Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

What Is a Step by Step Argument Showing that Christianity is True?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

 What Is a Step by Step Argument Showing that Christianity is True?  What Is a Step by Step Argument Showing that Christianity is True?
Anyone who has read my blog for the last several years knows that I am a big fan of the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist What Is a Step by Step Argument Showing that Christianity is True?  by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. I have quoted from the book many times and pointed my readers to it again and again.

One thing that I haven’t done, though, is given an outline of what the book is actually trying to accomplish. What Geisler and Turek attempt to do in the book is lay out a methodical, step by step process for arguing that Christianity is true. Here is the 12-step argument:

  1. Truth about reality is knowable.
  2. The opposite of true is false.
  3. It is true that the theistic God exists.
    1. Beginning of the Universe (cosmological argument)
    2. Design of the universe (teleological argument/anthropic principle)
    3. Design of life (teleological argument)
    4. Moral law (moral argument)
  4. If God exists, then miracles are possible.
  5. Miracles can be used to confirm a message from God.
  6. The New Testament is historically reliable.
    1. Early testimony
    2. Eyewitness testimony
    3. Uninvented testimony
    4. Eyewitnesses who were not deceived
  7. The New Testament says Jesus claimed to be God.
  8. Jesus’ claim to be God was miraculously confirmed by:
    1. His fulfillment of many prophecies about Himself
    2. His sinless and miraculous life
    3. His prediction and accomplishment of His resurrection
  9. Therefore, Jesus is God.
  10. Whatever Jesus (who is God) teaches is true.
  11. Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God.
  12. Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God (and anything opposed to it is false).

Notice that these 12 steps marshal evidence from philosophy, science, and history, and they all work together to build a logical argument which leads to the conclusion that the Bible is the Word of God. I am always bewildered when skeptics claim that Christian beliefs are based on nothing but wish fulfillment when books like this fill Christian bookshelves.

I have used this basic 12-point framework for many years and it has served me well. Most everything you learn about apologetics fits into this 12-point argument. In fact, at Southern Evangelical Seminary, where I received my Master’s degree, you had to take a class on these 12 points and your final exam was to write down the 12 points and briefly defend and explain each point.

If you have never purchased and read this book, do it today. You won’t be sorry.


About The Author

Comments

  • shadowlink26

    Skeptics are skeptical of the truth of the premises, not the form of the argument. If we believed the premises, then we would be Christians. These premises are rejected by the vast majority of scholars in science, history, and philosophy. Scholars have actually dedicated a lot of time to demonstrating these premises to be at least dubious and even outright false, but you already know that(enter the charge of wishful thinking). You also aren’t fooling anyone by pretending this argument is why you believe Christianity is true- yours is an existential belief not a rational one. These arguments are rationalizations for when your existential belief is thought to be under rational attack- it’s a defense mechanism (which is why this is a defense of Christian belief and not a rational conclusion). Any attempt by a skeptic to engage these arguments rationally is ultimately going to lead to talking past each other as you believe it for non rational reasons.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Why are you trying to rationally convince me I’m wrong with your comments when you don’t believe I’m rational? It seems like a pretty big waste of time on your part.

  • Pingback: What Is a Step by Step Argument Showing that Christianity is True? | A disciple's study()

  • shadowlink26

    I never tried to rationally convince you that you were wrong as I even said that would be a useless endeavor. I made my comment to encourage skeptical thought and honest pursuit of truth- what I believe to be the essence of philosophy. I don’t consider that a waste of my time.

  • sean

    Frank is one of my favorite apologists. He’s fairly witty and I agree with him on far more points than I do with most other apologists. He doesn’t look to presuppositional apologetics and he understands the burden of proof. He rejects faith in the traditional sense, he’s certainly got a lot going for him.

    Interesting to know this is more or less what’s taught in seminary, at least where you went.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    “I made my comment to encourage skeptical thought and honest pursuit of truth- what I believe to be the essence of philosophy.”

    To encourage who to have skeptical thought and pursuit of truth? If you’re trying to encourage me, then that sounds a lot like rational argumentation which you have now stated twice that I am not capable of.

    Why are you continuing to have a rational conversation with me? Something is wrong here.

  • Shadowlink26

    If there is something wrong here, it is by your own doing. I encourage skeptical thought and honest pursuit of truth to whomever may be reading this article and my comments. I would also challenge you to demonstrate how I stated even once that you are incapable of rational argumentation. I clearly stated twice that it would be futile for me to engage in rational argumentation about the existence of God because you believe in his existence for non-rational reasons. That is very different from saying that you are incapable of rational argumentation.

  • L.W. Dicker

    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/new-saints/pope-john-paul-ii-crucifix-falls-crushes-man-death-n89546

    Praise Jebus!!!! Praise his holy name!!!!!

    I haven’t been this excited since our blessed Savior appeared in a dog’s ass!!!

    http://Jesusappearsinadogsass.com

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    OK, so I can be rational about anything except God’s existence. This is news to me after spending the last 10 years of my life rationally defending the claims of Christianity. I guess the 800 blog posts we’ve published were pretty much wasted effort. I wish someone had told me this a long time ago.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Geisler and Turek both taught at my seminary. Geisler, more than anyone else, taught me to think philosophically about Christianity. The guy is scary smart.

