Please enjoy my hour review of the debate we had with an atheist in our class. I go over all the major points and offer clarity.
I. THE ARGUMENT FROM THE GOSPEL
- Notice how around 14:00 Spencer affirms the main premises of the argument, mainly that all major historians agree that Jesus lived, died and had resurrection appearance.
- Premise 1: All major historians agree Jesus lived, died and was believed to have given resurrection apprearances.
- Premise 2: Jesus rising from the dead is the only rational claim that supports all the agreed upon evidence.
- Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus rose from the dead.
- Then notice his only real defeater is to suggest the disciples had “cognitive dissonance.”
- Cognitive dissonance is to hold to differing beliefs because of emotional or deep seated beliefs. Example, “Grandma is dead, but I can’t let her go, I still believe she’s alive” or “I know smoking is bad for me, but it helps relax me and that is equally as good for me.”
- Here is a great quote from Dr. Craig on this issue, “So there are ways that they could alleviate their cognitive dissonance easily without adopting these non-Jewish thought forms, which in fact they did come firmly to believe. Contrary to their Jewish upbringing and frame of thinking, they came to believe that God had actually raised Jesus from the dead, and you’ve got to provide a sufficient cause for that. So I think that the cognitive dissonance view is implausible when contrasted with the resurrection view, which, as I say, enjoys the independent support as well of the facts of the empty tomb and the post-mortem appearances.” (Source).
- Also, it is the real fact of the matter that the atheist is effected by cognitive dissonance because on one hand they believe there is no god, (despite all the evidence) and live and act as if there is one (by having meaning, using logic, living moral, etc.). They are truly the ones self-deceived and suppressing the “truth” in emotional rebellion and spiritual unrighteousness.
II. THE TAG ARGUMENT
- Notice at 24:55 Spencer cannot see the connection between logic and God, yet Spencer is using logic without a grounding for it.
- Premise 1: If God is the transcendental ground of “Logic”, he exists.
- Premise 2: God is the transcendental ground of “Logic”.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.
- He gives a “best guess” to what he thinks the grounding could be with a natural cause but since he doesn’t choose one all he does is try to refute Chris’ claim with skepticism.
- Due to limited time Chris couldn’t quote an important passage, but we can now, John 1:1-5, “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
- Therefore, the burden of proof is for both people “perceiving” logic to give an explanation for it; which for Spencer is, “I cannot give an explanation for logic and intelligibility.”
- And if even Spencer were to say he doesn’t have to, like how he does in my time- he still must explain rationally why he doesn’t have to give a grounding for the logic he uses. In other words, why does he exist in a reality with logic.
- Simply using logic to defend not giving a ground for logic is circular and is self-defeating (which he admitted to me afterward). For example, citing philosophical terms like “externalism, fallibilism, anti-foundationalism, etc.” is circular because he is assuming these terms have an objective logical meaning.
- The Christian has a way out of the circle because he can appeal to the all powerful mind of God that is logical as a starting point.
- Therefore, whether he forms a circular argument or not, he is living with a circular world view.
- Watch in the debate below, especially in the first cross examination, how atheism is destroyed by its own circular reasoning, especially for those who are atheistic fallibilist like Spencer.
III. THE MORAL ARGUMENT
- Notice how at 28:28 Spencer wants to use “moral realism” to try to assert a belief in objective morality and still deny God.
- Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
- Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.
- Basically moral realism states there are moral facts about human well being that can be considered “objective.”
- However, notice he has no reason to state why the “facts” are true if he believes in evolution. He tries to assert the Christian has the same problem by giving two forms of the Erythro dilemma; one in regards to goodness outside of God and the other to goodness inside of God. Both of his attempts fail for two main reasons:
- Without God he has no objective definition of good. His argument for moral realism is one of only opinions of what is good for human well being (as society defines it). For example one could imagine a world in which it is good to eat every child after your first three. By doing this you have a continual supply of food and increase human flourishing (eat after one child if you want population to decrease or after two if you want to maintain population).
- Second, without God he has no “reason” for people to be good. For example, another Hitler could come to power and say, “I don’t care about moral realism, I am a moral relativist and want to conquer the entire world and eat everyone who disagrees with me.” When he would die he would suffer no eternal punishment, thus moral realism has no motivation to be “good” because good is never “objective” without God. Yes, if you are wondering if I am saying hell is a motivation in doing good- yes, I am because Jesus taught it was as well in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
- Also, note that “real and more consistent” atheists like Dr. Alex Rosenburg in his book, “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality,” say that such attempts by other atheists to derive morals from evolution are basically cowards and need to deal with the facts and take more prozac if they can’t handle it. He wrote that both human life and human civilization flourishing was “meaningless.”
