Presuppositional Apologetics: Why Avoid The Quetions?…..Unless You Don’t Like The Answers…
Peter continues to dance his little jig over at Atheism Presupposes Theism, this time in two new posts that avoid every argument I have put forward and continue to propagate his lazy logic. We have come to the point where he is not willing to counter any of my arguments, just continue to claim victory by fiat. If this is the intellectual legacy of Greg Bahnsen, then atheism has nothing to fear. Presuppositionalism is a philosophy that requires no serious answer, because it refuses to ask any real questions. It is a series of straw man arguments, strung together in an attempt to fool the weak of mind. In that spirit, it can only serve as a tool to keep the believers believin’. Here is a brief response to his two posts:
Peter says the following in response to my post Check(mate?) On Presuppositional Morality: Why Peter Can Murder His Kids And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It. His comments can be found here, as well as a copy and paste on my post in the comment section.
Greg is nothing if not entertaining. He thinks he has me on the horns of a real dilemma, namely, that either I accept it’s ok to apply capital punishment to a child who curses his parent (Lev. 20:9), or if I don’t, I accept that my Christian worldview is inconsistent and self-defeating.
I’m a shakin’ in my boots.
While atheists may find it odd that capital punishment is applied to a much lesser number of sins in the New Testament after the coming and work of Jesus Christ as compared to the Old Testament, they should actually find it odd, given the Christian worldview, that capital punishment is not applied to any and every sin, whether in the New or Old Testaments. God warned Adam concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that from it “you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). God says in Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul who sins shall die.” The point is this: death is the penalty for every sin. Most people take the fact that they’re alive for granted, but it should actually be amazing that after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they did not die that day. God had every right to destroy the world but did not. Instead He enacted His plan of salvation. He allowed mankind continue the project of culture and civilization, although He put mankind and creation under the curse (see Gen. 3), and mankind became depraved as a result of his original sin. Mankind was still allowed to live a short life on this earth, relatively speaking. And why? To give people the opportunity to repent of their sins and call upon God for salvation; to allow for the people He would save and redeem to be born; to ensure that His Son would one day be born and accomplish the work of salvation that was set out for him to do.
He then goes on to remind us of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees when asked to stone an adulteress:
John 8:1-11, where a woman caught in the act of adultery (and thus liable to capital punishment) was brought to Jesus by the Pharisees and scribes. They asked Jesus concerning the very same thing that Greg is asking me about a child cursing his parents: “In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. Now what do you say?” (Interestingly, the following verse says, “They were using the question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him”). Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Notice that Jesus did not say that the law of Moses was invalid. Rather, he shed light on the motivation behind what the Pharisees (and Greg) were trying to do, and to show them what their standing before God really is, namely, that everyone deserves death for their sin.
Peter seems to think that this is a valid answer to the issues I brought up in my post. It isn’t. I never argued that Christians can’t find a “Sola Scriptura” basis for holding virtually any moral position. I agree with him on this point. A Christian can find a biblical authority for almost any moral position. This is what has made the bible such an enduring document.
- If you want to have slaves: There’s a verse for that.
- If you want to denounce slavery: There’s a verse for that.
- If you believe in capital punishment: There’s a verse for that.
- If you are against capital punishment: There’s a verse for that.
It allows you to hold virtually any position on any moral issue. Agreed.
Now Peter, we both know that wasn’t the meat of my post. Replace “killing your kids” with “holding slaves” or “lying to the authorities” or “wearing poly-cotton blends” or “molesting your children” and you still have the same argument. My post was not a commentary on Leviticus 20. It was a commentary on the idiocy of presuppositional apologetic logic.
In order for the premise that subjective morality is self-contradictory to be true, man must be unable to refuse an objective moral truth by fiat. That clearly contradicts the idea of man as a fallen creature, as well as free will, and thus your own worldview is self-contradictory. Unless you can clearly define the difference between a Christian who sins (knows X is objectively wrong, but does it anyway) and an atheist (knows X is subjectively/objectively wrong, and disagrees or does it anyway) then you have not proven subjective morality self-defeating. You’re just confused.
You will notice that I include objective morality as a possible option for the atheist. There is nothing that insists that God must be so for morality to be objective in some respects. You will contradict yourself if you attempt to prove otherwise. You won’t prove it, you’ll just insist it, and hope that no one sees the difference.