  • Shadowlink26

    Where did I say you could be rational about anything except God’s existence? I very clearly said (twice) that you believe in the existence God for non-rational reasons. The rational arguments you present on this blog are not why you believe in the existence of God, but they may very well serve as rationalizations for your pre existing belief. It would be pointless for me to engage in these rationalizations to attempt to change your mind, as they aren’t why you believe them in the first place. Is that finally clear?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    So my 800 blog posts, which you now say are presenting rational arguments for the truth of Christianity, are not my real reasons for believing Christianity is true?

    So you can know what I really think, what my real motivations are, without ever having met me? How am I or anyone else supposed to take you seriously if that is your position?

  • shadowlink26

    I’ll give you 6 reasons why you should take what I’m saying seriously.

    1) I used to be a Christian, so I have experience in believing in Christianity without rational reasons. So I know it’s at least possible for you to believe in it for non-rational reasons. It was my search for rational reasons to defend my faith that actually lead me to grow out of it.

    2) Anyone who is familiar with the work of Kierkegaard understands what I mean by existential christian belief and how rational argumentation is not necessary. It focuses on individual experiences.

    3) Alvin Plantinga puts forth that belief in God is “Properly Basic” and can no more be rationally affirmed then the existence of past events but belief is still warranted. William Lane Craig articulates that rational argumentation can actually get in the way from the real reasons you are a christian.

    4) One of the major attributes of Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and witness to the holy spirit. This can no more be rationally affirmed then the relationship I have with my wife. You’d look at me strange if I began listing off rational arguments for why I believed my wife existed.

    5) I don’t think it reasonable to infer that any christian’s faith is contingent on the truth of any of the premises you listed. If Big Bang cosmology were to change tomorrow and nullify the cosmological argument it wouldn’t sway many people if any (It also doesn’t convince skeptics for the same reason).

    6) This is a link to a christian philosopher who can articulate what I’m referring to far better than I can in a comment section:
    http://www.philosophynews.com/page/Unlocking-the-Tension-between-Faith-and-Reason.aspx

    Your last comment is also very telling about your attitude towards skeptics and perceived attacks on your faith. You asked loaded questions with an incredulous attitude in an effort to intellectually elevate yourself over a skeptic. In what sense would the defensive posture in your last comment encourage a skeptic or any other reader to come towards Christ?

  • Randy Carson

    Bill-

    I agree with everything up to and including step 10. And this is where the outline breaks down. The Bible as we have it today did not exist in Jesus’ day. The NT hadn’t been written, and the OT canon was not set. So, in order for us to know that the Bible we now have is inspired, the next steps should be:

    11. Jesus promised to build a church, to remain with that Church, and to lead that Church into all truth by the Holy Spirit.

    12. That Church, built upon Peter, the rock, is the Catholic Church which has infallibly discerned which writings of the NT era were god-breathed or theopneustos.

    It is because of the Catholic Church that we can know with confidence that the 27-book canon of the NT is the Word of God.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Let’s simplify this conversation because with your last comment you’re all over the map.

    Do you have a question for me that you would like me to answer? If so, what is it?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I’m an atheist. I didn’t think much of the book–the arguments are shallow.

    You’re impressed with the argument, but then you were inclined to. I wonder if any atheists have ever been convinced by the arguments.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Someone can have a belief that he arrived at through non-rational reasons (he was raised with it, for example). But “I was raised that way” won’t do to justify that belief, either to himself or to others, so he marshals his intellectual ability and figures out reasons why his position is rational.

    That’s not why he came to that belief, but these reasons are what he uses to convince everyone (himself included) that he’s not foolish for holding that belief.

    What shadowlink may be saying is that if these intellectual arguments didn’t convince you to become a Christian, don’t be surprised when they don’t convince others.

  • Shadowlink26

    I really couldn’t have said it better Bob. My issue is not with the belief or the believers themselves. I find it very strange that the believer doesn’t just admit that this belief is an existential one; I can respect and even enjoy discussing it when we are calling a spade a spade. But that leads me to my burning question that perhaps Bill can answer: why is this rationalization necessary? The only consistent conclusion I can reach is that this rationalization becomes both a defense mechanism to skeptical inquiry, and simultaneously giving a non rational position the ability to compete in a marketplace of rational ideas. In other words it justifies the action of telling someone what they should do and/or what to believe in the name of the deity they believe and discourages skepticism.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    I am never surprised when my arguments don’t convince others, but I will never stop giving these arguments because they are convincing to some people.

    I had a faith crisis in my early 30’s and when I went to find answers to my questions, I discovered these arguments and I realized that the Christian faith was far deeper, intellectually, than I had ever known. Now I point people to these arguments just like others pointed me to them.

    There are all kinds of people who do come to faith with the help of these arguments. Take Jim Wallace, who I believe you have interacted with. The historical evidence for the claims of the New Testament were a huge part in his conversion.

    So, these arguments both bring people to faith in Christ and they strengthen the faith people already have.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    When you are done psycho-analyzing me, I am still waiting for a real question.

