self-contradiction, or (b) you end up describing the nature and character of God Himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    lso note, the presuppositionalist arguments about the Uniformity of Nature. According to presuppositionalists, the atheist enjoys all the benefits of science, but is not justified in doing so, since science presupposes the uniformity of nature and the atheist has no justification for believing in the uniformity of nature.

    However, using what Hilston counts as proof, I can easilty prove that nature is uniform by the following statement:

    The Uniformity of Nature is proven in that, without it science would not work.
    That is a correct statement, although you personally have no way of proving it. You must assume it blindly. In order to rationally hold this view, you must pretend to be a Christian, i.e. presume upon the Judeo-Christian worldview, the only worldview that makes sense of and can account for the uniformity of nature.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Here is the atheistic proof for the uniformity of nature that the presuppositionalists claim does not exist. The argument form is identical to the form employed by Hilston in the quote above.
    You're too concerned with the form of the argument. You have to justify the content of the claim itself. Prove the claim that science works, and you might have something. But the fact is, you can't; not as a finite being with limited experience.

    Got to keep the loonies on the path,
    Jim

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    Hello Hilston,

    I am sticking with the Roman Numeral format for readability, and am doing my best to cover all of the issues I feel are relevant. If you notice me skipping any questions or pertinent issues, feel free to request clarification.

    Atheism: What it is, and what it ain't (Part deux)

    In his previous post Hilston conceded to my definition of the word 'atheism', but then made the comment that "Atheism insists on godless explanations to support truth claims." Since we agreed that atheim requires only a lack of belief in god, this statement will not be true.

    I think the confusion arises from the unfortunate use of the word "atheist" in the first place. Nowhere else can I think of a definition of a class of people who simply lack a belief in a certain type of worldview of system. Many of us don't believe in palm reading, fortune tellers, ghosts, pyramid power, or the Illuminati. But from the fact that one does not believe in the Illuminati does not follow that they insist on explanations sans Illuminati. This is strong atheism.

    To sidestep the jargon for a minute, I'll concede right away that it is possible that Christian Theism is the only true worldview. What I won't do is believe it because Hilston asserts its truthfulness.

    An atheist, then, needs not assert anything whatsoever.

    II. The Mandatory Worldview

    Hilston, or many of you, might have taken issue with my final comment in the last section. An atheist may not assert anything, but as soon as he enters a debate, he tacitly agrees to the use of induction, the law of non-contradiction, and other presuppositions required to make sense of the debate. In a private message discussion with Clete, I came up with the shorthand "Mandatory Worldview" to encompass all of the presuppositions that must be accepted to engage in debate and render experience intelligible. To deny the Mandatory Worldview is incoherent.

    III. Ultimate Questions

    Given that everyone reading this has accepted and must assert to the Mandatory Worldview, we can raise some interesting questions:

    -Is the Mandatory Worldview justified?
    -Does the Mandatory Wordlview even require justification?
    -What would it mean to justify the Mandatory Worldview?
    -Does the Christian God justify the Mandatory Worldview?

    Unfortunately, Ultimate Questions such as these are much easier to ask than to answer. Hilston claims to have an answer to all four of the questions listed above. I make no such claims.

    IV. Hilston's Answer (I think)

    Hilston would answer the above by stating that only Christian Theism justifies the Mandatory Worldview, thus making sense of our experience. He attempts to argue transcendentally, inquiring about the necessary preconditions or presuppositions that will justify the Mandatory Worldview.

    One of Hilston's phrasings of his proof is that "the Christian God is proven in that without Him you cannot prove anything". In other words, the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.

    As I've mentioned before, this statement needs to be shown, not just asserted. Until then, we are left with "If God is a necessary requirement for any proof, then the existence of God is proven in that, without Him, you cannot prove anything. " This is a simple tautology and, as such, tells us absolutely nothing about the state-of-affairs in this, or any other possible world. Anything whatsoever can be substituted for the word "God" in the statement and we will have a similar tautological truth.

