Atheism

Without God, Nothin': Why Atheists Steal from their Creator

By Warren Leigh

Back in 2001, the popular Christian hard rock/rap band P.O.D. released a song on their album Satellite titled "Without Jah, Nothin'" featuring guest vocalist Eek-A-Mouse. Although from a musical standpoint the song was even worse than it sounds, it made a massive theological and philosophical point, a point that I don't believe was even fully realized by the band members themselves. The name "Jah," of course, is an abbreviated form of God's own personal name, Yahweh, usually translated "LORD" in the vast majority of English Bible translations. The song's lyrics proclaim the fact that without God, Christians are no different from the unbeliever—everything good about us is entirely the work of God. This is absolutely true, but I want to argue here that, if we are to be both biblically faithful and truly effective in our apologetic method, then we must take the statement "Without God, NOTHING" and apply it to the whole of reality.

Stealing from God, by Frank Turek
Stealing from God, by Frank Turek

At the recent Be Ready 2016 conference, Frank Turek delivered a message titled "Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case," based on his book of the same title. In both the talk and the book, Turek demonstrates that even the most articulate and well-educated atheists (e.g. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the like) cannot argue their case without constantly stealing ideas and terminology from theism, particularly Christian theism. Other Christian apologists and thinkers, such as Greg Koukl, have observed the same thing.

While arguing that there is no such thing as evil, Richard Dawkins writes his famous laundry list of adjectives in The God Delusion describing how evil and horrible the God of the Old Testament is.[1] However, the question that almost never seems to get asked is, "Why must atheists do this?" "Must" they do it? In order to answer these questions, we need to ask another one: without God's prior existence and revelation, what is the very basis for reality, especially for that of those immaterial gods of knowledge, reason, logic and so forth that atheists love to worship so wholeheartedly?

To put it another way, what makes argument even possible in the first place? Is the atheist going to argue that argument, logic and reason are material entities made up of elements that can be found on, or at least added to, the Periodic Table? But the atheist's problems are not limited to immaterial realities. Either matter is eternal, which has been shown to be impossible, or it suddenly popped into existence out of nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing, be it time, space, laws, forces or even raw elements themselves. There was not even enough space for the matter to be condensed into a dot the size of a period, from which it could then expand, nor were there any forces or laws in existence to cause such an expansion, even if it were possible for matter to suddenly appear. As Cornelius Van Til, that great 20th-century Reformed apologist, once said, "Unless God is back of everything you cannot find meaning in anything."[2] And yet, Richard Dawkins, as a human being made in God's image, must live in God's world and must therefore also take His existence for granted while simultaneously suppressing this truth by his unrighteous thinking (Romans 1:18), thus stealing that which only rightfully belongs to God and those He has redeemed.

Both God's existence and His revelation are necessary if we are to have any basis for reality. Paul writes in Colossians 2:3 that it is Christ "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."[3] This is not just referring to spiritual knowledge and wisdom since "[a]ll things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). At creation, the Father spoke through the Son (John 1:1-3, Genesis 1:1,3), whose word was then carried out by the Spirit (Gen. 1:2). Creation was, therefore, a Trinitarian act. In fact, all of God's revelation, whether creative (general) or redemptive (special) is explicitly and thoroughly Trinitarian. This is because in order for God to reveal himself, He has to be able to relate Himself to his creation. He must therefore have relational qualities in and of Himself. This in turn means that there must be a plurality of distinct persons within God Himself, all of whom are nevertheless united in essence and in will. General theism, therefore, is not what believers are called to defend, for it destroys the very notion of God's self-revelation and therefore causes the rest of reality to collapse.[4] Thus, our apologetic defense, like the God whom we are defending, must be Trinitarian from the outset. Otherwise, we are defending a god who doesn't exist.

Warren Leigh is a volunteer with Faith Beyond Belief, who was a member of the original organizing committee of FBB's first event back in 2009, featuring Greg Koukl. He is a graduate of Liberty University (with a BSc in Religion), and is working on a book titled The Reality of Our God. Warren is passionate about doing apologetics in a biblically faithful manner.

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 269-283.

[2] > Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed: 1998), 122.

[3] Emphasis added. Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[4] K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 48.

 

 

Atheism Requires a Little Humility

By Nick Bertsch

When conversing with various atheists, I have encountered sort of a self-righteousness that confuses me. There is a certain sense in which many have a very condescending view of anyone they deem stupid enough to believe in a creator of the universe. The funny thing is, there are more problems in explaining reality for those who deny God's existence, than there are for those who affirm it. Here are a few off the top of my head, just to start.

First, most atheists are also naturalists or materialists. They believe all that exists is matter. In other words, "In the beginning were the particles." If this is the case, then it follows that wherever each person is at this moment is the result of physical processes. We are basically molecules in motion, or "moist robots." This should mean that our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, etc. are not rational but chemical, and we have no control over them. Whatever sense of morality we have, whatever view of God we have, and whatever else we think, are not something freely chosen or deduced rationally, but rather caused by chemical reactions in the brain. In other words, we don't reason, we just react. There is no free will in this view; we are biologically determined. This means that the atheist has no grounds to think his view is rational, because his beliefs are caused by his biology. Chances are though, most atheists will switch categories, claim they have free will, and yet cling to a worldview that undermines it completely.

Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel argues as much in his book Mind and Cosmos. He writes: "Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself."[1]

Second, although I am sure some will disagree, it seems that it is atheists who, more often than not, will take the wildly counter-intuitive position of denying such blindingly obvious things as objective morality and consciousness to argue against a creator. Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, has famously said, "DNA neither knows nor cares, DNA just is, and we dance to its music."[2] There are many atheists who will even argue that our consciousness is an illusion. Despite such bold statements, they will then proceed to argue about the immorality of religion (which is really just people dancing to their DNA, supposedly) using what they feel are rational arguments produced by their consciousness which is supposedly illusory . . . for everyone but them. Makes sense, right?

not-atheist-symbol1Third, when the best answer your worldview can provide in many cases is "we don't know," then it would be polite not to look down on those who draw an inference to the best explanation by positing God. The origin of life, the origin of the universe, and the origin of consciousness are a few things that have no plausible explanation within the worldview of naturalism, and it would be nice to see an atheist or two be a little more charitable with Christians, since "we don't know" is the best they can ultimately come up with when pressed.

Fourth, even though it's a standard atheist tactic to blame religion for causing more wars and violence than anything else, it is actually atheism that has the higher body count. Regimes like those of Stalin, Lenin, and Mao Zedong made atheism the institutionalized position, resulting in the slaughter of over 100 million people combined, many of whom were religious people. Is it because all atheists are evil? Of course not. It is because atheism reduces us from human beings created in the image of God, with intrinsic value, to glorified animals with extrinsic value, who can be killed if they are not useful or oppose what you want. If a person has the power these men had, and views people this way, there is nothing logically incoherent about killing anyone who disagrees. Those claiming to be Christians who committed violence did so against the teachings of Jesus. Read for yourself. However, those who believe we are all animals and are accountable to no one have the logical backing for some pretty ugly things. Most atheists don't think like this, which I am glad for, but there is nothing in the logical outworking of their worldview which would prevent them from doing so. In other words, they are inconsistent yet again, and should be a bit more charitable to those with a worldview that doesn't lead logically to these kinds of things.

Fifth, since most atheists think evolution is really to blame for the way we all think and behave, why is it so impossible for them to keep their evolution to themselves and let Christians and everyone else believe what they want? Why are they so threatened by us? Why do some feel the need to remove any mention of God from anything in society, and silence or ostracize anyone who dares to dissent? I find it a little telling of the weakness of their worldview. If religion is a product of evolution that has helped people survive, then there is no explanation for the irrational hatred so many atheists have for it.

Finally, it is seemingly impossible for many atheists to accurately represent the Christian worldview before they proceed to argue against it. They consistently build a straw man of what we don't believe (with a few verses ripped out of context from the Old Testament thrown in), and then proceed to tear it apart. If you can't argue confidently and logically against a view someone actually holds, then don't look down on them with such disdain for holding it.

I could probably rant forever on this, but I think I have made my point. I love when good conversations happen, but find more and more that the tone, and the tactics, are often unhelpful. There are many like me who have not blindly accepted belief in God, but have logically thought it through and find His existence undeniable. The reality is, there are massive problems with the atheistic worldview, and it would serve some atheists well to have a little humility in view of this. Christians are not the only ones with questions to answer.


[1] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 27.

[2] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 133.

I'm Sorry! But the Church Needs Apologetics

francis-schaeffer.jpg

By Scott McClare and Jojo Ruba

An elderly Christian woman once told me that she didn't need to learn apologetics. She said she knew enough to be convinced that Christianity was correct, and didn't need any more information. In response, I asked her a question (something we at Faith Beyond Belief train a lot on). I asked her, "I'm glad you know enough to be convinced of Christianity. But do you have non-Christian friends who might need to know a little more in order to be convinced to become Christians? Couldn't you learn more for their sake?"

She said I made a good point.

Unfortunately, her initial resistance to apologetics is something too many Christians adopt when we share what we do at Faith Beyond Belief. Christians raise all kinds of objections to why they shouldn't have to learn about how to defend their faith in an increasingly hostile culture.

francis-schaefferThat's why we created this series. We want to examine some of the top arguments from Christians who think apologetics is unnecessary or, worse, damaging to the cause of Christ. Many of these arguments are ones we've heard from friends or family or Christian critics. Many of these arguments are also left unspoken—they are lingering doubts we hear between the lines when we introduce FBB to Bible college professors or pastors or Christian students at Christian schools.

Interestingly enough, simply defining apologetics helps dispel many of the critics' arguments. It's important to start here because there is so much confusion and ungrounded prejudice against apologetics because of how it is defined. And of course, if we want a biblically-minded Christian to listen to the case for apologetics, we should look for a definition in Scripture.

The word apologetics comes from a Greek word, apologia, which means "to give a verbal defense." This is the word Peter uses when he writes, "in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added).[1] Christian apologetics, then, is the defense of the Christian faith. Generally, apologetics focuses on answering objections from non-Christians. Hence we can contrast apologetics with polemics, which is the refutation of false ideas within the Christian faith.

When the apostle Paul writes about fighting spiritual battles, one of the two "weapons of our warfare" he tells Christians to use is effective apologetics: "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The other weapon is practical holiness, and as Peter writes, that in itself can also be an apologetic: "even if some [husbands] do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct" (1 Peter 3:1).

