Refuting the “Fristianity” Objection

Posted: January 17, 2017 in General Presup Issues
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(As some of you know, Michael Butler provided a famous response to the so-called “Fristianity” objection. Unfortunately, many contemporaries seem to gloss over his response, or fail to understand the value of it. I encountered this so-often I decided to “weaponize” his response, so to speak. What follows, then, is my attempt at presenting a “Butlerian” styled response to the Fristianity objection, and flesh out a resulting implication).

“Fristianity” as an objection to presuppositionalism, arose in the late 90’s, although similar objections were being tossed around as far back as the 80’s. Even earlier objections of the same type were addressed by Bahnsen and Van Til from the very outset. For a brief, authoritative, rundown of the development of the objection, see David Byron’s recollections here. For our purposes, the “Fristianity” objection will be thought of as the positing of a hypothetically possible worldview that provides a counter-example to the presuppositionalist’s claim that Christianity is exclusively able to account for the preconditions of intelligibility. Philosopher Sean Choi says this:

“Fristianity has come to mean what it does precisely because in the course of offering a possible defeater to TAG, Fristianity was defined as a possible worldview that includes a quadrinitarian God.  Voila!” ~ pg. 264 “Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith” edited by Norman Geisler and Chad Meister. (Emphasis, mine).

In the above citation, Choi posits that Fristianity is possible by definition, but that’s the very thing presuppositionalists contest!

Consider the following:

1.  If Christianity is true, then it is exclusive (all non-Christian worldviews are false and fail to account for the preconditions of intelligibility).

2.  Christianity is false.

3.  From 2, then Christianity may not be exclusive.

Conclusion:  The Fristian worldview might account for the preconditions of intelligibility.

———————————

As we can see, the conclusion only follows if premise 2 is true.

Fristian arguments must include a negation premise to operate, and this is something no Christian would be willing to grant, unless doing so hypothetically.  But there’s no reason to do so in this situation. Once this is realized, the Fristian must shift his efforts and try to demonstrate that Christianity, even if true, is not exclusive. He must attack premise 1.

Suppose he looks to Scripture and is able to demonstrate (exegetically) that Christianity is not exclusive?  Well, if he can demonstrate that, then the “Fristian” illustration becomes superfluous.  Consider the following:

1.  If Christianity is true, then it is *not* exclusive.

2.  Since Christianity is not exclusive, then some other worldview might provide the preconditions of intelligible experience.

3.  Fristianity is another worldview.

Conclusion:  Fristianity might provide the preconditions of intelligible experience.

If 1 is proven, then hypothetically-possible non-Christian worldviews need no longer be posited as it’s been proven (in principle) that they’re possible. There’d no longer be any need for positing “Fristianity” as a defeater for presuppositionalism. The entire illustration would be superfluous.

Anyway, it’s highly doubtful the “Fristian” advocates will be able to build a strong exegetical case that Christianity is not exclusive.  While it’s beyond the scope of this article to prove (from the text) that Christianity *is* exclusive, a few well-known verses should suffice:

Isaiah 44 – “I am the first and I am the last.  Apart from me, there is no God!”

John 14 – “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Acts 4 – “…there is none other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”

Galatians 1 – “…if any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

There are other relevant passages as well.  It seems the Fristian would have to perform exegetical gymnastics to overcome the traditional understanding that Christianity is exclusively true. On top of direct exegetical arguments, Van Til, building on the doctrine of God’s Aseity, offers a theological argument for the exclusivity of Christianity.

If the traditional understanding of the relevant Scriptural passages holds, and if Van Til’s theological argument for exclusivity holds, then it seems the presuppositionalist is rationally justified in rejecting Fristianity, even if we’re not immediately able to suggest how it fails. This is, after all, the situation we usually find ourselves in as presuppositional apologists. We may not be Islamic scholars, for example, but we know that if Christianity is true, Islam will fail to provide the preconditions of intelligible experience somehow or other. Fristianity is no better off.

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Comments
  1. ChristianCiv says:

    Here is the first post by David Byron where he offers the Fristianity challenge: https://www.baroquepotion.com/vantil/archive-Feb-1998/msg00042.html

    The issue of Fristianity is how many details of a worldview are involved in proving the preconditions for intelligibility experience in contrast to doctrines in a second group that do not determine the preconditions of intelligible experience by their truth or falsity, like the fact that Abraham was from Ur as opposed to being from some other city. Fristianity is designed to have all the doctrines in the first group, but differs on doctrines in the second group. But if such a religion existed, then it seems that Van Til could not prove *Christian theism* by his transcendental argument. My argument has been that Van Til has not claimed to prove all the details of Christianity from TAG. He acknowledges the need for empirical evidence to prove many things about Christianity, like canonicity on the basis of fulfilled prophecy. Here is my essay in defense of this: http://www.christianciv.com/The_Scope_and_Limits_of_VTAG.pdf.

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    • That might be an objection to the presuppositional method, but you can’t posit a “quadrune” god as an illustration of it. Positing a quadrune god is to posit an entirely different worldview and my response holds.

      If, on the other hand, someone wants to debate the transcendental necessity of a particular Christian conceptual scheme, that would be an entirely different discussion. And, as a matter of fact, I’ve been working through some metaphysical issues (that also touch on semantic realism vs. semantic anti-realism) that would bear on the topic. Stay tuned for future posts…

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  2. When this objection is brought up, I usually ask the objector if he/she really believes in Fristianity? Obviously, they don’t really believe it. It’s just a thought experiment. But if they don’t really believe it, why should it even be a contender? Plus, i’ve never seen Fristianity produce a book. When they do, i’ll give it consideration.

    Either way, I really liked how you approached this. The only way Fristianity could even contend would be to show that Christianity is false.

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