The following is an attempt by an atheist, Rob, to refute Christianity. He posted the argument on the CARM forums and repeatedly asked if I would look at it. His first post was faulty from the beginning since it used terms like "magic" to describe miracles. When atheists write like this, I stop and won't go any further. If they can't avoid using derogatory terms when dealing with Christianity, then I generally just dismiss them.
He removed the 'magic' term. I continued to read his argument only to find that he had another error--this time dealing with the nature of judgment. He confused law and faith and failed to understand its difference. I offered two corrections. Finally, he made the necessary adjustment, and I was then able to proceed. I've reproduced his argument below in brown. I've responded in green.
Christianity can be shown to be necessarily false by demonstrating the contradiction that exists in two of its most fundamental tenets, namely:
- The claim that escaping God’s judgment requires belief in Jesus' resurrection (a supernatural/miraculous condition considered the work of a divine, supernatural agency).
- The claim that God is just (that He renders that which is due).
The following logical progression demonstrates the contradiction:
- As rational beings, our success at arriving at an accurate knowledge base for guiding our choices and actions correlates to a great degree with our ability to be rational, in particular, to correctly associate and integrate effects with their causes. This is what rational beings ought to do.
- I agree that we need an accurate knowledge base to guide our choices and actions, and that this is aided by rationality.
- When you say that this is something rational beings "ought" to do, are you implying a logical "ought" or a moral "ought"?
- If you are implying a logical "ought," then please provide a set of logical statements that necessitate your conclusion. If you can't do this, then your argument is invalid.
- If you're implying a moral "ought," then by what basis do you objectively demonstrate a moral necessity? Atheists don't have an objective moral standard to which they can appeal. They can only assert opinions about what "ought" to be. So, at this point, if you are suggesting a moral ought, then it is only your opinion about what ought to be done. Arguments based on opinions are not proofs.
- Since a supernatural/miraculous cause is a cause that is not constrained by natural preconditions (natural laws, causal chains, etc.), miracles are in principle always a possible cause for every event or existent yet, erroneously appealing to the miraculous as a cause can have devastatingly adverse consequences which we ought not do.
- I agree that erroneously appealing to the miraculous as a cause for something can have devastating consequences.
- Likewise, erroneously attributing the miraculous to natural causes can also have devastating consequences.
- To avoid adverse consequences, we ought to believe in miracles only when it is justified and rational (for example, when the miraculous event can be demonstrated on demand and when it can be shown that a natural explanation is not at least a possibility).
- Again, is your "ought" a logical necessity or a moral one?
- To say that "the miraculous event can be demonstrated on demand" would mean that it is not a miracle. So, I am assuming you are saying something is not a miracle when it can be repeated on demand since it would then be demonstrated to be a natural phenomenon.
- But, this raises the problem of how do you validate or invalidate a historical event such as the resurrection of Christ which you mentioned above. Repeatability of this unique event isn't possible. So, if, as you say, the miraculous event cannot be demonstrated on demand, then Jesus' resurrection would be a miracle, and you are refuting yourself.
- Concluding miracles as a cause prior to it being justified is in effect allowing a belief in miracles to erode and undermine rationality, and is therefore unjustified, irrational, and immoral (acts that one ought not do).
- Believing or deny miracles is related to believing in or denying God's existence which is an issue, for now, of one's presuppositions. Therefore, an underlying issue is for you to validate that there is no God.
- Naturalism and/or materialism are necessary presuppositions in an atheistic worldview since by denying God's existence, you must assume that the universe and its properties are the source an explanation for life and all events in the universe. So, how do you justify that naturalism and/or materialism are the proper ways to interpret the universe and all phenomena in the universe?
- Therefore, a God that requires rational beings to do what is unjustified, irrational, and immoral in order to escape His judgment is an unjust God, and a God who also eternally torments all those who fail to do so is an extremely unjust God.
- I agree that a God who would require rational people to do what is unjustified, irrational, and immoral in order to escape his judgment is not a just god. But, such a god is not the God of the Bible.
- You have not established any logical necessity for your statements so far. You've only made assertions and begged the question about what is just, rational, and moral.
- You have not demonstrated that the miraculous is unjustified, especially in the case of a historical event such as the resurrection of Christ which was recorded by eyewitnesses. By the way, you would have to invalidate the gospel accounts of the witnesses which has been tried by many before without success.
- You have not demonstrated that the resurrection of Christ, which you mentioned above, is irrational. After all, if the God of the Bible exists, it is perfectly rational to believe that he could raise the Lord Jesus from the dead.
- You have not established how you can objectively determine what is just or unjust. Therefore, concluding what is just or unjust is nothing more than your opinion. Justice is based upon law and/or moral uprightness. Without providing a rational standard for justice you can't say what is just or unjust.
- You have not established how you can objectively determine what is moral or immoral. Atheists would be hard-pressed to develop any objective standard by which they could assert that something is moral or immoral. All they can offer is morality based on changing social mores and personal opinion. Therefore, it is best that atheists stay away from the moral argument and stick with purely logical ones.
- Further, this injustice does not depend upon whether or not arbitrary belief in miracles is in fact irrational, unjustified, and immoral or not. A God that requires rational beings to do what they genuinely consider to be irrational, unjustified, and immoral and who eternally torments all those who fail to do so, is an extremely unjust God.
- What does arbitrary belief mean? You shouldn't use terms like this without clarification. Otherwise, we will end up in semantic arguments.
- In John 20:27ff Jesus told Thomas to believe after seeing the evidence of the wounds in his hands and side supporting his physical resurrection. Biblical belief is not based on arbitrary whims.
- If God exists and is greater in power, scope, and knowledge than we are and if he requires that we do something that we consider irrational, unjustified, and immoral, this doesn't mean it is irrational, unjustified, and immoral. It might be that God knows of things that we do not and is basing his actions and commands on that. People are very often wrong about what they believe to be irrational, unjustified, and immoral. So, this complaint is in itself irrational.
- You keep using terms you haven't defined. You make too many assumptions.
Since such faith systems claim that God requires just such irrational, unjustified, and immoral belief and since they also claim that God is just, an internal contradiction exists within their fundamental tenets demonstrating them to be false systems which none of you should be holding to. Of course, there may be an error here, in which case I ask that you help me recognize it.
All you have done is offer an unsubstantiated set of opinions based on unfounded notions of 'justice' and 'morality' which you have in no way established as being an objective standard by which you can justify making judgments. Seriously, you've failed to disprove that Christianity is invalid.
I request that each of you who respond to this thread focus only on the essence of my argument, avoid semantics arguments, and try to keep nonessential discussion with one another to a minimum. I will try to do likewise.
If you want to avoid semantical arguments, then don't introduce them . . . as you have done. You have not defined all your terms or justified your assumptions.
Matt, I was also going to be more explicit in tenet “a” above by saying that God’s judgment was to all mankind prior to and independent of any actions of their own, but I was afraid you would disengage. Do you also agree with this statement? Please try to move beyond semantics, ok? I know that you genuinely believe the things that you believe. I know that I am doing the same. I know that truth matter to you. You may not think so, but it matters to me too, deeply. I hope we can take advantage of the opportunity that exists between us to expose the error.
This last paragraph is worth another and different discussion.
Rob, you've not proven anything.