Debate between Matt Slick and Edwin Kagin on "Does God Exist?"

by Matt Slick

On April 17, 2008, I debated Edwin Kagin on "Does God exist?" The debate was held on the Campus of West Florida University in Pensacola, Florida. debate hall Following is the text I read as my 15-minute opening statement.  I had to shorten the original by 2 pages, so I could read it in 15 minutes.  I made it and with 10 seconds to spare!  I read it word for word with just a couple of slight changes here and there since the flow of speaking was slightly different from the written word in a few places.

edwin kaginHow did it go?  Well, I'm biased, but I don't believe Kagin was able to answer my argument.  The best he did was say that logic evolved--that it comes from people.  That response is refuted in my opening statement below.  But you should see the video when it comes out so you can judge for yourself.

By the way, Mr. Kagin said he'd be glad to debate me on ethics.  Sounds good to me.


---------- text of the opening statement from Matt Slick ---------


First of all, I want to thank all of you for coming here tonight. I hope you enjoy the debate and that your minds and hearts will be challenged.

Since my time is limited and I have a lot to cover, let me just jump right in.

In order for this debate to occur, Mr. Kagin and I had to have prior agreements on a topic, a location, duration, format, and so forth. But we have also agreed, though not formally, that this debate should be logical. In fact, without logic, we don’t have a debate.

Now, I have a question for you, Mr. Kagin. How do you, as an atheist, account for the existence of logic? Remember, the question is directed to you as an atheist. How do you account for the existence of logic?

The question is important, and it directly relates to God’s existence. Asking that a person give an account for something based on his worldview is not a kindergarten exercise. It is not a word game. It is an important philosophical question worth answering and especially given the fact that we live in a finite and physical universe yet use logic which is transcendent and conceptual.

So, I hope to show that the atheist perspective cannot rationally account for logic, but the Christian one can because it acknowledges God’s existence.

But, in order for me to show this, I need to do two things:

First, I need to offer a definition of God. God is that Supreme Being who exists independent of the universe, who does not change, is absolute, transcends space and time, who is self-aware, who is all-knowing, ever present, and can accomplish whatever he desires to accomplish. In short, I am proposing the Christian God.

The Second thing I want to address a simple logical principle. If there are only two possibilities to explain something and one of the possibilities is incapable of explaining it, then by default the other is validated. Let me illustrate.

Let's say that there is a man named Frank who has a small room in his house in which he keeps valuables. This room is encased in thick metal, has no windows, no vents, and only one light with one table inside. The door has a very strong lock which can only be opened by a keypad that requires a sequence of numbers that only Frank knows. There is an alarm, a heat detector, and a motion detector. Now Frank has just acquired a bag full of rare coins. He puts them inside the room on the table, exits, and immediately locks the door behind him.

Frank then goes directly to his car, drives to a meeting, and returns 3 hours later to inventory his currency. But to his surprise, after he disables the alarms, unlocks the door, and enters the room, he finds the coins are not in the bag where he left them. Instead, they are neatly stacked on the table. Upon further examination, he discovers that the stacks of coins are in separate piles in sequences of prime numbers from 2 through 31. Frank wants to know how this happened. He calls the police.

When they arrive, they find no physical evidence that anyone else besides Frank had been in the room. For all they know, he arranged the coins. There aren’t any fingerprints, shoe prints, or traces of DNA other than Frank’s.

But Frank knows he did not arrange the coins, and the coins didn’t arrange themselves. Frank is bewildered and refuses to believe that someone got into the room. His criteria for proof necessitate that there be some finger-prints, shoe prints, pry marks, or the alarms having gone off. But none of these evidences are there. So, he refuses to believe the obvious because his criteria for proof doesn’t include the possibility that someone intelligent arranged the coins logically without also being detected in the manner that he chooses.

Now, we can see that the proof is there. Obviously, someone arranged the coins. But Frank is not persuaded. Why? Because proof is different from persuasion.

Okay, so let me reduce this illustration to a simple proposition: Either an intelligence or non intelligence arranged the coins. There aren’t any other options.

In like manner, in this debate we have only two options: there either is a God or there is not. Since there are only these two options, we can take a look at them and ask a question: Which position, the theistic or atheistic, can account for the existence of logic? One of them has to be able to; otherwise, we have no rational reason for the existence of logic at all.

