Saturday 19 March 2011

Presuppositional Apologetics: an argument that's not an argument

At the beginning of this year I posted about presuppositional apologetics (PA). I first encountered this particular argument for the existence of God after a search for information about the transcendental proof.

Justin Brierley's Unbelievable? radio programme dealt with presuppositional apologetics in July 2010 with a debate/discussion between presuppositionalist Sye Ten Bruggencate and atheist Paul Baird — a programme that provoked a forum discussion exceeding 1000 posts and confirmed that as an apologetic method PA is a dismal failure.

Today's Unbelievable? — billed as round two — again featured Sye and Paul, but on this occasion was more about PA rather than just Sye actually doing it (although inevitably it included some of that as well).

Streaming audio of the show is available here:{C2CD1A87-7A50-498E-B5F5-773F4EE37E46}

Or you can download the mp3 here:

Listening to the show, and to Sye doing his schtick, I felt some sympathy for Justin as he sided with Paul in trying to persuade Sye to explain how he gets from the generic God (resulting from Sye's transcendental argument) to the God of Christianity.

Of course Sye didn't explain any such thing, claiming that the Christian God is not a culmination but a necessary presupposition to his argument. The discussion clearly demonstrated why presuppositional apologetics doesn't work. PA is never going to persuade anyone that it's correct, because it simply presupposes that it's correct. Anyone who accepts Sye's argument as valid isn't being persuaded of the truth of Christianity, they are simply accepting it a priori as true. If the argument requires at its very beginning the existence of the specifically Christian God, it's hardly surprising that it expends no effort in trying to prove something it takes as a given.

Since his first encounter with Sye, Paul has spent considerable time and effort researching PA, and you can hear his own account of the "rematch" on the first episode of Skepticule Extra, available here:

The only people who find PA convincing are those who already think it's a good argument. That's why PA is doomed.