Thursday, August 28, 2008

What is the Gospel?

I have been having a conversation with a few of my fellow seminary students. We have been discussing what are the necessary elements of the Gospel. In other words, what must be given and said in order for the Gospel to be preached? So, I wanted to let our readers join in on this conversation. I ask you, the reader, what are the necessary pieces of the Gospel? What truths must be given to a person so that at the end we can say that the Gospel has been preached?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Worship in All We do

As a new semester begins, I am reminded that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to do everything we do with an eye to the glory of God. All we do needs to be an act of worship to the great God of the universe.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Apologies and Invitations

I'm sorry that I have not written much lately (some may be grateful, rather choosing to eagerly await the Rev. Stellman's or Mr. Walker's next entry). I have been putting more focus into my work on my side-project, which I again want to invite everyone to peruse as you have time. It is The Geneva Gazette, and I hope it's funny enough that you will all subscribe in your RSS feeds, and also comment on. I realize that we Calvinists are not known to be funny people, and I am probably no exception.

Josh Walker Reviews Fee's Pauline Christology

Our own Josh Walker has written a review of Gordon Fee's Pauline Christology for the esteemed website Reformation 21. You can check it out at Reformation 21 right now!

Go read it, guys; Josh read this 700 page book so that you wouldn't have to!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Transcendental Argument (Part 4)


Whether or not the transcendental argument succeeds is beyond the scope of this paper. We attempted to demonstrate that the arguments leveled against the transcendental argument by Michael Martin and Sean Choi do not stop the weightiness of the presuppositionalist’s argument. Martin’s arguments seem to either: (1) miss the point of the transcendental argument, or (2) misunderstand a basic teaching of the Christian faith; while Choi fundamentally misunderstands the nature of a worldview. These arguments are helpful in showing areas that the TAG can be improved, or at the very least, areas where the TAG can be bolstered. But they do not put forth a significant challenge to the TAG.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dr. Derek Thomas on Christ the Center

One of my bosses, Dr. Derek Thomas was on the podcast of Castle Church, Christ the Center. The program, which can be found here, deals with the relationship between the academy and Christ's body, the Church. Dr. Thomas, since he is both a pastor and a professor, had many insightful things to say. This is one podcast I look forward to every week.

Mondays with Mounce

I am rarely exited about new blog, however a recent blog by Zondervan, Koinonia (the Greek word for fellowship), has me really exited. The list of contributes looks great, including one of my bosses Dr. Miles Van Pelt. The thing that has me most exited is a column by William Mounce, author of Basics of Biblical Greek, called Monday with Mounce. The first one, it what will sure be a great series of posts, can be found here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Announcing a Side-Project

Now, Bring the Books will always be my baby, but I do have another one on the way (both metaphorically and literally speaking). In the blogosphere world, I have chosen to start a side-project which I am entitling The Geneva Gazette.

Over time, I will be adding graphics and other visual flares, but until then, it will simply be an outlet for my own weird brand of humor. If you think like me, then you'll like it. If you don't think like me, then you're better off watching The Hills or Flava of Love.

I won't be writing on it constantly, so I recommend subscribing to the RSS feed from it, and reading whenever I post new ones. Also, if you like what I put up on the GG, drop me a comment and let me know you're reading it; it'll make me feel good.

Campaign Update

For those of you who follow the blog on a regular basis, you will remember that Adam's bike was stolen. After hearing this horrible news, the staff at Bring the Books... jumped into action and started a campaign to get Adam a new bike. It has been about three weeks since the beginning of the campaign and I am pleased to report that we have raised or pledged a total of $50 for a new bike (we have in hand $30 and $20 is yet to come in). We are almost to our goal of $90, if you can help please email me at johnny dot redeemed at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Have a Laugh

A great new article over at

After 50 Years in Pulpit, Retired Pastor Finally Has a Beer.

Keep your eyes peeled, because in the next few days, I plan on launching my own comedic news blog (very much in the spirit of The Onion and Larknews, but less dirty than The Onion). I'm still working on some names, but I think I like the name The Sunflower Gazette. Stay Tuned.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Transcendental Argument (Part 3)

Response to Critics of the TAG

With this brief outline of the transcendental TAG, we can turn to the main objective of this paper, which is a response to critics of this argument. In this section a response will be given to two main critics of the TAG: (1) Michael Martin, atheist professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Boston University since1975 and (2) Classical Apologist Sean Choi, Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of California. Martin has written or co-written 13 books and over 100 articles in the areas of: philosophy of religion, philosophy of social science and philosophy of law. Two of his articles are of specific interest: 1) “Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?” and 2) “The Transcendental Argument for the Non Existence of God.” Choi has a chapter on the TAG in Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith. Each of these will be looked at in turn.

a. A Brief Response to “Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?”[1]

Martin begins his discussion of the transcendental argument by giving an overview of the TAG. His overview is not one of the strongest overviews on the subject, but he does hit the essence of the presuppositional argument.

