Letter To A Common Naturalistic Atheist Part 1

I recently found this response to an “atheist” man I was having a discussion with long ago. It is unedited, and therefore may not make sense in some places. Hopefully it will be useful to you in some way none the less.

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It is interesting that you credit your newfound interest and understanding of philosophy to your “conversion” to atheism. I suppose the opposite sort of thing has occurred in my experience. That is, before I started living my life with a real acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I cared little for matters of truth and philosophy. My conversion has resulted in a hunger for the Word of God, and stemming from this an interest in all things academic. I never knew before how very important education is to God. I returned to school at my old community college and brought my GPA from a 1.49 to a 3.6 by the grace of God, and recently transferred to a private liberal arts school to begin double majoring in Philosophy and Religion.

We are not capable of being objective so far as we would most likely normally suppose. Take your atheism for example. Atheism, and even more evidently your assumption that all things are natural, do not allow for any sort of “objective” investigation of either the Word of God or His world. At the back of all of your reasoning is the presupposition that you are an autonomous human being, meaning in this context that you possess an ability to set yourself over against the Christian God as the final authority in matters of truth and reasoning. Now, all of us have to use our reasoning of course, and there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, contrary to what many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians tell us by their words and behavior, God encourages the use of reason that He has given to us (having been created in His image). We can, must, and should use our reason; this is not what I mean by autonomy. It is when we assume that we are able to use our reasoning independently of God that we commit sin, and are incapable of rendering things intelligible upon our own presupposition of human autonomy in reason. The claim to objectivity and/or neutrality regarding the subject of the existence of God assumes from the outset that God does not exist. God tells us in His Word that Scripture is His Word, that everyone believes in Him, that it is futile and foolish to do otherwise, and that there is abundant and plain evidence for His existence. When atheists set themselves up as a final authority to deliberate between the options of acceptance and rejection of these claims of God, they set themselves in the place of God and so sin against Him. This does not put a non-Christian on very good terms with God. From the outset then you are turned against Him, unable to have objectivity regarding the subject. Now it is important to note that I do not pretend to posses any sort of neutrality or objectivity regarding the subject either. I interpret evidence based upon my presuppositions just as you do. It does not follow from this that we cannot communicate about the subject. We should be able to do so by looking at who adheres to those presuppositions which alone can account for things such as logic, morality, induction and redemption and who adheres to those presuppositions which yield contradictions, incoherency, detachment from objective reality and a need to borrow from another worldview in order to render anything intelligible.

You state that everything that exists does so within nature. You adhere to an atheistic, naturalistic worldview. Everything is material. If it is not material, it does not exist. As has been explained already, this is a presupposition. You say that you are justified in holding this position because everything understood in science demonstrates that everything that exists does so within nature. The trouble is that if we assume that science deals with those things natural and nothing else (which is not necessarily true, but that is not important right now) then obviously anything supernatural is outside of the scope of science and science so narrowly defined will deal with only natural explanations. It is like me favoring the use of my eyes for sensory data and then assuming that anything I cannot see does not exist. You assume that science must deal with only material things, see that science only tells us about material things, and then conclude from this that only material things exist. It would be a silly thing for me to say that only what my eyes can see exists, would you not agree? Science is a wonderful way of obtaining knowledge about the natural world, but it quite possibly has nothing to say about the supernatural world and further it is without a doubt not the only means by which we may obtain knowledge. I agree that just because there are some things we cannot currently explain through science it does not mean that there will not be some explanation forthcoming. However, we should be very careful about relying upon blind faith in science by saying that maybe sometime in the future there will be a scientific answer to problem x. I realize that you will say it is not blind faith since we have seen science answer questions before, but this just blindly assumes again that the current problem x has some sort of scientific explanation, and there is no way to know that. Perhaps it is wise for us to deal with information that we do know, rather than looking to some future explanation that may never come. It is also advantageous to remember that there are many things we know we cannot explain through science. For example, how do we know that science is the only way or the best way to knowledge? It is impossible to scientifically justify science. Its validity rests upon a great many assumptions that are outside of the field of science.

This helps us when we come to your problems with belief in God. For example, you may say that you base what you believe upon what is rationally verifiable, but by this you must mean what is verifiable through scientific means. If this is not what you mean then I apologize, I do not want to make a caricature of your position, but I do not see what else you might be referring to. You say that you do not believe that there is a God because you see no rational reason to believe in anything not bound by the laws of nature, but this appeals to your naturalistic presuppositions which are, again, unjustified as far as I can tell. Certainly if we take “rational reason” to mean “those reasons which can be obtained through naturalistic science” then God might not be the end result. This is to commit a category fallacy though. If I want to listen to Mozart I do not use my eyes. We do not come to the knowledge of God through studying the composition of a rock (although there is a sense in which we do, which I might explain later). We cannot answer all questions in the same way, by the same methods, etc. You are correct that an immaterial, non-corporeal, etc. God cannot be verified through naturalistic science. This presents no problem for my worldview. Naturalistic science is not the only way to obtain knowledge.

