Let me preface this essay by saying that I respect your right to make up your own mind on issues religious, philosophical, and otherwise intellectual. That said, I recently found myself irritated by some of the unintelligent portrayals of Christian apologists. I confess that we likely do the same thing, but nonetheless, I thought that I would address some of the more ignorant objections. Though I have nothing against them personally, all of the existing conversations come from http://www.coppit.org/god/arguments.php.
Argument 1: Christian: (Argument from Design) Complex things such as watches and televisions are created by intelligent people. Surely the complexity of life arising from simple DNA, as well as the other forms of complexity in the universe also implies the influence of an intelligence.
Doubter: God is certainly complex, so who created him? If you say that he has always existed, then why can’t you instead say that the universe (and life) have always existed? Besides, there are examples of poor “design” in nature. The human eye, for example, has a blind spot when it could have been “designed” like the squid’s (that doesn’t have one).
Christian Response: This is misdirection on the part of the doubter. By shifting the focus from the complexity of life to God, they are making the assumption that because God doesn’t make sense to them, there must be a natural cause for nature. This is an example of where an individual’s worldview shapes their perception and preconceptions of the data. Still, I’ll address all the parts of their response.
First, God is complex, you’re right about that. He, however, exists apart from time, and as such is not bound by it. (This may seem like a cop-out, but bear with me.) If God exists forever, and has always existed (an impossibility in a finite timespan) he must have existed apart from it. If God had no beginning, it is fully possible for him to have “always” existed, from our temporal standpoint. However, because we exist in time, as does the universe, it is incomprehensible that it could have always existed, given our inability to escape from time. Additionally, the scientific worldview to which the doubter clearly ascribes demands that the universe be created, so where is the continuity in claiming that it could have existed forever, simply to prove a point?
And yes, while there are examples of “poor” design, this actually reflects far more poorly upon the scientific perspective, than upon the biblical. Suppose for a moment, that there is no God. Survival of the fittest should have meant that the creatures (within a species, or the species as a whole) that had the best eyesight should have risen to the top. As such, why are squid’s not a more dominant species? Or why were the humans with better vision and a smaller blindspot not more successful than those without good eyesight? It is a strange argument to compare two non-competitive species to argue for a theory composed of survival of the fittest. Additionally, this is another misdirection; the doubter never addresses the immense complexity of an eye, nor the issue of irreducible complexity (which CANNOT be accounted for by citing evidence of subsequent multi-purposed changes within the structure.)
However, if one for a moment accepts the concept of a divine creator, with a rhyme, reason, and purpose for humanity, then the idea of designed imperfections make sense. Especially if one accepts the theological concepts of inherent sinfulness and corruption of original design. God wanted perfection, and when we failed to deliver, our physical natures were corrupted as well.
Argument 2: Christian: There can not be a causeless cause; someone must have caused the universe to come into existence.
Doubter: Who caused God to come into existence? Like the previous argument, this one is internally inconsistent.
Christian Response: I already addressed this question in the last. If you have a being or realm set apart from time, there is no need for a first cause or a creator. Again, this is misdirection; the doubter never answers the question of what caused the initial moment of creation “Big Bang” or otherwise. Even the recent declaration that gravity can account for all of creation fails to explain where such guiding laws originate from. Suppose we do one day answer “how,” we still lack the Aristotelian “why?”
Argument 3: Christian: There are laws of physics that govern the universe. Someone must have created those laws.
Doubter: Firstly, the laws that physicists speak of are merely mathematical constructs that describe the operation of the universe that we observe. However, the core of your argument is about the seemingly delicate and orderly mechanisms involved in the operation of the universe (independent of our descriptions of them). Who made them? My answer is “I don’t know”. However, given the huge amount of knowledge that we lack about those mechanisms, it seems premature to attribute them to a god.
Christian Response: I need to stop answering the next question by accident… again we see an argument from worldview assumption. Yet, for the first time, we see an honest argument. The Doubter does not try and claim that these mechanisms exist independently, rather they are somehow bound into the universe itself by some means. They do make the assumption that we cannot attribute them to a god, but why? Simple, once again, they have already decided that there must be a natural cause, despite the complete lack of evidence for a natural arising. Despite the fact that this lack of evidence IS evidence of creation, they will not accept this because under their scientific worldview, this cannot be a plausible explanation.
Argument 4: Christian: Someone must have created the moral law that every person feels obliged to follow. (C.S. Lewis’ argument in Mere Christianity)
Doubter: Many people do not feel the same moral law that Christians feel. In some cultures polygamy is allowed, and many criminals see absolutely nothing wrong with their actions. Morality is a sociological creation that varies from culture to culture, and one would expect certain similarities resulting from our self-awareness. Divorce is not the stigma it once was, for example.
Also, we must address God’s morality. If he created the concept of right and wrong, then he must be beyond right and wrong, and it makes no sense to say that he is good. If however we say that God is good, then God is subject to the concept of morality, which must exist independent of him.