One of my pastors used to be fond of saying that everyone is a theologian; it was just a matter of how good a theologian you were. Similarly, everyone is an apologist. Muslims and Mormons begin their training as youth; Jehovah's Witnesses practice how to have conversations with people at the door. And every atheist I've met seeks to get Christians to adopt their worldview. We all have a belief system we believe is true. As Christians in particular, we want to persuade others that our beliefs are true, as well. Hence, the goal of Christian apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus.

Why do apologetics? Again, scripture has the answer. We do apologetics because God commands it (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3-4). We live in a society whose institutions, such as schools, media, popular culture, and government, are increasingly hostile to faith. That's nothing new, of course. The first generation of the church fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian, were largely apologists who saw a need to appeal to the authorities who were persecuting the church, and tell them not to believe the false rumours that circulated about what Christians believed and how they behaved.

We do apologetics because we want to persuade non-Christians to repent and believe in Jesus. Skeptics have many barriers to faith: the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of the Resurrection, the reality of miracles, and others. Reasoned apologetics can remove those barriers.

We do apologetics because we want to help other Christians strengthen their faith. Unfortunately, many Christians are not well-informed about Christianity and cannot clearly define even its core tenets: for example, the Trinity, the relationship of Christ's two natures, the meaning of the Atonement, or the difference between justification and sanctification. This is increasingly worsening as the Internet steadily provides false information that causes further confusion. It's no wonder Christian teachers and youth pastors agree that the average age for a young person to face a crisis of faith is now 13. They don't have to go to university to hear all kinds of false ideas about Christianity—they can just hear them on YouTube.

Apologetics helps define the truth of the Gospel. Other Christians may also hear the answers given to the objections of skeptics, and be encouraged and emboldened themselves. We then become role-models for how we can engage and teach the truth of the gospel of believers who may have no one else to help them.

We do apologetics to protect the church from harmful influences. There are many cults and new religious movements that call themselves "Christian," but they promote false doctrines. These need to be answered and refuted so that they do not lead the church astray. John warned his readers not to even invite false teachers into their homes, because it gave the appearance of approving their message and giving them a base from which to spread it (2 John 10-11). In addition to false religious influences, the church also needs to be protected from secular influences, such as immorality and worldly thinking. We need to clearly articulate God's will that God's people be holy, in both their bodies and their minds. As apologist Matt Slick has written:

The fact is that Christianity is under attack in the world, and we need to fight the good fight of the faith without shrinking back. We need apologetics to give rational, intelligent, and relevant explanations of Christian viability to the critics and the prejudiced who would seek to undermine the teachings of our Lord Jesus.[2]

With all the clear biblical commands, why, then, does it seem like many Christians and churches are indifferent, or even hostile, to apologetics? In this series, we'll examine some of these arguments and excuses to reject making the case for Christ. We've asked our FBB writers to take the most vocal Christian critics of apologetics head-on and provide some solid responses to their concerns.

Ironically, many people not familiar with the term apologetics thinks it refers to apologizing or having to say we are sorry for doing something. Through this series, we want Christians to realize that when they engage in Christian apologetics and defend the faith with "gentleness and respect," they have nothing to apologize for.


[1] Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] Matt Slick, "Eight Reasons Why We Need Apologetics," CARM, accessed September 1, 2015, https://carm.org/eight-reasons-why-we-need-apologetics.

Same Ol' Argument: a Logical Refutation

Bible-with-warning-sticker.jpg

By Justin Wishart

Our Executive Director, Jojo Ruba, recently sent me an opinion editorial published by the Medicine Hat News.[1] Scott Schmidt, the article's author, goes on a diatribe chastising Christians who submit to the Word of God, and the God who inspired it. Schmidt makes it very clear what he thinks of the Bible by saying that when it is "read cover to cover it becomes blatantly obvious just how much complete nonsense there is." He attempts to give a moderated view by saying, "I couldn't care less what you believe in your own life, as that is the entire point. Live and let live." However, Schmidt then says, "[I]t's time for you to change your attitude, or go away"; so much for "[l]ive and let live." Schmidt is very interested in forcing his morality on anyone who might disagree with him. However, there is one thing he said which I agree with him about. "The thing is, while it might be your right to say what you want, the second you make it public (or attempt to) it becomes my right to tell you what I think." I will now do the same.

There are so many poor arguments, outright logical fallacies, and misrepresentations in Schmidt's article that I am surprised he deemed it worthy to print. It also made it hard to pick which direction to take my response. There is a virtual delta of channels I could have taken. However, I deemed a response worth the time because you see many of his flawed arguments used by various Internet Atheist types. This might provide a useful resource for our readers if they encounter such arguments online, and if you do apologetic work online, you will face these arguments.

Schmidt's article is an attempt to argue that Christians shouldn't take the Bible's teaching on homosexuality seriously. He makes the mistake that many Internet Atheists make. He accuses Christians of not reading the whole Bible and applying it equally to their lives, so why should we accept what the Bible says about homosexuality?

Your religion also says I have to marry my sister-in-law if my brother dies, and that my daughter must marry her rapist as long as he gives me 50 gold coins. In the same part of the book that calls "a man laying with another man" an "abomination," we're also told we can't eat shrimp, wear polyester or get divorced. Those same pages require hair never be messy, beards never be trimmed, and, for good measure, dictates parents kill their children if they curse at them. Unless you don't find any of these rules to be absurdly offensive, how could you keep a straight face while trying to suggest the one about "laying with another man" deserves credibility?

