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Atheism Refuted…Easily (Part 3- Atheism’s Fatal Flaw)
Opponents of naturalism/atheism recognize that it has an incurable flaw in the area of knowledge and rationality. Rationality typically means that an idea is known and justified on the basis of reason (as opposed to tradition or emotional grounds). i.e. the idea is logical and not foolish. A careful analysis of atheism reveals a problem so serious that it fails as a legitimate worldview worthy of adherence by rational persons. It is a worldview that is fundamentally irrational. If you are an atheist and you are reading this post, then I mean no disrespect, but your worldview has a fatal flaw that should cause you to reconsider your point of view. If you disagree, at the very moment you attempt to refute my point of view, you lose the debate. Consider the problem that, Dr. Paul Cox, suggests:
If naturalism [atheism] is true, then human reason must be the result of natural forces. Natural forces are not rational, nor can they be the result of a rational cause [or intelligent mind]. It would follow, then, that human reason is the result of non-rational causes. If human reason is the result of non-rational causes, there is strong reason to distrust human reason, especially in its theoretical exercises. Atheism itself is an exercise of theoretical reason. If it is true, there are strong reasons to distrust theoretical reasoning. If theoretical reasoning should be distrusted, then particular applications of it should be distrusted, too. If atheism is true, we have strong reasons to distrust that it is true.
If an atheist, therefore, agrees to debate a theist, he must at least agree on the preconditions necessary to have a debate. But what are those preconditions? The atheist and the theist agree on preconditions for debate such as the existence of reason, logic, principles of thought such as the law of non-contradiction, the possibility of intelligence and knowledge that can on some level come to understand and describe the real world. The necessary preconditions for disagreement to be possible, make more sense in a theistic worldview. Christian theist Doug Wilson states:
The atheist wants to say there is a correspondence between what he is saying and what is actually going on out there in the universe. He wants to claim that atheism is more than random neurons firing in the brains of atheists; he wants to say that atheism is in fact true. He wants to say that a debate between an atheist and a Christian is really possible. He says that the arguments he presents correspond to the way the world actually is. But on what basis does he assume such a correspondence? How can he show that a certain tiny subset of matter in motion has suddenly decided to give an incisive and cogent account of itself? If someone spilled the milk on the kitchen floor, and we wanted to know what had happened, we wouldn’t, as a general rule, ask the milk. It doesn’t know about such things; it is the accident.
This line of thinking demonstrates the inherent and fatal flaw of of atheism in the area of knowledge and rationality and is support that the theory is self-refuting. As philospher Alvin Plantiga suggests in his Warranted Christian Belief, “the scandal of atheistic skepticism is that I am relying on the very cognitive faculties whose unreliability is the conclusion of my skeptical argument.” Even Charles Darwin himself felt the force of this objection in relation to his theory of evolution. He states, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
The problem of the existence of knowledge and rationality for an atheist is insurmountable. Keep in mind that an atheist makes the claim that the super-natural does not exist while simultaneously affirming the existence of true debate. But the preconditions I mentioned earlier like the laws of logic are not material/natural nor are they conventional. Logic and reason exist universally and are thus non-material or super-natural. Atheists and a theists agree that they disagree. Even if they didn’t there would still be a difference between the claims and thus it must follow that there exists certain preconditions for true debate, i.e. contradiction to take place. Indeed, both the theist and atheist assume the authority of reason and both see a correspondence between rationality and the external world. The atheist assumes that the proposition “God exists” and the proposition “God does not exist” are mutually exclusive. This assumption is inconsistent within an atheistic worldview because atheism at the ultimate level is mind-less and must admit that rationality is untrustworthy. Yet, at the same time, an atheist also assumes that reasoning has validity by the mere fact that he tries to make rational arguments. i.e. he acknowledges that thinking about the world is capable of genuine insight and can correspond to reality. CS Lewis in his book on miracles argues that, “all possible knowledge…depends on the validity of reasoning…[and] unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.”
The atheist’s acceptance of the validity of reason while necessarily denying its trustworthiness is evidence of its incoherence. Just as a theist is called to give an account of why he thinks God exists, an atheist must also provide “proofs” for the existence of his rationality. However, if the universe is as the atheist claims- nothingmore than time and chance acting on matter in motion, then how can a non-physical and authoritative rationality be explained? And even if the existence of reason can be explained, on what basis can the explanation be trusted? How could intelligent minds arise by chance out of mindless matter in motion?