    By the way, I have been very patient with your thinly veiled insults and personal attacks. You have been violating the comment guidelines left and right, but that’s about to end.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt
  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Just like you are inclined to think arguments by atheists are convincing. This path doesn’t lead anywhere. You’re inclined. I’m inclined. Who cares?

  • Shadowlink

    I’m not psycho analysizing you, I’m not cursing, I’m not off topic, I’m not being disrespectful, and I did give you a legitimate question- to which you did provide an answer for. If you look at your previous comments you misrepresented what I said more than once and asked me why you or anyone else should take me seriously. Now I find this loaded question incredibly rude and demeaning yet when I mention this or give insight to my own thoughts you site the comments policy. I understand your an educated individual and I do not call that into question, but I am an educated individual too. I have serious questions and I’m not wasting my time on an atheist website appealing to my own confirmation bias. I take the time to follow several theistic blogs (mostly apologetics) of several different faiths to truly understand and accurately represent the theistic position- I even sited Christian sources in my comments. What exactly do not appreciate about my skeptical approach?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    You have repeatedly said that I am a Christian for non-rational reasons and that my intellectual arguments are a “defense mechanism.” How am I supposed to take comments like this?

    You finally wrote a lengthy comment that wasn’t saying those same two things, but your comment went off in several directions which I don’t have time to pursue, so I asked you to pose one question to me that we could discuss, so that we can focus.

    But instead of asking me a question, you once again said, regarding my arguments, “why is this rationalization necessary?” And you once again said that my arguments are a “defense mechanism.”

    Put yourself in my shoes. I have been studying these issues for 10 years, I have an engineering degree and a Masters degree, I have written over 800 blog posts on intellectual issues around the Christian faith, I have publicly debated atheists, and you come along and tell me that I’m totally deluded about what I’m doing. It’s just a defense mechanism.

    This is not a personal attack? Really? Are you serious?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    “I am never surprised when my arguments don’t convince others”

    Did they convince you? That is, are these arguments the reason that you’re a Christian?

    “Take Jim Wallace, who I believe you have interacted with. The historical evidence for the claims of the New Testament were a huge part in his conversion.”

    Yes, I have interacted with Jim.

    The order seems to be: they’re intriguing by Christianity and might even appreciate a good reason/excuse to believe. Then they look up these arguments and find them compelling. What I have never seen is someone who is (1) very familiar with the apologetics on both sides of the issues who converts to Christianity for (2) intellectual reasons.

    You’ve got an uphill climb. You make an incredible claim, and your evidence is of the flimsiest kind. God exists, God answers prayers, God interacts in our lives—yes, I see that if you’re determined to see hints of this in your life, you’ll see it. That makes for very weak evidence for us outsiders, however.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Who cares is anyone who’s interested in your critique of the book.

    I’m giving you an outsider’s response. If you don’t care about that, OK, my bad. I thought that’d be relevant.

  • Shadowlink

    I am putting myself in your shoes- I’ve been in them before. To say your belief is non-rational is not an insult, attack, or even critique (like it would be if I said irrational). The 6 reasons I listed were an answer to why you should take me seriously, as they all support a non-rational view of faith- I wasn’t just making it up. I also think you’re getting worked up over the connotation of “defense mechanism.” Apologetics entails a rational defense of the faith. These arguments serve as a defense of the faith when brought under scrutiny. Unless these arguments are the reason in which you believe your faith then they are the mechanism by which you defend your faith from rational scrutiny- they are a tool in your theological tool belt. That is true by definition and any negative connotation was not intended by me. I even said that was the only consistent answer I had to my question, and I posed it to you to give your side a fair go at it. I also don’t appreciate you accusing me of saying you’re deluded. I also hold an engineering degree and pursuing a masters, I have more respect for educated people then to call them deluded.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    The highest compliment an atheist can pay a Christian’s argument is to take it seriously and respond directly and frankly.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    There are plenty of people who know the apologetics issues on both sides and who convert to Christianity. C. S. Lewis, J. Warner Wallace, Josh McDowell, Frank Morrison, etc. I could multiply this list easily. Those are just off the top of my head.

    In fact, some of the strongest Christian apologists are former atheists who studied both and decided Christianity is a better explanation of reality.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Fine. Let’s assume I’m just overreacting and way too sensitive. What question do you have for me? Just one directed, focused, and intelligent question.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    My point is that when you start attributing psychological reasons for people believing Christian arguments, then the sword cuts both ways. Atheists have their own psychological reasons for believing atheist arguments.

    What is more interesting is what is true, not the psychology behind it. Psychology is fun to discuss sometimes, but it never gets you to the truth. In fact, it can often be a way to avoid talking about what’s true and what’s false.

  • Shadowlink

    What evidence could be brought forward (in principle and potentially in practice) that would cause you to change your mind about your faith?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Nope. Show me what I asked for: someone who is very knowledgeable about the atheist position and who converted to Christianity for intellectual reasons.

    You will know them by their fruits. Such an ex-atheist would show his former compatriots the errors in their arguments. Doesn’t happen.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    So when you overhear the atheist and the Christian arguing, you see a symmetric position. You imagine that each person is simply defending their worldview without honestly evaluating the evidence.

