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“The Great Debate” for Presuppositionalism Against Classical Apologetics


It is with some reluctance that I write this paper.  Debates never seem to convince anyone except the person who writes or speaks of his or her own position.  Further, this debate is intramural, that is, with the walls of evangelical apologetics.  Should we spend our time within, rather than without, that is “winning the world for Christ?”  Yet, these debates are not new.  In fact, history is clear that great doctrines and creeds have been formulated and agreed upon by large segments of Bible-believing Christians after years of dispute.  So, perhaps, over time some consensus will be reached, however unlikely in the near future.


I have only been a member of the International Society of Apologetics (ISCA) for three years, attending and presenting at our annual conferences on various topics concerning Michael Polanyi.[1]  Perhaps, I have accurately read the situation with prominent personalities, but there seems to be a strong antipathy towards presuppositionalism. For the eleven years of  the publication of the JISCA, there have been no major papers presenting a comprehensive view of this position or one in opposition to classical apologetics. Cornelius Van Til has been the focus of most disagreements, but I will not base my reasoning on his work.  I personally favor Gordon Clark, as I am much more familiar with his work and believe that it is more clearly written and more precise that the works of Van Til.  And, yes, I am aware of Phil Fernandes’ critique of Clark,[2] but J. Andrew Payne’s paper  is more recent and prominent in ISCA, so I will respond to his paper.[3]  Since Richard G. Howe is his mentor, mentioned in the paper, and Norman Geisler and others have promoted and defended classical apologists, as well, some of their comments will be reviewed as well.  Their position also represents the official position of Southern Evangelical Seminary.


False Separation of Epistemology, Ontology, and Ethics


Payne and classicist errors begin with Thomas Aquinas, as their epistemology is founded upon Thomism or empiricism which is defined as the position that “knowledge begins with the senses.”[4]  I cite a somewhat independent source, as most critiques that I have read come from scholars who are Reformed and presuppositional.  For example, Scott Oliphint has extensively reviewed Aquinas’ thinking.[5]  From centuries past, Immanuel Kant states the nature of this problem clearly.


The very concept of metaphysics ensures that the sources of metaphysics can’t be empirical. If something could be known through the senses, that would automatically show that it doesn’t belong to metaphysics; that’s an upshot of the meaning of the word “metaphysics.” Its basic principles can never be taken from experience, nor can its basic concepts; for it is not to be physical but metaphysical knowledge, so it must be beyond experience.[6] 


This debate is that of tabula rasa vs. innate knowledge.  The simple way that I view this process is that the senses are no more than conduits, like telephone lines, computer cables, or broadcast waves.  They transmit a “picture” of the objective world—a picture, a sound, a smell, a taste, or other sensation—but to “know” what that sensory impression actually is, requires a highly sophisticated receiver (interpretation).   A simple illustration is made by Merold Westphal.[7]  A black and white television will present a far different picture than a color or high definition television.  The difference is not in the transmission but the receiving apparatus.


For the person, what is transmitted must be interpreted in the mind,[8] where  the impression is interpreted as knowledge. The newborn begins with great innate knowledge: first, how to nourish, then motor skills, and a growing knowledge of his surroundings, and finally into the thinking and speaking child.  This early training and development of experience is, for the most part, not taught. It is innate knowledge and ability.   Noam Chomsky has strongly demonstrated how speaking and communication is too nuanced to be learned.[9]  Steven Pink has soundly condemned the idea of tabula rasa.[10]  These are two convinced atheists who see the impossibility of a blank mind being able to acquire knowledge.  I cite these scholars to illustrate that this situation has been understood outside of Christian scholarship. 


This innate knowledge is found in Romans 1:18ff.  The secular man knows the “power and deity” of God.  Alvin Plantinga, following Aquinas and Calvin have called this knowledge, the sensus divinitatis. But, Plantinga cites Aquinas and Calvin as the authorities, not the Bible as the origin of this truth, a misrepresentation.  Thus, so-called “natural” man is really “supernaturally” created.  There is no “natural” man from God’s perspective.  (See later, there is no “natural” world.)


There are two arguments here.  The first is philosophical.  The major divisions in the history of philosophy are epistemology, ontology (includes cosmology), and ethics.[11]  Howe argues for a separation of at least two of these: epistemology and ontology.[12]  But, one must state his beliefs about ontology in words.  But, these words must have a correspondence and coherence to the precision that language allows.  So, the exact words chosen have been epistemologically derived to make statements about ontology!  That is, ontology can only be described epistemologically.  And, those descriptions will be ethical, right or wrong, depending upon their conformity with reality.


Cal Beisner, describing the image of God in man, states:


Scripture indicates three principle elements in the image of God in man.  In Ephesians 4:24, Paul tells believers to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  There is, then, a moral (ethical) element to the image of God.  In Colossians 3:10, Paul writes of this “new self” as “being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” So rationality (epistemological understanding) is another element of the image of God in man.  And the context of Genesis 1:26 implies the creativity (ontology of the physical universe) is a third element of the imago Dei.[13]


This unity of traditional divisions, then, is biblically derived, as well.  Ontology (the cosmos) was created through epistemology. Thus, Calvin translates logos, as Speech, in the first chapter of John’s Gospel.[14]  In Genesis, “Let there be light, and there was light” … and everything that was created.  Further, He pronounced Creation as “good” and “very good,” thereby demonstrating the unity of epistemology, ontology, and ethics.  Elsewhere, Jason Lisle discusses this false separation of ontology and epistemology in a response to Howe.[15]


Michael Polanyi has soundly defeated the notion of objectivity in science.  The knowledge of science is person-generated via the intellectual passion of each scientist and his or her education and training.[16]  How can Einstein, Maxwell, Faraday, and a host of others think far beyond their peers, sometimes at an early age?  How can such individuality be explained apart from a special gifting of individual persons by a Sovereign God?  Evolution cannot explain variability in living biochemical processes that always produce the same reactions in the lab.  And, nothing else can explain how some persons excel, given virtually the same possibilities of nurture and education.  Individuality can only be traced back to an omnipotent being with a omniscient ability to create individuals of His choosing. 


