An Open Question to Presuppositionalists

By Spencer Toy

I’ve recently been listening to a number of the Reformed critiques of Andy Stanley and the defense of him that Frank Turek posted here at Cross Examined. While I believe that some of these criticisms have merit, I believe there is a major problem with the Presuppositional Apologetic method and would like to pose that problem to all those who would consider themselves to be Presuppositionalists.


Before I begin, let me state clearly that while I am not a Calvinist or a Presuppositionalist it is my honest desire to know the truth as God has revealed it in Scripture and follow the evidence wherever it leads. I know I am not always right and will respond to correction if I can be shown to be in error. I also do not want to misrepresent the views of Calvinists/Presuppositionalists in any way. I encourage anyone who disagrees with me to express their disagreement.

That being said, It is my understanding that according to the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile. Unless and until the Holy Spirit regenerates the reprobate mind, a person will continue to suppress the truth regardless of how well it is articulated or argued for.

In addition, the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty entails that God causally ordains all things that come to pass. There is no sense in which God merely “permits” things to occur. Everything that comes to pass, to include the unbelief of the reprobate, comes to pass because in so happening God will bring the most glory to Himself.

Here in lies a problem I don’t believe the Presuppositionalist will be able to get out of. Obviously, I understand that the Calvinist believes that God ordains means as well as ends. He has not revealed the content of His Divine Decree to us and therefore we are only accountable to what He has revealed in Scripture (i.e. preaching the Gospel to everyone since we are commanded to and we do not know the identities of the elect). Still, while an understanding of this may lead to a Calvinist carefully weighing the decisions he makes in the future, he still must acknowledge that all events in the past have occurred the way they did due to the Sovereign Decree of God.

This being said, I would like you to consider someone like Dr. Frank Turek who is not a Calvinist and uses the Classical Apologetics method. Based on the admission of Reformed theologians themselves, it seems to me that a Calvinist has to believe that ultimately the reason that Dr. Turek is in error regarding God’s Sovereignty and the proper apologetic method is because God has not granted it to him to understand these things. Just as the reprobate man’s fallen reason can never lead him to God, neither can Dr. Turek’s reason lead him to the truth of Reformed theology unless and until the Holy Spirit grants it to him to understand it. If Dr. Turek persists in his error, he does so only because God has sovereignly determined before the foundation of the world that he would be in error, for through Dr. Turek’s theological errors God will bring the most glory to Himself. 

To illustrate this, consider this quote that Dr. James White made on his program The Dividing Line (September 8th, 2016). Speaking to fellow Calvinists with regards to addressing those who do not embrace Calvinism/Presuppositional Apologetics, White said, “You don’t know what their level of knowledge is, and you don’t know what God’s purpose is having not yet given to them an understanding of His Sovereignty. It’s up to God.”

Now once again, I’m sure that Calvinists will quickly respond, “But we don’t know the content of God’s Sovereign Decree! It is our responsibility to preach the truth through a proper exegesis of Scripture in hopes that God will use it as a means by which He will reveal the truth to Dr. Turek and others who do not embrace the truth of Reformed theology and Presuppositional Apologetics!”

Yes and I believe I understand that response, but I’d like to illustrate the problems of this response with a hypothetical dialogue between a Classical Apologist (CA) and a Presuppostional Apologist (PA). I understand that not every Presuppositional Apologist will give answers exactly like the ones I list here, but I have based all the hypothetical answers on statements made by Presuppositionalists in defense of their theology and methodology.

CA: “How do you know that the conclusions you’ve drawn about Reformed theology and Presuppositional Apologetics are correct?”

PA: “Because a proper exegesis of Scripture inevitably leads one to accept Reformed theology and its implications. I am prepared to demonstrate this directly from the pages of God’s Word.”

CA: “But I’m using the exact same Scriptures as you are and I don’t draw the same conclusions as you. How do you know that your exegesis of Scripture is correct?”

PA: “Like I said, I can demonstrate it. When you read the passages of Scripture in context with the proper historical and grammatical understanding, you’ll see that Reformed theology necessarily follows.”

CA: “In other words, you can REASON from the text. The words of Scripture clearly do not interpret themselves. If that were the case we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You and I disagree about what the implications of Scripture are and therefore you have to attempt to demonstrate that your view is true by engaging in reasoning. Didn’t you say that our reasoning capabilities are fallen and that we should never place human reasoning above God’s Divine Revelation?”

PA: “Of course our human reasoning is fallen. That’s why the Holy Spirit has to reveal the truth to us. I can know that my exegesis is correct because I begin epistemologically with God. Having put my faith in God thanks to the Holy Spirit’s regeneration, I can be confident that God has revealed the truth to me.”

CA: “But tell me this. Hypothetically speaking let’s say that God wanted you to be in error about some aspect of theology. He still elected to save you, but He knew that if you believed and taught this theological error to others, somehow in the grand scheme of His Divine Decree He would bring the most glory to Himself. Would it be possible for you to reach the truth assuming that God had decreed for you to remain in error?”

PA: “Well no. God’s Divine Decree cannot be resisted. Everything that happens in the universe ultimately occurs according to God’s decree in order that He might glorify Himself.”

CA: “But if that’s the case how could you ever confidently know that anything you believe is true? I suspect you’ll say because God has revealed it to you, but that would just be arguing in a circle. You just admitted that if God wants someone to be in error then they will certainly be in error, including me and including you! How can you know that what God has revealed to you isn’t an error so that He can bring more glory to Himself by your being incorrect?”

I have asked this question to Calvinists before and never received an answer with any more substance than, “You just don’t understand Calvinism!” or “It’s more diamond shaped than that!”

This I think truly exposes the fatal flaw of the Calvinist’s embrace of Divine determinism. As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.

I know that there is more to be discussed, but I don’t believe it is helpful at this point to simply appeal to the Scriptures that a Calvinist would use to defend their view of Divine determinism. Doing so would presume that you are engaging in proper exegesis, which can’t be the case if you are relying on fallen reasoning capabilities and can’t be rationally affirmed if you are relying on God to have revealed the truth to you. Simply put, it is impossible to begin epistemologically outside oneself. Unless we assume that our reasoning capabilities are generally reliable, arguments about any topic can’t go anywhere.

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62 replies
  1. Raymond O'Flaherty says:

    Wow well stated and thought out !! My only thought is 2 compatable side by side truths yet we are unable to reconcile how they can both be true. God has ordained. We are responsible …
    I know that doesn’t address your question but I loved your reasoned thinking !