    How do you decide which view is right? Any insights?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Um, I just named several people who fit that exact criteria. Not sure what want.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Excellent question. There are several things:

    1. a detailed and testable naturalistic explanation of the origin of life

    2. a detailed and testable naturalistic explanation of the Cambrian explosion

    3. the body/bones of Jesus

    4. 1st century historical testimony that proved the early followers of Christianity were all deluded and or fooled

    5. detailed and testable naturalistic explanations of all reported near death experiences

    6. detailed and testable naturalistic explanations of all miracles reported in the Bible

    I think that’s a good start.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    We all defend the positions we currently hold because of confirmation bias.

    But, if we are aware of that bias, we can fight against it and try very hard to understand the arguments of the other side, give them the benefit of the doubt, grant that they are intelligent, grant that they may be right.

    I have written several blog posts around this topic. Here is one:

    http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/11/18/how-should-we-disagree-with-each-other/

  • Shadowlink

    We have all of those except number 3 which I would grant is possible in principle but certainly not in practice. There would be no way of identifying the bones of Jesus with any reasonable degree of confidence.

  • Shadowlink

    The origin of life and Cambrian explosion are also stereotypical god of the gaps moves used by creationists and IDers. The task is what evidence could be brought forward that would satisfy you that these were in fact natural events. For example: I’d give up the belief in evolution if I found one fossil bone in the wrong rock strata. I’m being specific- not vague, broad, or general. Saying “a testable naturalistic explanation” is far too general and vague. It gives you room to move the goal posts if need be.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I guess I need to just repeat my last paragraph. Those people sound nothing like someone who once accepted all the atheist arguments and now knows that they’re all deficient and why.

    Sure, I suppose they might just not be interested in being the sole person who has the knowledge to show atheists the intellectual failings of their arguments. If it were me, however, that’s all I’d talk about.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Koukl gives good advice there.

  • Shadowlink26

    I agree that what matters is what is true. That truth will be best discovered by the strength of the arguments. I think that’s why it becomes so important to know if the theists faith is contingent on his rational arguments. All things being equal, which arguments have better explanatory and convincing power? The atheist position has rallied a philosophical consensus on pretty much the problem of suffering alone, and the theists have a toolbox of half a dozen heavily criticized arguments that make up a minority in philosophy- and most of them do not believe the truth of their faith based on the arguments. I think there is a powerful inductive case for the strength of the atheist position and the difficulty of the theist one.

  • Randy Carson

    You wrote:

    “The atheist position has rallied a philosophical consensus on pretty much the problem of suffering alone”

    To be sure that I am understanding your point on the problem of suffering, I will present the argument as it is commonly expressed:

    1. If God is all-powerful, He could do something to prevent or end suffering.

    2. If God is all-loving, He would want to prevent or end suffering.

    3. There is a tremendous amount of suffering in the world.

    4. Therefore, God either is not all-loving or not all-powerful.

    Is this what you are referring to when you say that atheists have “rallied a philosophical consensus”?

    If so, do you feel this one argument alone is sufficient to carry the day for the atheist position?

  • Andrew Ryan

    Turek is a nice guy too. He sent me a signed copy of his book, and took the time to get Christopher Hitchens to sign HIS book for me too, which Turek also posted me.

  • Shadowlink

    I think the problem of evil is the philosophical tension that needs the most attention though there are certainly other tensions. The fact that entire departments are dedicated to the problem of evil I think speaks for its strength

  • Andrew Ryan

    We don’t even know what tomb Jesus was buried in. That there was no tradition of tomb veneration in the 2nd or 3rd century suggests people didn’t know what tomb he was buried in back then either.

  • Randy Carson

    Thank for your thoughts.

    For the Theist, here is the easiest answer to the problem of evil:

    1. God gives us free will, because free
    will is inherently good.
    2. Free will entails the possibility of
    doing what is contrary to God’s will (this is what we know as evil).
    3. Thus, evil exists, because of man’s
    actions, rather than because of God.

    For the Atheist, the problem of evil is a dramatically larger problem:

    1. To complain of the problem of evil, you must acknowledge evil.
    2. To acknowledge evil, you must
    acknowledge an objective system of moral laws.
    3. Objective universal moral laws require a Lawgiver capable of dictating behavior for everyone.
    4. This Lawgiver is Who we call God.

    Ironically, this evidence lays the
    groundwork for establishing that God not only exists, but cares about good and evil.

    Condensed from:
    Turning the Problem of Evil on its Head
    By Joe Heschmeyer
    http://www.strangenotions.com/turning-problem-evil/

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    I guess we’ll just disagree. I have read multitudes of books on all of these topics and I have been writing about them for over a decade. If the evidence was out there, I would have seen it by now.

    I would suggest you go back and start reading my older blog posts, because it seems like you think I just arrived at the party. I have written about all these issues countless times in the past. It would help you to understand me better if you would do the work of reading what I’ve written.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Questions for you:
    1. Are there any intelligent Christians?
    2. Are there any Christians who are rational?
    3. Are there any Christians who have honestly looked at the evidence against their worldview and concluded Christianity is the stronger view?