Cosmology of “Knowing” Requires a Supernatural Mind


Both classicists and presuppositionalists can agree that they disagree.  This agreement argues for the presuppositional position.  It responds to Howe’s challenge: “I defy Lisle or anyone else to show how it is that the demonstration that logic is a precondition to intelligibility equals a presupposition of Christianity.”[17] 


Disagreement forces the deepest considerations of epistemology because it is decidedly certain that we disagree on many pertinent issues and that such “word” discussions are worthwhile.  First, knowledge can only be held by a person. A paper or book contains no knowledge except when written or read by a person.  My dog just chewed one of my books.  She did not learn from the words of the book, only taste sensations.  Computers are only on/off switches in RAM or hard drive memory.  Electrical wiring or symbols on a page can hardly be considered to be knowledge unless interpreted by a person.[18]  But, books and computers do offer a clue: knowledge requires organization—complex organization of letters and words into coherent sentences (propositions).  Knowledge cannot be transmitted except through a pattern that is recognizable from person to person.  Random pebbles on a beach transmit no knowledge.  Those same pebbles arranged as “John loves Suzie” communicates profoundly.


Cosmologically, how did this incredibly complex process come to be?  While the process is complex, the possibilities are simple.  “In the beginning there was organization or there was not.”  More specifically, there was something or nothing at all.[19]  We have let evolutionists off the hook because we have allowed enormous amounts of time and chance for the complexity of life that we see today.  But “chance,” as it is used in common discourse and in evolutionary discussions, is not true or total chance, it is a chance of limited possibilities.  A roulette wheel has 38 or 39 “chances.”  A deck of cards has a limited number of combinations, great though they may be.  Total chance is nothing—absolutely nothing exists without organization of energy and matter.[20] For a singularity, like The Big Bang, to occur there had to be matter and energy.  Both require organization.  Fire burns following laws of heat and combustion.  An atomic explosion follows complex laws of nuclear physics.  The Big Bang would have had to already be in existence for it to occur.  How did it come into existence?


Total chance is an infinite number of possibilities. But, something must give direction to an infinite number of possibilities for any one thing to exist .  There must be a directing process in the system for the first and all subsequent steps.  But, again, there can be nothing directed or existing within total chance. 


I suppose it would be reasonable to call this a variation of Intelligent Design, but it goes beyond most explanations of this notion.  It goes beyond a First Mover, because it requires an “organizing principle” for a “thing” to even exist, much less, to be moved by a “directed” energy.  Now, I presented this picture not to defeat evolutionists (even though it does), but to argue for the presupposition or axiom of Scripture as necessary for any argument to even be formulated in a coherent manner. 


That is, when we debate either side, we have presupposed a cosmos of intelligence beings who are to communicate with each other by a complex process of language and communication.  Evidentialists and classical theists presuppose this situation just to make their arguments.  So, do presuppositionalists, but we are aware of how we are reasoning.[21]  This complexity must be explained.  We have eliminated the evolutionary argument, so there must be a designer, if there is design.  But, our cosmos requires a very specific and great designer: one who creates the most amazing things in existence:  minds that can communicate with other minds of highly complex arguments and opinions in order to agree or disagree!


So, what is the best explanation of the ability of minds to communicate with each other?  Or, what is the best explanation of origins (cosmology).[22]  Natural science cannot explain origins.  Natural science by definition takes its conclusions from physical objects already in existence. (See Kant’s quote above.)  It cannot speak to how physical objects came into existence.  Thus, cosmology requires a supernatural cause. For the most part (but not entirely), the realm  of religions speculate on supernatural origins. So, the question becomes, “Which religion best explains an almost infinite complex of design and sufficient power to bring it to be?[23] 


Apologetics, then, is a question of which religion best answers the origin of complex things and more complex minds?  This argument is admittedly transcendental, but logical inference has led us here.  I will “chance” a summary.


Infinite chance is nothingness.  For something “to be,” it must have order and energy.

Chance is wrongly used.  What is meant is possibility within a limited number of possibilities, that is, probability. 

Existence requires an ordering or creating force; the complexity of physical objects and communicating minds requires an incredibly complex mind and power.

Natural science is limited to knowledge of things that are already physically present and cannot speak to cosmology.

Therefore, the origin of things and minds must have a supernatural explanation.  The realm of the supernatural is religion (with some limitations).

What religion is the best explanation of these origins?

For Christians, it is a Christianity that  is founded on the inerrancy of the Bible.

Thus, an apologetic that is consistent with logical necessity assumes Biblical, inerrant Christianity.


This sequence is admittedly crude and “off the cuff,” but perhaps it begins to describe how the complexity of debate, or just everyday conversation,[24] presupposes a transcendental, supernatural ontology and epistemology which is best answered by Biblical Christianity. And, this conclusion answers Howe in his challenge.


Selective Thomism: What Is the Standard?


From my perspective, Dr. Norman Geisler is the foremost theologian of the Thomist position at Southern Evangelical Seminary.  Surely, he can be taken as a representative, if not the representative, spokesman for their Thomist beliefs.  In his book, Thomas Aquinas An Evangelical Appraisal, Geisler rejects certain beliefs of Aquinas: transubstantiation, the inclusion of the Apocrypha in the canon of Scripture, human life not beginning at conception, divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the Thomist view of infant baptism, his view of the sacraments, and many of his views on Aristotelian science.[25]  Presumably, Payne, Howe, and other evangelical Protestants have similar denials since they are not Catholic.  Yet, Aquinas is The Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church.  At minimum, having such a close association with their Doctor should set off warning bells for Protestants.  And, it was much of Aquinas’ teachings that fuelled the Reformation.  At first glance, dependence upon Aquinas seems anti-Protestant or anti-Reformation.


Now, here is the fundamental question, “How can Geisler and others accept some beliefs of Aquinas and not others?”[26] The only possible answer is that they are choosing another standard by which to accept some of Aquinas’ beliefs and not others.  What is this standard?  Geisler comments “I am Protestant,” and “I am Baptistic in my convictions.”  He goes on to state his standard, “There is only one Book (that) I read to believe; all others I read only to consider.”  Hmmm.  Geisler only “considers” Aquinas?  It would seem that to write a whole book in Aquinas’ defense and base much of Geisler’s apologetics on Aquinas would seem more than “consider,” but nevertheless Geisler has stated his standard is that one Book.


But, then, if the Bible is his standard, why does he need Aquinas?  Geisler’s strong belief and defense in the Bible, as inerrant, declares it the arbiter of truth.  He is not explicit here, but it seems certain that he rejects these doctrines of Aquinas because of Biblical doctrine.  I am also sure that he only “considers” other authors (as above) for the same reason.  Thus, Geisler stands squarely on the foundation of Scripture as the ultimate source of truth.


But, elsewhere, he has to appeal to the correspondence theory of truth.[27]  But, instead of a “correspondence” to Scripture, he states a correspondence to “reality.”  This position is the same as that of Howe[28] and Payne.[29]  What has happened in this movement from Scripture to a theory of truth is the transference of truth from God to man.  Theories of truth are man’s invention in an attempt to know truth without God.  Surely, surely, these three men would affirm God is The Reality; that God knows reality perfectly and completely, when man does not.  While my challenge here may seem “below the belt,” these classical apologists are standing on a large, if not the majority, position of the Catholic Church.