    • Look up She brugencatte says:

      I think the argument made above turns out to be a bad answer to when someone asks a Christian to play the hypothetical over that God made them errorant in their ‘Christian knowledge’ things known from God.. I am a Christian but don’t really know where I am at.. (Closer to Calvinism but need to research more.) But as a Christian I believe we have revelation from God to know things for certain. We know things such as Romans 1:18 etc. For us to contemplate that the Bible is wrong (hypothetically even) would be putting a new idea into play. That idea being that proverbs 1:7 is wrong. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. We would then have a world view where we would have to account for knowledge without God which we know to be impossible. Now on to Calvinism, for them to hypothetically think (that their idea of God being Sovereign over all things is errorant) is to refute the very idea of their position. ‘Some aspect of theology’ that is considered by someone to be from God as their ultimate authority cannot be hypothetically discounted without the reprocution that one succeed the idea that such an opposing view has merits to justify its existence or that it’s plausible to be the case.
      … So these are some things to consider
      Tell me that words exist while hypothetically assuming that you can’t speak.
      This is similar to saying tell me why your position is valid while hypothetically what you know for certain is actually not real/true. Or your telling someone to assume they are WRONG about that to which they claim to KNOW. Someone should not do this if they want to retain knowledge.
      How do I know that I am not a brain in a vat. Because proverbs. 1:7. Knowledge cannot be known if it is not true. Knowledge is: justified true believe. If I were a brain in a vat.. Which I could not be because such ideas contradict the understanding of God but also ‘knowledge’ to my point. Which He is known by me from revelation by Him. His Word, Holy Spirit, the impossibility of the contrary. So all I know would not be known if I were a brain in a vat. I chose not to consider this as possible. ‘My choice’ being that my argument will not assume the hypothetical. If someone said how do you know your not a brain in a vat. I would tell them its impossible that I am a brain in a vat. My proof would be transcendental as hinted to. (Impossibility of the contrary.) I fear God more than the idea that nothing can be known (which is impossible) (ex.. Do/can you know that nothing can be known?. It’s Self contradictory) . Don’t try to consider that last sentence lol.. Basically it is Jesus Christ or absurdity. The worldview where one says nothing is known is the one where the person cannot claim even that.. This worldview doesn’t exist even. No one can say they could be a brain in a vat. I would ask how do they know that. They can’t. They can’t speak because they don’t know what words are if they could be wrong about them existing.

  2. Burt T says:

    This argument cuts both ways if accepted. If presup is false because of uncertainty, is man’s REASON apart from illumination by the Holy Spirit (to quote you with the caps lock) a more certain basis? Is man’s REASON alone truly so certain? Are you sure you want to lay your argument on the certainty altar *and* in rejection of the illumination of the Spirit?

  3. Cody says:

    Really? The character of God would not lead anyone into error. He is truth. He is light. So, to ask the question about “what if God wanted you to be in error” is a strawman question that is pointless because it would never happen.

    • Spencer Toy says:

      I agree! That’s why I reject that God has causally determined all things in the Calvinistic sense. My question is how do you solve this problem if it is indeed your view that God has determined the inability of some to know the truth such that He might glorify Himself?

    • Andy Ryan says:

      “The character of God would not lead anyone into error. He is truth. He is light.”

      But that’s what you’d think if God had led you into error. You have to beg the question to say it would never happen.

    • barry says:

      God is doing nothing more but causing the most rabid psychotic delusions as he promises in Deuteronomy 28:15-63. Apparently, the character of God does not justify your conclusion that he wouldn’t lead anyone into error.

      Ezekiel says God gave the ancient Israelites statutes that were not good. Ezekiel 20:25.

      If God is the inspiration behind 2nd Kings 3:27, then apparently the biblical author himself, not just the story characters, wished to convey that the wrath of the Moabite god was real, and successfully resisted an Israelite army who had been divinely promised previously in the context that they would win that war.

  4. Kevin Browne says:

    I think you’re negating a very important distinction regarding the different types of “wills” of God. For example, God’s prescribed will is that man shall not murder and that man should listen to his Christ, yet as we see from Acts 4:27-28, you have several parties coming together to violate God’s prescribed will, which was “predestined ” according to God’s secret decreed will.
    This is just one of many examples but this particular scripture is explicit.

    God prescribed for his saints to grow in wisdom and understanding of the truth of his word and to do so with the help of the Holy Spirit, yet there isn’t a problem in saying that according to God’s secret decree he has predestined his saints, in varying degrees, to be in the dark and to be resistant to some aspects of his truth. Ultimately He will be glorified when we all come into the full knowledge of Him at the consummation of the age.

  5. Vincent Lancon says:

    Does the possibility of being wrong imply one can never be right? However CA answers he presupposes he can know. It simply is a good response to say hermeneutics. It really is very rarely when we have said ” I don’t know the answer. It has 3 possibilities of meaning.” . To use the rare cases to undermine the normative is quite odd. It would be like judging a theory by its anomalies. It almost seems like it is condemning the PA for using reason in his interpretation. But it really doesn’t deal with the problem of the metaphysics or preconditions for such things like logic or cognitive faculties to be the case. It simply is saying ” I can have a different interpretation than you!” . That is true, but it admits that we both have an objective standard to Judge our views. Or would the classic apologist deny the objectivity of God’s word?

  6. Shane says:

    The problem lies in your premise. Man cannot respond to God because his will and effections are contaminated by sin. It is the inability of mans heart not the inability of his reason that keeps man from choosing Christ. Though mans ability to reason is damaged by original sin the scriptures do not site mans intellect as needing regeneration but his heart. The heart speaks to mans volitional will. The miracle of rebirth is not God changing mans ability to reason his way to God. The miracle of the rebirth is taking a rebellious sin loving, God hating man and creating in that man a heart that now beats for God. It is mans will, not his ability to reason that is radically altered. If God could be found by reason then the power of The gospel is moot. 1Cor.1 clearly destroys any idea that intellect plays any part in regeneration. with all do respect it seems you have been misinformed on the reformed view of regeneration.

    • Brian says:

      If I understand you correctly it is our emotions and will (i.e. heart) that are damaged by sin and not our mind (reason)?

      The questions that come to my mind is “From where do emotions and will spring, if not the mind?”

      So for me the whole heart – reason dichotomy seems false.

      Lastly, if reason plays no part in salvation/regeneration, then why the Proverbs which are full of reasoning? Why did Paul reason with the gentiles? It appears from a plain reading of scripture that it was effective in that “a few of the men became followers”. And the intention of the Apostle John in writing his Gospel was pointless, given that John himself reveals his purpose in writing his biography – to provide evidence “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing you may have eternal life in his name.”

  7. Andy Ryan says:

    I’ve seen quite a few debates with Sye Ten Bruggencate, the presuppositionist. Once you’ve seen one debate with him you’ve seen them all. His technique is to reply “How do you know that” to every point the other person makes, even if the other person has said something he agrees with. When people as his how HE knows all the things he claims to know about God and Scripture, he says that God has allowed him to know and made him sure. After all, he says, if God is all omnipotent, he obviously will have the power to give people certainty.

