Your Presuppositions, I presume?

A common arguing point on the forum seems to be “that is just based on your presuppositions.” Most often it is never stated what those presuppositions are, but we are rather left hanging with no meaningful point to discuss. I thought I would write down a few of the presuppositions on which I feel EC is based as an explanatory set of ideas. Certainly, you may add to or disagree with this collection. I am neither a philosopher nor theologian, and as we have many on this board who are such to greater or lesser degrees, I welcome their ideas.

If we consider EC /TE, let us first look at those presuppositions relevant to the C /T side, skipping the presumption of course that I Am indeed is:

  1. God is Good. This must be presumed as all else would be hubris if not. Jesus even goes to on to add “No one is good–except God alone.”
  2. God is truth. Again, Jesus said that he was the way, the truth, and the light.
    These two presumptions lead us to conclude that God does not lie, does not deceive.
  3. God is love. This leads to the thought that he wants us to be in relationship with him, and indeed sacrificed himself as Jesus to achieve that goal.

This is not to limit the list, as we could also list attributes of justice, mercy etc. but I think for the purpose of this discussion will stop here for now.

Next, let us move to the E/E side of the abbreviation. What presuppositions do I have primarily on that side? Certainly, it is sometime thrown out that ECs presume the earth to be old, but as that is really a conclusion not a presupposition, lets step back a step and consider a few other things:

  1. God’s attributes can be seen in creation. We can support that biblically in Romans 1, Psalm 19, and Job, and personally from how God speaks to us through nature as we look at creation.

  2. Nature is observable and understandable. Again, I would appeal to Psalm 19 for confirmation:

1The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

  1. Our observations of creation are reliable and true. This flows out of the presumptions that God is truth, God loves us and would not hinder our coming to relationship with him, and creation is his work.

Thus, we live in a WYSIWYG world, and when you measure the age of the universe through distance travelled by light and radiation, or the interactions of colliding galaxies, or the decay of isotopes, those observations are correct. The progression of life developing over that time is then also true as it is based on direct observations, and while those conclusions may need refinement and modification as new information is discovered, conclusions that are contrary to accurate observations cannot be held as true.

I realize that this leaves the door open to other interpretations, and most of these presuppositions are not limited to the EC/TC position , but at the same time I would say that if those who hold to different ideas can present valid observations, then those observations should be considered, but thus far they have not to my satisfaction. We can also discuss the presumptions unique ID or progressive creationism as well as YEC, but if that gets too unwieldy may wish to have separate threads and split things up.

So, what presumptions are in your pocket? Why do you think those presuppositions or these listed are valid or not valid?


God is omnipotent (Gen 18:14, Job 42:1-2)

God is omniscient (Psalm 139:4, Job 21:22)

God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10)

God is infallible

God had some role in creating this place

Universe is a temple to God (Genesis 1)

God always was and always will be

Great thoughts. Maybe I’d better start out anew, like Descartes.

–God is One. It’s interesting to read Justin Barrett’s (a Christian, from Calvin and Cambridge, now Fuller) papers on cognitive science of religion in this case–why we, from childhood, posit a divine being (s) that know more than we do. However, it doesn’t appear that that bears out to a single God or many gods. Rather, from my cultural anthropology courses in undergrad, we tend to gravitate towards a single God concept if our political/governmental head is centralized and powerful (eg, the rapid growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire and, more recently, in Madagascar)
–(when I was an inerrantist): God would protect His word from error (but why would He do that more with the Bible’s translations and ignore the various “mistranslations” like the Qur’an, Bhagavad Gita, etc?). Thanks.
–God is unlimited by Time (as opposed to open theology, like Boyd and Oord). I am debating this presupposition.

Now, how do those presuppositions lead to acceptance of EC as opposed to other ways of looking at origins?

My line of thought was along the lines of God is true, our observations are therefore reliable, thus our observations lead us to conclusions that are also likely to be true, within the limits of our understanding and the reliability of our observations, and that conclusion is EC.