Reality and the False Notion of Sound Science


In Howe’s responses to Ken Ham, Jason Lisle, and others who would use the phrase “God’s Word vs. man’s word,”  or perhaps more accurately, knowledge by the autonomy of man’s pursuit of knowledge, as in “man is the measure of all things,’ he states.


The Bible is situated within a reality that is the creation of a transcendent God.  It is only by a sound understanding of aspects of that reality that the reader would be able to properly understand the Bible….  A sound understanding of reality, when pursued deeply enough,  will lead us into the disciplines of sound science and philosophy.[30]


There are two serious problems here.  First, The Bible has been leveled to being “situated within a reality” determine by something else, not the Special Revelation that defines reality.  Surely, the reality that is known by a Christian includes all the knowledge of God that is in that Special Revelation.  Any other concept of reality is infinitely deficient. 


The second problem is the belief explicitly stated here by Howe and in Payne’s paper in the “reality” of “sound” science or proofs in science.[31]  Science is a shorter term for “natural science.”  Natural science was first known as “natural philosophy,” a branch of philosophy. By its removal from philosophy which has an inherent suspicion because of its many speculations, the abbreviated “science” gains an independent epistemological status that is false. 


As I have already stated, this science cannot say anything about the “supernatural.”  That is why Aristotle used the term, “metaphysics” to refer to reality beyond the physical.  So, by definition science is limited to physical matter.  But, reality for a Christian must include the knowledge that  the physical world was created by the Triune Spirit.  That Reality is infinitely “real,” where as the physical world of natural science is limited.


Then, what is sound science or proofs in science? Do we refer to science as “inerrant?”  How then can classical apologists start with the fallacy of an empirical process to ground inerrancy? Thus,  Polanyi and Kuhn[32] have demonstrated that the foundations of science have changed markedly over the centuries.  What I am stating here are a few sentences that is the extreme tip of a deep and broad philosophy of science about which many other philosophers of science have been written on the fallacy of science as determining truth or reality.[33] The mysteries of relativity and quantum physics amplify that conclusion. 


Payne actually names some of these disciplines: psychology, biology, and physics.  Now, psychology is a subject that I have studied for almost fifty years.  There is, little if anything, that is truth or reality, in psychology!  First, there are several dozen theories of psychology[34] from Freud to Jung to reality therapy to behaviorism to whatever the latest theory (fad) is.  Second, there is no “normal” in psychology.  To what does a “therapist” try to pattern his “client’s” emotions, thinking and behavior?  Which of these dozens of theories does he or she choose to practice?  My introduction to my first psychiatric rotation was, “Choose any method that you prefer to work with patients,” even though I was virtually ignorant in this discipline!


The failure to let “God’s Word” be the authority in areas claimed by psychology illustrates the enormous fallacy (and tragedy) of scientific “truth” (reality).  Thousands, if not millions, of Christians seek emotional stability, correct thinking, and righteous behavior from drugs (legal and illegal), secularists, and unknowing Christians who practice by unbiblical standards.  Worse, Christian colleges and seminary faculties are filled with those who have been trained by this humanistic thinking when a Biblical method has been available for 50 years![35] I am not saying that certain “psychological” problems do not exist, but that “the study of the psyche (soul)” must be grounded in writings of the “soul” or “psyche” maker, God’s Word.


Now, in an attempt to be fair, Geisler, Howe, and Payne may have some insight into the problems that I have discussed, but their foundations in philosophy and science cannot lead to truth in these areas.  In medicine, another discipline in which I am credentialed and even more experienced, abortion is been called “sound medical practice.”  A family is whatever two or more sexual identities determine it to be.  Sexual promiscuity is promoted by the actions of social workers, psychologists, and physicians.  All these wrong behaviors are “sound science and philosophy?”  No!  The Bible, as a text of the soul (psyche) proscribes these behaviors.  Thus, to appeal to the Bible gives it the greater authority.  Then, why is an appeal to secular theories of truth, science, and philosophy, as being “sound,” necessary? 


“Natural” Theology per se Does Not Exist


What is known of God in “natural theology,” e.g., Romans 1:18ff?  The history of philosophy, religion, and the Bible refutes natural theology.  First, what is discerned in Romans 1 is God’s “power and divinity.”  These attributes only begin to describe the God of classical theism, much less the God of those attributes and the God of Christian salvation. (Later, I will describe how classical theism is grounded in the Bible, not in natural theology.)  Where is a natural theism without classical theism?  What is an Unmoved Mover of non-descript origin?  Why should such be of interest to man?  If anything, it is only a signpost calling for identification by some source of knowledge outside of science.


Natural theology is “not natural either,” as demonstrated by this passage in Romans and the supernatural, fiat creation account in Genesis 1.  The “natural world” was created by God; thus, it is “supernatural,” not natural.  God has created man’s mind to understand His cosmos sufficiently to obey his Creation Mandates in Genesis 1 and 2.  The fact that human beings can discover and understand the laws of nature is a miracle that may well be beyond understanding

So, again, I think that the correspondence theory of truth is valid, if truth is correspondence to the Bible.  This position has been called “biblicism” or “Scripturalism.” 


But, there is a problem with the “natural man.”  But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (I Corinthians 2:14).  The natural man must be regenerated in order to attain this “spiritual appraisal.”


Correspondence Theory and Classical Theism


Few, if any, would disagree with the definition of reality is “what is.” But, that “really” gets us nowhere..”  Reality is defined or determined differently by the large number of philosophies and religions in existence.  By what criteria does one decide what is the “real” reality?  Geisler, Howe, and Payne would choose the realism of classical philosophy.  But, why choose classical philosophy, instead of the myriad of other options.  In fact, as one peruses the philosophical landscape, classical philosophy is barely noticeable.[36]  I may have missed it, but where is the classical philosophers defense of why it is the best, that is, the only reliable system?


It seems to me that classicists surreptitiously use Christian sources for their choice of classical philosophy.  Payne states, “Classical apologetics is traditionally derived from the classicist theist position that it defends.”[37]  But, the question arises, “Whose classical theism?”  There are a variety of positions, as Howe describes in his “God Fading Away.”  Who can claim to be the arbiter of the true classical theistic position?  And, by what authority can that claim be made?  There are only two possibilities for the Christian: a secular (unbiblical) philosophical/theological position or a Christian philosophical/theological position (biblical).  Clearly, the classical theist position of these men is the latter, as Howe begins his presentation, citing Christians and their concepts of theism.  But, citing Christians as classical theists, is to identify inaccurately the ultimate source of this theism.  No Christian exists without his or her having Biblical knowledge of “theism.”  Thus, to a small, or I suspect a large extent, classical theism is based in the Bible.  If so, why choose classical theism, instead of Biblical theism?  The point is that here and elsewhere, classicists are covertly advocating a Biblical position that they rename as “classical.”  They are presupposing (and hiding) what presuppositionalists do!  There is no classical theism without Biblical theology; if no classical theism, there is no classical philosophy, and no classical apologetic.  The correspondence theory of truth becomes the correspondence to Biblical truth.  Thus, classical apologetics does not “collapse back into” Biblical apologetics, but is grounded in it.