    The problem with this argument is that it ignores false positives. It is possible to be certain about something and wrong. Why would God making you certain about the truth feel any different to you being mistakenly certain about a lie? Sye would reply, “Well God has the power to make me know the difference”, but that just begs the question. Perhaps begging the question is central part of presuppositionism – it’s virtually part of the name. But that doesn’t stop it being a circular argument.

    Of course, Sye would also probably just reply “How do you know that?” to all the above.

    • Tim Barrett says:

      Again, it comes down to God’s revelation. Sye is not saying God makes him sincere, but that God makes him know the truth. And it escapes being circular by realizing that the argument is not from within, but without, for we do not end our argument with God’s truth, but start with it.

      • Andy Ryan says:

        “Sye is not saying God makes him sincere, but that God makes him know the truth”

        That doesn’t disagree with anything I said. I didn’t say ‘Sye thinks God makes him sincere’. I said: “he says that God has allowed him to know and made him sure”

        So you’re not disagreeing with me there.

        One can be mistaken about knowing the truth. “Knowing the truth’ and ‘thinking you know the truth’ don’t feel any different. Sye can say he THINKS he knows the truth, but, as I pointed out already, he can’t rule out a false positive.

        “we do not end our argument with God’s truth, but start with it”

        Sounds circular to me. That’s what a bad argument looks like – starting with the conclusion. And Sye’s evidence for that truth is the truth itself. He knows it’s true that God can make him know because he knows it. And he knows it because God makes him know. etc.

        • Jeff D says:

          Mormon missionaries are a great example of this. The claim I heard from one young man is that as he learned the story of Joseph Smith’s “vision” of God the Father and Jesus the Son in the “sacred grove”, the Spirit bore witness to his soul that it was true. He seemed pretty certain of this and believed that certainty came from the Holy Spirit. In his view, “God has allowed him to know and made him sure.” Is this a false positive or is the missionary right? How do we know? If the answer is we look at history and Scripture, we are using our intellect and reason to discern which is true and ignoring the claim that certainty is given by the Spirit, at least in so far as it applies to our own certainty.

    • KR says:

      Another favourite question Sye tends to use is: “could you be wrong about everything you know?”. It may seem reasonable to answer yes, at which point Sye will promptly declare that you’ve disqualified yourself from making any kind of truth statement and that he can safely disregard anything you have to say. It’s a childish “gotcha” but it tends to stump people, which is of course the whole point. Even the presuppositionalists themselves admit that this is more about shutting people up than convincing them.

      If you spend a little time studying this argument, however, its self-defeating nature quickly becomes apparent. If we can be wrong about everything we know, then this knowledge could of course itself be wrong, i.e. it could be wrong to think everything we know could be wrong etc, etc. It all dissolves into circular nonsense.

      There are other ways to demonstrate the fallacious nature of this argument. There are things we can’t be wrong about which are true by definition, like a triangle having three sides or a batchelor being un-married.

      If there’s one redeeming quality of this argument, it’s that it raises the issue of epistemology: how do we know that what we think we know is true? What Sye (along with many other apologists) seems to be overlooking is the possibility of empirical verification. If we can trust our senses, then we are able to justify our beliefs by direct observation. Of course, the assumption of the reliability of our senses can be challenged but if our senses can’t be trusted, this would seem to be just as much of a problem for the presuppositionalist as for the empiricist.

      Without any reliable sensory input, we would have no way of knowing or understanding anything about the world. The assumption that we can at least mostly trust our senses seems not only reasonable but absolutely necessary for acquiring any knowledge at all. In light of this, my answer to Sye’s question would be: no, I could not be wrong about everything I know – as long as this knowledge can be empirically verified.

        • KR says:

          Well, science obviously exists. What do you think the working principle of science is, if it’s not empirical verification? How do you think scientific hypotheses are tested? By guessing? How did we manage to come up with the technology used in the computers we’re using for this conversation – by sheer luck?

    • TGM says:

      “There are other ways to demonstrate the fallacious nature of this argument. There are things we can’t be wrong about which are true by definition, like a triangle having three sides or a batchelor being un-married.”

      I suspect the Presup would still ask “how do you know” to the above, exposing a deeper problem of the foundations of epistemology. It seems unlikely that we can ever escape the problem of solipsism and that we need to accept the most basic, unverifiable assumptions about reality – that I exist, that something not-I exists, that we can investigate and predict things about the not-I.

      The Presup might counter this by saying that God is really the first assumption – everything follows from that, putting us right back at the start of the conversation. Alas. But for my part, I don’t think the god assumption to be necessary or useful. So that’s where I plant my flag. Does it make sense to argue about foundational assumptions? Is it even possible to do so, since by definition you cannot appeal to a deeper assumption? I hate epistemology.

      Strangely, I wonder if Toy’s CA v. PA dialogue above might be more effective at countering the PA, at some cost to the non-believer.

      • Shane H. says:

        Toy claims to encourage robust and opposing discussion, I trust this post will make it to the board..

        “I don’t think the god assumption to be necessary or useful.” By appealing to another assumption you make that assumption a higher authority. God’s Word is true and it claims to be the highest authority so where else should we start? Made as rationale creatures we are assumed to carry a base level of intellectual capacity yet that capacity regardless of human measure is not ultimate. Reason although certainly helpful is not the ultimate authority. Logic although necessary is not ultimate. To start anywhere else is to 1st, ignore God’s claim of ultimate authority 2nd, neglect the means by which God saves; the proclamation of the gospel. So we see, epistimology is helpful in our defense yet not ultimate. Scripture claims authority over reason. When reason runs it’s course – vicarious substitution, trinity, election – we bow our reason to the ultimate authority – God’s word. Evidence, helpful .. Reason, supportive yet the prepositionalist understands the ultimate end must find itself in the sturdy proclamation of the gospel for this is where the power of God unto salvation lies. It is not mans reason that needs regeneration it is his heart which in it’s corruption points to his own reason to determine the truth.

        1 Corinthians 1:26 “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,”

        This is man’s oldest sin going back to the garden when Eve for the first time in history determined she would be the arbitrator of truth. God would be put on trial as she would use the reason God gave her to make volitional and rationale decisions; to determine the truthfulness of God’s word. Let us not follow her path.

        • Spencer Toy says:

          Thank you so much for acknowledging my desire for genuine dialogue and I’m glad you and others have chosen to comment.

          I happen to agree with you that God’s Word is the ultimate authority. However, it’s worth nothing that the Bible isn’t the only document that claims to be the Word of God. I see no reason why a Muslim could not simply state that the Qur’an is the ultimate authority and our reason must bow to it. In order for a conversation with such a person to go forward, we’d have to be able to answer the question of how we know that the Bible or the Qur’an is indeed what it claims to be.

