Mary sent me this article from the BibleGateway site.
Q. What’s the strongest argument in the arsenal of atheists these days? And why does it fall short?
A. That’s a big question. Different atheists will use different arguments, but they often confront Christians with two things: (1) Darwinism has refuted the idea of Designer and so defeats Christianity (and every other form of theism). They claim that undirected, purely material causes and entities can explain all of biology. (2) The existence of the amount of evil in the world destroys the idea that there is a God who is all-good and all-powerful. No such God would allow this to happen. This is called the problem of evil.
I address (1) in chapters 13 and 14 of Christian Apologetics. To put it into a nutshell: Darwinism is terribly overrated scientifically. Darwinists usually presupposes a materialistic worldview—this is their philosophy, not something derived from science itself—and then interpret everything in biology according to those categories. In other words, “What my net don’t catch, ain’t fish.”
But once we admit intelligent design as a legitimate category of explanation, we find that Darwinism loses its persuasive power as a comprehensive explanation of the biosphere. In fact, Darwinism cannot explain the existence of molecular machines (such as the bacterial flagellum) or the information in DNA code. Nor can it even present a compelling case that all life evolved from a common ancestor.
In addition, my book builds what I hope is a strong cumulative case for Christian theism before addressing the vexing problem of evil in the final chapter. First I consider “dead ends” to explain the fact of evil in the world. Every worldview—and not just Christianity—needs to give an account of the meaning of evil and how to deal with it.
So every worldview has to answer “the problem of evil.” I argue that atheism has no intellectual resources to bring to bear on the problem. It cannot explain the very existence of evil, since it lacks a transcendent and personal standard for good and evil, nor can it give any hope for how to wrestle with evil. This is because all the atheist can say is (to put it politely): “Stuff happens.”
However, Christianity, while challenged by the fact of evil, is not overwhelmed by it. Apart from the problem of evil, we can stand on the foundation of natural theology. There are compelling arguments for, among other things, a First Cause who designed the universe and who is the source of moral law and meaning. Moreover, we find historically reliable documents that speak of Jesus Christ as God incarnate—one who vindicated himself through his matchless life, death, and resurrection. Thus, we do not stand before the problem of evil intellectually naked. Rather, we are girded in strong rational armor.
The Christian answer to the problem of evil is that while God is sovereign, some of God’s creatures (angelic and humans) brought evil into the world through their rebellion. God did not create evil. However, as an all-wise God, God uses evil for greater goods that would not be achievable otherwise. Further, God proves his love and goodness by experiencing the worst possible evil through the crucifixion of Jesus, Christ, God, the Son. Christ’s resurrection three days later stamps history and eternity with the verdict that good (that is, God) wins out over evil in the end.
Q. You offer a compelling case for the resurrection of Jesus. What’s the strongest counter-argument to him rising from the dead? And why does that alternative fail?
A. None of the counter-arguments are as rationally strong as the claim that Jesus left an empty tomb and rose from the dead in space-time actuality. The naturalistic accounts all fail to explain key elements of what we know from history.
However, in recent years, the hallucination theory has generated the most attention, as Gary Habermas has pointed out. This theory affirms that Jesus did not objectively rise from the dead; instead, his followers subjectively hallucinated a resurrection and subsequently built their movement on this delusion. While this counter-argument may be “the best of the bad,” it is still very bad indeed.
First, hallucinations are not group phenomena, but rather individual experiences. But we have well-attested records that many people in their right minds observed the risen Jesus at the same time, as well as other individual appearances (as to Paul).
Second, if many people were deluded about Jesus and began a movement in his name, the Roman government could have put a stop to the young Jesus movement by producing his corpse publicly. They had both the means and the motive to do so. But we have no record of anything like that.
Third, Jesus’ followers did not expect him to rise from the dead. This was not part of their theology and they did not understand Jesus when he made reference to this fact before his resurrection. N.T Wright strongly argues for this. But hallucinations usually involve some form of wish fulfillment: people strongly desire something, and then hallucinate about it. This does not fit the objective historical evidence about Jesus’ followers at all.
I think if you follow apologetics at all, you can see that Doug knows his stuff. But look how precisely he gets the material out – so concisely. I think Doug’s apologetics book and Mike Licona’s resurrection book are the books of the year. But for intermediate to advanced apologists only! Doug and Michael are two of my absolute favorite Christian apologists.