Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category

Dichotomies and Options

February 25, 2016

Apparently some atheists with whom Matt Slick deals have been accusing him of presenting a false dichotomy. He’s not. Let me explain.

Matt has correctly identified the following as a dichotomy:

1) It is the case that God created the universe; or
2) It is not the case that God created the universe.

Matt has pointed out that if either of those statements is false, then the other is true.

The atheists have objected based on the fact that there are several possible ways by which (2) may be true, while (1) is false. For example:

(a) statement (1) is false if something other than God created the universe;
— (a)(i) statement (1) is false if Odin created the universe;
— (a)(ii) statement (1) is false if Zeus created the universe;
— (a)(iii) statement (1) is false if Krishna created the universe;
— (a)(iv) statement (1) is false if Allah created the universe;
(b) statement (1) is false if the universe is uncreated; and
(c) statement (1) is false if there is no universe.

While it’s true that there are (logically speaking) these various options, it does not follow that the dichotomy is not a true dichotomy.

Where the atheists would have a point is against the case where Matt demonstrated that (c) is false, and consequently affirmed that (1) is true. That would be a fallacious way of arguing – but that’s not what Matt does. Similarly, Matt doesn’t simply demonstrate that (a)(ii) is false, and consequently affirm that (1) is true. Instead, Matt demonstrates that (2) is false and consequently affirms that (1) is true.

In other words, the dichotomy is:

1) It is true that all of A, B, and C are true; or
2) It is not true that all of A, B, and C are true.

But it is still a dichotomy, and Matt’s argument is valid so long as he doesn’t simply jump from A is true, therefore 1 is true.


Does Religion Poison Everything?

April 7, 2015

One of the claims of the new atheists is that “Religion Poisons Everything.” This has been the subject of a number of debates. Typically, the non-atheist will point out folks like Stalin and Mao were not religious and yet were responsible for enormous harm. Thus, while religious people may also cause harm, the harm of atheism are even greater, certainly on a per capita basis. Some folks will also go farther and point out that the methodology used by atheists is fundamentally flawed – they don’t have any controlled comparative data upon which to make their conclusion. All of these are legitimate criticisms of the atheistic assertion – but it occurred to me that Christians are missing an opportunity or two here.

Religion affects everything. We should be willing to concede that it does, or at least should, affect everything. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a Christian cyclist will use a different kind of brakes, but religion (especially the true Christian religion) is a worldview. It affects everything – or should. The does not mean we all try to wear the same kind of sandals and robes that Jesus and the apostles did, or the same kind of leather that Adam and Eve wore. We certainly don’t dress or eat like John the Baptist regularly. Still, religion as a worldview to does touch on and affect everything.

The term “poison” is a pejorative term – a value judgment. Obviously, atheists who object to the Biblical worldview are going to see those aspects of influence as “poison,” but they are wrong to view them that way. As for the things that we commonly agree are “poison,” we call on the atheists to distinguish between the sinners trying to live out the worldview and the worldview and the worldview itself. It is sin that poisons everything, while the gospel begins to correct that.

The Paradox of Atheism

June 24, 2014

The Psalms provide us with an interesting paradox about Atheism. On the one hand, God is not at all in their thoughts:

Psalm 10:4
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

Psalm 14:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

On the other hand, they actively deny God’s existence:

Psalm 53:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

A third branch to this remarkable paradox comes in Romans, together with the resolution:

Romans 1:21
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Although we all know God exists, we can become vain in our imaginations to the point of denying God’s existence or even forgetting about God. How sad is the plight of atheists!


Response to Rachel Slick

August 28, 2013

By way of disclaimer, I happen to be a blogger on the team at CARM.  I didn’t mention this post to Matt Slick, nor does it represent his position or the position of CARM (well, it may, if they happen to agree).

I won’t address everything that Miss Slick said.  It is very sad to see a beautiful young woman departing from the faith, regardless of the reasons, because it means that she is giving up the world to come for the empty and fleeting pleasures of this world – demonstrating a lack of lasting spiritual beauty beneath the veneer, which will soon fade.

Let me address one point she made.  She stated:

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?
Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. 

