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Reformed Epistemology

Discussion in 'Semper Reformanda' started by JM, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. JM

    JM pre·des·ti·nar·i·an Supporter

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    Any thoughts on Reformed Epistemology? (the apologetic method)



    Alvin Plantinga: Reformed Epistemology and Rationality of Belief | Wchurch's Weblog



    “Rationality and Religious Belief” explores the question “is it rational, or reasonable, or rationally acceptable, to believe in God?” It is sophisticated and not easy to summarise, but nonetheless a compelling refutation of the standard line that religious belief is irrational. He deals with what he calls the “evidentialist objection’ to theistic belief, that “belief in God is irrational, or unreasonable, or noetically substandard because there is insufficient evidence for it.”



    This he traces to epistemological foundationalism (definition here: Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) ) and the concept of properly basic, properly basic refers to those truths which are held to be incorrigible or self-evident. He holds that incorrigibility is not a necessary condition of proper basicality, and thus the evidentialist objection so far as it hinges on foundationalism is bankrupt. He then considers if a belief in God could be considered properly basic and considers the two standars objections.



    These are:


    (i) If one has no evidence of the existence of God then one’s belief is “groundless, or gratuitous, or arbitary.”


    (ii) If we accept that belief in God is properly basic then we must accept just any belief is properly basic, thus “throwing wide the gates to irrationalism and superstition.”
     
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  2. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    From what I understand, the Reformed Epistemology set forth by Alvin Plantinga is perfectly compatible with Van Til's Reformed Apologetic. The primary focus of Plantinga's work, is on justification of basic beliefs...or presuppositions, however the VT apologetic, shouldn't be confused with foundationalism, because the existence of God does not rest on personal (foundational) beliefs, rather the existence of God is objectively true (outside of persons), and how we know is because He chose to reveal Himself in Scripture. I would classify VT epistemology as "revelational", resting on the self-revelation of God, and the self-attesting authority of Christ. Where justification of knowledge comes in, is in the negative form of not being able to justify any knowledge apart from God's knowledge, or in other words, being able to give an account for basic principals necessary for knowledge, logic, moral values, predication, deduction, etc.
     
  3. Iosias

    Iosias Senior Contributor

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    There are various Reformed epistemologies; the problem with presuppositionalism is it is wholly circular. Far better is an evidentialist approach.
     
  4. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    What better source to answer the charge of circular reasoning than Van Til himself...

    “Before proceeding to the development of the scriptural doctrine of inspiration, it may be w ell to refer briefly at this point to the charge of circular reasoning implied in such a method. It is said that we cannot fairly go first to Scripture to see what it says about inspiration and then say that the Scripture is true because it is inspired.

    In order to avoid this charge of circular reasoning, orthodox theology has often offered the following: In the first place, it is proved by ordinary historical evidence that Christ actually arose from the dead and that he performed miracles. This is said to prove his divinity. Secondly, it is noted that this divine person has testified to the Old Testament as the Word of God and that he himself promised the gift of the Holy Spirit who should lead the apostles into the truth and thus be qualified as authors of the New Testament.” – from “An Introduction To Systematic Theology” Chapter 12 The Inspiration of Scripture

    “The method of reasoning by presupposition may be said to be indirect rather than direct. The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to “facts” or “laws” whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to debate. The question is rather as to what is the final reference-point required to make the “facts” and “laws” intelligible. The question is as to what the “facts” and “laws” really are. Are they what the non-Christian methodology assumes that they are? Are they what the Christian theistic methodology presupposes they are?

    The answer to this question cannot be finally settled by any direct discussion of “facts.” It must, in the last analysis be settled indirectly. The Christian apologist must place himself upon the position of his opponent, assuming the correctness of his method merely for argument’s sake, in order to show him that on such a position the “facts” are not facts and the “laws” are not laws. He must also ask the non-Christian to place himself upon the Christian position for argument’s sake in order that he may be shown that only upon such a basis do “facts” and “laws” appear intelligible.

