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Thursday, November 17, 2011

episode 11, special guests Sye Ten Bruggencate and Pastor Dustin Segers

Download episode 11 right here! (Or stream it without downloading in the bar at the top of the main page.

Today we had a great conversation with presuppositional apologists Sye Ten Bruggencate and Dustin Segers. Mr. Ten Bruggencate is the webmaster at ProofThatGodExists.org and is currently a full-time apologist for the faith. Pastor Segers leads a congregation at Shepherd’s Fellowship of Greensboro, NC, and joins Mr. Ten Bruggencate in defending the faith in the tradition of presuppositionalist apologetics. (He also runs a blog here.)

Note: Special thanks to Sye for providing the recording for this episode!

18 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Also, Sye and I continued our conversation about truth and justification for justification on my personal blog here.

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  3. Hello Ben,

    I've posted some thoughts of mine in reaction to a brief portion of the exchange between Sye and Michael (I think it was Michael anyway) on your recent podcast. You can find my blog entry here:

    Cognitive Reliability vs. Supernatural Deception

    I give some general observations about presuppositionalist strategy as well as make the case that the possibility for supernatural deception is inescapable once one's worldview affirms the existence of "the supernatural."

    Thought you and your readers might enjoy it.

    Regards,
    Dawson

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  4. Thanks Dawson! I appreciate the commentary.

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  5. Dawson,

    By the way, I especially like how you emphasize the problem with deception, and remind us that on Christianity God isn't the only one with the power to deceive.

    But I don't want to let the presupper off that easy. If he is satisfied by simply assuming that he isn't being deceived by his God, why not just assume we aren't being deceived by our reason? Structurally the position is the same. If it's okay to just make the assumption that God is epistemically good, then it's okay to make the assumptions that our reason is epistemically good.

    --Ben

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    1. I agree. They assert repeatedly that God has revealed himself to them. Through this revelation, they "know" that he is who he says he is.

      This seems even more problematic than the circularity they ascribe to the reasoning process of nonbelievers. They know the Bible is true. How? Because the Bible says it is God's word. How do they know that? Because the Bible is true.

      They seem to acknowledge this circularity, but label it as a "virtuous circle". I don't see the virtue in believing in the claims of a book as internally inconsistent and self-contradictory as the Bible.

      How can this be any better than us trusting our five senses and using inductive reasoning? At least our inductive reasoning is empirically testable. It seems that just about any time we test claims or stories from the Bible (the Flood, Creation, the Exodus, etc.) they fail empirically.

      It's not as though every single belief about the world is on equal footing just because we can't know everything with absolute certainty. We are, after all, speaking of what is probable. I feel this is the best we have, and I'm comfortable with that.

      Our ideas get constantly tested as we interact with the world at large. We receive input from reality that tells us about those ideas. I'm not sure how this isn't an effective method for forming reliable models.

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  6. How do you know that? How do you know that? How do you know that? How do you know that? How do you know that? How do you know that? How do you know that? How do you know that?.........

    Sye is a broken record.

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  7. JC: “Sye is a broken record.”

    How do you know that?

    (Sorry… couldn’t resist!)

    Ben: “By the way, I especially like how you emphasize the problem with deception, and remind us that on Christianity God isn't the only one with the power to deceive.”

    It seems to be something that Christians habitually overlook, especially apologists in their exchanges when this topic (the possibility of supernatural deception) comes up. I think it’s overlooked – or perhaps deliberately ignored – because the nature of those other supernatural beings (demons, devils and the like) are proclaimed by the Christian bible itself to be deceitful spirits with the power to invade man’s mind and turn him against truth. This is Christianity’s own characterization of these spirits, and numerous examples could be culled from the bible. So why don’t presuppositionalists introduce them into their argumentation? Well, obviously, because they can only serve as a specter to their claims to certainty.

    Ben: “But I don't want to let the presupper off that easy.”

    Right, and we shouldn’t. There’s an entire arsenal of counterpoints to raise against their claims (most of which are unargued anyway – they seem to expect us to accept what they claim on their mere say so). There's no reason to hold back.