The answer to the question is that some things are wrong because they contradict the nature of God, and some things are wrong simply because God has commanded otherwise.  An obvious example is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – one tree in the garden.  Is eating fruit something in itself evil?  No.  Rather, it was evil because God had forbidden Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree.

The same kinds of things apply to, for example, the ceremonial law.  Eating bacon-wrapped shrimp was not wrong absolutely, but only because God had commanded the Israelites to abstain from such food.

It’s the classic distinction between things “malum in se” (evil in themselves – like murder or theft) or “malum prohibitum” (evil because prohibited – like driving after curfew).  I’m very surprised that neither Rachel nor Alex had that answer.

Moreover, this distinction should be obvious from the law itself.  To disobey God (in general) is clearly a contradiction of the nature of God.  Thus, it is also wrong to disobey particular commands of God, even if those commands have an only temporary purpose.  To make the matter easier to follow, consider the case of the command that we obey our parents.  This command may have its root in the nature of God, but the particular commands of our parents may not.  There is no eternal “eat your spaghetti” aspect of God’s character, yet it is sinful for a child to disobey his parents’ command to eat his spaghetti, because he is not obeying his parents.

I don’t believe that this particular issue is really the reason that Rachel abandoned God’s law.  Still, I would like to take this opportunity to help her see that her abandonment of God’s law was irrational.  Perhaps God will use this to draw her back to the faith – or to the faith for the first time, if she never believed.


Why Don’t These Arguments Persuade All the Atheists?

October 16, 2012

William Lane Craig gave an amusing but persuasive lecture in which he “Eastwooded” Richard Dawkins (embedded below). The argument rehashed arguments for the existence of God, such as the cosmological argument and the ontological argument.

Some of these, like the cosmological argument, are so airtight that one really wonders how some atheists continue to reject them. One possibility is that the arguments are too strong. Atheists think it can’t be that easy, and that they must be being tricked. There must, they think, be some flaw in the argument that just has not yet been appreciated.

I would add that those arguments are valuable, but they are not enough. Acknowledging that God exists and created the world is not enough to escape God’s wrath. One must repent of one’s sins and trust in the Son of God for salvation from sin.

Craig’s good, but incomplete, presentation is embedded below:


Response to "The Quick and Easy Guide to God"

October 5, 2012

The “quick and easy guide to God,” is an image that has been circulating on the Internet in the form of a flow-chart.  The flow chart begins with the premise “evil exists.”

I suppose that one easy way to address this chart is to point out that “evil” doesn’t exist.  “Evil” is an abstract idea.  Moreover, “evil” is defined negatively by reference to “good.”  Asking if concrete examples of “evil” exist is like asking if shadows exist.  Well, there are shadows, and we can talk about them, but they are really an absence of light.  In much the same way, physical evils are really absences of physical perfections and moral evils are any absence of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.

But let’s say that for the sake of argument, we grant that there is some sense in which “evil exists.”

The next step of the chart asks, “Can God prevent Evil?”  The answer to that question, of course, is only “yes.”  As the chart indicates, if you can  God cannot prevent evil, then you have denied that God is omnipotent (all-powerful).

The next step of the chart asks, “Does God know about all the Evil?”  The answer to that question, as well, as a firm “yes,” because (as the chart indicates) if the answer were “no,” it would imply that God is not omniscient (all-knowing).

The next step of the chart asks, “Does God want to prevent Evil?” The answer that question is, “no.”  If the answer were “yes,” the options one would be left with would be that either God is internally conflicted (he wants to prevent it, but he also doesn’t want to prevent it), which would be denial of God’s simplicity.

The chart objects to the answer, “no,” alleging that “Then God is not good/ God is not loving.”  But this does not follow.  It is not necessary that a good or loving God would want to prevent every Evil.

A good and loving God can have a good and loving reason for allowing evil.  Allowing evil to exist for a greater purpose is a rather obvious and example of how this may be the case.

We can stop the analysis right there, as we have found an important flaw in the flowchart.


