The weaknesses of a Van Tillian apologetic

One of the weaknesses I see in the Van Tillian presuppositionalist project is that it is possible for one to assume some worldview significantly similar to Christianity which differs from Christianity in some way which violates what Van Tillians take to be essential features of the Christian religion, such that the worldview presupposed has all of the supposed advantages which the Christian worldview has, without actually being Christian. Let’s call Van Tillian Christianity ‘Reformed Christianity’ and ask the question of whether I might presuppose a worldview which is relevantly similar to reformed Christianity, such that I escape the problem of induction and other supposed difficulties are dodged by reason of my approximately ‘Reformed Christian’ presupposed worldview. However, my version of Christianity, call it ‘Christianity 2.0’, may involve a significant difference in essential doctrine. For instance, perhaps Justification is infused rather than imputed (thus leading to ‘Catholic Christianity’). The point is that ‘Christianity 2.0’ differs significantly from ‘Reformed Christianity’ for which the Van Tillian project is intended to be an apologetic, without differing in such a way that it makes itself vulnerable to the challenge Van Tillians pose to Atheists.

The Calvinist is likely to respond to this in the same manner that Calvin himself responds to a similar objection: that the Holy Spirit will confirm one in the correct doctrine. The problem is, however, that their argument is nevertheless undermined even granting the truth of that hypothesis (which, of course, I deny). Since, there are any number of worldviews (‘Christianity 2.1, 2.2, …2.n’) which escape the charge of incoherence or unintelligibility, without actually satisfying the ‘Reformed Christianity’ thought to be logically inevitable given the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God. This leaves the Van Tillian with two options: either in some way shoring up their argument for a peculiarly ‘Reformed Christianity’ which it seems may be impossible to do, or else adopting a more ecumenical apologetic. Alternatively, of course, they could always abandon such a radical presuppositionalist approach to apologetics.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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4 Responses to The weaknesses of a Van Tillian apologetic

  1. >>However, my version of Christianity, call it ‘Christianity 2.0′, may involve a significant difference in essential doctrine.

    Is this from the doctrine of Atheism 2.0?

    That being said, I am sure you would concede that an omniscient, omnipotent being could reveal things to us, such that we can be certain of them. Right? If yes, then Scripture reveals the falsity of the RCC quite clearly.

    If not, why not?

    • First, I had never heard of ‘atheism 2.0’ before, so I certainly wasn’t intending to tease out any implicit similarity (thank you, however, for the link).

      Whether an omnipotent God (you don’t need omniscience for this) could reveal things to us such that we can be certain of them is an interesting question. Obviously the answer would be in the affirmative, since it doesn’t seem logically impossible for God to do just that; God can do anything which it is logically possible for God to do. However, I have often struggled with various epistemological models of religious knowledge (the most fascinating, perhaps, being Bonaventure’s epistemology as expounded by a Catholic by the name of Andreas Speer). The question isn’t whether God could reveal something such that we could be certain of it (i.e. think it self evident or at least indubitable) but rather the question is what model of epistemic justification (or even what broad epistemology) we should employ. Notice, for instance, that one’s being certain of a belief does not make it justified, even when it is true. I am attracted by the Medieval Catholic notion of Exemplarism, and this is explicitly Augustinian.

      All that said, I certainly don’t think it follows from the concession that God can reveal things to us such that we can be certain of them, to that the scriptures reveal the falsity of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine. In fact, I don’t even think it would follow from God actually revealing things to us such that we can be certain of them, to that the scriptures reveal the falsity of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine. Moreover, I don’t even think it would follow from that God reveals to us, such that we can be certain of it, that Christianity is true, to that the scriptures clearly reveal that the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine is false. I obviously don’t accept even the narrower claim that if God reveals to us that Christianity is true through the particular vehicle of the Biblical canon of books which the Catholic Church put together, that it follows that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are false.

      However, even if I were to concede something like it being logically possible for God to reveal to anyone with certainty that the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines are false, I would submit to you that this isn’t actually the case, since I strongly believe that the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines are as certain as the authority they come from: Christ Jesus himself (not to mention the immense Biblical support which exists for Catholic doctrine). That is, after all, why I am a Catholic :p

      • Dan says:

        I knew you were a Catholic, and one of the reasons for the link I provided that discussed the falseness of it.

        Is the Scriptures the only way that God can reveal things to us? If so, you would have to ignore a lot. If not, then one would have to ignore the entire recent history that certainly was not considered “good fruit.” You know the gauge to see if things are from God or not.

        Speaking of which, have you ever seen

        If not I beg you to. I will continue to pray for God to reveal the RCC truth to you. The truth you already know. Please be receptive to that truth. Also understand the disrespect you reveal to the molested children as you tithe to that false religion.

  2. wow, well, there is a lot to respond to there. First, I would suggest to you that the Scriptures are not the only way that God can reveal things to us, but even if it were, the Scriptures clearly point the way to the Catholic Church. Moreover, seeing as I do deny that the Scriptures are the only way that God reveals things to us, I also feel compelled to make clear that I don’t think I have to ignore the recent history of the Church as though it represents bad fruit (indeed, I would invite you to take a closer look). For instance, take the example of Richard Williamson; he was not reinstated as a bishop, but rather the excommunication was lifted. Now, this may seem a bit confusing to anyone not familiar with Catholic-lingo, but here’s what that means: it means that although Richard Williamson remains outside of the visible bounds of the Catholic Church, dialogue can effectively continue. Notice, however:

    “In order to be fully reconciled, the statement said, the SSPX bishops will be required to demonstrate “total adherence to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.” Without explicitly mentioning the public “reservations” expressed by SSPX leaders about some teachings of Vatican II, the statement strongly suggested that the Holy See will not compromise on support for conciliar teachings.”


    “In order to be restored to public ministry in the Catholic Church, the Vatican statement said, Bishop Williamson will be obligated to “absolutely, unambiguously, and publicly distance himself from his position on the Holocaust.” The statement insists that Pope Benedict was unaware of Williamson’s views at the time he lifted the excommunications.”

    What that means is that Bishop Williamson is not allowed to act as a Bishop indefinitely. I don’t know of any developments since that time which are noteworthy.

    Finally, I would like to invite you to reconsider your position against the Catholic Church. I, after all, know where you’re coming from (as I was previously a believing evangelical prior to finding the “fullness of faith” – as Catholics say – in the Catholic Church). Of course, I was as surprised as you might one day be to find it there of all places – the very Church I had accused not a few times of being Babylon the whore (when I was younger and less informed). The positions you express in the article on your blog are easily answered and dissolved as objections. Instead of taking my word for it, here’s what I’d invite you to do. If you are truly seeking to weigh the truth of Catholic doctrine, then you must become acquainted with the real thing instead of misleading caricatures. I would invite you to check out the following radio show and podcast: Catholic Answers LIVE. If you listen to them live, you can call them up and ask them any question you like during their ‘Open Forum Q&A’s’. Either way, I recommend taking a listen to an episode or two, and who knows – maybe that will be enough to help you see past some of the really bad arguments against Catholicism. Check it out:

    Of course, I could always use more prayer, and so I invite you to pray for me (so long as that prayer is truly in the spirit of Christian charity) even if I think you’re confused. Feel free to keep in touch, and to browse the posts I have on my blog, some of which make an explicit case for Catholicism.

    God bless.

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