I’ve been pondering over David Leech Anderson’s article “Why God is Not a Semantic Realist”.

Anderson’s essay is included in the book “Realism and Anti-Realism” edited by William Alston.  The majority of the contributors are “realists” (in some respect or other), Anderson as well.

But while Anderson claims to be a “metaphysical realist” (ie: he believes there are objects in the world that do not depend on our mental activity for their existence), he, nevertheless, thinks we ought not suggest that our common linguistic habits presuppose metaphysical realism.  In other words, we ought not be global semantic realists with respect to common statements about the external world.

What’s a semantic realist, you ask?

Consider the following proposition:

“There is a tree in my front yard”.

A global semantic realist suggests that all such statements are meant to refer to actual objects; in this case, if I say there’s a tree in my front yard, I really mean that there’s a tree in my front yard.

Suppose metaphysical realism were false though, and we all lived in the “Matrix”.  If that were the case and a person said there is a tree in his front yard, his statement would be false because the statement would be referring to objects that do not, in fact, exist, but are rather illusions created by evil machines. (This assumes, of course, all non-trivial instances.  It could be that machines kidnapped a man, imprisoned him in the Matrix, then ran a sub-routine program that is almost identical to reality…then, when the man says “there is a tree in my front yard”, it might just accidentally be the case that, in the real world, there really is a tree in his front yard…but such would only be accidental.  For the purposes of this illustration, we’re investigating the referents of sentences.  The man might be accidentally correct in saying there’s a tree in his front yard, for example, but if he were to say, “there is a tree in front of me right now”, he would be wrong, from a semantic realist perspective).

The poor soul trapped in the Matrix may have a way out, however.  He might reject semantic realism and accept semantic anti-realism.  The semantic anti-realist would suggest that it’s true there is a tree in the front yard, not because the sentence refers to something that may actually exist, but because the subjective experience of the person was such that he experienced a tree and a front yard.

So, for a semantic anti-realist, the conditions of a propositions being true are different than for a semantic realist.  In other words:  the conditions which make a proposition true are different for both positions.  The realist needs the tree to actually *be* in the front yard for the proposition to be true; the anti realist needs only the subject to have experienced there being a tree in the front yard for the proposition to be true.

Criticisms:

Anderson argues against global semantic realism.

“Global” here, means a semantic realist who believes that *all* such propositions about the external world are generally meant to be propositions about extra-mental objects.

Instead, Anderson wants to claim that some of our propositions are to be taken as having anti-realist truth-conditions, while others are to be taken as having realist truth-conditions.  Thus, he suggests a “semantic-dualism” which is robust enough to allow for the full range of our linguistic habits.

His arguments against semantic realism don’t strike me as very convincing.

They amount to arguments from audacity.  “If it were true that we lived in a world where something like Berkeleian Idealism were true, and if we were also semantic realists, then that would mean that almost all Biblical propositions would be false”.

Well – granted…but then again, if we lived in a Berkeleian Idealist universe, Scripture would have implied as much and we would be able to properly deduce that Scriptural statements about the external world are really not referring to mind-independent objects, but rather, are referring to objects which depend (in non-trivial ways) on the mind of God.

Additionally, for an essay to have such an interesting title, it says little to nothing about God’s situation with respect to semantic realism or anti-realism.  Anderson, if successful in this article, will have shown that humans should be semantic dualists…but that’s not to say that God should also be a semantic dualist.

In fact, if we say that God is a semantic anti-realist in some respect, then we might be in danger of shaving away the classic doctrine of the “Creator / Creature” distinction…and that leads to all sorts of heresies.  Additionally, given God’s status as creator, when God speaks about a world outside of Himself, it comes to be; in other words, it becomes “real” by virtue of Him speaking about it.  It doesn’t seem (on this view) that God could be an anti-realist with respect to His experiences of extra-mental objects.

While Anderson does a good job of convincing me that I ought not be dogmatic about my “realist” views, and while he’s sparked my interest in the possibilities semantic anti-realism (or even his own semantic “dualism”) might offer to the Christian, I’m not convinced that he’s made a good case here against semantic realism.

(The “Federal Vision” controversy is still raging among conservative branches of the Presbyterian church.  Many in the Federal Vision are also Van Tillians and try to rope Van Til into their camp.  Reverend Alan D. Strange has, in my view, presented the most intelligible overview of the controversy, laying out its broader cultural context as well as the important issues involved.  In lecture 1 of his critique of Federal Vision, he discusses the FV proponents’ attempt to use Van Til, suggesting they misunderstand him.

