Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, October 23, 2009

If There Is Any Doubt That Atheists Are Out to "Convert" People.....

Atheists love to caricature Christians and mock but their arguments are by and large based on ridicule rather than rational arguments as this piece on the Bill Maher show illustrates profoundly. Even Dawkins admits he's unable to "prove" God does not exist.

Also, it should be pointed out that Christians do not believe in "imaginary friends" or "fairies" or "Santa Claus" or whatever other non sequitur you wish to add to the mix. Rather the ontological argument from Scripture comes into play here. Scripture describes God as the source of all being and existence itself. He is God alone and there are no other gods. There is no being above which we can imagine other than the God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent as described in the divine revelation of Holy Scripture.

To say that one snake spoke is not irrational since that is inspired in Scripture and even atheists must admit that we cannot prove a universal negative. It be impossible to prove that no single snake in all of history ever spoke even once. Exactly "how" the snake spoke is another issue altogether. Whether it was miraculous and supernatural or an auditory miracle similar to a visionary experience is really beside the point. Scripture is God's special revelation to mankind through Christ Jesus and the apostles and prophets and we must take seriously the propositional truth claims made there, even if many of those claims are miraculous or a supernatural intervention by God into the natural realm.

Furthermore, since atheist arguments are not based on science anymore than divine revelation is based on empirical science, we must say that atheism is a philosophical worldview rather than a default position taken by the scientific community itself. Doing science as an empirical method means scientists operate in the realm of natural revelation, which assumes that God has created a universe which is consistently uniform and which uniformity makes science possible in the first place. Even this uniformity, however, is to be scrutinized as new discoveries in physics and general relativity have shown.

Dawkins cannot reproduce evolution in an empirical experiment so therefore it is simply a theoretical reconstruction of facts put together based on certain materialistic presuppositions. The short answer is that even if evolution were established fact rather than theory, it would not rule out or falsify the belief in God since metaphysics, philosophy, and theology are all beyond the realm of logical positivism or empirical science. Atheists are inconsistent because they triumphalistically "assume" they are right while admitting their position is essentially not scientific at all but rather a philosophical interpretation via a materialistic worldview.

The real point of contention is that atheists cannot say where the universe ultimately came from at all and neither can empirical science. This is in fact beyond the realm of pure empirical science and lies rather in the realm of philosophy, logic, and theology. In these areas "science" simply makes educated or speculative guesses and the vast majority of these "guesses" are not provable or falsifiable from a logical and rational standpoint.

Atheists are hoping to "convert" people based on doubts they can raise by emotivistic ridicule and ad hominem against "stupid" people who are "silly enough to believe in talking snakes." But this is an irrational and illogical argument and is in fact based more on strawman caricatures than on the rational and logical defense which thinking Christians offer to these sorts of criticism. It would do us well to remember Dawkins' concession that he does not really know if there is a God or not and that he cannot prove his "belief" that there is no God, hence the need to persuade people based on ridicule and mockery rather than rational and logical arguments. Atheism is essentially an irrational assumption which goes beyond reason itself.

If any atheist wishes to prove Christianity wrong, it is falsifiable. All he or she has to do is to produce the bones of Jesus, which would falsify the resurrection.

In Christ,



UnBeguiled said...

"The real point of contention is that atheists cannot say where anything came from at all"

OK, but this is a problem for theists as well.

If the question is "Why is there something rather than only nothing", the theist has no answer. She may try and answer "Because Yahweh made everything", but that is begging the question.

It seems to me the question cannot even in principle have an answer. I'm honest enough to admit my ignorance.

Charlie J. Ray said...

In that case, I hope you will pardon the pun and the inherent ad hominem, "At last an atheist who admits he's ignorant!"

The real question, of course, is not who can prove what--since that is merely shifting the burden of proof--rather what is at issue is whether or not the Christian is rationally justified in believing in God and particularly in the God revealed in Holy Scripture and in Jesus Christ. The answer is yes. We are not "stupid" people who believe beyond belief. Not all all. Christianity gives a rational explanation for existence and gives meaning to justice and life and the end of life. Atheism, on the other hand, offers nothing in answer to the problem evil except to say it is a human construct and does not really exist except as humans define it in subjective encounter.