  • Shadowlink

    I’m always up for some more reading, so I’ll check them out.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Yes for all 3. But you’ve changed the subject.

    There may indeed be ex-atheists who know why all my intellectual reasons for being an atheist are wrong, but it’s odd that they’re keeping it to themselves.

  • Shadowlink26

    It was not my intention to debate the argument of evil in the comments section of a theistic blog. Although I wouldnt be opposed to discussing these arguments in a more appropriate forum. I say this out of respect for Bill’s blog. My intention isn’t to be an aggressor to theistic beliefs, and I don’t think I could avoid that perception if I where to discuss them here.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Randy – can I stop a man raping a child without interfering with free will? If yes, then God should be able to too. Child rape happens, so either God has no problem with it, he lacks the power to stop it, or he doesn’t exist.

    Second, is there free will in heaven? If no, how can it be heaven? If yes, how can it be free of sin? If free will and lack if sin are possible, why can’t it exist on earth?

    Finally, how can earthquakes, cancer and other causes of suffering be blamed on human sin?

  • Randy Carson

    You can attempt to stop him, but why would you?

    Why do you feel what he is doing to be objectively wrong in the first place? Aren’t you merely seeking to impose your personal moral code on someone else? He likes child rape; you don’t. You can’t criticize him just because his values are different from yours.

    OTOH, if the notion that child rape is UNIVERSALLY wrong (and it is), then objective moral values do exist, after all, and your scenario has revealed an even deeper problem for the atheist.

    1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
    2. Objective moral values do exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Some will object to point #3 and argue that objective moral values could exist apart from God and be genetically hard-wired into each one of us. Isn’t that what evolution is all about? So, your hard-wired urge is to stop the rapist, and his genetically hard-wired urge is to resist you. May the best man win, right?

    No, child rape is objectively, universally wrong, and you are right to complain about this evil. However, this takes you right back to what I posted previously (reproduced here for convenience):

    1. To complain of the problem of evil, you must acknowledge evil.
    2. To acknowledge evil, you must
    acknowledge an objective system of moral laws.
    3. Objective universal moral laws require a Lawgiver capable of dictating behavior for everyone.
    4. This Lawgiver is Who we call God.

    Finally, to the question in your first paragraph, for the theist, your trilemma has no teeth, because God does exist and He does have the power to stop evil. The error is in the formulation of your first choice, “God has no problem with [rape].” Of course He does. So, how does the theist respond?

    God has given each one of us free will, and He will not violate that free will even if that means that He is allowing bad things to happen by His own (apparent) inaction. However, because He is God (and by definition omniscient), He knows how He will use those bad things to the good
    of those to whom they happen, to the ones who perpetrate evil, and to those who merely witness or hear about it.

    God has the long view in mind, and what happens to us in this life only matters in that it positions us favorably or unfavorably for the next.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “You can attempt to stop him, but why would you?”

    Not what I was asking Randy. I’m scanning down your post and see you continue on this vein for several paragraphs. You only seem to address what I actually asked near the end, so that’s where I’ll start reading.

    “He will not violate that free will even if that means that He is allowing bad things to happen by His own (apparent) inaction”

    Back to my question then. If I stop a man raping a child, am I interfering with his free will?

    “He knows how He will use those bad things to the good”

    If he’s not interfering with our free will, how can it make sense to talk about him ‘using’ bad things? If, say, a man raping a child is a ‘tool’ for God, then it’s not happening because of the man’s free will, but because it was God’s will for it to happen (for some future good). Additionally, if God was intending to ‘use’ the bad thing of the child rape, does that mean YOU would be preventing a future good by stopping the rape?

    Oh, when I was scrolling past the irrelevant stuff I noticed this:

    “1. To complain of the problem of evil, you must acknowledge evil.”

    Not at all. It’s simply pointing out an internal contradiction to the doctrine of an all-powerful and all-loving God. At any rate, the term ‘evil’ in the phrase simply means ‘unnecessary suffering’. See ‘Rowe’s Evidential Argument from Suffering’.

  • Randy Carson

    If Plantinga & Rowe, or Hitchens & Craig, or anyone else for that matter have not ironed this out, I doubt you and I will in this combox. :-)

    However, I will attempt a few answers.

    “Back to my question then. If I stop a man raping a child, am I interfering with his free will?”

    Yes, of course.

    “If he’s not interfering with our free will, how can it make sense to talk about him ‘using’ bad things?”

    Two ways come to mind off the top of my head. First, we can learn from the things we observe. Second, suffering CAN be a means to growth and spiritual purification.

    “If, say, a man raping a child is a ‘tool’ for God, then it’s not happening because of the man’s free will, but because it was God’s will for it to happen (for some future good). Additionally, if God was intending to ‘use’ the bad thing of the child rape, does that mean YOU would be preventing a future good by stopping the rape?”

    God either wills or allows things to happen. I don’t think it is accurate to say that whatever God wills, He gets. If that were the case, then we would not have free will.

    That said, God does not “intend” to use the rape as a tool, but IF the rape occurs, then He knows how to bring a positive out of it. Of course, our free will still applies, so we have to be open to the lesson.

