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Apologetics: Transcendental Argument (Lecture 4 of 4)

Apologetics Index
Date: MAY-19-01
Source: Evangelism and Apologetics Conference, Living Hope OPC, Pastor: Tristan Emmanuel
Keywords: certainty, ultimate frame of reference, empiricism, consistency, induction
Comment: These notes were taken on a laptop during live lectures. Due to transcription errors and subsequent editing, these notes may not accurately reflect the original lecture content.
Posted: JUN-26-01

LECTURE 4: The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God. By Michael Butler

Simply, the argument for Godís existence.

Acts 2:36: the Jesus they crucified is made both Lord and Christ. Acts 17:31: there is proof that God will judge all men by the man Jesus Christ.

We donít want to present the probability of the existence of God. We want to present the absolute certainty of Christís resurrection and coming judgment, the way Paul did. There is lots of good evidence for Christianity in other apologetic methodologies, but they are not conclusive. We want to present an objective reality of the truth of the Christian faith. Others cannot provide an absolute objective truth. Though the four other apologetic methodologies -- Classical, Evidentailist, Reformed (Epistemology), and Clarkian -- have some helpful points, they all start with an autonomous principle, making manís mind the measure of truth. The mindset that doesnít reason directly from Christ is foolishness.

Our goal is to be reasoning from scripture, not simply reading scripture to unbelievers. Apologetics can be done with the Bible open or closed; what is essential is to reason from a Christian framework. There is a deep antithesis between the Christian and non-Christian world view. Naturalism or empiricism says all knowledge comes through the senses, therefore you cannot receive divine revelation. This is opposite to all Christian teaching. We see here the war of principles, or worldviews.

On one hand you say you have to have an absolute proof. Then you say there is absolutely no common ground. There has to be some common ground in order for us to communicate profitably. There must be some agreement. Where would we begin with the unbeliever if there was no common ground. Wouldnít it then be simply our dogmatic stand, versus their dogmatic stand? Yes, this is ultimately what it comes down to and there nothing wrong with that. Many people understand presuppositionalism to offer an external criticism, that is, an argument from within its own system. But this is not a valid way to dismiss presuppositionalism. If we base the truth of Godís word on arguments directly from Godís word, we are engaged in circular reasoning. Is this a valid criticism of presuppositionalism? No, not anymore than it is of other systems which must necessarily defend themselves in terms of some ultimate standard. When it comes to ultimate authority there is no way to escape circular reasoning. So we ultimately defend out system by saying all alternative systems of thinking are impossible (i.e., irrational, inconsistent, unlivable).

How do you know the truth of any claim? You can go on giving reasons. But finally you must say something like ďI believe God gave us reliable sense-perception and that God gave the ability to count meaningfully.Ē So the unbeliever may say you believe in an ultimate authority and you believe in circular reasoning based on the revelation of God, the bible.

However, all final authorities are self-attesting. They must appeal to themselves to justify the self-attesting authority. We all must appeal to a final authority which has these properties. So we do not use direct appeals to defend Christianity (i.e., traditional apologetic arguments). Rather than appealing to common ground, we will appeal the preconditions of human experience. The precondition for human experience, math, science, etc. is the Christian worldview. It is based on the self-attesting law-Word of God which defines the nature of God and His care and control over the world and men.

Proverbs 26:5,6 This is the strategy to deal with the situation of unbelief and folly. The writer gives us a method of dealing with the unbeliever. As a strategy, we are not to accept the unbelieverís foolish presuppositions as a basis for discussion, yet we are for argumentís sake to expose the folly of their system of thought.

Answer according to his folly: first understand the worldview of the unbeliever. In practical apologetics, you must ask questions which will reveal the unbelievers worldview, then use that to demonstrate the arbitrariness and inconsistency of their worldview. Ultimately, you show their inability to explain human existence. For example, Joseph Smith claims to be a prophet of God and his writings are in part the basis of the Mormon Church. To answer the Mormon one might claim for the sake of Argument, ďWell, I am a prophet of God and God has told me that Joseph Smith was a false prophet.Ē You have demonstrated the arbitrariness of the Mormonís position. If you hold philosophical system which espouses a contradiction you can then espouse everything; that system has rejected logic and embraced irrationality.

Empiricists say all knowledge comes through the medium of sense experience. Only things which are empirically verifiable are true. One problem raised against empiricism is that we do not have all knowledge or experience, so we donít know whether there may be a type of experience or knowledge which is yet to be discovered. At best empiricists can say all current knowledge is from sense experience.

Can we ever test a theory such as empiricism as true, or could we ever sense a theory such as empiricism? If all knowledge is from sense experience, do you know about empiricism through sense experience? See how this theory of knowledge destroys itself? All worldviews in opposition to Christianity are self-defeating.

Look within unbelieving worldviews for the inability to account for human experience: science, math, logic, morality. They cannot account for science. Science presupposes the basic reliability of sense experience, the uniformity of nature, that our thoughts and the world are in correspondence, that there are consistent laws, that inductive principles are valid. So ask, why use inductive logic? The unbeliever may answer that nature is uniform, implying they are allowed to use induction because they know nature is uniform. He is saying I have observed the past, past futures, and the present therefore we expect the future will be the same. There is a problem with this line of argumentation. How is the unbelieverís use of induction justified? By arguing that the past is the same as the present. Thus he is using induction to prove induction.

Now that weíve shown the folly of empiricism, we are obligated to show the true alternative. We must prove that on the basis of Godís word these things are true. The unbeliever will say, youíre appealing to the Bible, we donít accept the Bible. But he cannot account for experience so he has no basis upon which to criticize us. We canít give proof the unbeliever will accept, but we must offer biblical persuasions. We have shown that the Christian worldview provides the necessary preconditions for human experience. Van Til says the truth of Christianity is grounded in the impossibility is the contrary. This in nuclear strength apologetics. We show with certainty that the Christian faith is true. The only reason an unbeliever can reason is by accepting the principles which are unique to Christianity.

Q&A: Note: Kyper said apologetics was unnecessary; Warfield said apologetics is necessary but he based it on reason.

TANG (transcendental argument for the non-existence of God) proposed by famous atheist Michael Martin

Supposedly a transcendental argument which proves the opposite of Christianity. Michael Martin says the precondition of science is that there is a consistent law order. But Christianity says that God gets involved in the creation changing the laws (miracles). He says rational discussion depends on consistent laws of reasoning. But God might change the laws of logic. He says human dignity depends on a consistent law-standard. But God could change his rules of morality. Therefore, to account for human experience, the Christian God must not exist. Answer: Mr. Martin should go to Sunday school and learn about the nature of God: his righteousness, his miracles, his providence. Godís nature is unchanging and his laws of morality do not change anymore than his character changes. The Christian view of miracles is not that God would do a random miracle in the mist of a scientific experiment. He does have super works of providence. God normally works based on the ordinary laws of the world. Miracles always have a reason in the redemptive plan. They prove to Godís people that they are his appointed instruments for service.

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