01 March 2010

Redneck Atheism

by Phil Johnson

n the busyness of all my preparation for this week's Shepherds' Conference, I almost forgot Monday is my day to post. Sorry this is 6 hours late. I got up early this morning to write it, after staying up late to watch the tail end of the Olympic closing ceremonies.

And let's not forget to say congratulations to Challies and all the other hosers up north who read our blog, eh?



Last week I proposed a series of posts answering the points in this popular atheist meme, which is currently plastered all over the internet. (Incidentally, I don't want to hog this project; Dan and Frank are welcome to jump in if they like. Or not. I never tell them what to post. My original intention was to deal with the atheists' "Ten Signs" myself on the days I post, but I would also be happy if Frank wants to apply his golden wit or Dan his trademark thoroughness to the project.)

Anyway, as I said last week, some of our atheist neighbors have treated this Top Ten List as if it contains all the best ironclad arguments against Christianity. Atheists generally cultivate a totally unwarranted air of intellectual superiority. I'm pretty sure it's part of the job description (Psalm 14). But if these are the best reasons someone can come up with to reject Christianity, I'd say whoever compiled the list is desperate to justify a bad worldview. (Which we know is in fact the case—Romans 1:28-32).

This morning I'll give my thoughts about the first two of the atheists' allegations, with this caveat: I want to come back to #1 at the end of this series, because I think it's foundational to the not-so-subtle argument our atheist friends are making. This morning I'll reply to it in abbreviated fashion, then when it's time to wrap the series up, we'll revisit it.

And by the way—one of my goals here is to keep all my answers as brief as possible. There's no need for me to write a long essay in response to a trifling point:

You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your God.


Well, yes (except for the histrionic assertion that I "feel outraged" when I see people trying to do what Romans 1:21-32 says we all try to do).

This is, after all, one of the fundamental truth-claims of Scripture: "For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): 'I am the LORD, and there is no other'" (Isaiah 45:18; cf. vv. 5, 22; 46:9; Joel 2:27).

Belief in the God who made that decree has been the foundation of both Judaism and Christianity for millennia. It's not as if some acne-faced postmodern twenty-first-century apologist invented the God of Scripture out of thin air as a rhetorical device—like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But the allegation seems to want to dismiss the God of Scripture as if He were no more important to human history, human belief, and human understanding than Tinkerbell. You'd have to be hopelessly jejune or intellectually dishonest to think an argument like that carries any weight.

And surely you need to come up with a better first argument than "You always think you're right and everyone else is wrong." When I was 7 and my sister used that argument, I knew she had run out of real, substantial arguments.

Indeed, the atheists' List o' Ten instantly gets even weaker:

You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.


The accusation utterly miscontrues creationist concerns. (Furthermore, it implicitly seems to want to deny basic scientific facts that are not even in dispute.)

What's most troubling about the evolutionary hypothesis is not the claim that humans descended from other primates but the assertion that homo sapiens is even now nothing but an advanced ape—morally and spiritually equivalent to an animal.

The scientifically demonstrable (!) biblical truth that we "are dust, and to dust [we] shall return" (Genesis 3:19) has nothing to do with the dignity of man. On the contrary, it illustrates how ignoble we truly are. Our fallenness (and the fact that we all are prone to do evil) further underscores how vile we have become as a species. Biblical Christians don't chafe at or ignore that truth; we emphatically affirm it.

The "dignity" of the human race, however, is bound up in the fact that we bear God's image. And that is just what materialistic evolution denies. Contrary to atheistic claims (but supported by a century and a half of the political fruits of Darwinism) the materialists' denial that humanity bears God's image removes society's moral foundation and breeds all kinds of evil. That's more "dehumanizing" than all the other stupid atheist ideas combined.

Phil's signature

50 comments:

Christopher said...

The truth is that most of the arguments are straw men that they then burn to the ground and proclaim, "Christianity defeated. Next?"