    If I prevent the rape, then I have not short-circuited God’s lesson plan for the day, I have simply prevented an evil act from occurring. Anything that is not in line with God’s will is by definition evil.

    Think of how a GPS system works: you enter a destination, and the GPS proposals several options for you to follow. They may be over varying times and distances, but all of them will enable you to arrive at your destination. If you accidentally or intentionally take a wrong turn, the GPS recalculates your options and guides you along the shortest route.

    God gives us options: marry or stay single, take a job here in town or move to another city, believe in him or not. At each step along the way, God knows how to guide you to heaven along the shortest, surest route.

    However, it is completely up to you as to whether you will listen to the guidance is offered. Not everyone does.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Yes, of course.”

    So we can interfere with someone else’s free will, but God can’t? OK…

    “then He knows how to bring a positive out of it”

    How is he bringing positives out of events without guiding them in some way – if not the original event then some events that follow it? Either he can interfere with what goes on on earth or he can’t. If he’s ‘bringing positives out of it’ then he’s affecting what’s going on in some way – which means changing the natural course of events. How is that different from simply preventing a rape occurring?

    Again, either he is changing the course of events or he isn’t. If he is then you have the same free will problem as before.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Just because there wasn’t tomb veneration doesn’t mean that nobody knew where the tomb was. That seems like a leap to me. Maybe the first and second generation followers just didn’t care about it. After all, it was empty! They were too busy being amazed at the fact that Jesus was resurrected to worry about the tomb.

    It wasn’t until many generations had passed that Christians started wondering about the tomb again. As soon as many generations pass, people are going to get interested in religious objects like tombs and crosses and other historical tidbits from the past.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Strange that you keep saying that. I have read and heard truckloads of arguments from former atheists to current atheists about why they are intellectually wrong. Are you simply not reading this material?

    Again, Jim Wallace talks about these things all the time in his blog posts and on his podcast.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Yes, I’ve read this stuff. And listened to it. That’s much of what I do. And it all sucks, sorry.

    I listen to Jim’s podcast, and yes, he often talks about apologetics. However, I’m never left thinking, “Hmm–I need to give that more thought.”

    This isn’t a symmetric situation. I get to evaluate. If I say it sucks, it sucks. If I converted to a Christian because I discovered that the majority of my intellectual arguments were wrong, I would be able to convey to my prior self why those arguments were wrong.

    I’m not seeing it. Again, that’s no proof that such a (1) well educated atheist converted for (2) intellectual reasons and I simply haven’t stumbled over that guy’s blog, but it’s a good clue.

    On a tangential topic, perhaps we should have a blog debate sometime. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in. Or perhaps someone else comes to mind.

  • Andrew Ryan

    It doesn’t seem such a leap to me, Bill. I can’t imagine them just dismissing the tomb just because it’s empty. The Holy Grail is just an ordinary cup made extraordinary through its usage by Jesus. I can’t imagine that the scene of Jesus’ resurrection wouldn’t be seen as a place of great importance. After all, Bethlehem is seen as important because he was born there.

  • Randy Carson

    “So we can interfere with someone else’s free will, but God can’t? OK…”

    Sure. Happens every day. And what will really blow your mind is when you start to consider that this is exactly what God WANTS us to do. :-)

    As for the rest, you err by assuming or insisting (because it helps you maintain your position, perhaps?) that God must be guiding events rather than simply dealing with the aftermath. Two really simple examples may help.

    If I am teaching my five-year-old to ride a bike, I will, at some point, have to allow that child to crash. I can’t run alongside holding him up forever. So, I let go, and then explain what he did wrong after applying band-aids and drying tears.

    Similarly, have you ever heard parents discussing whether to intervene in a squabble between two kids? “Do you think we should step in?” asks the mom. “No,” says dad. “Let them sort it out.” The idea is that kids have to learn to settle their differences and deal with the consequences of their actions.

    Life is full of these lessons. You touch a hot stove and get burned. Once. You pull the cat’s tail. Once. God knows that rape and earthquakes occur, but he also knows how to teach us important lessons that we need to understand for the long (read ETERNAL) haul.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Sure. Happens every day”

    Then the problem I brought up remains unanswered: there’s no problem with free will being interfered with – it happens all the time. So saying God can’t do it makes no sense.

    “The idea is that kids have to learn to settle their differences”

    We were talking about a man raping a child. Your analogy of two kids ‘settling their differences’ is inappropriate in the extreme.

    And my other point remains unanswered – that if God is shaping events to use them as lessons, then he’s interfering anyway and therefore doing what you say he can’t do – contravene our free will.

  • Randy Carson

    “Then the problem I brought up remains unanswered: there’s no problem with free will being interfered with – it happens all the time. So saying God can’t do it makes no sense.”

    First, I never said that God “can’t” interfere; I simply suggest that He chooses not to.

    You and I are equals for practical purposes. You may be smarter than I am or bigger than me, etc. but we’re both created beings whereas God is not. Injustice occurs *typically* when two unequally matched entities are at odds and the more powerful prevails. The big kid bullies the little kid. The powerful country intimidates or invades the little country. This is when intervention is necessary.