Schmidt thinks that since we wear polyester, we shouldn't be against homosexual actions. Far from being a good argument, this simply shows that Schmidt hasn't thought through this subject. Due to space, I am not going to justify these mentioned laws individually, but provide some general principles that show Schmidt's argument is meaningless.

Bible with warning sticker1. Schmidt gives the impression that homosexuality is only discussed in Leviticus. This is simply false. There are six passages which specifically deal with homosexuality, including three in the New Testament.[2] Yet, Schmidt seems to be completely unaware of this fact, or simply chose not to mention this in his article. This shows that Schmidt's argument fails to refute the biblical teaching on this subject. Any proper refutation must deal with these other verses as well.

2. The Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman.[3] This disqualifies a same-sex union from being a biblical marriage. Sorry, Schmidt: to a Bible-believing Christian, a homosexual union is not a marriage. The Bible also teaches that sex should only take place within a marriage covenant.[4] This then disqualifies any homosexual act as permissible, because they would all have to happen outside a marriage covenant. Schmidt's argument fails to recognize this fact found within Scripture. Since there is no mention of this in his article, his argument doesn't even come close to addressing the Bible's teaching homosexuality, much less refuting it.

3. Everyone, including Jews, must reinterpret their relationship with Torah Law. There are two main reasons for this. One is that there is no Torah theocracy. Cultural context must be therefore considered.[5] Since many of the paradigmatic laws found within the Torah are state-focused laws, they do not directly apply in our modern context. While we can look at the paradigm and see the wisdom of the principles that the law is derived from, some direct commands cannot apply anymore. Secondly, the Temple, with all its ceremony and rituals, is no longer here. Much of the Torah Law is focused on the Temple (or Tabernacle) and the rituals associated with it. Schmidt does not attempt to deal with these hermeneutical issues. But if anyone is going to refute the Bible's teaching, it must be addressed. This is but another way his argument fails.

4. Christians believe the Jesus fulfilled the Law.[6] This is exactly the main thing that changes the Christian's relationship with the Torah Law. Until Schmidt shows how eating shellfish (and the other laws he mentioned) is treated the same hermeneutically as homosexuality in light of the life of Jesus, his argument cannot refute the Bible's teaching on the subject.

5. Schmidt confuses the actions of Christians with the veracity of the Bible. Even if he was able to account for the above principles, this would still not make his case. It might be the case that the vast majority of Christians have gotten our beard laws wrong. That if we were to be consistent, men should never shave our beards. Yet, Schmidt argues that if this is true, and that we indeed should not shave our beards, that it follows we should be okay with homosexuality. How does that follow? It could be that homosexuality is still an abomination and we should also not shave our beard. Pointing out (alleged) Christian inconsistencies does not mean we should necessarily throw out all other laws, but could mean that we should simply become more consistent. Since Schmidt does not provide any justification as to why we should abandon the Levitical teaching on homosexuality, instead of taking seriously the beard laws, his argument fails here.

While more could be mentioned, these five failures alone show Schmidt does not provide a meaningful refutation of the Bible. I don't even need to provide justification as to why Leviticus commands what it does.[7] An argument which is shown to be fallacious does not need to be refuted further; and Schmidt's argument is about as fallacious as they come.

I mentioned earlier that there were many channels I could have taken my response given the fallacious nature of Schmidt's article. One simple example will highlight the absurd nature of this article. He says:

You see, I couldn't care less what you believe in your own life, as that is the entire point. Live and let live.

However, that flies right out the window when you use archaic excuses to take other people down.

If I replace the pejorative term "archaic" with the pejorative term "liberalized," how does he avoid his own criticism? Is he not trying to take down the Bible, and as a result Bible-believing Christians? Does he not want us to simply "go away"?

It appears that Schmidt would benefit more in learning some basic logic instead of fallaciously attempting to take Christian people down.[8] He would have easily seen how erroneous his arguments are and realized that he needs to study the subject much more. Instead of such a pointless hit piece, he might actually be able to add something meaningful to this discussion. Unfortunately, the general population haven't learned basic logic and may even find his arguments convincing. The fact that I have come across this argument many times proves this to be the case. It is up to the apologist—correct that, it is up to the Christian to point out the errors in this argument. People actually fall for such poor argumentation.


[1] Scott Schmidt, "The Bible Is Not Always the Best Source of Right and Wrong in the 21st Century," Medicine Hat News, July 8, 2015, accessed July 24, 2015, http://medicinehatnews.com/commentary/opinions/2015/07/08/the-bible-is-not-always-the-best-source-of-right-and-wrong-in-the-21st-century/.

[2] Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10.

[3] Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5.

[4] Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 5:15-19; Exodus 20:14; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.

[5] To use an Old Testament example, many of the Torah Laws had to be abandoned when Israel was under Babylonian rule.

[6] Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4.

[7] However, simple Google searches will find good introductory justifications for such laws if one is really interested in learning.

[8] I would recommend Gordon Clark's book Logic (4th ed., Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2004).

How Is Everything So Messed Up?