Christianity, however, says that an intelligent and omniscient God planned all that happens and is in fact in providential control of it. While there is suffering in the world, ultimately God has purpose in our suffering which we will only see after we see Him in eternity.

UnBeguiled said...

Are you acknowledging that a theist has no answer to the question either?

Charlie J. Ray said...

I'm acknowledging that Christian theism depends on special revelation in Holy Scripture for answers to metaphysical, philosophical and theological questions. I'm also stating that the Christian is rationally justified in doing so since Christianity is falsifiable. I'm also pointing out that the atheist position is unfalsifiable and therefore irrational.

UnBeguiled said...

We don't seem to be communicating very well. In your original post, you wrote:

"The real point of contention is that atheists cannot say where anything came from at all"

If the question is:

"Why is there something rather than only nothing", how does special revelation answer that question?

To make my point as simple and transparent as possible. What you claimed was "the real point of contention" between atheists and theists is in fact a point where both atheists and theists hit the wall of ignorance.

So that is not a point of contention. Rather, it is a point of common ground.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Well yes and no. We are "rationally justified" in believing in God because natural revelation shows there is a God (Romans 1:18) and because we believe that God would by his own divine nature reveal Himself savingly in special revelation (Scripture and Jesus Christ).

It is true that we do not have "absolute" knowledge that there is a God but that in no way means the Christian is an idiot. Christians have just as much rational basis for believing as the atheist has for not believing. As you concede, we are on "level" ground. So the point is this video from Bill Maher is over the top.

I would go one step beyond this, however. I would say the atheist is unable to believe unless he is given the grace to believe beforehand. Yet this does not excuse his unbelief because he is a free moral agent acting in unison with is corrupt reason and nature.

God is not obligated to give anyone effectual grace since all are fallen in Adam.


UnBeguiled said...

The only thing I "concede" is that neither the theist or the atheist is able to answer the question of why there is anything at all, as opposed to only nothing.

And my purpose in pointing that out is to try and persuade theists to stop expecting atheists to answer questions they themselves cannot answer.

It's a small point, and I think I've made it. Cheers.

Fr. Paul A. F. Castellano said...

To both Charles and Unbeguiled:

First, I would like to concur with Charles, it is very refreshing to read that an atheist (and of course I'm assuming that Unbeguiled is an atheist) is willing to acknowledge a difficulty here.

Second, I'd like to point out a linguistic matter that appears to have been overlooked. Since Leibniz's time (and this argument probably extends back to the Presocratics) this discussion has been confused. The question at hand revolves, not around the metaphysical issue of God per se, but revolves around the epistemological question - WHY. Let me briefly explain: the key term in the question that, it seems to me, is always overlooked is the term "something." This is asking an epistemological question primarily. The "something" is then extended to the physical universe, the earth, all that is material, etc. The question was never, at least as I read Leibniz and early philosophers, intended to ask where some metaphysical entity (such as God) derives, but why are there any physical entities at all! So, if understood in this manner, the concern of Unbeguiled, the question begging issue, is not in play because the question isn't asking why is there "something" (metaphysical, physical, and epistemological) at all; it is asking why is there something "physical" at all! If one assumes to structure the argument to include God, then the question can be restated - "Why is there something [(including God)that exists] rather than nothing." The question, presented in this way includes both physics and metaphysics or both epistemology and metaphysics.
Most atheists are unwilling to speak of metaphysics in these terms anyway (the existence of real entities beyond the natural or physical realm). Current metaphysics involve questions of identity, mereology, etc. So this can't (and I use that term advisedly) be the emphasis of the contemporary atheistic question because they reject metaphysics of this kind. The discussion of metaphysics of this kind (the existence of non-physical objects - Plato's heaven as Frege called it), leads back to questions of first causes when dealing with the universe and once we move beyond the last cosmological event in physics - the big bang - we are into metaphysics; namely the cause of the big bang. It is here where science has nothing to say anymore (which is, I assume, the place where Unbeguiled would be more comfortable traversing) and Charles' contention, special revelation must be addressed. Once special revelation is addressed, the question of "why" takes on a different force - it no longer is "why is there something (physical) rather than nothing," but "why did God create something; what was His purpose in the creative act." This is position that the atheist rejects out of hand - which appears to be question begging.

