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#16389 Mon Jul 19, 2004 7:52 AM
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This is one of those distinctions that I seem to understand when I am reading, but then I can't seem to keep in my head.

Can someone help me sort out these two positions? Perhaps simple definitions of both would give me a hook upon which to hang the details.

Does the evidentialist believe that there is provable evidence for the existence of God while the presuppositionalist simply presupposes the existence of God? Does he "presuppose" on the basis of logic? Is the existence of God even what is in view when talking about this concept or is it something more/different?

Help!


Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence." - St. Augustine
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Kim,

Evidentialist Apologetics:

Evidential Apologetics are the product of the rise of modern science and modern historiography. During the period of the enlightenment, Christians were eager to show that a scientific approach to Christianity was possible.

The type of scientific method used was a forensic, or inductive approach, which is similar to courtroom evidence. Forensic science collects evidence after the event (e.g. an autopsy) and seeks to find the most plausible explanation for the event. Such an argument does not claim to "prove" Christianity, but only to render it probable.

Today, Evidentialism is the main approach in use in American fundamentalist and evangelical circles. Spokesmen for the approach include Josh McDowell, C. S. Lewis, John W. Montgomery, Clark Pinnock, Hal Lindsey, and many others. Many other author's combine evidential arguments with other approaches.

Presuppositional Apologetics:

Presuppositional apologetics have become prominent in recent years due to the work of several reformed scholars including Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, E. J. Carnell, and Francis Schaeffer.

At a time when classical apologetics are in general discredit among scholars in the secular world, presuppositionalism has enjoyed increasing respect in scholarly circles. Modern Christian communicators should read a good selection of the writings of these authors, and become able to employ this approach when appropriate.


Wes


When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride. - Isaac Watts
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I would add that evidentialism goes further back than the enlightenment. Evidentialism can also be termed "Classic Apologetics" that was articulated by Thomas Aquinas in his classic "proofs" for God's existence. For example, the world demonstrates design, so it must be God who created it. Though it is true that the world demonstrates design, and I will often challenge atheists to explain to me why such evidence is not compelling for them, primarily to illustrate the absurdity of their worldview, evidence in and of itself does not "prove" God's existence. The basic reason is that evidence must be interpreted.

Presuppositionalists begin with a biblical view of man that reveals man's intentional suppression of truth in order not to acknowledge what is true, ie, God exists. Sinners will do everything to explain away such evidence so as not to have to be held accountable to it. That is why an intelligent sinner will entertain non-sensical things like aliens putting life on earth. Aliens do not really care about what sexual behavior a person engages in, because the person is simply a biological life form expressing its natural inclination to further the species.

My observation has been that evidentialists view supposed evidence as a means to bring a person to salvation (the sinner can rationally weigh evidence and draw the conclusion that Christianity is plausible), where as presuppositionalists view evidence as a means to expose the corrupted bias of the sinner (the sinner is irrational with his interpretation of the evidence, because he is opposed to God).


Fred


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Thanks, Wes. That helped! Can you recommend a book from the presuppositional "camp" ? Do you know where R. C. Sproul stands on this issue? I have been told that he is an evidentialist, but I read and listen to him a lot and I haven't picked up on that myself. (That probably has more to do with my lack of understanding of the issues than his clarity, though.)


Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence." - St. Augustine
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Hi Fred. Thanks for your response. After having read your comments, I am certain where I stand on the issue--I am a presuppositionalist and I believe, based on my limited understanding, I think that Sproul is, too.


Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence." - St. Augustine
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gotribe said:
Thanks, Wes. That helped! Can you recommend a book from the presuppositional "camp" ? Do you know where R. C. Sproul stands on this issue? I have been told that he is an evidentialist, but I read and listen to him a lot and I haven't picked up on that myself. (That probably has more to do with my lack of understanding of the issues than his clarity, though.)
Kim,

A couple of excellent books are:

1) Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith[/i], by Greg Bahnsen

2) [i]Apologetics to the Glory of God, by John Frame

For a practical example of "Presuppositional Apologetics", read Van Til's Why I Believe in God.