Paul D said...

"one of my goals here is to keep all my answers as brief as possible. There's no need for me to write a long essay in response to a trifling point:"

I think this makes the point doubly clear. 2 short, uncomplicated paragraphs. Nice work.

stratagem said...

Love it.

Reading Phil's posts on this subject is going to be more amusing to me than it was when the Atheists were trying to get people to call them "The Brights." I loved watching their astonishment that no one but themselves thought they were all that bright.

donsands said...

"..but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt."

Never heard that one from an atheist.

Usually they will tell me to studt Darwin, and the evidence of evolution that is unrefutable, as far as they are concerned.

They say how could all these humans come from one man and one woman.
I tell them, "Actually you need only go back to Noah and his family.
Three men and three women, basically populated this earth."

It may seem incredible, I say to them, but is it any less incredible that two apes started this whole ball rolling?

And actually one ape had a child that was little less ape-like, and perhaps found another ape, and they in turn had an ape that was a bit less apeish.

I really don't know how to explain 6 plus billion people, not to mention the billions that have died from only one set of parents, but I believe it is the truth.

Thanks for the post.

stratagem said...

Which is harder to believe, that one set of God-made parents led to the human population, or a string of happy accidents made us (as the Athiests maintain)?

But, where Atheists get themselves really twisted up is when they maintain that one can be an evolutionist and yet believe in moral behavior and non-violence (as many of them claim to). When in fact, to be consistent with Darwinian theory one must do away with the genetically infirm, or at least not interfere with their elimination by natural means - for the "good" of the species and its progression (or so the theory says). Even Darwin himself recognized that his theory would lead to some form of eugenics, eventually.

Atheism is a very brutish religion.

misty said...

Phil, thank you so much for taking this list on. I know that our answers will not save an atheist (they must be made alive by God Himself to accept the truth), but the answers do increase my faith that the sword of the Spirit is a mighty weapon against any arguments that set themselves up against Christ. It will help me not to be intimidated when I witness to these supposed “intellectuals”.

Much appreciated! I look forward to the next articles.

Sir Aaron said...

You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your God .

Yep. I also get a little indignant when people claim the sky is purple too.

You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

Yes, It's the same feeling one gets when they build something as complicated as a car and then overhears somebody claim that it came into existence when a tornado hit a junkyard. Both the creator and the car should feel insulted.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pooka said...

This may be silly, but here goes:

Atheists may put us down for our "humble" beginnings as dirt.

Not much humbler than coming from a slime ball.

It's pretty fantastic and un-humble that the Creator of the universe should find it worthwhile to make people out of dust.

And then that he didn't just finish winding the clock and let it loose to run itself back to oblivion.

John said...

I loved the title of this post. The fact is, much of atheism (like much of any other religion), and all of "new" atheism is long on histrionics, short on brains.

Phil Johnson said...

Turk deserves credit for the title. I stole it from him.

Stefan said...

Picking up from my comment (and others' responses) from a few days ago, we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God through evidential means, nor should we necessarily desire to.

When I go through low periods—questioning what it is that I really believe—I reason from Scripture. Here is this book that some two billion people around the world claim (at least nominally) to guide their lives. Here is this book that many more millions of people say has some good moral teachings in it, even though they reject its underlying premise or significant parts of it.

What, then, does this book say about itself, about its authorship, about God, about man, and God's relationship to man? We can either take the Bible at face value, or not. If we do not take it at face value, we are judging it by criteria that are ultimately subjective and subordinate to the God the Bible describes.

If we do take it at face value, then we are confronted with a God who is universal, unique, omnipotent, omniscient, infinite, and eternal, a just and holy God who cannot countenance sin, and yet who out of His love for us has given His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die in our place, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

***

Off topic, but since Phil mentioned it:

"And let's not forget to say congratulations to Challies and all the other hosers up north who read our blog, eh?"

