Theism vs Atheism

Fourth Statement: Michael Martin

Phil Fernandes/Michael Martin Debate

Fourth Statement: Michael Martin
Dr. Martin’s Closing Statement

As Dr. Fernandes and I conclude our debate I would like to thank him again for his stimulating challenge to my position.

CRITICISMS OF ATHEISM

As I have shown again and again Dr. Fernandes’ objections to atheism are based on either misunderstandings or question begging assumptions. Even though I have pointed out his misunderstandings and directed his attention to more accurate interpretations of atheism he has persisted in them. When I pointed out that he begged the question his defense was that he was merely putting forth hypotheses. But when I insisted that he had given no reasons to believe his hypotheses he was silent. When I countered with objections against theism–recall I brought up epistemological and ethical arguments–Dr. Fernandes managed to avoid them. They are beyond the scope of the debate, he said. When I showed that what he was saying was mistaken or unjustified he claimed he was not really saying it.

Many of these same problems are manifest in his Closing Remarks. Dr. Fernandes now claims never to have maintained that human knowledge was impossible in a Godless universe. But he did. Read his past statements. Now he says that he was just saying knowledge is to be expected if God exists and I did not show that knowledge is to be expected if God does not. But I gave an argument as to why theism does not avoid skepticism (which he never bothered to answer) while he has given no reason why one should expect skepticism in a Godless universe.

Another example: I suggested in my Third Statement that secular ethics can be based on an ideal observer theory. Dr. Fernandes now objects that this confuses “ought” with “is.” However, this is again simply begs the question. The ideal observer theory presents an analysis of “ought” statements in terms of ‘is” statements about an ideal observer and Dr. Fernandes simply assumes without argument that this cannot be done. Moreover, if there is a confusion between is and ought here, surely theists who advocate the Divine Command theory are just as guilty. That theory tries to analyze what ought to be done in terms of factual statements about what God commands. In addition, Dr. Fernandes continues to avoid the problem of how one knows what God commands. Appeal to the Bible must be problematic for Dr. Fernandes since he thinks torturing babies is eternally wrong and yet the Bible says that for rebelling against God “They shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up (HO 13:16).” 1

ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM

I showed in previous statements that all of Dr. Fernandes’ arguments of theism are unsound. However, Dr. Fernandes still persists in calling the idea that the universe arose from nothing “absurd” despite the fact that leading cosmologists take the idea seriously. No argument is used to rebut the theory that the Universe could have been generated from nothing. He tries to answer my argument that it makes no sense that a cause such as God could be outside time but uses an irrelevant example: immaterial sorrow causes tears. But someone’s sorrow is a temporal event and indeed occurs temporally prior to the tears it causes and thus is beside the point. He continues to avoid my criticism of probability arguments for God’s existence: probability statements are meaningful only in certain contexts that do not hold in the case of cosmology. In fact, if we allow probability statements in this context, Dr. Fernandes’ design argument is subject to all of the problems raised by David Hume. For example, it would tend to prove a type of polytheism: finite gods with bodies created the Universe from preexisting material. 2 Dr. Fernandes again appeals to the argument from dependency: An independent Universe as a whole cannot arise from dependent parts. Although I have shown that Dr. Fernandes committed the fallacy of composition in so arguing, he has consistently denied he has committed this fallacy without showing any difference between his argument and obvious examples of fallacious reasoning. One might just as well argue that an army cannot arise from a non-army or that a rational conclusion cannot arise from a non-conclusion. In his Concluding Remarks he again fails to show any difference between his argument and obvious example of fallacious reasoning. 3

ARGUMENTS AGAINST GOD

Dr. Fernandes’ criticisms of my arguments against God in his previous statements have all failed and they continue to do so in his Concluding Remarks. In the Argument from Incoherence I maintained that God cannot know certain things, for example, how to swim, since he has no body and that He cannot have certain knowledge by acquaintance, for example, knowledge by acquaintance of torturing babies since He is all good. But since God is supposed to be all knowing, the concept of God is inconsistent. What is Dr. Fernandes’ reply? He simply asserts without argument that there is no inconsistency “in believing God innately knows all things . . .” With respect to The Argument From Evil, Dr. Fernandes maintains that suffering leads people to God. Perhaps. But it leads many people away from God. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to conclude in the light of the evidence that the amount of suffering that leads some people to God could be much less than it is now. If there is an unknown reason why there is this apparently needless suffering, then why has not God revealed this reason or at least revealed why He cannot reveal it? His failure to do so conflicts with His desire to be loved. How can God reasonably expect His creatures to love Him if it is a mystery why they seem to be suffering needlessly?