Additionally, Strange alludes to Calvin Beisner, a Clarkian who takes jabs at Van Til while opposing the Federal Vision.  I’ve taken the liberty to transcribe some relevant portions of Dr. Strange’s lecture, but the entire series is worth a listen – A.D.)

@ 1:02:00

FV advocates claim to be following Cornelius Van Til in their anti-systematizing biases.  Most, if not all of the proponents of Federal Vision would claim either to be followers of the apologetic methodology of Van Til, or would otherwise not see themselves as contradicting him.  The Federal Vision does, in fact, misrepresent Van Til at several points, and it’s a mistake to assume that Federal Vision’s misguided approach with respect to Scripture and the Confessions is properly Van Tillian.  It’s not Van Tillian simply to charge that classical federalists read the Scriptures through a theological grid (as if anyone could read the Scriptures without a theological grid).

Van Til believed that the word should make that grid and he believed that the Reformed faith had allowed the word to do just that and had faithfully reflected that in the Reformed Confessions.

@ 1:03:10

I have a footnote here that’s also taking to task Calvin Beisner because he’s a Clarkian.  And Beisner, who is an anti-FV man, looks at this and says “Ok.  I disagree with you FV friends.  You’re good friends of mine.  I disagree with you…but I understand where it comes from!  It comes from Cornelius Van Til.  That’s where it comes from, and that’s why you’re wrong!”  And the voice of Gordon Clark is heard in the land.

Well, no.  I don’t think so.  He basically takes them at their word that they’re properly representing Van Til then uses that as an opportunity to give a little smash there.  Van Til’s genius involved, not only his refusal to reject Revelation in favor of an enlightenment concept of reason, but also in a refusal to give way to irrationalism.

In his defense of the Synod of Dort, for instance, one can see that Van Til’s with the Reformers in refusing to give way either to Hyper Calvinism or to Arminianism by sticking with God’s teaching in His word.  There are those who would reduce Van Til to “mere” perspectivalism.  Notice that word.  “mere” perspectivalism.  And thus make him sound more like Ludwig Wittgenstein, Paul Ricour, Richard Rorty, and Thomas Kuhn, simply because Van Til and any number of post structuralists, deconstructionists, and a host of postmodern linguistic types all believed that we have a worldview through which we interpret all that we encounter.  There are a lot of people who believe that.

Van Til is not anti-systematic.  And the (Federal Visionists) who think they have him in their side on this, are misguided.

(**UPDATE**… Glenn Peoples has replied to this post in the comment section, insisting that I’ve misunderstood his statements somehow.  I’m not clear on how I’ve misunderstood him, so I haven’t changed my post.  Still – let the reader be aware that I may be critiquing a straw-man. — A.D.)

I like Glenn Peoples but I think he’s a little presumptuous sometimes.1

His podcast “Say Hello to my Little Friend” is enjoyable and helpful to me as a Christian apologist.  From time to time he even says positive things about Van Til.  Unfortunately, he has a few criticisms as well2; one being that Van Tillians are cliquish.

Well Glenn Peoples, I’m not cliquish, but I’m not willing to allow that you’re a “presuppositionalist” either…at least not in the popular sense.  Anyone, even secular philosophers, can look at their opponents’ assumptions and investigate whether they’re consistent with the proposition being contested.  That doesn’t mean they’re presuppositionalists.  It just means they’re good philosophers.  The Van Tillian wants to go a step further and say that *only* Christian assumptions will be consistent with *whatever* proposition is being contested (and also the only assumptions consistent with the proposing of it).

In podcast 011, “What is Presuppositional Apologetics?” Peoples suggests that Van Til *never* presents an argument for this.  Consider his words starting at 42 min:

“Van Til believed that he had a silver bullet.  He didn’t have to, so he thought, tackle non-Christian worldviews one at a time and show that they lack the necessary basis for intelligibility.  He thought that the argument just outlined did show that for all non-Christian worldviews.

How exactly did he argue that his transcendental argument achieved this?  Well here’s where things get frustrating.  He never really explained exactly how his argument showed this.  He uses the term “Christian theism” in his arguments like in the quote you just heard, he talked about the Christian theistic point of view, but he never justifies that limitation.  He never justifies saying that it is Christian theism alone that provides the necessary grounding here….no where in any of his writings or the writings of Greg Bahnsen for that matter, will you ever find an argument for the claim that *only* Christianity could ever supply these things.”

