Presuppositionalism Podcast

I'm still working on that entry for the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, but in the meantime I thought I'd give a shout out for a new podcast that just started up recently. The episode I'm linking to is a solid introduction to presuppositionalism: "What is Presuppositional Apologetics?". I generally fall into a classical scheme of apologetics, and my ilk tends to find presuppositionalism philosophically challenged. Glenn Peoples, on the other hand, has good philosophical instincts and this serves him well as he corrects the misapplications of presuppers like Van Til and Bahnsen.

Even though I disagree with Glenn on some issues, his presentation of apologetics will challenge anyone honest enough to take time and analyse the issues of the podcast. I will ask you all to kindly download the episode rather than just stream it off his website as it can suck up valuable bandwith.


  1. Presuppositionalism, at its best, is an exercise in pseudo-intellectualism. Why do you people take this nonsense seriously?

  2. Radical,

    Do you have a precise objection?

  3. There's no argument; or, if there is one, it is fallacious. Can you show how any brand of presuppositionalism demonstrates the claim that Christian theism is true?

    Hence my challenge is twofold. First, show that there IS an argument purporting to prove the truth of Christian theism. Second, show that the argument - if it exists - is sound and rationally compelling.

  4. Yes he does, Josh, the objection is that it is to difficult for radical to think that hard, therefore it must surely be pseudo-intellectualism. If radical can't understand it, it must be bad.

  5. I listened to the podcast...honestly, I have mixed thoughts on it.

    Obviously Glenn understands presuppositionalism...but his critique had at least 6 glaring problems:

    1)The first several minutes were really pointless. I understand that there is a cult-like following within different schools within presupp...but what does a cult-like following says about the validity of the arguments? Further, whether Van Til considered himself a philosopher or not doesn't negate the method.

    2)Glenn seems to think TAG merely proves a god, but not necessarily the Christian God...TAG is employed *differently* for different arguments...perhaps I use TAG to demonstrate objective moral norms...that isn't the same argument of TAG for the authority of Scripture...TAG is a method that plays out *differently* for whatever it is you're trying to argue for.

    3)Further, presupp uses internal critiquing to dismantle competing worldviews...which is interrelated with TAG. This will necessarily cause us to bring contradictions within competing worldviews to light and will necessarily get into us into discussing necessary preconditions...Glenn mentioned the One and the many...and that would have been good to delve into since that is incredibly important to Van Tillian presuppositionalism when it argues for the *Christian* God.

    4) Glenn criticizes Van Tillianism because it *seems* complex, but that is primarily because Van Til saw that all of our beliefs are interrelated...and most people seem to think their beliefs arise in a vaccuum without affecting their worldview...It also seems complex because individuals take their beliefs forgranted so much that they never consider what must be true in order for their beliefs about the world to even be true...so his criticism that presupp is "complex" is mere opinion.

    5)Not only was the first several minutes ad hom with no substance to attacking the actual Van Tillian/Bahnsenian approach, it was disingenous. Why?

    That podcast was a prep course for episode 12 where Glenn plans on pointing everyone to *his favorite presupper*! That strikes me as being a little deceptive, though not necessarily on purpose.

    6) Lastly, one of his biggest blunders was when he argued that Van Tillianism doesn't really start with God...it starts with our assumptions about reality...he is grossly missing that the *logical foundation* being proven isn't that the world is the way we think it is, rather, the *foundation* is such and such way, therefore reality can be trusted to be the way we assume it to be.

    Whether we consciously start with God or not, logically: presuppositionalism demonstrates right thinking must start with God.

  6. Vigil wrote:

    Maybe if I repost my response in caps, then what I ACTUALLY said will stick in your brain this time. Yes, I think I'll try that.


    Try (if it's within your abilities) representing my objections accurately. Can you?

  7. Radical:

    Glenn's major point was to show that presupism does not prove christianity per se, but rather theism. Of course there is an argument; whether or not said argument is persuasive is another story. From what I take TAG to be...

    1. Certain facts about the world are unlikely given naturalism (rationality, induction, uniformity etc...)
    2) Theism offers a more plausible account of those facts.
    3) Whatever position better explains a set of facts is more likely to be true.
    .: Theism is more likely to be true than naturalism.