Biblical Hermeneutics: At Least Two


One of Howe’s strongest positions seems to be his claim that without sound hermeneutics, the Bible cannot be interpreted; that is, there are no hermeneutics derived solely from the Bible.  I want to state that there are at least two.  First, the Bible’s claim that it is God speaking.  How many times does the Old Testament state, “Thus says the Lord?”  Jesus is denoted by Himself and the New Testament writers that He is God, and thus His words are God’s words.  Then, Paul makes the categorical and all-inclusive statement in I Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is God-breathed.”  This position is briefly stated, as it is the inerrantist position for which ISCA stands.  This hermeneutic is one that makes it Special Revelation.  It is not “situated in a reality” but determines reality, for surely, God, His Creation, and His plan in history are realities which cannot be found in Thomas’ empiricism. Yes, he adds these realities as “faith,” but the physical world cannot ground the spiritual world (with God as primary essence and reality) because He created it!  He was “the ground,” before there was “ground” (earthly substance)!


The second hermeneutic unique to the Bible is called the analogy of Scripture, that is, Scripture interprets Scripture.  If Scripture is uniquely God’s Word, and thus uniquely authoritative, it stands as a whole which must be systematically coherent to avoid any contradictions that would make God incoherent when He has claimed to be Truth itself.  This hermeneutic is logically derived from the first one stated above, as God is Unity, and therefore, must be coherent. 


Something Like Biblicism Should Be the Goal


“If we are not occasionally accused of biblicism, we should be concerned about the accuracy of our teaching in (theology).”[38]  ISCA has the strongest stand for inerrancy that I have encountered in any organization.  Geisler, Howe, , and many others have been central to establish and maintain that position.  However, their use of Thomism, philosophy, and the natural sciences severely questions their coherent  belief in inerrancy.  Are classical apologists willing to call any philosophy or natural science inerrant?  This question focuses these issues of epistemology and truth.


Many inerrantists are unwilling to extend inerrancy as far as it should be applied.  J. P. Moreland, while president of the Evangelical Theological Society(!), divorced himself from “bibliolatry” and called for the very theologians who were defending the Bible to avoid its full application to every sphere of life.[39]  By contrast, Abraham Kuyper fully a century earlier called for the “mining of the gold” of Scripture to answer every new thought and challenge to the Biblical worldview.[40]


Now, I understand that the Bible can and has been wrong exegeted and applied, sometimes egregiously.  But, there are rules of grammar, hermeneutics, logic, coherence, and others that are safeguards against such misuse. (On this position, I am in full agreement with Howe in particular.)  So, the question that needs to be answered is, “Should an inerrantist be afraid of this position?”  I think that if we are honest, we want to be known as careful and logical scholars.  We may even desire this reputation, instead of “mining” the fullness of the gold of Scripture.[41]  I have given clear testimony of how this situation has occurred in psychology and medicine. 


Further, there is one area to which the Bible undeniably speaks to every discipline: whether a particular behavior is right or wrong (ethics).  Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite is a representative example.  He lamented whether his invention was for “good” or “evil.”[42]  He had invented it for the good that it would do (e.g., building roads), but it was widely applied to warfare, as well.  So, was his invention good or evil?  Yes, according to the particulars of the situation in which it was applied according to Biblical understanding, but it was misused in warfare and other ways. Only the Bible is the ultimate authority for good or evil.  And, more importantly, all things should be done to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).  So, the Bible  speaks to every thought, spoken word, and action of every person on planet earth who will be judged on that basis. (II Corinthians 5:10)


Much confusion has occurred over the various terms for truth and knowledge from the beginning of philosophy.  Starting with Plato, there was “knowledge” as “justified, true belief.”[43]  He also had his “Divided Line” with opinion, belief, dianoia, noesis, etc.  And thus philosophers and other scholars have continued this confusion as each used these terms and others without any attempt to develop denotative definitions in their own work or among themselves.  I ask the question, “Where does one go for an agreed-upon definition of terms?” One might argue for Simon Blackburn’s Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy,[44] which is very good, but one will quickly find definitions with which they will differ and differ markedly. 


One example is the separation of philosophy of religion from secular philosophy.  Both areas deal with the same subject matter: epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics.  Now, if they deal with the same subject matter, how can they be separate categories.  The fact that most “religions”[45] involve the supernatural is no distinguishing feature, e.g., Buddhism.  Those who reject the supernatural in so doing have just acted supernaturally in their rejection.  The supernatural can only be rejected by a supernatural act because one have to “know” the supernatural to reject.  This sleight of mind is rarely noted.


Truth as Biblical Knowledge and Self-authority


So, what if I define truth as simply what the Bible says and any proposition that can be logically deduced from it?  Who is to say that I cannot make this claim?  Well, you could argue that this claim is not consistent with present or past definitions of philosophers in history.  I would respond that who gave philosophers the right to define terms, especially such basic beliefs?  If I am making a claim based upon One who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent (as well as all the other attributes of God), then their standard has a lesser claim on truth , as are “darkened in their understanding.”[46]


Could we say that truth has been lost in the chaos of 20th and 21st Century diversity?  Could we say that since Plato, knowledge directed seekers away from truth towards knowledge?  Could we say that knowledge, as “justified true belief” is the exact same thing as truth, and that truth should be the dominant pursuit?  Well, many scholars may not agree with me, but I can surely make that claim within the broad parameters of all philosophy and theology.


The Bible as truth solves all philosophical questions of ontology, epistemology, and ethics except how God came to be.  It clearly answers issues of cosmology and ontology whether one is an Old Earth or Young Earth advocate.  I have already said science can only study “what is” (what has been created) with some predictions of  the short term future.  The Bible answers the problem of the origin of language and  mind, as before Creation, only the Persons of God, as Spirit, existed.  And, most clearly, the Bible answers ethical issues, as only God is righteous, determining what is and is not right (ethical).  How can one start with the post-Creation status of everything, which has been markedly distorted by the Fall, and work back to Creation.  The only way that this process can happen is by the Biblical record.  Thus, why not start with the Biblical record and avoid all the errors of working from a distorted framework?  There is no reason not to make the Bible one’s declaration of truth from the start in philosophy or theology.  Logically, that is what inerrancy does, as no other claims of inerrancy are made on any other writings!