Cardinal George Pell vs. Richard Dawkins – Some Thoughts

April 11, 2012

Someone directed me to a sort of informal debate between Cardinal Pell and Dawkins, in the form of a moderated Questions and Answers session. Dawkins came across as insecure, accusing the audience of bias (though they routinely cheered for his statements) and repeatedly asking the audience why they are laughing (such as at his comment that the “it depends on how you define ‘nothing.'”

Pell was asked about evolution and his religion. He alleged that those in his communion can believe almost whatever they like about it. He took the position that men are descended from Neanderthals (Dawkins reacted to this much the way a Star Wars geek would react to you talking about Hans Solo instead of Han Solo and Pell blew it off). He said that the first time a soul was “human” was when it had various characteristics of communication and the like. When question about Adam and Eve, he took the position that they were just mythological, like “everyman.” (around 30 minutes) He said he wasn’t sure whether the Old Testament recounts God himself inscribing the ten commandments (33 minutes in).

Dawkins asks where original sin comes from if there is no real Adam and Eve.

When an atheist asks Pell (around 41 minutes in) what will happen to him when he dies, he says

(Cardinal) Well, I know from the Christian point of view, God loves everybody. But every genuine motion towards the truth is a motion towards God. And when an atheist dies, like everybody else, they’ll be judged on the extent to which they have moved towards goodness and truth and beauty. But in the Christian view, God loves everyone except those who turn their back on him through evil acts.
(Moderator): Oh, so athiesm – not an evil act.
(Cardinal): No, not a – well, no I don’t – in most cases its not.

(Moderator): Is it possible for an atheist to go to heaven?
(Cardinal): Well, it’s not my business.
(Moderator): No, but well, you’re the only authority we have here.
(Cardinal): I would say ‘certainly, certainly!’

Dawkins acts shocked that Christians will be bodily resurrected.

Later on the Cardinal asserts that the idea of any child going to hell is grotesque and does not represent the Christian God (48 minutes in)

Around 49 minutes in, the Cardinal shares his views on hell and salvation from it:

(Moderator) Where do you draw the line? Do unbelievers go to hell?
(Cardinal) No, no, no. The only people – Well, (1) I hope nobody’s in hell. We Catholics generally believe that there is a hell. I hope nobody is there. I certainly believe in a place of purification. I think it will be like getting up in the morning and you throw the curtains back and the light is just too much. God’s light would be too much for us. But I believe on behalf of the innocent victims in history, that the scales of justice should work out and if they don’t, life is radically unjust: the law of the jungle prevails.

The Cardinal’s theodicy is, in essence, that freedom is necessary.


Response to Bill O’Reilly and Bill Maher

October 17, 2010

Recently, Bill Maher triumphed over Bill O’Reilly in an interview on Fox news (link to video). Why did Mr. Maher triumph? He triumphed because he exposed Mr. O’Reilly’s inconsistencies.

Mr. Maher’s first point was that 60% of Americans believe that the Noah’s ark story is literally true. Mr. O’Reilly stated that he doesn’t know any of those people. That doesn’t surprise me – Mr. O’Reilly is a practicing Roman Catholic (link to his claim in that regard). Mr. O’Reilly, I’d love to meet you and let you know that yes, the Noah’s ark story is literally true. The problem is not Mr. Maher’s numbers, the problem is that Mr. Maher thinks it’s not wise to believe that the historical account of a Noah’s ark is an historical account. Yet there is abundant evidence of the flood – as Ken Ham would put it, there are billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth.

Mr. Maher’s second point is to ask Mr. O’Reilly why, if God wrote the Bible, is there stuff in the Bible that is untrue. Mr. O’Reilly’s response is to allege that it is allegorical. This is, of course, the wrong response. There is nothing in the text of Genesis that leads one to conclude the account of Noah’s flood is allegorical. Instead, the account of Noah’s flood is one of the clearly historical narratives. Mr. Maher makes a reference to the fact that both he and a lot of people agree that this account is literal.

