Early on the blog, I wrote an article called “top 5 arguments atheists should stop using” to show why common atheist arguments don’t stand to reason. In this article, I will be helping my fellow Christians in demonstrating why certain arguments made from my side should no longer be invoked, because there are better arguments they can use. This is the top 5 arguments Christians should stop using.
5) Evolution is just a theory
4) The Bible says so
3) You don’t know God doesn’t exist
2) Just look around you
1) Just have faith
5) Often, I hear Christians say “well evolution is just a theory” in response evolutionary biology, usually invoked as an argument either against creationism or God’s existence. What this response means is that, since modern biological evolution is a theory, we don’t need to give any thought to it since its only a theory. The problem with this line of reasoning is its misunderstanding of what a theory is. Theories are not just unsupported ideas or speculations that scientists use to come to conclusions. A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation. Not simply “guesses”. Whether or not you embrace the theory of biological evolution, it is not a good response to just say “well its only a theory”. Gravity is also a theory and nobody disputes it.
4) Sometimes when a Christian is trying to convince someone of their position, they will just invoke the bible outright as an authority that they should accept. The line of thought here is “since the bible is true the skeptic should also believe it’s true and respect what it says about life”. But all this does is force your position onto someone who isn’t in the slightest convinced by it. The skeptic will rightly accuse the Christian of circular reasoning and dismiss what they say unless further support is given (usually). I too believe the Bible is true and everyone should accept what it says, but I don’t start with the conclusion that the Bible is true to prove that the Bible is true, that is just question begging. Other times, the Christian may not have any good arguments so they will just assume that believing the Bible is true will be enough for the other person to consider it. There are a multitude of good arguments out there that will establish the Bible as true, but this is not the way to go about it.
3) I think that the proposition “you don’t know that God doesn’t exist” is the most commonly used bad argument on this list. I will say, however, that this line of reasoning is not always wrong. I only want Christians to shy away from this as an early dismissal. For example, if a Christian is in a conversation with an Atheist and the Atheist claims that God doesn’t exist, the Christian should not dismiss the statement early on with “well you can’t prove that”. The failure here is that nothing productive follows from this statement and assumes that proof is deciding factor. The Atheist and Christian alike cannot with 100% certainty demonstrate the inexistence or existence of God the same way someone would prove something in mathematics. Furthermore, this is often a shutdown response when a Christian has no other support to back their affirmation. If the Atheist claims that God does not exist, simply ask what reasons they have for being certain of such a proposition and carry on the dialogue.
2) When I hear my fellow Christians passionately trying to prove that God exists to a skeptic, I often hear “well just look around you!” as apart of their evidence. I am glad that they see nature as a case for God’s existence, but this simply won’t cut it. I remember as a younger believer, I always disliked this argument because I knew full well that those who stand by evolution or don’t believe in God hardly see this as viable evidence for God’s existence. Botany and Biology can all be explained naturalistically which is what the prevailing theory of evolution outlines. Most skeptics aren’t ready to embrace a design hypothesis because of this. Fortunately, there’s a whole area of study called natural theology which makes conclusions about God’s existence on the basis of the natural phenomena.
1) This last argument on this list must be the worst argument the Christian can use. “Just have faith” is almost entirely invoked when the Christian has been backed into a corner or has no justification for their claims so they simply say, “well you should just have faith”. First, this is not the right way faith should be used. Faith should not be used in isolation, we should speak of faith as in faith in something. I have faith that my textbooks will contain correct information. Faith is trust or assurance of something, and in the case of God, its Hebrews 11:1: “ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”Furthermore, simply saying “you should just have faith that God exists” just sounds like a leap in the dark which is what skeptics continually accuse theists of. This does not represent Christianity in serious light and as Christians its our duty to provide a justification for why we believe in what we believe.
Truth is defined as “That which corresponds to reality”, which influences people’s actions depending on what corresponds to reality. In post modernity, we are taught that metaphysical truths are relative to the eye of the perceiver. Metaphysical truths would be truths as objective moral principles or religious beliefs. It’s noted that Allan Bloom knows one thing for certain: “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: “almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative (19).” Certainly, no one actually believes that two plus two does not equal four or that the label on a bottle of rat poison is wrong. Again, it’s metaphysical truths that are believed to be truly relative because it can’t be verified by the senses or something else.
