Dear Dr. Lisle,
I truly appreciate your latest work on presuppositional apologetics. I do have three questions that I haven’t been able to settle in my mind yet. You may have thought them before, and I would appreciate if you can shed light upon them:
1. How can we, immersed in a biblical worldview, test a non-biblical worldview in a non-biblical way to prove it impossible? Do you believe that “the myth of neutrality” applies to all levels of reasoning, or only to the more complex ones (above logic and mathematics)? Can you be truly “neutral” when testing the contrary worldview, or will the results of this testing process be influenced by your own worldview?
2. I appreciate you insight regarding the impossibility to refute the BIBLE, as it is our circular axiom and starting point (chapter 9, pg. 148). However, the Biblical worldview (the eternal, non-physical BIBLE) is contingent on the “physical Bible”, the collection of books we draw the BIBLE from. Hence, thought the BIBLE cannot be refuted (because it cannot be tested), our perception of it is contingent on an object that can be tested indeed, the physical Bible. It follows then that by refuting the physical Bible, you discredit the human perception of the BIBLE that we use as starting point (not the BIBLE itself, though, but that is all we have access to anyway...). In the same way, a rationalist is discredited if his mind is proven to be insane. Would this make the argument “less ultimate”? I must confess that I find somewhat contradictory to presuppose the BIBLE (hence the Bible) as my starting point, but to separate from the Bible (but not the BIBLE) to make my argument irrefutable and ultimate.
3. I have also found intriguing that many presuppositionalists embrace Calvinism, and also eschatological Preterism (Bahnsen, Gentry). Classical apologists, on the other hand, tend to be more moderate calvinists, and usually dispensationalists (Geisler, MacDowell). Do you think there is a theological or philosophical link between Presuppositionalism, Calvinism, and Preterism? Do they have to be all part of the same "package" to be consistent? Or you think they can be separated and still be consistent within each one? To the names above, there are of course exceptions, such as Sproul and MacArthur... I am just trying to make sense of the Church’s behavior, since it not as unified as it was meant to be in the beginning!
I know this could be a lot of writing, and I understand you may be busy. I would truly appreciate your insight to clarify my ideas, whenever you may find it most convenient. Again, I appreciate your hard work, and the very thorough book you have put together. My wife and I have been to the Museum several times, and we always prioritize the planetarium presentations... You’ve done a terrific job so far! I would like to encourage you to continue the good work of equiping the Church to be a faithful and useful witness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are praying for you all often, that you may continue to stand strong in the service you do for the Lord, and that you may not be discredited in the process.
—E.F., U.S.

I truly appreciate your latest work on presuppositional apologetics. I do have three questions that I haven’t been able to settle in my mind yet. You may have thought them before, and I would appreciate if you can shed light upon them:

Thank you for the encouragement. I’m happy to answer your follow-up questions.

1. How can we, immersed in a biblical worldview, test a non-biblical worldview in a non-biblical way to prove it impossible?

We cannot truly test anything in a purely non-biblical way because all non-biblical worldviews are irrational. And yet there is a sense in which we can test them on their own terms. Let me explain.

The way we test a non-biblical worldview is to show that it leads to absurdity on its own terms. We show that the worldview has internal inconsistencies and arbitrariness. For example, the naturalist does believe in laws of logic; yet laws of logic are not part of nature and cannot exist if naturalism were true. Naturalism both affirms and denies something, which violates the law of non-contradiction. Therefore, naturalism cannot be true. The person advocating the non-biblical worldview will not be able to counter my refutation of his worldview because I have accepted (for argument’s sake) his own terms. I have shown that his worldview refutes itself.

But have I refuted the non-biblical worldview in a non-biblical way? No, I’ve refuted it in a biblical way because the Bible tells us to refute worldviews in this way (Proverbs 26:4–5). We do not accept the non-biblical standard as reality (“don’t answer”), but we do push it to its inevitable conclusion to show that it leads to absurdity (“answer”).

Even the standards by which I evaluate the non-biblical worldview (looking for inconsistency and arbitrariness) are biblical standards. We are not to be inconsistent because God isn’t (2 Timothy 2:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18; Ephesians 5:1), and we are not to be arbitrary—but to have a good reason for our beliefs (1 Peter 3:15).

