Tag Archives: Theism

What are some popular philosophical objections to Christian theism?

Since we’ve been looking at history and science so much recently, I decided to list some philosophical objections to Christian theism.

Here are a few of the most common objections:

Let me just comment on the first two briefly.

First, the problem of evil. You should definitely start by making the atheist define what evil is, ontologically. This is, of course, impossible on an atheistic worldview, since there is no such thing as an objective moral standard or objective moral duties, on atheism. On atheism, there are only two possible sources of moral values and moral duties: 1) individual personal preferences and 2) arbitrary cultural conventions. Neither of these is adequate to ground a robust notion of evil.

Second, for the problem of suffering. People today are pretty sure that God, if he exists at all, would want humans to make themselves happy in any way that they want. This is, of course, a pretty self-serving concept of God. The purpose of life on Christian theism is to know God, and suffering may be necessary to help us do that. Even Jesus suffered. My own view is that suffering is necessary to cause people to desire God more than they desire earthly happiness and comforts.

Third, the hiddenness of God. Check if your objector is already familiar with the standard scientific arguments for the existence of a Creator and Designer, as well as the minimal facts case for the resurrection. There is a lot of evidence available, but it takes a little digging to find it. God is not interested in coercing people’s will by dazzling displays of his power. He is interested in having a relationship with people who are interested in him, and that means people must seek him.

You can find some less common or less interesting objections in my list of arguments for and against Christian theism.

Can atheists ground objective moral values and duties, just like theists?

Consider this article from Thinking Matters in New Zealand.

Excerpt:

There is an objection to the moral argument for God’s existence, specifically the premise which states the best explanation for the foundation for objective moral values and duties is God. It is the idea that moral values and duties can be plausibly anchored in some transcendent, non-theistic ground. That moral values and duties exist objectively, but as brute facts, not needing an explanation for their existence. They are sort of eternal unchanging ideas that are necessary features of the universe. This position we shall call Atheistic Moral Platonism, and there are three ways we could respond.

Click here for the three ways to respond.

I actually used to hold to Deistic Platonism before I became a Christian, and that’s all documented in my testimony. To learn more about this topic, here is my series on how morality cannot be rationally grounded by atheism, and the series includes links to lectures and debates for further study. The relationship between a cosmic designer and objective moral values and duties is the easiest topic in the world to discuss with non-Christians. It takes only a little preparation, compared to more difficult issues like scientific evidence and the historicity of the resurrection.

Does God exist? Is there any scientific evidence to prove that God exists?

Since I haven’t talked about science in a while, I thought that now would be a good time to list some of the more common arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe and/or intelligent life. I like to use arguments drawn from mainstream science that do not assume the Bible or inerrancy or anything specifically religious. The arguments below all show that the reality we live in exhibits effects in nature that are not explained by particles in motion, chance and the operation of natural laws.

First, here’s the list of a few of the better-known arguments:

The average knuckle-dragging atheist will not be familiar with any of these arguments, will have never seen them used in academic debates, and will not even click through to read about them. That’s atheism these days – it’s non-cognitive. Atheism is all about escaping from moral values and moral obligations, which are not even rationally grounded by atheism.

The point of being familiar with these arguments is to show that religion and science are virtually identical. Both are trying to explain the external world. Both are bound by the laws of logic. Both use evidence to verify and falsify claims. For example, the discovery of the origin of the universe falsifies Hinduism, Buddhism and Mormonism, but it leaves Christianity, Islam and Judaism unscathed. All religions make truth claims and those claims can be tested against what science tells us about the world.

What is the significance of scientific progress for Christians?

Some general points to know when presenting these arguments.

1. You need to emphasize that atheism is in full flight away from the progress of science. Each of these arguments has gotten stronger as the evidence grew and grew. For example, scientists had to be forced to turn away from the eternal universe as new discoveries arrived, such as the cosmic microwave background radiation measurements. Scientists had to turn away from the view that the cosmological constants are nothing special, as more and more fine-tuned quantities were discovered.

2. Christians need to pay attention in school and score top grades in mathematics and experimental sciences. Science is God-friendly, and we need to have Christians doing cutting edge research in the best labs at the universities. Think of the work done by Doug Axe at Cambridge University in which he was able to publish research showing that very few sequences of amino acids have biological function, so getting functional sequences at random is virtually impossible. One of Doug’s papers is here. We need more people like him.

3. Each of these arguments needs to be studied in the context of polemics and debates. The best way to present each of these arguments is by presenting them as a struggle against opposing forces. For example, when talking about the big bang, emphasize how atheists kept trying to come up with eternal universe speculations. When talking about the fine-tuning, talk about the unobservable multiverse. When talking about irreducible complexity, talk about the co-option fallacy. Don’t preach – teach the controversy.

4. Don’t make lazy excuses about how scientific evidence doesn’t persuade non-Christians. Science is absolutely the core of any argument for Christianity, along with the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Christianity is about knowledge. Christians who refuse to subject their faith to science are probably just trying to make sure that Christianity isn’t so true that it dictates how they should live. They like the uncertainty of blind faith, because it preserves their autonomy to disregard Christian moral teachings when it suits them.

5. The purpose of linking your Christian faith to scientific arguments is to demonstrate to non-Christians that Christianity is real. It is not a personal preference. It is not something you grew up with. It is not something you inherited from your parents. When you link your Christian faith with scientific facts in the external world, you are declaring to non-Christians that Christianity is testable and binding on everyone who shares the objective reality we live in. You can’t expect people to act Christianly without showing that Christianity is objectively true.