The basic idea of TAG when used against atheists is easy to understand and state. It maintains that certain things that atheists assume are true can only be true if there is a God. Primarily these atheistic assumptions are the beliefs that logical reasoning is possible, that scientific inference is justified, and that objective moral standards exist. So if an atheist uses logic to refute a theistic argument, uses scientific evidence to undermine some biblical position, or argues that God’s omnipotence and moral perfection are incompatible with evil in the world and consequently that God does not exist, TAG maintains that he or she is implicitly assuming God’s existence.[2]

After Martin’s overview of the TAG, he moves to a response to this argument. His main point is that even if the transcendental argument is sound it fails to show that the Christian God exists. He states the argument in this form, “To say that A presupposes B is to say that we could not ‘make sense’ of A without assuming B. However, supposing we grant that one must assume B to make sense of A, it does not follow that B is true.”[3] Martin is right here, however, this is not the claim made by the TAG. The TAG adds that everyone accepts “B” to be the case. This is why the TAG is so forceful. But Martin misses this point and it is seen in his counter example: “For example, if I am trying to communicate to an audience by speaking to them in English, my action makes no sense unless they understand English. But it does not follow that they do. They might only understand Chinese.”[4] Martin’s example illustrates that he has missed the weight of the transcendental argument. First, in the example given by Martin, the person speaking in English, in order to communicate (which is a speakers primary goal), must assume that the hearers know English. To apply this to the realm of the transcendental argument, if a person uses induction then that person must assume the Christian God. Martin fails to see that the very example he uses helps support the presuppositional argument. For if the communicator did not believe that his audience spoke English, he would not be speaking it. Granted, this does not mean that the audience does speak English (or God exists), but it does mean that the speaker believes this to be the case. To apply this to our situation, the non-Christian, must think that the Christian God is real in order to uses, say, induction.

Second, the claim made by the transcendental argument is not only that the non-Christian believes in the Christian God (which the transcendental argument does claim), but that the Christian God must be true in order for induction, or any other fact, to be true. Martin’s counter example fails to address the full claim of the transcendental argument. In other words, his counter example does not do justice to what the TAG is trying to address. Martin has set up a rather easy straw man to knock down. If Martin wanted to uses a better analogy (or illustration) for the TAG, the following would work better. The speaker in standing on a stage in front of an audience and the whole point of his speech is way he is not standing on a stage. The speaker is standing on the very thing he is attempting to deny.

Again, Martin fails, as he does many times in this article, to see the weightiness of the transcendental argument. In addition to this, Martin says, “[The transcendental argument] would not establish the truth of the Christian worldview but only the inconsistency of atheists [non-Christians] who presuppose science, logic and objective ethics.”[5] This statement by Martin fails to understand that the strongest logical argument that can be made in favor of a proposition is reductio ad absurdum. That is to say, that demonstrative proof for p can be made by assuming ~p and showing that a contradiction follows, thus proving the truth of p. But Martin assumes that this form of argument, reductio ad absurdum, does not prove anything; rather only shows the falseness of atheism. Martin is wrong in this assumption, and thus by admitting that if the transcendental argument is true the atheist would be inconsistent, he shows that this is a positive proof for the Christian worldview.

b. A Brief Response to “The Transcendental Argument for the Non Existence of God”[6]

Martin endeavors to show that the truth of logic, science and morality presuppose the falsehood of Christianity. “I will show how one can argue exactly the opposite conclusion [of the TAG], namely, that logic, science and morality presuppose the falsehood of the Christian world view or at least the falsehood of the interpretation of his world view.”[7] Martin’s best transcendental argument for the nonexistence of God is based on the law of logic.

Consider logic. Logic presupposes that its principles are necessarily true. However, according to the brand of Christianity assumed by TAG, God created everything, including logic; or at least everything, including logic, is dependent on God. But if something is created by or is dependent on God, it is not necessary—it is contingent on God. And if principles of logic are contingent on God, they are not logically necessary. Moreover, if the principles of logic are contingent on God, God could change them. Thus, God could make the law of noncontradiction false; in other words, God could arrange matters so that a proposition and its negation were true at the same time. But this is absurd.