The atheist cannot consistently answer these questions. He must simply assert that the chemical reactions in his brain are true and that the chemical reactions in the theist’s brain are false. But how can chemical reactions be true or false? Are they no all simply chemical reactions coming from mindless matter in motion- neither true nor false?
Ultimately, the atheist must realize that according to his view, chaotic chemical reactions of mindless matter in motion cannot be objectively true. If he makes the claim that his views are “true,” then he is inconsistent with his own view. Any assertion of “truth” for an atheist is a contradiction because in his view there can be no reason or rationality above physical and material causes. Again the former atheist Lewis argues:
No account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory, which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound- a proof that there are no such things as proofs- which is nonsense.
An atheist, therefore, who merely assumes a difference in value between his truth claims and those of a theist, by making any arguments at all is inconsistent, and demonstrates the irrationality of his own worldview, which denies an ordered and rational life of the mind. In order for an athesit to be consistent, he would have to stop making truth claims, but even this attempt at consistency assumes the need for consistency, which is again inconsistent.
To close, let me say boldly that the existence of objective truth and rationality clearly confirms the bankruptcy of atheism as a worldview. Philosopher Ronald Nash agrees in his article Miracles and Conceptual Systems:
It is hard to see why naturalism [atheism] is not self-referentially absurd. Before any person can justify accepting it on rational grounds, it is first necessary to reject a cardinal tenet of the naturalist position. In other words, the only way people can provide rational grounds for believing in naturalism is to cease being naturalists.”
I hope this post has been an encouragment to you in your journey toward the Truth.
25 responses to “Atheism Refuted…Easily (Part 3- Atheism’s Fatal Flaw)”
First off, logic is a series of laws. You can write them out on paper- in fact that is generally how we do it. Now, you say that there is no reason to trust human rationallity because it is based on random natural forces and guess what? Most people aren’t rational!
How do we know the ones who claim to be rational are? Because they analyze their statments and beliefs and take apart the assumptions. In short, they put work into it.
You also seem caught up on “chemical reactions”. Notice the computer- it uses eletrical impulses. And does it work, can it do logical problems and the like? Yes. Sure its made, but our mind has a similar advantage- it was sculpted by millions of years of evolution, with the flawed mindsets, the unhelpful and the useless weeded out and eliminated.
In short, our minds are reliable to finding out about reality because that is what they are optimized for.
This is known as the transendential argument- that atheism can’t account for logic, reason and the like. What most people tend to forget when saying this is that logic was invented by the Greeks and their are situations where it doesn’t apply (Quantum Mechanics- heck the cat paradox blatantly violates the principle that something has to be either A or not A).
As for your truth comment… reminds me of this:
Mr Skinner, I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts and respond. Just a quick reply from me will do:
1. Human rationality can’t be trusted or explained in an atheistic worldview as my post makes clear. In a theistic context however, rationality can be explained and trusted.
2. I appreciate the computer illustration as it shows how order can only come from intelligence. The amount of time is irrelevant.
3. The Greeks didn’t invent logic- they discovered it. To say they invented it is like saying that mathematics was invented. 1 + 1 was equal to 2 even before humans realized it. Humans discovered the universal that was always there- Logic and math are not conventions of human mind.
4. There is no situation where the laws of logic don’t apply. Quantum Mechanics is obviously very complicated and there are things yet to be explained. However, something A will never be not A at the same time or respect. A being cannot exist and not exist simultaneously. Logic applies everywhere and this cannot be refuted without contradiction and self-refutation. God is logic! John 1:1- In the beginning was the logos (logic)…
To simplify- according to atheism there is no non-physical realm. We might as well be rocks debating. But rocks can’t debate unless they become intelligent and use logic. To say that one rock is “true” while the other “false” is nonsense. In order to even disagree with me you have to borrow elements from the theistic worldview like logic, math, which are non-material universals that are inexplicable in a naturalistic worldview.
I hope things are well for you, friend.
I appreciate the computer illustration as it shows how order can only come from intelligence. The amount of time is irrelevant.
Nope. Sorry. I’m a computer scientist, and I’m here to tell you why you’re wrong.