Thank you! I live in Vancouver, and it's been nuts the last month or so. Even as a premillenialistic Calvinist, I have to say it was a fantastic celebration.

There was, of course, a lot of outreach done by Christians in this city to our visitors. Let's pray it bears fruit.

(Edit of a previous comment.)

Frank Turk said...

I was duly humbled to be plaguerized.

Stefan said...

"Plaguerized"? That's what happened to poor old Pharaoh.

Daryl said...

"You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your God."

Yeah, I bet no one would take issue with me saying "Oh sure, you deny that all those little old ladies out there have anything to do with you, and yet you have the gall to insist that you have a real grandmother? Arrogance I say!"

Jim Pemberton said...

Good answers, Phil. It occurs to me that belief in the God revealed in the Christian scriptures and a supposed denial of the existence of God are two truth-claims that cannot both be true. Logically speaking, either one is true or neither are true. Presuppositionally speaking, we know that the God revealed in the Christian scriptures is the only one that is intellectually consistent and worthy to cling to as a primary presupposition. But atheists have no argument against this. Instead, they retreat predictably to such as the silly "spaghetti monster" argument which you answered concisely and clearly. Good job!

And, I must say - like donsands I've never heard the ape/dirt contrast argument. We'll probably hear it more since this list seems to be making its rounds among atheists.

Tim Challies said...

Speaking on behalf of all Canadians, I thank you for your words of congratulation.

Touchstone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sir Aaron said...

On 1), it seems you are pleading guilty to the charge.

Brilliant observation on your part. Phil said, "Well, yes (except for the histrionic assertion that I "feel outraged"... "Well, yes" is in fact, an agreement.

but it's not a defeater to note that you (and other Christians) consider this a "fundamental" truth; that's the essence of the problem being identified in 1)

Actually, Phil said it is one of the fundamental truth claims in Scripture. Then he goes on to state that it isn't as if this truth claim were made up recently, but in fact, has been the claim since Adam and Eve (or if you don't believe in Adam and Eve, then the dating of Job, Genesis, etc.).

You have yet to directly the address the essence of #1, which to quote Phil, "You always think you're right and everyone else is wrong."

truth mission said...

It seems to me point #1 is really an argument for agnostism rather than atheism.The mental gymnastics required to maintain the unscientific ,illogical intellectually bankrupt view of atheism are worthy of an olympic gold medal

Touchstone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil Johnson said...

Sorry, Touchstone. I would have loved to have your interaction on this, but you deliberately got yourself permanently banned here months ago.

For those curious about the Touchstone saga, see here and here.

Sir Aaron said...

Ok, just so you know I had a response written out but just saw the ban notification right before posting. I have to respect Phil's decision on this matter, so I deleted my response.

Mesa Mike said...

You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your God.

Yes. How outrageous of unthinking believers to do that!

Kurt said...

How about this.

I used to be an atheist (until age 29), I can play that role for a bit.

"My question (as I used to state it) is simple, why would you lean on that foolish crutch of religion? It may make you feel better but it is a lie. Grow up and face the world for what it is.

We decide what is right and wrong, collectively and together. Life is what we make of it inasmuch as we are able to control it. Religion victimizes the simple-minded and causes much harm, most wars are fought over religion, it foments hatred and ignorance, so do the world a favor, grow up, and get over it.

And since you are all ignorant anyway (I was politer than this but only slightly), the first thing you have to convince me of is that I should even waste my time thinking about this issue.

You can trash arguments all you like (I would easily dismiss the 10 point thing, it is obviously more a mockery than a serious polemic), unless you can prove that God exists, with hard evidence, we are done. Actually, I challenge you to prove that any form of supernatural phenomena exist at all, period.

I pride myself on being a scientist and being open to any actual proof. Example: I once challenged a new ager to prove to me that any form of supernatural phenomena of any kind existed at all. He tried to make plants grow faster under a wire pyramid under his desk at work. You can guess the results, no difference between the pot with the wire frame over it from the one without.