Anyway, I hope this was slightly helpful. And I want to thank both of you gentlemen for an interesting and cordial exchange; I pray I contributed something (no pun intended) constructive to the dialog.

Fr. Paul+

Charlie J. Ray said...

Paul, I appreciate your comments. However, I don't understand the difference between the two questions. Asking why there is a physical universe, at least according to Paul, is answered in Romans 1:18-21. So my beginning point is special revelation, not natural revelation. Philosophical arguments are well and good but the ultimate authority is God's written Word, the Holy Scriptures.

It has been my experience that natural theology cannot lead to a saving knowledge of God but can only point in the direction that there is a God.

Moreover, the Big Bang theory does point to the cosmological argument but atheists will reject first cause out of hand even though much of empirical science is based on a consistency and uniformity of the natural world and the universe.

My point is not that I'm going to convince a determined atheist there is a God or that the Bible is true. My point is that the Christian is just as logical and rational in believing in the God revealed in natural or general revelation and in the special/divine revelation of Holy Scripture and Jesus Christ as the atheist is in rejecting belief in God. We're on level ground as far as logic and reason goes.

However, the Christian has an advantage over the atheist because the Christian worldview is more consistent, congruent, coherent, and comprehensive in explaining the problem of evil and in claiming there is an objective standard for morality based in the nature and being of God Himself.

Atheism basically leaves no hope for any sort of objective justice in the world among men while Christian theism says that all will answer to God in the judgment. Evil may seem to get away with injustice in the here and now but in the eschaton God will set all right and all will answer to Him.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I don't expect atheists to answer any question. All I expect is that atheists stop pretending as if science/philosophy, etc., et. al. is de facto on their side, which it isn't.

The sort of hate speech exemplified by Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins above only shows how irrational they are willing to be in order to "appear" to win a debate. It's like setting up a strawman to knock down so it appears they have won the debate defacto. It might impress the uninformed lay person in a tv audience but it does little to satisfy the philosopher or the theologian's rational inquiry into the matter.

Fr. Paul A. F. Castellano said...

Ok, we'll leave it at that then. This becomes an in house debate at what I suspect will lead to a discussion about presuppositionalism. That being the case, we're not going to agree because (and I've just completed a MA thesis on this) presuppositionalism has intractable difficulties and is a morphed species of Idealism - despite all of Van Til's, Bahnsen's, Frame's, et al - protestations to the contrary. They are hopelessly inconsistent and confused on this point.
If you have no allegiance to presuppositionalism, ignore my previous comments.
I believe there is a distinction to be made, as I mentioned in my last post, but I'm willing to let it drop at this point.
Still, I enjoyed your post.

Fr. Paul+

Fr. Paul A. F. Castellano said...

I believe I did address your point in clarifying the distinction. But a salient logical argument isn't persuasion.

You certainly might not be persuaded, however, that isn't an academic issue that is a volitional one.

Anyway, as I stated, I think my point, and the linguistic distinction emphasized, address your charge.

Fr. Paul+

UnBeguiled said...

Thanks Paul. I think you have made an important point. If I am asked the question, I do not assume any restrictions on what constitutes "something".


I have heard or read non-theists claim that religious folks hold "irrational" beliefs. Likewise, you have made various claims about this or that worldview being more or less rational than another. I don't think these statements, whomever makes them, add anything to the conversation.

It seems to me that I either have good arguments or evidence for what I believe, or I don't. I'm sure that you think you have good arguments or evidence for what you believe. I predict that I could point out various reasons why I am not persuaded by your arguments, or why I find your evidence of insufficient quality for me. Likewise, you would likely have objections to my arguments and evidence.

But labeling those with whom we disagree "irrational" is not a useful contribution to the conversation.

"Atheism basically leaves no hope for any sort of objective justice in the world among men while Christian theism says that all will answer to God in the judgment."

The world is as it is, regardless of what we wish or hope it to be. I care deeply whether what I believe is true. Because of that, I do my best not to let my hopes obscure my understanding of reality.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Ubeguiled, well your last point is a valid one, which is why I am a Calvinist. I understand that God is in absolute control of even evil (Isaiah 45:7). Therefore, I am not one of those silly pelagians who thinks God is just up there hoping beyond hope mankind will change. No, everything that happens is absolutely under God's providential control.