While I don’t blame Peoples for not being a Van Til scholar, I do blame him for making these sorts of categorical claims without scholarly support.  As a matter of fact, Van Til (and Dr. Bahnsen as well, but I’ll focus on Van Til in this post) *did* offer (or at least: alluded to) a theological argument for why it would be the case that Christian theism alone provides for the preconditions of intelligibility.

Of course, this argument is only successful if Christianity is, in fact, true.

Glenn Peoples isn’t alone in misunderstanding this tidbit of Presupper thought – people ask me questions about it all the time.  So I’ll try to briefly outline the argument below.

As a preface:  Van Til was seeped in the Reformed scholastic tradition and much of his work might be interpreted as an attempt to take that tradition seriously, re-package it, and assert it polemically.  Accordingly, Van Til relied on (what were considered: established) theological arguments.  He argues that the divine attributes imply each other.  Dr. Scott Oliphint, in following Van Til, offers an example of this sort of argument:

“If we affirm that God is essentially a perfect Being (one who lacks nothing), if we affirm his character is a se, then it cannot be that he is in any way essentially limited by anything outside of himself, since to be limited would by definition be a lack; it would be a constraint placed on God by something else, be it space or time or human choices.” ~ “God With Us” pg. 16

But now, consider a typical citation from Van Til which directly applies to the topic at hand:

“Then, too, man could not be otherwise created than in accordance with the image of God, since there were no idea or patterns above or distinct from the nature of God according to which God could create him.” – Intro to systematic Theology, pg. 119.

Here we have it Glenn Peoples.

You may not like it.  You may snub it with characteristic snobbery (so common among those who study analytic philosophy)…but this constitutes an argument for why, if Christianity is true, it must be exclusively so.3

 I’ll try to polish up the argument and state it formally (although I hope no one faults Van Til or presuppositional apologetics for my bad formulations):

—————————————

P1:  God is A Se

P2: God’s being A Se implies there is no concept outside of Himself by which He might pattern any of His works. 

P3:  If God works, His work will be fashioned after concepts which are internal to (and identical with) His character.

Conclusion:  Therefore, all of Creation is, necessarily, “reflective” of God. 

—————————————–

Consider John Frame’s reassertion of this point in typical Van Tillian jargon:

“God’s covenental presence is with all His works, and therefore it is inescapable… all things are under God’s control, and all knowledge… is a recognition of divine norms for truth. Therefore, in knowing anything, we know God” (18). Frame elaborates: “[B]ecause God is the supremely present one, He is inescapable. God is not shut out by the world… all reality reveals God” (20).”  These citations are taken from “Doctrine of the Knowledge of God”.  H/T to J.W. Wartick.

An implication of all this is that no non-Christian conceptual scheme will ever be able to successfully account for a Creation that is reflective of the Christian God.

In addition to this theological argument we have exegetical arguments which would demonstrate from authority that *only* the Christian worldview will, in final analysis, be successful at “mapping” our experience. I’ll not delve into the relevant Scripture passages in this post, however (in a future post I may do an outline of relevant verses and if I do, I’ll link to it here).

Christian theology is, on this view, exclusive.  Islam can’t cut it, Atheism can’t cut it, Hinduism can’t cut it, and so on ad infinitum. Even if we can’t say (off the tops of our heads) how each of these non-Christian systems fail, Van Til’s argument shows that *if* Christianity is true, then all non-Christian views will fail some how or other.  It’s the task of the individual presupper to skillfully confront whichever he’s approached with when the time comes.

Hope that helps clarify the situation for those interested in this aspect of Presuppositionalism (even Glen Peoples).


1. He “dissed” me once:  I was about to have a debate with a moral anti-realist and I posted a question about it on Peoples’ blog.  He emailed me a quick paragraph telling me that he didn’t allow pseudonyms and asked if I could please re-submit my question under my real name.  Of course I did – then he ignored it. He could have spent that paragraph directing me to good literature or offering a few much-needed tips, but no. For God’s sake, if you’re going to devote your life to esoteric disciplines like the philosophy of religion, at least throw a bone to young bucks from time to time who might need your help! How often do philosophers get to do something meaningful for others? Not often.

2. For an interesting criticism that I hope to address in a future post, see People’s article “One of the Ways in Which Van Til Was Wrong”.

3. While this particular citation refers to the creation of mankind, Van Til commonly applied the same sort of thought to all Creation. For a rigorous discussion of his doctrine of creation and why it necessitates the exclusivity of Christian theology, see Nathan Shannon’s article comparing Van Til to John Locke: http://philosophyandtheism.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/christianity-and-evidentialism-van-til-and-locke-on-facts-and-evidence/  

Back in 2011, Dr. James Anderson wrote a blog post arguing that “TAG” does not (maybe: cannot) provide us with “epistemic certainty”.  He provides three reasons (along with prefatory comments) why he holds this view.  I’ll try to briefly interact with each of his three reasons, but first, a question:

He says many of TAG’s advocates have suggested that it *can* provide “epistemic certainty”.  He takes this for granted (and it’s never challenged in the comments), but I wonder whom he has in mind, exactly?  Van Til was not analytically precise in his language and doesn’t use the “epistemic certainty” jargon (as far as I’m aware).  Given how ambiguous his writing is, and given how the presuppositionalist community has evolved (such that Van Til is taken in certain ways, regardless of what he originally wrote), we might do better to look to Dr. Bahnsen for a clearer statement.  Dr. Bahnsen, though, was notorious for blending technical jargon with his preaching, sometimes flowing back and forth between philosophical analysis and helpful metaphors for his lay-audiences.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t use the jargon of “epistemic certainty” either (again, as far as I’m aware) in the same sense that it’s used in contemporary analytical philosophy.

So where does James Anderson get the idea that TAG advocates argue that TAG provides “epistemic certainty”?  Well, the presuppositionalist community has thrived among a lay-audience, many of whom (like the notorious Sye Ten Bruggencate) operate on talking-points and simplified arguments they’ve learned from popularizers like Dr. Bahnsen.  And Dr. Bahnsen *did* insist that arguing presuppositionally leaves us better off somehow than arguing “evidentially” or “classically”.  The following statement is typical and probably most apt to our present considerations:

I began yesterday with the opening salvo that I believe the existence of God is objectively provable.  Then I took that and started to do an analysis to qualify and explain what I’m getting at.  And we took awhile to talk about the notion of proof.  When I say “objectively provable”, what am I getting at?  By a proof that is “objective”: not interested in the man or source of opinion or how people personally respond or so forth.  We’re talking about proof, not persuasion.  We’re recognizing the difference between metaphysics (what is the case) and epistemology (how people think, what they believe and how they know and things of that nature).

Then after we discussed the notion of proof, we began to look at the kinds of proofs that are available.  The Cosmological Proof was taken as our stalking horse.  I said the Cosmological Proof is bad as a proof.  Really bad philosophically as a proof.  However there’s something to that, this notion of causation, that if you go back and now do a transcendental analysis of it, does turn out to be, I think, a very strong proof for the existence of God.  So now we have the notion of transcendental proof…”1

Additionally, much presuppositionalist rhetoric suggests there is a moral failing in evidential and classical arguments because these arguments only arrive at probabilistic conclusions instead of definitive truth claims.2

But must the special status often claimed for transcendental arguments, be construed as “epistemic certainty”?  Might we not maintain popular ideas about transcendental arguments (that they provide us with “objective proof” and that arguing otherwise may be immoral) while still bowing knee to secular philosophical truisms (which say no argument can provide “epistemic certainty”?)

I suspect James Anderson could easily do so if he wanted.

But on to his three reasons:

His first reason for rejecting the idea that TAG provides “epistemic certainty” is that TAG must be thought of as a group of arguments instead of a single one.  So before analyzing the claim that TAG provides epistemic certainty, Anderson would need to know “which TAG” is being discussed.

This is readily granted, but I do wonder how diverse Dr. Anderson thinks TAGs can possibly be.  It seems that if the transcendental thrust of the argument is successful, the formal “trappings” (be they modus ponens, modus tollens, or what have you) are secondary considerations.  And I’m not sure there can be different types of transcendental “thrusts” such that were Dr. Anderson to successfully critique one, a presuppositionalist might run to another.

————————————-

His second reason for rejecting the idea that TAG provides “epistemic certainty” is, he’s (supposedly) unaware of any formulation of TAG that proves specifically Christian theism.

Of course, this is a cheeky blow to the lay Presuppositionalist community.  We might easily interpret him here as smacking us around and telling us to wake up from our Bahnsonian delusions.  But in his seminar on Transcendental Arguments, Dr. Bahnsen distinguishes “Van Tillian-styled” transcendental arguments from secular transcendental arguments, by noting that the former are “worldview” in scope, while the latter, argue piece by piece, or proposition by proposition.

