I learned about the concept of “pre-suppositions” when I took Philosophy 201 in college. When making a rational argument, people have certain assumptions and rely on particular foundational building blocks of logic in order to prove their point. So long as their assumptions are true and so long as their pre-suppositions are agreed to beforehand, a discussion can ensue and people can dialogue together toward understanding (and perhaps even agreement).
One of the classic presuppositions derided in the Baptist schools in which I was educated was the fossil record. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the following circular reasoning derided:
“This fossil is 2 millions years old.” “How do you know that?”
“Because it is found in this layer of rock.” “How do you know the rock is that old?”
“Because 2 million year old fossils are found there.”
The teacher would then have a good laugh, certain that the fallacy of the fossil record had been simply and swiftly put to bed.
However, the same teacher would rely on similar circular reasoning when appealing to the Bible as authoritative truth from God himself:
“Every word of the Bible is true and authoritative. “How do you know that?”
“Because God wrote the Bible.” “How do you know God wrote it?”
“Because the Bible says that God wrote it.”
This is a slight simplification of the argument. There are certain nuances and terms used such as “God inspired the Bible” – whatever that means. “Holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Spirit” – which means and implies what? No matter, because this is self-referencing and relies on the pre-supposition that the Bible is the very “word of God” in the first place. It also assumes that God needed to use written language at a later point in human history to get across what his design in nature and his wiring of the human heart failed to get across.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think God is that incapable of communicating nor that slow to have to do it over a period of 1500+ years through 40+ different human authors, all who somehow “magically” wrote 100% truth through God’s empowering spirit…and then to force humankind to have to wait several hundred more years before some authoritative group of men (no women allowed) could agree as to which sacred writings were really from God, which ones weren’t from God but were still OK, and which ones were “heresy”.
Hopefully we can all agree on at least these presuppositions:
1. Human beings physically wrote what we now consider sacred writings.
2. Some of them at least experienced some kind of “inspiration” – whether that is akin to what artists have experienced throughout history or not is subject to debate.
3. Some of them were simply doing their day-to-day thing – collecting proverbs, documenting the history of the kingdom, writing letters to distant friends – which required no artistic inspiration at all, though they may have felt the words “flowing” somehow…maybe.
4. Later humans determined which writings were more sacred to them than others.Whether or not God was involved in that process is open to debate.
5. Still later humans attempted to translate those sacred writings into their own language, assuming they accurately understood the historical meanings of the words, euphemisms, cultural context, etc. so that what they translated is a fair depiction of what the original author intended.
6. Still later humans read those translations and came up with their interpretation of what each passage meant and how it applies to their place and times. These humans rarely agree as to the particulars of any of these sacred writings, but each claim their interpretation is the only correct one.
7. If Jesus’ teachings were clearly remembered and documented by the gospel authors, and if they were correctly included in the collection of sacred writings (i.e. the canon of scripture), and if they were reasonably translated into English so that we can understand it… then the important thing for us to evidence our following the way of Jesus is NOT what interpretations we agree with our what religion or liturgy we practice… it is how well we love one another.
And the logic of love makes the world go `round…