The Major Differences in the Debate: Epistemology and Theology


The major differences within this “Great Debate”  are (1) differing epistemologies and (2) differing views of effectual calling (regeneration).[47]  Presuppositionalists start with sola Scriptura whereas  classical apologists ground Scripture in the empiricism of Aquinas and the correspondence theory of truth.


It is surprising that Geisler grounds Scriptural truth in the philosophical concept of the correspondence theory of truth.  He has demonstrated this position in several places, but I will cite only two.  First, Geisler in his section of “Explaining Biblical Inerrancy” agrees with what has been said elsewhere in the “ICBI Statement on Inerrancy” and “the commentary on it.”[48],[49]  That commentary by R. C. Sproul states “all the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual, or spiritual.”[50]  He explains his position in more detail in his focused paper, “The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate.” [51]


In his lecture, and as recorded in his PDF Deck, Howe states essentially the same position in his “The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate: Revisited.”  Payne states in his paper, “This approach to reason holds that knowledge is firstly derived from experience. Following this, its truth or falsity is judged as a correspondence to reality.”  There is a voluminous literature among classical apologists by these and others, so their dependence upon the correspondence theory of truth is clearly, widely, and vigorously defended.


There are three points to be made here.  First, this position makes Scripture dependent upon secular philosophy and a weak one even so.  Historically, there were three tests of truth: correspondence, coherence, and pragmatic.  Philosophers across the spectrum almost entirely agree that foundationalism is dead; that is, they cannot agree on first principles or the most basic foundations for truth or knowledge. Today, tests for truth extend beyond these three with all sorts or “truth-bearers” and symbolic logic.  If philosophers cannot agree, how can classical apologists choose the correspondence theory?  Do they choose it because it is the most commonly agreed upon?  A majority opinion does not determine truth.  If classical apologists consider that the correspondence theory is the best, by what standard do they take this position?  How do any tests approach God as truth, as presented in the Bible, or more narrowly, Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  Truth resides in Three Persons and their Word to man which is “the measure of all things.”


Second, truth is correspondence to what reality?  There are numerous divisions of realism, idealism, combinations of the two, and many other nuanced and pronounced –isms.  So, there is wide spread disagreements on both tests for truth and what is “reality.”  Foundationalism has determined to be dead, so no “agreed-upon-reality” exists.


Third, and most important for presuppositionalists, why cannot Scripture be both the standard and the test for truth?  Why cannot one stand on inerrancy and sola Scriptura?  Logically, by those concepts, Scripture is objective truth and all other claims must be measured by it. Further Scripture is the best fulfillment of all the historical tests of truth.  Scripture determines the reality to which everything else must correspond.  Systematic theologies demonstrate its coherence.  And, its ethical guidelines surely are the most pragmatic.  While biblical theologies may differ, the source of these theologies has been agreed upon for millennia.


As his first point concerning his Tests for Truth and Theories of Truth, Howe states, “It is raining.  Is that true?  Yes.”  He has thus presented a simple experiential fact of truth.  But, this simple situation presupposes a great deal.  It is raining: where?  On planet earth in a universe of unimaginable size and complexity?  “It is raining” is an assumption of the complex ability to communicate from one mind to another.  And who cares?  What does it matter whether it is raining or not?  Is it right or wrong for it to be raining?  The simple surface matter of experiencing rain assumes (presupposes) cosmology, epistemology, and ethics. 


Of course, my challenge then becomes one of simple truths that are independent of worldview vs truths within worldview.  I will not deny that a “functional” worldview exists in which virtually everyone is able to communicate with others in the everyday commerce of life.  So, one must ask, “How is this operational worldview possible?”  The only answer can be that its structure was either chance or design.  I have presented that total chance is nothingness.  By exclusion, that leaves design.  Design is the province of metaphysics or the supernatural.  So, which metaphysical philosophy/theology best explains the existence of this operational worldview.[52]. 


Sometimes scholars in their “groping” come close to grasping this complexity.[53]  George Steiner, who is a Jew but not of Orthodox  belief, observes:


Any coherent understanding of what language is and how language performs, that any coherent account of the capacity of human speech to communicate meaning and feeling is, in the final analysis, underwritten by the assumption of God’s presence.[54]


Thomas Nagel, a committed atheist, grasps, better than most, the difficulties that philosophy cannot explain.


It is perfectly possible that the truth is beyond our reach, in virtue of our intrinsic cognitive limitations, and not merely beyond our grasp  in humanity’s present stage of intellectual development.[55]


Alfred Einstein had many statements about the orderliness, yet mystery of the universe. Yet, he was far from being an evangelical. Here is one of his conclusions.


Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in fact, religious.[56]


If Thomas Nagel is right, nothing matters.  But, it is close to absolute certainty that man does have an explanation for himself and his universe.  So, every conversation, whether mundane or scholarly, assumes (presupposes) a supernatural explanation, as Steiner notes.  All supernatural explanations are false except the Christian position that presupposes the God of the Bible.  “It is raining” assumes (presupposes) a Christian, Biblical worldview.  Otherwise, it is just a superficial fact in common conversation.  It does not demonstrate the hypostasis of a Biblical worldview grounded in God and His Word.


Finally, the concept of inerrancy necessitates itself as an absolute standard.  Inerrancy claims truth beyond all other pretenders to truth. Would we dare say that natural science is inerrant?  If inerrancy of Scripture is true, it becomes the absolute standard.  If one then says that Scripture must be interpreted, then the reply is that all texts must be interpreted, including the claim that truth is correspondence to reality.  A claim to a reality that is not defined by Scripture, is a claim that denies inerrancy of Scripture.  Scripture is an objective source that is fixed, not changing day to day as science is.


My claim is that Scripture answers all the tests of truth: correspondence, coherence, and pragmatic, not that any test other than the conviction of the Holy Spirit and Scripture’s own claim, “Thus says the Lord,” is necessary.


Calvinism (Reformed) vs. Arminianism


The differences in these two theological positions may be the most important issue in classical vs. presuppositional apologetics.  I do not think that I can add anything to this centuries old debate except to point out its relevance in this debate.  Geisler has taken the position of “moderate Calvinism.,” stating his problems with limited atonement.[57]  David Haines takes a similar position in calling Total Depravity “an extreme understanding of the Reformed doctrine of total depravity.”[58]  However, these doctrines are not “extreme,” but central to the Calvinist and Reformed position. 


Here is a quote from Calvin which states his “extremism.”