You have had your chance to work with your own definitions. You have done a poor job of explaining yourself. You claim that morality is objective (I assume, if you want to disagree with me, that it is divinely commanded). You had the chance to play with the word subjective, and you created a false dichotomy to try to explain your premise. In order for your premise to stand you must prove that man is solitary by nature, that nothing in reality transcends his personal opinion of what is moral or immoral. You must prove that God is the singular and only thing that informs morality. You proved yourself wrong when you brought up lions.
The reason you have been avoiding my question about whether it is fair to make a comparison between lions killing zebras and people killing people is because you know what the logical conclusion of a fair comparison is. Lions don’t kill lions with any more frequency then people kill people because they are social animals. They depend on the lives of other lions in order to survive. As social creatures we too understand this social contract, be it written, assumed or otherwise. Your insistence that “we are fashioned in the image of God” as the reason means that you must assume that lions are also the benefactors of this trait. As are dogs. As are seals. As are dolphins. As are monkeys. Your argument doesn’t hold water, there must be some other reason that transcends both opinion and theism.
Morality can be objective only insofar as a construct can be said to define an animals natural order. For a pride of lions, if they could express their natural order, killing another lion would be objectively morally wrong. The same would go for many other social species. This objective truth could only be superseded by by the consequences of another objective truth, for example if the life of one lion directly endangered the life of other lions in that pride. So an anthropomorphically projected lion might make a moral decision to leave an older lion behind when the cost to the pride to defend him is too great. That is a subjective moral decision. It is one we as humans have the luxury of avoiding because we have reasoned our way out of the food chain and everyday struggle for survival. If the lion were in our same situation, he would certainly exhibit the same behavior we would.
You should have chosen sharks, or birds, or some other creature that differs more in its nature or social construct from us. It was a poorly played move, one that betrays the weakness of your argument. That is why you won’t address it, because someone caught the game and called.
While on the subject of questions you won’t answer; perhaps you would like to continue to dodge this one. Where in the Bible does it unambiguously condemn pedophilia? You started this argument based on the premise that atheism comports with pedophilia yet you still haven’t taken the time to show the moral superiority of your own Bible. That’s odd because that fact seems important. If I were you and I had a book of objective moral pronouncements, I would want to show off how objectively and morally complete it is. I agree that there should be no room for interpretation regarding pedophilia, I’m sure your Bible agrees?
So what I am saying Peter is that morality is not subjective in the way you want to define subjectivity, it is not objective in the way you want to define objectivity. Your definitions really mean squat in this conversation. Morality is objective in the sense that rules, whether understood by convention or natural order, are the basis for the definition of a species and how it interacts with the world. Any one members opinion of those rules is moot. It is not convention, it is survival. To deny the rule is to take away the very tools of your survival. Morality is subjective in the sense that our choices impact our ability to survive; so the best solution is not always clear, or do not impact our survival, so that reason can transcend a rule that has outlived its merit.
By picking and choosing what you want the definitions to be, you create black and white pronouncements from a million shades of gray. The only people who will buy into it are those who already believe that morality is always black or white. Your audience is Divine Command Theory Christians. Outside of that bubble you just look like a goof.
The problem is that you have convinced only those who already believed, polarized those who you claim to be helping, and demonstrated the intellectual vacuousness of your pet theory to anyone with an open mind and a computer.
So Peter, with that said, here is how I answer your silly little questions:
Peter: Greg, as an atheist, cannot account for how God or myself might be wrong. For him, morality is subjective, that is, it’s a matter of personal opinion. Of course, if that’s true then there really is no such thing as right and wrong – it’s just one person’s opinion vs. another. And if morality is not objective, as it is in the Christian worldview, then rationality is not even possible since no one is obligated to reason according to the truth or communicative truthfully. There’s no obligation to do that unless it’s your personal opinion – but even then we know that people can be wrong. But how do you know if someone’s wrong if no one is obligated to be right?
George: Peter, I can account for how you, or your God, is right or wrong. Your personal opinion does not make you right. Neither does any entity you want to call God have any monopoly on truth. I certainly don’t consider my opinion to be to only valid one. Opinions are not truths, God’s opinion is not truth. That is not to say that God, you or I can’t be right, just that there is no certainty that we are independent of reality. I will say again that no-one is obliged to reason according to the truth, free will allows the Christian to deny it(and sin as a result), and the ability to be wrong allows the atheist to do it(and face the consequences of poor judgment). What you imply is that a Christian cannot be wrong and that there is no mechanism to answer to except for God. Tell that to the guy in cell block D, or the guy who is of the opinion that cars can’t hurt him, or the guy who pathologically lies, or the guy who believes that rat poison is harmless to humans. God isn’t the only game in town when it comes to consequences. You insisting it doesn’t make it so.
