Presupposational Apologetics, Morality, and The Intellectual Legacy Of Greg Bahnsen
His final quote:
Jason, let me put this very simply for you.
Do I have an objective moral obligation to listen to or agree with anything you say? If yes, then you contradict yourself, because you say that morality is not objective. If no, then I dismiss everything you say because I’m not morally obligated to believe it.
The end. Good bye.
So he admitted that we are right. By dismissing our argument, by his own logic, he concedes that we are correct. If he thought the answer was “yes”, then he would have set out to prove his case. By presenting his position that he can dismiss everything we say, he has conceded that we are correct.
This is the problem with presupposational apologetics and apologetics in general. They are semantic shell games. As long as your poor mark doesn’t look closely enough, you can shuffle the pea from shell to shell, confounding them all the way.
I’m going to re-print a comment I made at my friend Kate’s blog, because it is appropriate to this discussion:
My contention, as I hinted in my first response, is that apologetics aren’t meant for non-believers. They are formulated to plug the holes in the boat, to circle the wagons against the onslaught of logic.
Apologetics is not meant to persuade me to believe, they are there to persuade you to keep believing. They only exist within the bubble of an a priori assumption of God, outside that world they are exposed for what they are. You have to believe, or want to believe, to make them work.
That is where their strength lies. They do have some benefit, but also a Shakespearean flaw. They can serve to reach out to the atheist who desperately wants to believe, but only so far as they are willing to suspend disbelief. Those people exist, I assure you. They serve to confound an untrained mind and place doubt in those not capable of forming an informed reply. In doing so they also serve to bolster the faith of the person using the argument, if they feel that they have stumped the unbeliever.
The Shakespearean flaw I refer to (are you aware what that concept is? Shakespeare routinely uses a plot device where the protagonist’s greatest asset is in fact his/her undoing) is that when the atheist or doubter sees through the scam they see it as a personal slight, that they are being intellectually victimized by semantics and shell games. This only serves to turn them against the source of the falsehood, the religion itself. Especially when the source claims moral superiority.
This, in a roundabout way, is the source of my apostasy. Absent specifics, it is a pretty good overview.
Take CS Lewis, who I know you to be a fan of. His liar, lunatic, or lord trichotomy leaves out all other options and does not give a solid case to discount the former two options. What about legend? Is that an option? It even starts with an L. So when someone sees through the fog of apologetics, they wonder why they are being deceived. Why would an absolute truth require deception at all?
If you love to write, then write. If you need to make it apologetics, then so be it. Apologetics can be a personal profession as easily as a foundation to believe. I love to write, and I don’t consider my work apologetics. I love to argue, and win, as much as the next person. None of those things require faith, or apologetics. Yet, they can.
I will say it again. You always seem to be one step away, deathly frightful of the unknown. Read, write, question, repeat. That is the key to knowledge. If you open your eyes a little wider the unknown becomes a little more familiar, then a little more comfortable, then reveals itself in all it’s splendor. There will always be unknowns, but you shouldn’t be afraid to follow them…..
Presupposational apologetics assumes an Objective Moral Truth™. It cannot and will not defend this position. It just insists it by sheer will of faith. If you don’t play along, it will throw up its arms and crawl back into it’s hole. Just like Peter.
He still will claim victory. He used a basic fact: that morality is subjective, played some semantic shell games, refused to evidence his premise or conclusions, and by fiat concluded that subjective morality comports with child buggery. He can’t and won’t prove that Christian morality is objective, because he knows it’s not. So his argument is false on its face. He needs to prove his premise in order to draw conclusions from it. Otherwise, he must concede that Christian morality is just as subjective, and by the extension of his own logic, morally complacent regarding child buggery, child murder and a host of other moral precepts.
This is an analogy of the shell game he tried to play:
Peter: Hi, Justin.
Jason: Hi, Peter. Just so that we are clear my name is Jason.
Peter: Are you trying to commit a logical fallacy by correcting me?
Jason: WTF are you talking about?
Peter: No bother, I apologize for the misunderstanding. Let’s talk about that dog over there. Would you say that that dog is gray?
Jason: That is an elephant, Peter. It’s ten feet tall and has a big fucking trunk. It is a fucking Elephant.
Peter: I didn’t ask you if it was an elephant, Jason. I asked you if that dog is gray. Just answer the question. But be careful, you will have to accept the consequences of your answer.
Jason: Seriously. It’s a goddamn fucking elephant. If your question is “Is that quadruped gray?”, then yes, yes it is.
Peter: I told you to be careful how you answer the question. You should have listened to me. Can I passive-aggressively offer you a coffee to drink while you mull it over? You see Jason, if you answer yes, you are saying that that animal is a dog, and you are committing the fallacy of mutual contradiction. An elephant can’t be a dog, you see. If you answer no, then you are saying that it is not gray, and by their nature all elephants are gray. So again, you are wrong.
Jason: First off, that is the most retarded thing anyone has ever said to me. Second, what about albino elephants? Are they not white, or at least cream colored?
Peter: See, you lost the argument when you answered the question. I am not obliged now to answer any of your arguments because you are wrong no matter how you answer. I claim victory. You admitted that you are incapable of simple color recognition or of species identification, so in your world any animal can be any color, or any species. That makes no logical sense.
Jason: Seriously? Are you even sane?
Peter: I cannot argue with someone who cannot grasp simple logic. Good day to you, sir.
(aside) Wow, I sure showed him. I got him to admit that an elephant was a dog. What an ass.
That is the logic that he follows. Then he tells everyone that he saw an elephant with an atheist who insisted it was a gray dog.
I’ll ask anyone who honestly believes in the Pressupositional Argument from Morality to answer the same question I asked Peter. It is not really a trick question. At least it shouldn’t be, lest your morality have some serious issues.
If it is true that morality is objective, universal, unchanging, and independent of context: Is it always morally wrong to murder children?
Is there any situation where the decision to murder children is a morally just, or at least, a morally ambiguous one?
If you cannot answer this question then you cannot claim that your morality is objective, or you must admit that child murder does not fit your definition of an immoral act. If the latter is true, then you can keep your Objective Moral Reality™. I don’t even think we can agree what morality is.