    In his previous post, Hilston challenged me to do just that:
    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston
    Try it. Put anything in place of God and you'll find either (a) it collapses to absurdity and self-contradiction, or (b) you end up describing the nature and character of God Himself.
    I'll suggest replacing "God" with "lima beans", giving the proposition "If lima beans are a necessary requirement for any proof, then the existence of lima beans are proven in that without them, you cannot prove anything."

    Is this proposition true? Absolutely.
    Does it tell us anything about lima beans? No. We don't even need to know what lima beans are to know that the statement is true.

    Now, all we need to do is show that lima beans are, in fact, a requirement for any proof.

    V. Proofs and Refutations

    In his previous post, Hilston accused me of being "too concerned with the form of the argument". But the form of a deductive argument is what makes it a logical argument in the first place!

    If the premises of two arguments have the same truth values and the same form, their conclusions will also have the same truth values. This is what deductive logic is!



    VI. The TAG: Is it Biblical?

    Presuppositionalist apologists often quote from the gospel of Paul, and other parts of the Bible indicating from where they supposedly derived their knowledge and tools.

    According to these same presuppositionalists, God has created the world consistently with His Attributes: logical, uniform, and intelligible. He has endowed his creatures with the tools necessary for making sense of His Creation. (Induction, etc...The Mandatory Worldview) He did an excellent job of this! No-one can deny induction, and we learn to use it very early in our development - before we can speak a single word of English we have learned to accept induction as a tool.

    While the Christian God did an excellent job of endowing us with the tools necessary for making sense of His creation, He didn't do nearly as well in endowing us with the tools necessary to understand the transcendental argument! Is the argument made clear so a reader of the Bible will discover it within? Not even close! Most Christians are unfamiliar with the transcendental argument no matter how much they have studied the Bible. There are many types of Christian presuppositionalists, and they all disagree about the nature and form of the argument. (see Gordon Clark, Vincent Cheung, etc.) In his previous post, Hilston asked me to remove Clete from the list of those who understand presuppositionalism. Is Clete's Bible missing the relevant passages?

    Where do presuppositionalists learn of the transcendental argument for the Christian God? From other presuppositionalists, not from the Bible. Even Van Til's transcendental argument owes more to the writings of Kant and Hume than it does to any of the ambiguous Bible passages presuppositionalists so often quote.

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    Hi SUTG,

    I. Atheism: What it is, and what it ain't (Part deux)
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    I think the confusion arises from the unfortunate use of the word "atheist" in the first place. Nowhere else can I think of a definition of a class of people who simply lack a belief in a certain type of worldview of system.
    I fully agree. The word is unfortunately misused. I'm sure I'm guilty of misusing myself. That is why I specified in my opening post the following:

    VIII. The Non-Existence of Atheists
    I should also point out my aversion to the term "atheist." While I'm OK with "atheism" as a system of thought or worldview, I don't acknowledge there really is any such thing as an atheist, because deep down, all men know that God exists and that they are accountable to Him, yet they suppress that truth in their presumed autonomy, unrighteousness and self-will.
    You may notice that in most of my discussions about "atheists" I will use the modifier "so-called" or the epithet "anti-theist." I realize the latter can be seen as accusatory or a pejorative, but it is not intended as such. It is descriptive in a biblical way. I have no problem with the term "atheism" or "atheistic," I just don't believe there is any such thing as an "atheist."

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Many of us don't believe in palm reading, fortune tellers, ghosts, pyramid power, or the Illuminati. But from the fact that one does not believe in the Illuminati does not follow that they insist on explanations sans Illuminati. This is strong atheism.
    Would you then say that there are atheists who would allow for extranatural explanations of natural phenomena?

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    To sidestep the jargon for a minute, I'll concede right away that it is possible that Christian Theism is the only true worldview. What I won't do is believe it because Hilston asserts its truthfulness.
    That is excellent. I was most impressed by that statement. If SUTG were to suddenly embrace Judeo-Christian theism because I asserted its truthfulness, I would work very hard to disabuse SUTG of believing on that basis. The Bible does NOT teach a "persuade-at-all-costs" strategy to apologetics. If I were to detect that SUTG was believing for the wrong reasons, I would try to debunk those reasons. I've done it before. False conversions are worse than no conversion.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    An atheist, then, needs not assert anything whatsoever.
    No one does. When someone tells me he is an atheist, I assume he is asserting something. Is that a false notion, SUTG?

