I had this questioned posed by one who had read the interview with Dr. Cone: “Just read your blog…could you please define presuppostitional as it relates to epistemology and apologetics ?? This is a new term for me.” What follows is my attempt to answer this question. Since I am still relatively new to this subject, presuppositionalism, any correction will be welcomed, especially as it relates to my attempt to explain circular reasoning.
The term “presuppositional” refers to the idea that all belief systems begin with circular reasoning based on self-authenticating (unprovable) truths or statements of “truth.” In apologetics it refers to the position that believers must begin with the belief in the biblical God. This is how the Bible approaches the entirety of its contents…”In the beginning God…” There is no attempt to prove His existence, etc. The same can be seen in the book of Ecclesiastes. The other various approaches to apologetics depend on logic and the ability to “prove” that the biblical God exists. There are at least two problems with this approach. First, logic, reason, and proof or evidence clearly demonstrate that the earth and all reality has been created by an intelligent mind. That’s as far as it goes. It cannot bring one to the conclusion that THE Creator is the biblical God. That takes faith and that faith is found in hearing the word of God. Second, if God can be absolutely proven by human reason and evidence, then God Himself is subject to that evidence making Him subservient to that evidence (the evidence is greater than God) and thus He is not the God of the Bible. Along with that, the evidence, no matter how demonstrative, has to be believed by faith. There is no way around faith in any belief system.
The rationalist begins with the presupposition that there is such a thing as logic and reason and that they are commodities that are attainable by humanity. Therefore, the rationalist believes that he can understand everything based on his ability to reason logically, and his ability to reason is proven by the fact that he can understand the nature of reality because logic exists. Also, the Christian believes in the biblical God because the Bible tells me so, and believes the Bible because it is the word of God. Both of these exhibit circular reasoning based upon presuppositions that are held.
Epistemology is a somewhat more difficult thing for me to explain, but I believe that it is something like the following: Epistemology is the study of knowledge, where does it originate, how do we have or obtain it, how do we know what we know? A presuppositionalist believes that knowledge is from God; that truth is from God as the source of all Truth. Or as Francis Schaeffer would say, true truth is from God. I don’t really know how the non-believer approaches epistemology other than it is a product of evolution, environment and culture. This idea is absolutely full of problems one of which would be the development of the first language and every subsequent language – no communication would be possible if evolution is true.
I pray this helps.