          I believe that because God has given us sound reasoning capacities any person can reason to the truth. Romans 1:18-20 says that God has made it evident and that men are without excuse.

          However, if it is indeed true that one must presuppose the truth of scripture, then any such conversation with an unbeliever will reach a standstill. You either accept the Bible as the Word of God or you don’t and there can’t be any further discussion apart from the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

          • Shane H. says:

            Thank you for responding, my hope always in this type of dialog is to be mutually edified that we may accurately represent our Lord for His glory.

            While it is true that the Muslim points to his scripture as authoritative and we point to the Bible as such, true believers know that the Bible is true and the Quran is false. We can defend scripture by pointing out historical evidence, textual criticism and reason to support our position that the Bible is inerrant. And these tools are all valid and have their place in apologetics yet we know that the goal is not to convince someone the Bible is true. Man cannot be simply convinced intellectually. The goal of any Biblical apologetic is to apply the means by which God has ordained that a person may go from unbelief to belief; darkness to light; death to life. It’s not about winning an argument with reason. Why? Because convincing someone that their position is flawed isn’t going to save them. The Spirit of God must save that man. We’re not looking for decisions for Christ were looking for God to circumcise man’s heart through the New Birth; and the means by which this circumcision is wrought is in the proclamation of the gospel message.

            Paul says in Romans 1:16 – The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Later Paul says in 10:14 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?..” We’ve read these verses perhaps hundreds of times but have we really connected the dots on what exactly the significance is?

            You made this statement.. “I believe that because God has given us sound reasoning capacities any person can reason to the truth.” any person can reason to the truth? You will have a most difficult time supporting this claim in the scripture. If this were true these verses I mention as well as many others would make no sense. The gospel message carry’s with it the power of regeneration. Without this power man will never believe that the WOG is true. He may agree with scripture or be intellectually pursued but will never accept it in obedience as God’s Word.

            To defend our faith we must proclaim the authoritative and Inerrant word. Why? Because the bible is self-attesting. Since the Bible is self-attesting it cannot be “proved” to be God’s words by appeal to any higher authority. If we make our appeal to human logic or science or history then we assume the thing to be a higher authority than God’s words and is more true or reliable than the Bible itself. This renders the Bible powerless. When someone says to me well I don’t believe the Bible so you must convince me the Bible is true some other way. I tell them to do so would be to say that the Bible has a higher authority than itself. To do so would be to dishonor the very word that is authoritative. Have you ever noticed that when you answer a question from an unbeliever that they cannot refute they simply move on the next. They dodge and weave because they do not believe. They hate God and have no work in their hearts to cause them to believe. They must be born again in order to accept the Bible and come to it in faith.

            Many perhaps on this board will claim that argument is circular. The presuppositionalist does not deny this. The argument is indeed circular yet that does not make the argument invalid. In fact all arguments will always ultimately appeal to a highest authority for proof, otherwise the authority would not be absolute. The presuppositionalist simply uses reason to illustrate the fallacious arguments offered by the unbeliever in order that he may expose error and lead the unbeliever to the truth of the gospel message in hopes that God’s Spirit may lead that man to recognize his sin and cry out for forgiveness. Were not looking for decisions, were looking for opprotunity to call that man to repentance and belief. Any confession short of repentance and belief is a human decision derived from superior rhetoric.

            Let me ask you this.. How is it that man can call themselves a Christ following blood washed Christian and then leave the faith and follow Islam? Because his faith was never sealed by the Spirit. That man was convinced no doubt by a sound argument but as soon as someone comes along with a more convincing argument he’s gone. Winning people to Christ through superior reasoning skills will only prove to produce false professions of faith.

            A proclamation of the gospel is God’s decreed way of administering regeneration. What’s stopping man from coming to Christ is not intellectual, If we learn anything from 1 Cor.1 we learn that. Man is spiritually dead and what gives man spiritual life is solely a work of the Holy Spirit by His ordained means of the foolishness of the gospel message.

          • Spencer Toy says:


            I believe I understand what you are saying but I still don’t see why a Muslim is unable to apply the exact same argument. Consider the following dialogue:

            Muslim: The Qur’an is divine revelation from Allah delivered through the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, without any tampering or involvement of man. It is the ultimate standard of truth.

            Christian: Have you considered that the Qur’an teaches that Jesus of Nazareth was not crucified? This contradicts every historical source, Christian or otherwise, coming out of the first and second centuries. Meanwhile the Qur’an was written nearly 600 years after the events in question. This seems to cast doubt on whether or not the Qur’an is really divine revelation.

            Muslim: Don’t you see? You can’t appeal to history to try and disprove the Qur’an. In doing so what you are saying is that history is a higher authority than the Qur’an itself, which is false.

            It seems to me this conversation is now at an impasse. What could you possibly say to this Muslim given the argument you just made about the Bible? I suppose you could say that you could try to show that the Qur’an is internally inconsistent but this would presume that you understand what a contradiction is and that your so called “human logic” is sufficient for opposing what the Muslim considers to be divine truth.

            Furthermore, I think it is simply false to say that using something other than the Bible to demonstrate the truth of the Bible is making that thing a higher authority than the Bible itself. If Christianity is true,then everything that exists testifies to its truthfulness be it science, history, philosophy or anything else.

            Also, it’s worth pointing out that many Scriptural claims, while true, are not true necessarily. For example if I say, “Jesus can not be both the Son of God and not the Son of God at the same time and in the same sense,” I have just made a necessarily true statement. It is literally impossible for the statement to be false. However, if I say, “Jesus died, was buried and rose again on the third day,” I have made a true statement but not a necessarily true one. There is a possible state of affairs in which the statement is false even though that is not the actual state of affairs.

            Paul even affirms that Christianity is in principle falsifiable when he said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17)

            If I may, suppose that the Bible said 2+2=5? Would you accept this as divine revelation and assert that we cannot exalt the laws of mathematics as a higher authority than Scripture, or would it make you call into question whether or not the Bible is really the Word of God?

      • KR says:

        “I suspect the Presup would still ask “how do you know” to the above, exposing a deeper problem of the foundations of epistemology.”

        I think definitionally true statements don’t need to be justified – per definition. 😉
        Of course I agree that solipsism can’t be disproved but then again it’s a completely nuclear argument. Assuming solipsism, there doesn’t seem to be much to talk about – or, indeed, anyone to talk to.

        “Does it make sense to argue about foundational assumptions? Is it even possible to do so, since by definition you cannot appeal to a deeper assumption? I hate epistemology.”

