The Existence of God is Worthy of Debate—But an Atheist Minister in a Christian Church?

October 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

atheist-pulpitFrom the UC Observer Magazine, published by the United Church of Canada: “After nearly a week of deliberating, the sub-Executive of Toronto Conference voted to ask the General Council of The United Church of Canada to conduct a formal hearing to determine whether to fire Rev. Gretta Vosper — the last step in a long process that now seems increasingly likely to remove the atheist minister from her pulpit.”(1)

Ponder these things:

1. Somehow, there is a congregation that identifies as a Christian church that at some point actually hired a minister who identifies as an atheist.

2. Somehow, an atheist has been allowed to minister at a Christian church for 19 years.

3. Somehow, it takes a “long process” of “deliberating” and a vote to request a “formal hearing” to consider whether or not an atheist should continue to pastor a Christian church.

Does a doctor, while seeing a patient with a knife in his gut, deliberate for weeks over the decision to remove the knife (whether or not it was self-inflicted or allowed to fester for a long time)? This boggles the mind.

For sure, people are upset because bounds—that should never have been set—are being overstepped in the process, and some fear that “the United Church may be turning its back on a history of openness and inclusivity”—code words for theological compromise that began long ago. Obstacles that should never have been.

Gretta Vosper has fans in the church (she is also “a prolific blogger, author and guest speaker”). In fact “a petition in support of Vosper…calls on the church ‘to show loving kindness to everyone, irrespective of belief or no belief.'”

Loving kindness respects all people as human beings made in God’s image, regardless of their beliefs, and love calls us to seek God’s best for them. Loving kindness does NOT invite heresy, or entrust the preaching and teaching of God’s Word to someone who does not even believe in God or His word. This doesn’t seek God’s best for the congregation either.

“Vosper calls herself an atheist and has been serving her church for 19 years. She has stated that she does not believe in a Trinitarian God or a supernatural god. She said love is the most sacred value and that she had stopped using the word ‘God’ because it was a barrier to participation in the church.”

God is love. To exclude God from Vosper’s “preaching” is to exclude love. If “God” is a barrier to participation in this church, what can there be in this church that is worth participating in? The love of God? The truth of God’s Word? The good news of salvation from sin through God’s one and only Son? If “God” is not preached from Vosper’s pulpit, the silence of the name of “Jesus” will be even more deafening.

Thankfully, “others have been frustrated that the United Church has allowed someone to be a minister in a Christian church while disavowing the major aspects of the Christian faith.” At least someone sees the problem.

Vosper’s lawyer “called for Conference to put the review on hold for a year in favour of a structured dialogue or debate,” meanwhile Vosper would remain a minister. Structured dialogue and debate is a great thing, but if you’re expecting that process to take a year, you’re likely not looking to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”(2) You’re contending for theological liberalism or atheism, heresy we already know God detests and Jesus died for.

If a minister is an atheist, and a congregation is a Christian church, then the atheist belongs in the pew, not at the pulpit. The pairing makes no sense at all, and frankly there’s little to debate about that. Now if we want to debate the existence of God, let’s have a dialogue.

1) Milne, Mike. “Atheist minister Gretta Vosper one step closer to dismissal, formal hearing requested” UC Observer Magazine. United Church of Canada, 22 Sep. 2016. Web. 03 Oct. 2016. (Link: http://www.ucobserver.org/faith/2016/09/vosper_atheist_minister/)
2) Jude 1:3: Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Yes, Evil is a Problem (With a Solution)

January 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

video attempting to address the Problem of Evil(1) prompted a Facebook comment from an atheist I’ve encountered before. Below is a brief conversation that followed.

ATHEIST

He looks so proud of coming up with such a bad argument!

CHRISTIAN

Cheesy video, and maybe an unfair dig against hippie hairstyles, but a good illustration. Whether the problem is “too much” evil and suffering (as the barber complains) or any evil and suffering at all, neither is evidence against the God described in the Bible.

First, objective evil (the only kind worth complaining about) only makes sense in light of objective good, which doesn’t make sense on atheism. Second, a good God creating humans with freedom to choose could not prevent our sin (the root cause of the world’s evil and suffering) without preventing our freedom to choose, and nobody’s okay with that idea.

And even if the world’s evil and suffering were a tiny fraction of what it is, the barber would still complain(2). God’s plan of redemption in Jesus Christ includes making all things new, so one day evil and suffering will be gone. The days the barber chooses to spend complaining and disbelieving are days that a good God has graciously given him as more time to come to repentance and faith (2 Peter 3:9).

ATHEIST

You’re not going to be able to dismiss the Problem of Evil that easily…even the most prominent Christian apologists can[‘t] explain it away. As C.S. Lewis conceded, it’s the most powerful argument against the Christian god.

CHRISTIAN

The problem of evil is not “easy”. That’s why it’s a “problem.” But a problem is something to think about and work through, not to discard because it’s a problem (like this list of unsolved problems in all types of fields of study(3)).

There are no “easy” answers because we’re the ones who see and often experience evil and suffering. C.S. Lewis knew it wasn’t easy but knew the logic behind it was sound, that freedom to love requires the freedom to do evil, which he summarized very effectively in The Case for Christianity:

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

Even though it makes perfect sense why there is such things wrong with the world, it’s a problem because we don’t know why “we” or why “they” suffer the particular way that they do. It’s personal, so of course we don’t like it. But it also makes sense that we wouldn’t be able to fully know the mind of God and His ultimate plan for eternal good that can involve our temporary pain (like the pain of surgery in light of a better life afterwards).

God has an answer in redeeming evil through His Son, because He is a personal God that knows and loves us, desiring to save us from what are in the end the consequences of our own sin.

Most arguments for atheism based on the problem of evil assume a God who is not personal (deism) and just doesn’t care to intervene, or that He is just plain mean. Neither fit the description of the God of the Bible.

Have a great day!

ATHEIST

I’ll counter with two words that have nothing to do with personal choice or ‘sin’: bacteria and earthquakes. Yet cause unmeasurable pain and suffering.

CHRISTIAN

Actually, they are linked to sin. After their disobedience, God told Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you.” (Gen. 3:17) and Paul writes that “the whole creation has been groaning” as a result of man’s sin and “waits eagerly” for redemption (Rom. 8:19-22). The corruptive effects of sin reach everywhere in nature, which God created “good” to begin with (Gen. 1:31). Ninety percent of all bacteria are still good, non-pathogenic and necessary, but some became harmful to humans after the Fall. Likewise, most earthquakes are still harmless and too small to be detected without sophisticated seismography, and they were likely a non-issue before a cursed creation. We shouldn’t expect to know why God allows certain things to happen and how He works natural disasters or disease for ultimate good. But how much less natural disaster or disease would satisfy? And how do we know God hasn’t prevented many more disasters and disease? It seems He’s kept harmful bacteria at a mere 10% and stabilized the earth’s crust sufficiently that most earthquakes are non-destructive.