    No one could intervene if God chose to violate man’s free will, of course, but God Himself chooses not to do so because that would be an internal contradiction of His nature. He is uncreated and has a divine nature whereas we are created and have a human nature. It would be unjust for God to power us into submission simply because He is bigger than we are.

    My “two kids” example simply serves to illustrate that a third party may choose or not choose to intervene in the affairs of two others, and this is common.

    Finally, if I have failed to answer your other point, it is because it is flawed: you assume that God is shaping events, and while He MAY choose to do so (the flood or the parting of the Red Sea come to mind), He may also simply choose to observe those events and then use them as teaching moments.

  • Randy Carson

    Providentially perhaps, an extended refutation of your main argument was posted today here:

    http://www.strangenotions.com/why-evil-and-suffering-dont-disprove-god/

    Enjoy!

  • Andrew Ryan

    I’m not assuming anything. It’s pretty simple – either God intervenes or he doesn’t. If he’s using something to teach us, then it’s the former, and you have that free will problem. And it seems odd to say it would be bullying for God to stop a man raping a child.

    Feel free to summarise the link’s argument. Otherwise we just end up posting links at each other.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Then if God is that unknowable, it’s pointless making any statements at all about his nature, including saying his nature is good, or that his intentions for us are benign.

  • Randy Carson

    “Then if God is that unknowable, it’s pointless making any statements at all about his nature, including saying his nature is good, or that his intentions for us are benign.”

    Some things about God ARE knowable. You just have to want to know them.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Word salad. Sounds indistinguishable from ‘convince yourself it’s true because you want it to be true’.

  • Randy Carson

    You wrote:

    “Word salad. Sounds indistinguishable from ‘convince yourself it’s true because you want it to be true’.”

    The Intellectual problem of evil has been answered. That takes us to what I believe is YOUR issue: the emotional problem of evil.

    I think that most people who reject God because of the evil in the world don’t really do so because of intellectual difficulties; rather it’s an emotional problem. They just don’t like a God who would permit them or others to suffer and therefore they want nothing to do with Him. Theirs is simply an atheism of rejection. Does the Christian faith have something to say to these people?

    It certainly does! For it tells us that God is not a distant Creator or impersonal ground of being, but a loving Father who shares our sufferings and hurts with us. Prof. Plantinga has written,

    “As the Christian sees things, God does not stand idly by, coolly observing the suffering of His creatures. He enters into and shares our suffering. He endures the anguish of seeing his son, the second person of the Trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. Christ was prepared to endure the agonies of hell itself… in order to overcome sin, and death, and the evils that afflict our world, and to confer on us a life more glorious that we can imagine. He was prepared to suffer on our behalf, to accept suffering of which we can form no conception.”

    You see, Jesus endured a suffering beyond all comprehension: He bore the punishment for the sins of the whole world. None of us can comprehend that suffering. Though He was innocent, He voluntarily took upon himself the punishment that we deserved. And why? Because He loves us. How can we reject Him who gave up everything for us?

    When we comprehend His sacrifice and His love for us, this puts the problem of evil in an entirely different perspective. For now we see clearly that the true problem of evil is the problem of our evil. Filled with sin and morally guilty before God, the question we face is not how God can justify Himself to us, but how we can be justified before Him.

    So paradoxically, even though the problem of evil is the greatest objection to the existence of God, at the end of the day God is the only solution to the problem of evil. If God does not exist, then we are lost without hope in a life filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering. God is the final answer to the problem of evil, for He redeems us from evil and takes us into the everlasting joy of an incommensurable good, fellowship with Himself.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Very nicely put, Randy.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Bob,
    Your mistake is that you think that converting to Christianity is purely a matter of intellectual argumentation and reasoning. Christians have never understood conversion to be a purely intellectual experience. There are also emotional and volitional dimensions to conversion. So if you are truthfully hearing nothing from Christian apologists that causes you to intellectually reconsider your position, then there might be an emotional or volitional issue. Something to consider.

    If you’ve read my blog posts on the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, you will see that psychologists and behavioral economists also believe that the way we make decisions is not 100% rational. There are all sorts of things going on inside your mind of which you are unaware. Daniel Kahneman refers to the non-rational part of your mind as System 1.

    Bottom line: atheists who have become Christians may have very compelling arguments for you, but you may not be ready to listen to them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Your mistake is that you think that converting to Christianity is purely a matter of intellectual argumentation and reasoning.

    Nope. I never said that, and I don’t think that.

    Christians have never understood conversion to be a purely intellectual experience.

    So you agree with me, then.

    if you are truthfully hearing nothing from Christian apologists that causes you to intellectually reconsider your position, then there might be an emotional or volitional issue. Something to consider.

    What I’m considering is that there’s nothing there, not that I have some emotional problem. Sound like a plausible explanation for the facts?

    Bottom line: atheists who have become Christians may have very compelling arguments for you, but you may not be ready to listen to them.

    My challenge stands: show me the arguments that I would make if I realized that most of my intellectual arguments were broken and the evidence actually pointed to the Christian position.