There is no disagreement that the principles of logic are necessary, in fact, the necessity of logic is one of the arguments for God. But they are necessary for humans, not God. This is a fundamental problem in Martin’s worldview. He seems to think that God is a creature, as he is, and as such that God is bound (if he exists) to logic. This is the exact opposite of what is claimed by the Christian worldview. God is the creator and we are his creature. This is a fundamental metaphysical distinction in the Christian concept of reality. The “Eimi/eikon” distinction is central to the way the universe is ordered.

We must, then, begin with this basic and fundamental distinction—the Eimi/eikon distinction—the distention of the “I am” and his image. If we begin in that way, then all of our discussion about “reality,” “individuality,” “externality,” “objectivity,” “knowledge,” “truth,” and the like has that distinction as its context and as its defining character.[8]

Martin fails to understand this central principle of the Christian faith. His unbelieving worldview leads him in this direction, and on one level he cannot be faulted for the conclusions he comes to. However, on another level, he misses this critical distinction and as such misses the whole point of the TAG and can be faulted for misunderstanding the argument he is trying to engage. Though his argument is original, it fails to do any substantial damage to the presupposition argument because he fails to see the “Eimi/eikon” distinction, which leads him to wrongly conclude that God would be held in subjection to logic.

c. A Brief Response to “The Transcendental Argument”[9]

Unlike Martin, Choi does a much better job of setting forth the TAG. However, his criticisms still fall short. Choi’s criticism of the TAG demonstrates that he understands the ‘heart’ of the TAG when he argues that: “It is possible that: there is a worldview distinct from Christian theism and which is such that if it were true, it would provide a sufficient justification for the laws of logic.”[10] In arguing this way, Choi basically grants the validity of the TAG,[11] but he argues that the primes that states the Christian God is the only way to account for intelligibility is false. Choi does this by attempting to provide another worldview that would satisfy the preconditions for intelligibility.

As a specific illustration of such a worldview, consider Fristianity, which is a theistic worldview that holds to the doctrine of the quadrinity (one God in four persons) and is otherwise identical to Christianity, or as similar to Christianity as possible (given its qaudrinitarian tenet).[12]

Thus, Choi offer “Fristianity” as an alternative worldview to Christianity that, as he claims, would account for the preconditions for intelligibility. This argument is not substantial to the TAG for at least two reasons. First, we are not concerned about hypothetical worldviews that can be made up to fit the preconditions; rather, we are interested in actual worldviews. In other words, the TAG is concerned with actual worldviews that can stand this criticism. If no one holds to “Fristianity”, at the end of the day, it is really irrelevant to the presuppositional project.

Second, and much more substantial, Choi has failed to provided a coherent worldview to account for intelligibility. The worldview that Choi sets forth is identical to Christianity with one major alteration, the Trinity is gone. But what Choi does not understand that worldviews are not disconnected propositions—as if one doctrine can be changed and the system remains largely in tack. Instead, worldviews are organic. One part flows into the other. By changing one part the whole system will change. Thus, if the doctrine of the Trinity is changed the entire worldview is altered. Take for instance the doctrine of the Scripture. The Christian worldview teaches that the Bible is the final and complete revelation from God about himself. If the Trinity were altered, the Christian Bible would have to be altered significantly to make room for the “quadrinity.” At the very least, sections would have to be added introducing us to this fourth person. Or take the doctrine of salvation; it would have to be changed. As it stands, Christianity holds that all three person of the Trinity are directly involved in the salvation of God’s people—the Father chooses his people, the Son dies for his people and the Holy Spirit sanctifies his people. If a fourth person were added to the Godhead, a role for this person would need to be added to the doctrine of salvation. These are but a few of the many examples that could be given to show that adding the “quadrinity” is not as nice and neat as Choi would like it to be and as such, Choi fails to understand the organic nature of worldviews.

[1] Martin, Michael. “Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?” Skeptic Vol. 5, #2: 71-75.

[2] Ibid., 72.

[3] Ibid., 72.

[4] Ibid., 73.

[5] Ibid., 73.

[6] Martin, Michael. “The Transcendental Argument for the Nonexistence of God.” 1996. [April 30, 2008.]. .

[7] Ibid., pp. 1

[8] Scott Oliphint, Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the service of Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2006) 180.

[9]Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.”

[10] Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.” 243.

[11] In fact, from page 236 to 242 Choi goes to length to show a valid form of the TAG.