Peter: Should a person have a worldview that’s coherent and consistent, as Greg says I should (and I agree)? If morality is subjective then no one’s under obligation to do that. But in the Christian worldview, people are obligated to be coherent and consistent. That’s why I argue that Greg’s argument against me proves Christianity, since he is presupposing that I must be consistent and coherent, which is a Christian position. But it’s a position that atheists cannot account for since, in their worldview, no one has any objective moral obligations. Greg has to presuppose the truth of Christianity in order to attack it, and thus he unwittingly proves Christianity.
George: That whole statement is ridiculous. A person who believes morality is subjective still has to deal with reality. If they walk around randomly punching strangers, they still have to deal with the ramifications. Christians just believe that they have to wait till they die to get their real punishment, where sane people realize that there are consequences here. I’m not trying to avoid hellfire by not killing babies, I’m doing it because to kill babies is inhuman, destroys my bond with my fellow man, and has real world consequences. Peter denies mans humanity, he believes that without God we are just a beast and that he would love to kill babies but he can’t because God thinks it is wrong. I believe there is a better reason then God says so. If he thinks I prove Christianity then he has to show that no other system can lead to a morally right choice, he can’t just say so. It’s mental masturbation until he can prove it. Who wants to bet he can’t?
Peter: And what of the laws of logic? Greg may want to charge me with being irrational or illogical. But according to what standard or standards does he make that judgement? According to the laws of logic? Do people have an objective moral obligation to abide by the laws of logic? Or is that just a matter of personal opinion? If you’re an atheist, how do you account for the laws of logic? Are they immaterial or material? If they’re immaterial, how do you make sense of that if you’re an empiricist or materialist? Are the laws of logic abstract? Are they just electro-chemical processes that happen in the brain? Do any two people have the exact same brain? Are they just a matter of convention? If so, why am I morally obligated to follow the convention? If they’re a matter of convention, then why can’t anyone adopt whatever convention they feel like? And if they’re not a matter of convention, then how does the atheist prove this? If rationality is measured against the laws of logic, then shouldn’t they be objective, immutable and universal? But if the laws of logic can change, whether over time or from one place to another, then why should anyone reason according to the laws of logic? How does the atheist prove that the laws of logic were the same many years ago as they are today? How does he know they’ll be the same in the future? And if he doesn’t know whether the laws of logic are constant, then why even bother reasoning according to them?
George: This paragraph is why Peter is objectively an idiot. Peter needs to put down the bong and rejoin reality. Are the laws of logic objective? Yep. If you want to be a member of reality. Did I ever say anywhere that nothing is objective? Nope. Never said that. I have said many times that you can deny a truth and it doesn’t change the nature of it. Even if everyone denied a truth it wouldn’t change the nature of it. We could all get together and decide that the law of internal contradiction was false. We could have married bachelors all over the place, but we would still need to differentiate between the married bachelors and the single ones, so we would have a superfluous term in there. It would also make the term bachelor virtuously meaningless. See, when we change the rules of logic we still need them to comport with reality, so we would have to devise a whole branch of sub-rules to make them comport with reality. They wouldn’t be elegant. Logic does not transcend reality, it is a slave to it. Logic is objective. This has nothing whatsoever to do with morality, unless you compartmentalize every moral question into a singular yes/no answer, and assume that there is no need for context. What transcends logic to make it objective? Reality. Are you morally obligated to follow the laws of logic? Nope. You have every right to be wrong.
I suspect that you will continue to avoid my questions and instead find one thing you want to discuss and dwell on it. Then I will prove you wrong on that, then you’ll move to another. Then another. You never endeavor to prove your points. You just make them and expect that everyone needs to agree. Peter, can you show me one point you have made in this whole debate that you have proven? That I have not deconstructed and left for dead, with no answer from you? You can’t. Because you haven’t. You are spinning your wheels. Your last post just re-iterates all those points I have proven false, like if you say them again-they will be right this time.