    I have looked pretty hard, and I have seen nothing like this. If you come across this mysterious ex-atheist’s summary, pass it along.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “The Intellectual problem of evil has been answered.”

    You can claim you’ve provided an answer Randy, but you’ve not actually addressed the problem. You’ve not not addressed the problems I pointed out. You can’t even answer whether or not there is an interventionist God without contradicting your own claim that God won’t prevent suffering for free will reasons. Whither free will if God is intervening to create ‘lessons’ for us out of suffering?

    And where’s the ‘lessons’ for the huge amount of suffering that goes on in the animal kingdom that isn’t even witnessed by humans?

  • Randy Carson

    I apologize for not addressing your concerns adequately. Let me begin to make amends now.

    “According to the logical problem of evil, it is logically impossible for God and evil to co-exist. If God exists, then evil cannot exist. If evil exists, then God cannot exist. Since evil exists, it follows that God does not exist.

    “But the problem with this argument is that there’s no reason to think that God and evil are logically incompatible. There’s no explicit contradiction between them. But if the atheist means there’s some implicit contradiction between God and evil, then he must be assuming some hidden premises which bring out this implicit contradiction. But the problem is that no philosopher has
    ever been able to identify such premises. Therefore, the logical problem of evil fails to prove any inconsistency between God and evil.

    “But more than that: we can actually prove that God and evil are logically consistent. You see, the atheist presupposes that God cannot have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil in the world. But this assumption is not necessarily true. So long as it is even possible that God has morally sufficient reasons
    for permitting evil, it follows that God and evil are logically consistent. And, certainly, this does seem at least logically possible. Therefore, it is widely agreed among contemporary philosophers that the logical problem of evil has been dissolved. The
    co-existence of God and evil is logically possible.”

  • Randy Carson

    “You can’t even answer whether or not there is an interventionist God without contradicting your own claim that God won’t prevent suffering for free will reasons. Whither free will if God is intervening to create ‘lessons’ for us out of suffering?”

    You keep assuming that God has to intervene in order to teach us from the things that happen. This is not true.

    Andrew, you can watch a football game, see a player make a good or bad play, and explain to your son what was done well or poorly without “intervening”.

    Now, if you, a mere man, are able to do this, how much more can God use all things for the good of those who believe in Him.

  • Andrew Ryan

    If I talk to my son then I’m intervening.

    “So long as it is even possible that God has morally sufficient reasonsfor permitting evil, it follows that God and evil are logically consistent”

    What you need to argue is that God has reasons to allow EVERY instance of suffering. Even some fawn slowly dying of painful injuries in a forest that no human can see. Or some rodent slowly dying of cancerous tumours.

    “Therefore, it is widely agreed among contemporary philosophers that the logical problem of evil has been dissolved”

    Who is making this claim? Which contemporary philosophers have agreed on this, and when did it happen?

    What you’re offering is called ‘Skeptical theism’. Michael Bergmann address this in 2009, here:

    http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~bergmann/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/OHPT-bergmann-preprint.pdf

    “Perhaps the most common and influential charge of skeptical commitment lodged against skeptical theists is the one that says that, by endorsing the skeptical theist’s skepticism, we are forced into an appalling sort of skepticism about the morality of various actions.

    For example, the skeptical theist’s skepticism tells us that we have no good reason to think that the horrific rape and murder of a small child won’t bring about some outweighing greater good. Given this, why should we think it’s good to prevent such horrific suffering if we are easily able to do so?

    According to this sort of objector, considerations like these suggest that consistency requires the skeptical theist to be skeptical about whether it’s right to prevent such horrific suffering when we easily can. But skepticism about such moral issues as these is both appalling and implausible. Hence, the skeptical theist’s skepticism, which supposedly leads to this unpalatable moral skepticism, should be rejected.”

  • Randy Carson

    “If I talk to my son then I’m intervening.”

    Nope. The definition of “intervene” is “to come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.”

    If you teach your son about what the two of you have observed, you have not altered the game on the field at all. Moreover, you have not FORCED him to accept your teaching; he may listen and then ignore you completely. That’s his FREE choice. So, in that sense, you have not prevented him from making the same mistake that you just observed a professional footballer make in his own game later.

    Now, I happen to think that God is perfectly able to intervene if He chooses to do so…He made everything that exists and it’s His call on that. However, I also happen to think that it’s still up to us as to how we respond to what we see around us and what He has chosen to reveal.

    You wrote: “For example, the skeptical theist’s skepticism tells us that we have no good reason to think that the horrific rape and murder of a small child won’t bring about some outweighing greater good. Given this, why should we think it’s good to prevent such horrific suffering if we are easily able to do so?”

    The theist simply says that some greater good MIGHT come from a horrific event, and that POSSIBILITY cannot be denied since none of us are in a position to evaluate the BIG picture which may encompass many centuries, countless individuals and span entire continents. As a result, the atheist cannot say WITH CERTAINTY that God is unable to co-exist with evil.

    Thus, the Problem of Evil argument fails. Period.

    All you really have left is the fact that YOU don’t happen to LIKE the idea that evil/suffering/pain exists. But that is another matter.

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline