Praxis Presup Debate ft. Matt Oxley and Brian Knapp

I was recently challenged to a debate with Christian Pressuppositional Reformed Apologist Brian Knapp. The debate took place on November 13 through Skype and was really fun and enlightening.  I thank Brian and Chris Bolt for having me and for providing the audio recording for the debate.

Brian Knapp writes for ChoosingHats.com

If you prefer to download and listen later or on your MP3 Player you can download it Here.

(total run time is about 1 hour and 47 minutes)

 

I’ll have a commentary on the debate shortly, in the mean time please feel free to provide critique of my positions (or Brian’s) in the comments below.

  • What evidence? Has some surfaced since the last time I checked?????????????

  • Why do you refuse to tell christians the truth? If you want to help them, get them off that damn wide road…

  • GideonK

    Good debate, however as I suspected, Brian's arguments didn't have much substance, instead it was mostly pointless semantics which in my opinion, detracted from addressing the multitude of problems stemming from theistic belief. Good job on keeping it civil though!

  • Mike

    Good debate Matt – but I don't think you came to grips with the problem of induction. If it's OK to appeal to induction to justify induction (circular reasoning) then why can't the Christian prove the Bible is the world of God by appealing to the Bible. No, circular reasoning is no justification at all. So while you use induction all the time you can't justify using induction within the atheistic worldview. But induction does have a rational justification within the Christain worldview. Think about it.

    • GideonK

      As I understand it, empiricists don't appeal to induction to justify induction, instead they appeal to experience. The most trustworthy and verifiable experiences are used as the basis for beliefs about the world. It seems the only way you can attack this position is to try and try to bring it down to the – in my opinion – untenable theistic position where their claims about the world are not based on verifiable experiences. Furthermore, Brian has at no point in the debate explained why it is that Muslims also can't use this argument. I have yet to see any serious attempt to explain why exactly it is that anyone's particular Christian or theistic world view is correct.

      • Actually, oddly enough – Brian admitted prior to the debate that his arguments were frequently used by Muslims… another thing I intend to discuss on the next one.

        • Mike

          I don't think that is correct. I have never heard anyone other than a Christian use the presuppositional approach. And for good reason. As I indicated above – I will addres that issue next time.

        • I'd like to see the context for that.

          • I intend to use the Qur'an at the next debate in order to show this point.

      • Mike

        Atheists appeal to experience to justify. – OK, but to appeal to (past) experience is to appeal to induction. After all, induction simply says that the future is going to be like the past. Otherwise past experiences is irrelevant to future experiences. So you are using induction to justify.

        As to the issue of other religions – I will get to that next time.

  • Xander

    Matt – I enjoyed listening to your discussion with Brian and hope to hear a continuation of the discussion in the near future.

    Something to keep in mind in your future debates with presuppers is that they believe all efforts to obtain certainty of knowledge results in circular reasoning. They always will attempt to get their debate opponents to demonstrate this in order to progress their argument.

    Another way of looking at the problem of induction is that the logic that we use in induction is based upon repeated observations and you cannot arrive at certainty of knowledge despite the number of repeated observations made. In order to truly know that the future will resemble the past, one would have to be an omniscient being that knows the past, present, and future simultaneously. Therefore revelation from an omniscient being is our only avenue or justification for knowing that the future will resemble the past.

    There are of course many problems with the argument, and I'm sure you'll touch upon them in your future discussion with Brian.

    • "Another way of looking at the problem of induction is that the logic that we use in induction is based upon repeated observations and you cannot arrive at certainty of knowledge despite the number of repeated observations made."

      This is more or less the point I was attempting to make. I don't know that my experiences and inductions from those experiences will always lead me to appropriate conclusions because the laws of physics might well change, making my prior knowledge null and void. Perhaps my method wasn't the best, but that is exactly what I was going for.

    • Mike

      Could you tell me what you consider to be the number one problem? I have never heard a rationally justified counter to the presuppositional argument.

      • Xander

        Mike, the biggest problem here is that there is no actual argument being made for the existence of any particular god whatsoever. The presupper more or less claims ownership of absolute certainty of knowledge without backing up this claim and then attempts to poke holes in the atheist's worldview as though this somehow strengthens their argument.

        • Mike

          This is what is known as an indirect argument. You make an assumption and show that leads to a contradiction. This is a method that is used in logic, science, etc. So we show that if you start with an atheistic worldview you wind up in contradiction and absurdity. Therefore the atheistic worldview must be rejected. However the Christian worldview does not lead to contradiction and absurdity. Therefore, the Christian worldview should be accepted and the atheistic worldview should be rejected.

          You may not like the idea of an indirect argument but you then need to explain why it is OK to use this method in logic and science and such and but not OK to use this method in theology and philosophy.

          • Xander

            The problem is that no contradiction is demonstrated within atheism in the argument, indirect or otherwise. At most, what might be demonstrated is that a particular atheist might have problems justifying induction. But I'm just not seeing how this somehow strengthens the theist's case for the existence of God.

          • Mike

            There is a contradiction within the atheistic worldview. The atheist uses induction, therefore he is presupposing induction can be justified. Otherwise his use of induction is irrational. So one the one hand he presupposes he can justify his use of induction but one the other hand it is impossible to justify induction within his worldview. Thus the contradiction.

            One the other hand the Christian has no problem justifying induction within his worldview. GOD has promised in his word that he will sustain this world and maintain the orderly operation of the heavens and the earth. So if you are going to be rational in your beliefs you need to be a Christian.

