Monday, September 9, 2013
Atheism and False Religions
The New Atheists, Thor, the Easter Bunny, and God
By Mike Robinson author of Killing Christ: Contesting the Trendy Critics Regarding the Death & Resurrection of Jesus.
It was always going to be difficult to defend atheism (in fact, impossible; only God could prove a universal negative), but even zealous devotees of the new atheism concede things are going worse than hoped. This newfangled anti-theism got off to a rough start because the majority of their leaders and their internet cliques were philosophically and theologically naïve—especially Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. On Dawkins, non-theist Michael Ruse opined, “The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist.… Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing.” Nonetheless, the surly e-atheists have been working hard but are evidently overwhelmed, trying to defend the indefensible. The growing legions of Christian apologists have made things much more difficult by refusing to concede any ground as they unleash a myriad of arguments in favor of theism.
By now, the militant neo-atheists involved in missionary work seem to be in a state of boredom. Their aggressive verbal abuse just doesn't seem to pack the same kick it had when it was novel to be ill-mannered and insolent in arguing against Christianity. The new atheists are angry because they pugnacity is so stale that no one cares anymore when they call good people horrific names.
Name-calling may get one’s endorphins lit-up, but it doesn't make for good argumentation. The issue is God. God not only exists; He must exist and anti-theists loathe this truth. God is infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present, independent, lofty, and impeccably transcendent. Yet, His majestic loftiness extended within His omnipresence allows Him to be immanent everywhere. The God of the Bible is the eternal fount of all that is and will be—He is the infinite basis of all truth and actuality, the Complete Absolute flowing in aseity upon which all contingent things are wholly reliant. The true God is the unity grounding and sustaining all the innumerable particulars. Yahweh is the ultimate bridge and netting of the one and the many—the unifier of all the diversity. So God is not only one; not merely a monad or a lone oneness, but the three distinct infinite and eternal persons in one being (Matthew 28:19).
Thus, it is this holy and transcendent God in whom the new atheists bleakly attack. But wait. When one attends an atheist worship service led by Reverend Dawkins or another atheist priest, the preacher will almost always profess: “I do not believe in God, Santa, the Easter Bunny, elves, pixies, or leprechauns. Moreover I reject the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), Apollo, Thor, and Allah, so I am merely a man who believes in one less god than the Christians.” But this will not offer any real assistance to the ingenuous atheist. Opinions concerning pixies and FSMs are tied to a particular type of being. Such notions are in the same category as ideas about whether snow is on the mountain or whether Big Foot exists. Beliefs regarding God concern the transcendent—the source who provides the preconditions for knowledge—the cause and foundation for all human experience. The eternal unchanging God is the basis for everything in heaven and earth because He is the foundation for all reality. Elves and material mutable gods have the same limits as material items, biological things, and molecules—all of which are submissive to the force of light, motion, and energy. Not so with the transcendent God, the high and lofty one. Not only is God not submissive to the forces of nature, but He also sustains them. The Lord God is in a completely different ontological category than the FSM, elves, Thor, and Santa.
Yahweh is the omnipotent One who makes it possible for anyone and anything to exist. Moreover, He is the One who supplies the universal operation features required to even use logic in discussing such things. Elves, the Easter Bunny, and Apollo do not have an ontology (nature) powerful enough to provide the universal necessities required for intelligibility. The FSM, Thor, and Santa, analyzed through modal logic and theology, lack the capacity to account for the universal features needed for intelligibly. Whether a Dodo bird or Thor exists does not affect the conditions required for intelligibly. They are limited by their ever-changing and finite nature. The necessity of Yahweh is revealed in the language of independence, absolute, immutable, omnipotence, omnipresence, and transcendence. Proof regarding the existence of the FSM, Apollo, or my pet turtle would involve limited changing beings, not universal unchanging laws of logic. Proof for the truth of Yahweh permeates every aspect of human experience, the existence of all things, every engagement of logic, every moral deed as well as every known and background aspect of intelligibility. And this helps explain why the new atheists are so belligerent and irrational. They are not only attacking that which they know exists, they are attacking that which must exist—and He alone is in charge.
God is the Necessary Foundation
God … knows all things (1 John 3:20).
All things are properly said to be … supernaturally through infinite power (as from the terminus a quo and by the way of creation).
