Which Method Of Apologetics Is Right: Evidentialism Or Presuppositionalism?

April 26, 2018


Hey Ben,


Can you tell me your thoughts are about how Van Til described the methods of reasoning. He claimed that every person reasons in a circular motion and although I know it's a logical fallacy to engage in circular reasoning, I can't help but to think that Van Til is right. A person's presuppositions always determine his conclusions. So for athiest's, they assume that evolution is true. So therefore, they conclude that the universe must be billions of years old. As a Christian, I assume that the Bible is true. So therefore, I conclude that everything is just over 6,000 years old. Ben, what are your thoughts on these two different approaches to apologetics? Which one is right? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts. Thanks!



Hello Sean, 


Thanks for your inquiry. Cornelius Van Till as you know was a leading developer for a school of apologetical thought called “presuppositionalism,” which technically advances it’s argument from the conclusion rather than coming to its conclusion by a series of deductive premises. Though the approach has sometimes been accused of being “logically fallacious” (as you have written), I am prone to think otherwise, and I’m not alone. Circular reasoning, technically speaking, is not a formal logical fallacy, but a pragmatic defect in which the argument is said to break down for reasons other than logical failure. 

In fact, when you think about it, the only way to show that circular reasoning is logically fallacious, is to show that the premises of the argument are invalid. And in a large number of cases, this is simply not true. Take for example the following circular argument:

Oranges are orange.
Therefore, oranges are orange.

Notice that both the premise and the conclusion of the argument are true and valid. The problem simply has to do with the fact that the argument does not contain evidence that is separate or distinct from the conclusion. Does that make sense?

So the next time you use a “presup” argument in evangelism, and you're accused of advancing a logical fallacy, you can take this one to the bank!

That said, I do not personally use a presuppositionalist approach to apologetics in my evangelism. My reason is that I see value in demonstrating the logical consistency of the claims of Christianity by means of axiomatic argumentation. Axioms differ from presuppositions in one major sense: They are self-evident rather than merely assumed. So when we attempt to refute the validity of axioms, we wind up proving our constraint to their adherence.

For example, the statement "Logic does not apply to things outside of space-time” uses a law of logic, namely, that of contradiction, to make its case. But in that event, the argument has not succeeded, since at least one law of logic still applies outside of space-time, namely the one in usance. Or, as René Descartes showed: self-existence may be grounded in one word, namely, cogito ergo sum. For even if I doubt I exist, who is there to do the doubting? So I exist!

This, I see, is a valid form of proof. And most “free-thinkers” are willing to agree with me.

So, in conclusion, when dealing with skeptics, there are only two ways I know of to overcome skepticism, as a system: 1. Employ the axiomatic argument or 2. Invalidate skepticism (which I won’t take the time to explain here). I tend to go with 1 and I find that it works, most of the time. Does that answer the question? God bless!

In the Harvest,
Ben Fischer <><

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