    Ben: “If he is satisfied by simply assuming that he isn't being deceived by his God, why not just assume we aren't being deceived by our reason? Structurally the position is the same. If it's okay to just make the assumption that God is epistemically good, then it's okay to make the assumptions that our reason is epistemically good.”

    Structurally speaking, on the one hand, all the presupper has is *assumptions* - ultimately grounded in his imagination and wishing: he wants his god to be real, and he’s emotionally invested in any outcome that reaffirms his god’s alleged existence. On the other, we (and I’m speaking for Objectivists here) have the primacy of existence – a principle whose truth the theist would have to presuppose in order to debate it or try to refute it (as I showed with my treatment of Dustin Segers attempts to refute the primacy of existence). So while the presupper has only a subjective, imagination- and wish-based fantasy to “ground” his “cognition” (which never seems to operate), we have in Objectivism an objective basis for reason.

    Also, speaking content-wise, while the presupper wants to “ground” reasoning on a personal agent which *could* (if it wanted to) deceive human individuals (and even the bible suggests that it has done this in the context of its stories), actual reason (i.e., as understood in rational philosophy) *couldn’t* want to deceive anyone since a) it’s not a personal agent to begin with, and b) it’s not based on the existence of some alleged personal agent whose alleged existence we would have no alternative but to imagine in order to apprehend. And on top of that, on a rational understanding of the world, there are no nefarious spirits with the power and intent to deceive human thinkers.

    So I’d say that Sye and his ilk are pretty much sunk on this point, and they need to be called on it.

    Regards,
    Dawson

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  8. "So I’d say that Sye and his ilk are pretty much sunk on this point, and they need to be called on it."

    Too bad you won't man-up and debate me :-)

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  9. Sye, how do you know he won't debate you? :)

    Also, you never answered my question; Can someone know something for certain and be wrong? (Y/N)

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  10. I give Sye a week before he runs away (just as he did on my blog when cornered)

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  11. I'm still catching up with GoG podcasts, having discovered this show only recently. So far, while I've enjoyed this podcast, this was my least favorite ep. Presup apologetics makes it a point of doctrine that any true Christian MUST begin his apologetics by begging the question. This goes back at least as far as Van Til, and arguably back to Calvin. It's dull stuff, reminiscent of children on a playground shrieking 'I know you are but what am I?' (For a particularly hostile and cementheaded version, try listening to some of the Westminster Theological Seminary's courses on apologetics, many of which are available on iTunes U. Truly hateful stuff.)

    Please don't interpret this as a slam on the podcast. I've just preferred conversations with more intellectually honest interlocutors.

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  13. I just listened to this podcast. One aspect of the debate I'd like to comment on is something that Pastor Segers said toward the end.

    He brought up the logical absolutes as a proof for the existence of God.

    I encourage everyone to check out Matt Dillahunty's thoughts on this very topic at Ironchariots.org.

    Anyway, let's just pick one of the three logical absolutes - the law of identity. Namely, A can't be A and "not A" at the same time.

    Dillahunty points out that the law of identity consists of two key elements. First, there is a conceptual statement, "A is A and not "not A". That conceptual statement does in fact exist only in minds.

    The second element involves the physical underpinnings upon which the conceptual statement is based. The absolute itself is a fundamental property of material existence.

    Imagine a universe exactly like our own, yet devoid of any minds. Imagine a rock sitting there on some planet within this universe. That rock couldn't both be "what it is" and "what it is not" at the same time. No minds whatsoever are required for this logical absolute to still hold.

    The logical absolutes are dependent on material existence, however. If there were nothing whatsoever, there would be nothing to which the logical absolutes could apply. There would be no "A" around to "equal A". The logical absolutes hold without minds to conceive of them, but they do not hold if nothing exists to which they can apply.

    To quote Dillahunty, "The logical absolutes themselves are simply a fundamental property of material existence."

    Pastor Segers claimed the logical absolutes were conceptual, and therefore must exist within God's mind. Yet, it is more complicated than that. He has only focused on one aspect of the logical absolutes.

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    1. If they are property of material existence.
      then they can change and no longer be absolute. you lose!iikieth77

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