    I thank you for your concerns. I will do my best to offer a charitable answer to them without stepping on Glenn's toes or speculating what his answer might be.

    1) The beginning of the show serves as an historical and informational exploration of the different methods of apologetics. Most people are familiar with classical apologetics and unfamiliar with presupism. For these people to jump into a study of presupism is generally an entrance into the weird. I think it was a perfectly good, if not a tad polemical, warning to this group of people before they look into presupism. In other words, it was not designed to be look into the truth claims of presuppers but into the methods and mannerisms of presuppers.

    2) There is no good TAG argument that involves scripture.

    3) Fair enough.

    4) I think Glenn was spot on here. Most Van Tillians do not grasp what they are saying, and have little or nor background in philosophy.

    5) I don't know what was disingenuous about it, but I suspect that we are just going to disagree about this one. Glenn wanted to explain why most people have not heard of presupism, and the odd tendencies of Bahnsenites it a very good candidate.

    6) I am not Van Til scholar, so I won't comment about this one.

  8. Josh,

    1) Incorporating ad hom as part of an introduction to presupp is not particularly scholarly...it's just back handed.

    2) I disagree.

    3) Thanks ;)

    4) I could say the same thing about evidentialists...and be *more* accurate in saying that. Atheists and most Christians are evidentialists...and most have never studied philosophy.

    Presuppers tend to have a better grasp of competing worldviews...are we all well studied in philosophy? No. But that doesn't mean the method is wrong or suspect unless we can start with unwarranted appeals to authority.

    5) It was disingenuous because he intro'd the show talking about how cult like presuppers are...and how personality driven these schools of thought are...only to prep us to follow his favorite.

    Perhaps I'm the only one connecting the dots here...

    6) I'm no expert either...which is unfortunate how easily I spotted these errors. I decided it was worthwhile to write a blog post on, so I did.

    Thanks for linking the pod cast. I did enjoy it.

  9. Evidentialism is fine, except that the other side is not going to recognize your evidence.

    On the other hand, if the personal God of Christianity is not present, then you are challenged to show how you have any basis at all for any form of objective reasoning.

    Even Darwin worried that if our minds were simply the products of mindless forces and descended from lower life forms then we could not trust them.

    He had reason to worry.

    That said, it puzzles me how the anti presuppostionalists can simply presuppose that their own reasoning porcesses are reliable in the long run.

  10. I respond to each of AntiPelagian's objections over at his blog - where he lists 5, not 6, objections. But very briefly, I have this to say about the 6 objections:

    1) I did not say the cult-like mentality negated the presup method. I LISTED that mentality as a reason why the presup method isn't as popular, and doesn't get the same coverage. Likewise, I never alleged that Van Til's not being a philosopher shows the method to be bad. Thus, you misrepresent me here.

    2) Obviously I see that TAG plays out differently in different arguments. In fact, I provided more than one application of TAG in the very episode in question (e.g. induction and morality). Thus, you misrepresent me here as well.

    3) You say that presup. uses internal critiquing to attack other worldviews. This is not a criticism of my episode, since I accept this already. But this is still a "one-at-a-time" approach to worldviews. Van Til thought he had shown that only Christianity could account for.... (various things here) without having to address each worldview one at a time. It seems that you are conceding that in fact the job needs to be a "one-at-a-time" job after all.

    4) You complain that I critique presup because it seems complex. This is false. I do no such thing. What I do is say that presup is less popular and gets less coverage because to many, it seems complex. That's a very different claim. So again, you misrepresent me.

    5) You falsely allege (without support) that I engage in ad hom attacks against presuppositionalism. You then say that I am being disingenuous, because I am going to - in episode 12 - promote my favourite presupper.

    How is that disingenuous? Do you think it's wrong to say that some group has a cult like tendency, and yet to also admire a particular philosopher? Or do you think just any admiration is cult-like? If so, I just disagree. Listen to the next episode, and hopefully you'll see that I give good reasons for preferring Plantinga to Van Til.

    I certainly didn't complain THAT presuppositionalists have favourite thinkers.

    6) Lastly, I think your exhibit some confusion about my comments about whether or not Van Til really starts with God in a way that other apologists do not. Yous ayu that Van Til argues that because the foundation is Christian theism, we can safely make judgements about the way the world is, etc.