        The assumptions I’m operating with are that I exist and that I can make objective observations. If I’m not granted that, there seems little point in carrying on any discussion. On the other hand, if I can get agreement on this, I find the discussion about epistemology fascinating – and hugely important. Beliefs which are held without any good reason can do a lot of harm – and may ultimately be the bane of us all. The presup position is obviously that without God to provide knowledge, the atheist has no good reason to believe anything at all. According to the presup, the atheist is trapped in a vicious circle where he’s using his reasoning to validate his reasoning.

        Of course, if I can make objective observations, this argument falls flat. I can know what the temperature is outside by simply looking at a thermometer. This doesn’t require my reasoning, it’s just an observation. Lotteries are also good examples that we can make objective observations that don’t require our reasoning. No-one’s going to give me the winning prize for claiming that “by my reasoning, I have the winning number”. Clearly, the number can be objectively determined – if it couldn’t, lotteries wouldn’t exist.

        There have been a couple of blog posts at this site which have challenged the idea of scientism (described as the claim that science is the only way to knowledge). I think this is largely a straw man argument as I don’t really see anyone making that claim. I would, however, be very interested in seeing examples of knowledge that can be acquired without any empirical input. It seems to me that some kind of verification would be necessary before we can claim to have knowledge and I don’t see any other method of verification than through empirical observation (unless we’re talking pure math).

        Speaking of epistemology, have you followed this whole “street epistemology” thing? It was introduced by Peter Boghossian and picked up by a guy with the imposing name Anthony Magnabosco. He has posted hundreds of “street epistemology” interviews (successful as well as failed ones) on YouTube where he basically uses the Socratic method to challenge believers to question the reasons for their belief. I’m not really a fan of Boghossian but I think he’s dead on with this methodology – it’s a great way of engaging with believers in a non-threatening but thought-provoking way.

        “Strangely, I wonder if Toy’s CA v. PA dialogue above might be more effective at countering the PA, at some cost to the non-believer.”

        Not sure I get this, can you elaborate?

        • John Warren says:

          “Of course, if I can make objective observations, this argument falls flat. I can know what the temperature is outside by simply looking at a thermometer. This doesn’t require my reasoning, it’s just an observation. ”

          Somebody had to tell you that the lines on a thermometer correspond to numbers on a temperature scale. The thermometer didn’t speak for itself. You have to interpret it.

          • KR says:

            If reading a thermometer was a matter of interpretation, this would mean that there could be no standardized method of measuring temperatures. This would come as a bit of an embarrassment to the institutions that provide thermometer calibration services. People who are paying good money to have their thermometers calibrated are clearly being scammed, since there’s no way of knowing that the calibrators are reading the thermometers the same way as their customers. Right?

          • John Warren says:

            KR, not my point. Nature can’t observe nature. The thermometer doesn’t speak for itself. There’s a whole set of assumptions involved before even reading a thermometer. There have to be presuppositions involved as far as what numbers mean, or what tick marks on a stick mean. These presuppositions come from outside the natural system, and cannot be proved. They have to be presupposed. Everyone has presuppositions.

          • KR says:

            I’m afraid your point doesn’t make much sense. If you’re saying that people’s presuppositions will make them read different temperatures on their thermometers, then my point stands: how are we able to calibrate thermometers? Do the calibrators make special notes of their presuppositions on their protocols to inform their customers? How are scientists able to write papers where temperature measurements are being used and how are other scientists able to replicate the results? How are meteorologists able to make weather charts using temperature readings from all over the planet?

          • toby says:

            I’m sorry to tell you Mr. Warren, but we ARE nature. That is, we are a part of nature. Therefore we are nature observing nature. Our ideas about temperature are distinctly tied to nature. Celsius is tied to the freezing and boiling point of water. So we can observe that water boils at 100C (at sea level), but paper doesn’t burn at that temperature. What you’re advocating is that our definitions can’t be valid or even constant. So maybe water doesn’t boil at 100C but paper burns. Or neither happens. You’re arguing that it’s ‘god or chaos’.

        • TGM says:

          “I think definitionally true statements don’t need to be justified – per definition.”

          My intuition wants to agree, except that to define something still requires context. So to say ‘a triangle is 3 sided by definition’ requires us to accept ‘sides’ and ‘3’ as valid constructs. Can we do this meaningfully? And what happens if the Presup asks how we know that our context exists. Are we approaching your nuclear argument by going down this route?

          “scientism (described as the claim that science is the only way to knowledge)”

          I don’t hear this very much either, but the scientific method is, in my opinion, the most effective way to separate fact from fiction. And I’m ok with some accusations of scientism.

          I do think that empiricism might be the only route to knowledge, however. I’m a bit out of my field by saying so, but my understanding is that our brains would not actually work without sensory input. An isolated human brain, absent interaction with the outside world would be incapable of functioning. Thus one could never come to knowledge without sensory input to cultivate the brain.

          ‘have you followed this whole “street epistemology” thing?’

          Oddly enough, I was introduced to this while listening to Greg Koukl’s Stand to Reason podcast recently. I have not taken the time to investigate, but it sounds promising. The Socratic method is probably the most effective way to educate. Not sure why it only has significant traction in law schools. I’ll look for it on YouTube.

          “Not sure I get this, can you elaborate?”

          I was musing that it might be easier for a classical apologist to dissuade a Presup than it would be for a non-believer. The CA starts from common ground and can use scripture against him, much as Toy’s argument illustrates, whereas the Presup simply denies the existence of non-believers and won’t even go beyond ‘how do you know that’. The cost I mentioned is in the credibility gain the CA receives by dissuading the PA. Hope that makes sense.

          • KR says:

            “And what happens if the Presup asks how we know that our context exists. Are we approaching your nuclear argument by going down this route?”

            Pretty much, yeah. If this is the way the epistemological discussion is heading, I agree with your assessment. Not interested.

            “I do think that empiricism might be the only route to knowledge, however.”

            I agree. I certainly haven’t come across any alternative. Considering all the ways our minds can play tricks on us (confirmation bias, wishful thinking, misconceptions, mental problems, hallucinations etc), any “internal evidence” like revelation or some kind of introspection would always need to be confirmed in the world outside our heads which is accessible to other observers.

            “Oddly enough, I was introduced to this while listening to Greg Koukl’s Stand to Reason podcast recently.”

            What did Koukl make of it? I’ve seen a clip where a Christian apologist (Timothy McGrew?) comments on it. He’s really upset, basically describing it as an ambush – which is a very weird description as you’ll find out if you watch Magnabosco’s videos. Hilariously, he accuses Magnabosco of taking advantage of people who lack a functioning “baloney detector”. The implication of believers lacking a baloney detector doesn’t seem to occur to him.

            I can see why he would be upset, though. Magnabosco gauges the impact he’s having by asking the interviwees to indicate how certain they are of their beliefs on a scale from 0-100%. He does this before and after the interview. Typically, the number at the start of the interview will be 100%. Surprisingly often, though, this will decrease significantly towards the end.