I am not sure why your study of the Bible and how it was compiled renders you incapable of believing in God except for that you interpret evidence based upon your presupposition of human autonomy. My study of the Bible and how it was compiled only builds my faith up. Reading and hearing the Word of God and seeing how God in His sovereignty has delivered His Word down through history to us both supports my presupposition of the God of Christian Scripture and excites me. Obviously the so called Abrahamic faiths have a similar origin, Islam and Judaism being Christian heresies. For whatever reason most people do not recognize this though.


Faith and Final Authority

There are some things we must believe before we are able to make sense of anything at all.
In the Spring of 2008, I had the privilege of having dinner with a few public figures right outside of Washington D.C. One such figure whom I had the privilege of dining with was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (pictured above). The Supreme Court is considered the highest court in the land. One may appeal his or her case up to a higher court until the Supreme Court is reached. At that point, there is no higher court to appeal to. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority for the USA. There is no going above Supreme Court ruling. You can only appeal that far. It is the final authority.

Everyone has things that he or she thinks are true. For example, you may think that there is a computer in front of you right now. Maybe you are not on a computer, but access the Internet through a mobile device. You may even be reading this after having printed it. None of that matters. The point is that you believe you are reading this right now. If I were to ask you about why you believe this, you would appeal to something else to explain your belief. Perhaps you would mention that you see the text in front of you. If you were pressed further, you might mention that you believe you see the text because you trust your senses to be reliable. You may be pushed for a further response and say that you think your mind is able to correctly interpret what your senses are telling it.

So, if I were to ask you about C, you would appeal to B. If I wanted to know why you believed B, then you would appeal to A. This could go on for a long time, but it cannot go on forever. Everyone has to stop somewhere. Eventually you will reach your highest authority and be unable to go any further back, just like the situation with the Supreme Court. There is always a highest court of appeals.

Some people take their highest court to be their own reason; their thought processes are said to be the final authority. Why do these people take reason to be their highest authority though? Is it because their reason tells them to? This, of course, is circular reasoning. This final authority, or highest court of appeals, is accepted on faith.

Some people take their highest authority to be the senses. If the highest court of appeals is the senses, then there is nothing else to appeal to higher than the senses. The reliability of the senses will have to be accepted on faith.

The same holds true for every final authority. There are some things we have to believe before we can make sense of anything else. Some people accept their reasoning on faith. Some people accept their senses on faith. There are other positions as well. Some people say that they reject all of these final authorities, which dumps them into the endless chasm of skepticism or subjectivism. These people claim to know nothing at all, or claim that they know whatever they feel like knowing. Both of these positions obviously have some very serious problems. The most significant problem with them is that people are able to function in the world and to make sense of things. This means that ultimately, people have a highest court of appeals, a final authority, a presupposition.

As Christians we take as our presupposition the truth that God has revealed Himself to us through the Christ of Scripture. From this faith commitment we are able to derive an entire system of knowing other things. We are not just limited to what can be known in Scripture, but rather are able to take the principles taught in Scripture as a basis for knowing everything else we are able to know as well. Rejecting the Christian presupposition is placing oneself above God and results in foolishness. (Psalm 14.1; Proverbs 1.7) There are no successful objections to the Christian faith when it is properly understood and taken as a whole. Meanwhile, the rejection of Christian presuppositions results in self-defeating skepticism or subjectivism as the history of philosophy has adequately shown.

How can people who claim that God does not exist still know things then? How can non-Christians make sense of things? What about very intelligent non-Christians? What about all the good things non-Christians have been able to bring about for society? What sort of answers could we possibly conjour up in response to these probing questions?

To begin with, no one has denied that non-Christians know things, make sense of things, can be intelligent, and do things that are beneficial to society. In fact, our whole argument rests upon these things being true. No one is denying that non-Christians are capable of knowledge, rationality, intelligence, etc. However, we are denying that non-Christians are capable of these things upon their non-Christian presuppositions. The only reason people are able to still make sense of anything at all is because this is God’s world and we are God’s creatures. Those who claim to reject the existence of the Christian God (please note, this includes many more people than just “atheists”) are still able to function in the world because they borrow from Christian presuppositions. Our job as apologists is to point these things out. Christianity is the only system of thought which is able to render things intelligible upon its own presuppositions.

This, I think, is the presuppositional understanding of things in a nutshell.