Mr. Maher then asked whether the command about killing those who violate the sabbath is literal or parable. He seemed to mischaracterize it as “if you see your neighbor breaking the sabbath, you’re suppose to kill him,” but perhaps we can give him the benefit of the doubt that he just meant to refer to the fact that the law of Moses commanded death for sabbath-breakers. Sadly, Mr. O’Reilly’s response is “I don’t know that parable, is that Romans, Ecclesiastes, where did that come from?” Mr. Maher states that it is a law in Deuteronomy, and although keeping the Sabbath is mentioned in Deuteronomy, the specific death sentence for sabbath-breaking is found in Exodus:

Exodus 31:14-15
Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.

In comments apparently recorded after the interview, Mr. O’Reilly corrected Mr. Maher’s Deuteronomy-Exodus error, but during the interview Mr. O’Reilly’s response was that as a Christian he doesn’t care about the Old Testament, he’s just interested in the New Testament.

Mr. Maher counters that it’s still the Christian belief that the Old Testament was written by God. Mr. O’Reilly countered that, no, the Old Testament was written by prophets. Mr. Maher countered that it was nevertheless inspired by God, so how could it have errors or immoral teachings? Mr. O’Reilly countered that he doesn’t know anyone who kills their neighbor over breaking the sabbath, a response that totally misses the point. Mr. Maher’s mistake was in saying that capital punishment for sabbath-breaking is wrong.

Mr. O’Reilly tried to steer the conversation in his favor by suggesting that Jesus was a great moral example. Mr. Maher countered that if Jesus was in charge, America would probably have universal healthcare. Mr. O’Reilly countered that this would be possible because Jesus would multiply the loaves and the fishes.

Mr. Maher expressed complete incredulity at the idea of multiplying loaves and fishes. Mr. O’Reilly countered that if Mr. Maher wants to believe that life came from a meteorite crashing into the Earth, then he’s free to believe that. Mr. O’Reilly further tried to score some points by suggesting that Mr. Maher is just as much a man of faith as himself is, only a different faith. Mr. Maher denied this.

After the clip from the interview, Mr. O’Reilly posted a correction regarding Exodus-Deuteronomy issue and alleged that in context it was God and not one’s neighbors that would be taking care of killing those who broke the sabbath. Actually, however, the command was to the Israelites (as a government) to provide the death penalty for sabbath-breaking.

This is confirmed by the book of Numbers:

Numbers 15:32-36
And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

So, sadly O’Reilly was soundly beaten by Mr. Maher, but there are excellent answers that could have been given to Mr. Maher, had Mr. O’Reilly been more familiar with Scripture.


Dawkins Criticizes Rome and Original Sin

September 20, 2010

In a recent speech (link), Dawkins has attempted to criticize the Roman Catholic Church.

Dawkins began by pointing out that contrary to the implications of Ratzinger in his recent speech in Edinburgh, Adolph Hitler was more Roman Catholic than Atheist, at least by the standard that is used by Rome when saying how many members her church has (namely those baptized persons who have not renounced their baptism or been excommunicated).

Dawkins then asserted that there is no link between atheism and evil. Of course, there’s obviously a connection between atheism and violation of the first table of the law, the relation between men and God. There’s also an intuitive link between atheism and the second table, though we expect the correlation to be muted both by the influence of conscience (atheists have consciences too) and the presence of large numbers of members of false religions, as well as hypocrites and the self-deluded (Hitler would fall in at least the latter category, and probably in some sense in both categories), who themselves also have consciences.

Dawkins continues by trying to attack original sin. This was interesting to me, because my friend Dr. White recently debated an atheist on the topic of “is the New Testament evil,” in which the atheist’s primary argument was about original sin.

After the attack on original sin, Dawkins declares that Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity, identifying children (on account of the sex abuse scandal and making them feel “guilty” in general), “gay people” (one presumes he means sodomites), women (because it won’t let them be priests), truth (because he denies the usefulness of a common barrier protection device against AIDS), poor people (because he encourages large, unaffordable families), science (because of opposition to stem cell research), an enemy of the Queen’s church (on account of his assertion that Anglican orders are null and void, even while trying to poach Anglican vicars), and education (because of the teaching that “evidence” is less reliable than revelation, faith, tradition, and the pope’s own authority).