Neural networks can do logic. We would never have ‘intelligently designed’ a neural network if we hadn’t seen how brains work first. At first glance, they seem utterly unfeasable – kind of like how most people’s first reaction to Wikipedia was that it could never possibly work. But it does, and so do neural networks.
Neural networks can plausibly evolve computation capacity all on their own. All logic can be expressed in the form of the addition of numbers, and as such all logic is computational.
Logic is no more supernatural than the natural numbers. They don’t need to come from anywhere. They just are.
You can argue as much as you want that all things have to come from somewhere. However, if all things must come from somewhere, and you think that that something was a designer, this then begs the question; where did the designer come from?
If it didn’t have to come from anywhere, why not save a step? Logic and the natural numbers didn’t have to come from anywhere.
If the designer is atemporal and has as such always exsited, why not save a step? Logic and the natural numbers are atemporal and as such have always existed.
You’re trying to say that our capacity for logic is evidence of design because it cannot be explained naturalistically. I have shown you this is false – it *can* be explained naturalistically, and it is not a good reason to postulate the existence of a designer.
Logic does not contradict the naturalistic worldview.
Mr. Skinner, you might be a scientist but I am a philosopher of science, which has precedence- haha :) Your assertion of correctness does not make it so. You are obviously very intelligent. However, your philosophy seems confused. Can you tell me if there are any computers anywhere that did not at some point in the causal chain get programmed by an intelligence? At some point there was a programmer.
Bro, its simple. Logic and Numbers are not conventions of the human mind. The laws of logic, etc. are universals which can not be explained in natural terms. Naturalism only admits to materiality. Laws of logic are not material. How could a merely materialistic universe (a foundation of naturalism) admit nonphysical entities like logic? Logic is information and information only comes from intelligence. Try to imagine a world without any rationality/intelliegence. There would be no information. Information/order (as I said) can only come from intelligence.
You said “Logic does not contradict the naturalistic worldview.” I encourage you to re-read my post and understand it, because the existence of logic and rationality is precisely what contradicts naturalism- that’s its fatal flaw. Naturalism self-refutes
Rand, it seems to me that you have made another circular argument: It is more rational to adopt a theistic world view than a naturalistic world view because we need god as the guarantor of reason and the relationship between minds matter. Here you are assuming the existence of the thing that says you got the right answer.
Christian theist Doug Wilson states:
“The atheist wants to say there is a correspondence between what he is saying and what is actually going on out there in the universe. He wants to claim that atheism is more than random neurons firing…”
The current state of human intelligence and reason is the result of an evolutionary process that is not random. It has been regulated by natural selection through the interaction of life forms with their environment. At any stage of evolution the capacity any organism form a more accurate picture of the given environment is a great selective advantage.
Consider the problem that, Dr. Paul Cox, suggests:
“If naturalism [atheism] is true, then human reason must be the result of natural forces. Natural forces are not rational, nor can they be the result of a rational cause [or intelligent mind]. It would follow, then, that human reason is the result of non-rational causes. If human reason is the result of non-rational causes, there is strong reason to distrust human reason, especially in its theoretical exercises.”
Why is it necessary that the causes of human reason must be rational? There is no necessity that cause and effect must share similar attributes. Humans have evolved to a point where our brains are sufficiently large and complex that we can form abstract the concepts that transcend the concrete examples of our external environment. Logic and mathematics are based Axioms. These axioms are not based on any causal necessity, but we consider them worthy of universal application because we cannot think of a circumstance in which they do not hold true. Reason, logic, principles of thought such as the law of non-contradiction are rooted in our situation of perceiving the world in three dimensions with time as the one dimensional mode of experience. No doubt if we had access to more or fewer dimensions of experience, we would think differently about these things.
Theists really want God more than truth, knowledge, rationality or logic. The God of Christian apologetics is itself an abstraction that is rooted in logical and philosophical reflections. It bears little resemblance to the God of Abraham or the Jesus of the New Testament
Peace be with you, Rand
I did not make a positive case for theism in this post. Rather I reflected on Atheism’s incurable flaw. In other words I did not start with God in the premise and conclude God in the conclusion- thus the argument was not circular. However, if atheism is false, then because of the law of the excluded middle, some form of theism is true. Here is an expanded argument:
If objective truth exists, then relativism is irrational.
If atheism is relativistic, then atheism is irrational.