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Hm. Deep thoughts. I’m not sure I’m the best person to analyze my own presuppositions. Would the YEC’s say that their observations are not reliable?
Or is it more of an effort to justify their particular biblical world view (and the understandable fear that some would go to Hell)?
My own path to EC has been from 2 main presuppositions, I think. First, I realized that Godly people can have an EC point of view when a University of Nebraska-Lincoln biology teacher who graded my correspondence school papers in 10th or 11th grade from where I lived in Africa chided me for cynically writing in the columns of my texts “refutations” from Morris, Gish and so on. Not only was she a Christian, but I realized that she was nice and I’d hurt her feelings. I had changed place with the “good side” by being (unintentionally) disrespectful and task-oriented rather than person-oriented.
I then became more dissatisfied with the evangelical interpretation of all “evil” (read: uncomfortable things) as coming from Adam’s fall. Science, naturalism and the appreciation of the world as “good” helped me in one way. In undergraduate class, the evolution and cell and molecular biology classes made complete sense when explaining mitochondrial RNA as coming from bacteria, pseudogenes, chromosome changes between chimps and humans, etc. On the other hand, I believe that my interpretation of God as being just, modeled on my own parents, also drove me away from the mainstream but incorrect interpretation of Genesis and Romans. They were as gracious and Jesus-like as I could imagine. The picture that Adam and Eve sinned just a little bit, and that God (because he was so good) could cast all of humanity into Hell for ever (especially those who never heard), on the basis of either inherited or the tiniest personal sin, just didn’t jive with the image of justice I saw in my parents. It also seemed disrespectful to God to say that He created us first unable to be completely good, and then would throw us into eternal conscious torment because of His mistake (or intent). I read with eagerness Biologos and Peter Enns’ reviews of how evolution revised our interpretation of Adam, Romans, etc (in Inspiration and Incarnation, The Bible Tells Me So, and Sin of Certainty, and Evolution of Adam). So–I think my leaning to EC rests in part of presuppositions of both justice and reliability, as you said.

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In the Lutheran Option posted by Dr. Swamidass, there are list of presumptions for each viewpoint. It is important to note that two that you mentioned provide a radical break from the other ancient near eastern religions and polytheism in general:

  1. God is only good
  2. God is the source of creation and not subject to external governance, only His Word and the covenants He has established. There is no “magic” by which He can be controlled or influenced. Blessing and fellowship with God come from faith and obedience to His commandments.

Any discussion of science must be done in the context of the scientific method. Scientific content is based on that which is published in peer review journals.

Any Biblical discussion must be placed in the context of the entire Bible (66 books), no verse may be lifted out independently and taken out of context. The original text is the Word of God, translations and interpretations are not inerrant. Chapter, verse and even book designation are relative arbitrary (for example, the last chapter or Deuteronomy could easily be the first chapter of Joshua).

These are the rules I use for studying the Bible and Science.

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It sounds like you have given this a great deal of personal study and consideration which I find very commendable.

I would like to offer a different perspective on the issue of sin for your consideration. I view this as the opportunity to be made righteous before God and have eternal fellowship with Him, now and forever, through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He only asked that “if you love me keep my commandments”, which I try to do out of love for Him. I still keep far too much of my paycheck and I live in the Boston area, so I have to keep reminding myself how I should drive. But the point here is that if we lived in this manner, the way God intended, the earth would be a much better place. The key here is that we would live this way to glorify God and not ourselves.

I am proposing (and will be presenting in a Poster Session at the ASA Nation al Conference this summer) that it is more consistent with the rest of the Bible that Genesis 1 and 2 are sequential, which would remove any conflict with evolution.


In a thread about presuppositions, it took a little bit before the person of Jesus Christ came into the conversation. Perhaps we have all just presumed that, of course, He is foundational? Not a bad thing that – so foundational for everything the Christian does and thinks that after a while we don’t consciously think about it as much? That may be a good sign, and yet we are not supposed to forget to talk about it either while in the world and surrounded by those who do not claim Him.

[Added edit: Sorry, @jpm, I should have re-read your opening thread more carefully --where Jesus is named explicitly in your first three points! – I had done a search for the word ‘Christ’ in the thread, and so reached my hasty conclusion that he had been neglected.]

My sense is that this list comes from a secondary source. Describing God primarily (in both senses–first and mainly) is not the obvious message that comes from the text. I would suggest that this reflects Greek philosophy’s influence on Christianity.

No it doesn’t

By “secondary source,” I don’t mean you copied it from someplace else (like online). I mean that you were explicitly or implicitly taught it…like all the rest of us. Me included.