Beach-in-Sharm-al-Naga.jpg

By Nic Bertsch

How many times have you heard someone say something like this?

"This world is so messed up."

Or:

"Human beings are so messed up."

If you have never heard anyone say something like this, just ask the next person you talk to if they agree with either of the statements. The answer will almost always be yes. Those who would identify themselves as atheists, especially when their guard is down, will likewise agree that there is a massive amount of dysfunction in both people and the planet. Beliefs like these, however, are not compatible with atheism. In this post, I want explore this problem and shed some light on the inability of atheism to explain the real world.

Debris on a beach in Sharm el-Naga, Egypt. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)Take environmentalism as an example. Those who would deem themselves environmentalists, would definitely agree that the planet is messed up. After all, they are constantly petitioning people and governments to reduce pollution and increase conservation efforts. They look down with disdain on those who don't believe in global warming. There are even some of the more radical types, who actually favour reducing the population in order to help conserve animal and plant life and cut down on pollution. The question for anyone holding this view, if they are an atheist, is why?

To spot the confusion, we need to take a step back and start at the beginning. In the worldview of atheism, specifically naturalism or materialism, all that exists is matter. The universe came from nothing, by nothing, for no reason. The fact that any kind of life exists defies all probability. Humans, along with every other life form in the universe, are an accident. There is no creator, just particles. Now that we have that established: why should we think the planet is messed up?

Things can only be messed up, if there is a way they ought to be. If everything is an accident, if there is no design or purpose in life or the universe, then there is no "ought." There just is.

Think about it for a second: The temperature of the earth has been both warmer and colder than it is now. The majority of species of animals and plants that have ever existed have gone extinct. This is what happens on earth. Why should we think, especially from the viewpoint of an atheist, that there is any reason to preserve the earth in some arbitrary state that environmentalists determine is the way it "ought" to be? The earth and the universe just are, remember? There is no design or meaning or purpose. We are an accident. We all will die, the earth will die, the universe will die, and no act of environmentalism will change that in any ultimate sense.

This is a big point of inconsistency amongst atheists, as they desperately want to affirm the need to preserve the environment, even though it makes absolutely no sense in their worldview. I say again: If the planet is messed up, it can only be because it was designed, and that design has been disrespected or abused in some way. Well, a design needs a designer. I have a feeling that the idea of a designer is not something many atheists would be quick to embrace, yet they can't help but think in those terms. It's almost like they are fighting against reality.

The same problem exists when dealing with human beings. To say that a person is messed up, also implies there is a way they "ought" to be. Where does that "ought" come from? If we all evolved from lower life forms through an unguided natural process that didn't have us in mind, then who are we to judge the evolution of another human being?

Think about the kind of person that pretty much anyone would classify as "messed up": people like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ted Bundy, Darth Vader, Oscar the Grouch, etc. (Okay, those last two may not quite be on the same level as the others, but they're still very messed up.) To what, or who, are we comparing them to when we refer to them this way? By what standard are they messed up, and us closer to the way humans "ought" to be? If atheism is true, then there is no standard. There is no way humans "ought" to behave. No one is messed up, we are just different.

Here we see once again where atheism runs contrary to reality. Check any atheist blog, website, or podcast, and you will undoubtedly hear a surplus of emoting on the evils of religion and its adherents—especially Christians. Indeed, human beings cannot help but think in moral terms. Moral "oughtness" is a hard concept to escape from, because reality is built that way. The implications of the atheistic worldview don't match up with the way the world really is. If your worldview has no standard to judge humans as "messed up," especially when they clearly are, then it seems to me that your worldview is false.

In the Christian worldview, there is no logical conflict with affirming either of these views. We believe the planet is messed up because we believe it was designed a certain way. The entire Christian worldview is built upon the foundation that at the Fall of mankind, disorder and brokenness entered creation, and since then the world has never been what is was meant to be. There is no conflict or category switching necessary for the Christian to be consistent. Moreover, we believe we do have a responsibility to care for the environment, because we were placed as stewards over what God created. We can explain our obligation to the environment and each other by grounding it in our God-given responsibilities. Atheism cannot ground such responsibility in anything other than personal preference.

Likewise, we believe that people are messed up because there is a way they were designed to be. Our moral compass is something we have from being created in God's image, which is why we cannot avoid—whether as an atheist or theist—speaking in moral terms. We know there is an "ought," when it comes to morality, and a designer is the only logical explanation for that.

The inability to be consistent within one's worldview is a good indicator that the worldview in question is not an accurate description of reality. The planet, and humans really are messed up, and an honest atheist will admit as much. What they will lack in the end, is any logical reason to believe such a thing. Maybe, just maybe, there really is a way things are supposed to be. Perhaps it's no accident at all we feel the way we do.

The Bible and Human Worth

Canadian_Tribute_to_Human_Rights.jpg

The Preservation and Value of the Human Self in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures

By Dr. Ron Galloway

The Bible has two parts: the Old Testament, put together over a period of approximately eleven hundred years,[1] and the New Testament, composed over a period of about fifty years. But both parts of the Bible make wonderfully clear, when rightly understood, that all human beings are made in the image of God and are therefore infinitely precious to their Creator. The New Testament makes this human worth even clearer by making clear to us that God so loved us that He became one of us, and that Jesus who was God incarnate died for us all and rose for us all so that we could all become a member of His eternal family. That is really what we mean by the church as the body of Christ.