ATHEIST

Well, I guess if you believe that all the problems in the world are the result of one bite of a fruit, then we are just going to have to disagree. There’s not much more I can say if you are just going to suspend reason like that.

CHRISTIAN

That is a pretty common sentiment among atheists, but atheism is the cause of that sentiment, not the result. If there is no God, the only law we can break is our own, and “small” sins are no big deal because the foundation for authority is relatively small. If I were to, say, tell a lie to an infant, there would be virtually no consequences for me. If I tell a lie to my older child, I may lose his trust. If I lie to my wife, I may lose her trust and get banished to the couch. If I lie to my boss, I may get fired. If I lie to the government, I could face fines or prison. If God exists, He is infinitely higher in authority than any power on earth. Even a “small” sin like eating of the one tree God commanded Adam and Eve not to, a decision actually rooted in pride, arrogance and disobedience, is severe when all sin is an offense against an infinite Creator who wrote moral law on our hearts (and without whom all moral assessment is arbitrary and meaningless anyway). It’s not about the size of the sin, but the sovereignty of who we are sinning against. Sin is sin to God, and “all have sinned and fall short.”

But thank you for the discussion, I always learn something and appreciate you taking the time. I hope you have a good week.

(Related post: Too Much Evil and Suffering in the World?)

1) http://www.yesheis.com/en/v/god-does-not-exist
2) https://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/too-much-evil-and-suffering-in-the-world/
3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_unsolved_problems

Three Arguments That Get a Bad Rap

May 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

There are a few types of arguments many people seem to automatically assume are non-sequiter, or logically flawed, without realizing there is another side to each. The careless debater will often cry fallacy, missing the fact that there is a valid form of each argument. I’ve seen the recurrence of three in particular.

circular-reasoning1CIRCULAR REASONING

A circular argument, also known as begging the question, or petitio principii (“assuming the initial point”), is one that assumes what it is trying to approve.

Example: “Why am I the boss? Because I’m in charge here.”

When is it fallacious? A circular argument is fallacious when there are greater evidences to appeal to and the arguer does not use them. In the example above, there are probably stronger, more fundamental reasons why he is the boss, but the arguer is not making those available. Most arguments in general are not about properly basic truths, but propositions that depend on other truths, so circular reasoning is fallacious most of the time.

When does it work? The circular argument I’ve been accused of numerous times and I readily admit to using is a defense of Christianity or the Bible using Christianity or the Bible. In this case, as in the case of any ultimate proposition, there is nothing higher to appeal to than God and His word, so we are not able to offer anything greater than God or His word to support the existence of God or His word. For a Christian, there is no higher authority to appeal to, so the proposition is a priori, properly basic, and axiomatic to the argument.

This isn’t limited to religious arguments. Any argument for an a priori, properly basic, axiom cannot appeal to anything more fundamental than itself. This makes circular logic not only justifiable but unavoidable. Try defending logic without a circular appeal to logic, or argue for reason without using reason. Can you say the brain is the most important organ without using your brain? It can’t be done. Absent God or some other transcendent source for them, these presupposed invisible laws of logic or rules of thought are the highest intellectual commitments available. A Christian presupposes God as the first cause or proper basis of logic. Christian, atheist, or anyone in between will find themselves arguing in a circle if they are asked to defend their deepest beliefs, which means that absolutely everyone ultimately employs faith in their most important personal convictions. This is a key component of Presuppositional apologetics.

tuquoqueAPPEAL TO HYPOCRISY

This device, also called Tu Quoque (“You also” or “you, too”) is an an attempt to defend a certain position by claiming that the other party is guilty of the same position. It tries to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it—answering criticism with criticism.

Example: “You say smoking is bad for people, but YOU ALSO smoke.”

When is it fallacious? When it’s used as a diversionary device. Whether the accuser is a smoker too is irrelevant to the argument that smoking is unhealthy, so it’s merely an attempt to dodge the argument at hand.

When does it work? I had an online debate with an atheist who claimed that the Christian idea of faith and his idea of trust were different. My counterargument was that faith is an inevitable and inseparable part of trusting our deepest convictions, whatever they may be (see Circular Argument example above). In effect, I was saying “You too” because an atheist cannot prove his ultimate convictions either, and so has to rely on faith to undergird what he claims to know.

In the above example, my assertion that the atheist who called faith inferior also held the same position was absolutely true and supported my argument, which was that faith is universal and necessary to believe anything. Saying (and demonstrating) “you too” was not a diversion, rather it proved the point.

Homemade-Slip-n-Slide-3SLIPPERY SLOPE

A slippery slope is an assertion that some event will follow from another, much like an object given a small push over the edge of a slope sliding all the way to the bottom.

When is it fallacious? When slippery slope is argued without any rational or demonstrable mechanism for the inevitability of the event in question—when it is stated that a certain event MUST follow from another.

When does it work? When the event purported to follow is LIKELY to EVENTUALLY follow, not that it necessary WILL IMMEDIATELY follow, this also looks like a slippery slope argument. In many cases, the slope expected is rational and demonstrable and has occurred as expected.

Such is the case for gay marriage, for example. Even before the federal man-woman definition of marriage was struck down in the Supreme Court 2013 Windsor decision, many claimed that it would open the door to appeals from advocates of other forms of marital arrangements, such as polygamy. Since a removal of a definition logically leaves a new definition wide open, the logic of this slippery slope argument is sound. Its reality is demonstrated in the movements of advocates of various types of “group marriage” (polygamy and polyamory). These groups are still on the fringe, but so was gay marriage a couple decades ago. This is not to say that other forms of marriage absolutely WILL be legalized, but the logic allows that it is LIKELY that further redefinition will occur as we see others waiting in line.

A reasonable slippery slope claim involves a stepwise regression. It would be presumptuous and therefore fallacious to insist that something like child marriage or bestiality is next to follow after gay marriage. Moral degradation is typically gradual. Legalized polygamy is the likelier next step, because it still falls within the arbitrary boundary of “consenting adults”—and it’s already unfolding (see Utah’s pro-polygamy ruling). If secular culture abandons the “consenting adult” limitation, the kind of shift that often occurs in relativist moral worldviews, then more extreme “marriage” arrangements may start to show up, again, most likely in a stepwise fashion.

A theoretical slippery slope argument against marriage redefinition might look like this, shown as a stepwise elimination of boundaries:

1. Marriage = One man, one woman, two consenting adults
2. Gay marriage = One man, one woman, two consenting adults
3. Polygamy = One man one woman, two consenting adults
4. Child marriage = One man, one woman, two(?) consenting(?) adults
5. Bestiality = One man, one woman, two consenting adults

I don’t think it’s a very sound argument to prophesy the whole scenario and conclude that “anything goes” when we are in between steps 2 and 3. But it’s very reasonable to say that one step should serve as a warning for the next, the way paved by the removal of the time-honored definition of marriage given by its Creator.