Consider that if you read the Bible from cover to cover, you would come across the identification (and self-identification) of God as Creator, Redeemer, Rescuer, Self-Sufficient, etc., long before you hit the Psalms and Job…

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Yes but that doesn’t change how these identifications are found in scripture

Thank you for your thoughts. It sounds like you will have a good presentation.

This is a really interesting conversation, @jpm. I like your corrective about how we don’t presume the universe to be old, or for God not to exist for that matter, in order to arrive at evolution.

It would be interesting for one of our YEC brothers or sisters to weigh in here. I wonder what they would take away or add. It’s dangerous for me to guess, but I’m going to anyway, and they can correct me.

  • Sin is pervasive, corrupting the human faculty of reason, such that all knowledge is suspect. (NB: The one exception here is a YEC’s received interpretation of the Bible.)
  • The Bible’s meaning is generally obvious to all readers in all cultures in all ages. (…although sometimes a bit of basic study can be helpful… I mean, just not too much study, or, well, the wrong kind of study.)
  • In the case of those who are not born again, their reasoning is especially suspect, because their minds are unregenerate, tainted by sin and deceit. The more the Holy Spirit has the chance to work on your heart, the better chance your reasoning is sound. Scientists are, of course, mostly non-Christians, and those who are (non-YEC) Christians are obviously compromisers, trying in vain to make the gospel palatable to this sick, God-hating world.

How’d I do?

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Mr Wolfe, that sounds good. I especially struggle with the presuppositionalism regarding all others having a sin-darkened mind. How can one have meaningful discussion with anyone else if you presume the others are completely biased and unwilling or unable to learn? Worse, how can one learn, oneself?

Does one take this further? What faulty presuppositions do we have? What would an atheist say we have? The YEC (other than sin)? Thanks.

Very good thoughts & questions! Wonder if any of our atheist Forum regulars will chime in?

Randal Rauser, a Christian apologist, debated Michael Ruse by reversing positions. Ruse argued for the theist viewpoint, while Rauser supported the atheistic one (I haven’t listened to this yet; it’s on the podcast Unbelievable, I think). I can see that my own presuppositions tend to mirror anthropomorphize the universe. It’s similar to Lewis’ allegory in The Silver Chair, when the Witch pointed out to Puddleglum and the children that their views of Aslan, Overworld and the Sun were larger views of things they knew. For example, Aslan was a big cat; the Sun, a big lamp; and so on. The Witch tried to confuse them by saying it was all made up from their experiences with Underworld. For example, I naturally postulate a Creator and Judge without adequate proof (not that there isn’t proof; but that I do it naturally without it).From an evangelical background, I think I tend to portray God as the Darwinian who reflects the merciless world; Jesus as my father who protects us from God and pays the price to allow us to survive; and the Church is the Bride, our mother. Sometimes, I think that humans, like children who have been abandoned and look for a heavenly Father, tend to blame themselves for all evil, so as to keep the impression of control. Thus, we gravitate toward explaining all horrid natural reality (though Genesis doesn’t actually say it that way) as a result of the Fall. Thus, we don’t know why God doesn’t help us in our difficulty from minute to minute, though we seek Him as a Father; so, it must have been something we (or our father, Adam) did to disgust God.
I know that there are lots of good counterpoints to this–but here is a weakness I perceive. From a morality standpoint, I feel like I need a Judge who is above our scruples–but that doesn’t, I guess, mean that there is one. This is where I regret not having taken philosophy classes in undergrad! While it is not justified by his statement, I do feel like responding, like Puddleglum, ““One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.” Again, this is a presupposition–and I need to treat it very carefully. Also, the more I learn about the universe, the less “pit like” it appears. Again, I am a Christian theist, but I am trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff in terms of reasons.


#6 can lead to false conclusions. We are sinners therefore even though nature is observable, our reason cannot be relied upon when making accurate judgments about the creation that would equate to God’s judgment on these matters.

Also, since we live beyond Eden and exiled from there never able to return from where we came, God is not only the Creator but now also Judge unto death. This continues to be true for Trinitarian Christians

Sounds like you would agree with my comments here?

Do you have any others that you would add to @jpm’s list? I would be curious to know.