This is not a claim about human worth that we can ever afford to take for granted, even though most people appear to do so. For it is not merely a unique idea, but a declaration alien and against the grain of normal historical human patterns of thinking or believing, until people and civilizations come into contact with the Bible itself or its message.

Canadian Tribute to Human Rights, Ottawa: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."What we find when we view ancient cultures and civilizations, and many existing ones, is that they never rise to the concept that all human beings are equally precious and equally loved by a sovereign Creator with no rival. This very concept of human worth is far too high to be simply a product of human reasoning or understanding. Yet once the idea of equal human worth is believed in, its appeal to human beings is unparalleled.

It is part and parcel of every contemporary protest against oppression that we hear in the media today: the cruelty imposed on Muslim women, or our rage against people evil enough to enslave little children into prostitution. We see it in the sanctions imposed upon tyrannical rulers and every other form of claimed injustice that comes before the Supreme Court. Fragmented versions, cut off from its biblical source, exist around the earth. Many people now believe that all human life is precious, but they no longer connect it to the love of God, supposing that this concept can somehow hang in mid-air. The reality is that this mid-air stance makes no logical sense and has no support whatever apart from the belief in a deity that created us and loves us. As soon as the love of the Creator is rejected as the cause of this worth, there remains no way to support its reality. So, at the risk of repetition, allow it to be said again: the Bible presents a view of human beings and human worth that human beings could never come to on their own. The proof of this is the fact that before the Judeo-Christian tradition spread its influence, every pattern of human religion, civilization, and culture was devoid of such a wondrous non-preferential view of human worth and value.[2]

Once it is revealed, even religious humanists normally consent to the idea that human beings are precious, even though they cannot intellectually sustain this belief, and despite the fact that it is utterly contrary to their doctrine of human beings as purposeless accidental beings whose self-perception is wholly determined by data bombarding their senses. Still, many of these secular humanists would pit themselves against atheists such as B. F. Skinner, who was much more consistent with the presuppositions of an atheist. Skinner viewed humanity as an organism with no intrinsic inner self that was better off without freedom or human dignity. This is why his most popular work was called Beyond Freedom and Dignity.[3] Indeed, there would be little or no appeal to atheism if it did not ride piggyback on the biblical teaching of human worth. Take out human worth and what does atheism of the Darwinian variety or any other leave you? It bequeaths you with accidental organisms having no intrinsic purpose and no greater worth than any other living organism.

But to be fair, we must start far enough back that one does not mistake finding this idea of equal human worth originating in religion and culture itself, when in fact it is only found because of the widespread influence of the Bible.

Since the advent of the Christian faith, many cultures contain this wonderful and elevated understanding of humanity. When other cultures and religions come into contact with the Bible, there are often marked and pervasive changes in those religions and in the culture itself. For example, it is well known that Mahatma Gandhi deplored the doctrine of re-incarnation and replaced it with his belief in the equal value of every human being. This was a not a traditional Hindu idea, but a biblical view of human worth and justice. The rejection of the doctrine of reincarnation and the caste system implied by it was more than a minor change in the nature of his Hindu belief. As a consequence, the prime ground for the struggle for India's independence was grounded in a teaching alien to Hinduism itself. It was motivated by the truly transcendent idea that every human life is precious, but Gandhi cut this off from its real source, the Bible and its teachings.

This wondrous Biblical view of human individual and collective human worth was foreshadowed in many of the writings of the Old Testament. But it was only after the death and resurrection of Christ that even the first century Christian Jews began to understand God's love for all human beings. Not even the closest followers of Jesus even remotely understood the central purpose of the Old Testament, till they began to understand what Jesus did for us all by dying on the cross for all humanity. Only then did they come to understand that God so loved every human being in the world that he gave His only son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Whenever we lose sight of this and revert back to the idea that human beings are not loved of God, and not of equal value, we simply move back to a typical pattern of fragmented human thinking with respect to God and the universe. That pattern of fragmented thinking, of low-level thought, is as prevalent in the world today as it was before the time of Christ. You see its presence every time one human being, for whatever reason, considers himself superior to another.

This low-level view of humanity is particularly evident in secular humanism, the prevailing belief system in most of the West and much of the rest of the world. According to religious humanism, God does nothing for us.[4] He simply does not exist, and it is all up to us to form our own futures. In most versions of religious humanism, these self-created futures are done in an intrinsically purposeless universe.

We ought also to remember that whenever we are prepared to dump this whole idea that human beings are of equal value because they are all equally loved by God, we are then reverting back to the normal preferential human pattern of viewing human beings. For example, the Romans preferred the Romans and the Greeks the Greeks, and other nations could then be enslaved and conquered. As soon as we say that human beings are simply a physical species different only in degree from other animals, we then lose any basis for viewing human beings as of more value than anything else in the animal kingdom. If we are consistent with this cold and impersonal belief, we can use human beings as guinea pigs with no sense of conscience, since there no longer remains any basis for viewing human beings as of more value. As soon as our definition of human beings allows for the idea of superior and inferior human beings, then we too, like the ancient Romans or Greeks, can treat other human beings as inferior to ourselves without any pangs of conscience.