Homosexuality and Abduction

Quite a while back I entered into a conversation concerning homosexuality which had been going on for some time before I arrived. The nature of the disagreement was such that the “facts” being thrown back and forth were not solving anything. The issue was, as it is always, presuppositional. Hence, the conversation was turned toward the subject of abduction. I have removed comments that others were making during the exchange, and have edited obvious grammatical and spelling errors. It was rather difficult to have this conversation in a setting like the one it took place in, but I think that the previous “scientific” claims about homosexuality were undermined by what this individual had to say in response to my challenge. This post picks up the conversation at the point I entered in and challenged the presuppositions of the unbeliever. Those who do not understand the language used in this exchange may benefit from what someone posted during the course of the conversation:

“Abduction, or inference to the best explanation, is a method of reasoning in which one chooses the hypothesis that would, if true, best explain the relevant evidence. The term abduction is also sometimes used to just mean the generation of hypotheses to explain observations or conclusions, but the former definition is more common both in philosophy and computing.”

Chris: There is no telos in naturalistic evolution. There is also no reason to think we can trust our reason. Nor is there reason to trust that scientists are being ethical and not just lying to us. Nor is there any reason to suppose the future will resemble the past.
Tim: Great Chris, you would like to deny induction. The reason is utilitarian pragmatism.
Chris: Excuse me? I never denied induction.
Tim: Yes you did. You just said “there is no reason to suppose the future will resemble the past”.
Chris: Within your view of things, Tim.
Tim: You would like to deny induction in certain circumstances, is that better? Well, you just did.
Chris: Wrong. I do not deny induction. You are forced to within your view.
Tim: Okay great. So there is good reason to assume the future will operate similar to the past.
Chris: And what is that?
Tim: I’m not making that claim, Chris, I’m modifying the position I believe you are holding since you said you don’t deny induction.
Chris: Right, okay.
Tim: Kind of an interesting tangent…from homosexuality to induction.
Chris: Not really since it is foundational. Are you Popperian?
Tim: That’s a strange term, but I do agree with much of what Popper said. I’m not an expert on his views, I just covered them when studying philosophy of science.
Chris: Not a strange term at all. Pretty common actually. Do you believe that science operates with induction or deduction?
Tim: I don’t like name-based labels, when it’s the concepts that are important. Just like I assume you don’t call yourself a Newtonian, although I assume you recognize certain areas of physics. Science informally operates inductively, but formally operates deductively.
Chris: Which means what?
Tim: I will explain. In informal language, scientists often talk about future applications of theories, etc., and assume that the universe operates uniformly. However, theories are based solely on deductive reasoning. So induction is assumed, but not necessary.
Chris: So we cannot know that theories will apply again in the future?
Tim: Nope.
Chris: Then you are using hypothetico deductivism, not induction.
Tim: Chris: If we knew they’d apply, they wouldn’t be theories. They’d be proofs.
Chris: So you have no reason to think that the next time you type there will be characters on the screen. Yet you do. Which is irrational.
Tim: Well, abductively I can reason that there will be characters, but I can’t prove it. I apply abductive reasoning.
Chris: Abduction is just a reformulation of induction. And IBE as well.
Tim: No it is not.
Chris: It still assumes regularity. And I see no reason to do that in your view.
Tim: a) No it doesn’t. b) Why?
Chris: Okay, explain abductive reasoning to me.
Tim: An inference to the best explanation is dependant on the preconceptions of the one making the inference. In other words, the best explanation could be one of non-uniformity. There’s no necessary “it must assume regularity” premise to abduction, although certainly the laws of logic would be appealed to.
Chris: How do you determine what is the best explanation?
Tim: Whichever one is best able to explain the observations, with the least number of undefined variables.
Chris: But how do you determine which one is best able to?
Tim: Well, by that standard I just typed.
Chris: You just repeated the same thing.
Tim: “Best” essentially means “efficient”. Repeated the same thing? No I didn’t. I used the word “best” twice, so you assume I’m appealing to a tautology, let me reword it.
Tim: If the explanation was merely a repetition of the term, then it’s tautological.
Chris: I would call it begging the question…but moving on. I think that to talk of a “best” explanation you must appeal to past experience.
Tim: Well if that were true, Chris, it would be impossible to create any explanations since no human has an infinite regress of experiences.
Chris: lol My point exactly! Uh…actually you would not need an infinite regress.
Tim: Your points exactly? I’m disagreeing that an explanation requires experience.
Chris: An IBE necessarily appeals to some assumption of regularity.
Tim: Although, I guess one could argue that some experience (although unrelated) is necessary to operate intelligently, assuming they take a foundationalist view of epistemology.
Chris: I’ll cite Oxford, Philosophy of Science on this as well as Chalmers, What Is this Thing Called Science?
Tim: Science IS subjective.
Chris: I win.
Tim: You win?
Tim: What have you won?
Tim: Do you deny that ALL observations are made by our ability to perceive?
Chris: No, I don’t.
Tim: Are you going to appeal to some mystical theory of scientific epistemology?
Chris: Nope.
Tim: Well, you seemed to cheer “I won” after I stated that science is subjective.
Tim: Great, everyone is stating that Chris wins without stating how or why. Shall I invite some friends in the room to tell me that I won?
Chris: I have an answer to the problem Tim, you are reduced to subjectivism.
Chris: Dawkins would hate you.
Chris: But anyway, I’m going to take a break.
Tim: Chris: you have an answer?
Chris: Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” (NASB)

If I find a note at home on the table, I do not assume it is from a cat. It is from another human. That is the best explanation, and it is based on past experience. Hence Inference to Best Explanation relies on regularities in nature which a non-Christian cannot justify.