Prove any supernatural phenomena of any kind exists at all and only then you will have my attention. Arguments are a waste of time and energy, you can argue about 10 points all day long, I am not interested, show me the scientific evidence, cut and dry, clear and uncontrovertible.

Note that I have zero interest in the tenets of your religion per se, don't waste my time with that. Show me proof of the supernatural. Unsubstantiated claims and mesmerism don't count either (charismatics don't bother to apply). Neither is age proof of validity, the further you go back in history the more ignorant humans were, they didn't know even basic stuff like chemistry, genetics, and cosmology before the 19th century, therefore anything they thought is by definition inferior to what we know today."

I know it sounds harsh, but I really did think like that back in the day. Consider the (role-played) gauntlet thrown down if it helps.

Phil Johnson said...

Kurt:

My short answer to your hypothetical scenario would be that it's typical of atheists and anti-Christians to throw down a second (and third and tenth) gauntlet as soon as someone steps up to answer whatever challenge they have already made.

So I'd say, "Can you hold that question for later? We'd like to work through the List o' Ten that's already on the table before we get derailed by a flood of completely different arguments."

Atheists like to move the goal-posts mid-game. (See the links I posted in an earlier comment.) It's really hard, it seems, for them to cover over their insincerity.

Kurt said...

Ok, sorry. Those arguments weren't hypothetical. All that stuff was historically true, and I hoped it would serve to illustrate what it would have taken to reach me then. In all honesty I don't know what I would have done if something credible had come up, since nothing did.

More than willing to wait.

Fred Butler said...

I would merely add that one reason Christianity rejects all other contenders has to do with the fact that none of them have demonstrated their power or revealed themselves in history. The God of scripture has in a number of ways, including interacting directly with His creation, raising up and tearing down kingdoms of men, revealing predictive prophesy that came to pass, and of course the person and work of Jesus Christ, who in turn fulfilled predictive prophesy.

None of the other gods of other world religions who even come close to being serious contenders with the self disclosed God of Scripture can testify of such proof.

Sir Brass said...

Stratagem said, "But, where Atheists get themselves really twisted up is when they maintain that one can be an evolutionist and yet believe in moral behavior and non-violence (as many of them claim to). When in fact, to be consistent with Darwinian theory one must do away with the genetically infirm, or at least not interfere with their elimination by natural means - for the "good" of the species and its progression (or so the theory says). Even Darwin himself recognized that his theory would lead to some form of eugenics, eventually."

Indeed, and a weak corner stone (achilles heel if you will) for them is that there are indeed moral people who are also atheists. They cannot consistently hold to their own world view, those who are not willing to be consistent like Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, etc. were. They must inevitably borrow from our worldview in order to make a case for any general morals whatsoever. Or, if we want to go as far as Bahsen or White, they must borrow from our worldview to even have a rational, reasoned conversation.

Their inconsistency is the big red flag that they operate from an irrational worldview. We can't let them get away with assuming that rational discussion, thought, and the existence of real morals in any way can actually exist in their worldview as native, intrinsic elements. Those elements are alien to their worldview and rightfully belong to ours alone.

quibbling_for_crumbs said...

Kurt

Read Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals.

He deconstructs the objectivity of Science and all knowledge from an athiest point of view.

The question then becomes why do we have a will to the truth.

Nietzsche is like Ecclesiastes with the wrong conclusion at the end.

quibbling_for_crumbs said...

a great article from first things.

gives a quick rundown of how Genealogy of Morals is a great apologetic text.

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/12/003-nietzsches-deeper-truth-30

Paula said...

You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

So, what to do with fellow-believers who take a more dehumanizing approach because they are bending over backwards, forwards, and inside out to try to convince above-mentioned Redneck Atheists that Christians are not Redneck Theologians?