It is not difficult to find views of human beings in history in which some segment of humanity is considered superior to another. The reason it is not difficult is simply because it is the norm. Not only is it the norm, it is the very constant of human culture and civilization. Outside of the influence of the Bible, this fragmented preferential understanding of human value ever prevails.[5] This is essentially due to the fact that human beings are finite. Consequently they can never know enough about humanity or its origins to ever arrive at the wondrous idea that all human beings are equally loved and equally precious, and equally able to choose to come to their Saviour, Jesus Christ. Outside of Jesus Christ they can never find a logically consistent way to justify the equal value of all human beings. The only way this can be done is precisely by saying that the Creator loves them all equally and died for them all equally.

I invite any of my readers to try to come up with any other consistent idea that establishes equal human worth. I would advise against appealing to the New Age notion that all life forms are equally precious, since this makes human beings no more precious than the AIDS virus. Indeed, I also extend to all the invitation to even find any other basis for believing that human beings are of greater value than cancer cells. We might for example argue that because we are more intelligent, we are therefore superior. This might sound solid, but who has ever established that degrees of intelligence have anything to do with the idea of worth?

There are of course some very damaging implications in seeking to establish worth on the basis of intelligence. If this is true, it means that any person who is smarter than another person is automatically of more value and worth. Therefore those of superior intelligence can treat those of inferior intelligence as creatures of lesser worth and value. Just imagine how barbaric the world would become if this were the basis we all used for human worth. The Nazis suggested something similar to this when they maintain that a special white breed possessed superior minds than that of the Semitic, Oriental and African races.

There is a reason immigrants from oppressed parts of the world come to Canada and the US. It is because despite the betrayal of our heritage, which is precisely a Christian heritage at its richest, we still treat human beings as creatures of equal value and worth in our laws and in our protests, even though many have spurned the very origins of why we fight such battles to preserve the rights of every human being. That source is the Bible and the accounts within it that speak of God's love for all of us. Everyone is invited to receive this love shown to us by a dying and resurrected Saviour. There is no favoritism; every one us can become a member of his eternal family. Each member is equally precious. Even those outside of the family are no less precious. Jesus loves them as well. "The Bible tells me so."


[1] See Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (New York: Oxford, 1987); also F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1950).

[2] It is well known that reincarnation requires a hierarchy of privilege and superiority for the Brahmans.

[3]< B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Knopf, 1971).

[4] See the following sources: Humanist Manifesto I, American Humanist Association, accessed March 19, 2015, http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_I; Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004); and D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What if the Bible had Never Been Written? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).

[5] To show how alien the idea of equal worth is to history until the time of the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, see Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods (Nashville: Word, 2000) and Peter Marshal and David Manuel, The Light and The Glory (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1980).

Matt Dillahunty's Illogical Worldview

By Justin Wishart

I recently watched a debate between Sye Ten Bruggencate and Matt Dillahunty.[1] I have been mildly interested in Dillahunty's show The Atheist Experience[2] over the years. The question under debate was whether it was reasonable to believe God exists. I was pleasantly surprised that Dillahunty presented what I think is his epistemological position. Ten Bruggencate suggested that Dillahunty's worldview leads to absurdity. Is this true?

The most striking feature of Dillahunty's epistemology is that he gives a two-level epistemological view. The first level, which I will call the metaphysical level, says that we cannot know reality. "As such, many philosophers have simply acknowledged they cannot be absolutely certain about anything, including the claim that they cannot be absolutely certain."[3] The second level, which I call the subjective level, is that one must accept certain presuppositions as true, with no argument given for them as all arguments are derived from them.

My worldview begins with the recognition of the logical absolutes,[4] that they are true and the foundation of reliable thoughts, as such that we can derive sensible conclusions from them. While I don't support absolute certainty in the ultimate sense . . . the logical absolutes represent maximal certainty, which may or may not be absolute, and anything directly deduced from those absolutes, like math and set theory, are also maximally certain, while things indirectly derived from those are reasonably certainties.[5]

So, how does Dillahunty combine the metaphysical level with the subjective level in his overall epistemological scheme?

In the past I have said that we can be absolutely certain that we exist, that the logical absolutes are true, and about things like exoteric claims and labels, but my expression of absolute certainty on those topics are done within the context of an epistemological view known as foundherentism (which is a combination of foundationalism and coherentalism). In a nutshell, in the rules of chess it is absolutely wrong to move your rook diagonally. And while I reject that we can be absolutely certain from an externalist point of view, we can still be absolutely certain within the meshed framework, and it makes no sense to appeal to some absolute truth which it isn't wrong to move your rook diagonally . . . I will simply refer to this as maximal certainty, and that maximal certainty may or may not map to ultimate certainty.[6]

To put it succinctly, while we can deduce certainty at the subjective level, we cannot obtain certainty at the metaphysical level. An important consequence of this scheme is that all claims to knowledge, including what he calls maximal certainty, are predicated on the understanding that nothing is knowable at the metaphysical level. It follows that Dillahunty's scheme is fundamentally pragmatic, and he recognizes this: "I will concede, as do most philosophers, that there appears to be no . . . absolute solution. But I am stuck dealing with the reality I experience until someone offers me a way out."[7] It's not that Dillahunty's subjective level is capable of deriving true beliefs, but that it has worked best for him. Yet, a Christian could offer the same explanation, but they would have a different subjective level foundational set than Dillahunty. This seems necessarily true as all our experiences are different. How does Dillahunty avoid the charge of situational arbitrarity?[8] When viewing this at the metaphysical level, there is no reasonable belief for Dillahunty at all, much less a reasonable belief in God. This would, of course, include his subjective-level epistemology scheme. This refutes anything he may say at the subjective level and his words are reduced to mindless babbling.

