Presuppositionalism

Mascagni, Joseph sold into slavery by his brothersGod has inspired the Bible, which is literal truth. True Christians believe the Bible, and therefore have the basis for understanding life and reality. Atheists do not, and therefore are incapable of rational thought or argument. This understanding is called “Presuppositionalism”. From false presuppositions atheists will draw random conclusions.

How wonderful! If not everyone, a huge number of those who disagree with me are merely wrong, not even in an interesting way. This is not how I think. It helps to explain Tim, the Creationist I invited here in July. What day of the week was the Last Supper? Did God create animals then humanity, or man, then animals, then woman? A lot of people maintain their are contradictions, but honestly I’ve never found a truly provable one, he wrote. He came up with arguments, rather than mere assertion, but I did not feel they were sufficient.

Octavia Butler, in Parable of the Talents, brings together the worst possible characteristics of the worst possible Christianities to imagine “Christian America”. Andrew Jarret, elected US President in 2032, at his inauguration preaches on “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword” (Isaiah 1:19-20) neatly blaming all the problems of the country on “traitors and sinners, those destroyers in our midst”. “Decent, ordinary men,” writes Butler, can guard slave camps, believing that interning minor criminals there is necessary for the good of the country. Milgram and Zimbardo again.

All of CA is based on lies. The seminary dining room works hard at being as dreary and cheerless as could be managed, and the “hot cinnamon-apple tea” is tepid, slightly sweet water. If all the wickedness is in the Other, then my anger must be Righteous Love.

The book has a moment of self-abnegating love which made me weep. The mother finds her daughter, stolen from her in infancy, and addresses her by her birth name.

-My door is open to you, Larkin, always.
-Asha. My name is Asha Vere.
-Asha, she whispered. My door is open to you, Asha. Always.

“Think it possible that you may be mistaken” says Advices and Queries, quoting Cromwell. CA creates impossible contradictions, which must be denied- “Stupid faith was good. Thinking and questioning were bad.” “The working poor who love Jarret need to be fooled. They scratch a living, and they need a savior.”

Think it possible that you may be mistaken, and possibly I think that too much. It opens me to greater understanding, and makes me incapable of decisions. But the choice is between asserting you are Right, and seeking the truth. As Timothy Garton Ash wrote of the Velvet revolution, a great deal of what is happening is about words: about finding new, clear, true words rather than the old, prefabricated, mendacious phrases under which they have lived for so long.

Agreement challenge

File:Rubens, Peter Paul - Hercules and Omphale - 1602-1605.jpgWhat can I find of interest or value in Pousto’s blog? I first saw him in this post on Why I do not support “homosexual marriage”His analysis argues that Christians should campaign against it, though he sympathises with Libertarianism. It promotes a culture of death, harms children, infringes on the rights of Christian business owners to discriminate, and is a slippery slope to polygamy. It redefines what marriage is, and only God can do that. So I commented, sarkily, and got a surprisingly courteous response: I took a quick glance at your blog and saw that you are more than capable of critical thought. I don’t mean that to be a snarky comment. I mean it as a compliment and as a basis for further conversation.

I don’t see much basis for conversation. He argues public policy. I am concerned for individuals, where he sees a threat. Not only do we disagree on every point, we express ourselves differently and perhaps think differently. So I proposed the Agreement Challenge. What could we find in each others’ blogs with which we agree?

The immediately preceding post has something of value for me. I had not heard of Ergun Caner, former Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, or how some things he said about his past were untrue. I am interested to read that the Southern Baptist Convention has no centralised power which could take action against Caner, but when Pousto says that the proclamation of the Gospel (I might say the advancement of Truth) is File:Peter Paul Rubens 024.jpgmore important than the survival of that particular denomination, I am in delighted agreement. It firms up a thought I have had about Quakers possibly dying out in Britain.

Scrolling down, I find a critique of a post on Presuppositionalism. That is a method of proclaiming the Gospel to unbelievers which presupposes the truth of the Bible. The presuppositionalist does not debate the existence of God, God just is, as revealed in God’s inerrant word; he says others have different presuppositions, from which only God’s grace will free them. I am reminded of Marx’s coinage, “ideology”. For Marx, “Marxism” was observed truth, and ideologies were false understandings opposed to it.

To me, calling belief in the inerrancy of scripture a “presupposition” and an attempt to follow the scientific method a “presupposition” makes some sense. If someone uses Occam’s razor to shave away God, no argument will convince him but an invitation to spend time in church might convert him. To Pousto, that atheist is entitled to argument, rather than assertion, or perhaps the Christian should not simply give up on arguments which might persuade an atheist, as a tool for conversion. For Pousto, if you presuppose the Bible, you then have to refute all possible other presuppositions- the Koran, scientific materialism, whatever.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/40/Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Hero_and_Leander_-_WGA20274.jpg/320px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Hero_and_Leander_-_WGA20274.jpg

His ending, though, illustrates our difference. Are these presuppositionalists not out to persuade the unbeliever? No, but to win him over. Aesop had something on this. No agreement, then: but at least something on which we might fruitfully engage, honing each other’s thought.

Then I find the teleology of eschatology. He sees progress in history. To which I say an unequivocal Yes.