Common Ground--A Clarification

Posted by Matt Postiff February 4, 2011 on Matt Postiff's Blog under ApologeticsĀ 

Dr. Kevin Bauder has just written a very helpful article on the proper use of common ground in the Christian's apologetic method. A statement in the opening paragraph caught my attention as one that could be further clarified. Bauder writes,

"Presuppositionalists reject the notion of common ground and insist upon the antithesis between revealed truth and all human attempts to discover truth while denying revelation."

Most presuppositionalists will understand the point, namely that the "Van Til" method rejects all grounds which the unbeliever would consciously accept. However, the first part of the sentence is a bit overstated. Presuppositionalists do use common ground--it just happens to be ground that the unbeliever does not want to accept as common but which, because he lives in God's world, he is standing on anyway.

Some quotes from Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics, will show that this use of the term common ground is legitimate.

Page 115, last line: "The common ground between believer and skeptic is metaphysical."

Page 129, second line: "Because the believer and unbeliever do not stand on epistemological common ground..."

Page 141, favorably quoting Gordon Clark in the middle of the page: "A point of connection in the sense of a common principle is a logical impossibility... . But Reformed theology, while denying a common epistemological ground, has always asserted a common psychological or ontological ground."

Page 288, last paragraph: "Only if Christianity is true when it claims that all men have a presupposed knowledge of God can there be any common ground on which to maintain an argument at all..."

Page 289, first full paragraph: "The only point of contact between any skeptic and believer who argue with each other must be the truth that the non-Christian is attempting to disprove!"

Page 289, bottom of the page: "...the Christian apologist must not carry on his dispute with the unbeliever on the unbeliever's own terms or opinion of himself. Common ground cannot be found at this level...the Christian apologist should show the suppressed beliefs that make the unbeliever's formal reasoning and knowledge possible and that offer common ground for legitimate argumentation."

The bottom line is that there is a proper common ground, and an improper common ground. The presuppositionalist insists on using only the proper common ground and rejects the improper type of common ground.

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