BOTTOM LINE

If you’re in a debate and you hear the objection of circular reasoning, an appeal to hypocrisy or  “Hey, that’s a slippery slope argument”, don’t automatically assume you’re in error. These lines of reasoning, and others, come with a right way and a wrong way. (Use the right way)

Ken Ham Won the Creation Debate, and So Did Bill Nye.

February 6, 2014 § 14 Comments

On February 4, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Answers In Genesis president Ken Ham on this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Before the debate, a friend said he hoped that there wouldn’t be a lot of bias and asked me who I thought would win. I explained that I don’t know how I would assess a win or loss apart from my own bias. My friend was talking about the bias of the moderator—CNN’s Tom Foreman, who was as neutral as a moderator could be. But I think it’s true that deciding who “wins” the debate very much depends on who’s side you are on before the debate even begins. That’s because whether we are debating or watching, we take our presuppositions–basics we assume to be true without evidence–into it with us, and we are incredibly stubborn about giving them up. Only one of the debaters understood this.

The beginning remarks and individual presentations were well-prepared and complete, and the highlight in my opinion. Ken’s arguments for a young earth creation were strong and clear, firmly rooted in the Bible as man’s ultimate authority. Bill’s were also well-formed as he posed some really tough challenges to creationism, although he seemed to stray from the topic to a focus on the age of the earth and Noah’s flood, which don’t pose a direct challenge to creationism with respect to the the question being debated.

Their differing presuppositions come to light in each point of their presentations. For instance, Ken’s creationism is firmly rooted in the book of Genesis. He presupposes the truth and authority of the Bible as God’s word, and in God as the infinite Creator. Bill’s materialism is firmly rooted in man’s ideas, that life and the universe evolved, somehow, from an unknown but presumably mindless beginning. Both positions are held a priori on faith, because neither presupposition can be proven with any kind of scientific process.

Ken was appropriately adamant about defining terms, specifically “science” and “evolution”,  noting that secularists have hijacked them for their exclusive use. Bill affirms this by consciously classifying his own position as science, and Ken’s position as something else. Science, as Bill says, was practiced by mainstream scientists, outside the walls of “this facility” (Bill never did correctly name the hosting venue as the Creation Museum, stammeringly calling it “this facility” no less than three times). Ken is thorough in providing numerous  testimonies from creationists who have made significant contributions to various scientific fields (for example, Raymond Damadian, pioneer of the MRI machine). This exposes Bill Nye’s non-sequiter—it simply doesn’t follow that creationists cannot be scientists, which was made obvious to everyone who doesn’t simply assume this to be true. This was a presupposition Bill carried into the debate and it stuck to him like a soup stain throughout as he continually maintained that children taught creation will not have the innovation to keep America in the global game.

Ken makes a clear distinction between historical science (data derived from the past without direct observation) and observational science (study of what we can observe but not recreate through controlled experiments, i.e. the cosmos, fossils). This distinction is invisible to Bill and many naturalists since it presents a real problem for molecules-to-man evolution. The way we interpret data from the past is colored by our presuppositions, what we already believe (We were created vs. We evolved) about the past. Not wanting to be caught assuming the fundamentals of his belief, Bill doesn’t recognize the difference. Naturalists generally do not acknowledge that their most deeply held convictions are not determined by evidence, but by faith, which is also true for creationists. Ken is right in his assertion that creation is the only historical science model that confirms what we find in observational science. Unfortunately, he didn’t say enough in support of this.

Bill’s repeated diatribe about the Bible highlighted his ignorance of the Bible and the evidences supporting it, citing creationism as an “interpretation of a 3,000 year old book translated into American English” and using the classic “game of telephone” critique to assert how it has probably changed over the centuries. It would have been a fairly easy apologetic move for Ken to summarize textual criticism and the fact that early extant manuscripts agree with current Bible text. But he didn’t, and really didn’t have time to. By Bill’s own admission, he is not a theologian, but he clearly didn’t do his homework here.

In addition to the faulty arguments for creationism’s incompatibility with science, Bill repeatedly relied on an illusory attempt to reduce the size of his opponent while inflating his own position. He continually referred to creationism as “Ken Ham’s view” and “Mr. Ham’s flood”, as if these views were exclusively held by Ken and his followers at AIG. The earth’s age aside, Christians, Catholics, Jews and Muslims all believe in divine creation (46% of Americans). Knowing this, Bill made reference to “billions of people in the world who are deeply religious” who do not accept Ken’s model, meaning old earth creationists. Ken is a young earth creationist. But, while Ken maintains old earth creationists have problems reconciling an old earth with certain language and theology presented in Genesis, he certainly identifies with them in the common faith that God created. The question being debated is not about whether creation is billions of years old or thousands. Bill expressly denies theistic evolution or creationism in any form, young or old. Aside from being an appeal to authority (Ken correctly points out elsewhere in the debate that the majority is not always right), this seems like an attempt by Bill to bring the world’s old earth creationists on his side. But Bill is a naturalist, so this won’t do.

The points most devastating to naturalism were ones largely unanswered by Bill, and those are the preconditions of intelligibility that Ken laid out: We accept by faith certain natural laws, such as the laws of logic, morality, uniformity, that allow us to do things like scientific experiments and reasoned debate. The naturalist assumes these to be true but can’t account for them on his own worldview. These natural laws make sense if they come from a logical, moral, uniform God who made us in His image. They shouldn’t exist if naturalism is true. Bill’s best answer on this is “I don’t know.” Ken also pointed out that knowledge and complexity don’t come from a universe originally devoid of these things, and Bill answers were missing here too.

I didn’t think Ken fared as well in the rebuttal stage or in the Q and A session that followed. He didn’t seem as well prepared, and his introductions to the Gospel seemed forced and a little out of place, especially since Bill provided no inroad to the gospel in his script. I want to be careful with that though, because I believe that presenting the Gospel should be the ultimate goal in apologetic endeavor, and a discussion about creation is really only a step or two way from the opportunity (Creation was originally good, man fell into sin, sinful man needed a Savior). But it seemed, at the end of the debate with time dwindling, this opportunity would have been better spent addressing some of the questions Ken didn’t have time to answer earlier. The gospel was a star in Ken’s initial presentation.

In my opinion Ken also spent too much time on arguing for a young earth, even though I share this view. Attention brought to the ecclesiastical divide between old and young earth creationists wasn’t helpful in this debate. Since the question debated was whether or not creation in any form fits with today’s world, it seemed pretty irrelevant. Although Ken did do a good job of exposing the unreliability of dating methods, Ken’s focus on a young earth also brought attention to the fact that he didn’t get around to addressing many of Bill’s challenges that seem to support long ages, i.e. the number of snow ice layers, very old trees, and the settling of rock layers.

The last question asked of both men was, “What is the one thing, more than anything else, upon which you base your belief?” Ken’s basis was God and His word. Bill’s reply began with a quote from his previous mentor Carl Sagan: “When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.” Bill’s love, he goes on to explain, is “information and the process we call science”. Now what if, instead of summing up his love for science, Bill had tried to explain love itself? And would he admit that he probably would put love higher than science? This, like much of what he and every naturalist base their most important beliefs upon, would have to be presupposed, as they make no sense on a completely materialistic universe.