6. Scientific arguments are tremendously useful even for believing Christians, because sometimes it is difficult to act in a Christian way when your emotions are telling you not to. When your feelings make it hard for you to behave Christianly, that is when scientific evidence can come into play in order to rationally justify acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice. For example, scientific evidence for the existence of God is a helpful counterbalance to the problem of apparently gratuitous evil, which often discourages Christians.

My complete index of arguments for and against Christian theism is here.

UPDATE: I notice that in the popular culture, people are not really aware of these arguments, and are still arguing for religious faith based on pragmatism and personal experience, not on evidence. Using reason and evidence is much better, and it’s what the Bible teaches, too.

What made the most famous atheist philosopher abandon atheism?

I first heard about Anthony Flew while reading a book-debate between Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland and atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen. Flew was one of the respondents, and he impressed me with his honest weighing of the evidence. Things got even more interesting when Flew debated William Lane Craig in front of over 4000 students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Here’s the audio and video. You can also buy the book!

During the Q&A, an angry atheist asked Dr. Flew why he had not appealed to the speculative oscillating model of the universe in order to escape the force of the kalam argument and the Big Bang. And that’s when Flew said a very strange thing. He said to the questioner that he could not appeal to the oscillating model of the universe because the big bang was the current best theory and the oscillating model was a speculation.

And that’s when I first knew that Flew would abandon atheism. You see, he was not interested in appealing to idle speculations against the evidence in order to justify his atheism. He was willing to go where the evidence led. He was not willing to play games with speculative theories like the oscillating model, the multiverse theory, unobservable aliens seeding life, etc. in order to weasel out of the demands of the moral law.

You can read all about his conversion to theism at Thinking Matters. (H/T MandM)

Excerpt:

Two of the most striking things about Antony Flew are his honesty and humility. He is prepared to admit where he has been wrong on a number of philosophical issues, not just on the existence of God. There is a humility and an openness to follow the evidence where it leads that is often lacking in the so-called “new atheists.” He is keenly aware of how easy it is to let preconceived ideas shape the way we view evidence instead of letting the evidence shape our ideas. Therein, he says, “lies the peculiar danger… of dogmatic atheism.”

So, just what evidence has brought about this remarkable turn-around in Flew’s convictions? In his view, modern science spotlights three dimensions of the natural world that point to God. The first of these is the existence of the laws of nature. After spelling out their precision, symmetry, and regularity, he asks how did nature come packaged like this? The point is not just that these laws exist but that they are mathematical. That is, they are not found through direct observation, but are discovered through experiment and mathematical theory. The laws are “written in a cosmic code that scientists must crack.”

[…]The second area of recent scientific study that leads Flew to the God conclusion is the investigation of DNA and the life of the cell. For Flew the key philosophical question here is: how can a universe of mindless matter produce self-replicating life?

[…[The third area of evidence that leads Antony Flew to God is the consensus among scientists about the big-bang theory.

And there are some gems in the article, such as Flew’s comments about atheists who embrace the unobservable multiverse as an alternative to the fine-tuning argument. If you would like to learn more about arguments that work, and responses to atheistic arguments that work, check out my index of Christian arguments and counter arguments, or the debate page for some academic debates.

What Christians should take away from this

Feminized-postmodern-relativist-universalist Christians need to understand what actually works to change people’s minds: arguments and evidence. Converting a person to Christianity can only be done by establishing the truth of Christianity. Any appeal to emotions and felt needs, parental authority, tradition and convention, or threats of eternal damnation do not result in authentic faith.

There are three reasons Christian use such subjective methods instead of the objective methods that worked on Flew. First, most Christians don’t know these arguments. Also, they don’t want to do any studying to learn these arguments. Finally, they are afraid of getting into public debates because they don’t want to be different from others and diminish their own comfort and happiness.

How about we try something different? Something that actually works?

This is all particularly distressing now that a new survey has come out indicating that America could be 25% atheist in 20 years.

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How objective are scientists about their research, given their political views?

Hot Air linked to this Pew Research poll about the beliefs and attitudes of researchers in the scientific fields.

Excerpt:

More than half of the scientists surveyed (55%) say they are Democrats, compared with 35% of the public. Fully 52% of the scientists call themselves liberals; among the public, just 20% describe themselves as liberals. Many of the scientists surveyed mentioned in their open-ended comments that they were optimistic about the Obama administration’s likely impact on science.

For its part, the public does not perceive scientists as a particularly liberal group. When asked whether they think of scientists as liberal, conservative or neither in particular, nearly two-thirds (64%) choose the latter option. Just 20% say they think of scientists as politically liberal. However, a majority of scientists (56%) do see members of their profession as liberal.

Most scientists had heard at least a little about claims that government scientists were not allowed to report research findings that conflicted with the Bush administration’s point of view. And the vast majority (77%) says that these claims are true. By contrast, these claims barely registered with the public – more than half heard nothing at all about this issue. Only about a quarter of the public (28%) said they thought the claims were true.

Both scientists and the public overwhelmingly say it is appropriate for scientists to become active in political debates about such issues as nuclear power or stem cell research. Virtually all scientists (97%) endorse their participation in debates about these issues, while 76% of the public agrees.

I think it helps to make the point I was making earlier about the fraudulent science used to support global warming and Darwinian evolution. Many scientists have an agenda. They get paid by the government. The bigger government is, the better they get paid. Therefore, many are Democrats. Scientists tend to be biased in favor of material entities and explanations. Morality is non-material. Scientists therefore tend to resent the idea that moral claims are knowledge. They prefer to have autonomy from non-material moral rules. Therefore, many are atheists.

There are some dissenters of course. But these are rare.