Friday, May 11, 2007

ABC Face Off - Proving God

As the debate has come and gone, and my time for writing has been limited, let me make a few brief remarks about the debate as well as about a few of the arguments discussed during the debate. I'm sure more will come from my team members here at CS.

The debate itself, while a good idea and while it has received a great deal of publicity, offers little by way of apologetic stimulation and impression, and even less when it comes to pursuasive argument in either direction, though the gospel itself was presented, and the difference the gospel makes in a person was on one level displayed.

As with any debate, the initial defining of the topic, parameters, participants, etc. are all of significant importance, and weakness in any area (or more than one area)will be reflected in the debate that follows. I'm sad that this was true in several areas concerning this debate. This is not to take away from any of the participants (theists or non-theists)for they are each good at what they do, but not necessarily at what this debate sought to accomplish. While the initial question publicized "Does God Exist?" is a good one, the more specific plan and direction this debate followed was not the best for addressing this issue (as revealed in the number of times the debate naturally drifted from the beginning premise) and in the end we were left with little more than a surplus of unsupported assertions, a litany of common arguments left unanswered, and both sides claiming victory (or at least a positive interaction) to their own constituency.

Perhaps, in the future, the debate can be repeated, with a differet format (where each side speaks to the question "Does God Exist?" or "The Proof for God", or "Has God Revealed Himself?", etc., and respond back and forth to the other side's arguments), with different participants (who not only possess belief on their side of the argument but are educated specific areas of learning and skilled/experienced in apologetics)

Specific Remarks concerning the debate.
1. While the theists premise is true on one level (in that natural revelation is sufficient to leave man without excuse... and therefore does give sufficient evidence that God exists), their methodology failed not only to take into account that unbelievers deny that evidence, but also that unbelievers are eager and content to attempt to explain away the evidence, and find satisfaction in their false interpretation of the evidence.

(One could think of this in another way, that while the theist's points are true, and while they themselves in their ministry proclaim their arguments are primarily designed to "cirmcumvent the reason and deal primarily with the conscience", by using the framework and making the claims they did, they set their (good, valid & defensible) arguments in the context of reason alone, and in doing so not only detracted from the power and effect their presentation could have had on the conscience, but placed themselves in an area where though they provided "some" good responses, due to inexperience in the field of apologetics, failed to provide all the powerful and convincing arguments that could and should have been made.)

2. While the theists sought to accomodate the non-theists and deal with them on their own turf by limiting the debate to science (natural revelation), given the above truth, their position would have been better served in also including special revelation (which is on the same level but superior to interpretation of the evidence (as well as the presuppositions) offered by the non-theists.

3. The place where I believe the non-theists did themselves the most damage was in the hatred and animousity that was shown not only in the participants of the debate but by the participants watching the debate. While on one level at places it appeared they may have stumped the theists, though better apologists could have easily answered any of their questions, the place where many seekers are looking today, especially among the younger generation and "emergent" generation, is not as much the place of the intellect (though this is of critical importance), but in the person's character and the way they interact and respond to others, particularly whether they show love, care and respect for other people. In this area, especially in light of the humility and compassion shown by the theists, the non theists presented a damaging profile.

Specific remarks to the debate issues:
I. Is God a Projection of your Own Culture?

The assertion in the debate is that Christians just either accept the teaching common to the culture where they grow up, or project God according to their own thoughts which are influenced by the culture in which they live.

Several points can be made:
1. Christianity, while from an earthly perspective may be predominantly regionally located (i.e., a western religion, though it came from the Jews, and is found in many places where the predominant culture is opposed to Christianity), is MORE than that. It is a spiritual faith and community.
2. The Christian gospel is propagated through human witness and proclamation. It should not surprise one to find Christianity in greater measure where its proclamation has been greater.
3. Christians martyrs and those who have suffered and died and gone without and taken the more difficult path, etc., provide a strong witness that goes beyone cultural influence.
4. The testimony of every believer stands opposed to the "cultural assertion." My own testimony and experience reveals that while I grew up embracing the very cultural influence and traditionalism others speak of ... following others and calling myself a Christian, etc., even affirming and proclaiming Christian truth and principles, it was this very influence, religion, tradition, etc., that the gospel confronted in bringing me to see that Christ himself stood opposed even to the "cultural Christianity" that many embrace and serve, but through regeneration, justification and the transformation that comes with genuine conversion, one is enabled not only to see the difference but to the reject the former in light of the latter! The appeal of the "cultural" argument is a weak and misguided attempt by those who don't understand true Christianity.

II. Eternal Matter or Eternal God

The question was raised "Who created God?" This question failed to recognize the difference and presuppositions between creation and a creator. The fact that non theists think themselves victorious on this issue is almost laughable!