    II. The Mandatory Worldview (to wit: The Biblical Worldview)
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Hilston, or many of you, might have taken issue with my final comment in the last section. An atheist may not assert anything, but as soon as he enters a debate, he tacitly agrees to the use of induction, the law of non-contradiction, and other presuppositions required to make sense of the debate.
    Would you say the atheist also tacitly assumes that these laws exist apart from any extra-natural source?

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    In a private message discussion with Clete, I came up with the shorthand "Mandatory Worldview" to encompass all of the presuppositions that must be accepted to engage in debate and render experience intelligible.
    The "Mandatory Worldview" that must be accepted to engage in debate and make experience intelligible is the Judeo-Christian worldview. When the anti-theist engages in debates and finds his experience intelligible, it is only because he is using stolen fire. He has presumed upon the Biblical worldview, hijacked its tools, is pretending to be a Christian in order to make sense of his experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    To deny the Mandatory Worldview is incoherent.
    Exactly! The "Mandatory Worldview" is the Biblical worldview, and to deny it is indeed incoherent. I realize you didn't affirm this, SUTG. I'm merely trying to make drive home the point.

    III. Ultimate Questions (More 'Ultimate' Than Last Time)
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Given that everyone reading this has accepted and must assert to the Mandatory Worldview, we can raise some interesting questions:

    -Is the Mandatory Worldview justified?
    The MW [i.e. the Biblical Worldview] is indeed justified in that it cannot be any other way if human experience is to be intelligible.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    -Does the Mandatory Wordlview even require justification?
    If it doesn't, then why even engage in debate? No other worldview than the biblical worldview can account for the intelligibility of human experience. God Himself is the necessary precondition. It is not possible for this not to be true.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    -What would it mean to justify the Mandatory Worldview?
    It would mean affirming the existence and attributes of God. Not affirming the existence and attributes of God results in incoherence and absurdity.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    -Does the Christian God justify the Mandatory Worldview?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Unfortunately, Ultimate Questions such as these are much easier to ask than to answer. Hilston claims to have an answer to all four of the questions listed above. I make no such claims.
    Then why bother to debate at all? If even the notion of justification is uncertain, then aren't you really wasting your time?

    IV. Hilston's Answer (corrected and updated from SUTG's previous attempt)
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Hilston would answer the above by stating that only Christian Theism justifies the Mandatory Worldview, thus making sense of our experience.
    Biblically speaking, Christian Theism is equivalent to the Mandatory Worldview, and thus the existence and attributes of God justify that worldview.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    He attempts to argue transcendentally, inquiring about the necessary preconditions or presuppositions that will justify the Mandatory Worldview.
    The Mandatory Worldview is the Biblical worldview. I don't need to argue transcendentally to justify it. Biblically speaking, God's existence and attributes justify it.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    One of Hilston's phrasings of his proof is that "the Christian God is proven in that without Him you cannot prove anything".
    It may be my phrasing (copped from other authors, of course), but the concept comes from the Bible.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    In other words, the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.
    Correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    As I've mentioned before, this statement needs to be shown, not just asserted.
    I'm not sure why you keep saying this. It has been shown. You've not offered a coherent counterargument.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Until then, we are left with "If God is a necessary requirement for any proof, then the existence of God is proven in that, without Him, you cannot prove anything. " This is a simple tautology and, as such, tells us absolutely nothing about the state-of-affairs in this, or any other possible world. Anything whatsoever can be substituted for the word "God" in the statement and we will have a similar tautological truth.
    Correct. That's why that form of argument gets us nowhere, yet you keep stating it.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    In his previous post, Hilston challenged me to do just that:

    Hilston wrote: Try it. Put anything in place of God and you'll find either (a) it collapses to absurdity and self-contradiction, or (b) you end up describing the nature and character of God Himself.

    I'll suggest replacing "God" with "lima beans", giving the proposition "If lima beans are a necessary requirement for any proof, then the existence of lima beans are proven in that without them, you cannot prove anything."

