From the perspective of apologetic method, the Christian’s presupposing of the authority of Scripture IS playing with a level playing field. Such a presupposition is not “sneaking” in one’s worldview. It is blatantly and obviously showing the Christian’s worldview. Yet this is often looked down upon by many in academia, even Christian academia. Anecdotally, the prevailing apologetic method, in my opinion, is the classical method or perhaps the evidential method, both of which do not start from a distinctively Christian Archimedean Point.
Why is it fair for the Christian to begin by presupposing the authority of Scripture? In large part because everyone begins by presupposing something. For the atheist they will presuppose some atheistic starting point. For the Hindu, they will presuppose some Hindu starting point. For the Christian, they will presuppose some Christian starting point. One does not begin with a distinctively Christian starting point and naturally end with a distinctively Muslim conclusion. Somewhere along the way a new start, a non-Christian principle must intervene in order to draw a distinctively Muslim conclusion from a distinctively Christian starting point.
Let me offer an example. When debating an atheist or agnostic they have their starting point especially in conversations about metaphysics, God, and ultimate reality. They do not sideline their atheistic presuppositions in order to “level the playing field” or to “assume of posture on neutral ground.” They maintain their presuppositions because those presuppositions serve as the ground of their atheistic belief. And what are their presuppositions? Well, let’s take the average atheist who maintains that ultimate reality is material and that that material came about by the Big Bang or something in that neighborhood of naturalistic causality.
Fundamental to the atheist or agnostic position is that hydrogen + time + chance = dinosaurs and every other form of simple and complex life. Therefore, one of their grounding principles is that everything changes and that everything can change into anything else given sufficient matter, time, and chance. This of course bleeds into their morality, their belief in what counts as a man or woman, the nature of religion, and whether or not there is a God. Atheists, generally speaking, never set aside this presupposition of universal change and slow but radical change of particulars in order to argue for morality. No, they assert this presupposition as true and then construct Error Theory around it or Contract Theory around their presupposed understanding of ultimate reality.
Few Christian apologists challenge the atheist and agnostic on this point – that they are “sneaking in” their atheistic worldview by presupposing ultimate reality to be such and such. Simultaneously the modern Christian apologist regularly sidelines his Christian presuppositions and implores others to do the same in the name of achieving “neutral ground.” Again, there is no neutral ground in the example offered above. The atheist’s grounding is not neutral. It is distinctively atheistic and without apology. That is, the atheist asserts his grounding without offering a defense of it.
On the Christian side of things, I can hardly assert my Christian ground in the Scripture without the vast majority of my Apologetics colleagues demanding that I defend my grounding. Why is it that some and perhaps many Christian scholars bend over backward to offer complex and often convoluted systems to include the atheist grounding of universal and radical change but hold as scholastically suspect the Christian’s employment of distinctively Christian groundings like the Triune God and the Authority of Scripture to do the work of apologetics and to do so without apology or the need of a defense.
The more prevailing Christian tactic seems to me is to try in some way to avoid be distinctively Christian, do some act of synchronizing the two positions, or save the Christian stuff to the end – Ah ha, didn’t know I was a Christian did ya! They conclude things like, Adam was not created by an immediate creative act, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil did not exist, and Genesis is mere mytho-history. Others say that homosexuality is a divinely ordained state of being, God made me this way, therefore it is either God’s fault that I am this way, and He is unjust in condemning me or God made me this way therefore approves of my homosexuality. The rise of Critical Race Theory in many churches is also a symptom of failing to assume a distinctively Christian presuppositional grounding. Christians meet the CRT advocate on racist grounds and then the conclusion comes out racist [i.e., forms of segregation, transgenerational white-guilt, white-privilege, dark(er) skin color = irrevocable, inevitable, and endless oppression for the foreseeable future].
Why? Because they have no distinctively Christian grounding from which they are working. Thomas Aquinas tried to synchronize Aristotle and Catholic theology with varying success depending on who you talk to. Some Christians are now trying to synchronize Darwin and Christianity other Kant and Christianity and yet others Marx and Christianity and still others Wescott/Hort and Christianity. And while Aquinas had a hard time of it trying to reconcile the immortality of the soul by the lights of Aristotle, at least Aristotle believed in a God in the form of the Prime Mover.
Neither Darwin nor Marx would make such an Aristotelian concession and Kant would have us believe that God is largely if not entirely out of our rational reach given Kant’s stark division of the noumenal and phenomenal. Touching Wescott and Hort, they would have the Christian exclude their Christian precommitments when dealing with the manuscript evidence rather than employing those precommitments and employing them potently and obviously. In short, the current attempts to synchronize are less like trying to unite two systems of metaphysics like in Aquinas and Aristotle and more like trying to unite Christian metaphysics to a metaphysic that rejects the existence of metaphysics. Such a union will not make Christianity better, healthier, or more persuasive.
The controversy over the Bible version issue is also a result of assumed groundings other than distinctively Christian ones. To this day the modern text-critical machine in all of is academic power and position has yet to create a robust theology of textual criticism. It is almost exclusively negative – kept pure is not about words, jot and tittle is not about jots and tittles, the Bible does not talk about its own preservation, the apographa are not inspired, we are not able to reconstruct the originals etc. They have no exegetically based positive doctrine of textual criticism and yet it is said to rule the Principium of Christianity by means of “high probabilities” and “high probabilities” is a Scriptural concept regarding objects of faith…right? You know that one verse that talks about “high-probabilities” being “sufficiently reliable” objects of faith. I love that verse. It’s my life verse.
In other words, there is not a chapter in any historical or modern Systematic Theology, and particularly under the topic of Bibliology, that offers a positive thoroughgoing theological accounting grounded in exegesis in support of modern text-critical practices. If anything, the modern text-critic has redefined the Scripture from the way it has been understood for centuries for no other apparent reason than they need to make room for modern textual criticism, so they negate the plain and received rendering. Well, the plain historical meaning of resurrection can’t literally mean resurrection because of the graveyards of evidence. Such a claim, and those like it, whether they be about the Scripture, or the resurrection are plainly and technically abiblical and foolish.