Regarding the claim that matter is eternal. Does science prove or even suggest in the least that matter (anything in matter) possesses or displays the ability to originate or bring from life, intelligence, beauty, etc.? Absolutely not! Life does not come from non-life.

Regarding the claim by non theists that "All science points to the fact that the universe has always existed", I'd like to see their support for this. They are clearly misinformed.

III. The Issue that "Just Because a Person Believes Something Does Not Make It True"

The opposite can also be stated: Just because a person believes something is not true, does not make it so.

In the same way that one may believe an invisible object is on his shoulder when it is not suggests that a person could believe there is a god when there is not, ... one could also assert that just because one may believe an invisible object is on his shoulder when it is not, does not mean that a person who believes he is wearing blue pants is wrong if indeed he is wearing blue pants. The logic of the non theists was laughable here as well. Too bad, the theists were primarily evangelists and not apologists. They could have had a cakewalk.

IV. The Issue that "Ray" has made up a God because ...."

This was a nice little argument that may have persuasion among the undiscerning, but when one sees it in light of the truth that Ray is not alone in his belief, but his belief has been shared by many from almost every tongue, and tribe and nation, those over all generations, from various continents, from a variety of languages and people groups, and from all walks of life - not only including children, but teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc., it's a shame that even such a slight should go unrefuted.

There's much more to be said. I'm sure it will. Christ's glory and truth shines in all that takes place.


  1. Good points sword guy. It appeared the show was edited and we did not see the entire back and forth exchanges. I think at the point when the atheists asked who created God was a great opportunity to have pointed out that either inert matter or an intelligent being (God) must have the power of being in an of itself. One of these choices must be self-existent and not be able to not be, because if there were ever a time or point when nothing existed, then nothing would exist today. Therefore, the two basic choices are matter or an intelligent entity (God). Granted the concept of it being God is hard for the human mind to grasp, but it is pure nonsense to assert that matter/energy is the answer.

    If some atheist wants to explain how something comes from nothing absent an outside cause or that matter has always existed, then I am all ears. To deny God is not enough. They must prove one of these two positions since their atheistic faith is based on one of them being true.

  2. I would also like to add that, if the Christian God were merely the projection of western culture, I wouls expect that all westerners would be Christians, and no easterners. Since this is obviously not true, we need another explanation, like what Jonathan Edwards refers to as A Devine and Supernatural Light

  3. I read somewhere else that an observer complained about the fact that the approach taken by the Christians in this debate was criticized. The basis is the difference between presuppositional and evidential apologetics. In general, I have seen evangelists go the evidential route.

    However, as PL notes here, and as most Christian philosophers state, the difference between the atheist and the Christian is not the evidence. This is easy to demonstrate by asking an atheist what evidence he would consider as valid for the existence of God. The stock answer is that such a person requires a personal appearance from God.

    Of course, this leads to numerous other arguments, such as why the atheist discounts personal experience from others, or the historical record that shows a personal appearance from God. In reality, the appeal for a personal experience is as a result of the inductive way of thinking. Which is useless to determine absolute truth.

    In the debate on ABC, we saw a perfect example of that. Both parties argued inductively, and neither made an overwhelming case. Frankly, it is pretty much impossible to make an overwhelming case by inductive reasoning in the case of God's existence.

    Unless the debate is centered around epistomology to start with, which leads to deductive reasoning, there will only ever be quasi-ad-hominem arguments (my evidence trumps your evidence). Once a deductive framework is established, the epistomology and ontology of the atheist can be dissected.

    Well-meaning evangelists don't want to offend their opponents by attacking their basic principles, but in the process fall into the trap of fallacious reasoning.

  4. I have used both presuppositional and evidential apologetics, but each must be used in the proper setting, and the limits of evidential apologetics must be acknowledged. Yes, in a universe designed by the very God who authored the Scriptures, we should see some evidence of that fact. The problem is twofold...

    1.) Evidence can change.
    2.) Evidence is not proof.

    So when Kirk Cameron started off by suggesting that "the existence of God can be proven 100% absolutely, without the use of faith”, he was easy pickings from there on out.

    The best approach is to acknowledge that belief in God is based on faith alone. Many evangelicals have an issue with this, because they have bought into the secular humanistic notion that faith must be divorced from reality, devoid of any logic or reason, and opposed to science and rational thinking. This is why they need the evidential approach, in order to help "build their faith". This is a false view of faith, and it must be pointed out that atheism is every bit as much of a faith-based worldview as Christianity. From there on out, we can put the atheist on the defensive somewhat. Clearly, this is where Ray and Kirk dropped the ball.