Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Presuppositionalism, the Fundamentalist Bubble, and Donald Trump | Righting America

William Trollinger

The fundamentalist bubble is not simply a matter of separate schools, institutions, and media. It is also a matter of separate ideas that cannot be challenged or disputed or proven untrue. It is a matter of impregnable presuppositions.

At the Creation Museum much is made of presuppositions, or “starting points.” At the very beginning of the museum’s Bible Walkthrough a question posed on a wall: “Same Facts, but Different Views . . . Why?” The answer is given on a placard entitled “Different Views because of Different Starting Points,” in which it is asserted that “individuals must choose God’s Word as the starting point for all their reasoning, or start with their own arbitrary philosophy as the starting point for evaluating everything.”

As we observe in Righting America, at the Creation Museum

There are only two possible starting points. Start with the inerrant young Earth creationist Bible, and you will have a true understanding of the origins of the world and of humans, a well-ordered life in line with God’s law and eternal salvation. Start with human reason . . . and you will have a compromised Word of God with “millions of years” and evolution, a thoroughly corrupted church, the collapse of Western civilization, and eternal damnation (148-149).

What is so curious about this is that so much of the museum is devoted to “evidence” for a young Earth, including a planetarium, fossils, and four rooms devoted to making the point that a global flood explains what appears to be an old Earth.

In her book, Apostles of Reason, Molly Worthen brilliantly describes what is going on here. She notes that central to young Earth creationist apologetics is the conviction that presuppositionalism gives “creationists the language they needed to roll back Darwin’s dominance,” as they claim that evolution and creationism are simply “conflicting ‘hypotheses’ with different presuppositions,” i.e., starting points. And yet, while creationists – and evangelicals in general – “demand that presuppositions trump evidence,” they also assert that “the right kind of evidence as universal fact.” They “insist that modern reason must buttress faith, that scripture . . . align with scientific reality” (224-225, 258).  

Creationists are too modern to give up on the importance of evidence. But when the weight of contrary scientific evidence becomes too much to bear, they can always retreat into presuppositionalism. In effect, “we have the right starting point, so we can see the evidence as we wish to see the evidence.”

In his powerful little book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder observes that

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom . . . You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case (65-66).

Is there a connection between creationist presuppositionalism and white evangelical support for Donald Trump?