Van Tillian TA’s then, says Bahnsen, are distinct precisely because they argue that the entire *Christian* worldview is the necessary precondition of human intelligibility.  Granted, when we demonstrate this, we don’t simultaneously demonstrate that every proposition about the Christian worldview is a necessary precondition of human intelligibility…as if the color of Jesus’ hair, or the number of lions in the den with Daniel were important epistemologically.  But without the entire Christian worldview, all the preconditions of intelligibility provided by Christianity would become “rocks in a bottomless ocean”.

I know Dr. Anderson is aware of this sort of presuppositionalist rhetoric.  To see him dismiss it out of hand, without even an off-the-cuff analysis, is frustrating (to say the least).  I can accept if he thinks it’s wrong to distinguish between Van Tillian TA’s and secular TA’s as Dr. Bahnsen does, or if he thinks Van Tillian TA’s, even when so-construed, fail…but to gloss over the issue as if it’s too unimportant to even mention and to simply conclude that he’s “never” seen a TAG prove *Christian* theism, is … well… again: frustrating.  *ALL* TAGs offered by Van Tillians are meant to prove specifically Christian theism.  But here, Dr. Anderson is implying that despite our best efforts and despite our long nights of apologetics, despite our blood, sweat, and tears, we’re simply failures.

————————————–

His third point is the most important as far as determining if TAG can provide “epistemic certainty”, and so I’ll cite him directly:

Thirdly — and this is the most important point — we need to be clear on what it would take for any argument to deliver its conclusion with epistemic certainty. The strongest type of argument is a deductive argument, in which the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises: if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true. But even in a deductive argument, the conclusion cannot enjoy greater epistemic warrant than the premises (at least in the case where the warrant for the conclusion is taken to derive from the argument itself). What this means is that TAG can deliver epistemic certainty only if all of its premises are epistemically certain.3

He goes on to note that important premises in the TAG argument are not self-evident and thus, the conclusion, even if deductively valid, can never be epistemically certain.

But remember earlier when he suggested there’s no single formulation of TAG?  So it’s not clear if he means, at this point, that *all* formulations of TAG will be guilty of including propositions which aren’t self-evident, or if only some of them do.

Further – it’s at this point we should look to the theologians to help us with our philosophy.  Consider:  Dr. Anderson thinks the following proposition is not self evident:

“God’s existence is a metaphysically necessary condition of some essential feature of human thought or experience”

But often theologians speak of theological truths that, on Christianity, would be self-evident.  The fact that God exists, for example, is often said to be self-evident.  Couldn’t we argue that God’s existence being self-evident also means that certain relationships between God and His creation are also self-evident, even if we can’t immediately articulate (with analytical precision) what the precise nature of this relationship is?

Now, Dr. Anderson might suggest that, even if we have regenerated intuitions about God’s relationship to His creation, we would never be “epistemically certain” that we’ve stated them correctly when formulating a premise for a TAG.  But that simply requires us to learn a little analytical precision … it doesn’t seem to preclude us (especially if we work hard) from articulating a premise that is self evident to every Christian.  So I’m not convinced that God’s being metaphysically necessary for essential features of human thought, is not self-evident, even while granting that it might not always be easy for the average Christian to articulate.

But even supposing it’s self evident, can we say we know it with “epistemic certainty”?  And if not, then Anderson’s point still seems to stand.

But then again (as I pointed out initially), I’m not sure anyone is really concerned with that anyway.4  If Van Til (and his disciples after him) relied on Bavinck, then we might consider the following statement from Bavinck’s book “The Certainty of Faith” pg. 74, to be an apt summary of the attitude towards “epistemic certainty” we’d wish to maintain:

“If neither rational argument nor moral experience can explain how the Christian faith comes into being, the question arises whether there isn’t a better way in which man may be lead to trustingly embrace the truth revealed in Christ….This is an unalterable fact.  That the Gospel is made known to us, confronting us with the call to believe and repent does not depend on our will, but on a decree of God. It is He who ordains us to be born of Christian parents, raised in a Christian environment, and without any merit on our part makes us acquainted with the way of salvation in Christ.”

What we want to say then, as presuppositionalists interested in maintaining the Neo Calvinist tradition with Bavinck, is that God can miraculously provide us an epistemically certain Faith (perhaps through some externalist mechanism described by the likes of Plantinga), even while most (I suspect) would be fine with admitting (as James Anderson does) that any argument offered, even one as deductively valid and useful as TAG, can’t get us there.5

Faith is an act of God…not of reason.