God sustains the world, imposing order upon it which results in regularities that make inductive practices possible. The immutable God has decreed every event in time and we therefore act as rational creatures when we take this into account and assume temporal regularity for induction. Meanwhile, the unbeliever can assert things about the objective scientific status of homosexuality until he is blue in the face; he will end up in the kind of bind this fellow fell into. Expect much more on this subject at a much later date.


Show Me Your Proof!

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18.2)

Here are some notes from a brief conversation with a professing atheist. I hope the notes will provide some guidance for where to take a conversation of this nature. This conversation is, I think, a decent example of the kind of conversations our readers may have not only on the Internet, but in person if one is actually interested in conversing with unbelievers.

DM: I think indoctrinating children on a controversial matter like religion, in a biased way favoring one religion over others, AS IF the issue has been settled obejectively, is just plain stupid, and nothing but telling a lie.. it is brainwashing
DM: my parents are muslims, I live in turkey
Chris: Is it stupid or is it evil?
Chris: Or both?
DM: Chris, one of the other

Note: If it is stupid, he needs to explain why. This will most likely result in a moral claim. Things are usually called “stupid” because they represent some moral failing. If it is immoral or evil, then he needs to explain why. This cannot be done within the context of a non-Christian worldview, because there is no objective basis for right and wrong in that worldview.

DM: well teach kids whats been settled, and if you are teaching them about controversial matters, tell them about the controversy in an unbiased way, not your subjective opinion
Chris: Are you going to teach your children to teach their children like that?
DM: I am not having children
Chris: Good answer.
Chris: 🙂

Note: The problem here is that people would not be able to teach their children how to teach their children, since it would presumably be a subjective and controversial matter. When people start pushing subjectivism and skepticism every breath they take, push them on it. They are usually making plenty of assertions along with their alleged “skepticism”.

DM: but remember that parents in middle east and india also think the way you do
DM: it may be a parents right to teach his children lies, but the issue here is they are teaching lies and not the truth.. if you are aiming at teaching the truth then you can reduce risks by not favoring a biased opinion on controversial unsettled issues like religion
Chris: What makes you so sure it is unsettled?
Chris: Dawkins certainly does not approach it that way.
DM: Chris, if it was settled then there wouldnt be a hundred different religions plus atheists and agnostics and deists, and no concensus
Chris: Dawkins disagrees.

Note: The reference to Dawkins is due to his earlier praise of the man. If someone thinks that Dawkins does not view religion as a settled matter, then one has not understood Dawkins. The man constantly tells us that he has no use for religion. What I do not say here is that whether or not an issue is “settled” depends very little upon whether or not there is still disagreement about that subject. Disagreement does not justify skepticism or relativism, etc.

Chris: So I am still interested – is it immoral to indoctrinate one’s children in matters of religion?
DM: Chris, I dont know about immoral, it is just not telling children what is true, and it is the reason arabs are muslims, indians are hindus and westerns are christians, since the birth of those religions
DM: generations pass, but religion stays the same in the same region.. why?
Chris: Sure. It is probably one of the reasons.
Chris: I don’t disagree.
DM: Chris, do you think it is right?
Chris: But why does that matter?
Chris: Sure, I think it is right to indoctrinate with Christian Scripture.
Chris: “train up a child in the way he should go”
Chris: I know you do not accept that.

Note: For some reason a popular argument against Christianity is to state the obvious fact that society has a great deal to do with the religion a person is brought up in. To be fair, there are more complex versions of a similar argument, but I have not seen any of them used yet by a person I have come into contact with. The really odd thing here is that this fellow says he is an atheist from Turkey who has Muslim parents, which is counterevidence for his claim. Parents teaching their children religious beliefs, particular regions being associated with particular religions, and children often growing up to become like their parents in terms of beliefs are totally irrelevant to whether or not Christianity is true.

DM: Chris, the point her eis that there is no proof that the christian religion is true.. it could well be a lie.. so you are brainwashing your child on a lie, in a way he may never recover and get out
Chris: Can you prove to me that Christianity cannot be proven?

Note: When someone makes a claim, it is up to that individual to support that claim when called upon to do so. This is called the “burden of proof”. This individual makes the claim that there is no proof that Christianity is true, and I ask him to prove this claim to me. If he can not prove it, then it is nothing more than an empty claim. In fact, if he can not prove it to me, then it “could well be a lie”, according to his own reasoning. In other words according to him, if Christianity cannot be proven true then it could very well be a lie. He states that Christianity cannot be proven true. Therefore, it could very well be a lie. I simply take this and turn it around on him. I ask him to prove to me that Christianity cannot be proven true, since, after all, he makes that claim! If he cannot do this, then I should suspect that his statement is nothing more than a lie (which, of course, it is). What he goes on to do is to try and shift the burden of proof onto me. Instead of providing me proof of his claim, he tries to get me to show him proof for Christianity, which I need not do at this point.