            “Hope that makes sense.”

            Totally, thanks. I probably wouldn’t bother engaging with a presup. If there’s an entry for “closed mind” in the encyclopedia, it’s most likely illustrated with a picture of Sye Ten Bruggencate.

          • TGM says:

            A slight correction. I first heard of Peter Boghossian in a WLC podcast. It was a while back, but I’m sure Craig addressed the content with the same disdain and condescension he has for all things atheist.

            But he was also addressed by a caller to Koukl’s show, specifically in regards to a recent presentation with Anthony Magnabosco. Koukl’s reaction was one of honest curiosity, particularly about the motives of these two. But to me, it was another reminder of how far atheism has to go. Koukl, like so many apologists, either does not understand atheism or willfully disregards what he has ever been told about it (eg regarding ‘truth’ and ‘value’ from the pov of an atheist). Strawman city.

          • KR says:

            I actually sought out the Koukl podcast. I didn’t listen to all of it – it was helpfully indexed so I could skip to the interesting (for me) part. I think my main reaction was disappointment. Here’s a prominent Christian apologist who obviously must have had loads of interactions with atheists of different stripes, completely mystified that an atheist could be passionate about anything. Seriously?

            I mean, he can obviously disagree with the atheist about the nature of purpose but at the very least he should acknowledge what the atheist’s argument is and then address it. For someone with Koukl’s background and experience to claim ignorance of any atheist argument for purpose really strains credibility.

            “Strawman city.”


  8. Sean Gerety says:

    The flaw in your argument is found right at the beginning. In explaining presuppositionalism you write; “human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile.” The problem here is that you conflate understanding and assent (belief) and presume throughout your argument that they’re synonymous. Also, your argument, while true perhaps for the presuppositionalism of Cornelius Van Til who routinely derided human reason, it is not true for the presuppositionalism of Gordon Clark. For example and following Van Til, Louis Berkhof writes in his Introduction to Systematic Theology:

    “The Word of God presupposes the darkness and error of the natural man, and would therefore contradict itself, if it submitted itself to the judgment of that man. It would thereby acknowledge one as judge whom it had first disqualified” (p. 172).

    In contrast, Gordon Clark argues:

    “…the law of contradiction cannot be sinful. Quite the contrary, it is our violations of the law of contradiction that are sinful. Yet the strictures which some devotional writers place on ‘merely human logic’ are amazing. Can such pious stupidity really mean that a syllogism which is valid for us is invalid for God? If two plus two is four in our arithmetic, does God have a different arithmetic in which two and two make three, or perhaps five?” – An Introduction to Christian Philosophy

    Similarly, and commenting on the Westminister Confession of Faith, Clark writes:

    “If, nonetheless, it can be shown that the Bible — in spite of having been written by more than thirty-five authors over a period of fifteen hundred years — is logically consistent, then the unbeliever would have to regard it as a most remarkable accident . . . Logical consistency, therefore, is evidence of inspiration.” – God’s Hammer

    Elsewhere, Clark makes the point that Paul, prior to his dramatic conversion, understood Christianity very well. Arguably better than most first century Christians. He just didn’t believe it. That is until God opened his eyes to believe the truth he previously understood but rejected. Further, Scripture tells us that it was Paul’s “habit” to go into the Synagogue and “reason” from the Scriptures. Clearly, he was trying to convince unbelievers the truth of the Gospel through the use of reason and the Scriptures. His hearers could understand Paul’s arguments, but only God can cause assent. Some understood Paul’s message and believed it to the saving of their souls, whereas others understood and rejected Paul’s arguments to their impending judgment and both are pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 2:16). The problem is not with reason or logic. Similarly, one can understand the doctrine of predestination and still reject it. Christians who do are wrong to do so, but it’s hardly the unforgivable sin. I’m not sure why this is a problem? It seems to me that your argument has only one particular strain of presuppositionalism in view.

  9. Joshua kohl says:

    Everyone without fail is a presuppositionalist, whether they admit it or not.

    All a presupposition is is an agreed upon fact/truth that is accepted and forms a foundation upon which other truth will flow.

    Everyone and I mean everyone has a point at which there is no evidence to support that claim. That is the point of Sye’s response “how do you know that.”

    I understand this doesn’t answer a large degree of your question about the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God.

    Let me give an example that will illustrate the traveling back to the basis of our presuppositions (and yours may be different).

    Are you saved eternally from the wrath of God?
    (Which already begs the question of there being a God, wrath, and the need to be saved from it)
    Yes. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God on the cross when He died and proved to be the Son of God when He resurrected.
    How do you know this applies to you?
    Bc the bible says “all those who call on His name will be saved”.
    How do you know there is a God, sin, and wrath for sin?
    Bc the whole bible speaks of a God who has Covenanted with His people, their sin, and God’s redemption of His people.
    How do you know?
    I read it?
    How do you know your understanding of it is correct?
    Bc it says it is from God and God can’t lie or be evil. History, also proves that the events in the bible occurred. We are aware of historical evidence that supports the biblical story.
    Why must God not lie or be evil?
    Bc if He did, He wouldn’t be God.

    Again, the point is is that we all have presuppositions. We are not neutral in anything, looking at any event or decision with a neutral mind and neutral rationality. There is always a point at which we must stop and say “I can’t prove any more.”

    That is what saving faith is–it is confidence in something else. Not blind at all. It is secured in the hope of who God is and what He says.

    Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
    Just to take him at his word

    Why is it sweet?
    Bc the trust is in Jesus, the great shepherd who will NEVER lose any of His sheep, who is God of God, who can’t do evil and only does good, who works out good for all those who love him and are called according to His purpose.

    That is the beauty of “Jesus loves me this I know because the bible tells me so.”

    Some may think me ignorant, stupid, and naive.

    But what am I saying?

    I am saying I know Jesus loves me because He says He does. If the bible is God breathed, which it is, and God can’t lie and Jesus is God, and the bible says Jesus loves His people, then with faith in the person and work of Christ as God, with full assurance that

    “Jesus loves me because the bible says so”

  10. Bill Evans says:

    Total depravity and specifically the noetic effects of sin refers to the fact that every aspect of man’s being is affected by the fall. Unregenerate man may possess great intellect but he cannot reach the truth by reasoning from wrong presuppositions. His fallen nature, referring to his affections and inclinations,) prevent him from embracing even truth he implicitly knows. By the way, I like Sye’s method of arguing better than most Christian’s method of saying nothing.

