Coherency And Truth

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we’re diving into the ocean of truth. Lately we’ve been looking at presuppostionalism and I think tonight I’d like to wrap that series up as there are other topics I am wanting to look at more now. Let’s conclude then by looking at the idea of coherency.

Someone like Bahnsen can go to the atheist and say “Do you have an answer for how it is possible to know anything?” “Do you have a grounding for morality?” “Can you really be sure based on your worldview of anything at all?” If the answer is no then Bahnsen can say that his worldview does in fact explain things.

Indeed, it does have explanatory power, but there is more to having a true worldview than explanatory power. A fun exercise to do with a presuppositional work is to go through and see how many times you can change references to God or Christ to be “Allah” and that the argument still functions the same way.

Hence, the problem. A Christian can use the argument. A Muslim can. A Jew can. Another kind of theism could. The approach using a transcendental argument does not prove just Christian theism. In fact, I think the transcendental argument does have some value, but the problem is that when we start saying that only Christianity can explain the transcendental argument, then we start biting off more than we can chew.

Historical apologetics of some kind are absolutely essential. We have to be able to make the case that Jesus rose from the dead. We cannot make the case that God exists and therefore Jesus rose from the dead. It is more likely that we could go in the reverse. If we can demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead, then this gets us closer to evidence that God does in fact exist.

The point is that we cannot simply have coherency. Consider a detective who enters upon a crime scene. He has a coherent theory on who did the crime and why they did it, but unfortunately, he has no evidence. When the detective brings the suspect to court, no one will accept it without hard evidence. It could be his theory does explain everything, but having an explanation of everything is not the same as being able to show that that explanation is true.

Now coherency is important in that if a theory is not consistent with itself, then it cannot be true. Coherency is necessary to truth, but it is not sufficient. None of us would be wanting to go sign up at Hogwart’s if we knew that there were no contradictions in the Harry Potter stories.

My conclusion in all of this is that I see a sadly flawed approach and the usages I’ve seen of it thus far have been depressing. I recommend Christians become familiar with the historical and theological arguments. When you read authors of another methodology, be sure to honestly examine them. Just because a side agrees in the conclusion does not mean that they’ve taken the best way to get there.

We start a new topic next time.

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One Response to “Coherency And Truth”

  1. Dave Says:

    Nick,

    I’ve been enjoying your series on presuppositionalism. While I agree with some of your critiques of Bahnsen and Van Til, I do endorse the “transcendental method” of apologetics.

    I think the main problem with most presuppositionalists is that they spend much time making bold assertions like, “The Christian worldview is the only one that can explain anything!” and little time developing detailed arguments to explain why this is so. Also, most presuppositional polemics are simplistic fail to express the nuance that can be had in a properly constructed transcendental apologetic.

    Bahnsen did, in fact, address the problem of multiple faiths and revelations, for example, here:

    http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa208.htm

    He goes into greater detail in his audio lectures, but unfortunately these are not free.

    To summarize how a presuppositionalist would approach other faiths, I think it’s important to realize that coherency and explanatory power are not the ONLY criteria of a true worldview, although most presupp works place sole emphasis on this. In evaluating worldviews, we must consider also arbitrariness and internal consistency.

    While broadly speaking the Islamic worldview has explanatory power because it can account for logic, morality, etc., it fails because it lacks internal consistency. On the one hand, Muhammed claimed to be a prophet in the tradition of the Old Testament and of Jesus, but his teachings flatly contradicted theirs. Since consistent teaching is the primary criteria given to evaluate prophets in the Bible, we can see that Islam is beset with a major internal contradiction.

    What about the Jewish worldview? Well, an Old Testament worldview certainly has coherency, explanatory power, consistency, and a lack of arbitrariness, but it lacks completeness. So our task when debating the Jew is not to deconstruct their worldview but to show how it finds its fulfillment in Christ and the apostles.

    There is much more that could be said on this subject, but I hope this provides some clarification.

    Keep up the good work on your blog!

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