If objective truth exists, then either God exists or He does not. (There is no middle ground- the law of the excluded middle)
Objective truth exists
Atheism is relativistic
Relativism is irrational
Atheism is irrational
God exists (theism, in some form, is true if atheism is irrational, there is no middle ground)
You are not quite seeing the problem with atheism. You said its not random- so you are redifining atheism. This is something you have to do in order to have any case. Atheism by definition is irrational- everything is matter in motion, not guided by any sort of intelligence. Thoughts in your view do not result from an immaterial mind but somehow result from the chemical reactions and electrical stimuli of the brain and central nervous system. There is absolutely no way in a naturalistic world that we would have any reason to assume that the movement of atoms in our brains produces actually true propositions. And if we could produce true propositions, in your view we could not trust them.
A former atheist wrote this:
“The theory that thought is merely a movement in the brain is, in my opinion, nonsense; for if so, that theory itself would be merely a movement, an event among atoms, which may have speed and direction but of which it would be meaningless to use the words ‘true’ or ‘false’. ” C.S. Lewis
Furthermore Doug Wilson agrees:
“If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true , but rather because of a series of chemical reactions… … Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.”
thanks for your comment-
May God be with you
Hi Rand – you certainly do stay up late! I’m not usually up to writing web posts at 12:55. I guess you have to eek out blog time when you can.
I am looking forward to your posts making your positive case for theism and I’m sure I will have plenty to say on those.
Objective truth certainly exists in the sense that the universe is what it is regardless of whether we understand it correctly or not. Naturalism (or atheism) is irrational in the sense that does not support an a priori guaranty of the correctness of any of our reckonings. The real validation of human intelligence and understanding comes from our ability to make scientific predictions about the universe at any level that are subsequently confirmed by discoveries or experiments. Our knowledge remains provisional and subject to falsification by further discoveries, but it progressively encompasses more facets of nature as we go. We should certainly make every effort to understand the universe as it is using the best tools and methods at our disposal. Theism is a hold over from the ages in we had more logic than science.
You said: “Thoughts in your view do not result from an immaterial mind but somehow result from the chemical reactions and electrical stimuli of the brain and central nervous system.” Where have you observed an “immaterial mind” that exists outside of a brain? Where does that notion even come from? It is clearly an abstraction extrapolated from your mind and my mind etc. The only purpose it serves is to support an a priori guaranty of our epistemology
You said: “You said its not random- so you are redifining atheism. This is something you have to do in order to have any case. Atheism by definition is irrational- everything is matter in motion, not guided by any sort of intelligence.” What I actually said is that human intelligence is the result of an evolutionary process that is not random. Theist arguments in general far overstate the role of random movements of atoms. Our understanding of the brain and the mind has progressed somewhat since the days of Epicurus and Lucretius, which is where the writers you cite seem to be stuck.
Neil, we will oviously not resolve the issues here as the most brilliant minds in the world throughout the ages have taken different sides. Also, I’m pretty sure my camp is up to speed with current evolutionary theory. Indeed, one of my professors has just written a significant and lengthy refutation of Daniel Dennet’s theory of consciousness. As far as the existence of the mind/soul, their are numerous evidences in support of an an immaterial aspect to the human being. Anyway, thanks for your input. Since I don’t know the future, I will remind you today that God revealed himself in Jesus Christ and died for your sins. One day every knee will bow before him. My prayer is that someday you will use your intellect to glorify your Maker. Until then may God be with you in your search for Truth. I had to add the little gospel piece. I’m a pastor what do you expect? ;)
I would like to point out that to say you are an atheist is a statement of belief, not one of knowledge.
To say you are agnostic is a statement of knowledge, in the sense that you are saying “I can not know for sure.”
To be an agnostic atheist is to say you cannot be sure there is no god without being all-knowing yourself, however you do not believe one exists. Obviously to criticize someone for this stance would lead to their criticizing of your own ‘leaps of faith’.
Also, learning more about the concept of naturalism may enlighten you more about many of the questions you asked about.