I’m sure that many of Dawkins’ criticisms would be equally or at least similarly applicable to the Reformed churches. Some portions would not be applicable, such as the sex abuse portions, the opposition to the Queen’s church, as such, or the portion about denying the truth about the usefulness of barrier protection against infection. Dawkins, however, does not elaborate on the relevant criticisms to much extent, except briefly with respect to original sin.

With respect to original sin, Dawkins’ complaints seem to be these:

1) The doctrine of original sin is taught to young children.

This is only a valid objection if the doctrine is false, but the doctrine is true.

2) The doctrine of hell is also taught to them.

The doctrine of hell is also true.

3) The doctrine of original sin is based on an historical Adam, but Romanists now acknowledge that there was no historical Adam.

This criticism is not applicable to us, the Reformed, who affirm that Adam was an historical person. Additionally, there are conservative RCs who continue to affirm that Adam was an historical person.

4) The doctrine of original sin is a “disgusting theory.”

This is not really an argument, just a statement of preference (and one that, in the mouth of an atheist, is wholly consistent with the doctrine).

5) The doctrine of original sin leads people to presume that it is godlessness that led Hitler to do what he did.

Perhaps it does lead to that. If it does, then this is only an objection insofar as the doctrine of original sin is false, but the doctrine of original sin is true.

6) The doctrine of original sin indicates that “we are all monsters unless redeemed by Jesus.”

Actually, the doctrine of original sin does not entail rejecting the idea that depraved men still have consciences. Thus, while there is a sense in which they are “monsters,” they do not all behave monstrously.

7) The doctrine of original sin is a “revolting, depraved, inhuman theory”

This is just a stronger statement of item (4), addressed above.

As for the remainder of Dawkins’ complains, we are happy to acknowledge that Divine revelation is more reliable than extrapolations based on the assumptions of contemporary scientists. We affirm the high value of children, and consequently consider those with large families wealthy even if they lack significant financial assets. Our affirmation of the high value of children also motivates our concern about attempts by science to destroy the very young in an attempt to extend the lives of the old. We note that the reason for male leadership is God’s design and gifts of leadership to him, the woman being the weaker vessel. We condemn fornication among all those who commit it. Finally, returning again to children, our care for them also motivates to be concerned for their souls, even from a young age.

On these grounds, while we may join with Dawkins in recognizing that the pope is evil, we cannot endorse the significant misguided portions of his criticism.


Converstation Starter – Probabilities and God

August 19, 2010

Joe Carter at the “Evangel” blog has post up in which he discusses the idea of calculating the probability of God’s existence (link to post). The basic approach is start with some a priori probability of God’s existence and then adjust the probability based on evidence. Here’s the fundamental problem with the approach: in order to adjust the probability based on the evidence, one must assign a value of significance to the evidence.

For example, “the existence of evil” is evidence. Does the existence of evil make it more or less likely that God exists? Typical atheistic responses are that this evidence makes it very unlikely that God exists.

On the other hand, there is “recognition of moral good,” which also evidence. Does the recognition of moral good make it more or less likely that God exists? Typically, Christian evidentialists try to argue that this evidence is more consistent with God’s existence than with all alternative theories.

The problem, of course, is that one can’t really get at the appropriate weights for the evidence. It’s intuitively obvious that the existence of one tiny injustice is one kind of “existence of evil,” and the reign of Stalin is a much larger example of the existence of evil.

That doesn’t mean that the article or the idea of using probabilities is absolutely useless. It can be a useful conversation starter. It can help you break the ice with an atheist friend. It may even serve as a launching pad to explain to your evidentialist friend (whether Christian or Atheist) the systemic problems of evidentialism.

Ultimately, all the evidence that exists is evidence of God’s existence, because all things were made by Him, and without him was not anything made that was made. The existence of evil is not contrary evidence any more than the existence (so to speak) of darkness is contrary evidence to the sun.

The fact that someone even comes to the mistaken idea that there is a “problem of evil,” is evidence of the fact that God has given them a sense of right wrong – the very fact that they pose a question to his existence is evidence that He exists.

So while I don’t think that there is much apologetic value in the calculations – perhaps as a curiosity it may have some evangelical value to provoke thought among our atheists friends.

– TurretinFan

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