The Case for Presuppositionalism

Is presuppositionalism circular? Can you assume that Christianity is right? Can you argue the truth of the Bible from the Bible?  Is an apologist obligated to use the two step approach?

If you’re new to the realm of apologetics it is important to realize there are a variety of approaches. The approach I have favored is the two-step approach. The two step approach first establishes God’s existence. The moves to establish the truth and rationality of Christianity. My reason for favoring the two step approach over presuppositionalism  is simple. It is the approach that helped bring my skeptical family to faith.

Recently, however, I have been converted more towards presuppositionalism. A presuppositionalist begins with the assumption of God’s existence and argues from that perspective to show the validity of Christian theism.

This change was prompted in part by been reading Colin Brown’s, Philosophy & The Christian Faith. 

Philosophy and the Christian Faith Philosophy and the Christian Faith: A Historical Sketch from the Middle Ages to the Present DayColin Brown; InterVarsity Press 1980WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Brown is not intentionally creating a presuppositionalist apologetic. Instead he sums up the traditional arguments for God throughout history. He then points out they all have flaws and are all capable of being refuted. A philosopher refuting an argument, however, does not refute the faith. The Christian faith does not depend on arguments for proof.[1] Modern skepticism tells us we must understand something in order to believe it. The problem with evidence is we are always going to want more time, or more compelling evidence to make up our minds. The evidence some find convincing will leave others totally unconvinced.

Brown sides firmly with presuppositionalism quoting  Anselm, who stated, “I believe so I may understand.”[2]

Brown offers us this logic for presuppositionalism, “Does it not make better sense of the world- and of our thought about it and our behavior in it- if we presuppose the biblical view of God as its author and sustainer?”[3]

If we accept Browns view that we should presuppose the truth of Christianity, the purpose of apologetic philosophy then is the explanation of the grounds for and the nature of the Christian faith, and that the investigation of these grounds strengthens and enriches the committed Christian’s faith.[4]

Brown, finally, offers an important critique of the two-step approach, If we first wait to establish objectively that God exists, will we ever get to the second step of presenting the truth and validity of Christianity?

For more information on  about what pressupositionalism is check out
Christianity Today also has an excellent post that looks at the common objections to presupposing the existence of God in apologetics. You can find it here.
For another look about  why I think apologetics matter check out Apologetics in an Unapologetic World.

[1] Brown, 29.

[2] Anselm, Proslogion, i.

[3]  Brown, 30.

[4] Ibid., 29.

[5] Ibid., 47.

[6] Ibid., 48.

One thought on “The Case for Presuppositionalism”

  1. Tracy,
    Thank you for this straight forward look at presuppositionalism in apologetics. Your explanation was easy to understand. I am not taking an apologetics class but I feel like you have given me a window into this discipline.

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