CJ thanks for the input. I appreciate you trying to clarify things. Regarding the leaps of faith I’d encourage you to read my “Is your mom your mom” blog. Regarding my understanding of naturalism- I probably get the logical conclusions of a naturalistic worldview better than most anti-theists. I’ve been studying this stuff and seeking to know true Reality since I was about 17 and have come to the conclusion that naturalism is not as worthy of adherence for rational persons as Christian Theism. I’m sure you disagree but there really is a plethora of evidence for a reasonable faith in Christ. You might be interested to read the works of Francis Schaeffer, CS Lewis, JP Moreland, and other such Christian apologists like the ones listed on my mentor thinker list before you get too saturated into atheism. I truly care about your soul and hope that we can continue to dialogue about various ideas. peace out
I think you make a few assumptions there which seem to be a bit arrogant to me. Many of the most brilliant minds in history have come to the conclusion that there is not a god, and though others have not, I believe it is a bit conceited to claim to be able to write either side off completely. I believe that it is a personal decision which cannot be debated or proven wrong entirely by anyone, and as a result neither belief nor non-belief are fatally flawed.
I realize there have been works written that are pro-Christian, and there are others that are against it. At the end of the day I can tell you with some certainty that while I will never lock myself behind one stance, I highly doubt that I would choose to follow the Catholic church even if I did reconvert to Christianity itself.
CJ, I tend toward arrogance so forgive me if you felt belittled. Its pretty tough to not get passionate when I’m utterly convinced that the evidence makes the veracity of the Christian worldview probable- not to mention my own experiences. I realize that there are good arguments on both sides but the fact is either the Supernatural exists or It does not. The law of the excluded middle necessitates that. I think there are many strong arguments for the Supernatural and that the nature and personality of God can be known. I genuinely think that any non-Christian worldview has a serious problem not be self -refuting on some level. At the philosophical level- there is good evidence. and at the Historical level- there is good evidence. There has yet to come out (in my opinion) a sufficient naturalistic explanation for the historical fact of the Resurrection of Jesus. and this historical fact as you know makes or breaks my worldview. If Christ has not risen then I am wasting my time writing this. But if He has, then His worldview takes precedence.
I can understand where you are coming from and can say that I also sometimes get angered or passionate about what I perceive to be persistent idiocy from someone with different views. However, you must admit that as a pastor you have somewhat of a biased leaning in any philisophical argument.
I have not seen anything proving to me the ressurection of Jesus. I have seen – not undoubtable proof – but substantial proof that Jesus did infact live, and I do believe he was a real person. That said, “messiahs” of that time were not uncommon at all with so many minorities and peoples experiencing hard times. In fact, Jesus was less influential when weighted up against some of this ‘competition’. Does that matter? If you believe in the ressurection, not at all.
Again, you state that the ressurection was an actual, proven event, but I will not take such heavy words at face value. The Shroud of Turin was carbon dated to the year 1300. I’ll happily consider anything else you can show me.
I think another difference between us is the starting point we both use when viewing ideas. You have accepted Jesus Christ, obviously, and thus see any other explanation as needing to be bulletproof, fully understood, and easily taught in order to be changed from that belief – a lot like trying to get a Cubs fan to root for the Cardinals. To the contrary, I believe that Intelligent Design is not acceptable, and thus try to put stock in theories which seem most likely – since humanity does not have all the answers, at least at this point in time. If another theory comes along that convinces me more than the one I currently think is right, I can change to it knowing that there isn’t a burning pit of doom hanging on my answer.
I hope I don’t offend you, but I wanted to post again because I do want to see the proof you speak of.
I have decided to follow Jesus for various reasons all of which I can not detail here. However, there is strong evidence (outside of the Bible) for the existence of the God who is revealed in the Bible. Believing in Yahweh is intellectually justified for many reasons, and (not that this makes it true) but a good amount of professional philosophers are Christian theists
Also, the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians chapter 15 says something that is very strange- He tells them that if Christ is not raised from the dead, that their faith is in vain and they are dead in their sins (if there is such a thing as sin). He bases the worthy of their faith on the actual reality of Christ’s resurrection. He himself claimed to have encountered the risen Christ and it was his preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus to save His people from their sins as the Old Testament Scriptures had foretold that ultimately caused Paul to be killed. Interestingly this is the same fate of all who claimed to be witnessees of Jesus resurrection and who proclaimed the message that Jesus taught. Indeed, Jesus himslef was killed because of His claims to divine Sonship, and for teaching the reality that He would forgive His people’s sins, and then rise from the dead to prove that he could and that what He taught was true truth.