As for what method R.C. Sproul uses, he is a diehard "Evidentialist" as was his mentor and friend, John Gerstner. See, no one is perfect. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

In His Grace,


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I'm printing the Van Til article now!

Thanks!


Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence." - St. Augustine
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As Pilgrim knows I am a "soft" Clarkian (who's presupositional)and while Gordon Clark is mediocre on theology he is quite useful in philosophy (after all he was a philosopher). Having said that, I have recently read "Light of the Mind: St. Augustine's Theory of Knowledge" by Roland Nash. What a book!
I have come to understand that neither Van Til, nor Clark began the presupositionalist apologetic. Indeed, Augustine was the first post apostolic writer to consider the etomology of human understanding as it relates to God. I am convinced that Augustine was right, and if anyone is interested in the first presupositional view outside the Bible, read Nash's book.
Again, having said that ...
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (one of my favorite men of the recent past)in his fantastic lectures at Westminster East on Preaching and Preachers aproached aoplogetics in a different manner in dealing with the unbeliever. He does not debate God.
Lloyd-Jones teaches (in tape 11 I believe) that it is sinful to debate the reality of God with an unbeliever. He contends that Roman's 1 insists that the unbeliever already knows God IS, and "suppresses the truth in unrighteousness". This is presupositional indeed, and Lloyd-Jones was a VanTillian I believe. However, Lloyd-Jones said engaging in debate with the unbeliever over the reality of God is a futile effort (Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.)
Lloyd-Jones says that the real function of the evangelist and pastor in light of the questions raised by the unbeliever is not science, philosophy, or logic, but "the foolishness of the Gospel" (1 Cor 1:18, 21).
I must admit that Lloyd-Jones has a point. We do not find the Apostles engaging in philosophical or scientific debates regarding the risen Lord, but instead preaching the Truth(Acts 2, Acts 17;23).
I am becoming more and more convinced that the place of apologetics is internal to the Christian Church not external to the world. What I mean by that is, apologetics as a science is meant for the building up of the saints in confidence by way of science, reason, and logic. It might be best for the intramural debate between Evdentialists and Presupositionalists to argue in such a way, but I wonder if it is best for the Church to do the same with the world?

All men know there is a God (Romans 1).
Why waste breath debating something they already know IS.
Why not instead quote the Word, preach the gospel, and call them to repentance?

Any thoughts?

Kind regards,

Octavius.

www.apcvan.ca/Jerblog

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Kim,

Presuppositionalism presents reason and evidences within a biblical framework.

Five Views on Apologetics
by Steven B. Cowan, Stanley N. Gundry, William Lane Craig, Paul D. Feinberg, Kelly James Clark, John Frame, Gary Habermas

The goal of apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus Christ. But of several apologetic approaches, which is most effective?

Five Views on Apologetics examines the "how-to" of apologetics, putting five prominent views under the microscope: Classical, Evidential, Presuppositional, Reformed Epistemology, and Cumulative Case. Offering a forum for presentation, critique, and defense, this book allows the contributors for the different viewpoints to interact.

Like no other book, Five Views on Apologetics lets you compare and contrast different ways of "doing" apologetics. Your own informed conclusions can then guide you as you meet the questions of a needy world with the claims of the Gospel.

Comparison BetweenTraditional and P...tional Method")by Cornelius Van Til

Van Til and the Ligonier Apologetic* John M. Frame

PRESUPPOSITIONAL APOLOGETICS: AN INTRODUCTION by John Frame


Wes


When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride. - Isaac Watts
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Thanks, Wes. I'm printing out the Van Til and the Ligonier Apologetic. I've got a lot of reading to do! <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />


Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence." - St. Augustine
Hiraeth
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Well, I've read and read and read some more and I've come to the conclusion that much of the finer points are above my head, or at least out of my reach at present. But the whole concept seems a bit clearer.

Thanks for everyone's recommendations!

Kim


Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence." - St. Augustine
Hiraeth

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