So, on one hand, I am evaluating the non-biblical worldview on its own terms. On the other hand, I am evaluating it on biblical terms. How can this be? The answer is that unbelievers will inevitably rely on biblical presuppositions (inconsistently). They will smuggle Christian concepts (like the law of non-contradiction) into their secular worldview. Secular worldviews must inevitably borrow from the Christian worldview. We then point out the inconsistency.

If an unbeliever were truly standing on a worldview that did not borrow from Christianity, then he would not be bothered by its inconsistency and arbitrariness. He would simply say, “Oh, I don’t worry about being rational—that’s a Christian concept.” But because people are made in God’s image, they cannot be completely irrational. They will generally attempt to rationally justify their unbiblical position—thereby demonstrating that they do know the biblical God. The unbeliever can deny the Christian worldview, but he cannot escape it.

Do you believe that “the myth of neutrality” applies to all levels of reasoning, or only to the more complex ones (above logic and mathematics)?

The myth of neutrality applies to all levels of reasoning. For example, why do we have traffic lights? They protect life and property. Why should we protect life and property? People are made in the image of God, and God has set rules for us in His Word. So, even something as apparently “neutral” as a traffic light is only meaningful in the Christian worldview once we consider the implications.

Can you be truly “neutral” when testing the contrary worldview, or will the results of this testing process be influenced by your own worldview?

No one can be truly neutral about anything. Even when we test worldviews, we will be influenced by our own. We must presuppose the Christian worldview when testing others. But here is the really interesting thing: the unbeliever must also presuppose the Christian worldview when testing any worldview. He has to use God’s laws of logic to reason about anything. For this reason, no one can escape the logical certainty of Christianity. So, whenever anyone rejects Christianity, it is never for rational reasons. The Bible tells us that unbelievers have absolutely no excuse for their rejection of Christ (Romans 1:20).

2. I appreciate you insight regarding the impossibility to refute the BIBLE, as it is our circular axiom and starting point (chapter 9, pg. 148 [in The Ultimate Proof of Creation]). However, the Biblical worldview (the eternal, non-physical BIBLE) is contingent on the “physical Bible”, the collection of books we draw the BIBLE from. Hence, thought the BIBLE cannot be refuted (because it cannot be tested), our perception of it is contingent on an object that can be tested indeed, the physical Bible. It follows then that by refuting the physical Bible, you discredit the human perception of the BIBLE that we use as starting point (not the BIBLE itself, though, but that is all we have access to anyway...). In the same way, a rationalist is discredited if his mind is proven to be insane. Would this make the argument “less ultimate”? I must confess that I find somewhat contradictory to presuppose the BIBLE (hence the Bible) as my starting point, but to separate from the Bible (but not the BIBLE) to make my argument irrefutable and ultimate.

First, let me give some introductory remarks. If I understand your question, it pertains to the reliability of modern translations. That is, given that the Bible as originally written is the inerrant Word of God, how do we know that it has been passed down accurately and correctly translated into English?

We could call these the problems of transmission and translation. The translation problem is pretty easy to solve. We can always go back to the original language and check. With modern software, we can quickly cross-reference verses and check lexicons for any verse in question. Aside from a very few nuanced issues (such as words that have changed in meaning over time, nuances of verb tense, etc.), we can confirm that the Bible has been translated accurately. Even without going back to the original language, we can compare different Bible translations to get a feel for the range of possible meanings.

The transmission problem requires a little more work. Here we will have to do some textual criticism. We can examine different texts that date to different times to find out how much the text has changed in the interim. Fortunately, such studies have already been done and always reveal that the changes to the text have been minimal. In terms of the number of ancient manuscripts, the Bible is the most authentic work of ancient literature—by far. No one doubts that the modern copies of Plato or Homer have been reliably transmitted, and yet the Bible is far more authenticated. Therefore, if the Bible is to be doubted as to its authenticity, then to be consistent, we would have to deny that we know absolutely anything about the ancient world.