With respect to The Argument From Nonbelief I cannot see how Dr. Fernandes’ comments in his Concluding Remarks are even relevant. Recall that the argument was that God desires people to believe in Him. However, God has the ability to bring about more belief without interfering with human free will. So why is there so much nonbelief? After I refuted all of Dr. Fernandes’ rebuttals to this argument, in his Third Statement he produced a new counter argument: God knew from all eternity that some people, for example, 12th Century American Indians, would not have accepted Christ even if Christianity had been attractively presented to them. Consequently they did not deserve to be saved and thus God made no effort to get them to believe. I pointed out this reply fails to explain why a high proportion of American Indians in later centuries did accept Christianity when given the opportunity. What is Dr. Fernandes’ reply? “If a person in a distant land would be willing to accept the theistic God, then the theistic God would have no problem giving a missionary the desire to preach the gospel in that land. Also, counting noses can backfire on atheists, for there are many more theists than there are atheists.” His remark on counting noses is irrelevant since the question is not why there are more believers than nonbelievers but why are there hundreds of millions of nonbelievers. His remarks on “distant lands” is irrelevant since the question is distant times, not lands.

CONCLUSION

In his conclusion Dr. Fernandes boasts of the explanatory power of theism over atheism. However, theistic explanations of the problem of evil and of the existence of hundreds of millions of nonbelievers are problematic. Atheism has no such problems. Moreover, a theory such that is inconsistent and lacks rational support, such as theism, can hardly have great explanatory power. As I have shown, atheism is a consistent and a rationally supported position.

ENDNOTES

1  I owe this point to Cynthia Rubio.

2  See Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, Chapter 13.

3   In a footnote, Dr. Fernandes tries to show that an Independent Being has all the attributes of a theistic God. But his argument begs the question at many points. For example, he assumes without argument that an Independent Being would have all perfections. However, it is unclear why a independent being would have to be morally perfect (or indeed have any moral properties) and to have the property of being all knowing. An Independent Being only means what it says: its existence is not dependent on anything else. No more should be inferred or smuggled in.

Fourth Statement: Phil Fernandes

Phil Fernandes/Michael Martin Debate

Fourth Statement: Phil Fernandes
Dr. Fernandes’ Closing Statement

The big bang model and the second law of thermodynamics reveal that space, time, matter, and energy had a beginning. Therefore, the universe had a beginning. Dr. Martin has agreed with me concerning this premise. Still, he entertains the absurd idea that the universe popped into existence without a cause. Cosmologists who accept this idea redefine “nothing” so that it becomes a whole lot of something. But if we acknowledge that the universe had an absolute beginning (as shown by the big bang model), then it is more reasonable to conclude that the beginning of the universe was caused than to assume that it popped into existence out of nothing.1

Contrary to Martin’s criticisms, I see no difficulty with a Being that exists outside of time causing effects in time, just as immaterial causes like sorrow can cause material effects like tears.

I argued for the existence of a totally independent Being to ground the continuing existence of a dependent universe. I have already responded to Dr. Martin’s accusation that I have committed the fallacy of composition. The reader will have to decide for himself who is right on this point. However, even if one agrees with Dr. Martin that part of the universe is totally independent, then the dependent parts of the universe would depend upon the independent part of the universe for their existence. What Martin calls the independent part of the universe would actually be the sustaining Cause of the universe.2

Dr. Martin questions the legitimacy of probability estimates in the design argument. I disagree. The design, order, and conditions for life found in the universe are better explained by the theistic hypothesis (i.e., an intelligent Being designed the universe) than by the atheistic explanation (the universe is the product of random and mindless causes). The universe displays remarkable similarities with what we know to be products of intelligent design. It does not bear a resemblance to what we know to be products of random, mindless causes. The theistic hypothesis makes the design in the universe probable; the atheistic hypothesis makes the design in the universe improbable.3 Therefore, the design argument shows theism to be more probable than atheism.

Dr. Martin misunderstands my argument from human knowledge. I did not state that human knowledge is only possible in a theistic universe. I stated that theism (the belief that a rational God created the universe) better explains the possibility of human knowledge than atheism (the belief that the universe has a non-rational cause or no cause). I explained why human knowledge is to be expected in theistic universe; Dr. Martin never explained why he thinks it should be expected in a universe without God.