  11. Joshua Whipps says:

    Just out of curiosity – why does your hypothetical PA not bother to respond to the direct denial of WCF/LBCF I.9 in your putative CA’s assertions concerning the interpretation of Scripture? Perhaps this merely repeats an objection, but that omission seems to demonstrate the truth of the response that you don’t understand Calvinism 😉 That’s sort of an important issue that just glided past. You might also want to think about how much your objection owes to the historical discussion about the hypothetical objector in Rom. 9:19 (or whether you’ve acknowledged that similarity).

    • Spencer Toy says:

      I am familiar with the WCF. Men much smarter and more qualified than I have discussed it, but for what it’s worth here’s my take:

      It seems to me that what the WCF amounts to in its discussion of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is, “God doesn’t determine the free decisions of men, but He does.”

      • Joshua Whipps says:

        Well, honestly, while that’s certainly a… novel… interpretation of the WCF, it has absolutely nothing to do with I.9, which reads:
        “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”

        Now, of course, I’m not aware why you chose to respond to some other, unnamed section of the WCF (III, perhaps?), but this one is rather clear, cited fairly forthrightly in my question (I thought), and rather unambiguous in what it states.

        Why did you choose to ignore, with your putative presuppositionalist, your CA proponent’s explicit denial of his confessional standard, since you are, by your own statement, familiar with the WCF?

  12. MK says:

    Thanks for the article. It appears to me you are using a false dilemma / too black or white. Lumping views into one bucket or another and neglecting theological tension. Most healthy Calvinists believe in God’s sovereignty & human responsibility and our inability to adequately explain this paradoxical position. Healthy Calvinists do not advocate for divine fatalism. Your use of DD fails to appreciate the tension and does not line up with healthy Calvinism. Moreover, HC’s love reason, experience, tradition but seek to read these in the light of the authority of scripture and argue on this basis; and humbly accept that even these ‘interpretations of mine’ are subject to scripture, open for correction and renewing of the mind.

  13. John Warren says:

    Dear Spencer, you say this in your hypothetical dialog between a Classical Apologist and a Presuppositional Apologist: ‘CA: “In other words, you can REASON from the text. The words of Scripture clearly do not interpret themselves. If that were the case we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You and I disagree about what the implications of Scripture are and therefore you have to attempt to demonstrate that your view is true by engaging in reasoning. Didn’t you say that our reasoning capabilities are fallen and that we should never place human reasoning above God’s Divine Revelation?”’

    The regenerated person’s reasoning capabilities aren’t fallen anymore. They are being built up in the process of sanctification. The reason one person is right and the other wrong is that the right person has progressed further along in sanctification, at least in that area. And God has ordained this, too.

  14. John Warren says:

    ‘and that we should never place human reasoning above God’s Divine Revelation?”’ No presuppositionalist puts human reason above God’s Divine Revelation. Reasoning correctly is what God does, because the Logos is logical (He’s more than logical, sure, but He’s not less). Logic is how God thinks. And, since we are the image of God, regenerated man’s mind is also how God thinks (of course, there are lot of fleshly thoughts that happen in a believer). So when we think God’s thoughts after Him, we’re not placing reason above God, we’re just participating in the Divine life.

  15. John Warren says:

    “How can you know that what God has revealed to you isn’t an error so that He can bring more glory to Himself by your being incorrect?”

    It’s my job to use my regenerated mind to arrive at proper conclusions and not worry if God has predestined me to persist in error for a time. If He has done so, He has His reasons, but He has also predestined that I use my regenerated (and revelationally illuminated) reason to remove those errors, when He shines the light on that area. It might be to God’s glory to let evil or error persist for a while, but according to Scripture, it’s more to His glory to remove them.

    You might as well extend this anxious doubt to the question of whether one is saved or not. It doesn’t stop with apologetic method. For my part, I believe Scripture which says we can *know*, not just make educated guesses that are probably true.

  16. steve hays says:

    Spencer Troy said:

    “it is my honest desire to know the truth as God has revealed it in Scripture and follow the evidence wherever it leads. I know I am not always right and will respond to correction if I can be shown to be in error. I also do not want to misrepresent the views of Calvinists/Presuppositionalists in any way. I encourage anyone who disagrees with me to express their disagreement.”

    When, however, I left a comment in which I responded to his invitation, my comment never appeared. Was his invitation for feedback insincere? Are the moderators at Cross Examined running interference for him? Why is an apologetic side afraid of constructive feedback, especially when the author solicited feedback?

    It says “Want to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!”

    Was that a lie?

    • Spencer Toy says:


      My invitation was indeed sincere. As I am a guest contributor to this blog, I do not have the power to accept or reject comments, even my own. I see the link to your article on your blog. Is there another comment that hasn’t appeared to which you are referring?

  17. Eric Smith says:

    While I appreciate the attempt in this article to defend your apologetic method, I disagree with it. I believe the presuppositional method is backed by scripture. Others that have posted here have done a better job of showing the problems with your argument. I just want to comment on something you wrote. You wrote, “In addition, the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty entails that God casually ordains all things that come to pass.” Well, I agree that God’s sovereignty does entail this or He wouldn’t be God. And it isn’t “casual,” it is done according to His will, which is perfect and good. I found it interesting that you used no scripture references to make your point. This seems to be the MO of this apologetic method; you try to prove your point through various arguments to lead someone to the truth of scripture. Yet it would have been nice to see scripture that backs your rejection of God’s sovereignty based on your view of Calvinism. What is interesting is the Bible has much to say about the sovereign control of God either through declarative statements or strong inference. Here is a short list of the things the Bible says God controls:
    1 Our birth (Psalm 100:3, 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5)
    2 Our death (2 Kings 20:1-6, Daniel 5:22-29, Hebrews 9:27)
    3 Our habitation (Genesis 12:1, Acts 17:26)
    4 Our personal lives (Psalm 37:23, Proverbs 16:9, 19:21, Jeremiah 1:5, Hebrews 6:3, James 4:15)
    5 Kings and rulers (Psalm 75:7, Daniel 2:21, 5:21, Romans 9:17)
    6 Over Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6-10, Isaiah 64:8, Romans 11:7-10)
    7 Over unbelievers for His purpose (Exodus 14:15-18, Judges 3:8, 12, 4:2, 6:1, 10:6-7, 2 Chronicles 21:14-17)
    8 Over the weather/seasons (Genesis 1:14, 8:22, Job 7:6-13, Psalm 104:19, 135:7, Jeremiah 10:13, 51:16)
    9 Over animals/insects/plants (Exodus 8:1-4, 20-22, 10:3-6, Numbers 21:6, 1 Kings 17:2-6, Psalm 104:14, Jonah 4:6, Joel 2:25)
    10 Over creation/existence itself (Genesis 1:14, Psalm 104:2, 5-13, 19, Acts 17:24, Colossians 1:16-17, 2 Peter 3:7)
    11 Over Satan (Job 1:6-11, 2:1-6)
    12 Over language (Genesis 11:6-8, Acts 2:4-12)
    13 Over all (Exodus 15:18, Psalm 103:19, 115:3, Isaiah 40:21-26, 46:10, 66:10, Daniel 4:34-35, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10-11, Revelation 19:6)
    14 Finally, over salvation (Psalm 65:4, John 6:44, 17:1-2, Romans 9:6-24, Ephesians 1:4-5, 2:8-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:13)
    This is not an extensive list, but it covers what the Bible reveals about God. This is not some invention of Calvin, but what the scriptures clearly teach.