It is most certain that we will all die and from the Christian perspective it is likewise certain that Hitler will answer to God for the atrocities he committed against the Jews.

Atheism is essentially nihilistic since such atrocities in the eternal scheme of things are simply without any real meaning. Justice is simply an illusion. In short, atheism does a worse job of answering the problem of evil which is another one of many reasons I believe atheism is irrational. While atheists love to accuse Christians of having an "imaginary friend" the real come back is atheists have an "imaginary justice". Justice doesn't exist except as a human construct and even this is simply an illusion.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I want to reiterate one point, Unbeguiled. The real issue here is not that you have good reasons for not believing. I'm sure you do and your arguments might even be persuasive. But that really isn't the issue at all.

The real issue is that I have good reasons for believing and it is really beside the point whether you find them persuasive to you or not. The real difference between us is that you are "unable" to believe because of your predisposition against God and His revelation. But that in the end will not be an excuse (Romans 1:18-21; Acts 4:11-12). Reason in and of itself cannot led to faith. Reason informs faith but it can never produce faith.

God commands you to do what you cannot do: repent and believe. The fact that you do not believe does not mean you are not accountable for rejecting Jesus Christ since you yourself admit that you are fully in charge of your faculties, your will, your reason, and your choices.

The real bottomline here is that you refuse to believe because sin and rebellion against God have darkened your mind. In other words, it is a form of idolatry where you have placed yourself in the place of God. How odd that mere creatures have such high views of themselves, yet they shall all die like mere men. (Psalm 82:6-7).

I'm not perfect. I'm fallible in my reasoning. But I have sense enough to know that I am not the center of the universe. Even if there is no God, which I sincerely doubt, I would certainly not be so crass as Bill Maher. Obviously, these two men have high opinions of themselves because they are in positions of power. But in the end no one will even remember who they were. Atheism has to acknowledge that Bill Maher is ultimately no one in particular in the end.

Charlie J. Ray said...


At last we agree. The real problem is volitional! Reason will absolutely never lead to faith. Why? Well, if you are a Calvinist the answer is easy: total inability.

Regarding presuppositionalism we both agree that Bahnsen, Van Til, John Frame and others are completely and absolutely irrational. This is also why their view leads to such silly things as theonomy, triperspectivalism, and semi-pelagianism. John Frame has even written a new book claiming that God is actually one person instead of three persons.

On the other hand, I do not agree with the approach taken by R. C. Sproul who follows Thomas Aquinas' natural theology from below. Those things certainly contribute to our faith but can never convince a determined unbeliever.

You did peg me correctly, however. I am a presuppositionalist of another stripe. I am a proponent of Gordon H. Clark's presuppositionalism. Clark, like Van Til, begins with Scripture and not natural theology. However, that is about the only thing the two have in common. Van Til sold out to irrationalism and paradox, which has much in common with neo-orthodoxy--another reason you see Evangelical seminaries going from bad (neo-evangelicalism) to worse (neo-orthodoxy).

Clark's argument is that Scripture makes propositional truth claims in logical form. These truth claims are logical and comprehensible to anyone who is willing to think. So for example, if the Bible says Jesus was physically raised from the dead, that is a propositional statement which is logical and rational. Since we start with the presupposition that God exists and Scripture is divine revelation, then truth claims made in Scripture must be seriously dealt with.

Clark would also say that the trinity is not irrational but perfectly understandable provided you are willing to work through the theology. The difference between Van Til and Clark becomes more evident when we examine how in the world John Frame could ever say that God is one person?

Van Til's theology also leads to latitudinarianism like what we see in the Anglican Communion. If Scripture is propositional truth inscripturated, which it is, then confessions of faith which summarize the teaching of Scripture are also propositional and therefore binding insofar as they are faithful to Scripture.

Thus, the 39 Articles are not 39 suggestions but are in fact a confession of faith and are authoritative and binding upon all Anglicans. Since the Articles are Protestant, this necessarily means that Anglo-Catholics are heretics precisely because of their semi-pelagian and even pelagian theology.

It also explains why natural theology inevitably moves toward social justice, homosexual issues, feminist issues and other this worldly emphases which ignore the eternal implications of Holy Scripture. Only special revelation can reveal a sinner to be a sinner and any theology from below is essentially either semi-pelagian or pelagian. This is why I think Sproul is on the wrong track.


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