[12] Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.” 243 (emphasis mine)

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Transcendental Argument (Part 2)

The Transcendental Argument for the existence of God[1]

Simply put, the transcendental argument sets out to show the impossibility of the contrary to Christian theism. In other words, any worldview that is not Christian will yield absurd conclusions—it will have internal contradictions. The transcendental argument does this by discovering the preconditions of human experience or human intelligibility. This is done by taking some aspect of human experience and understanding what must be true in order for that experience to even be possible (or intelligible). Transcendental arguments tend to have the following form. For x (some aspect of human experience, say, the laws of logic) to be the case, y must also be the case (that is y must be presupposed), since y is the precondition of x. Since x is the case, y is the case. In syllogistic form it would be:

1) In order for x to be the case, y must be the case

2) x is the case

3) Therefore, y is the case

Or put into practice:

4) In order for logic to be possible, God[2] must to exist.

5) The logic is possible

6) Therefore, God exists.

In his recent chapter on the TAG, Sean Choi formulates the TAG as:

(TA1) q.

(TA2) It is necessary that: if not-p, then not-q.

(TA3) So, p. [3]

The TAG can be done with a number of human experiences such as: causation, the laws of logic, objective morality, predication, language, induction, and so on. Michael Butler puts it this way:

[The transcendental argument for the existence of God] starts with human experience—such things as science, love, rationality, and moral duties. It then asserts that the existence of the Christian God is the necessary precondition of such experience. Finally, it proves this indirectly by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary.[4]

Or as Choi states, “TAG is not supposed to be transcendental in name only, but it is supposed to be a true transcendental argument for the existence of God.”[5] Then, he continues, “Now, TAG is…to argue that God exists as ‘a necessary precondition’ of some fundamental and uncontroversial phenomenon. There are three such fundamental phenomena that are often appealed to in discussions of TAG: logic, science and objective moral standards.”[6]

Further, the transcendental argument has also been put in a negative and a positive form:

Negative form

1N) If God does not exist, then the world[7] is unintelligible.

2N) God does not exist

3N) Therefore, the world is unintelligible

(3N) flows from (1N) and (2N) by modus ponens. This negative formulation of the transcendental argument shows that God must exist. How? If (3N) is correct then the syllogism would make no sense. However, this syllogism does make sense[8] because we can see that (3N) at the very least follows logically from (1N) and (2N). Even reading the syllogism shows that there is intelligibility in this world. Thus, since this syllogism does make sense, (1N) or (2N) must be wrong. This is where the positive formulation of the TAG comes in:

Positive form

1P) If the world is intelligible, then God exists.

2P) The world is intelligible[9].

3P) Therefore, God exists.[10]

Again, (3P) flows from (1P) and (2P) by modus ponens. Even skeptics of the TAG, such as Choi[11], agree that the world is intelligible (granting 2P). Thus, God, the Christian God, must exist. The heavy lifting is needed to bolster this idea that God is the precondition for intelligibility, to an extent this will be done below. However, it is not the direct point of this essay to show that the TAG is sound—has all true premises. Rather as stated earlier; the point of this essay is to show that the recent attacks on the TAG do not succeed in proving their case. For now, however, it should suffice that the TAG, in the various forms given, is a valid argument—the conclusions follow from the premises.

The transcendental argument is a powerful argument for the Christian God’s (the only God) existence. If sound, it can show that the only way to make sense of reality is to believe in the Christian God. In addition, it also shows that the non-Christian is deceiving himself when he says he does not believe in the God of Christianity, for he does think reality makes sense.[12] It has been said that the only way a non-Christian can slap God in the face is by sitting in His lap. The transcendental argument shows this analogy to be true with respect to slapping God intellectually. The only way to deny God is to use (affirm) him.

[1] The author is indebted to the writings of Michael Butler and Greg Bahnsen for most of this section.

[2] Every reference to “God,” unless other wise stated, is a reference to the God of Christianity, as summarized nicely in the Westminster Standards.

[3] Sean Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.” in Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith (ed. Norman L. Geisler and Chad V. Meister: Wheaton: Crossway Books. 2007). 234. There is nothing objectionable in Choi’s formulation of the TAG, though it can be a bit hard to follow and as such, confusing. However, it does aid to this the TAG formulated in a few different ways, thus it is included here.

[4] Michael Butler, “The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God,” in The Standard Bearer, ed. Steven Schilssel (Covenant Media Press, 2002), 76.

[5] Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.” 233.

[6] Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.” 235.

[7] By “world” we mean everything that exists,--the universe.

[8] That is not to say that it is right.

[9] By “the world is intelligible” we mean, we are able to make sense out of the world.

[10] John Frame, Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1995) 318.

[11] For example on p. 235, Choi argues that a person can know that they exist (by way of Descartes’s Cogito). Thus, he believes, at least, one thing can be known, the self.

[12] See Greg Bahnsen, “A Conditional Resolution of Apparent Paradox of Self-Deception” (Ph.D. diss, University of Southern California, 1978).