DM: Chris, how are you supposed to “prove” it? it is just a cult of judaism.. one of many messiah cults, the only one that survived, and with the force of the roman empire imposed on all of europe.. you are a christian because there is a long line of parental indoctrination throughout generations
Chris: Can you prove to me that Christianity cannot be proven?
DM: what can you offer? the stories in the bible? the gospels seem written decades after the alleged christ lived, they seem to incorporate myths circulating around, even myths not jewish in origin, such as myths about mithras and horus
DM: Chris, your question doesnt make sense, you are asking it wrong
Chris: No I’m not.
Chris: 🙂
Chris: You said that Christianity cannot be proven.
Chris: Can you prove that?
Chris: That statement itself?
Chris: “Chris, the point her eis that there is no proof that the christian religion is true..”
Chris: Can you prove that?
DM: Chris, what are you asking of me?
Chris: “Chris, the point her eis that there is no proof that the christian religion is true..” Chris: I would like to see your proof for this statement.
Chris: So that I can know it is true.
DM: Chris, well what proof do you have other than gospel stories? they seem fiction themselves
DM: Chris, secular bible scholars dispute even the existence of a historical Jesus
Chris: that’s not answering the question.
DM: Chris, secular bible historians dont even consider the historical existence of Abraham, Noah or Adam
Chris: Have you seen every alleged proof for Christianity?
DM: Chris, the bible has a 6000 year old earth, and that is discredited in the face of modern geology and earth sciences and astronomy, and biology
Chris: That is all irrelevant to my question.
Chris: You stated that there is no proof of Christianity.
Chris: My question is a yes or no question.
Chris: Can you prove that there is no proof for Christianity?
DM: Chris, I have been answering you.. are you not
fo

llowing?
Chris: It is a yes or no quesion.
Chris: You have answered with neither.
DM: Chris, if there is proof of christianity where is it? show me
Chris: No, you are shifting the burden of proof.
Chris: lol
Chris: that is an amateur mistake
Chris: It is your claim, hence, you must back it up, not me!
Chris: So, your proof for your statement is that you have not seen such a proof yet?
DM: Chris, cut to the cahse and show me the alleged proof… you can refute me in a second by simply showing the proof
Chris: You stated that there is no proof of Christianity, I asked if you can prove this, you have not answered yes or no.
Chris: Only that you have not seen such a proof.
Chris: Okay, when you make a claim, the burden of proof for that claim belongs to you. I asked if you are able to supply that burden of proof. To cut to the chase, you are saying you have never seen a proof for it.
DM: Chris, I know types like you.. you read a bit about logic and then you become a “master logician”… you think you have something on me with insisting on that same question and rejecting my answers… well just show me where that alleged proof is? what is the proof?
Chris: And that in itself you take to be reason to believe that there is no proof of Christianity?
Chris: That’s ad hom.
DM: Chris, right… of course you read about informal logical fallacies.. how convenient
Chris: Have you ever taken logic?
DM: Chris, just show me the proof, I have no time for stupid word games, and fake “intellectual” poses
DM: Chris, show me your proof or I am leaving

Note: Notice that I do not let him pull me off subject now. At this point he has still not answered the questions I ask of him. He cannot justify this claim either. To try and prove that there is no proof of Christianity is to try and prove a universal negative, something he is not willing to do. He has to dodge my question and try to get me to move on to provide him with “proofs” so as to get the focus off of the fact that he cannot back up one of the very first assertions he makes. Pesky Christians, always demanding that we follow the rules of thought!

For some reason, I am expected to provide proof for something while he can make whatever assertions he wants to without backing them up. You will find this happening frequently in conversations with non-Christians who supposedly wish to engage you in debate. An abundance of unjustified assertions is too obvious a flaw of the so-called “New Atheism” and will eventually lead to its end. Do not get distracted by someone making assertions. Point out the assertions. Pick and assertion you want to probe. Ask for an assertion to be backed up. Do not let go until it becomes clear that the person cannot answer you. You can back your side up, the non-Christian cannot.

While this person continuously ignores my question and demands proof, he will not tell me what he considers proof. Notice that this makes it impossible for me to provide him with any proof. An elderly man can demand that a child provide him with H2O, but if the child does not know what H2O is, then the child is unable to grant the man’s wish. Before discussing proofs, we must define what we mean by “proof”. This person is unwilling to do so, and hence ends the conversation by leaving.