Beckwith and Koukl wrote Relativism, in order to deal with the death of truth and the consequences that follow from it. They remark on page 20, that Finding God at Harvard reports “students feel safer as doubters than as believers, and as perpetual seekers rather than eventual finders.” Students are approaching college to learn about a particular major, yet they have this mindset in their learning. Truly, they do not doubt the subjects that they are learning, otherwise they are wasting college money.
Beckwith and Koukl’s main points in this book are to show the consequence of denying objective truth, the results of relativism in society, and the fact objective truth/morality. “The death or truth in our society has created a moral decay in which “ever debate ends with the barroom question ‘says who (20)?” Max Weber showed that the Protestant beliefs influenced economic structure of society based on truths that they saw as objectively true, which is glue that held their society. I agree with the authors, that objective truth and moral obligations are the glue of society that holds together.
Relativism in Morality:
“The death of morality also produces an “anything goes” mentality (22).” Page 23 gives an example of a security camera that recorded two young boys that beat a toddler to death. If moral truths are subjective, then there is nothing morally wrong with what happened to the poor, defenseless toddler. “Tastes are personal. They’re private. They’re individual. If you didn’t like butter pecan and favored chocolate instead. It would be strange to say that you were wrong (27).” Society is left with arguing over morality like people arguing over ice cream flavors, which is the point made by the book.
“Classically, moral systems have had at least three characteristics (29). These three characteristics are that “morality has been viewed as a supremely authoritative guide to action, trumping consideration of personal preference, morality includes a prescriptive code of conduct, and morality is universal”. The authors of Unleashing Opportunity give solutions to sex trafficking, loan abuse, and other social issues in American in a Judeo-Christian worldview. They operate under the assumption of an objective truth of Christianity that everyone is created in the image of God, structure is laid down by God, and the God gives us wisdom. They assume that morality comes from God (supreme authority), that there are things that are objectively wrong (prescriptive code of conduct), and that it pertains all humans (universal morality).
Objective morality can only operate under a worldview that is seen as true and is true. If metaphysical truths like Christianity are seen as relative, then objective morality becomes subjective. They show the consequences of this idea through the book and how it effects society.
Effects on Society:
Du Bois and Coates’ experience of racism in the culture and society they grew up were wrong, but on moral relativism, society determined these as moral truths. Issues like abortion or racism are subjective based on mob rule or societal rules. Anthropologists record that apparently “each society has different ethical standards when it comes to morals” (36). They call this descriptive relativism that each society has different morality and that it evolves over time. Are Anthropologists right that ethical standards develop depending on their society? This would be false since sociology is descriptive not prescriptive.
Another view is normative ethical relativism, that says “all people ought to act in keeping with their own society’s code (37). Of course, this is self-refuting since this standard implies objective morality (that people should follow society’s standards). A final view they present is individual ethical relativism that says “individual preferences offer the only guidelines to behavior” (38). This also becomes self-refuting since it gives an objective standard that people should do what they want. These three views are scary since child-sacrifice, genocide, and many other moral atrocities are seen as objectively true by the individual or the societies that enforced these principles.
Objective Truth and Morality:
When People end up saying there is no truth, they do not mean this. A simple question can be asked: “Is it true that there is no truth? Like mentioned before, nobody believes that the label on a bottle of rat poison is wrong. The point is that there is objective truth, what that consists of is up for debate. Relativism’s focus is on beliefs like in the supernatural and morality are relative to each person. Morality is not subjective for many reasons that the author’s give in the book. They point out that when we put someone behind bars, that we are doing so in the belief that we are following objective morality (54). Objective morality is proven through intuition, which is derived from immediate knowledge, not inferred (57). Memory is an intuitional truth that is not inferred from something else. Everyone knows immediately that torturing babies for fun is wrong, even those who perform abortions.
Those who push moral relativism are not consistent based on seven reasons that are given as fatal flaws to moral relativism. “Relativists can’t accuse others of wrongdoing, relativists can’t complain about the problem of evil, relativists can’t place blame or accept praise, relativists can’t make charges of unfairness or injustice, relativists can’t improve their morality, relativists can’t hold meaningful moral discussions, and relativists can’t promote the obligation of tolerance (61-69).” Moral relativism can’t live up to its standard because tolerance is an objective virtue in this system. Relativists can’t live consistently because of the immediate knowledge they have that evil is wrong and people are blameworthy of their actions.
