Debate with a Van Tillian presuppositionalist

Recently on my post titled the “Arguments against the existence of God“, Tyler Wittman commented like this: 

Atheists are as real as Chewbacca. The viability of any worldview is if it can be consistently applied and atheism fails the moment you appeal to science (which depends upon uniformity of certain laws), or trust your cognitive faculties, or hold to any moral standard, or place value upon your existence . . . I could go on, but I won’t.

Another “atheist” blog amongst hundreds . . . Nietzsche was the most convincing atheist, from the standpoint that he truly drank his own kool-aid.

I replied:

Christians are as real as Atheists. The viability of any worldview is if it corresponds with reality, and Christianity fails the moment you appeal to natural disasters, unjustified human suffering…I could go on, but I won’t.

Another Christian “drive-by” amongst hundreds… Some Christians even drank the real kool-aid ( at Jonestown.

(P.S: I can make infinite internally consistent worldviews).

To which he has replied this:

You refer to theodicy, which is not an issue that is insurmountable. It all depends upon your preconditions for belief that you’ve already established before you approach the suffering or the disaster in question. Neither am I referring to an internally consistent worldview. I believe to make sense of any other worldview, you borrow from the Christian one.

I will not labor to set out the views here in detail, but I will provide you with a personal story from one of my favorites (whom Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris would all have done better to have read before producing such short-sighted efforts of their own – in particular Dawkins; his 747 argument is embarassing), Cornelius Van Til:

It is lengthy and you may not read the entire thing, but I have pointed you the right way, I believe. Here is a snippet to pique your interests:

“I shall not convert you at the end of my argument. I think the argument is sound. I hold that belief in God is not merely as reasonable as other belief, or even a little or infinitely more probably true than other belief; I hold rather that unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else. But since I believe in such a God, a God who has conditioned you as well as me, I know that you can to your own satisfaction, by the help of the biologists, the psychologists, the logicians, and the Bible critics reduce everything I have said this afternoon and evening to the circular meanderings of a hopeless authoritarian. Well, my meanderings have, to be sure, been circular; they have made everything turn on God. So now I shall leave you with Him, and with His mercy.”

The internet is an inadequate medium for these discussions in the first place because they are impersonal and the acceptance or rejection of Christianity is a serious matter that extends beyond the blasse discussion blogs offer. I apologize for my “drive-by.” I hope that I have atoned for it.

I couldn’t write a reply to this because if I go ahead to debate against every argument in the encyclopedia of Van Tillian presuppositionalism, I wouldn’t win any converts. Instead all I would have done is to prove myself and me alone, that within huge haystack of rational arguments and philosphical jargon lies the truth; that presuppositionalist apologetics is wrong 😦

So herein lies my dilemma: what must I do if I am debating such an apologist in front of a group of potential de-converts? If I engage my opponent who hides his unjustified belief behind a huge pile of pseudo- justifications, I would put my potential de-converts to sleep easily. Or worse, they look at how my opponent sounds without understanding anything he has said to conclude that he is write because he uses complicated sounding words and must know what he is talking about. On the other hand, If I do not engage him it would be easily mistaken by my potential de-converts that I do not have an answer, and so I am wrong.

It is amazing to see the lengths to which Christianity goes against unbelief.

Conclusion: Winning converts is not same as winning against apologists. An unbeliever must not try to satisfy the ego-maniacal need to win a debate. He must instead focus on keeping his replies as short and jargon free as possible while responding to the claims by the apologist. An unbeliever must not let the apologist digress behind piles of jargon or long anecdotes.

An unbeliever must use ideas that are within the grasp of the audience. For example, talking about malaria is better than talking about human suffering.


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