The Transcendental Argument
All previous handouts on meta-apologetics have all built up to this point in which we will learn how to apply what we have come to understand. The transcendental argument goes like this: The proof for God’s existence is that without Him you couldn’t prove anything. What this argument is trying to convey is actually rather simple, though discussing its implications can require some knowledge of meta-apologetics. Any fact, facet, point of view, evidence, truth claim, piece of knowledge, etc. all must presuppose the God of the Bible. Without Him, life is essentially meaningless. Either there is no foundation for intelligibility, or that foundation is a faulty one. In order to utilize this argument in an effect way, we must learn the Don’t Answer, Answer Method.
Don’t Answer, Answer
Proverbs 26:4-5 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.
Don’t answer a fool- someone who doesn’t fear God- according to his presuppositions (that truth can only be found through science, or that truth is relative, etc.)- instead, point out his folly. This is what Paul did at Mars Hill in Acts 17. He basically starts out by doing an internal critique of their worldview to show why it was wrong, he then offers the truth of Christianity.
Paul tells the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 10:5, We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Notice the order here. The “speculations” are first destroyed, and then the thoughts are taken “captive.”
Answering a fool according to his folly means locating the folly (where he went wrong) and shining a light on it. This is nothing short of exposing an individual’s sin. Christians are the light of the world, and it is our duty to expose the nonbeliever’s error for both his sake and the sake of our testimony, rather than joining with him in his foolishness. This means that when confronting nonbelievers we hit them at their weakest point, the point in which reality is misinterpreted because of their worldview. We attack their faulty presuppositions.
1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.
When the apostles and Jesus reasoned with a Jewish audience they reasoned from the Scriptures. However, with a gentile audience (individuals who don’t accept the Scripture as authoritative) we see that first their worldview had to be destroyed before it could be replaced by Christianity. This is the reason for the apostle’s diverging approaches when wittnessing to gentiles as opposed to Jews. They understood the necessity of answering a fool according to his folly.
Every worldview essentially breaks down into a self-refutation when it does not start with Christ. Here are some examples that show the inconsistency in the nonbeliever’s worldview.
Statement: “There are no Absolutes!”
Answer: “Are you absolutely sure?”
Statement: “It’s impossible to know anything for sure.”
Answer: “Are you sure you know that?”
Statement: “No one should be judged for their lifestyle”
Answer: “Is that your judgment regarding those whose lifestyle requires judging?”
Statement: “You can’t just align yourself with a dogma”
Answer: “Are you aligned to that dogma?”
Statement: “No one can define ‘God.'”
Answer: “Is that your definition for God?”
Statement: “There is no right or wrong.”
Answer: “Is that right?”
Statement: “Don’t be dogmatic!”
Answer: “Are you being dogmatic?”
Statement: “Word’s cannot relay meaning.”
Answer: “Do your words relay the meaning that words cannot relay meaning?”
Statment: “Nobody’s right”
Answer: “Are you right about that?”
Statement: “All things are relative.”
Answer: “If all things are relative then so is your statement. In which case I have no reason to believe it.”
Statement: “All opinions are equally valid.”
Answer: “My opinion is that not all opinions are equally valid. Is my opinion valid. If it is, then the statement is false. If it’s not, then the statement is still false.”
Statement: “Your truth is different than mine.”
Answer: “My truth is that your truth is wrong. Is my truth wrong?” (Usually with this type of objection making it real is important. Give an analogy such as, “If you jumped off a building and believed gravity wouldn’t pull you toward the earth would you not hit the ground?”)
Statement: “Words can mean anything you want them to.”
Answer: “I want your words to mean, ‘Words can mean nothing you want them to.’ Is that what they mean?”
Statement: “No truth is unchanging.”
Answer: “So the statement you just made is changing and may not be true tomorrow.”
Emotionalism (Usually tied in with Relativism)
Statement: “I feel I’m right.”
Answer: “I feel I’m right. Does that make it right?”
Statement: “What works for you doesn’t work for me.”
Answer: “What works for me is doing morally reprehensible things to you. Does that work for you?”
Statement: “Science is the best (or only) way to determine truth.”
Answer: “What scientific experiment proved this statement to be true?”
Statement: “Science doesn’t need philosophy.”
Answer: “Is that your philosophy for science?”
Statement: “We can’t know anything apart from experience.”
Answer: “How did you experience this statement?”
Statement: “All knowledge is confined to the realm of experience” (Immanuel Kant)
Answer: “Have you experienced all knowledge?
Statement: “I only believe in science.”
Answer: “What experiment did you use to arrive at this statement?”
Statement: “Apart from mathematical equations we can know nothing absolutely”
Answer: “Where’s your equation proving that statement to be true?”
Statement: “Everything is an illusion.”
Answer: “Is that statement an illusion?”
Statement: “We must lose our desires.”
Answer: “Is that your desire?”
Statement: “All is one.”
Answer: “Who’s making the statement, you or me?” (Eastern religions have no way to account for person-hood or differentiate between entities)
Statement: “Life has no meaning.”
Answer: “Do you really mean that?”
Statement: “There is no such thing as truth”
Answer: “Is that the truth?”
Statement: “I believe in nothing.”
Answer: “Is that something you believe in?”
Statement: “Every assertion is false.”
Answer: “Is that assertion false?”
Statement: “There are no rules”
Answer: “Is that your rule?”
Statement: “The whole world is an illusion”
Answer: “Is your statement an illusion?”
Statement: “There are no laws of logic”
Answer: “Martians store ponies 3 dollars cackle feathers” (i.e. answer absurdity with absurdity) or “Did you use logic to arrive at that statement?”
Statement: “I doubt everything.”
Answer: “Do you doubt that you doubt everything?”
Statement: “We must all be skeptical of any truth claim.”
Answer: “I’m skeptical of your truth claim.”
It may be harder to spot self-refuting claims in religious systems such as Islam, Mormonism, and Catholicism due to the fact that 1) they steal much of their theology from the Christian worldview, and 2) because their contradictions are not as obvious. Discussing apologetics with members of other faiths is often more involved but the same exact method is used. We answer the fool according to his folly. This requires us to do an internal critique.
Performing an Internal Critique
Performing an internal critique of another person’s worldview is exactly what Paul did in Acts 17.