So, this objection has no apologetic weight. In other words, no knowledgeable critic will argue that “we cannot have confidence in the Bible because it has not been transmitted or translated accurately.” Don’t get me wrong; critics will argue this—but not knowledgeable ones. If anyone argues this way, my response would be: “With all due respect, it is obvious that you have not done your homework on this issue. Even secular scholars will concede that the Bible has been accurately transmitted and accurately translated. A one-hour study at your local library will confirm this.” If anyone is to doubt the authenticity of the Bible, then to be consistent he would have to reject the authenticity of everything from the ancient world, and we would know nothing about history.

With that background in mind, let me return to your original question. Since we don’t have the original Bible, only modern copies, and since these copies are tested using (fallible) human techniques, does this make the biblical worldview any less certain? Is the ultimate proof any less ultimate? No.

In the Christian worldview, the Bible is not just any book—but one that has been written by inspiration from God. Moreover, God has the power to preserve His Word from destruction or degradation. And if God wants us to study His Word (which He does), then He would have to protect it sufficiently so that we can know what it is. So, we can accept as a Christian presupposition that modern translations of the Bible are sufficient to infallibly give us the basic biblical worldview with clarity and accuracy.

This presupposition can be justified by reading what the Bible itself has to say about God’s Word. It is quick and powerful (Hebrews 4:12), profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training (2 Timothy 3:16)—but it couldn’t be these things if we couldn’t ever get at the original meaning. Therefore, it must be possible to get at the original meaning.

That being said, I cannot find any Bible verse or logical reason to suppose that God’s Word is perfectly represented in any one modern translation. So, we may have to do our homework to get at a given nuanced point. But by sufficient study of available modern copies of the Bible and the clarity of thought enabled by the Holy Spirit, we can always arrive at the biblical worldview. Granted, people don’t always do this. But in such cases it is always because of sin in the person and never because of some deficiency in the Bible.

3. I have also found intriguing that many presuppositionalists embrace Calvinism, and also eschatological Preterism (Bahnsen, Gentry). Classical apologists, on the other hand, tend to be more moderate calvinists, and usually dispensationalists (Geisler, MacDowell [sic]). Do you think there is a theological or philosophical link between Presuppositionalism, Calvinism, and Preterism? Do they have to be all part of the same “package” to be consistent? Or you think they can be separated and still be consistent within each one? To the names above, there are of course exceptions, such as Sproul and MacArthur... I am just trying to make sense of the Church's behavior, since it not as unified as it was meant to be in the beginning!

I believe the presuppositional approach can be used by any legitimate, non-heretical Christian denomination. Furthermore, I believe it should be used by all Christians because it is how the Bible itself tells us how to do apologetics (e.g., Proverbs 26:4–5). It is interesting that some denominations seem to be more inclined to use the method. It may be that they feel more comfortable using a technique that was refined so cogently by people sympathetic to their specific denominational views (such as Bahnsen and VanTil).

But let me point out that the method itself (in its most basic form) is not based on any modern denomination or modern individual. Rather, it dates back to biblical times. Jesus and the apostle Paul used the presuppositional approach masterfully in their respective earthly ministries. They dealt with the Christian worldview as a whole and never accepted the pagan standards of the day (“don’t answer”), while showing the self-refuting nature of such standards (“answer”). Paul’s apologetic to the Greeks in Acts 17:18–34 is a great example of this.

We at Answers in Genesis are comprised of Christians from many different denominations. We have friendly disagreements on things such as Calvinism-Arminianism, eschatology, and so on. Yet we, as a ministry, are presuppositional. We agree that presuppositional apologetics is the most effective and biblical way to defend the faith.

I know this could be a lot of writing, and I understand you may be busy. I would truly appreciate your insight to clarify my ideas, whenever you may find it most convenient. Again, I appreciate your hard work, and the very thorough book you have put together. My wife and I have been to the Museum several times, and we always prioritize the planetarium presentations... You've done a terrific job so far! I would like to encourage you to continue the good work of equiping the Church to be a faithful and useful witness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are praying for you all often, that you may continue to stand strong in the service you do for the Lord, and that you may not be discredited in the process.

Thank you very much for your encouragement and for these thought-provoking questions. I hope my responses are helpful to you.

God bless,
Jason Lisle

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