    Is this proposition true? Absolutely.
    Does it tell us anything about lima beans? No. We don't even need to know what lima beans are to know that the statement is true.
    Of course. Why are you concerned with this? You know you can't stop there.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Now, all we need to do is show that lima beans are, in fact, a requirement for any proof.
    Of course. Why does this even need to be discussed? I realize that you will be unsatisfied with the demonstrations of the necessity of God's existence in order to prove anything. They've been given to you, and you pretend they haven't. This comes as no surprise, and it is exactly what the Bible tells us to expect from those who irrationally refuse to acknowledge God in this way.

    V. Proofs and Refutations
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    In his previous post, Hilston accused me of being "too concerned with the form of the argument". But the form of a deductive argument is what makes it a logical argument in the first place!
    According to whom? How does the anti-theist prove or justify the generality from which he deduces truth claims about particular cases without begging the very question? Is that where the lima beans come in?

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    If the premises of two arguments have the same truth values and the same form, their conclusions will also have the same truth values. This is what deductive logic is!
    According to whom?

    VI. The TAG: Is it Biblical?
    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Presuppositionalist apologists often quote from the gospel of Paul, and other parts of the Bible indicating from where they supposedly derived their knowledge and tools.

    According to these same presuppositionalists, God has created the world consistently with His Attributes: logical, uniform, and intelligible. He has endowed his creatures with the tools necessary for making sense of His Creation. (Induction, etc...The Mandatory Worldview) He did an excellent job of this! No-one can deny induction, and we learn to use it very early in our development - before we can speak a single word of English we have learned to accept induction as a tool.

    While the Christian God did an excellent job of endowing us with the tools necessary for making sense of His creation, He didn't do nearly as well in endowing us with the tools necessary to understand the transcendental argument!
    This is not true at all. Transcendental reasoning is not difficult. It is made difficult by stubborn and thick-headed people, some of the worst obscurantists being the poseurs of Christendumb. Even anti-theists can understand it, and they don't claim to believe in the existence of God or verity of the Bible. All it takes is a little good faith effort and a willingness to grasp it. You're proof of that, SUTG. The difficulty lies not in the content or complexity of the argument, but rather in the attitude and desire of the one to whom the argument is presented.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Is the argument made clear so a reader of the Bible will discover it within? Not even close!
    This is false. Transcendental reasoning was already in place and fully understood by the human authors of Scripture as they penned the text under divine guidance. In every debate found in scripture, in every apologetic command in the Bible, transcendental reasoning is invoked. For biblical treatments of apologetics, see the following links:

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Most Christians are unfamiliar with the transcendental argument no matter how much they have studied the Bible.
    This is the lonely bandwagon fallacy (argumentum ad populum). There are plenty of things taught in scripture that most so-called Christians and Bible students are unfamiliar with. That doesn't make them untrue. Truth is not ascertained by majority agreement.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    There are many types of Christian presuppositionalists, and they all disagree about the nature and form of the argument. (see Gordon Clark, Vincent Cheung, etc.)
    There are many types of logicians, and they all disagree about the nature and foundations of logic. By this reasoning, we should abandon the use of logic.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    In his previous post, Hilston asked me to remove Clete from the list of those who understand presuppositionalism. Is Clete's Bible missing the relevant passages?
    No; Clete has rejected the only theological framework and conception of God that can justify his use of logic and by which to apply reasoning at all. Clete's conception of God, indeed that of any "Open Theist," is unwittingly of a God who is finite, irrationally denying God's exhaustive knowledge and universal experience. This places the Open Theist and the anti-Theist on similar footing (i.e. The Void) when it comes to justifying their knowledge about anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Where do presuppositionalists learn of the transcendental argument for the Christian God? From other presuppositionalists, not from the Bible.
    Again, this is false. Transcendental reasoning was taught (and violated) all the way back the Garden of Eden. The first sin was a violation of transcendental reasoning. Adam, instead of thinking God's thoughts after Him and seeing God as the foundation and starting point of all reasoning, decided he wanted to be His own god, to have autonomous knowledge of good and evil (which, by the way, is what the forbidden tree was called). So he conducted an experiment, at the suggestion of Lucifer, using Eve as a guinea pig. He presumed to use the scientific method autonomously, as do anti-theists, using himself as the control and Eve as the variable. Scripture indicates that Adam was present during the entire experiment.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Even Van Til's transcendental argument owes more to the writings of Kant and Hume than it does to any of the ambiguous Bible passages presuppositionalists so often quote.
    Also false. All truth is God's truth and originates with Him. While men such as Aristotle, Plato, Kant and Hume may be best known among men for having formally published various arguments, they only discovered and documented that which they observed in the world that God created. Kant and Hume are no more the creators of transcendental reasoning than Edison and Ford are the creators of electricity and combustion, respectively.