Now, Mr. Kagin might just say that he doesn’t know how to account for logic. I have no problem with him pleading ignorance should he so choose; after all, Christians sometimes do the same thing. Or on the other hand, he might say he doesn’t need to give account for the existence of logic, and he might offer various reasons why he doesn’t need to. In either case, whether it is ignorance or ignoring, I’ll continue through with this debate using my argument and enjoy Mr. Kagin’s neglect in responding to it. But, I do expect a logical response from Mr. Kagin, and I hope it is forthcoming.

So, in anticipation of possible responses from my atheist opponent, I want to enlist the help of previous atheists who’ve tried to give me an account for the existence of logic. I will list their arguments and attempt to show why they are invalid. But, I won’t stop there. After I have shown that their arguments are invalid, I’ll try to show that the Christian perspective can account for logic and thereby demonstrate that God exists.

So, what is logic? Logic is the process of proper thinking based upon principles that govern the validity of arguments. Logic is used in proofs, refutations, explanations, and even in debates.

Logic has laws. I’ll list three of them.

The first law of logic is the law of identity. It states that something is what it is and is not what it is not. For example, an egg is an egg and not a flashlight.

The second law of logic is the law of non-contradiction. This means that something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same way. In other words, two contradictory statements cannot both be true.

The third law of logic is the Law of Excluded Middle which says that a statement is either true or false. “We are here” is a true statement. “The planet Mars is in my pocket” is not a true statement.

Now, these laws, and others, are logical absolutes; and they form the basis of rational discourse.

So, let me reiterate my argument in brief before I tackle the atheists’ attempts to account for logic.

I propose that logical absolutes are conceptual realities that do not depend upon human minds or the physical universe for their existence. Since they are conceptual, absolute, and transcend space and time, there must be an absolute and transcendent mind from which these logical absolutes are derived. I conclude that absolute and transcendent mind is God. That is my explanation. But before I try to support it, let’s take a look at the various explanations offered by atheists and see why they are insufficient to account for logic.

If I miss any, I hope that Mr. Kagin can articulate them for me.

The First explanation I want to look at is that logic is the product of a single human person who thought it up, and other people agreed that it was true.

The problem here is that if you assume that one person thought it up, then what happens when another person says it is false? If logic’s existence and truth is based upon an individual thinking it is true, then another person can say it is false; and it would be false. But this is illogical since something is not false because someone says it is false.

The second explanation I’ve heard is that logical absolutes are conventions. In other words, they are principles that we humans agree are valid. But agreeing that they are valid doesn’t account for them. This would also mean that logical absolutes are then subject to "vote” and popular agreement. But this would mean that something is true because a lot of people believe it is true. What would happen if the majority of people started saying that truth is not absolute, or that mutually contradictory statements are valid--would it mean then that these things would then be so? Of course not. So that argument doesn’t work.

The third explanation I’ve heard is that logic and logical absolutes are the result of chemical processes in the brain. The problem here is that if someone’s brain chemistry is altered, then logic is altered. But that can’t work. Besides, people’s brains are different and often contradict each other. So people’s brains can’t be the source of logical absolutes in spite of their particular brain chemistry.

The fourth explanation is to say that logic is a function of language. If that is so, then is logic in Spanish better than logic in English? Or is Russian logic superior to French logic? If they differ due to language constructs and patterns, then is there a Spanish logic, an English logic, and a French logic? That would make no sense. Seeing this difficulty, atheists sometimes say that language constructs are consistent across different languages in spite of the stylistic diversity, and that they reveal logic. But that is exactly it. They "reveal" the logic that is already there; linguistic constructs don't invent logic or form it. Linguistic constructs describe logical processes. They don’t account for their existence.

The fifth explanation is that logic is a property of the universe--like the natural physical laws of motion and gravity. The problem here is that it equates logic with things like weight, mass, heat, and cold all of which can be measured and their effects observed. But how do you measure and observe the effects of the law of non-contradiction or the law of excluded middle? If you could develop an experiment to test for logic like you would motion or gravity, you’d have to use logic beforehand to develop the test and this would assuming the validity of the very logic you’re trying to test. So this explanation fails.

The sixth explanation is similar to the previous one. It says that Logical absolutes would cease to apply to anything if the physical universe stopped existing because logical absolutes could no longer be called true or false. But this doesn’t work either. You see, it is logically true that something cannot bring itself into existence. If the universe did not exist, it would still be true that something could not bring itself into existence. The truth would still be true whether or not it was known and whether or not the universe existed.