- He writes, “So, individual human life is meaningless, without a purpose, and without ultimate moral value. How about human history or human culture, civilization, or the advancement of our species as a whole? It’s even easier for science to show that human history has no such trajectory than it is to show that individual lives lack one.” Rosenberg, Alex. The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions (p. 19). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
- Enjoy below a fatal blow to this kind of thinking below by Dr. Craig against Sam Harris and watch the full debate here.
IV. THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
- Notice how at around 35:00 Spencer states he is an externalist, which means he has to point to things outside of himself for grounding and believe they are there even if it it’s not known to him.
- Premise 1: If naturalism is true, there is no warrant for knowing anything to be true.
- Premise 2: We do know things to be true.
- Conclusion 1: Therefore, naturalism is false.
- Conclusion 2: Therefore, God exists.
- However, after paying Plantiga a compliment he states the exact opposite of what Planting argues and proves. Spencer thinks he can have design from the “bottom up” like Dan Dennett tries to assert, “cranes vs. sky hooks.” Basically, “undesigned design” and “unintelligent intelligence.”
- Yet, this is exactly Plantiga’s point, that evolution is itself undesigned and thus anything coming from it cannot have warrant and should not be trusted because it lacks proper function.
- As a matter of fact, anything Spencer does to try to assert his thinking faculties are true with such theories as, “the correspondence of truth theory,” is question-begging and a fallacious circular argument that only proves the Christian’s point. Mainly, that he first must trust the Mind of God to trust his mind.
- Dr. Craig below explains it well in summary.
V. THE ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN
- Notice how around 43:50 Spencer affirms the typical evolutionary account for design. Which is once again to say, things can be “designed by non-designed mechanisms.”
- Premise 1: Design comes from purpose and purpose comes from mind.
- Premise 2: The universe is designed.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.
- Later on at 45:40 he states that nonliving things like manmade snowmen are different for living things being designed because they have abilities to rearrange themselves based on their information (DNA code, physical constants, etc.). Yet he cannot explain where their information comes from.
- Also, he gives no evidence at all for how living things became living and the physical constants that are necessary for life.. He just assumes things can be designed without a Designer, this is having blind faith in science.
- Instead he ought to have faith in God, who gave us the ability to do science and understand the natural and ordered world (Romans 1).
- See the videos demonstrating the complexity of God’s creation.
VI. THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
- Around 50:20 Spencer states a kind of eternal state of the universe when given the basic Kalaam argument. However, once given the Leibniz argument from contingency around 53:00 he says he was reflecting on the argument, yet the only answer he gives is to question the kind of reasoning used. However, in the TAG and in the epistemological argument he has given no clear way of trusting any of his thinking abilities.
- Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
- Conclusion 1: Therefore, the universe has a cause.
- Conclusion 2: Therefore, God exists (based on the qualification of what could actually cause a universe to begin).
- When pushed about God being necessary he claims that whatever we say about God he can say about the universe. Below are the things that make this a fallacious comparison based on Modal Logic (“possible worlds”) and the Law of Identity:
- God is person with casual powers, the universe is non-personal with no causal power.
- God is outside of the universe and created of matter, space and time; the universe is only within itself and has not qualities of creative power and design.
- God is necessary in all possible worlds, this universe is not necessary in all possible because it could be imagined to be different. For example, one thing being different would make it different, like a pen dropping once and in other world it dropping twice.
- Enjoy the video again for reference and the argument from contingency.
- P1: Every contingent fact has an explanation.
- P2: There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
- P3: Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
- P4: This explanation must involve a necessary being.
- C: This necessary being is God.
VII. THE DEFENSE AGAINST THE PROBABILISTIC ARGUMENT FROM EVIL
- Around 57:00 Spencer gives the answer to his own argument, mainly that there is not probabilistic problem with evil because that would assume we know the exact mind of God- yet there is not promise of this in Scripture.
- Premise 1: God gave man the choice between good and evil.
- Premise 2: Man chose evil.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God has allowed evil for His greater purpose.
- There is nothing inherit in Christianity or in the Bible (see Job) that gives us a promise of such knowledge (to know every specific purpose of every evil).
- Once again, like with the moral argument, Spencer (who is a moral realist) can have no problem with evil because in his worldview evil is just an opinion based on human well being (not a warranted truth claim). This shows the folly of his position and how he argues and lives in folly.
- Therefore, the problem with Spencer’s view is he cannot even appeal to evil, only human suffering- and even then- so what? However, the Christian doesn’t have a problem with evil because Jesus answered it on the cross (see Isaiah 53).
- Enjoy Dr. Craig’s two awesome videos on both the logical and probable problem with evil.
VIII. ARGUMENT FROM PRE-CONDITIONS
- In my debate portion Spencer tried to dodge my question of preconditions by appealing to his philosophical world view pertaining to properly basic beliefs not needing further justification.