Earlier in the final round of Q and A one question put to both debaters asked if they could imagine any evidence that would cause them to give up their worldview convictions. Ken Ham was doubtful that anything could change his mind about a creator God. Bill thought that a significant piece of evidence would change his mind about evolution, and he gave as one example a polystrate fossil. Well, I’d have to say Bill wasn’t sincere, since he has available to him evidence of numerous polystrate fossils. I’m guessing his presuppositions move him to apply some naturalistic phenomena or creationist misinterpretation to tree trunks or trilobite tracks that have been discovered to span multiple geographic layers.

We generally stick to what we already believe in any debate, and that’s why determining “winner” or “loser” is so subjective. It depends on who you ask. Unless winning and losing is based on something other than what most debates are about, like who gave the most eloquent speech (perhaps also very subjective) and who avoided more logical fallacies (a little less subjective). Otherwise, we are likely to call the winner the one who shares the same worldview we do, because there is no such thing as neutral belief. My hope is that the Lord will use this debate to persuade some for the truth of the Christianity, because the Gospel was preached, and Naturalism’s main problem was exposed. But they are generally very few who are converted as the result of one debate. That’s the job of God’s Holy Spirit. Like the guys at the podium, we hold fast to what we presuppose, ultimate commitments we already believe on faith. There’s plenty of debate after the debate about who won it. The lasting verdict? The truth will win in the end, when “every knee will bow… every tongue will acknowledge God.” (Rom. 14:11). But those are my presuppositions talking.

Answering Humanists on Organized Religion and Morality

July 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

This religion debate was held at Cambridge University in early 2013. Arguing for the proposition that religion has no place in the 21st century is Andrew Copson, Richard Dawkins and Arif Ahmed. In opposition is the pro-religion team of Rowan Williams, Tariq Ramadan and Douglas Murray.

The entire debate is over an hour and a half long, but I want to focus on the first 12 or so minutes, on the specific arguments brought forth by Andrew Copson. He is the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, an organization representing atheists in the UK. Copson proposes that organized religion does more harm than good, that the good in religion can be had by other means, and offers an alternative explanation for morality. How would you respond to Mr. Copson’s arguments?

To give away the ending of the full debate, the house voted overwhelming against the proposition, most people saying that organized religion does indeed have a place in society. And to clarify the statement, Copson clarifies (2:45) what is meant by “a place in society” (because it seems to have a place, right or wrong, because here it is): “When we say it has no place, we don’t mean that is should be banned, persecuted, wiped out or eliminated, but that the harm it does outweighs the good that it does, and that we’d be better off without it.”

I would hope that if he thinks something harmful, that he would also wish it to at least be banned, wiped out, or eliminated. But back to it.

As a Christian apologist, I would not generally seek to defend organized religion, since organized religion as a whole is a human construct, a context in which we practice what we believe about our ultimate convictions. I also view Atheism and Naturalism as religions too. But much of Copson’s argument against organized religion reflects a rejection of many of the ultimate convictions of orthodox Christianity as explained in the Bible, which I do seek to defend.

How does Copson define organized religion? He explains at the very start of his talk (2:00): “We’re not talking about individual men and women on their personal quest for values and meaning and purpose in life… We’re talking about… clearly defined groups which have in-out memberships… hierarchies—whether clergy or otherwise—and an “institutional existence above and beyond their individual members.”

What Copson may not realize is that this definition fits his own organization. Visit the British Humanist Association web site to read about this clearly defined group and their in-out memberships, hierarchies, and an institutional existence above and beyond their individual members. If Copson, as most atheists do, seeks to separate his own beliefs from religious beliefs, he’ll need to do a better job of that. Let’s see if he does.

Copson then posits, “In a world like this, where do we best get our ethics? It is not from organized religion.” He correctly notes that both religious and non-religious groups do charitable work (5:00). Everyone can do good.

The Christian explanation as to why all people are capable of good is because we are all made in the image of God and innately aware of the moral law written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15). We don’t get morality from any religion; we get it by simply being God’s creation.

His main point follows: “Shared values of altruism and care for others on the common heritage of all human beings, organized religion adds nothing to plain human compassion and empathy. (5:50)… We need fellow feeling with all people rather than just with members of our own in-group.” (6:15) On social morality, Copson says, “Organized religion is not a particular good. Good done in its name is incidental to it… can be secured by other forms of organizations.” The harm it does outweighs the good it does, and it “adds great barriers and divisions that we do not need in our age.” (7:00)

Copson again tries to distance his own philosophy from other religions. He says socially organized religion differs from political ideologies “in that they give a reason over and above and beyond human beings to sanctify their commandments.” (7:20) In other words, religious principals provide an external authority that people are subject to, whereas in political ideologies, the BHA, or whatever principals of Atheism or Humanism he follows, such principals are man-made. But are our ultimate principals man-made?

Copson says he bases his morality “solely on human compassion” (7:40). Is this not “a reason over and above and beyond” human beings? When human beings can’t provide a rational basis for the principal, it is presupposed. He says this view of morality is “harmful” and “out of kilter with our modern needs,” however he appeals to the same external type of moral principals that religions do.

What is morality? Copson defines morality (8:00) as “something that has its foundations in biology, in the social instincts that we can see that we share with the animals that are most closely related to us. Morality is an organized attempt to reinforce those social instincts. It’s generated from human beings ourselves in our interactions with each other, both originally at its source and in an ongoing way.”

This is a typical Humanist attempt at a explaining ethics, but it contradicts how morality is always talked about and lived out. Copson assumes morality’s foundation is in biology, but of course doesn’t and cannot on his own worldview pinpoint it’s ultimate source, since everything about morality reveals it as our discovery, not our convention. It’s merely a faith proposition. He goes on to say that morality is an attempt to organize social instincts (i.e. survival of the species is a good thing) but doesn’t explain the morality behind that assumption (why is survival morally good?).

Here is a true statement (9:00): “Genuinely believing that the source of value is located outside humanity and not within it inevitably dehumanizes human ethics.” Of course it does! Morality is dehumanized if it isn’t of human origin. This is not a bad thing, because human ideas of morality are corrupt and in constant flux. We badly need it to be something other than human.

Atheistic presuppositions show up in Cospon’s remarks about blasphemy being too severe in religious circles (9:15). If he doesn’t believe there is a God, we wouldn’t expect him to find the slandering of Him a problem at all. There is no one there to blaspheme in his mind.

Copson speaks of the harm done by organized religion by citing “attempts to limit abortions by American evangelicals. No one outside an organized religion could possibly deem that activity moral.”