    • Spencer Toy says:


      Thank you for your comment. My purpose in writing this article was not to defend my own viewpoint, but rather to see how a Calvinist/Presuppositionalist deals with what I believe is a logical consequence of their viewpoint. We all acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things. What we disagree about is whether or not it entails Divine determinism in the sense that men do not possess the ability to know the truth unless God has determined for them to know it.

      There are many non-Calvinists (Norm Geisler, Michael Brown, Leighton Flowers to name a few) who have written in defense of their theological views, using scripture to do so and addressing the scriptural arguments of their reformed brethren. Were it my purpose to defend my views I could do the same.

      However, my point was that if we’re going to have a discussion about what the correct interpretation of scripture is we must implicitly affirm that we both possess the ability to understand what the scriptures are saying and the ability to acknowledge our errors when they are shown. It seems to me if God has not determined our views in the Calvinistic sense, this is possible, but if He has, it is not.

  18. steve hays says:

    I’d like to respond to one of Spencer Toy’s objection from another angle:

    “This I think truly exposes the fatal flaw of the Calvinist’s embrace of Divine determinism. As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.”

    It isn’t clear what Toy is attempting to argue. He says that if someone has been determined to believe true things while someone else has been determined to believe false things, then nothing can be rationally affirmed. But he doesn’t spell out why that’s the case. He puts the emphasis on determinism, but he fails to explain how that’s germane.

    For instance, suppose we changed this to: “Someone may accidentally believe true things just as much as their opponents may accidentally believe false things.” How would that change Toy’s conclusion, and why? If your beliefs are the result of chance rather than determinism, why isn’t that a reason to be skeptical?

    Perhaps this is what Toy is trying to get at: if each side is determined to believe what they do, then they can’t tell which side is right and which side is wrong. And in that event, nothing can be rationally affirmed. If that’s what he’s gesturing at, I’d say a few things:

    i) What’s the warrant for rationally affirming something? What about if I can point to evidence for my belief? Or give reasonable explanations for my belief? In many situations, that’s the best that can be expected. We don’t have apodictic proofs for most of our beliefs, including many important beliefs. Certainly evidential apologetics, which Toy espouses, doesn’t demand that.

    ii) If I can’t know that I’m mistaken, does it follow that nothing can be rationally affirmed? Take memories. We are hugely dependent on memory. Yet memory is fallible. In many cases, if I misremember something, I can’t detect my mistake–because memory is all I have to go on. Although in some cases I may have access to independent information that enables me to corroborate or correct my memories, in many cases, the memory is all I have. Does it follow that nothing can be rationally affirmed on the basis if memory, just because there are instances in which I can’t tell if I’m mistaken? Given our tremendous reliance on memory, that would entail a devastating degree of skepticism.

  19. Jared says:

    Thanks Spencer for a thoughtful and excellent article.

    I’ve genuinely tried to understand the Calvinist position but just can’t seem to get over a bunch of personal objections. I’ve often wondered if I’m just not “getting it” but so far I’m convinced it’s wrong. Perhaps I’m predestined to believe Armeniansm. LOL!

    I did have a question though… it seems you put Calvinism and Presuppositionalism in the same camp. Have I misunderstood your usage since I accept presuppositional apologetics but reject Calvinism, I never thought the two were in any way linked.

    Thanks again!

  20. Christopher Lee says:

    I am not sure if this thread is still active, after the 2342354 comments.

    The two fundamental issues that this comes down to are (1) what is the nature of revelation (revelational epistemology), and (2) is that revelation self authenticating.

    Can you do a quick comment on 1 and 2? One’s understanding of those two issues affect his understanding of presupp.

  21. barry says:

    Under the Calvinist belief, God is constantly misrepresenting himself. While is he actually intending that you commit adultery, he will tell you verbally through other Christians to refrain from doing so, thus giving you the false impression that he “actually” doesn’t will that you commit that sin.

    In other words, “you are instructed to refrain from fulfilling my will for you.”

    Which further reduces to: “when you disobey me, you are fulfilling my actual will for your life”

    I cannot think of a more sick disgusting deceptive god, than a god who tells you to avoid doing a sin that by his eternal decree he has purposefully made absolutely certain you will not be able to avoid committing.

    The Calvinist who praises God for starving church members being relieved with food, but doesn’t praise god when children are raped to death, is necessarily committing himself to the premise that not everything about god is praiseworthy(!?)

    There are aspects of God that we shouldn’t praise? Why? Aren’t all of his attributes absolutely perfect? What fool says certain perfections of God are not worthy to be praised?

    THAT is how you justify giving a Calvinist an “F” in theology 101.

  22. Ben Holloway says:

    You seem to be arguing that the fact that Calvinists disagree with non-Calvinists over what scripture says about depravity and Divine determinism implies that there is a problem with Calvinism. Disagreement suggests that there is some idea/theory (or whatever) that two people are in conflict over; they disagree over whether or not it is true. But in order to disagree, it cannot be the case that people have no choice in what to believe. If there is no choice, then how do they know that their beliefs are not just chosen for them. Something like this: if I am to come to a belief rationally, then I must be able to freely choose what to believe. If Calvinism is the case, then I could not freely choose what to believe. Therefore, either Calvinism is false or I cannot freely choose what to believe.

    The trouble is that you are assuming the truth of libertarian free will (something the Calvinist denies) in order to make your argument. But, in the example you provide, this is also supposed to be your conclusion. This is a circular argument. What you need to provide is an argument that does not assume the truth of the conclusion.

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    from everyone of us.

  24. Kyle Roat says:

    If the Calvinist was in error because God decreed them to be that would actually make them right and not in error. That seems to cancel itself out. How do we know its true… Holy Spirit reveals this. You said that is talking in circles. I dont believe that. How do we know we are children of God? The Bible says the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. That is using scripture to determine over reason. To say that is talking in circles is using reason while ignoring scripture. The scripture also says that same Spirit will lead you into all truth. So again to reason that this cannot be true is to use reason over scripture. For even if that doesnt make sense to you it is clear and it is scripture. I believe those who deny all scriptures they cannot fit into their reason are in error already. They begin with the presupposition that if we determine what is reality instead of God’s word.


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