A Different Set of Rules
Imagine you are at a friend’s house playing a game of pool. Your friend begins the game by breaking, but not a single ball goes into a pocket. Now it is your turn. You step up, adjust your pool stick just right, and sink a striped ball into a side pocket. You call solids but your friend objects.
“Huh? You can’t be solids. You sank a striped, so you are stripes.”
“Nope. It doesn’t go by what kind of ball you sink first. Being the first to sink a ball just means that you get to choose first, not that you are stuck with whatever kind of ball you sink. The first person to sink a ball gets to choose either stripes or solids.”
Your friend remains unconvinced by your explanation. It is obvious that he has learned the rules of pool differently than you have or at least plays the game differently than you do.
Or imagine you and a friend are playing basketball half-court. You make the first shot of the game. Your friend grabs the ball, heads to the top of the key and then immediately drives in and attempts a layup. She makes the shot and smiles because she thinks she has scored, but this does not seem right to you.
“You didn’t check! You are supposed to take the ball back, pass it to me, I pass it back, and then you can go. You have to check the ball first! You can’t just take the ball and go straight back in with it after I score!”
Your friend only smiles and boasts, “Yes I can! I just did”.
Clearly the people in these two scenarios are playing their games by different rules. All of us are familiar with similar situations. Sports and games tend to have a staggering number of variations in how they are to be played and this can often lead to disagreement amongst players. Virtually everyone recognizes that the way to prevent such disagreements and to be able to play a game and enjoy it is to have a clear set of rules in place before the game begins.
Now let us imagine a debate between an atheist and a Christian on the subject of the existence of God. In the stories about playing pool and basketball there were difficulties playing the games because the rules were not set down first. The players were playing by different sets of rules. Now ask yourself if this might not be the case when it comes to a debate between a Christian and an atheist as well. Christians and non-Christians “play” by a different set of rules, and this prevents them from having meaningful and fruitful conversation.
When it comes to disagreements about the existence of God people usually want to proceed without ever setting down a clear set of rules by which to make a case. We often assume that we are all thinking along the same lines as to what the rules are when it comes to discussions about God and truth and knowledge and other such subjects. This assumption is unfortunate because Christians and non-Christians “play” by a different set of rules. The amount of literature written about the subject of the existence of God could fill libraries, yet if we searched through all of the volumes of what has been written on this topic we would likely find very little mention about the rules we should follow when addressing the topic of the existence of God.
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