    By the way, there is not a single ambiguous Bible passage in the entire Canon. If you think you've discovered one, I can show you how to discover its clarity for yourself. You don't have to listen to me. You can do it for yourself.

    He's a hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent,
    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston
    [That the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever] has been shown.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston
    I realize that you will be unsatisfied with the demonstrations of the necessity of God's existence in order to prove anything. They've been given to you, and you pretend they haven't.
    This, of course, is the heart of the matter. Hilston, can you fill in the blank in the following statement?

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ____________________________________________, therefore the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.


    cheers,
    SUTG

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    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    This, of course, is the heart of the matter. Hilston, can you fill in the blank in the following statement?

    _ ... __, therefore the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.
    Logic is required to make experience intelligible, and only the fact that the universe reflects God's logical nature can account for the laws of logic that are necessarily invoked and applied in our experience, therefore the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.

    Orderliness and uniformity in nature are required to make science intelligible, and only the fact that the universe was created by God and is sustained in an orderly and uniform fashion can account for the orderliness and uniformity that are necessarily invoked and applied in science, therefore the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.

    And so on ...

    Lord, the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting,
    Jim

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    Since Hilston still hasn't pried open his wallet, SUTG reluctantly orders another round of beers. This time, he chooses Watley's Cream Stout, partly because it is on happy hour special, and partly because the Bitburger seemed a little light for the discussion at hand.

    Hello Hilston,

    Let's look at one of the statements in your previous post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston
    Logic is required to make experience intelligible, and only the fact that the universe reflects God's logical nature can account for the laws of logic that are necessarily invoked and applied in our experience, therefore the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.
    Saying that only X can account for Y is the same as saying that X is a necessary precondition for Y. This seems to be nearing the tautology I mentioned earlier. Do you agree that tautologies do not give us any information about the world?

    The first half of your statement, that only the fact that the universe reflects God's logical nature can account for the laws of logic now needs to be established. Your use of the word "only" means that all other attempts at explanation must necessarily be in error. This is a claim of logical necessity. How can you defend it? How do you account for the fact that you arrived at a different conclusion that that of Kant, for example? Also, consider the arguments of David Stove and Gonseth. They've both attempted to account for the laws of logic. How can all of their arguments, and any arguments of any philosophers or non-presuppositionalist theologians be categorically dismissed? From where does this logical necessity derive? While it is true that their efforts will be in vain if Christian Theism is the only logically possible explanation, this needs to be shown, not just asserted.

    How do you distinguish the form of your argument from the arguments I have suggested earlier? Take the homunculus argument, for instance: If human brains were controlled by homunculi, you would depend on a homunculus to think, to argue, to debate, or to construct a proof. Any time you attempted to disprove homunculi, you would necessarily depend on a homunculus to even attempt the proof in the first place! To deny the existence of the Hilston Homunculus would be self contradictory, since your denial would depend on the self-same homunculus you were trying to deny.

    To modify your statement above:

    Logic is required to construct a proof, and only the fact that a homunculi control human brains can account for their ability to use and understand logic, therefore the fact that human brains are controlled by homunculi is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever
    Would you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

    cheers,
    SUTG
    Last edited by SUTG; March 13th, 2006 at 05:19 PM.