1. This is from the opening comments in lecture 7 of Dr. Bahnsen’s seminar on Transcendental Arguments. Purchase the seminar here: http://www.cmfnow.com/transcendentalarguments.aspx 

2. It’s commonly suggested these apologetic methods are immoral because they, in some sense, “give up God” in order to defend God. For a typical argument, see the last ten minutes of lecture 2 of Michael Butler’s course on Presuppositional Apologetics, available from Sermon Audio.  This aspect of popular presuppositionalist rhetoric doesn’t seem immediately relevant to the topic at hand.

3. In his collection of writings “On Certainty” proposition1, Wittgenstein notes something similar.

When one says that such and such a proposition can’t be proved, of course that does not mean that it can’t be derived from other propositions; any proposition can be derived from other ones. But they may be no more certain than it is itself.

4. Critics of Van Til often maliciously note how he would assert one proposition then immediately assert its opposite. For instance: Unbelievers can know things, but unbelievers cannot know anything. In the same way, consider the following citation in light of our discussion:

“…man’s creation in God’s image involves (a) the fact that man’s ideal of knowledge should never be that of the comprehension of God, and (b) the fact that man’s knowledge is nevertheless true.” Intro. to Systematic Theology, pg. 119.

If Dr. Anderson wanted, he might use passages like this from Van Til to correct less-sophisticated Van Tillians when they assert that we might attain “certainty” that can (in principle) rival God’s comprehensive knowledge of a subject. The presuppositionalist community desperately needs leaders to offer these sorts of interpretations of Van Til.

5. Interestingly enough, secular philosopher Barry Stroud, (in “Scepticism, Externalism, and the Goal of Epistemology” on page 292 of “Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader” edited by DeRose and Warfield,) suggests that even if a workable externalist account of knowledge is provided, one which, if true, would yield knowledge, the knower would still have an intuitive doubt as to whether his model is actually true.

Ironically, in that same article, Stroud posits a hypothetical “Descartes” who provides a theistic externalist account of knowledge that, to a presuppositionalist, looks exactly like what we’d want to advocate. Stroud arbitrarily rejects it as false, but overlooks the fact that, if this particular externalist model were true, and if it were provided with specifically Christian connotations, it would not be subject to the same sorts of discomforts that his and Ernest Sosa’s non-theistic externalist models would be. A defense of that claim, however, must wait for another blog post.

While no Presuppositionalist should downplay the importance of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s work, his overly-general style has resulted in atheists suggesting presuppositionalism is little more than trite word games and disingenuous talking-points.  Of course, this reaction is likely due to their attempts to suppress God’s truth with lies (as per Romans 1) and cannot be attributed to Sye.

Nevertheless – I’m constantly asked to provide a formal statement of the “Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence”.1

While there is no one single formulation of the TAG (as both James Anderson and John Frame have noted)2 we should be able to provide a formal “outline” anyway; even if we’re not interested in catering to atheists, it’s always a good idea to have a clear understanding of what we’re attempting with our talking-points.

The Reformed Apologist has provided the best (as far as I’m concerned) formal statement.3 I’ve poured over it trying to detect any formal deficiencies in its structure but have not, as of yet, found any.  I’m re-posting the argument here for the convenience of my readers:

———————————-

Prove A:The Christian God exists.

Step 1 ~A: (Assume the opposite of what we are trying to prove): The Christian God does not exist.

Step 2 (~A–> B): If God does not exist, then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility

Step 3 (~B): There is intelligible experience (Contradiction!)

Step 4 (~ ~A): It is not the case that God does not exist (Modus Tollens on 2 and 3)

Step 5 (A): –> God does exist (Law of negation.)

———————————–

Step 2 is immediately controversial and will likely see the most sustained criticism.  I strongly recommend reading the Reformed Apologist’s interaction with it (linked to above).


1. I get this request almost daily from unbelievers across various venues. It’s a common challenge.

2. See James Anderson’s comments on “TAG” being a group of arguments: http://www.proginosko.com/docs/No_Dilemma_for_TAG.pdf  

3. Additionally, Brian Bosse provides the same reconstruction in his article meant to refute the Transcendental Argument. “Van Tillian Presuppositional Apologetics – A Critique Concerning Certainty”. I’m not clear on who first formulated the argument this way or if both Bosse and the Reformed Apologist came up with it separately.