Isn’t it amazing how upside-down a godless philosophy can become? The “attempts to limit” the slaying of innocent children in the womb is labeled “massive human suffering” and does greater harm to the living than to the those who are murdered by the procedure. No one outside of atheism could be so blind as to think we follow our own moral laws, that blasphemy slanders no one, and that unborn human beings are of no real value.

Copson notes that nowadays “people are less automatically deferential to authority,” (10:25) following that up with typical platitudes of freedom and democracy. But the things for which he favors freedom are things like abortion and autonomous moral relativism that leads to such tragedy. “Immediate access to knowledge through social media” is what Copson credits for the advancement of freedom, as if religions (“totalitarian ideologies”) are estranged or opposed to knowledge.

As he begins to sum up his argument around 11:30, Copson suggests that we ought to proceed, without organized religion, toward goals of human welfare, with a “commitment to make our moral decisions in the here and now, based on evidence…” (a commitment he makes without evidence) and “organize our affairs globally, in a way that will increase freedom and fulfillment in the one life we know we have.” If one life is all we have, some of what Copson says would make sense.

The opposition lost the full debate because they were unable to present a convincing argument that religion has no place in society. Andrew Copson lost the debate in the first 12 minutes by demonstrating a basic misunderstanding of morality and that his own belief system is itself an organized religion.

The Danger of Being ‘Too Good’ at Apologetics

March 6, 2013 § 8 Comments

It’s the commission of every believer to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) Apologists exercise a particular desire to engage in rational debate in an effort to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” (2 Cor. 10:5) We of course feel obligated to be good at it, but that doesn’t guarantee the acceptance of Christianity by skeptics.

A good argument is often rationally ignored in a debate. Since Genesis 3, the fallen heart of man is bent toward self-deceit(1), and as Romans 1:25 says, is more than willing to trade the “truth for a lie.” Only the Holy Spirit can open eyes to the truth of Christianity and the Gospel and bring a soul to see past the obstacles.

Boxing080905_photoshopSometimes though, I think apologists can put forth a logically impenetrable defense and actually become one of the obstacles. An impregnable argument can be a complete turn-off, and that’s actually not what we want. We want to demolish arguments, but not the human spirit in the process. As the mantra goes, the Christian’s goal is to win souls, not arguments. In thinking about past debates (and I’m sure others have seen this) there are times when an argument really comes together, as the result of the Spirit’s guidance, and practice, and by the humble discovery of the validity of Christianity’s deepest foundations. But it comes together as such a solid, air-tight case that the unbelieving opponent simply checks out of the conversation. And still in unbelief. Many times I’ve experienced an online debate ending without an atheist’s response, just when it was getting really ‘good’. I somehow delivered a debate-ender. By having the last word I would feel accomplished in demolishing their arguments and faithfully defending Christianity—then perform a self-check for pride. But now I wonder if I demolished any spirit they had to continue to seek the truth from me, or any believer. Winning the debate can mean losing the debate when the opportunity to win someone for Christ is lost or shortened.

I suddenly feel the urge to re-write some previous posts and re-do some previous debates (Oops… too late for that last one).

Brick_wall_in_León,_Guanajuato,_2010-06-13So going forward, how do we keep such a wall from going up? Colossians 4:6 gives us an answer: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Show grace in your defense. Grace is, after all, what we preach, why and how we are in a position to preach, and the desired result of it all: Sinners coming to terms with God’s grace through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8,9). Do we show grace by intentionally presenting weak arguments to keep an unbeliever coming back? I don’t think so. I suppose it will take on different forms for different apologists, but we don’t want to compromise the truth just to make it taste better, but maybe our form. Here are three ways.

1. USE QUESTIONS

The Bible provides the only rational basis for objective truth, rooted in the nature of God, and no other worldview offers this.

Christians claim the Bible as the only rational basis for objective truth, rooted in the nature of God. Can you think of another worldview that does this?

7539d0d8b0751c7ab85ba408bc2b88c1.media.240x240The two propositions above are saying the same thing. Which one feels more open and friendly? The one ending in a question, doesn’t it? The objective truth of the Bible feels like it needs to be stated firmly as a stone wall. Could what you’re stating also be put in question form? Questions invite further dialog, as long as they are not snide or obviously rhetorical. Ask questions that should logically lead them to the same conclusion that you were planning to assert with a firm statement. Invite them to get there using their own cognitive abilities rather than forcing your conclusions on them. They need to know that you still want to discuss it.

2. USE GENTLENESS AND RESPECT

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 8.04.36 PMGrace comes in other forms too, from the admonition of 1 Peter 3:15 to give a defense “with gentleness and respect.” Concede good points made whenever they appear, and let your opponent know that you appreciate their time and that you’ve learned a lot from what they’ve offered (this is always true for me; I learn something about my opponent’s worldview at every encounter). At least in written correspondence, mood and temperament is often not clear, so clarify a gentle and respectful demeanor in debate forums with fewer ALL-CAPS and exclamation marks, and more happy emoticons. You may sacrifice professionalism there, between it’s a small sacrifice. Note the difference between PLEASE! and Please. 🙂

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Be brief, if you can. A lengthy post can be daunting and discourage response. Don’t launch every point in a single comment or post, unless you’re responding to series of points. I’ve found that the more stripped down my dialog is, the shorter the response, unless you’re met with a lot of extra rhetorical or emotional fluff—which you are free to ignore. Try to be succinct, yet thorough.

These approaches may seem like we are depending on and playing off of an opponent’s emotional responses to keep the discussion going. I’ve debated with many unbelievers who rely heavily on emotion to make their points, so the approach is fitting. When right reasoning is corrupt by sin, we resort to emotions. Those who challenge our faith are God’s human creation.

381px-Avocado_SeedlingUltimately we are only playing a part in leading others to Christ—God opens eyes and turns hearts. But God uses Christians and our apologetics, so the part we play shouldn’t drive seekers away, but keep them seeking. All debates must end, but may they not end because an opponent feels cornered and utterly beaten. If we are rejected, let it not be because skeptics don’t feel as though we want to listen and learn their position. Let skeptics reject the Gospel of salvation when it’s graciously presented in truth and love. Even if rejected, our apologia can be a seed that will, Lord willing, take root.

[Here is a debate of mine where I think grace was effectively applied: A Doubter Challenges Christianity.
And here is one where I think I lacked in it, effectively driving home the argument but shutting down the discussion, really before any clear presentation of the Gospel on my part: Evidence for God in the Laws of Logic.]

1) The Crucial Concept of Self-Deception in Presuppositional Apologetics, by Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Evidence for God in the Laws of Logic

December 27, 2012 § 3 Comments

This is an ongoing debate at AskAnAtheist.com.

Atheist

I’m an atheist myself and I’m not presenting any doubts about my atheism with this question but I seem to have trouble with trying to get evidence from theists who want to try to convince me that God exists.

I was talking with a very fine gentleman, who is my neighbor and a strong believer in Christ and God. He asked me why I don’t believe and as is the standard reply there is not enough evidence to prove the existence of God. I told him I am a person of science and logic, and I need proof in the form of hard, observable evidence.