Tim Keller in his White Paper on Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople argues that there was a race of (I guess) sub-humans that evolved before Adam. He quotes Derek Kidner to explain his views:

"The intelligent beings of a remote past, whose bodily and cultural remains give them the clear status of ‘modern man’ to the anthropologist, may yet have been decisively below the plane of life which was established in the creation of Adam….Nothing requires that the creature into which God breathed human life should not have been of a species prepared in every way for humanity…”

Keller explains:

So in this model there was a place in the evolution of human beings when God took one out of the population of tool-makers and endowed him with ‘the image of God’. This would have lifted him up to a whole new ‘plane of life’.

Although Keller does spend a good bit of time explaining and defending the nature of man and uniqueness of his place in creation as those endowed with the image of God, I think his evolutionary view is itself dehumanizing.

It gets worse when you see some of the tangents he wanders off into with this view:

This approach would explain perennially difficult Biblical questions such as--who were the people that Cain feared would slay him in revenge for the murder of Abel (Gen 4:14)? Who was Cain’s wife, and how could Cain have built a city filled with inhabitants (Gen 4:17)? We might even ask why Genesis 2:20 hints that Adam went on a search to ‘find’ a spouse if there were only animals around? In Kidner’s approach, Adam and Eve were not alone in the world, and that answers all these questions.

Thank goodness we've laid that to rest. Now the Redneck Atheists won't think we're so stupid!

Besides the fact that Keller mischaracterizes the young earth creationist view (and implicates Ken Ham, specifically), it's sad that he has to go through so much mumbo jumbo to "explain" things so that unbelievers and skeptics will more readily "accept" biblical truth.

SamWise said...

You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your God.

And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood (Psalms 106:34-41).

The whole premise of most of these arguments is some kind of moral equivalencies and purposeful category distortions. To see the fallacy, use other categories and states. “You vigorously deny wolves are herbivores, but feel outraged that someone denies your collie is a carnivore!” If you try to prove your dog is a “canis” species, the atheist will retort that you are irrational since “wolves are also of “canis” and they are all carnivores!” What???

The scriptures clearly teach that power of the “idols” were not in themselves but in the worship of the demonic behind them. In the Hebrew poetry above idols = devils = idols. So the Israelites who thought they were worshiping a Canaanite fertility god by sacrificing their children were actually sacrificing to self-declared rebellious creations, namely fallen angels = devils. Paul says the early Gentiles did the same, “How you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Modern converts from Animism or ancient converts as Augustine (see City of God) understand best what Paul means. Converts from nominal Christian homes lack the experience of the demonic spirits and so they discount this.

The second rebellious act is to ascribe a blessing from the LORD, for example rain, to some other made up entity. “For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens” (Psalm 86:8-9). Paul says this in Romans, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things (Romans 1:50-23).

Men, including, apostates who call themselves “atheists,” are without excuse. “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods. Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD. For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.” (Psalm 97:6-9).

Our true God is sovereign, “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Psalm 135:5-6) and He is not a creation of man’s mind, “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusts in them” (Psalms 115:2-8; 135:15-18). God is mocking idolaters!

So the Bible has two Psalms (14 and 53) dedicated to our dear atheists-apostates. We shouldn’t fall into apostate fallacious arguments either or we would be answering the fool in his foolishness!

Fred Butler said...

Paula,
Here's some brief comments by John Byl regarding Tim Keller's paper

Johnny Dialectic said...

I'm very disappointed in Keller. The argument that the style of Gen. 1 perforce RULES OUT any factual content is a non-sequitur. It is used only by those who wish to avoid what it actually teaches, because they have thrown in the towel and accepted evolutionary thought patterns. It's an attempt to curry favor with the "academic crowd," and that NEVER WORKS. You will be seen the same way the Communists saw American Leftists: as a "useful idiot." The inevitable slide is toward liberalism: witness Fuller Theological Seminary.