For since man lost the favor of God, his mind is so completely overwhelmed by the thralldom of ignorance, that any portion of light which remains in it is quenched and useless. This is daily proved by experience; for all who are not regenerated by the Spirit of God possess some reason, and this is an undeniable proof that man was made not only to breathe, but to have understanding. But by that guidance of their reason, they do not come to God, and do not even approach to him; so that all their understanding is nothing else than mere vanity. Hence it follows that there is no hope of the salvation of men, unless God grant new aid; for though the Son of God sheds his light upon them, they are so dull that they do not comprehend whence that light proceeds, but are carried away by foolish and wicked imaginations to absolute madness.[59]


Unfortunately, TULIP rather than the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF)  is often the summary that is presented as Calvinism.  However, the WCF states the overall and comprehensive sovereignty of God, an “S” that should precede TULIP. Chapter Three, Section 1, states:


God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.


The “whatsoever” includes the salvation of men, in Section 3 of this Chapter:


By the decree of God, for manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.


Thus, I would prefer STULIP, as Total Depravity starts with man already in his fallen condition.  The Sovereignty of God begins with God prior to time and His omnipotence and omniscience to decree all things.  The WCF is the most commonly stated profession of the Reformed position.  Thus, God has ordained “whatsoever comes to pass” which includes the salvation of men. Gordon Clark has clearly explained the  teaching of God’s sovereignty in his book, Biblical Predestination.[60]  For some reason, many Christians claim to be Reformed, but fail in the coherence of that position in the salvation of men.  I would recommend watching the DVD, “Amazing Grace,”[61] in which Arminians by profession of faith, describe the sovereign work of God in their being saved—statements that are inconsistent with their theology.


Briefly, Gordon Clark answered what troubles these inconsistent Calvinists in his article, “Determinism and Responsibility” with his resolution of man’s “free will” and man’s “responsibility.”[62]  Whatever God decrees is righteous, as God is perfectly righteous.  There is no higher court of appeal in of ethics and justice than God Himself.  Thus, if God declares that man is responsible, even though man is unable (total depravity or total inability), there is no higher standard or court of appeal.  A defense of free will in man is to acknowledge that God is not wise, sovereign, or omnipotent.  If He does not have these attributes then He is not the God of the Bible.[63]  Sovereignty means omnipotence and omniscience within His being “all-wise.” These attributes refute man’s free will (in the sense of opposing choice).  Thus, the belief that man has free-will compromises belief in these attributes.[64]


This brief mention of the total sovereignty of God does not do it justice and will not end the Reformed-Arminian debate, but it is necessary to understand the divide between classical and presuppositional apologetics.  Regeneration is totally an act of God, choosing whomever He will according to John 3 and many other passages.


The Simplicity of the Gospel That Saves


I Peter 3:15 requires a simple defense of the Gospel when asked.  In the last fifty years, Christian scholars have turned this simplicity into a complex web of philosophical defense.  It is primarily not a debate with non-Christians (although there are many debates), but a discussion among philosophers and theologians and their audiences who are Christians!  Kenneth Gentry targets Howe in his discussion on creation issues.


Despite these articles (concerning Creation and its defense) being linked to an open public debate on the matter, Howe continually misses his target audience by referring to demonstration quia, truth-functional relations, the Incompleteness Theorem, essence/existence distinctions, Material Implication, Cartesian Foundationalism, Aristotelian hylomorphism, and so forth.[65]


Now, I have spent my whole life in Christian scholarship, so I am not criticizing that endeavor.  In fact, I think that more needs to be done, a task to which ISCA has contributed, and is contributing, a great deal.  But, Christian apologists should be aware that almost all Christians become converted by the simple preaching of the Gospel, individual or group evangelism, and growing up within Christian families.[66]  While this simplicity is the tip of an iceberg of grounding in thousands of years of history and didactic literature, as written in the Old and New Testaments, philosophical and theological expertise is mostly unnecessary for conversion and for sanctification.  Apologetics is overwhelmingly for the Christian;  it is not a defense of the Gospel that convinces unbelievers, but an important education for the Christian to see how his worldview answers all the questions of life and understanding.  I simply ask,  “Who attends apologetic conferences: Christians or non-Christians?”


The first two chapters of I Corinthians is an erudite presentation of the epistemological ramifications of the simple Gospel.  Its exegesis would be a paper or even a book in itself.  But, clearly “we preach Christ crucified (biblical wisdom)” (v. 23) vs. the “foolishness of the Gentiles” (v. 23) and “Greek wisdom” (v. 22).[67]  This argument is extensive throughout these two chapters.  It is precisely a theological and philosophical argument (although ultimately they are the same, as both claim to fulfill tests for truth) that is foundational for truly Christian epistemology, ontology, and ethics.


Howe’s pyramid in his power point presentation on “Faith, Reason or Both” clearly demonstrates that the position of classical apologists rests on man’s wisdom and not on God’s Word.[68]  “Christianity” and “God” in the superstructure rest upon a Foundation of secular philosophical thought.[69]  More specifically, the “Historicity and Inspiration of the Bible” and “The Uniqueness of Christ,” at the top of the pyramid rest upon a second tier of “Arguments for God’s Existence,” “World Views,” “Supernaturalism vs. Naturalism,” and “Theism vs. Atheism and Pantheism.”  This second tier rests upon the “Foundation” of “First principles of metaphysics,” “Foundational elements of thought and reason,” and “The nature of meaning and language.”  Thus, “Christianity” and “God” rest upon a “godless” foundation, for God only appears as competition in the second tier and the truths of Christianity in the third.  God rests upon godless reasoning![70]


Payne states that “Classical apologetics is traditionally derived from the classical theist position that it defends.”  However, Howe subtly includes Christian thought in his second tier position.  In his Presidential Address, “God Fading Away: Contending for the Classical Attributes of God,” Howe begins his presentation of classical theism with Christian theologians! Thus, while claiming that classical theism is the foundation of  the specific beliefs of Christianity, he uses the beliefs of Christian theologians with Biblical content to ground “classical” or non-Christian theism!  This method is asserting the consequent.  His conclusions are used within his proofs.  This method is also circular reasoning, the frequent criticism that Payne, Howe, and other classicists accuse presuppositionalists of using.


This process takes us to the nature of “proofs” that Payne, Howe, and others like to cite.  The nature of “proof” was profoundly denied with the death of foundationalism and Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.  All proofs begin with believed presuppositions.  In mathematics, Kurt Gödel demonstrated by his incompleteness theorems that mathematical proofs were not the absolute system that philosophers from the earliest periods believed.  Further, the logical positivists ground their empirical beliefs in a non-empirical belief: that only empiricism can determine truth.[71]  More simply, proofs begin with axioms or presuppositions, simply illustrated in classical geometry.