Chris: Okay, you did not answer my question, but we will move on.
Chris: What would you define as sufficient proof?
DM: Chris, just show me your d*** proof plz
Chris: What would it take for you to know that Christianity is true?
DM: do you have ONE?
DM: do you have ONE?
DM: DO YOU HAVE A PROOF?
DM: cut to the cahse
DM: show me the proof
DM: stupid word games
DM: giveme your arguments
DM: empty tomb?
DM: eyewitnesses
DM: whatever
Chris: No.
DM: just give me your stupid arguments
DM: right
Chris: I need for you to define for me what you mean by “proof”, or I cannot supply you with one.
DM: you dont have any argument, you just want to prove christianity true without ever having to argue FOR IT
DM: I know your games
DM: so called presupositionalist
DM: I have no time for it

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaiSHcHM0PA&hl=en&fs=1]

I would encourage the reader (especially the discouraged or confused reader) to go back through the conversation and watch again, very closely, for what happens. Assertions and assumptions are made, and when I address them and press DM on why he either asserts or assumes them, he wants to move on. The Bible teaches that the unbeliever has no defense, which is sufficient for me to believe that this is the case. However, I have found this lack of a defense on the part of unbelievers confirmed over and over again in my experience as well. The conversation posted here is no exception. Simply asserting that Christianity cannot be proven true while demanding “proof” (without ever explaining what that means) is hardly showing that unbelieving thought is able to stand up to the demands that Scripture necessarily places upon it.


Can the existence of God be proven?

The claim is often made that the existence of God cannot be proven. Some people wonder why so much time is wasted on attempting to prove the existence of God when this is the case. There are even a great number of believers who do not think the existence of God can be proven. I cannot help but think that this false notion is usually based upon the sad history of traditional proofs for the existence of God. Traditional proofs start with the would-be autonomous human and allegedly move to finally establish the existence of God. It is not surprising, then, to see that these proofs fail for a variety of reasons. Believers are sometimes brought to question their faith more through being presented with these proofs than they would have had they never heard such arguments.

Presuppositional apologetics differ from traditional approaches to apologetics in many ways. Much unlike classical and evidentialist apologetics, what God thinks of things is taken into account first and foremost as opposed to what sinful humanity thinks of them. What humans have devised with respect to alleged proofs for the existence of God is of small import. Thus, when people make statements about our inability to prove the existence of God, we should dismiss what the creature has to say on the subject and turn immediately to what God has to say. What these objectors mean by “proof” may be tremendously different from what God means by it. If we seek to think through the objection that the existence of God cannot be proven utilizing the authority of Scripture rather than our own authority, we will ask if God has met His own standard of proof. The answer, of course, is that He has.

It is shocking to me to hear Christians state that the existence of God cannot be proven when God Himself gives a plethora of information in His Word regarding how He views the evidences and proofs for His existence. Do we really think we know more than God on this subject? What a silly thought! The reason humanity is without excuse before Almighty God is because God has, according to His own Word, provided sufficient reason to believe in Him. Every person who enters the world not only sees the glory of God in every fact of existence, but also knows God for who He is. If you doubt this, then I would recommend spending some time with passages like Psalm 19 and Romans 1. Such passages changed my entire outlook on apologetics, and it is my prayer that they would do the same for you!

The next time someone tells you that the existence of God cannot be proven, start questioning his or her bold assumption. Ask the individual how he or she came to this conclusion, what the individual means by “proof”, and whether or not the God of the Bible believes He has proven His own existence. To reject that God has given us sufficient evidence to prove His own existence is to call God a liar. We need only repeat what Scripture has to say in order to execute a sound biblical apologetic. Whether or not a person claims to be persuaded by the proof God provides of Himself is irrelevant to the truth that He has provided such proof. God’s view of things is the only one which matters. If we follow Scripture then we must understand that God has revealed Himself to everyone in such a way that it is ludicrous to claim that He does not exist. This ludicrousness is what the presuppositional apologist points out in the unbeliever’s worldview when he or she is faithful to the apologetic provided for us in God’s Word.


God Is The Potter

…my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored Him who lives forever,

for His dominion is an everlasting dominion,

and His kingdom endures from generation to generation;

all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,

and He does according to His will among the host of heaven

and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand

or say to Him, “What have you done?”

Daniel 4.34-35

That any human being might possess the ability to frustrate the will of God is one of many exceedingly arrogant doctrines taught in the Church today. Imagine the absurdity of worshipping a God who wills to do something but is unable to because His own creation stands in the way. Not only is this popular position on the relationship of God to created people unbiblical, but it would result in our inability to know anything if it were true.

A child has no trouble understanding that there is nothing to fear with respect to the mudpie she just made. A creation has no power over its creator. A potter does what he wants to do with the clay. So it is with God. (Romans 9.20-21) God is the Creator. We are created. (Genesis 2.7) Scripture everywhere attests to this distinction. To go against the great truth of God’s sovereignty over all of His creation is to turn one’s understanding of things on its head. Nevertheless, a great number of allegedly orthodox believers are plagued with this sinful would-be role reversal. Eve was told that she would be like God. (Genesis 3.5) Eve thought that she might know some fact independently of God. Eve was deceived. (1 Timothy 2.14) Those who reject passages of Scripture which clearly teach that God is sovereign as God are likewise deceived.