The argument for Christianity must therefore be that of presupposition. With Augustine it must be maintained that God’s revelation is the sun from which all other light derives. The best, the only, the absolutely certain proof of the truth of Christianity is that unless its truth be presupposed there is no proof of anything. Christianity is proved as being the very foundation of the idea of proof itself.
There is no neutral starting point in the knowledge quest. Either one is open to uphold the truth of the non-reductive immaterialist conception of the world or one is not. If one is a Christian, one sees evidence everywhere of God’s handiwork. But the rigid materialist is holding his eyes tightly shut to avoid the all-persuasive evidence of God’s work. The atheistic reductive impulse leads to maddening ideas: the brain is the mind—all the properties of the mind are physical, the laws of logic are conventions, men are mere animals, and other rubbish. T.F. Torrance observed that “the utterly contingent nature of the universe and its inherent intelligibility raises with us the question … as to its transcendent ground which the universe … rests. By its very nature as contingent and intelligible, the universe embodies … a reference beyond itself …. God … as the Creator … is the ground.” As God is the foundation for the Christian worldview, He supplies the fixed ontic platform as the sufficient truth condition, which can justify induction, immutable universals, and the uniformity of the physical world. But materialistic atheism lacks such a fixed ontic platform. Consequently, it fails to provide the sufficient ground required to justify science and the investigation of the natural world. The true and living God subsists and accounts for the intricate and distinct interconnection of the particulars in the united cosmos. That is the reason many theologians have mused, “I believe in order that I may understand.” Van Til uses this illustration to argue via presupposition:
We cannot prove the existence of the beams underneath the floor if by proof you mean that they must be ascertainable in a way that we can see the chairs and the tables of the room. But the very idea of the floor as a support for the tables and chairs requires the idea of beams underneath. But there would be no floor if no beams were underneath. Thus there is absolute certain proof for the existence of God... Even non-Christians presuppose its truth while they verbally reject it. They need to presuppose the truth of Christianity to account for their own accomplishments.
Atheism reposes upon a mutable ontology, thus it cannot underwrite immutable truths—including the allege immutable truth God doesn’t exist.
I. How can an atheist know something is immutable (he lacks revelation from an all-knowing source)? As atheists have finite knowledge and lack knowledge of the future they cannot, in principle, maintain that it is immutably true that God does not exist.
Thus, under atheism God can exist in the future; and because God is necessary, omnipresent, and immutable—successively God exists in the future, God must exist always.
This is the case modally. God’s ontology necessitates that if [since] He exists anywhere (the future) He exists everywhere as the omnipresent Lord.
If [p] is not immutably true then it is possible that in the future God does exist [q].
Since [q] is possible in discussing the omnipresent God, God must exist.
One can envisage God existing in at least one possible world. The biblical God is an immutable being that exists of necessity. Consequently, one can think of a being that exists of necessity existing in at least one possible world. Since there is a being who exemplifies the property of existing in all possible worlds (He’s omnipresent), it follows that He exists in all possible worlds. As one can think God could possibly exist then God necessarily exists; which means He exists in all possible worlds including our actual world. God is inescapable.
A possible world is a complete account of a maximal state of affairs. The notion of possible worlds also exhibits a distinction between material necessity and logical necessity. It may be a material necessity that light has specific properties of wave and particle. But that does not mean light must have those exact properties transversely in all possible worlds. The properties of light in our universe are of material necessity, but not logical necessity.
For light to have the same properties in all possible worlds would mean it is necessary, hence light would require no explanation outside itself. For light to require no explanation outside itself, it would have to exist across all possible worlds as it is in our actual world. In other words, there is no possible way things could have been that doesn't include the present properties of light in the actual world. It’s worth noting that the laws of nature, including the properties of light, are not the determinants of necessity as are the laws of logic. This truth of logical necessity is entrenched in the universality of the laws of logic which the laws of nature are devoid.
Atheism is impossible. When anyone attempts to escape the truth that God exists, he falls in a trap he cannot escape. This point is well made in the illustration of a man made of smoke, who is trying to ascend out of the gaseous void by means of stairs made of steam. He cannot get out of the void, for he has nothing to stand on. Likewise, without God, one cannot make sense of anything. The atheist has nothing to stand on (an ontic Archimedean locus of reference) and he lacks a rational apparatus to scale—an epistemic ladder that would allow him to view reality with clarity.
For more see my innovative Apologetics eBook Truth and the Reason for God HERE
1. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, P & R.
2. Cornelius Van Til: The Defense of the Faith, P & R.