Wrap Up and Thoughts:
I agree with almost all the points of this book because there truly are things that are objectively wrong and right. Intuition affirms moral facts are real and are affirmed by the Bible as well (Roman 2:1-16). I’ve learned the seven ways in which moral relativists refute themselves in how they want to live their lives that things are truly wrong.
Knowing that objective morality exists gives me an obligation to my fellow neighbor. We have to follow an objective obligation to help the communities we live in and those that are in them. If we take this objective obligation away, then community development falls into the abyss of moral relativism and its consequences that follow. Objective morality is the glue to society that allows it to function properly as Durkheim would suggest.
One very important issue debated in western society is whether life begins at conception and that mothers do have human life in them. Roe vs Wade decided that it is okay to take the life of fetus before birth and some are trying to push this up six months after birth. Most people with a working brain agree that it is wrong to harm innocent human life, that is why the pro-choice movement argues that fetuses are not human. This is an issue that can only be resolved in a framework of an objective morality that society is losing. This is a very personal issue that I find to be a core point to why moral relativism exists and is defended. Overall, Beckwith and Koukl are correct in affirming that objective morality exists, which obligates us to follow this objective truth for society’s sake.
Koukl, Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory. Relativism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998. Book.
Relativism Book: https://www.amazon.com/Relativism-Feet-Firmly-Planted-Mid-Air/dp/0801058066
Previously, I went through the purpose of apologetics and why we are to engage in it. In this article, I will be going over the brief history of apologetics and its influence on the Christian world.
There is some debate as to when Christ followers first started to defend the faith. Conventionally, we begin with the apostles and more specifically, Paul. As I outlined in my purpose of apologetics video, we get the command to defend our faith from the writings of 1 Peter 3:15. Even Jesus Christ defended his deity by appealing to the supernatural. Paul in the year A.D. 36 was converted to the faith and in the year A.D. 49 Paul began his mission while reasoning wherever he went. He reasoned with the Jews, Pagans, Philosophers (specifically the stoics), and Gentiles. He maintained this until the day he was arrested and martyred. Paul addressed the apologetic issues of his day using rhetoric and teachings of Christ. Paul is one of the earliest examples of apologetics being used to further the gospel and for the defense of Christ.
After the apostolic age had passed, the early church formed and thrived, preserving the teachings of the apostles and Christ. The early church were facing dangers and threats from the Roman governments and unbelievers to not practice such a religion. This included Pagan and Gnostic practices that had infiltrated the culture of that time. This is when philosophy became an extremely useful tool to countering the oppositions towards Christianity. The Christians of the early church were involved in politics and debates with non-believers. Justin Martyr was extremely influential during this era. Justin Martyr was formally a Platonist and an advocate for Stoicism. Martyr was converted in 132 A.D. and ultimately became a Philosopher and apologist for the Christian faith. Martyr wrote his work called “Apologies” that were broken into two parts and his “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew”. Martyr argued for the philosophical truth of Christianity and defended the scriptures authority. This is fascinating given that the canon of scripture had not be completed yet. He was executed in Rome for not worshiping other idols giving him the name “Martyr” by which we still refer.
After the life of Justin Martyr we are met with the third century. During this era, philosophical thought and rhetoric was in its prime and Christianity was at the center of its criticisms. Among the Alexandrians was someone named Origen. Origen was at the forefront of defending Christianity towards the arguments of that day. This included defending Christ’s deity and the historicity of Christ. Famous writings by Origen were called “Contra Celsus” where Origen formed a reply to a prominent Greek Philosopher and his arguments.
In the mid-3rd and 4th century lived influential Philosopher, Theologian, and Apologist Augustine (also known as St. Augustine of Hippo). Augustine was a Roman African monk who converted to Christianity and spent his life writing and defending the faith. His early works had a major impact on the people of his time and today. Augustine contended with the Pagans and Heretics in his philosophical works. Augustine believed in sinful state of man and taught that the Holy spirit must move in us to be saved. He wrote extensively on God’s nature and the importance of man’s relationship with God. He referred to these things as “unseen truths” that must be obtained through faith and not just rationality. Augustine’s most famous works are: The City of God and Confessions. These two works are the masterpieces that earn him his relevance. Augustine later died on August 28th, 430 AD alone writing his lasts works in solitude.
Fast forward to the middle ages where we meet Anselm. Anselm (also known as Anselm of Aosta) was one of most important Christian thinkers of the entire 11th century. He was a philosopher, monk, and theologian (specifically of the Catholic Church). Anselm wrote about the nature of faith, the existence of God, the nature of God, and the doctrine of the Atonement. Anselm was drawn to the intellectual ability of the monk Lanfranc. Anselm attached himself to Lanfranc’s abbey and later taught in the abbey school. Anselm’s most notable works were: Monologion, Proslogion, and Why God Became Man?. Another major of Anselm’s was the Ontological Argument for the existence of God. This later was worked upon and updated by Protestant Philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Today, Anselm is well known for his Proslogion proof for the existence of God, but his thought was widespread in the Middle Ages, and still today in areas of scholarship.
Very much like Anselm, Thomas Aquinas was also revered a Saint by the Catholic church in the middle ages. Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican Philosopher and theologian. He is ranked as the most influential medieval thinkers of scholasticism. Scholasticism was a system of theology and philosophy that used Aristotelian logic with the teachings of the early church to formulate a school of thought. At the time, this was the dominating school of thought within the European universities. Thomas Aquinas tried to reconcile man’s natural knowledge and God’s revelation to show they are not in conflict. This was the faith vs reason debate in the middle ages. Aquinas presented 5 ways we can prove God’s existence. Aquinas’ most notable works are: Summa Contra Gentiles, Summa Theologica, and more. Aquinas died on March 7th, 1274.
In the 15th century, the reformation did wonders for apologetics by way Martin Luther and John Calvin. I will give them this honorable mention because so much of our theology today is based on the work of these two men. However, I will be focusing on Blaise Pascal. Pascal lived during the 16th century and only lived to be the age of 39. Pascal was a French Mathematician, Philosopher, Theologian, and Scientist. The foundation of probability theory, the early calculator, conic sections theorems, and many other innovations are contributed to Pascal. Apart from being a scientist, Pascal was quite the theologian and philosopher. This is where we get the ever so famous “Pascals wager” from. Pascals most notable works were Pensees and Les Provinciales. These works included his apologies and 18 letters in defense of the Jesuits.
We are now met with the 19th century where we start to see apologetics begin to thrive. During this era, the main forces were Humanism, Darwinism, scientific advances, and the development of archaeology and historical methods. Because we are going over the brief history of apologetics, I will only mention the major influences during this era due to the fact there are so many apologists we can mention. During this century, the enlightenment had influenced modern thinking putting Christianity on trial demanding the invocation of apologetics to respond to worship of human reason. This is primarily a response to Immanuel Kant and David Hume and their work against the supernatural. Major contenders such as William Paley, Charles Hodge, and B.B Warfield responded to their claims. William Paley worked upon matters concerning natural theology and an evidentialist approach to Christianity compiled together called A View of the Evidences of Christianity and Natural Theology. This was a key point in time since Darwinism had come onto the scene undermining any type of supernatural design hypothesis via evolution. Paley also wrote on the reliability of the New Testament and classical versions of the teleological argument. Charles Hodge held a position at Princeton and was revered as the most famous Calvinist theologian there. He wrote Systematic Theology and What is Darwinism? Which determined the position of the seminary until he died. B.B Warfield was one of the last professors at Princeton before it got reorganized. Warfield continued Hodges apologetic approach and argued against false liberal Christianity. This is covered in his book Apologetics.
So far, we have briefly covered the important centuries regarding Christian apologetics in history. Now, we will continue to the present and mention several of the main forces that are governing the thinking of apologetics today. Apologists such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler, J.P. Moreland, Francis Schaeffer, Alvin Plantinga, and many more to mention have been strong forces in the intellectualism of Christianity and forming a well-rounded apologetic for many to follow. Some argue that we live in a postmodern world and secular society has embraced it with open arms. Topics of truth, existence, ethics, etc have shifted along with these apparent changes. Christian apologetics has always had a seat at the table of intellectualism and will continue to do so for the years to come.
History of Apologetics Book: https://www.amazon.com/History-Apologetics-Robert-Cardinal-Dulles/dp/0898709334