Must the Christian Presuppositionalist prove or justify the Bible as their ultimate presupposition? This one objection that has been raised often, at least in exchanges that I have had with non-believers.
According to Dr. John Frame, a former student of Cornelius Van Til at Westminster Theological Seminary, and now professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary, the Presuppositionalist must justify the Bible as their ultimate starting point. Since this is the case, we must ask how then should we justify the Bible as our presupposition, and by what standard? Frame answers this questions brilliantly in his Systematic Theology by arguing that we must justify the Bible by the Bible itself 1. This is because the Bible is our highest standard of truth; the ultimate criterion. Therefore, an ultimate criterion must justify itself. There is no higher standard than Scripture. It would be a contradiction to attempt to justify an ultimate by appealing to something supposedly higher.
Is this a circular argument? Some will surely raise this objection. According to Frame, it is circular in one sense. However, it is not viciously or fallaciously circular 2.’” Moreover, Frame argues if this is a problem for Christian thought, it is equally a problem for non-Christian thought as well. This objection can be flipped on the unbeliever.
He states, “All systems of thought are circular in a sense when they seek to defend their ultimate criterion of truth. If I challenge a rationalist for accepting human reason as his highest principle, he can defend his view in only one way: by appealing to reason. For him, there is nothing higher than reason to which he may appeal in justifying reason. (If there were, he would not be a rationalist, but an advocate of that higher-than-reason standard.) Similarly, an empiricist must ultimately appeal to sense experience, a subjectivist to his subjectivity, a Hegelian to his dialectic, a Muslim to his Qur’an, and a mystic to his mystical experience 3.”
Frame concludes by stating that we prove Scripture on the basis of the presupposition of Scripture, because it is God’s revelation and there is no higher standard by which the Christian can appeal to justify our claims. It may sounds circular to say that our faith governs our reasoning. However, we must keep in mind that circularity in attempts to justify ultimate presuppositions is unavoidable. What ultimately separates the Christian worldview from the unbelieving worldview is that our ultimate presupposition is not founded upon fallible human thinking, rationality, or logic. The rationality that serves as the rational basis for our faith is God’s own infallible rationality, and not our own.
1 Frame, John, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013) , p. 734.
2 Frame, John, Apologetics: A Justification Of Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015) , p. 10.
3 Frame, John, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013) , p. 734-735.