    To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting-point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.” – from “Apologetics” Chapter 4 Reasoning By Presupposition

    “It is this whole system of truth that is set forth in the Bible. The writers of Scripture were inspired by the Holy Spirit to set forth this system of truth. Thus the system is self-attesting. The testimony or influence of the Spirit in the heart of man cannot be in the nature of new information. The whole system of truth is already contained in Scripture and is being identified as such. It would not be identified by the Spirit as such if the Spirit gave other additional revelation. The Scripture would no longer be self-attesting if the Spirit gave additional information. On the other hand it is by the sovereign act of the Holy Spirit that the Scripture can be seen to be the self-attesting Word of God. For sin is that by which men seek to interpret facts apart from the revelation of God. The sinner seeks a criterion of truth and knowledge independent of the revelation of God. The sinner wants to test that which presents itself as the revelation of God by a standard not itself taken from this revelation. He complains of the circular reasoning that would be involved in accepting the word of Scripture about the nature of Scripture. So then, to overcome this hostile attitude of the sinner it is necessary that the Holy Spirit convict him of his sin in not accepting the Bible as the Word of God. The miracles, the prophecies fulfilled, the symmetry of its parts, etc., will all be misinterpreted because interpreted by the wrong standard, unless the Spirit convicts and convinces the sinner that he is dealing with the Word of God.” – from “A Christian Theory of Knowledge” Chapter 2 The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture
     
  5. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    “But the charge will finally be made that I accept all this because the Bible tells me. The Bible tells me that its God and its Christ are absolute and the sole source of interpretation. The Bible tells me that obedience is a covenant obligation because a creation-implication. But whence my belief in the Bible? If my reply is that an absolute God and an absolute Christ need an absolutely authoritative Bible in a sinful world, the logic is granted. Such is surely the case. If sin is what Scripture says it is, a denial of man’s receptivity of heart and mind, if God is what Scripture says He is, an absolute God, and if Christ is what Scripture says He is, the restorer of man to God, then only an infallibly inspired Scripture can help true? If I say that it accords with my experience, I do not escape the charge of circle-reasoning, because admittedly my experience has been moulded under the influence of the Scriptures. If I say that Scripture accords with a Theism that I find more satisfactory than any other philosophy, I again do not escape the charge of circle-reasoning because I have just stated that my Theism, too, comes from the Scriptures. How then shall I escape the charge of circle-reasoning when men ridicule me because as an educator I assume the authority of Scripture?

    The answer is that I shall in no wise seek to escape it but boldly affirm it as the only alternative to self-destruction. What I shall do is first show clearly on the one hand that an absolute God, creation, and man’s original receptivity of thought that is Theism is indissolubly connected with and restored by Christ and Scripture, that is, by Christianity; and on the other hand that a finite-God, an uncreated universe and the essential creativity of human thought, that is Anti-theism is indissolubly connected with a denial of Christ’s divinity and the authority of Scripture, that is with Anti-Christianity. Then, when I have done this, I gladly admit and avow that I am a Theist and a Christian because the Holy Spirit has made me so, but I equally maintain that all men should be Theists and Christians because only Theism and Christianity can offer meaning to experience at all. Circular reasoning is the most reasonable form of reasoning for a finite personality. No other form of reasoning is possible.” – from “Essays On Christian Education” Appendix 1 The Education of Man – A Divinely Ordered Need