I could make a strong case for the veracity of the resurrection of Christ but there are many books that do just that- (See Habermas, Craig, Moreland, or some of my other mentor thinkers). Of course, considering Jesus influence on the world, His staggering claims to be God incarnate, and the mere possibility of His resurrection, should cause anyone seriously seeking truth to find out for sure whether Jesus Christ was or was not who He claimed to be- the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Personally, I am convinced that there is too much evidence in favor of the truth of His claims than against and so I have decided to follow Him primarily because He shed His blood for my soul on the cross. I do not believe blindly but rather put my trust in Him who has revealed His nature and will through what He has made and through the Bible so that none are without excuse.
Finally, I think the naturalistic worldview ultimately borrows capital from Christianity as I tried to point out in this post by using rationality to argue for a position which ultimately must deny it. Yahweh is the fountain of all that is true and good and beautiful- including logic and rationality. Some think that God is the essence of love. This is true, but He is also the source of Logic. Indeed God is Logic and thus to use rationality and logic to argue against your Creator is like a little girl sitting on her daddy’s lap and slapping Him in the face.
Jeff Lowder wrote this critique of William Lane Craig’s argument for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. He makes a point of accepting all of Craig’s factual cliams and assumptions and argues that all of the evidence is better explained by an initial provisional burrial followed by re-burrial of the body of Jesus.
This may provide a helpfull (and free) counter-balance to the many books arguing for the resurrection.
Jeff Lowder has been rebutted several times over and in my opinion does not hold an intellectual candle to William Lane Craig. The weight of the evidence in favor of Jesus’ resurrection is almost insurmountable at this point in game. I have attached a solid refutation of Lowder’s two burials hyposthesis for those who are interested.
This is simply one of many thoughtful responses to what is not really a new idea.
You call that a rebuttal? I’d call it a scolding for not accepting Holy Scriptures at face value. I sure it must infuriate believers when someone applies critical reading and naturalistic assumptions to your scripture. Jeff Lowder may be a “poor exegete” in that he does not treat all passages as mutually reinforcing so that Matthew, Luke and John are merely providing details that were implicit in Mark. Jeff Lowder’s analysis is very credible by the standards that historians use in evaluating ancient texts. If Lowder has not succeeded persuading many believers, I don’t think William Lane Craig has persuaded many historians who were not already believers either. I’m sure we will get into more specifics in future postings.
Yeah, I call that a relatively good rebuttal for laymen! There are much more sophisticated works out their but there is only so much time in the day. I’m sure some believers get upset when their faith in the Scriptures and its veracityh are challenged but that is because many believers don’t know the reasons for trusting it and are reactionary. However, I do not get upset by people who apply naturalistic assumptions to the text. It has been done for centuries. In my opinion it is a faulty methodology. The New Testament documents have been demonstrated to be historically reliable. Even if we don’t admit all the writings as many unbeleiving scholars do not, from a minimalist approach (the approach that only admits the texts that are agreed to be historically valid by even the most ardent critics) we can still admit the resurrection of Jesus as the most plausible explanation of all the evidence. We don’t have to use the Bible as the Bible in a circular fashion to demonstrate this. We have good reason to think that a Personal God exists and so it is not ridiculous to expect that He would make Himself known or to expect that miracles take place. If the evidence supports the resurrection, then we should not make every attempt to explain it away simply because we have a philosophical bias that does not admit miracles. If Jesus rose from the dead which seems pretty apparent to me from the actual evidence, then naturalism is false.
Your post is full of so many points I wish to address but I will only talk about some for lengths sake..
Quote: “many believers don’t know the reasons for trusting it and are reactionary”
Do you think this is a good thing? Especially the “reactionary” bit. Replace that word with “Defensive” or “Intolerant.”
Quote: “New Testament documents have been demonstrated to be historically reliable”
I can’t respond better than this: http://www.offendedyet.com/2008/04/truth.html
You then go on to talk about how you don’t HAVE to use circular arguments, as though that would be a defense in the first place. Your main point seems to be that the resurrection refutes naturalism entirely and is from which everything else gains validity. Again, you talk about evidence of the resurrection which I would like to see.
I think the main thing you have to realize is that Atheists usually don’t believe in the resurrection.
We are all born naturalists (and atheists). From birth a child begins to learn by observing the behavior of people and objects in their world through their five senses. Everyone who believes in Jesus or God or miracles or angels does so because they were indoctrinated by people whom they trusted. Those people were indoctrinated by others before them. The cycle of indoctrination goes back to ancient times when someone believed a man who said that he had seen a vision of “Jesus who was raised from the dead.” The claim to have seen a Risen-Lord-God-Man was not that hard a sale to make among people who really wanted some heavenly help with the burdens of their lives – people who also commonly resorted to magic and superstition as tools to help themselves along.