Our epistemology is revelational. We are able to have knowledge as we think God’s thoughts after Him. God made every fact what it is. God’s view of things is the only one which matters. For God, ‘all the facts are in’. Thus, we know a fact aright when our thoughts about that fact are in agreement with God’s thoughts.

The false, unbiblical theology which states that all of God’s will is not accomplished places humanity at the center of things and involves facts which are not created facts. Since, in this view, the creature is taken to possess enough power to overcome the will of God; there are some facts which God has not created. These are facts God has no control over. These are facts which exist apart from God. For example, if evil does not come about in accordance with the will of God, then it exists only because humanity or some other creature has willed that it exist apart from God’s will. Evil is falsely believed to be out of the control of God. The will of the creature trumps that of its Creator. The pot has overpowered the Potter. Some attempt to weasel their way out of this absurdity by submitting that only the possibility of evil is according to the will of God. However, this still places evil in God’s plan, a conclusion which runs counter to the claims of those who wrongfully think we possess the ability to resist the sovereign will of God.

Evil, like everything else, comes about according to the will of God. (Ephesians 1.11) That humanity should do evil has always been a part of God’s plan. (e.g. Acts 4.27-28) God is not Himself evil, nor does He Himself actually perform evil, but rather has planned that evil occur. In fact, everything which occurs does so according to God’s plan! (Isaiah 46.10) This includes conversion. (Ephesians 1.4) Every person who is converted to Christ is converted according to the will of God. (2 Thessalonians 2.13)

Both the fact of evil and the fact of conversion are facts created and hence controlled by God. If it were any other way, then we could not know anything, for there would be facts which exist independent of God. If there were even one fact which might be known apart from God, then there is no reason to suppose that it could not be the same for other facts. Therefore the current infatuation with the idea of a weak and pathetic god who is subject to the will of his own creatures is fatal to our epistemological endeavors. Everything is rendered unintelligible through this false conception of God due to its inherent inconsistency with the idea of facts deriving their meaning from God. No fact can exist or be known apart from God. Thus a theology which rejects the complete sovereignty of God is wholly inadequate to deal with the challenges of worldly philosophy and is incompatible with presuppositional apologetics.


The Problem of Evil – Part 4

Two Considerations for a Solution

There are two considerations when offering a solution to the Problem of Evil from a Presuppositional standpoint. In order to look at the first, let’s reconsider the formalized statement of the problem:

a) God is all powerful
b) God is all loving
c) God knows that evil exists
d) Evil does exist
e) Therefore, God does not exist

Notice that this takes the form of a deductive argument, meaning that the conclusion “God does not exist” follows with necessity just as long as every one of the premises is true, and just as long as the form of the argument itself is valid (which in this case, it is).

An important aspect of the argument above to recognize is the difference between premises a-c, and premise d. In presenting this argument, the unbeliever is stating premises a-c as hypotheticals; that is, according to the claims of Christianity, premises a-c are true. However, premise d is presented as fact. 9 times out of 10 the unbeliever does not say “the Bible claims that evil exists”, but rather “evil exists”. Let’s consider why this distinction matters.

When presenting the argument above, the unbeliever is attempting to demonstrate the truth of all of his/her premises in order to demonstrate the conclusion is true. We, as believers, “give” premises a-c to the unbeliever, since those are the attributes of God found in the Bible. However, we don’t need to “give” premise d to the unbeliever, at least not at the outset.

Please note that I am not claiming that we, as Christians, do not believe evil exists – we obviously do. However, as the burden is on the unbeliever to make their case, there is a real benefit in pressing them to demonstrate that premise d is true. After all, if a demonstration of the existence of evil is not forthcoming from the unbeliever, then they have failed to prove that God does not exist. The purpose in taking this tack is not to avoid the question of whether evil exists, but rather to press the unbeliever’s worldview to demonstrate their inability to make the argument in the first place.

With that said, ask the unbeliever to demonstrate that evil exists. In doing so, be sure to clarify that they must offer an objective demonstration of this, if they wish to demonstrate their conclusion that God does not exist. This is exactly the point at which you can press the issue of worldviews, as the unbeliever does not have an objective, non-arbitrary set of presuppositions to use as a foundation to demonstrate that evil exists.

Short of offering an objective foundation for the existence of evil, the best the unbeliever can do is turn to you and state “but don’t you believe evil exists?” This is exactly what you want them to ask!

We will cover the second consideration next time around, and offer the Biblical answer to the problem.

— BK


C.S. Lewis…The Presuppositionalist?