    “H.2.1. You rightly stress that a Christian pursuit of science is presuppositional. To this I would add that a non-Christian pursuit of science is presuppositional as well. After all, science has historically and principially its origin in pre-scientific life and world view (including religious convictions), and this fact holds good for non-Christian science as well. In section C.1. I have mentioned pre-scientific assumptions of, for instance, the theory of universal evolution. To this may be added your demonstrations of the presuppositions of chance and of the autonomy of human reason in the cases of the philosophical and empirical scientific theories, which you have penetratingly criticized. The differences between a Christian and a non-Christian pursuit of science are in this context, among others, that in a Christian pursuit of science the ultimate presuppositions are (a). obtained from God’s Word-revelation, (b). in submission to the authority of God’s Word, and (c). are explicitly stated and answered for, whereas in a non-Christian pursuit of science (a). the ultimate presuppositions are unbiblical, (b). the authority of the Holy Writ is radically rejected, and (c). the presuppositions are more often than not covertly, i.e., only implicitly, present and not accounted for. At any rate, both pursuits are necessarily presuppositional. But the difference of the presuppositions implies that there is basically no neutral pursuit of science. The issues concerning ultimate presuppositions cannot be settled by a direct appeal to facts, insofar as their interpretations presuppose the presuppositions concerned. The ultimate reference points determine the stand taken. What you contend concerning a Christian pursuit of science, namely that a circular reasoning is implied in the mutual involvement of starting point, method, and conclusions, holds good for a non-Christian pursuit of science as well.” – from “Jerusalem and Athens” Part Two 1H On Method

    “In the light of what Montgomery says about miracles, what then does he consider the importance of such events? To him, as to other Christians, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the supreme miracle. His reason for believing this is that, since religious experience is found only in the empirical realm, it must come either by divine written revelation or the entrance of a divine messenger. The writings would have to be internally consistent, which he appears to deny when he deals with Clark’s ideas, and would have to fit the facts of experience, presumably of both believer and unbeliever alike. The messenger would have to prove himself by performing deeds “unable or highly unlikely to be performed by mere human beings,” which might also support the claims of Lourdes, Fatima, and Ste. Anne de Beaupre (cf. Ex 7:11). Bringing book and individual together, he insists that Christ’s resurrection, as recorded in the New Testament, therefore proves that Christ is God. 45 But on his own terms does it? First of all, Christ’s resurrection is simply part of natural law and cannot be shown to be unique until history ends. 46 Secondly, in a completely open universe, where anything can happen except that which contravenes the law of non-contradiction, which Montgomery apparently accepts as more than merely descriptive, the resurrection may have been simply the result of chance, signifying nothing. 47 Since the proof of biblical inspiration is Christ’s resurrection, and the evidence in turn for the resurrection is the New Testament, such circular reasoning is empirically indefensible. On his own grounds, therefore, he has no argument in favor of Christianity. Furthermore, he has virtually destroyed any possibility of history having any meaning at all, for miracles can reveal nothing but their own uniqueness, and even that is never more than probable.” – from “Jerusalem and Athens” Part Four 22-3 What is History?

    „In contrast with Kuitert, Zuidema begins his thinking about any and every problem with the Christ of the Scriptures. The Christ of the Scripture identifies himself directly in the Scripture. Belief in Scripture lies, as Calvin points out, above and beyond all reasoning of men. This is the case, not because it is faith but because it is faith in Scripture.

    People may tell us that such a position commits us to reasoning in a circle. For you men will say: the “Bible is the Word of God, because it is the Word of God, and because the Word of God is the Word of God.” We reply that in believing the Bible as self-attesting we do not engage in circular reasoning because we do not engage in reasoning at all. The Bible does not stand on the level with the logical principle of identity. In short we accept the Bible on authority.” – from “The New Hermeneutic” Chapter 3 Zuidema’s Starting Point
     
  6. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    “It thus appears that we must take the Bible, its conception of sin, its conception of Christ, and its conception of God and all that is involved in these concepts together, or take none of them. So also it makes very little difference whether we begin with the notion of an absolute God or with the notion of an absolute Bible. The one is derived from the other. They are together involved in the Christian view of life. Hence we defend all or we defend none. Only one absolute is possible, and only one absolute can speak to us. Hence it must always be the same voice of the same absolute, even though he seems to speak to us at different places. The Bible must be true because it alone speaks of an absolute God. And equally true is it that we believe in an absolute God because the Bible tells us of one. 1

    And this brings up the point of circular reasoning. The charge is constantly made that if matters stand thus with Christianity, it has written its own death warrant as far as intelligent men are concerned. Who wishes to make such a simple blunder in elementary logic, as to say that we believe something to be true because it is in the Bible? Our answer to this is briefly that we prefer to reason in a circle to not reasoning at all. We hold it to be true that circular reasoning is the only reasoning that is possible to finite man. The method of implication as outlined above is circular reasoning. Or we may call it spiral reasoning. We must go round and round a thing to see more of its dimensions and to know more about it, in general, unless we are larger than that which we are investigating. Unless we are larger than God we cannot reason about him any other way, than by a transcendental or circular argument. The refusal to admit the necessity of circular reasoning is itself an evident token of opposition to Christianity. Reasoning in a vicious circle is the only alternative to reasoning in a circle as discussed above.” – from “A Survey of Christian Epistemology” Chapter 1-11 Transcendental

    See Chapter 15: The Method Of Christian Theistic Epistemology from “A Survey of Christian Epistemology”


    “Is this circular reasoning and must the Christian seek to escape circular reasoning? It is circular reasoning if by that is meant that it returns to its starting-point without ever having left it. Christ says I am. Christians prove that this is true by pointing out that the very idea of proof not based upon this I am of Christ amounts to an operation in the void on the part of would-be autonomous man. The only alternative to starting with the I am of Christ is to start with the I am of man in some such way as is done by Kant. Thus false circular reasoning stands over against true circular reasoning.” – from “Christianity in Conflict” Chapter 9 Berkouwer on Albers

    “On page 6 of the first syllabus mentioned we read: “For the Christian system, knowledge consists in understanding the relation of any fact to God as revealed in Scripture. I know a fact truly to the extent that I understand the relation such a fact sustains to the plan of God. The whole meaning of any fact is exhausted by its position in and relation to the plan of God. This implies that every fact is related to every other fact. God’s plan is a unit. And it is this unity of the plan of God, founded as it is in the very being of God, that gives the unity that we look for between all the finite facts. If one should maintain that one fact can be fully understood without reference to all other facts, he is as much antitheistic as when he should maintain that one fact can be understood without reference to God.” 41

    Such being the case our method must be that of “implication.” “What we seek to do in our search for understanding the universe is to work ourselves ever more deeply into the relations that the facts of the universe sustain to God. That is, we seek to implicate ourselves more deeply into a comprehension of God’s plan in and with every fact that we investigate.” 42

    Our method of implication into the interpretation given us in Scripture has an inductive and a deductive aspect. The inductive and deductive aspects of our method of implication must be seen as opposite in meaning from what has “historically been known by the deductive and inductive methods … 43 As historically developed the inductive and deductive methods of research are aspects of a view of “human investigation that rests in man.” Our opponents often “thoughtlessly identify our method with the Greek method of deduction.” 44 “We have purposely chosen the name implication for our method because we believe that it really fits in with the Christian scheme while it fits in with no other scheme.” 45

    Closely related to the terms inductive and deductive are the terms a posteriori and a priori. We need only to observe that a priori reasoning and a posteriori reasoning are equally anti-Christian if these terms are understood in their historical sense. 46

    The type of argument that goes with the Christian method of implication is the transcendental argument. “A truly transcendental argument takes any fact of experience which it wishes to investigate, and tries to determine what the presuppositions of such a fact must be in order to make it what it is.… Any method, as was pointed out above, that does not maintain that not a single fact can be known unless it be that God gives that fact meaning is an anti-Christian method.” 47

    The “position we have sought to outline is frankly taken from the Bible.” 48 This “applies especially to the central concept of the whole position, viz. the concept of an absolute God.” 49 From the non-Christian point of view our position with respect to God and Scripture is the product of “circular reasoning.” Or, we may call it spiral reasoning. “Unless we are larger than God we cannot reason about him any other way than by a transcendental or circular argument.… Reasoning in a vicious circle is the only alternative to reasoning in a circle as discussed above.” – from “Herman Dooyeweerd And Reformed Apologetics” Part One The First Syllabus
     
  7. Iosias

    Iosias Senior Contributor

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    Umm, in “Essays On Christian Education” Appendix 1 The Education of Man – A Divinely Ordered Need he states quite clearly:

    CVT accepts he reasons in a circular fashion and says there is no other way. He affirms the charge!
     
