Presuppositional Apologetics and Circular Reasoning (Course, P2)

In this video, we’re going to answer the objection that presuppositional apologetics is circular, or that it begs the question.

  • First, we’re going to explain how every person and worldview has an ultimate presupposition that is, by definition, circular,
  • And second, we’re going to talk about how to test the validity of ultimate presuppositions.

Every Person and Worldview Has an Ultimate Presupposition that Is, by Definition, Circular

Logically, before argumentation or reasoning can even begin, knowledge must be possible. So the most foundational question for every person and worldview is, “How is knowledge possible?” A person’s answer to this question is that person’s ultimate presupposition.

Here are three examples of how this question might be answered:

  1. First, a Chrisitan presuppositionalist would say that knowledge is possible because God has revealed Himself through the Bible, and the biblical God is the source all knowledge.
  2. Second, an atheist might say that knowledge is possible because of sense experience.
  3. And third, an atheist might say that knowledge is possible because of our ability to reason.

Now, let’s examine these three examples. For all three of these examples, there can be an objection of circular reasoning.

The Christian is challenged with the question, “How do you know that the Bible is the foundation of knowledge?” Well, the Christian can’t answer, “Because knowledge from somewhere else tells us this,” because then the Bible wouldn’t actually be the foundation of knowledge. Instead, the Christian must answer, “Because knowledge from the Bible tells us this.” And this is circular, but that’s the nature of ultimate presuppositions—since they’re ultimate, you can’t use something else to prove them. They’re the starting point.

For the second example, we can challenge the atheist with the question, “How do you know that knowledge comes from sense experience?” Well, again, because this is the atheist’s ultimate presupposition, the atheist can only answer, “Because sense experience tells us this.” And this is also circular.

And likewise, for the third example, we can challenge the atheist with the question, “How do you know that knowledge comes from our ability to reason?” Well, again, because this is the atheist’s ultimate presupposition, the atheist can only answer, “Because our ability to reason tells us this.” And this is also circular.

So, if the answer to the question, “How is knowledge possible?”, must be ultimately circular because it is an ultimate presupposition, then what do we do? We can’t appeal to anything outside of the answer to prove the answer.

Testing the Validity of Ultimate Presuppositions

The answer is that even though we can’t appeal to anything outside of our ultimate presupposition to prove our ultimate presupposition, we can still test the validity of an ultimate presupposition by asking the following questions:

  • Does this ultimate presupposition successfully make knowledge possible?
  • Does this ultimate presupposition supply enough knowledge?
  • Is this ultimate presupposition internally consistent, or does it fail by contradicting itself?

The presuppositional argument is that the biblical worldview can answer all of these questions, that non-biblical worldviews can’t answer these questions, and that therefore, when non-Christians use knowledge, argumentation, and reasoning, they are implicitly assuming the truth of the biblical worldview, which undermines their arguments against the Bible from the very beginning.

Conclusion

To conclude, the accusation that presuppositional apologetics is wrong because it uses circular reasoning isn’t a legitimate accusation because ultimate presuppositions concerning how knowledge is possible are necessarily circular, in a sense. The issue isn’t whether an ultimate presupposition is circular or not. The real issue is whether or not an ultimate presupposition is valid. Does it make knowledge possible? Does it give us enough knowledge? Is it internally consistent?

In the next video, we’ll talk about empiricism, which is the position that knowledge comes from sense experience, which is the most common view concerning where knowledge comes from. To make sure you don’t miss it, click the subscribe button and the bell icon.

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