We can save discussion of the historical reliability of the New Testament documents for a later day when you get to it in your blog presentation. A dead person coming back to life can never be the most plausible explanation for an empty tomb or anything else. Any naturalistic explanation has a higher inherent probability of being true.
Theological proofs of the existence of God are just logical exercises that do not lead to any testable hypotheses. There is an important difference between abstract objects and real objects: abstract objects do not do anything until we apply our minds to access them. They are tools we use in our reckonings but they are not currency like the money in our pockets.
Apologetics is not about finding answers to real questions or adapting human understanding as knowledge grows and changes. Apologetics is about defending propositions of orthodox dogma and proving that everything is just fine exactly as it has been handed down to us.
I assume that you are somewhat familiar with the work and careers of Robert Price and Bart Ehrman. They were both gifted philologists who started out as evangelicals but through the course of their studies became agnostic atheists. One thing that I heard from both of them was this: As they were studying Biblical criticism they realized that within their evangelical circles there were no critical questions. There were textual passages which required an apologetic explanation and texts which were not in question. They would never advance understanding of the Bible one iota because their job was really to defend the status quo. Is that where you want to be?
We are not all born naturalists as you suggest. Some philosophers, such as Alvin Plantiga, contend that beleif in God is a “properly basic belief.” this is a rather complicated issue that I will not tackle here. There are various philosophical schools oif thought regarding the issue of how humans first gain knowledge. You seem to be advocating empiricism which I think is a faulty schema. Also, I might be misunderstanding you but you seem to be committing the genteic fallacy by suggesting that the idead of God is false because people have been indoctrinated or because they want heavenly help with the burdens of their lives. It may be true that people are indoctrinated and that they believe in God because they want to, but that does not make the proposition “God exists” false. Human beings, as rational creatures, want to know if God exists. This desire stems from the longing to answer other essential questions such as: What is ultimately important? To what should I give my life? Is there anything worth dying for? What happens to me when I die? Or are there right, wrong, good, or bad actions? These questions exemplify the clearly identifiable human need to define the “good life,” and to know what is really significant. At the end of the day, all other questions pale in significance to the question of the reality of God’s existence; for the answer to this question affects every aspect of life to an infinite degree.
The importance of the question of God and its obvious relationship to the significance of life has caused some thinkers to suggest that the idea of God is merely a psychological projection created by the mind. To them, God does not exist in reality. Rather, He is an “opiate” or “crutch” of a humanity that wholeheartedly wants God to exist and so creates the idea of Him to meet their psychological desire. According to psychologist Sigmund Freud, the idea of God originated in humanity as a result of fear and Voltaire believed that, “If God does not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”
Are Freud, Voltaire, and others who declare that the idea of God is merely a psychological need created by the human mind right in their estimation? I do not think so. The conclusion of these thinkers has been obtained through improper reasoning. It is only reasonable to look for psychological explanations for the origin of an idea after we know, or think we know, that the idea is false. i.e. Freud and others beg the question by asserting that the idea of God is false because it is a mental construct, when it is the veracity of the idea of God that is the question at hand. Consequently, psychological explanations for the origin of the idea of God commit the genetic fallacy by deciding whether an idea is objectively true by looking at its subjective origin. J.P. Moreland, who received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Southern California and who has authored several books in the area of philosophy of religion agreees and writes, “The genetic fallacy is the fallacy of confusing the origin of a belief with its epistemological warrant, and faulting the belief because of its origin. Where a belief comes from is a different matter than why one should believe it…So it is an example of the genetic fallacy to fault the truth or rationality of theism due to the origin of the idea of God, even if one grants that the idea of God came from fears… But this form of argument cannot be used in place of rational assessment of the pros and cons of the case itself.”
You also mentioned Bart Ehrman. I have recently read and reviewed his work entitled “Misquoting Jesus.” I can agree with you that he is a gifted scholar, but his conversion to atheism was not because of textual issues only, it was because of his inability to answer the philosophical problem of evil. Also, their are many highly gifted scholars who have not denied the historical reliablity of the New or Old Testament manuscripts.
