Friday, January 16, 2009

Defending Catholic Presuppositionalism

At the De Regnius Duobus blogspot, there is a thread called "Cogito, Ergo Sum [Protestant]? "

It is critical of the use of a vanTillian presuppositional argument to defend Catholicism. Sadly I think that the reformed blogger (Rev. Jason J. Stellman) does not really understand the arguments of vanTil or his student Greg Bahnsen very well. As such, I felt compelled to post the following comment on the blog:

I fear that you do not understand VanTil or his disciple Bahnsen very well at all. Nor do you see how their method can be used by us Catholics to defend the one true faith founded by Christ and perpetuated through His Apostles and their successors.
What vanTil's Presuppositional method did was to recognize that when you argue about the truth or falsity of a proposition, you had to assume certain things to be true BEFORE you could proceed.

For example, if one wanted to determine if the law of non-contradiction was true or false, you have to first assume it to be true in the very statement of the question.
When it come to the question of God's existence, you need to first assume the existence of rationality, the rules of evidence, and the basic laws of logic among other things. But these things themselves require explanation. You need a sufficient, robust, and comprehensive cause for these things.

Well God alone meets these criteria. In a purely chance universe where anything can happen and there are no moral or intellectual standards, you can prove nothing. There can never be a methologically compelling argument nor can there be any moral obligation for us to submit to its truth.

So when the atheist argues in favor of atheism, he needs to assume the very presuppositions for which we theists have an explanation and he (or she) does not.
So, as vanTil trenchantly noted, Atheism presupposes Theism.

In applying this to Catholicism, the ultimate source of the Catholic Church was the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is he who established His Church and promised that the Holy Spirit would speak through it (Matt 10:17-20) and that the Spirit would lead us to all truth and not just rehash what Jesus taught (John 14:26). And it was also Jesus who established St. Peter in the office of the "Rock" (Matt 16:18) who would confirm the brethren in the faith in time of crisis (Luke 22:29-32).

It is from this promise that all Christian teaching flowed including the canon of the Bible, its inspiration, its inerrancy, and its authority WITHIN the Church.
This is why the whole Protestant enterprise falls like a house of cards. In order to accept the authority of Scripture, you must assume the authority of the Catholic Church to teach without error what it had received from Jesus.

Now the Christian Bible itself did not exist until it was definitively collected in the late 4th and early 5th Century. It was not something that Jesus or teh Apostles taught us. It was through the Catholic Church that the Scriptures were discerned, canonized and expounded.

And of course, the distinctive teachings of Protestantism such as 'sola fide' and its denial of Apostolic Succession, the sacraments,and the Mass dates from no earlier than the 16th Century. In fact the whole panopoly of contradictory opinions that makes up Protestant Pandemonium are man-made innovations based upon 16th Century philosophical and social ideas. The allegation that Protestantism relies on the Bible is not true, but even more importantly, belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God is the only vestige from the Historic Catholic Church that virtually all Protestants accept as true.

As such Protestantism presupposes Catholicism on this point and for the balance of its ideas, it has no realtionship to the Historic Catholic Church and her teachings. But the Protestant critique of Catholicism is allegedly based on Scripture which once again requires them to formally affirm the very authority they are trying to deny.

So Presuppositionalism does defend the integrity of the Catholic faith without the need for arguments from history. If you do not assume the authority of the Catholic Church, you have no Bible and from that point it is logically inconsistent to deny the infallible teaching authority which you need to justify your arguments.

That is why all Protestant objections to Catholicism fail. Any allegedly biblical argument that denies the Catholic Church's authority to teach infallibly destroys the Bible's special character which we only believe because the Catholic Church taught it.

I hope this helps to clarify the matter.

Arthur Sippo MD, MPH


Agellius said...

This is my first time encountering this idea and I find it fascinating. I plan to study it further. Thanks.

Inspector Clouseau said...

Nice work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the “Next Blog” button in the Nav Bar at the top of my blogspot blog. I occasionally just check out other blogs to see what others are doing.