    In practice, I stand by what I said. Van Til actually starts with the way the world is. He appeals to what the unbeliever takes to be facts and laws etc, and argues that only a Christian foundation can account for those facts. That is is the case is obvious to anyone who understands Van Til's apologetic. Bahnsen was no different. He is explicit in his claim that unbelievers do appeal to logic, science and morality, showing that "in their heart of hearts, they aren't atheists." The Bahnsen/Stein debate is a classic example. So he starts with what they believe, and reasons backwards to theism. And this is just what Bill Craig does with the moral argument.

    So while I appreciate you listening to the episode and wanting to comment on it, I think your criticism tend to either misrepresent my comments, or else they just don't seem to be all that persuasive. Doubtless we will disagree on this.

  11. Glenn,

    Sorry I wasn't able to respond sooner...I was out of town for my brother's wedding...

    I would love to relisten to your podcast to see if I was way off base...unfortunately, I doubt I will actually do that.

    If I was unfair, I apologize.

    Point #1 did demonstrate a glaring problem with your podcast...although, I could be wrong...poisoning the well may, in fact, be valid.

    Point #2 I think a better read presupper would argue for the Christian God by employing TAG in regards to God's revelation: the Bible...that would be pretty specific.

    Point #3 You could be right...but I don't have time to spend an hour trying to find that portion of the podcast...I think I listened to your audio fairly, so I don't believe I was wrong here.

    Point #4 (also related to point #1) You were being disingenuous.

    Since I actually don't accept well poisoning, I do believe, by your own standard, you are a fist-biting follower of personality...do I think this is so? Not necessarily...I'm just saying, if a fan of Van Til meets the measure of cult status, so do you.

    Taking the time to carefully construct a podcast with ad hom passed off as disseminating neutral information, then painting with broad strokes a well thought out apologetic with a long and scholastic background...only to criticize it for being "too general" and then glossing over specifics...all to prep us for episode 12...which will be dedicated to ONE argument (& not an entire system) to move us to look upon Plantinga more favorably...well, some reasonable fellows may conclude you at list quack like a duck.

    Of course, this is all coming from a man who didn't listen carefully to your podcast and I'm simply over-reacting.

    Point #5 My emphasis was on the *logical* foundation (i.e. preconditions for intelligibility) when it comes to the task of apologetics.

    Theologically, a Van Tilian starts with God's Word...in conversation or argument with unbelievers, we will use what the unbeliever says as a spring board to lead them to God's Word. Even when unbelievers are correct about the world, we tell them we know they are right based on God's Word...and their knowledge condemns them.

    In both cases (theological/apologetical), the *logical* foundation begins with God and His Word.

    So on the whole, I think you reacted much too quickly and without reflecting on the claims you're responding to. You might want to listen to it again.

    Thanks, but I think I listened to it quite carefully...I do plan on listening to episode 12. I haven't read anything by Plantinga and would like to know more.

  12. AntiPelagian, then it seems we're at an impasse. You continue to just assert that I engaged in ad hominem attacks and well poisoning. I nopte that there's no reason to accept this accusation.

    There is nothing at all wrong with making unfavorable observations. Nor did I use those observations as reasons for thinking that the presuppositional method is wrong. Hence, I did not make use of the ad hominem fallacy, and you can't just appeal to that claim. I explained this already, yet you just appealed to it again, without any support for the claim. That's a little disappointing.

    Moreover, you continue to just assert that the issue about the "cult" comment is merely being a fan of an author. Since that's not the issue, I can ignore that.

  13. Glenn said:
    AntiPelagian, then it seems we're at an impasse.

    I agree...I'm sorry my comments have left you with a sense of disappointment.

    It has been over a week since I listened to your podcast...if I really wanted to have a belaboured conversation on this, I'd go listen to it again...but honestly...I don't. I simply wanted to draw people's attention to the podcast (not bad for you!) and also note observations I had that put your commentary in perspective.

    I believe I listened fairly, and my assessment equally so. If I have not, those who happen to link to your podcast from my site or AiD will know within a short time span that my blog post "leaves more to be desired".