Stand with God, not with the Ivory Tower.

bassicallymike said...

Phil, what would be your reply to their, "you're using circular reasoning" charge? What an atheist usually charges you with in using the Bible to buttress your argument.
Thanks

stratagem said...

Darwinists usually charge that eugenics was a "mis-application" of Darwin's theories.

However, no one can argue against the idea that it was Darwin's theories that led to the idea of eugenics. That is, the leap from natural selection to artificial selection based on "desireable" traits.

And really, who's to say that the theories are "mis" applied in the case of eugenics, aside from the fact that the atheists/evolutionists don't want to be associated with the abominations that Darwinism led to?

Kurt said...

Quibbling wrote:

"Read Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals. "

Nietzsche huh?

I can't even spell his name without cut and paste. :-)

Back when I thought science was god (little g), I had as low an opinion of philosophy as I did of theology, neither delt in fact, but in fiction as far as I was concerned.

That said I'll check out the link.

Stefan said...

Basically Mike actually raises what for me is a key issue: we claim the Bible as our authority, as our rule of faith and practice, and the foundation of our doctrine; but the basis on which we attribute that authority to the Bible—its inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, etc.—itself comes from the Bible.

quibbling_for_crumbs said...

Kurt,

It can be helpful to show that the scientific method is based on philosophy.

aka uniformity of nature and the principle of induction

And further the question of why truth should be valued and sought after when there is no God. This is why Neitzsche said that scientist and athiests borrowed from the "millenial flame" of the christian faith to light their way

Jim Pemberton said...

That seems like a circular argument to those who are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Let me give you an example. I knew my mom. I had some experience with her before she died in my childhood. But all I knew is what I experienced, and that wanes as my memory fades. Now I have her personal journal where she wrote about her deeper thoughts and feelings as well as my early years. Alas, my memory is refreshed as a result and I even have some explanation as to why some things happened the way they did. Why would I doubt her journal? The truth of it resonates in me because of my experience with her. Likewise, the veracity of the Bible resonates with those who have personal experience living with the one true God. Now, not only do we have our own experience, but we have the most important rememberances of the experience of the history of this world with God since its creation. And inasmuch as we desire to know the truth, the truth written in this divine journal resonates in us. That is the source of our true Christian presuppositions and it's decidedly not circular.

Now the evidence of the Bible only bolsters this. We can see that specific prophesies have come true. We can trace the bulk of the scriptures to historical events in the scriptures. We have Chronicles of the kings of God's people, the Hebrews, that are wholly unlike the Chronicles of the other kings of the world because of how starkly they point to faults in the Hebrew kings. We have a large and growing body of archeological evidence that the scriptures indeed speak of true places and events. The evidence and veracity of the accounts are astonishing. But nothing is as certain to us as the life given by the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth to us in such a way as to build us up in the grace of God.

Stefan said...

Jim:

Yes to all you said, and thank you for that.

Yes, we do have the indwelling Holy Spirit to interpret and validate Scripture for us. (But what know of the Holy Spirit—and how we interpret our experience of Him—is derived from Scripture.)

As for validating those parts of the Bible that we can validate against external events, archaeological evidence, etc.—so as to place our trust in those parts we can't directly validate—I agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote.

Jim Pemberton said...

Thanks, Stefan. I think we're pretty much on the same page.

But I do think there is something that we get from the Holy Spirit that we don't get from holy scripture just as there is something from holy scripture that we don't get from the Holy Spirit. That is to say that we certainly get true information from the scriptures that we use to apprehend any "feeling" we get. But what the Holy Spirit gives us is not mere feeling, but a desire for truth and a willingness to submit to truth. An important part of this truth is an awareness of our sin which is a very personal barrier to knowing God. Without the Holy Spirit, we can read the Bible and not agree with this because we are blinded to it. The truth of the gospel answers our sin and find joy in what the Holy Spirit had already been prompting us to know. So, we don't need to know about the Holy Spirit to desire to know what the truth is. Nevertheless, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us that desire. When we read of him in the Bible then we recognize the truth because it suddenly makes sense as to why we would desire to know in the first place. It looks like this:

Presupposition:
If I know the Bible is true then it was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. (Causality being from consequent to antecedent.)