Christian Response: To the contrary, people do still feel the same moral law that Christians feel. (I actually wrote a separate essay on this subject alone.) Even in cultures where polygamy is allowed, they still practice the concept of marriage! Simply because they place a lower importance on the rights of women does not mean that they are somehow immoral cultures or bound by a different moral law! And while many criminals see absolutely nothing wrong, this is an incredibly broad statement. Many criminals maintain their innocence, many argue that the laws are unjust, and still others are somehow suffering from mental imbalances. Yet none of them argue “my opinion of morality is all that matters, your laws have no right to judge me.” Rather, they claim that they are falsely accused by evidence, that the laws are misconstrued versions of a higher law, or else they are damaged to the point that they do not recognize the law respected by most of us. Regarding divorce, this rise in acceptability is due to two contributing issues. First, our culture is becoming increasingly secularized, and often takes a sort of pleasure in violating common moral laws. And second, our culture has simply begun placing less importance upon marriage, and more upon other issues such as tolerance. They do not however, with the exception of those who do so for overwhelmingly political reasons, argue that we should abandon all pretences of exclusivity and engage in Brave New World style orgies.
In addition, the argument about God being good is based upon a misunderstanding of what we mean by “God is good.” We do not mean that God happens to only exhibit things that we perceive as good. Rather, God is Good, meaning that whatever is Good, exists as such merely because God first perceived it as such. The same reasoning applies to the label “my God.” We are not saying that God belongs to us personally, merely that he has chosen us as his own, and we have reciprocated.
Argument 5: Christian: You’re consideration of the logical side of God is good. But eventually you will reach a point where you will have to put it aside and take a leap of faith which transcends but doesn’t contradict reason.
Doubter: This leap of faith would require that I stop thinking about the insurmountable intellectual problems that I see. I would have to put aside my doubts and just believe, without proof.
I worry that the thing I will accept without proof will be the wrong thing. How do I know that there isn’t a jealous god out there that hasn’t revealed himself to humans at all? How do I know that all religions are wrong, and that he won’t punish me when I die for believing in Christianity?
Christian Response: Again, the doubter avoids the issues raised by the Christian. A leap of faith is not the abandonment of reason to simple “stop thinking about insurmountable intellectual problems.” Rather, the leap of faith refers to the idea that we cannot be 100% certain about what we believe, and ultimately, must accept this. The leap of faith means that, while we may not understand everything, the majority of the evidence points towards God, and as such, we trust that there is some consistency to the universe. It is not, as the Doubter suggests, the abandonment of all rational thought. There is an enormous difference between the Christian’s statement of “take a leap of faith which transcends but doesn’t contradict reason” and the Doubter’s “just believe, without proof.”
If there was a jealous god out there, that has not revealed himself, and then punishes people for not believing in him, what’s the point? Not only will you never be able to discover the slightest thing about him, but he would be irrational. How can you punish someone for not knowing something that they had no possible way to know about in the first place? Such a god could not have created such an ordered, self-maintaining universe, and it is foolish to even entertain the possibility. Additionally, the Doubter continues to make the assumption that there is “proof” to be discovered. We cannot prove God, nor can we prove evolution. Rather, we must weigh the evidence we are given, in order to make a leap of faith wither way.
Argument 6: Christian: Many people who have carefully studied the evidence have become Christians, like the literary scholar C.S. Lewis, the Lord Chief Justice of England Lord Caldecote, and one of the creators of the American space program, Dr. Werner von Braun. Likewise, Josh McDowell set out to disprove Christianity and instead became one.
Doubter: Certainly there are a lot of people who became Christians. But what about all the Christians who became agnostics or atheists? Dan Barker was an ordained fundamentalist preacher for years before becoming an atheist. John Dominic Crossan is a professor of religion at De Paul University and a former Catholic priest that rejects the virgin birth, miracles, and the resurrection of Jesus (but still considers himself a Christian). Joseph McCabe is a Catholic priest turned atheist, and John Shelby Sprong once was an Episcopal Bishop. Farrell Till, the editor of the Skeptical Review, was once a minister and missionary for the Church of Christ.
On TBN, Josh McDowell admitted that it was “God’s love,” not “evidence” that made him become a Christian (Jeff Lowder, The Resurrection – Hoax or History?).
Again, the doubter fails to address the issue raised by the Christian. And in doing so, raises a very interesting point. Those who set out to disprove Christianity and wind up converted overwhelmingly do so because of two things. They are convinced of the reality of Christianity because of the evidence for God, and the way they see it lived out in the lives of Christians. Josh McDowell may have been converted by “God’s love” not “evidence” but he still set out to disprove Christianity! And what of C.S. Lewis? The man described himself as “the most reluctant convert,” convinced by the sheer weight of logic and evidence. Those who become agnostics or atheists after having been Christians generally do so for a few reasons. Because they were looking for a reason to justify a lifestyle not permitted by Christian morality, as in the case of Richard Dawkins, or because they could not accept a moral implication as in the case of Charles Templeton. You hear of very few Christians who set out to earnestly seek the scientific proof for Christianity, and wind up atheists.