Also, if Logical Absolutes being true or false depends on the existence of the physical universe, then they would stop having existence and meaning in the same way that gravity and motion would stop existing and have meaning. But this would mean that logic is a property of the physical universe in the same way that gravity and motion are properties of the universe. But, gravity and motion can be measured and tested. Not so with logic. In fact, no test can be developed to measure, weigh, or photograph logic. This would mean that logic is not a property of the physical universe as are gravity and motion. Therefore, it cannot be said that it would cease to be true if the universe ceased to exist.

The seventh explanation is that trying to use the existence of logic to demonstrate God’s existence is nothing more than a word game. Alright, if this argument is a word game, then it should be easy to point out where it is wrong. So, when I ask atheists to do that, they don’t demonstrate how it is a word game, whatever that means; and they have yet to demonstrate to me how the argument is false. So, I can’t accept it as a refutation.

The eighth and final explanation I’ve heard offered by atheists is that asking them to account for the existence of logic is asking the wrong question.

Okay, then why is it the wrong question? Give a logical reason why it is not right to ask an atheist to give account for the existence of logic and logical absolutes. Just saying it is wrong doesn’t make it so. I would not expect an atheist to accept my saying, “Asking me to prove that God exists is the wrong question.” He or she would be right in asking me why it is the wrong question.

As I said before, if there are other explanations that I have not listed here, perhaps Mr. Kagin could offer them; and then we could cross-examine them later.

But before my time is up, I would like to try to show that the existence of logic and logical absolutes shows there is a God. Also, please notice that I am not first assuming that God exists. I am first approaching the issue of logic and then concluding that God exists. I’ll try to do that with three points.

First, the laws of logic are conceptual by nature. They occur in the mind. The Laws of logic are concepts. They cannot be frozen, weighed, measured, or photographed anymore than love and humility can be frozen, weighed, measured, or photographed. The Laws of logic are not found under rocks or in test tubes. They occur in the mind. They are conceptual. You can think of them. You can write laws of logic down on paper. You can talk about them and listen to their being discussed in a debate, but you cannot observe the laws of logic occurring in matter. This is because they are conceptual by nature.

Second, the laws of logic are absolute. This means that they don't stop being true if we disagree with them. It means their absoluteness is not dependent upon our wants, our brain chemistry, popular vote, how big the universe is, or how cold or hot something is. They are absolute. They don’t change. Otherwise, logic would not be dependable and consistent with itself and with reality, and we would have no way of being rational and judging the arguments in this debate.

Third, the laws of logic are transcendent. Logic transcends space and time. This means that if you were to go in any particular direction and reach the end of the physical universe, logical absolutes don’t stop being true because of where you are located. If you were to travel back to the beginning of the universe or move a trillion years into the future, they don’t stop being true because of when you are. At least no one has yet demonstrated that they stop being true.

Now, another question. Is it logical to conclude that if there's a concept, there must also be a mind? This seems reasonable.

Concepts reside in the mind, and thoughts reflect the mind. Since we have absolute and transcendent logical truths which are conceptual by nature, I conclude that there is an absolute and transcendent mind that, for a lack of a better term, has authored the logical absolutes. I call this absolute and transcendent mind, God.

Now, you may or may not agree with my conclusion. Perhaps you are like Frank and refuse to accept that someone else got into the room and arranged the coins in a logical fashion. Perhaps your worldview does not allow this argument to be true anymore than Frank’s presuppositions allowed him to believe someone got into his room and arranged the coins. But, as I said before: proof is different from persuasion.

Now, I again turn my attention to you, Mr. Kagin. You may or may not like my conclusion. But whether or not you do, and no disrespect meant, your liking or disliking it has no bearing on it being true or false. If my argument is not valid, please demonstrate to me how it is not valid. Please give me a logical explanation stemming from your atheistic perspective that accounts for the existence of logical absolutes. Of course, in order to do this you would need to use logic. I would even say that to do so you have to borrow from the Christian worldview to try to make your case in order to argue against the Christian worldview.

So, how do you account for the existence of logic and logical absolutes from your atheistic worldview? I don’t believe you can, and I conclude it is because your atheistic worldview does not comport with reality--but the Christian worldview does.

Thank you.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.