…I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly good evidence, that’s not miraculous or magical but could prove god if we found it, might look like.

LogicGodAndNeighbor

ZJ, great question.

I think the best evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible comes from a presuppositional approach. This takes a look at whatever truth we presuppose and weighs it against reality we experience. Here it is…

The first thing is for the Christian to admit that his argument is ultimately circular reasoning, because he is appealing to the Bible as his best evidence for the existence of God. In other words, Christian theism appeals to Christian theism.

On to the atheist’s position: You state you are a man of science and logic. Science is done by applying the laws of logic, so let’s say that human logic is your ultimate commitment and authority. Logic dictates the major decisions you make in life and drives your conclusions about God and the universe. Is that a fair assessment?

Now what is the basis for you claiming logic as your ultimate commitment? It’s logic. You defend the use of logic by virtue of logic, therefore your argument for your ultimate authority is ultimately circular.

So atheism and Christian theism, and for that matter any other worldview, are on equal ground when it comes to circularity of its logic. They appeal to their own ultimate authority to justify their own ultimate authority. ALL arguments are, at their most foundational level, circular. Does this make sense?

So which worldview is true? It would have to be the one, if any, that makes sense out of our sensory experience. That’s really the best we can do, since any facts we find or evidence we observe is experienced by our senses.

Here is where I think atheism does NOT make sense of the world and Christianity DOES.

Atheism and accompanying Naturalism does not explain our basic dependence of logic and reason. What is there about a universe that began with basically matter and motion that could have given rise to the laws of logic and reason?

The Bible describes a God who uses logic as a part of His nature, who created man in His image (Gen. 1:27) and invites us to reason (Is. 1:18). On Christianity, logic and reason make sense.

Atheism and naturalism do not explain the origin of absolute, objective moral law that everyone is aware of. We may disagree on the interpretation, but everyone lives as if laws of right and wrong exist. They couldn’t logically have evolved within humans because it’s impossible to imagine the first moral act that doesn’t appeal to some other moral standard for good or kindness or truth. And if they evolved within humans, humans would have no basis for applying them to other humans or to the idea of God, as many atheists do when they morally condemn God actions in the Old Testament. Atheists may clam no universal moral code exists, but when they do they appeal to some universal moral code that says they are right in their claim, which is self-contradictory.

The Bible describes a moral God who is transcendent, exercises moral judgment, and has written moral law on our hearts, to which our consciences bear witness (Rom. 2:15).

Atheism and naturalism do not explain the laws of nature and scientific dependence on uniformity, that experiments done the same way will yield the same results, that things will happen in the future the way they happened in the past. In a universe of undirected chain reactions, this type of apparent direction doesn’t make sense.

The Bible describes a God who set the universe in motion at creation (Gen. 1:1) and established the regularity of the earth’s rotation (Gen. 1:14-19; Jer. 33:20), seasons (Gen. 8:22, Psalm 74:17) planting/harvest cycle (Jer. 5:24, Mark 5:26-29) and is responsible for the whole natural order (Col. 1:16-17, Eph. 1:11, Heb. 1:3). We take all this and more for granted, but there is no logical reason for our base assumptions on Atheism.

Only the God of the Bible when compared to other gods in various world religions can be shown to be internally consistent and His Word consistent to the reality we experience.

Since every worldview is ultimately circular in its defense, EVERY belief begins with faith, even a system that purports to be based on “fact” and “evidence”. Christianity is set apart because it actually makes sense of the world.

Atheist

Godandneighbor you are basing most of your argument on the premise that both a logic-framed and a Christian-framed type of reasoning are circular. No that is completely incorrect and faulty and that fault unravels the rest of your entire argument. Logic itself is the absence of circular reasoning. Your argument even mis-defines the term circular reasoning because you explain circular reasoning occurs when you make an argument with someone who agrees with you. Completely wrong, how valid a form of reasoning is has nothing to do with how much you appeal to your listener. You’re either right, wrong or just completely making no sense at all.

Let me give you an example; pretty simple: All Greeks are human and all humans are mortal; therefore, all Greeks are mortal. It’s a valid argument, it makes logical sense. A lot of Christianity fails this because there’s so much expectation that for people to conform with it, no questioning must occur and if people simply use logic to challenge biblical directives it’s so easy to find fallacies, nonsense and inconsistencies. But I think many Christians are fine with that, the human brain naturally seeks authority that is not always logical, just one who’s only objective is security, watchfulness and confidence. And that’s what matters – for them. As for me, I am not satisfied, I want knowledge that is as close to reality as possible, and I think the only way to achieve that is through logic and reason. Every instance I’ve seen from the point of Christianity, theism and references in the Bible fail miserably and ridiculously, to be honest.

GodAndNeighbor

“Logic itself is the absence of circular reasoning.”

Not exactly. An argument is circular when the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with. If you decide to justify logic because it is logical to do so, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

“Your argument even mis-defines the term circular reasoning because you explain circular reasoning occurs when you make an argument with someone who agrees with you.”

Where do you think that I said that? Because I actually didn’t make that argument.

“A lot of Christianity fails this because there’s so much expectation that for people to conform with it, no questioning must occur and if people simply use logic to challenge biblical directives it’s so easy to find fallacies, nonsense and inconsistencies.”

Example?

“I want knowledge that is as close to reality as possible, and I think the only way to achieve that is through logic and reason.”

Right, many people think that the only way to understand reality is through logic and reason. But, as I explained, there is no way to justify your love for logic and reason without using logic and reason (you’re doing it right now). 🙂 You can accept any proposition on faith to acquire a belief, but not all beliefs make sense of reality. Christianity does.

Atheist

1st part: no and no. When did I say there was any purpose to justifying logic? You utilize logic to reach a conclusion about what you are trying to discover or answer. You’re twisting definitions again using a convoluted (nonsensical) logic of your own. Just slow down and think dude.

2nd part: You did say that because you claimed someone, whether atheist or Christian might want to *admit* their argument is circular, and it’s ok because it “appeals” to the corresponding philosophy. You can debate whether you said this or not, I’m mostly debating that it just doesn’t make sense from the perspective of the logic and reasoning process. If it’s supposed to make sense, explain it again because so far very little of what you said makes sense.

3rd part: you want an examples? Noah, Adam & Eve, resurrections, Hell, God himself. Like I said I wanted evidence from Christians and all I get are citations of more miracles, and very little evidence they’re also all not hogwash also.

4th part: love of logic? Are you serious? And again I don’t need to justify logic, it’s the method to get from point A to B in understanding. As an analogy I might choose to drive a car instead of swim to get from A to B. Driving is simply practical and available. A Christian like you who thinks others must love logic, but you yourself don’t might prefer swimming because he or she is told that is the best way, even though there is no water between point A and B.

GodAndNeighbor

“you claimed someone, whether atheist or Christian might want to *admit* their argument is circular, and it’s ok because it “appeals” to the corresponding philosophy.”

