[O]ne of the most basic features of presuppositional apologetics (though it is not exclusive to presuppositional apologetics) is drawing the distinction between proof and persuasion. Suppose, for example, that someone is not persuaded that 5+7=12. What does this lack of persuasion have to do with whether or not 5+7=12 is self-evident, true, or even proven? Nothing! Insert your favorite provable mathematical claim in the place of 5+7=12. It does not matter at all whether or not someone is persuaded by the proof offered in support of the mathematical proposition in question; it does not follow that the proof does not “work.” The proof indeed does work; the problem is with the person who fails to be persuaded by the proof. 1
An important distinction to be made in apologetics is the one between proof and persuasion. One may offer a perfectly sound argument pertaining to some position that accomplishes everything it promises and yet have a recipient of that argument completely unmoved by it. It does not follow from the fact that an individual(s) is allegedly not accepting of an argument that the argument in question does not constitute a proof. On the other hand someone may be presented with a completely invalid and false argument and still be moved to accept the conclusion of the argument, but it does not follow that the argument in question constitutes a proof. There is a difference between proof and persuasion. We should strive in our apologetic encounters to offer proofs that are also persuasive while recognizing that not everyone will immediately or inevitably accept them. 2
One cannot approach these topics from a neutral position, but rather as one who is on God’s side or against Him. In rejecting the Word of God as the ultimate authority one accepts the authority of one’s own mind such that even what is considered “good reason” is determined by that natural mind. There is a distinction to be made between proof and persuasion. Objective proof is not persuasion. Just because my opponent may not be persuaded by my arguments tonight does not mean that no successful objective proof has been offered. 3
As of yet I remain convinced of the biblical case for annihilationism, and I find Joshua’s responses unconvincing, but I am thankful as he has caused me to study the topic in greater depth, further consider its place within systematic theology, better nuance my view and articulate it more precisely. What’s more, I appreciate the intensity and seriousness with which he is coming into the debate, for if my position is unbiblical (and therefore untrue), my prayer is that the Lord would use Joshua to make that clear to me and everyone who listens to the debate. 4
Hopefully, the above quote from Chris (Date) shows that he understands the irrelevancy of persuasion to the proof that has been offered – and I appreciate that statement being made. However, I’d just like to make sure it’s clear that per the same critique he listened to, he cannot offer the arguments he has previously presented in the public record. While I understand that he has “nuanced” his view, it cannot be the case that it be found “within” systematic theology that currently exists – which is a significant problem for his position. If he is to have a position “within” systematic theology, it seems to be obvious that such a systematic has yet to be written. Further, this seems to be contrary to his previous statement that I possess the entirety of the positive argument which he intends to make in favor of his position. While I understand that iron sharpens iron, and that being pushed for consistency causes rethinking, it seems to me that the necessity for introducing “nuance” indicates that the prior position held is not, in fact, sound, or valid. If he was forced to change his view for consistency’s sake, this has implications concerning the view he held previously, and affirmed in his discussions to follow. Of course, what this entails has yet to be seen – but acknowledging problems to be had with your position seems to be an indication that your position, as elucidated, was invalid.
If Mr. Date’s position was coherent as a unit, this wouldn’t be an issue – but as we pointed out in the recent podcast, there seem to be multiple presuppositional commitments underlying the position he elucidated, and was explained at length over several hours. We didn’t cover the entirety of the podcast, as many elements of it did not pertain to my view, but that of others – and still others we simply didn’t address in great detail. However, that he has had to change anything at all seems to be problematic, given the strength of the claims he made in the debate with Hiram, and were made in his discussion with Ronnie and Joey. Given the nature of theology as a coherent unit, the “nuance” of even one item seems to entail multiple changes throughout, as a result. Since what was addressed involved presuppositional commitments, primarily, I would expect changes even more sweeping, due to the nature of presupposition.
In my estimation (as little as that matters, perhaps) he has two choices. He can 1) Change his entire line of argumentation he plans to use in his debate, which, if successful, would address the critiques offered at the presuppositional level, and attempt to show the antithesis of our two views or 2) Attempt to “patch” his current view, or modify it so that the critiques don’t seem to affect it as much – perhaps by highlighting the apparent similarities in our views in an attempt to downplay the significant differences at the fundamental level.
In the first case, this would meet the critiques head on, while perhaps hurting his chances at persuasion of anyone “on the fence” – but would do far more toward “laying his cards out on the table.” In the second case, he would have far more chance of winning the debate persuasively, as well as his best chance at taking the debate off of presuppositional grounds, at least in subjective terms. I don’t believe such an approach is in his best interest, nor would it be something I would consider to be honest, tactically.
Now, in some sense, I believe he does consider what he teaches to be true – self-deceptively. I can’t imagine considering it persuasive, but I’ve laid out why it is considered an impossibility, from Scripture and Reformed systematic. I’m hopeful that he will choose option #1, despite the fact that he has told me that I was in possession of his argumentation already. I’m not as concerned with having everything he intends to present as I am with his attempting to offer the best argument for his position. What he has presented previously cannot possibly be true; so hopefully any further argumentation will be more than simple nuance. While this may be harder to prepare for, on my part – and probably on his part, due to the lateness of the hour – I’d rather him try to present something he fully believes to be the case. I’d most prefer that he admit that his position is impossible, obviously, but persuasion is the task of the Spirit, not of me.
In any case, while we both continue to prepare, I appreciate his comments, his meek spirit, and hope that this translates into receptiveness during the debate itself. It isn’t often that one is persuaded during a debate, as we know – and given what I know the Scripture teaches, I cannot possibly believe his view. So if I might offer the reader a suggestion – pray for Chris – and do so often. He has had a rough time of it (in various ways) recently, and the barrage of commentary I’ve provided probably hasn’t contributed to his peace of mind, either. I couldn’t in good conscience refrain, of course, even given my knowledge of at least some of his difficulties – but reading about how wrong you are constantly can tend to be wearing, as every apologist on the planet knows full well. Pray for me, as well, that I might be winsome, engaging, and above all, that I might speak the truth in love even while casting down the fortress erected here against the knowledge of God. This is probably my chief struggle – to speak the truth lovingly – and I often fail to do so at the expense of love.
This is a very serious issue. It cannot be otherwise, as it is one of a few central topics in the subject of eschatology, and thus something unavoidably important to orthodoxy. As he said in that same post, we are necessitated to treat the views of the other as the serious error – even heresy – that the deep antithesis between the two views requires. They cannot both be true, and how you read the Bible is unavoidably different on the two positions, as I believe has been clearly shown over the past couple of months of focused engagement. I’m very glad that I was able to engage this issue. It’s an excellent example of the importance covenantal apologetics places on how you approach theological disputes. May God be glorified in this disputation.
I may have one, perhaps two posts with original content on this topic prior to the debate, but they will likely be focused on Revelation, if anything. As my view on the verses in question has been broadly presented previously, they shouldn’t have a significant amount of information in comparison to many of the previous posts. Mostly, I’ll be focused on my preparation for the debate proper, and I ask you to pray for me in that process.