Presupposational Apologetics, Morality, and The Intellectual Legacy Of Greg Bahnsen

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Apologetics, Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Personal, Religion, Social Justice, TAG-Pressupposational Theology, Trolls |

So Peter, of Atheism Presupposes Theism, predictably crawled back under his rock.

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.

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7 Responses to “Presupposational Apologetics, Morality, and The Intellectual Legacy Of Greg Bahnsen”

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I would totally have fucking said that.

If it is true that morality is objective, universal, unchanging, and independent of context: Is it always morally wrong to murder children?

Note: Even if one were to answer that it is always morally wrong to murder children, that would prove only that the speaker considered it universal, unchanging and independent of context, not objective. All objective truths are universal, but not all universals are objective.

Oh, and this is the funniest fucking thing I’ve read in a month. Having debated presuppositional apologists for the better part of a decade, it is 100% dead on. “Seriously? Are you even sane?”


Hey Barefoot,
My question is why he would link to the conversation over at lousy canuck. Any rational person will walk away from that conversation with the impression that Peter is full of shit. Oh, well. He is more deluded than I even imagined.

Just in case it disappears, here is what I posted over at Peter’s thread where he claimed victory over the forces of Lousy Canuck:

I’ve got your non-subjective, Christian Bible-based morality right here:

1 Samuel 15:2-3
Thus saith the LORD of hosts … go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

Numbers 31:17-18
Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Deut 2:33
And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.
And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain:

Deut 22:28-29
If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

For all your talk about arbitrary morality, you made it abundantly clear that you are unable (or unwilling) to provide scriptures that condemn pedophilia. So, I’ve now provided scriptural examples that show your holy book doesn’t consider child murder and rape a crime. Where’s your objective morality now?

That is, without a doubt, a perfect representation of Peter’s argument. It also made me laugh. 🙂 Kudos!

First of all, I just want to say I love you, George. You know how to recognize the stupidity in stupid stuff…AND you know right where to poke at it just right, so that you’ve got me over here laughing my ass off while I’m reading! I like your thinking!

Now, onto MY BRAND of Presuppositional Christian Apologetics. I want to state my premise, which I am going to borrow. But before I do, I want you to understand that my premise may not qualify as an official “premise,” as it is actually only rumored to be a statement of thesis…indeed, it is rumored to be a fact!

PREMISE: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God). For whoever would come near to God must necessarily believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him out.”—Hebrews 11:6


1. That the way to find God is not through Science (which means “to know”), but through Faith (which means “to believe”).

2. Demands that anyone seeking TRUTH (as the same book of rumors says that Jesus Christ is TRUTH, LIGHT, LIVING WATER, BREAD COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, and THE LIGHT which shines upon men’s hearts) must believe that the God of Israel is a fact of reality.

3. Provides a clue as to what is at the back of that pesky thing called morality or conscience.

4. Suggests, albeit through rumor, that the there is a logic which differs from man’s logic and that this logic is supposedly divine and belongs to this much rumored about God of Israel.

I’ll start with the Logic of Faith, as opposed to the Logic of Science, as being the way to find God. But first, I must say that my view of science is not shared with all of my believing bro’s and sis’s. I believe the study of our material universe to be a sacred undertaking…not evil…not horrible, as some would claim it to be. (I merely think it “wrong” or “evil” or whatever you like to call it, when man throws the Composer overboard only to cherish and study and gain power from his brilliant “compositions.”)

IFF the rumors are true and man has indeed thrown the engineer and captain of his ship overboard, only to steal his ship for the mere purpose of “knowing” how she is made or how she runs or what not, AND IFF this followed certain men having a change of heart and wishing to “bring that captain back onboard,” THEN a divine logic probably wouldn’t be very likely to ALLOW the men who had exchanged their Maker for their LUST TO KNOW to find him or gain access to him THROUGH SCIENCE…namely in test tubes or laboratories or material evidence upon the vessel which indicated there even existed an engineer or a captain of such a magnificent vessel in the first place. The LOGICAL WAY back would likely have to be based within something called “trust.” The God would provide the way back, the human would trust that the God was capable and competent enough to provide that way back. Man would have to believe, not only that the captain exists, but that he makes good on his promises…that he has good intentions for the humans…and yadda, yadda, yadda…

THIS BRINGS US TO WHAT YOU CALL OBJECTIVE MORAL TRUTH, AND WHAT I CALL The Standard Weight and Measure of all Moral Decision-Making, Period!

Here it is in a nutshell. Here is precisely what would be at the back of all moral dilemmas globally and throughout time: HAVE I SURRENDERED CAPTAINCY OF THE SHIP TO THE ORIGINAL AND TENURED CAPTAIN OF THE SHIP (Meaning, am I finished with my mutiny against the captain…have I sufficiently convinced myself of my own incompetence to properly man the ship that I am now utterly ready to COMPLETELY let go of “my ways? And trust “his ways?”)

That is your Objective Moral Truth, which you had said CANNOT be defined or explained by Presuppositional Apologetics.

Maybe mine isn’t “Presuppositional Christian Apologetics”…perhaps mine is “Consider the Rumor’s–Christian Apologetics.”

You had said that it (Presuppositional Apologetics) insists upon this Objective Moral Truth BY ITS SHEER WILL OF FAITH. You are very, very correct in one sense, but have LEFT OUT one thing which is actually very easy to overlook. Yes, by sheer will of faith I should insist upon an Objective Moral Truth. But look at what I am being asked to trust: THE LOGIC, not of man, BUT OF GOD…or at least, that is what the rumors (which have yet to become verified as fact) have whispered into my ears.

In essence I am being asked to take a ship I’ve mutinously stolen from someone who had engineered, built and manned her…AND which I have only managed to practically ruin (as in my character and my relationships, leastwise) by constantly shipwrecking it upon all my incompetence and all my character flaws, etc. I am being asked to believe that the original, tenured captain of the vessel shall “right” all this cluster-fuck which I have wreaked upon this vessel with which I have thought I should so much better man or run than that horribly demanding thing called Captain (otherwise known as God or King).

We all know the tale of Moby Dick.

George…answer me this: who was the more logical within Melville’s story, Ahab or Ishmael? Was Ishmael the idiot or Ahab?? Why wouldn’t Ahab give up the fight? Was it logical for him to exchange his very life for this LUST he had for “making a catch,” or, more to the point, “lording it over” things which were over and beyond his capability of “lording it over?”


Is it always morally wrong to murder children? George, according to rumor, it is always wrong for man to throw the Judge out of the court and judge for himself between that which he see’s fit to call “right” or “wrong.” Meaning, if an individual has just murdered a child, the question isn’t “was this wrong,” or “was this a special case where it was right?” The question rumor suggests to us is: “Am I doing it again? Am I steeling the ship from God and trying to manipulate the universe for my own selfish gain…OR have I completely thrown up my hands in abandon and surrendered the helm of the ship to my Captain?” If a child was murdered and you were running the ship on your terms, then it was probably what we call “evil” or “wrong.” If a child was murdered and you had surrendered the captaincy to the Captain, then we’ve got a whole nother post to put up…hmmm….


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