Even though I strongly disagree with C.S. Lewis in many areas, I find myself strongly attracted to his ability to display the truth in powerful and beautiful words all at once. I have pulled some quotes from the works of C.S. Lewis that I most certainly agree with and could never dream of improving upon. Some of these thoughts are representative of the presuppositional method of apologetics, which I cannot imagine anyone ascribing to C.S. Lewis. If the claims of this method of apologetics are true though, we should expect to find it resting at the bottom of apologists’ arguments.

I pray that you will read closely, slowly, and savor every word. Afterall, “100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased”. These are serious matters, and no one could make certain that we understood this more than Lewis could.

Atheism

“The notion that everyone would like Christianity to be true, and therefore all atheists are brave men who have accepted the defeat of all their deepest desires, is simply impudent nonsense.”

“A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere—’Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,’ as Herbert says, ‘fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.”

Presuppositionalism

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. … Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying that it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

“If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes…it cuts its own throat.”

“When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.”

Evidence of God

“The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it.”

“‘Something of God…flows into us from the blue of the sky, the taste of honey, the delicious embrace of water whether cold or hot, and even from sleep itself.'”

“If the universe is so bad…how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?”

Morality

“Whenever you find a man who says he doesn’t believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.”

“This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”

“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.”

Redemption

“We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin.”

“Every uncorrected error and unrepented sin is, in its own right, a fountain of fresh error and fresh sin flowing on to the end of time.”

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”


Implicit Contradictions

Well, I haven’t made much progress with the “Militant Atheist” I spoke of the other day, but I have gotten him to contradict himself. It happened in another part of the same discussion thread, where he and I were basically trading insults (yes, I know – I shouldn’t even bother). Here is how the conversation went (btw, I changed his handle to “MA” to protect his identity):

MA: “The only standard that needs to be considered is the scientific method. If you can’t do it, then just admit it so I can quit wasting my time.”

BK: “If this is a waste of time why do you continue to respond?”

MA: “Becuase I enjoy watching you avoid something we both know you can’t do. It is funny”

BK: “Well which is it? Do you want me to “admit” something and stop wasting your time, or do you want me to keep it up so you can “enjoy” yourself?”

Pointing out this implicit contradiction (that he wanted me to stop what I was doing as it was a waste of time, yet he really wanted me to keep doing it as he enjoyed it) really changes nothing in the overall discussion between us. However, pointing out such slip-ups helps keep us both on our toes.

— BK


Succinct

It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to reason about our presuppositions.

The most natural approach to reasoning, I believe, is to rest upon our presuppositions blindly, without thinking about them at all. This is apparent to me time and time again in discussions I have with unbelievers. A rather enormous challenge in presuppositional apologetics, therefore, is getting your opponent to see that they have presuppositions, and that they must give an account for them. This is no easy task, believe me! The discussion I had two days ago was no exception.

There is this discussion board that I literally “lived” on for the past 7 years, that I have only now begun to wean myself from. It hasn’t been all bad, actually – I learned a great deal about the beliefs of others, and about what I didn’t know about my own beliefs by spending time on that board. My skin grew thick from the constant abuse I took there, and my skills as an apologist grew greatly from what they were when I started out.

Two days ago I ventured back to that board, and entered into a discussion about prayer. Never one to give even an inch to Christianity, this individual latched on to one of my comments and immediately challenged me to prove that “my god” answers prayer. Seeing an opportunity to challenge his presuppositions, I responded – and we were off!

After a few exchanges, where he challenged me to prove the truth of the Bible, I said to him “I’m not trying to prove the authority of scripture – I am relying upon it“, realizing – hoping actually – that he would challenge me to account for what I was relying upon. Sure enough, he responded with “Well, before you can rely on it, you must prove it is valid“. After some more back and forth, he set the bar with the following – “The ONLY way to demonstrate that the bible is true is by hard evidence and facts“. This was the perfect lead-in to start to challenge him about his standard, which I proceeded to do.

I then asked him “what standard are you measuring [your standard] against” and “why should you use this standard, and not another?” His response? “The validity of my standard can be validated in every observation that that has ever been made that resulted in a hypothesis that was tested and validated (or not) since the beginning of history.

This was just what I was hoping for. I countered with “So your standard is validated by using the very thing your standard relies upon – evidence, reasoning, and the scientific method“, hoping that he would see the circular nature of his argument. He didn’t. It required another few rounds of back and forth before he finally realized he couldn’t simply assume that his standard was valid, and responded with “Okay then, how would you suggest demonstrating the validity of the scientific method?“.

I will likely return to the board in the next day or so to respond, at which point I have no idea how far I will get with him.

Regardless, this conversation got me thinking. There has to be a way to make presuppositionalism succinct. There has to be a way to get right to the heart of the matter, within just a few minutes, because there is so much time to spend after you reach that point. What is that “heart of the matter” of which I speak? Getting your opponent to realize that they are arguing from a standard – a worldview – that itself needs to be accounted for.

This is one of my goals to tackle – to figure out a “formula” (for lack of a better word) to accomplish this.

Thoughts?

— BK