- He also tried to show that my question can be considered circular and fallacious.
- By stating these two ideas he thinks he has a leg to stand on because of the following:
- He doesn’t need to justify his basic beliefs.
- I, the Christian, can’t either without being fallacious.
- However the following is true:
- Basic beliefs count as a logical position and thus need to have an account for the reality in which there are in. In other words, why are there properly basic beliefs in this reality and why can they be attained?
- Plantinga and other Reformed Epistemologists rightly believe that basic beliefs need to sensible with a consistent worldview (which Spencer doesn’t have based on his naturalism and lacking any proper function, not mention his belief in metaphysical things). (Source).
- Every person trying to answer questions about basic beliefs have to start with a vicious circular position (Logic works, because logic works), however, the Christian can start with a less vicious circle, (Logic works because of God).
- Every logical method, especially induction and deduction, have to be assumed as a starting point to even work. Thus, God is the only option out of the circle, period.
- Note About Circularity: A circular argument may be a fallacy of logic, but it doesn’t make it deductively invalid. “The components of a circular argument are often logically valid because if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true” (wiki). For example, “I am Joe because I am Joe” is true, but circular. The only way to test a circular claim is with induction, “Circular reasoning is often of the form: “A is true because B is true; B is true because A is true.” Circularity can be difficult to detect if it involves a longer chain of propositions. Academic Douglas Walton used the following example of a fallacious circular argument:
- Wellington is in New Zealand.
- Therefore, Wellington is in New Zealand.
He notes that, although the argument is deductively valid, it cannot prove that Wellington is in New Zealand because it contains no evidence [which comes from induction] that is distinct from the conclusion. The context – that of an argument – means that the proposition does not meet the requirement of proving the statement; thus, it is a fallacy. He proposes that the context of a dialogue determines whether a circular argument is fallacious: if it forms part of an argument, then it is.” (same source of wiki). Therefore, all we have to do to prove a circular right or wrong is to do induction (give evidence), the same is true with the argument from pre-conditions.
- Someone can try to assert something other than God for their reality but their position will reduce to absurdity. See below for an example:
- Universe Example: Spencer can say, “I got logic from the universe.” I ask, “Where did the universe get it from?” He responds, “It just had it.” Now let’s try to prove that with inductive reasoning, lest we blindly trust circular arguments. I ask, “Can we observe information be given without some first starting point of intelligence?” He must admit, “No.” Therefore, our conclusion must be, “I got logic from a non-personal non-intelligent universe made of matter” is not only circular but fallacious.
- God Example: Joe can say, “I got my logic from God.” Spencer can ask, “Where did God get it from?” I will respond, “God contains it in Himself because He Himself is logical as a divine person (John 1:1).” Spencer can now say, “Let’s try to prove that with inductive reasoning. Does information come for intelligence?” And I will say, “Yes.” Therefore, my circular argument is proven with induction, unlike his.
- Also, note that we are not our logical methods, we are persons made in God’s image that stand outside of our methods. Our logical methods need to make sense in the real world. That is why people change their minds even about logical positions. Today’s externalist may be tomorrow’s internalist and today’s foundationalist may be tomorrow’s anti-foundationalist. Truth doesn’t change, but the way we perceive it does- once again a proof for the image of God inside of humanity because we have freewill (which cannot exist on Spencer’s worldview, just ask Sam Harris– he also believes the self is an illusion).
- Spencer believes his methods make sense with no god in the world. I believe they only make sense with God as revealed in Scripture.
- My argument from pre-conditions still stands because it offers the best explanation for all the evidence of induction and deduction, plus the impossibility of the contrary. Here is an example of the impossibility of the contrary:
- P1: God (contrary- no god) is the grounding for preconditions.
- P2: Predictions exist.
- C: Therefore, no God (contrary- no god) exists.
- Now which one, “God or no god,” can stop the endless regress of grounding preconditions? Obviously, God. Therefore, he is groundless whether he admits or not and whatever philosophy he uses suffers that fate, just like his knowledge does with having no warrant.
- His only way out is to say preconditions do not exist and thus become like Rosenburg and except life and himself as an illusion (but even then the nihilist is inconsistent because of the image of God in them and lives as if God and his conditions of intelligibility exist).
- Here is another way of stating the argument, modeling off of Craig’s argument from objective morality.
- P1: If there are objective pre-conditions for logical discourse, the Christian God exists.
- P2: Objective preconditions for logical discourse exist.
- C: Therefore, the Christian God exists.
- More on epistemological foundations from a Christian standpoint from Dr. Scott Oliphant.
Romans 1:20 (NIV) 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Enjoy a spoken word from a former atheist on the day of his baptism outside our church! 🙂