Here is a helpful article from Gregory Koukl at "Stand to Reason." The focus of the article is on what’s called the problem of “moral grounding.”
Koukl begins with the classic objection to the faith, the problem of evil. He then uses the problem of moral grounding to indirectly defuse the challenge by pointing out that for the problem of evil to be real, evil must be real and so a violation of a real good. He then states the obvious, that relativists can’t raise the objection from evil honestly, since real and objective evil can’t exist in a relativistic framework.
At this point, Koukl presents a question.
“The grounding question is: Given that there is real evil and good, as well, why is the world the way it is? What properly accounts for this moral feature of the world?”
Granted, Koukl is a rationalist, epistemologically speaking. However, even a green-winged presuppositionalist will recognize the transcendental nature of the question Koukl sets forth. He goes on to argue that morality is deontological; that is, morals have an obligatory nature. Morals are not descriptive but prescriptive; they don’t tell us how things are but how they ought to be. Morals have an ought-ness about them.
Finally, Koukl demonstrates that obligation assumes personality. Obligation is something that exists between persons. Although I need to prune my Azaleas for spring, I don’t feel any obligation to them to do it for them. They are impersonal entities and impersonals don’t prescribe what persons ought to do. Morals therefore could only have their “grounding” in a personal moral-maker to whom we are obligated.
Koukl is quite apt with illustrations, and doesn’t let us down in this article. The illustration serves to show the a priority of morality, thus concluding that morals have their “grounding” in the personal, moral-maker God of Christian theism.
While this is a good article, I’m not commending it for what it’s worth in and of itself. I’d have you read the article and then consider the auxiliary application I’m going to suggest.
Yesterday I posted Robert Reymond’s attempt at defining the presuppositional apologetic method. Today I thought I’d use Koukl’s article as a springboard to helping those unacquainted with presuppositionalism grasp it better.
Christians who are the slightest bit self-conscious in their apologetic practice are generally accustom to denying unbelievers any grounding for morality, since only Yahweh, the holy Law-Giver, alone has the authority to tell us what is right and wrong. This is nothing especially new; Koukl is sort of playing Capt. Obvious in this way.
A helpful step in grasping what distinguishes presuppositionalism from traditional methods is that the presuppositional apologete extends this denial of “grounding” from the unbeliever to every sphere of human experience, especially the area of epistemology.
Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know, the methods and extent of our knowing, et cetera. My favorite definition is (roughly stated) “When asked how you know what you know, then take away the option of answering, ‘I just do,’ and what is left is epistemology.”
The presuppositional challenge to unbelief is that unless the God of Christian theism is presupposed at the beginning, knowledge of anything is impossible. Christ, the Word of God, endowing light and speaking with absolute and Self-attesting authority alone provides the necessary “grounding” for the integration and unity of knowledge necessary for human knowledge to happen at all. It is an epistemological axiom that unless everything is known by Someone, nothing can be known by anyone. Exhaustive knowledge must reside Somewhere in order for any knowledge to reside elsewhere. (I capitalize “Someone” and “Somewhere” in the preceding sentences because in Whomever or Wherever all knowledge resides, that one or place deserves this respect!)
The traditional apologetic method Evangelicals are so used to ironically operates on a Roman Catholic understanding of anthropology and the fall of man. The traditional apologetic operates on the assumption that the fall had little or no effect on man’s reasoning ability; sin is a moral rather than epistemological issue, or so it’s presumed. This, however, cannot stand against either the biblical data, human experience, or historic Protestant theology. That the fall was primarily an epistemological laps is sufficient to prove the Romish doctrine wrong.
Tomorrow I’ll post what I believe is a positive vindication of these claims. In the mean time, ponder this analogy. Presuppositionalism is (in part) just an extension of Koukl’s argument in his “moral grounding” article. Presuppositionalism argues that God speaking in the Word of God is the transcendentally necessary ontological “grounding” for knowledge. We argue that human reason, the laws of logic, induction, et cetera depend upon humans being created in God’s image; the biblical God, who is the comprehensively rational One. Moreover, since the all the world reflects his glory, majesty and “eternal power and Godhead,” the world has a rational structure which corresponds with not only God’s Mind, but man’s as well. Therefore, God is the necessary ontological “grounding” of epistemology, from the impossibility of all contrary epistemological options.
This illustration, from the moral argument to the epistemological argument, may help some grasp the distinctives of a presuppositional apologetic.
I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.
St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4
St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4