Finally, I do realize that my calling per se is to “defend” the Faith once delivered to the saints. At this stage of the game, there are certain truths that are being attacked- such as the reality of God, his revelation in the man Jesus, the veracity of the gospel message that Jesus, Paul, the discples and really all the prophets of old have communicated to humanity, etc. This does not mean that I am not open to learning new truths or modifying existing beliefs that I hold if they are philosophically defeated. but thus far I feel epistemically justified to maintain what I consider justified true belief in the truths just mentioned because the whole of the evidence points to their truth.
Naturalism and empiricism have proven to be right about more things than any other system of epistemology, methodology or philosophy. The science, technology, medicine, law of civil society – the things which make up the modern world that we enjoy – we owe to the prevalence naturalism and empiricism. Surely you don’t seek out a physician to balance your four humors. What do you think when you see in the news another report that a child has died because the parents opted for prayer only as their method of treatment?
Our human propensity to ask big picture questions does not count as evidence in favor of the proposition “God exists” any more than God being a mental construct perpetuated by indoctrination counts against it. The existence or non-existence of God is not a testable hypothesis. However, the existence or non-existence of God is not a necessary element of any scientific hypothesis. Therefore, it is certainly within one’s “epistemic rights” to doubt the existence of God and look for other explanations for the phenomenon of belief in God or Gods.
I do not especially embrace the “Genetic Fallacy.” People do not subscribe to beliefs, however comforting, if they do not actually believe that they are true. My point was that the bar was not set high for Paul to persuade people among the urban poor of the 1st Century that his visions were true. The culture was already steeped in religion and superstition so it was not a big step for people adopt his visions in place of or along side of others.
Humans do seem to have an innate propensity to infer unseen causes and agents for things that happen. The causes of lightning, thunder, eclipses etc spawned numerous and diverse explanations among pre-scientific people. All peoples seem to have developed their own taxonomy of lower level mystery agents that have flourished along side of their God or Gods: Leprechauns, fairies, elves, dwarfs, gnomes, trolls, hoo-doos and many others are all agents of good or bad luck. People have deep seated propensities to believe in luck and ways they can influence it just as they have propensities to look to unseen gods to answer their big-picture questions.
Through cognitive psychology and brain research we are making progress toward understanding our propensities toward religion and superstition.
To bring this comment block to a close I will quote the original post again.
“An atheist, therefore, who merely assumes a difference in value between his truth claims and those of a theist, by making any arguments at all is inconsistent, and demonstrates the irrationality of his own worldview, which denies an ordered and rational life of the mind. In order for an atheist to be consistent, he would have to stop making truth claims, but even this attempt at consistency assumes the need for consistency, which is again inconsistent.”
I am truly dumbfounded why atheists can’t get this very simple and fatal flaw in their position. As soon as they agree to debate they lose the debate.
Philosopher Ronald Nash agrees in his article Miracles and Conceptual Systems:
It is hard to see why naturalism [atheism] is not self-referentially absurd. Before any person can justify accepting it on rational grounds, it is first necessary to reject a cardinal tenet of the naturalist position. In other words, the only way people can provide rational grounds for believing in naturalism is to cease being naturalists.”
In other words, everytime atheists open their mouths to utter a word denying their Maker is like a little girl sitting on her daddy’s lap and slapping him in the face. Atheists need the foundation of logic (God) to even begin to make a case- and atheism atheism/pluralism cannot account for logic and so borrows rationality from the Christian God who is the source of logic.
Any atheist would do well to listen to the honest conclusions of former world renown atheist Antony Flew who with intellectual honesty claimed that in becoming a theist, “He had to go where the evidence leads.”
We could go back and forth all day, but it seems that no matter what evidence I put in front of atheists, they either do not see the obvious conclusions or they simply suppress the truth.
You’ve communicated what seems to me the ridiculous idea that belief in God is superstitous. That is hilarious! In truth, beleif in God is completely and utterly intellectually justified. And virtually all philosophers of any significance in the history of philosophy have thought the same way. I said before that there are three options: theism, pluralism, or monism. Pluralism/naturalism is as contrary to reason as saying the law of noncontradiction is not a unity. To suggest that theism is wishful thinking is a claim itself that is wishful thinking- nothing but sensational rhetoric.
At this point I will close this comment series, although I hope to see you on other posts. Thank you
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