Equivalency:
The Bible happens to say the Holy Spirit reveals truth. Therefore the antecedent and consequent of the presuppositional syllogism are equivalent statements.

Proclamation (Since people who don't have the Holy Spirit cannot understand a straight presuppositional argument, the only argument that remains is the following):
The Bible says that it is true.

If people are moved by the Holy spirit, they will investigate in earnest the veracity of the Bible. If they do not, then they might investigate the Bible if only to find some evidence that it is wrong. But it is the resonance of the truth internal to the scripture without the understanding of the Holy Spirit that atheists mistake for a circular argument.



I actually had an evangelistic debate with a Muslim that ended up on this very thing. After some discussion, he said plainly that he didn't have the Holy Spirit so he could only read the Bible with his own mind. He actually seemed sad about having realized that fact and went away pondering it. So who knows?

stratagem said...

Basically Mike actually raises what for me is a key issue: we claim the Bible as our authority, as our rule of faith and practice, and the foundation of our doctrine; but the basis on which we attribute that authority to the Bible—its inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, etc.—itself comes from the Bible.

I don't really feel that way at all. If that's all we had, then we would believe the first so-called "holy" book we ever read (since most of them make truth claims about themselves), rather than believing the Bible. But we read the Koran, Book of Mormon, the Hindu writings, and so on and do not have the Holy Spirit convict us as to their truth, despite their truth-claims. There is something in the Bible that rings true to me, and there is something in all those other books that rings hollow. That "something" is God-granted faith.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

Stefan said...

Stratagem:

Of course, I don't personally see it as a circular argument either, and it all comes down to the living testimony of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

But writing as someone who grew up as an atheist and spent his adult life by varying turns skeptical and agnostic, the Bible did appear to me to be a self-referential document. (...From which I picked and chose what I liked, because it fit my secular worldview—but that's a topic for another day!)

So in the end, maybe all we can do is agree that without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, it is just another book; whereas with the living, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, it becomes what we believe it to be: the redemptive history of the one and only God, who through His active Word calls a people unto Himself.

Hence (as many here would argue) the primacy of presuppositionalism over other forms of apologetics.

Phil Johnson said...

Mike: "Phil, what would be your reply to their, "you're using circular reasoning" charge? "

Stefan: "Basically Mike actually raises what for me is a key issue: we claim the Bible as our authority, as our rule of faith and practice, and the foundation of our doctrine; but the basis on which we attribute that authority to the Bible--its inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, etc.--itself comes from the Bible."

I would ask, What higher authority is there? I.e., what is the highest authority in the universe, and how does the atheist know the answer to that question? What authority does he appeal to--and can he justify that belief without committing the same circularity he complains of?

The atheist's only recourse ultimately entails some form of skepticism--usually a retreat to the epistemological defeatism of postmodernism.

But according to Romans 1:19, which I absolutely believe is true, that is either a deliberate ploy or (more commonly) a manifestation of the atheist's own self-deception.

Either way, the argument entails a denial that true knowledge is ultimately impossible--which is the very height of irrationality.

Sir Aaron said...

Additionally, Athiests treat Scripture as a single book when, in fact, it is a collection of books written by many different authors.

bassicallymike said...

Thanks for the replies, guys!

Stefan said...

Yes, thanks for everyone's responses.

Chris said...

I was trying to send you an email, but didn't know where to find it. Anyways, I've been trying to understand how I would as an atheist deal with the killings God commanded in the Old Testament. This is what I came up with.
http://chrisdeluna.blogspot.com/2010/03/if-i-were-atheistaccounting-for.html