#52 Common Ground – Part III: Rational Presuppositionalism

PAPER NO. 52

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COMMON GROUND – PART III

Rational Presuppositionalism

  1. Rational Presuppositionalism (RP) uses reason as the laws of thought to test our basic beliefs (presuppositions) for meaning, hence the name RP.

RP is a more conscious and consistent form of critical thinking, the method used in philosophy that can settle long-standing disputes.

  1. Thinking by nature is presuppositional: we must think of the less basic in light of the more basic (the finite—man in light of the infinite—God).

If we agree on the more basic we can and will agree on the less basic.

  1. Reason as the laws of thought is used to understand the meaning of both general revelation (creation and providence) and special revelation (Scripture). Reason as the laws of thought is most basic; as the test for meaning, reason is more basic than meaning, and meaning is more basic than truth.  Only reason, as the laws of thought, is self-attesting.
  2. In the order of thought, concept comes before judgment, which comes before argument. On the level of concept, we must think of the finite and temporal in light of the infinite and the eternal (not the infinite in light of the finite, or the finite in light of the finite). On the level of judgment (which is true or false) we must think of truth in light of meaning. On the level of argument, we must think of conclusion in light of premises.
  3. Philosophical foundation (PF) from general revelation (GR) comes before theological foundation (TF) from Scripture (special revelation—SR). If there is no clear general revelation there can be no inexcusability and no need for redemption or for Scripture as redemptive revelation (RR). If basic things are clear to reason (epistemology) then we can know the nature of God and man (metaphysics), from which we can know good and evil (ethics).
  4. PF requires RR; RR assumes clarity and inexcusability from PF. RR must be consistent with PF. RR in Genesis must affirm creation, in light of which the fall must be understood, and, in light of creation and fall, redemption must be understood. In RR, the later (Revelation) must be understood in light of the earlier (worldview of Genesis). The understanding of RR in relation to GR progresses in history and this historically cumulative insight is summed up in the creeds and confessions of Historic Christianity (HC).
  5. In hermeneutics, RP requires contextualism vs. literalism and allegoricalism. Contextualism requires several ordered layers for interpretation: first, clear GR; second, the biblical worldview of creation–fall–redemption; third, the historical context of RR; fourth, the book in historical context; then chapter; then verse; then word. Literalism begins with word. Allegoricalism begins with a denial of clear GR. RP is opposed to all forms of empiricism, rationalism, fideism and skepticism about what is basic.
  6. Man is the image of God, a triune personality; he is to love God with his whole heart: mind, soul and strength. Reason in man is fundamental, that is, essential: it is basic to other aspects of his being, and, as light, is irresistible (John 1:4-5). Thoughts precede feeling and will; the rational precedes the psychological and the practical. The prophetic precedes the priestly and the kingly; knowledge precedes holiness and righteousness. Unity comes from giving heed to the triune order in man; divisions come from neglect or denial of this triune order.

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