Curiously, Howe accepts presuppositions (and I suspect that other classicists do, also, but not always by that term).  In three different papers, Howe uses “presuppose” in the sense of a belief that is foundational to an argument.[72]  Payne writes “Reason necessarily presupposes the

truth.[73]  In Howe’s creation and classical apologetics arguments, he states his “commitments” to Young Earth Creationism and classical apologetics.[74]  Commitments are presupposed statements of belief from which all parts of the argument stem. In the book, Classical Apologetics, its authors state their three “basic assumptions” which are “non-negotiable”[75]  What is an assumption but a presupposition?  Presuppositions are used to oppose presuppositionalism?


At least part of the problem within this debate, all the roughly equivalent synonyms that can be used for presupposition, such as, axiom, premise, assumption, bias, prejudice, maxim, truism, basic belief, presumption, supposition, hypothesis, theory, notion, idea, postulate, fact, and many others.  These (approximate) synonyms tend to obscure the “presuppositional” basis of all arguments.  Thus, there is a complexity argument within every person’s system in which one’s most basic beliefs may be hidden. 


Apart from Christian debates, generic presuppositionalists claim that everyone has presuppositions and that these presuppositions are the hermeneutic by which reality is interpreted.   I have given evidence that Howe and other classical apologists agree with generic presuppositionalism; if so, why not say that we are all presuppositionalists with differing presuppositions?  Classical apologists have presuppositions, e.g., grounded in Aristotle, Aquinas, realism, and a correspondence theory of truth.  Those actually labeled “presuppositionalists” are grounded in the Bible as the foundation for all truth and (for many, but not all) the Reformed faith.  It is our presuppositions that we debate, not our conclusions.  There is a great deal of overlap in our conclusions, the evangelical faith and an inerrant Scripture, but our presuppositions greatly differ


The Use of Evidences by Presuppositionalists


Howe often accuses presuppositionalists of “collapsing back into classical apologetics” when we use evidences.  We do use evidence, but this inclusion is consistent with our position.  First, and simply, some people want evidential answers that link presuppositions with evidences.  I was encouraged in my early investigations of Christianity to learn how science was often consistent with a Biblical understanding of reality. But, a person will only accept the truths of Christianity when his mind and heart have been changed by the Holy Spirit.  What are or are not truths is determined by one’s worldview.  I will admit with the classical apologists that Christianity has far and away with the best evidences for Christianity of any other belief system.[76]  But, then, why does not every thinking and investigating person become a Christian?  There are great minds who debate Christian apologists, but I know of none that were converted to Christianity through this process.[77]  If diverse and solid evidences do not convince, the question must be asked, “Why do they not convince or convert?” Since classical apologists believe that they are presenting the best “proofs” possible.  In this sense, they refute their own realism which should allow for a convincing argument.  Presuppositionalism is the coherent position with the reality of the necessity of regeneration for presuppositions to change and Christianity to be accepted as true.[78]


We are back to the Arminian-Reformed debate.  Evidences are eternally important for the former, but regeneration is necessary for the latter.  And, I have argued that the overwhelming majority of Christians “are saved” by common evangelistic means, not evidences.  Evidences are learned later.  And, while I Peter 3:15 is cited for apologetics, there are many, many verses that simply call for proclaiming the Gospel to others by conversation and preaching of Christ, not a lengthy philosophical proof.  Thus, the common manner of conversions and the emphasis of the New Testament is consistent with presuppositionalism, rather than philosophical proofs preceding acceptance of the truth of Christianity.




Ignoring nuances that are discussed more fully in the text, this paper can be roughly summarized in this way.  (1) Epistemology, ontology, and ethics have an interdependence that has been overlooked. (2) Cosmology is limited to only two possibilities: total chance or an organized mind.  (3) Classical apologists defend a partial Thomism which necessitates their using a different standard.  (4) Natural science is not sufficiently sound to ground ontology; the Bible is.  (5) Natural science is about a supernatural creation.  (6)  Correspondence theory and classical theism are false positions.  (7) There are two strictly biblical hermeneutics: “Thus says the Lord,” and a systematic theology.  (8)  Inerrancy necessitates “Biblicism,” as the full and complete “mining” of Scripture.  (9)   The first major difference in The Great Debate are epistemology: empiricism in science and a presumed reality vs. the presupposition of Scripture. (10) The second major difference is theology: Arminianism and Calvinism.  (11)  Apologetics can necessarily confuse rather than simplify the Gospel.  (12) Evidences are not inappropriate to presuppositionalism. 


I believe that I have introduced, if not a new, then a more nuanced and complete presentation of presuppositionalism and critique of classical apologetics.  I trust that ISCA is willing to include this position within the spectrum of Christian apologetics to allow this debate to continue on an equal footing.



Franklin E. (Ed) Payne, M.D., Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, University (retired), has been working in philosophy for over ten years and authors the website:

[1] “Michael Polanyi: Unintentional Christian Apologist and Theologian – Part I,”  “Michael Polanyi: Unintentional Christian Apologist and Theologian: Part II – Centrality of Faith in Apologetics,” and  “Michael Polanyi: Away from Objectivity and Towards Personal, Biblical Truth,”


[3] J. Andrew Payne, ”The Great Debate: Classical vs. Presuppositional Apologetics,” 11 (2018): 5-22.

[4] Daniel J Hill and Randall D. Rauser, Christian Philosophy A-Z, (Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 11-12. 

[5] Scott Oliphint, Thomas Aquinas (Great Thinkers), (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017). 


[7] Merold Westphal, Overcoming Onto-theology: Towards a Post-Modern Christian Faith, (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2001), 90-91.

[8] I must ignore the mind/brain issue here.  My position is that of anthropological, biblical dualism.  There is interaction, but the immaterial component is where actual thinking and knowledge exist.

[9] Noam Chomsky, Language and Thought, (Wakefield, RI: Moyer Bell, 1993), 24-25.  He has stated this concept in many other speeches and writing.

[10] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: the Modern Denial of Human Nature, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2003).

[11] These divisions have been my conclusion over the years and have found many philosophers who agree.  Even if other divisions are accepted by others, those views would not affect my argument here.

[12] Richard G. Howe, “Classical Apologetics and Creationism,” Christian Apologetics Journal, 11, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 23.

[13] E. Calvin Beisner, The Cosmic Consequences of Christ’s Crosswork, (Burke, VA: Cornwall Alliance, 2018), 11.  Parenthetic designations are mine, not those of Beisner.

[14] Logos demands a greater discussion of possible meanings to arrive at some reasonable interpretation.  Any standard Geek dictionary may be referenced.