          • Xander

            You have asserted that there is a contradiction within the "atheistic worldview", but have not supported this assertion. You also stated that because the atheist uses induction, they presuppose induction can be justified. That simply does not follow. Merely using induction does not mean one presupposes induction can be justified. Just thought I'd correct you on this point. But more importantly you have not provided an argument supporting your claim that a non-theistic justification for induction is impossible.

            You stated that Christianity has no problem justifying induction within its worldview, because of God's word. I don't understand how this justifies induction if you can't justify God's existence to begin with. Perhaps you can clarify.

            Also, if I can show how a Christian cannot justify induction, would that mean there is a contradiction within the Christian worldview and (by your reasoning) if you are going to be rational in your beliefs, then you need to be an atheist?

          • Mike

            “That simply does not follow. Merely using induction does not mean one presupposes induction can be justified.”

            Are you serious? If you don’t believe that you can justify your use of induction why do you use it? If a person who believes that someone is out to harm him but is unable to justify that to be the case what do we call him? We say he is paranoid and delusional. If a person has beliefs and carries out actions but is consistently unable to justify those actions and beliefs what do we call him? We say he is crazy.

            “But more importantly you have not provided an argument supporting your claim that a non-theistic justification for induction is impossible.”

            OK – go for it. Choose any non-theistic worldview you want. It will not work.

            “You stated that Christianity has no problem justifying induction within its worldview, because of God's word. I don't understand how this justifies induction if you can't justify God's existence to begin with. Perhaps you can clarify.”

            Did you see my comment above about indirect arguments? What part did you not understand?

  • ATTENTION MATT'S READERS!

    Don't get left out. Send your questions in for the next debate.

    See – http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/11/audience-ques… for more details.

    Thanks!

  • AJB

    The problem of induction? Really? What about the problems found in deductive reasoning? If one doesn't believe two plus two will equal four, I'll show them my stack of elephants, and we'll count them together. If one insists that my stack are indeed not elephants, I'll ask that he/she examines more than the tail before drawing that tangential conclusion. The only reason induction is "circular" is because it is proven again, and again, and again. Knapp seems to have a problem with this reasoning.

  • Xander

    "If you don’t believe that you can justify your use of induction why do you use it?"

    People use things all the time without presupposing that they can be justified. For example, since we are talking about Hume's Problem of Induction, you probably know that by justification, what is meant is a *deductive* justification. Do you have a deductive justification for induction? If you do, I have yet to see one. And yet, you use induction all the time. Are you then one of those people who on the one hand presupposes he can justify his use of induction, but on the other hand it is impossible to justify induction within his worldview?

    • Mike

      “For example, since we are talking about Hume's Problem of Induction, you probably know that by justification, what is meant is a *deductive* justification. Do you have a deductive justification for induction?”

      Hume showed that induction can’t be justified either deductively (because deduction involves propositions that are necessary) or inductively (because this would be circular reasoning). And no, I don’t have a deductive justification for induction.

      “And yet, you use induction all the time. Are you then one of those people who on the one hand presupposes he can justify his use of induction, but on the other hand it is impossible to justify induction within his worldview?”

      Did you read my earlier postings? I explained it there. To repeat – Induction is justified within the Christian worldview because GOD promises in us his word that he will sustain his creation and maintain the orderly operation of this world. This was also explained in the debate between Brian and Matt. And you might want to take a look at this link:
      http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/11/providence-pr

  • Xander

    I read your earlier postings. Your belief that God promises you in his word that he will sustain his creation and maintain the orderly operation of this world does not address the problem of induction. You still do not know with certainty that the future will resemble the past and hence induction is not justified within the Christian worldview.

    So are you one of those folks who presuppose that they can justify their use of induction, yet are unable to justify induction from within their worldview?

    • Mike

      Could you be a little more specific in why you believe this does not answer the problem of induction?

      • Xander

        Hume's problem was that we lack certainty in our inductive reasoning. However, the Christian worldview doesn't somehow magically obtain certainty in our inductive reasoning. Even if we presuppose in our minds the existence of the God of the Bible, one still cannot know with absolute certainty that the future will resemble the past. You are still no better off than you were before you presupposed the existence of God and still cannot be absolutely certain that the future will resemble the past. So you aren't fooling anyone when you claim that you have solved the problem of induction.

        Though you can state that an omniscient being assured you that this is how he created the universe, that in itself does not solve the problem of induction and you are still without certainty when it comes to usage of your inductive reasoning.

        • Mike

          “Even if we presuppose in our minds the existence of the God of the Bible, one still cannot know with absolute certainty that the future will resemble the past.”

          Why not? You still haven’t specified what the problem is. To simply assert something over and over doesn’t make it so.

  • Xander

    You might not find it to be problematic, however you are lacking an argument which demonstrates that you have obtained certainty in inductive reasoning. If you have an argument for how imagining the existence of the Biblical God will allow one to obtain certainty in inductive reasoning, then by all means present the argument. If not, then this will be my last comment on the matter. Thanks.

    • Xander

      Sorry – this posting should have been posted as a reply to Mike in my previous posting and not as a new comment.

    • Mike

      “You might not find it to be problematic, however you are lacking an argument which demonstrates that you have obtained certainty in inductive reasoning.”

      The GOD of the Bible (who is omnipotent and thus capable of maintaining and sustaining the operation of the universe) (and who is morally perfect and thus incapable of lying) has promised us that he will sustain the orderly operation of the universe. That’s the argument. You may believe this argument has many problems and consider it to be a very weak argument. Fine. Tell me what the problems are. But to assert that there is no argument at all is absolutely ridiculous. If at any point in the future you decide you want to provide a rational justification for your position let me know and we can continue the conversation.