Arguments 7: Christian: All the Jews had to do to refute the Christian claim that Jesus had risen would be to produce the body, but they couldn’t because he had risen.
Doubter: Roman custom was not to put a criminal in a tomb, but to throw him in a common grave. Add to this that it wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost seven weeks later that the disciples started preaching about Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:1-42), and it would have been nearly impossible to produce a body that would not been disfigured by decay.
Christian Response: Now, it’s quite simple to claim that Jesus was never buried in a tomb, but unfortunately it is not quite accurate. First, the Bible speaks several times of how Jesus’ followers petitioned the Romans to bury his body. They were surprised that he was already dead, but when they confirmed this, they allowed it. The Romans were not stupid, why would they station soldiers at the grave of Jesus unless they recognized the importance of keeping the man’s body safe? If this was not true, and Jesus was simply cast into a mass grave, all the Jews and Romans would have to do is point out this immense flaw in the resurrection story! That’s even easier than claiming the disciples stole the body! Since we can assume that Jesus was actually buried in a manner similar, if not identical to the gospel account, that argument falls apart.
The disciples did not start preaching actively until Pentecost, because they spent several weeks speaking with the resurrected Jesus, according to the resurrection accounts. It’s not as though they were hiding in the hills, they did speak to dozens, hundreds according to Paul, about the resurrection before their first mass preaching. And if you’re going to cite the Bible to try and disprove it, you have to accept other details. Most of the disciples, particularly the fishermen, went home after Jesus was crucified. If they went back to their trades immediately, why would they simply abandon them again, and later allow themselves to be tortured to death, simply because they wanted to deceive people?
Argument 8: Doubter: Note this coincidence: since no Jew can speak the name of God, his is referred to as “Abba”. “Son of God” would be “bar Abba”. So “Jesus, the son of God” would be “Jeshu bar-Abba” in Aramaic. Some manuscripts of Matthew (dating from the fourth century) use Barabbas’ full name, Jesous Barabbas. “The ‘Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine’, by Augustinus Merk, edited in 1933 by the Istituto Biblico Pontificio, page 101, where the sentence that is commonly rendered ‘…And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas…’ (Mat 27:16) is written ‘…And they had then a notable prisoner, Jesus called Barabbas…'” (David Donnini, History and Myth). Why is this never mentioned, and why do Biblical translators always use the short version of Barabbas’ name?
Christian Response: *Facepalm* First of all, this is a moronic argument, based upon a terrible understanding of languages. Yes, God’s name could not be said, but this only applied to YHWH. Other names and titles, such as Elohim, Jehovah, and Adonai, were still perfectly acceptable. Additionally, “Abba” is a close personal name for one’s father. Jesus would have been called Yeshua bar-Jospeph, after his step-father, NOT Yeshua bar-Abba. Why in the world would any refer to himself as “Jesus, son of his father?” The reason why Jesus’ use of “Abba” is significant is because it claims an incredibly close relationship with God, one which offended the Jews of his day. Additionally, it makes no sense, even if Barabbas was known as “Jesus called Barabbas”. Pilate brought out Jesus and Barabbas, and asked which one should be released-this entire story makes no sense if they were the same person! And just as a sidenote, why is it only manuscripts from 300 years later that use this? What about the hundreds of manuscripts from the time of Christ?
Argument 9: Doubter: Christ was a Jew, and his disciples were also. Why then were the gospels written in Greek? Most Biblical scholars agree that the gospels were originally written in Greek and not translated from Aramaic.
Christian Response: Again, really? Because Greek was the lingua franca of the day! EVERYONE spoke Greek throughout the western world, and Jesus disciples were not ONLY trying to convert the Jews in the Middle East, but rather everyone. Ultimately, it doesn’t even matter what language was written, they were both common languages of the day, and proves nothing regarding the reliability of the Gospel accounts.
Argument 10: Doubter: If Christ was surrounded by disciples and enthusiastic people, and was asked questions constantly by the Pharisees, why did anyone have to betray him? He wasn’t in hiding…
Christian Response: Because many people, especially Judas and many in the crowds following him, hoped that Jesus would declare himself King, and would therefore fight against the Roman Empire. As such, many people were disappointed when he failed to do so, and would have motive to either take him out of the picture, or make him into a martyr that the people could rally behind (sounds a bit like the modern Middle East, no?) Additionally, the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus out of the way without having to do it themselves. This is exactly why they arrested and tried him in an illegal fashion, and why they tried to pass the blame off to the Romans. Additionally, Jesus himself asked why they had not come for him during the day, and said that if they wanted to know about him, that they should ask others who had heard him preach.
Again, a reminder, much of the above “Doubter v Christian” debates come from http://www.coppit.org/god/arguments.php. My arguments are my own.