Yes, I think people should understand that any argument for an ultimate conviction is circular, but that is not a requirement for circular logic. Most circular arguments are fallacious because of the relative size of the circle—they appeal to something that could actually be supported by something greater and more foundational. But at the most foundational level, circular reasoning is unavoidable because we’ve run out of things that we can prove and are left to presuppose an ultimate conviction. That ultimate conviction (for me, God; for you, autonomous human reasoning) is accepted by faith.

“When did I say there was any purpose to justifying logic? You utilize logic to reach a conclusion… it’s the method to get from point A to B…”

You DIDN’T say that there is any purpose to justifying the use of logic, but I don’t think you could come up with one if you were asked to. You don’t see the need because for you, it’s just there. You presuppose it, because it’s “simply practical and available.” You’re a “man of science” so you don’t ask why, but I’m asking, Why do science? Why are there LAWS of logic?

We presuppose (assume, take for granted) something basic and foundational that we can’t prove or support with anything MORE basic or foundational. It makes sense that an atheist, who thinks there is no God and no creator or first cause, would look at something like the laws of logic and say we should just assume them, rather than actually utilizing that same logic to explore how they got there in the first place. You could think about it, but it’s most likely your atheistic worldview that prevents you from doing so.

I have no problem with using logic; it’s what God gave us to reason, learn and discover Him. Obviously it only gets you so far, because holding it in the highest regard leaves you without any purpose or even desire to look into why it’s there, even to the point of abandoning logic.

“…you want an examples? Noah, Adam & Eve, resurrections, Hell, God himself.”

On Christianity, these are not fallacious, nonsensical or inconsistent. They only are on atheism, a worldview that can’t make sense out of the world we observe.

Atheist

Why do science, why place logic in such high regard? Sure I can answer that. Think of the universe as basically a giant computer. When we use a computer we perceive the output in the form of images and sounds that are made to process in a way that makes sense to the user. But at the most foundational, basic level all that information is just a series of 1′s and 0′s which would be incomprehensible to humans if we viewed it in that format.

The universe is the same, there is a subatomic, basic building block of energy, matter thus reality itself all of which can be decoded by pure mathematical reasoning. Some things are still unexplained like the behavior and relationship of certain particles that make up dark or empty matter, but were getting closer. However this giant computer called the universe came about, even if God made it, it’s still bound by the laws of logic EXCLUSEVELY as the language that explains reality.

I am not depending on logic because I “like it better, and relying on it isn’t a matter of presupposing it as the best available option, it is the ONLY option. I don’t even count the explanation from God’s perspective as an alternative because the origins of that language, that mindset, were developed before the concept of logic was evident to us. They (the authors of the bible) did have a kind of logic but the tools and methods of observation were inadequate to them. There’s no doubt that all the political strife during that period of history was extremely counterproductive to logic and reasoning as well.

You say I as an atheist my ultimate conviction is autonomous human resoning as opposed to your source of reasoing are both accepted by faith. Why? You need to explain why that is true. I don’t think faith applies in my case at all, so the two approaches are simply incomparable. Logic is the default, it doesn’t need validation. God, or just saying it is so because God says it’s so, does need validation because it VIOLATES logic.

You have repeatedly stated assertions to the contrary but no evidence backing it. You can keep stating those, and I’m sure you believe them yourself because either you keep saying it to yourself, or others keep telling you this unsubstatiated information, so that even reasoning becomes useless. It’s no concern of mine if this is comforting for you, and it’s better actually if that’s what gives you comfort and reassurance. But for me it’s inadequate, my way is to question, doubt and reason until I’m closer to making sense of the world. Religion and God can’t do that because it’s impossible, I’ve tested it and tested it and results have come up with a failing grade almost every time. It’s not by choice or belief, it’s just what the evidence has SHOWN.

GodAndNeighbor

“You say I as an atheist my ultimate conviction is autonomous human resoning as opposed to your source of reasoing are both accepted by faith. Why? You need to explain why that is true. I don’t think faith applies in my case at all, so the two approaches are simply incomparable. Logic is the default, it doesn’t need validation.”

ZJ, you already demonstrated that you accept the supremacy of logic by faith: You say’s it’s your default and it doesn’t need validation. That is a presupposition, something you just assume because you can’t support it with any kind of evidence. Think about it: You rely on the laws of logic because to you they require no validation. They can’t be proven by logic. When you believe something without proof, that’s faith.

Not only that, but you admit an understanding that logic is a law. Law requires a law-giver. You also call logic a language, and language doesn’t happen on its own; it’s written. And no one looks at a “giant computer” and says, “We don’t know how it came about, but it sure wasn’t any intelligent being.”

Now how does the idea of God “violate logic” when you can’t postulate a better reason why we use logic?

I imagine that civilizations 2,000 years in the future might look back at the world of 2012 and say something like “political strife during that period of history was extremely counterproductive to logic and reasoning.” That’s true today! 🙂 There is no marked difference between our use of logic and the ancient world’s—technology, yes, but not basic human reasoning.

The fallacious emotional appeal aside in your last paragraph, you say that your way “is to question, doubt and reason” but you won’t question your use of reason. How can that be? And what sort of tests have you run on God that you conclude that He is impossible?

Atheist

The language of logic is autonomous to human intervention because, as I’ve demonstrated reality at its most basic building blocks is like a basic series of 1′s and 0′s that make up all data that a computer expresses as images and sounds. I just happened to have determined this method of interpreting reality works best. The fact that interpreting reality requires logic is not faith, and the fact that I trust it is not faith either because I’ve gained adequate evidence that logic is reliable in the same way you know seatbelts will help save your life in a crash. Faith does not compel you to use seat belts, logic dictates that you will not fly through the window of your car in a collision if you wear your seatbelt. Faith is being compelled to believe something that contradicts obvious and available evidence that what you believe is false. Your assertion that my dedication to logic is anyway remotely a type of faith is patently ridiculous. I suggest you seriously take a look at what you’ve determined the definition of faith to be.

To answer your question about testing God, just observe the workings of religion. People are told to pray, sometimes prayers are answered from believers perspective but a casually observing relative or friend can easily deduce a coincidence occurred that the praying believer got overemotional about when their sickness went away for example. Churches ask for your money and ask you spread the word of God: it’s a business with an objective only to benefit itself. It doesn’t care about congregants it feeds off off the ignorance of the many that are taught to ignore or manipulate evidence and distrust the very logic that makes humans perfectly capable of answering life’s mysteries for themselves. And you my friend are a poster child of this very same form of manipulation and deceit. You just don’t see it and won’t accept it.

Furthermore, I have said repeatedly in my arguments “what if God was real?” What would that look like from an evidential understanding of his existence? I keep referring to the “What if?” scenario which in case you didn’t realize it is a form of LOGIC argument that given a particular form of evidence gained would actually support a shift in my position about a godless universe to a godly universe. There’s another test you asked me to provide an example of. However the results still point to and confirm a godless universe. Your ramblings give no indication whatsoever that you could conceive of the possibility of a godless universe. You are so unREASONABLY convinced that is not possible it clouds any hope of you ever even accepting LOGIC as an answer. But there’s a name for that, and I guess it’s fine for you: it’s called FAITH.