  8. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    What you fail to realize Iosias is that every worldview, Christian and non, consists of circularity at heart. Quite frankly there is no way around it, not for us finite creatures.
     
  9. Iosias

    Iosias Senior Contributor

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    Thanks, they all pretty much confirm that presuppositionalism is indeed circular:

     
  10. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    I take it that all worldviews, and all humans have one, are circular at heart. I also take it that there is a difference between circular reasoning and a circular argument. To quote Joseph Torres:

    "If question begging is embraced, fideism is implied. Fideism is the rejection of a rational apologetic, and vicious argumentative circularity is one way to escape providing reasons, through argumentation, for one’s religious convictions. If it is successfully demonstrated that presuppositionalists embrace fallacious circularity then a major blow has been dealt to their methodology.

    Vicious and virtuous circles. Here it is vital to distinguish between two types of circularity: vicious and virtuous. In the majority of the literature, circular reasoning and begging the question are presented as synonymous, with no distinctions made regarding different types of circularity. Among analytical philosophers and epistemologists there is a lively discussion26 over 1) the validity of epistemic circularity, and 2) whether all forms of circular reasoning should be equated with the fallacy of petitio principii. Walton notes that question-begging is a fallacy because it “… prevent the raising of further critical questions by an opponent in relation to one’s argument in persuasion dialogue.”27 But not all circles are fallacious, nor are they all vicious. Circular arguments are, as Walton puts it, “often quite correct and useful-not fallacious, as traditionally portrayed in the logic textbooks.”28 I speak of non-vicious circles as virtuous circles. Virtuous circularity occurs when consistency is maintained from the fundamental principles of one’s method, through to the presentation and examination of supporting evidence, down to the concluding point. This I term circular coherence. Nicholas Rescher clarifies:

    The justificatory procedure at issue is then indeed circular-the validated logic we achieve in the end should ideally turn out to encompass the very logic of which we have been making presystematic use. But there is nothing vicious or vitiating at work here; it is a matter of retrospective wisdom-of-hindsight reassessment, of revisiting something familiar to reconsider it from a different point of view…In this way the validation of the modes of argumentation that constitute our logic is a process that is –to reemphasize- virtuously circular. We would not-should notwant it otherwise. Circularity in this domain is not just unavoidable but actually desirable…In the validation of modes of argumentation, circularity is not something vicious or vitiating; it is a rational sine qua non. 29

    This citation is of particular interest because Rescher is not (to my knowledge) a Christian, and thus has no stake in the ongoing discussion over apologetic method." - “Between Scylla and Charybdis"
     
  11. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    Presuppositionalism is the underlying method nobody wants to admit. You also have to assume the facts are not God created, further you assume neutrality (Christ said: "“He who is not with Me is against Me"), as though the Lordship of Jesus Christ were not over every area and aspect of life, further you have a hidden assumption that the facts can interpret themselves!

    Christ is not probably true, He is not probably Lord, He is the way, the truth, and life, the fountain of all knowledge. Any apologetic not assuming the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is doomed to fail.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2013
  12. Iosias

    Iosias Senior Contributor

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    There is a small coffee table in front of me, because I can both see and touch it. In this scenario we have firm empirical evidence of the coffee table's existence and no circularity is involved.
     
  13. Iosias

    Iosias Senior Contributor

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    Nonsense, we can use evidence to demonstrate that Jesus existed and was crucified.
     
  14. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    What you perceive to be a "coffee table" is not a coffee table to me, I have not perceived it with my sense perception, further what you call a "coffee table", may be something completely different to someone of a different culture. To a jungle tribe, what you call "coffee table" is firewood for them.
     