Dillahunty thinks that a valid accounting of knowledge isn't even important. "Whether or not my beliefs count as knowledge,[9] under my definition or Sye's or someone else's, is irrelevant to the topic of this debate and it's largely irrelevant in any context that isn't expressly an academic philosophical discussion about knowledge."[10] Does he really think that one's belief corresponding to reality has no bearing on the reasonableness of the belief in God? Well, since he brought up Ten Bruggencate, let's see what Ten Bruggencate said about this relationship. "Why is it reasonable to believe that God exists? Quite simply, because it is true that he exists."[11] The truth of the issue is exactly the standard that Ten Bruggencate uses to define reasonableness. This refutes Dillahunty's statement, and one's belief being real has much bearing in a conversation with Ten Bruggencate. It also seems that Dillahunty himself recognizes the importance of beliefs corresponding to reality. "It's in our best interest to believe in as many true things, and as few false things, as is possible. Making our internal map of reality as accurate as possible."[12] It appears that for Dillahunty, the correspondence of our beliefs to reality is important, unless he contends that this statement isn't reasonable. Why is it reasonable to believe in as many true things as possible if the truth of the belief has no bearing on the belief's reasonableness? This seems contradictory.

However, Dillahunty is insistent that we look at his epistemological scheme from the subjective level, so we will. He seems unaware that he presents a trilemma:

  1. Since he has made the term "reasonable" a result of one's subjective level of epistemology, of course the existence of God becomes reasonable to the Christian. It is also the case that it is true that it is unreasonable to believe in God's existence for the Atheist. This makes it true that it is both reasonable and unreasonable to believe in the existence of God. Since there is no way, according to Dillahunty, to know if one's view corresponds to reality, we seem stuck with this contradiction, "and that way madness lies."[13]
  2. Or, if he insists that the unreasonableness of God's existence is objectively more reasonable still, his position leads to a case of special pleading. He believes his subjective level is superior to the Christian's subjective level, but cannot provide valid and sound argument that is supported by evidence.[14] Dillahunty may appeal to philosophical consensus as much as he likes, but he knows this does nothing to prove the reality of his view. The rules soften when applied to his position, while they are in full force when applied to Ten Bruggencate.
  3. If he makes it about the reasonableness of a belief, with no reference to its correspondence to reality, then he must provide valid, sound criteria. Since the only thing left to him is the subjective level, any criteria will be circular. What is reasonable is dictated by the subjective level, and the subjective level seems derived from its reasonableness.

I didn't focus on more minor issues in Dillahunty's presentation, as they were legion. I will only mention one as an example. "'You can't know anything unless you know everything or know someone who knows everything.' Well, I would like to see the proof of that rather than just an assertion or a demand that we prove them wrong or a fallacious shifting of the burden of proof."[15] He says one cannot use a "prove me wrong" defense as this is a "fallacious shifting of the burden of proof." Then why earlier did he provide this argument in support of his subjective view?

I don't believe that the question "Why are the logical absolutes true?" expresses a sensible concept. For me it's like asking, "Why is one, one?" Because it is and it doesn't appear it could be any other way and if it could be any other way, give any evidence to the contrary, you need to demonstrate it, and that's a very heavy burden of proof, but if you can do it, then I will believe it.[16]

With such faulty reasoning and shoddy argumentation it's a wonder that anyone takes his views seriously. I have lost nearly all interest in Matt Dillahunty as a serious thinker after watching this debate. He is no more profound than the people I debate on Facebook, although he uses bigger words. Ten Bruggencate said earlier on in the debate he wanted to argue that unbelief in God leads to absurdity. While Dillahunty's performance doesn't prove that conclusion, it did prove that Dillahunty's epistemology, at least, leads to absurdity.


[1] "The Refining Reason Debate: Matt Dillahunty VS Sye Ten Bruggencate," YouTube, June 3, 2014, accessed February 21, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL8LREmbDi0. All time indexes given in this article are taken from this video.

[2] The Atheist Experience, accessed February 21, 2015, http://www.atheist-experience.com.

[3] Dillahunty vs. Ten Bruggencate, 27:33.

[4] Dillahunty equates "logical absolutes" with the "Laws of Logic."

[5] Dillahunty vs. Ten Bruggencate, 30:42.

[6] Ibid., 31:50.

[7] Ibid., 27:06.

[8] This is the idea that our situation is such as it is. If our subjective level epistemology is based on this situational arbitrariness, then it follows that Dillahunty promotes an arbitrary epistemology.

[9] Defined as justified true belief.

[10] Dillahunty vs. Ten Bruggencate, 32:54.

[11] Ibid., 1:57.

[12] Ibid., 13:30.

[13] Ibid., 14:11.

[14] Ibid., 12:00. This is Dillahunty's definition of a reasonable belief, which makes his two-tier epistemology unreasonable by his own standards.

[15] Ibid., 33:15.

[16] Ibid., 30:14.