[15] Jason Lisle, “Young Earth Presuppositionalism,” Christian Apologetics Journal, 11, no. 2 (Fall 2012): 36-38.

[16] Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy,  (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 132-202.   There are a host of philosophers of science who have done the same with other language and reasoning processes.  (See fn 34.)  Every Christian should have some idea of the Swiss-cheese notion of scientific truth.

[17] Howe, “Classical Apologetics,” 22.

[18] This simple fact should preclude whether artificial intelligence can ever be “human.”  If one thinks that human knowledge is only chemical or physical impulses, then one has ignored the soul/spirit dimension of Biblical anthropology.  Further, only persons can ever be self-conscious.  I realize the breadth and depth of this issue, but my simplistic explanations is a reasonable summary.

[19] A question posed by Leibniz a long time ago.

[20] R. C. Sproul, Not A Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science, and Cosmology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1994), 1-18.

[21] It seems inconsistent that classical apologists often cite presuppositions (other than Scripture), sometimes with virtual synonyms, such as, assumptions.  See fn72.

[22] A popular pursuit among scholars today is to find “a theory of everything.”  I claim that a Biblical worldview is a Theory of Everything that exceeds even the most profound hopes of secularists.

[23]Kenneth Richard Samples has effectively answered that question in his book, God Among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017).

[24] See Steiner later.

[25] Norman Geisler, Thomas Aquinas An Evangelical Appraisal, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 177.

[26] There is a similar problem for the Reformed and other Protestants in their selective views, as well.  I will cover that issue elsewhere in this paper.



[29] Payne, “The Great Debate,” 11.

[30] Howe, Classical Apologetics, 26.

[31] Payne, “The Great Debate,” 11.

[32] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

[33] These philosophers include Paul Feyerabend, Karl Popper, Pierre Duhem, Alfred North Whitehead, Alexandre Koyré, Werner Heisenberg, and many others.

[34] Everything that I say about “psychologists” also applies to “psychiatrists,” as far as they engage in “psychotherapy.”  Today, most only prescribe medications for “disorders” of the brain and emotions.

[35] Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1970).  Adams and his disciples have written dozens of books and other materials for Christians to apply Scripture to their problems.  Christians flounder in their sanctification because they have been influenced by secular psychology.

[36] This observation includes the whole of the philosophical landscape, secular and Christian.

[37] If this statement is read carefully, it is a tautology, but I will let that pass.  The editor(s) of ISCAJ should have caught this.

[38] John Frame, “In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism,” 

[39] J. P. Moreland, "How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It,” Presidential Address, Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting, November 14, 2007.

[40] Abraham Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980), 402.

[41] Geisler himself accurately warned against this desire in his Presidential Address to the ETS.

[42] The Nobel Peace Prize was established to counter what Nobel perceived as a horribly destructive force that he had unleashed.  I recall this fact from a movie that was shown to students in elementary school.

[43] Interestingly, Plato did not believe that these three words defined knowledge.  If one reads his dialogue carefully, he will see that Socrates argued that this definition was inadequate, but somehow over the centuries the triple challenge became perhaps the most agreed upon, even though few agreed on their conclusions.

[44] (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008).

[45] The definition of “religion” is one of the greatest omissions in language.  Confusion and diversity abounds even in the unusual event that the scholar even attempts to define the term.  Paul Tillich was one who saw this confusion and included  diverse beliefs, such as, fascism, Marxism, nationalism, socialism, and communism.  See his book, Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions, (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1963), 5-7

[46] Ephesians 4:18 (NASB).

[47] I am equating effectual calling with regeneration in this paper.  I am aware of the nuances among us Reformed, as to how these may or may not differ, although the Westminster Confession of Faith equates them.

[48] , 66.

[49] I recognize that I am also disagreeing with the ICBI position, as one fallacy in its statements.

[50] , 8. I realize that R. C. Sproul was Reformed, but his classical position and correspondence theory was incoherent with the Reformed position.


[52] I have explained this connection more fully elsewhere in this paper.

[53] The Apostle Paul spoke of their “groping” for truth in his Mars Hill speech , Acts 17:27 (NASB).

[54] Real Presences, (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 3.

[55] Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012), 128.

[56] Rebecca J. Rosen, “Einstein Letter on Religion and God…,”

[57] Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will, (Bloomington MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2010).  His book is answered by James White, The Potters Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal to Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free, (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 2009).

[58] David Haines, “A Potential Problem with Presuppositional Apologetics,” Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics,  10, no. 1 (2017), 50(fn20).

[59] (Calvin’s Commentary on John 1:5)

[60] Gordon Clark, Biblical Predestination, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969).

[61] “Amazing Grace (DVD),” (Nashville, TN: Apologetics Group, 2004).

[62] Gordon H. Clark, “Determinism and Responsibility,” The Evangelical Quarterly 4, no. 1 (January 1932).

[63] For all of Howe’s defense of God’s attributes in his “God Fading Away,” if he defends Arminianism, then he has denied the very position that he valiantly tried to assert.

[64] If I am correct, then Howe is contributing to “God Fading Away.”

[65] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., “Review,” Christian Apologetics Journal 11, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 175.

[66] It is to the shame of Christians that in our emphasis on evangelism, we do not praise God that his overwhelming primary mode of evangelism is through families!

[67] Greek wisdom includes Aristotle who was “The Philosopher” for Aquinas and the  Roman Catholic Church, even  today.


[69] If any Christian work is included, then the Bible has been surreptitiously brought in and is not longer strictly philosophical, but biblical and theological.

[70] Classical apologists may claim that the law of noncontradiction and other philosophical principles exist naturally, but naturalism cannot explain a nonphysical truth.  One has moved from empirical data to metaphysical data.

[71] The refutation of logical positivism is also a refutation of classical apologists.

[72] From Howe’s website,  “Thomas not only presupposed,” from “Thomistic Responses to Some Objections to Aquinas’ Second Way”; “Our knowledge of essences presupposes…” in fn 22 from “Defending the Handmaid: How Theology Needs Philosophy”; and, “But all of this presupposes…” in “In Defense of the Supernatural: An Examination of Miracles.”

[73] Payne, The Great Debate, 10.

[74] Howe, Classical Apologetics, 7, 30.

[75] R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984),  85.

[76] I hope that I am making a correct “presupposition” n here.  Otherwise, why believe Christianity? See Samples, God Among the Sages.

[77] Yes, Antony Flew was converted to theism, but what good is that if he is not converted to Christianity.  Only Biblical theism has saving knowledge, not theism per se.

[78] Howe, “Classical Apologetics,” 18-20.  Howe summarizes the presuppositional position nicely.




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