THE PRESUPPOSITIONS OF CHRISTIANITY
Presuppositions are the things that give us starting points; the soil from which the ideas-that-matter can be grown. These ideas, concepts, and positions that we assume to be true, sometimes without investigation, are something that we all have. The Oxford Dictionary says that it is "a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action". It is what we believe without being able to absolutely prove to anyone. It is a notion that we take for granted in advance. And as I said earlier, it is part of the universal condition of man that we have them. Another
universal is that we assume that, should we come across an alternative claim of truth, our view is the correct one. These are the parts of our worldview that must come under scrutiny before we can say that we have begun to pursue wisdom and to gather the worth to our existence that Socrates suggested comes from an "examined life". It is a common error to allow presuppositions to be the end of our investigations instead of the beginning.
Some of our presuppositions are picked up along the way through our upbringing, our experiences, or our education. They are absorbed into our worldview without filter and, many times, are the presuppositions of others who had or have an influence in our lives. They settle into our lives like a family pet and we take them out for a walk whenever the topics they touch are brought up in
conversation. . A good portion of them will never be challenged because they are common to the kinds of people we allow to come close. They are the comfortable clichés of those with whom we share a good portion of our lives.
There are other presuppositions that become ours by an act of the will. We decide to believe things even in the absence of strong evidence but we reconcile ourselves with that through various methods for various reasons. This is the stuff of faith. We believe because we choose to believe. Faith is acting on a presupposition.I believe that God exists and I begin to interpret my reality to accommodate that belief. When something unexpected happens in my life, I translate the event into terms that would assume that God is involved somehow. That God exists, actually, is the first great presupposition of most of the religions of the world including but certainly not exclusive to, Christ-ianity.
The second fundamental presupposition of many religions of the world is that God interacts with His Creation in some way. This can be through methods as varied and manifold as there are people in the religious stream, the assorted followers of assorted religions scattered over the globe. It is a fact that the vast majority of people on the earth believe in some kind of deity. There must be some pay-off for that to be true. That there is a great many of our world who are atheists is a presupposition in some Western nations but is not evidenced in any studies that I looked at. The Christian model of this presupposition would be that God, unilaterally, reveals Himself to people.
The next step in the presupposition trail is the one that seems to be the demising wall between Christianity and the other religions of the world. It is a clarification of the last presupposition, namely that God reveals Himself to people. When I consider that God reveals Himself to people, I am counted amongst them. I am people, therefore He reveals Himself to me! This is outside of the fact that there are prophets, priests, and various "holy men" in the mix. God reveals attributes of His character to me personally and the challenge, however unspoken, is to respond to His revelation.
While it could be argued that aspects of the revelation of which I spoke in the last paragraph, which differentiates between Christianity and other religions, might also be found in some sense as an element in other faiths, there is no argument that the next step makes a decided gap between them. It is rare to find anyone, other than a flaming Christian, who understands that, when I see God in this close, personal way, I see the enormity of His Goodness, first and foremost. It is not here where the divergence happens, however. It is in the corollary of that revelation. In the Presence of that much Goodness, I am exposed as one with a serious lack of it. Should I care to think of myself as having any goodness of my own accord, in the midst of this much Goodness, I am revealed to myself as a fraud, in the greatest measure. Here it is where the challenge actually lies. I am challenged, either to dismiss this revelation of my personal "sinfulness", declaring that I am okay or accept it and take ownership of my poor choices.
Let me sum up the first four presuppositions of Christianity before I go on.
1. God exists
2. God reveals Himself to people (including me)
3. That revelation overwhelmingly shows that God is good
4. It also shows that, in comparison to God, I am not
While these four fundamental presuppositions are needed to describe our actual position before God, in terms of eternity, they seem to end in a rather negative note. It dispenses with any silly notion that we are good enough to be considered "Rapture-ready material" (if you believe in the "Rapture" which is another presupposition of some Christians). Heaven is too Holy a place to allow any stain of sinfulness inside. It would be tantamount to using "bunny-berries" in ice-cream instead of raisons. So, here we are, in our sin with no hope of ever being able to clean ourselves sufficiently to chum up to a Holy God.
This state of affairs that is described above is difficult for people without the next installment of this thread of an idea. Many outsiders to the Church will feel that, by our pointing this out, we are judging them and they will not like it. Hopefully, they can get through that sufficiently to hear about the next few presuppositions of Christianity because there is a wonderful reconcilliation available for them.