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    Hi SUTG,

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Since Hilston still hasn't pried open his wallet, SUTG reluctantly orders another round of beers. This time, he chooses Watley's Cream Stout, partly because it is on happy hour special, and partly because the Bitburger seemed a little light for the discussion at hand.
    It's been a while since I've had one, but if I may suggest the Dinkel Aker ~ a wheat bier, if I recall correctly ~ I have fond memories of that experience.

    Hilston wrote previously: Logic is required to make experience intelligible, and only the fact that the universe reflects God's logical nature can account for the laws of logic that are necessarily invoked and applied in our experience, therefore the Christian God is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Saying that only X can account for Y is the same as saying that X is a necessary precondition for Y. This seems to be nearing the tautology I mentioned earlier.
    Do you agree that my statement is meaningful, whether or not you agree with its claim? If not, why not?

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Do you agree that tautologies do not give us any information about the world?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    The first half of your statement, that only the fact that the universe reflects God's logical nature can account for the laws of logic now needs to be established. Your use of the word "only" means that all other attempts at explanation must necessarily be in error. This is a claim of logical necessity. How can you defend it?
    I can defend it based on the claims of the Judeo-Christian Bible.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    How do you account for the fact that you arrived at a different conclusion that that of Kant, for example?
    The only true conclusions are either biblical, or biblically derived, according to the grammatico-historical method of interpretation. Kant's worldview was unbiblical.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Also, consider the arguments of David Stove and Gonseth. They've both attempted to account for the laws of logic. How can all of their arguments, and any arguments of any philosophers or non-presuppositionalist theologians be categorically dismissed?
    The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The Bible categorically claims that all other worldviews are false. By attempting to account for the laws of logic (which originate in the Logos Himself) without first revering the Lord Who is back of them, all reasoning toward that end becomes empty and futile, and is doomed to fail. This is not my claim, but that of the Bible.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    From where does this logical necessity derive? While it is true that their efforts will be in vain if Christian Theism is the only logically possible explanation, this needs to be shown, not just asserted.
    How can a finite being show a universal negative? It can't be done. God, who is infinite, is the only one who can make and sustain such a claim, and He has done so in His Word.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    How do you distinguish the form of your argument from the arguments I have suggested earlier?
    My form of argument is not "mine," per se, but that of Scripture. God not only accounts for the argument itself, but the very form of the argument and the intelligibility of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Take the homunculus argument, for instance: If human brains were controlled by homunculi, you would depend on a homunculus to think, to argue, to debate, or to construct a proof.
    The homunculus argument has been so thoroughly decimated among cognitive scientists and mind-brain philosophers that it is coming to be referred to as the "homunculus fallacy." Of course, the homunculus arguments are always walking the infinite regress tightrope: One false move and it's turtles all the way down. Daniel Dennett tries to get around that by suggesting that each "layer" of homunculus is more stupid than the one above it. The problem with invoking the homunculus, is that the "little knower" must himself rely on the laws of logic that he himself cannot justify or account for.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    Any time you attempted to disprove homunculi, you would necessarily depend on a homunculus to even attempt the proof in the first place!
    Sure, I'd depend on the homunculus for the process, but I couldn't depend on him to account for the existence of the logical laws themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    ... To deny the existence of the Hilston Homunculus would be self contradictory, since your denial would depend on the self-same homunculus you were trying to deny.
    Of course, but regardless of the existence or role of the homunculus, my or my homunculus' ability to reason and construct logical proofs is not the issue, but rather the very existence and verity of the laws themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by SUTG
    To modify your statement above:
    Logic is required to construct a proof, and only the fact that a [sic] homunculi control human brains can account for their ability to use and understand logic, therefore the fact that human brains are controlled by homunculi is a necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever

    Would you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
    Your statement is an attempt to account for the construction of a proof. I'm talking about the very existence of the laws of logic. The reason why God is the necessary precondition for any proof whatsoever is that the laws of logic reflect His nature and character. God not only accounts for the construction and intelligibility of proof statements, He accounts for the existence of the very laws that apply to all propositions. The homunculus argument for philosophy of mind cannot do that.

    Roland aimed his Thompson gun, he didn't say a word,
    Jim

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