GodAndNeighbor

“The language of logic is autonomous to human intervention”

If by this you mean that it is independent of humans, you’re right on that. We discovered the laws of logic; we didn’t invent them.

“I just happened to have determined this method of interpreting reality works best.”

Well you’ve done nothing more to hypothesize the origin or purpose of the laws of logic. You’ve only observed how they work. Observing a computer in action does not explain where it came from and how you came to use it. You refer to the basic structure of the universe as a language of 1s and 0s and intelligible data and relating it to a computer, which destroys any argument that such a basic structure is a natural and random process. That alone should compel you to look a little deeper; obviously such a structure requires the input of intelligence and design, and of course, logic.

“The fact that interpreting reality requires logic is not faith, and the fact that I trust it is not faith either because I’ve gained adequate evidence that logic is reliable in the same way you know seatbelts will help save your life in a crash.”

That’s assuming that the future will be like the past, which is something we all rely on. It’s called the Principal of Uniformity, the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate now always have across time and space, and from that we assume they will continue to operate the same way into the future. Uniformitarianism seems very reliable, BUT it’s still an “assumption” (look it up and see). You are depending on the laws of logic to be upheld by the laws of uniformity, WHICH you still can’t logically account for on Naturalism. It’s just another presupposition to accept by faith. Christianity accounts for the principal of uniformity (see my first comment).

By the way, 53% of drivers and passengers killed in car crashes in 2009 were not wearing restraints, and that means 47% of them were wearing seatbelts. So much for faith in uniformity. (DOT source)

“Faith is being compelled to believe something that contradicts obvious and available evidence that what you believe is false.”

I think that most if not all available online definitions of “faith” would disagree with yours. Faith is belief WITHOUT proof or evidence, not in contradiction to it, or against evidence to the contrary. That’s quite an equivocation. 🙂 So it stands that if you cannot support your use of logic or your assumption that the future will be like the past, you are clinging to those beliefs by faith.

“To answer your question about testing God, just observe the workings of religion.”

Your attempting to test people here, not God, but frankly you’re not very scientific or logical about it. You make some sweeping generalizations and wild assumptions about the intent of churches that may be true of a few of them but plainly false on the whole. That’s no test, it’s just crazy spouting.

“I have said repeatedly in my arguments “what if God was real?” What would that look like from an evidential understanding of his existence?”

Um… I couldn’t find “What if” anywhere in your previous comments, so where did you repeatedly ask this? Anyway, I don’t see how you can say “the results still point to and confirm a godless universe” when you can’t account for your position, other than by saying that logic is just “available and convenient” and that it seems to work. That is a non-answer, and requires much more faith than I’m capable of.

Atheist

I don’t really get what you mean by whether the future must be like the past in how it relates to the validity of logic. The difference between the future and the past is that we’ve gained more in a continuum of logical conclusions that build up upon themselves as far as human understanding. To you that may seem like a system that feeds off of mistakes or inadequacies, because there are many, but it is always open to revision. If it was proven to be faulty, how could we reliably know more now, almost everything really about the universe than we did in the past? That understanding doesn’t change reality itself, only how much less we leave things up to imagination and superstition to explain things.

Eventually logic may replace faith altogether because, as I still feel correct in justifying, it’s flawed. My previous definition didn’t exclude that “faith is belief without proof or evidence,” but as we both agree it is that also. But even that definition alone supports the claim of its gross inadequacy in applying it to unlock the mysteries of universe. It’s important and useful for the faithful because some people don’t care about the nitty gritty details of “Why?” When a Christian sees the sun come up every morning they can thank God based on faith that it is his power that grants us a new day every morning. If that’s fine for you too, I’m glad.

Logic naturally tells me it’s more than that because I know there’s plenty that goes on behind the scenes that really there’s little pratical value in knowing. The sun rises every morning the same way today and into the forseeable future as it did thousands of years ago. So looking at that example are you suggesting that if I was alive 500 years ago I couldn’t have used logic to figure out God had nothing to do with the sun rising? I don’t see how the use of logic itself would differ, but the big difference is that I would much more likely lack the tools and prerequisite information to deduce how the sun is rising. I’d imagine even then some individuals let doubt creep in about the prevailing, and inaccurate, assumption. That doubt is logic at work and wasn’t it Galileo the one such individual who took that doubt further and turned it into evidence?

GodAndNeighbor

“I don’t really get what you mean by whether the future must be like the past in how it relates to the validity of logic. The difference between the future and the past is that we’ve gained more in a continuum of logical conclusions that build up upon themselves as far as human understanding.”

Logic depends on the fact that future seems like it will be like the past, based on past experience that every time we do something a certain way, it achieves the same result, with very few exceptions. From that experience, we ASSUME that in the future this will continue to be the pattern. Christians have faith in a Creator who set up the universe to behave in a very ordered and consistent manner. Humans observe these patterns of consistency and give them names: The Law of Uniformity, the Law of Cause and Effect, the Laws of Logic, etc. Christians and athiests both have faith that the future reflects the past, but Christians do because we trust that a consistent Creator caused the universe and makes sense of it. Atheists have faith that the future reflects the past simply because as far as we can recall or observe it always has. It’s just there. That’s a logical reason to continue to have faith in the laws of nature and logic, but it’s not based on anything but experience. The Christian’s faith in the Creator who set the universe on its course and makes sense out the laws of nature and logic. The atheist has faith in laws, the existence of which he can’t explain on his own worldview. This requires more faith than a theist’s faith in God, because here the atheist is, using logic for which he has no basis, because he has no evidence whatsoever that Naturalism can produce logic, uniformity, morality, mathematics, music, or any of the things we empirically observe.

Meanwhile, atheists continue to describe these patterns of logic and nature as laws (which require a law-giver in any logical sense) and language (which requires a writer in any logical sense) and complex computers (which require a designer and builder in any logical sense), borrowing from theism in the use of these things, but denying the obvious. You’ve actually made a very good case for Christian theism. 🙂

You seem to think that faith equals religion and you’re far removed from it. Faith is held in any belief system, including atheism. Christianity can justify it, whereas atheism only can by borrowing from Christianity.

“how could we reliably know more now, almost everything really about the universe than we did in the past? “

We certainly do not know “almost everything” about the universe. We know really very little. And you concede that there are “mysteries of the universe” yet to be unlocked, presumably by logic and science. Why do you put so much faith in the idea, with so little that we know about the universe, that God does not exist? It’s this confidence that makes me surprised at your great faith in atheism. I think when you say “I know there’s plenty that goes on behind the scenes that really there’s little pratical value in knowing”, you’re including God in this, and that may be why you refuse to look any further.

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