  15. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Galatians 5:1

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    Well, I believe that to an unregenerate man belief is irrational because he is spiritually dead and unable to discern spiritual things.

    However, belief is utterly rational to a regenerate man who is spiritually raised from the dead and able to discern spiritual things because it is part if his nature.

    1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
    "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."
     
  16. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    Use of the evidence demonstrates an epistemological interpretation of the metaphysical from a set of assumptions. The non-Christian may conclude: "a man named jesus existed, he died for a few and came back, it's a strange world we live in huh?" Then they may proceed to tell medical stories about people who have died in surgery for a short time, but came back.


    And here is a quote from Faith Has Its Reasons by Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman

    "It is the contention of evidentialists that metaphysical presuppositions can be minimized in apologetics. Batts asserts that “Montgomery rightly emphasizes that the historical method (the scientific method as applied to historical phenomena) assumes as little as possible and provides for the objective discovery of as much as possible.” But critics of evidentialism contend that evidentialists work with hidden presuppositions about the nature of reality. For example, in their scientific and historical arguments, evidentialists presuppose that there is a rational structure to the whole of reality. The heuristic, methodological assumptions that knowledge is possible, that the universe is structured, and that the senses can be trusted cannot themselves be empirically substantiated. Clark charges that Montgomery as an empiricist is as much a “dogmatist” on sensation as the presuppositionalist is on revelation; he cannot provide any evidence for his own first principle. Carl F. H. Henry likewise states, “Empiricists always operate on presuppositions which they cannot prove by their own methodology.”

    Montgomery admits that “a prioris must lie at the basis of every procedure,” but says that “they should be kept to a minimum, and be as self-evident and beyond dispute as much as possible.” Because of this, Henry has commented that “Montgomery differs from the presuppositionalists he disowns only in the number and scope of the presuppositions he prefers for deciphering the meaning of history.”

    Montgomery’s presuppositions are not only epistemological but also metaphysical. “Metaphysical presuppositions are implicit in every epistemology, and epistemological presuppositions are implicit in every metaphysics.” It is therefore impossible to separate epistemological assumptions from metaphysical ones. The assumption that the mind can perceive reality, for example, is an assumption about reality, that is, a metaphysical assumption. Montgomery and all evidentialists unavoidably import Christian presuppositions into their apologetic methodology. Thom Notaro writes:

    [Pinnock and Montgomery] seem unaware that they, as believers, are sitting on a gold-mine of presuppositions. In the past they have dipped into that hidden treasure most noticeably when confronted with the question of biblical inerrancy, yet without admitting the cash-value of the presuppositional method. . . . all Christian apologists presuppose certain biblical commitments, regardless of whether they are willing to call them presuppositions. The wide discrepancy between Christian apologists arises from the varying degrees of consistency with which they honor those commitments in their apologetic method.

    Evidentialists are generally unmoved by these concerns. They freely acknowledge that evidential arguments require certain assumptions about the reality of our physical world, the ability of the mind to perceive reality, and the like. What the evidentialist wants is not to make arguments that are totally free of presuppositions but rather arguments that presuppose only what must be presupposed to know anything at all. This challenge to the evidentialist approach, then, identifies a real limitation of the approach but one with which evidentialists insist everyone must live in order to know anything or reason about anything."

    And finally a scholarly response to evidentialist John Warwick Montgomery by the late Greg L. Bahnsen
     
  17. Apologetic_Warrior

    Apologetic_Warrior Well-Known Member

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    I would ask you to define a "coffee table" except I have two legs, consist of bone, tissue, blood, flesh, etc and could be laying down in front of your couch balancing a cup of coffee on my stomach, and although I love coffee, not everyone does. I know, I know, it's a coffee table because well, it's a coffee table! Kind of like "I think therefore I am"...certain times of the day though, "I stink therefore I am", but don't take my word, just ask those living with me!
     
  18. drjean

    drjean Senior Veteran Supporter

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    :thumbsup:
     
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