Martin’s two arguments for objective moral values completely fail since they both deny the existence of absolute moral laws. First, ethical naturalism reduces moral values to biological or psychological properties (i.e., “whatever is approved by most people” or “whatever is approved by an impartial, ideal observer”). It confuses what ought to be with what is, and reduces moral values to non-moral properties.4 Second, noncognitivist views of ethics reject the notion that moral statements are true or false. Moral statements merely express the speaker’s emotions or issue a command.5 Therefore, the statement “torturing innocent babies is wrong” is neither true nor false. Any worldview that cannot consistently call the action of torturing innocent babies absolutely and always wrong is a worldview that should be rejected. It is self-evidently true that torturing innocent babies is wrong. The dilemma for the atheist is as follows. If he accepts the reality of eternal, unchanging moral values, then they are “just there.” If he denies their reality then he cannot call the torturing of innocent babies wrong in any eternal and absolute sense. In short, atheism is either a non-explanation or it denies eternal, unchanging moral values. A theist can be consistent with his worldview and call rape and incest wrong in an absolute sense. But this option is not open to the consistent atheist, for his world view has no room for eternal, unchanging, prescriptive moral laws that stand in judgment on the actions of all men at all times.

Atheism also fails to adequately explain the existence of eternal, unchanging truths, for it rejects the existence of an eternal unchanging Mind. Atheism cannot offer man any eternal significance. Temporary meaning in life is insufficient, for our accomplishments die with the death of the universe — there is no ultimate purpose in a universe void of God.

Dr. Martin’s three arguments for atheism fail. First, there is no inconsistency in believing that God innately knows all things, whereas finite minds must learn many things through acquaintance and experience. Second, an atheist would have to be omniscient in order to prove that God cannot bring good out of evil and human suffering. In fact, evil and suffering often lead people to God. It may be a greater good for man to learn to trust God despite lacking a full understanding as to why God allows the amount of evil that exists in the world. Dr. Martin assumes that “lessening human suffering is good.” However, this is a prescriptive absolute moral law, implying the existence of an absolute moral Lawgiver. Third, Martin’s argument against God from nonbelief fails. If a person in a distant land would be willing to accept the theistic God, then the theistic God would have no problem giving a missionary the desire to preach the gospel in that land. Also, counting noses can backfire on atheists, for there are many more theists than there are atheists.

In conclusion, Dr. Martin has presented no persuasive arguments as to why one should expect absolute moral values, eternal and unchanging truths, the beginning of the universe, the universe’s continuing existence, the design and order in the universe, ultimate meaning in life, the sanctity of human life, the possibility of human knowledge, and the ultimate defeat of evil in a universe without God. I have shown that these aspects of human experience are predicted by the theistic hypothesis. Martin’s alternatives to my arguments are highly speculative, extremely improbable, and very unconvincing. It is apparent that he is willing to entertain absurdities (such as the universe evolving into existence from nothing, an infinite number of unverifiable universes, the rejection of eternal and unchanging prescriptive moral laws, etc.) in order to escape the conclusion that the theistic God does exist. In short, Martin fails to explain why atheism is a superior hypothesis to that of theism. He is willing to attack theism, but does not even attempt to show that atheism offers a better explanation for the nine aspects of human experience I discussed in my opening statement. Martin unsuccessfully attacks the explanatory power of theism while failing to show that atheism has any explanatory power.6 My thesis remains intact. It is more reasonable to be a theist than it is to be an atheist.

ENDNOTES

1  See William Lane Craig, “In Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Faith and Philosophy, vol. 14, April 1997, 236-247.

2  Further argumentation (like that of my opening statement) can show that this totally independent Being has the attributes of the theistic God. For instance, a totally independent Being, by definition, cannot be limited by any other being. Therefore, there can only be one totally independent Being, for two or more would limit one another. Also, a Being without limits must have all perfections to an unlimited degree. However, for two beings to differ, one must lack a perfection that the other being has or have a perfection that the other being lacks. Therefore, there can only be one Being without limits. The design argument proves that this Being is an intelligent Being, and the moral argument shows that this Being must be a moral Being.

3  J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, 71-75.

4  lbid., 108-113.

5  lbid.

6  Copleston commented on the evasive tactics of atheist thinkers in the following words: “If one does not wish to embark on the path which leads to the affirmation of transcendent being … one has to deny the reality of the problem, assert that things ‘just are’ and that the existential problem in question is a pseudo-problem. And if one refuses even to sit down at the chess-board and make a move, one cannot, of course, be checkmated.” F. C. Copleston, Aquinas (New York: Penguin Books, 1955), 128.

Third Statement: Michael Martin

Phil Fernandes/Michael Martin Debate

Third Statement: Michael Martin
A Response to Phil Fernandes’ Third Statement

INTRODUCTION

Atheism in the positive sense is the view that the theistic God, an all good, all knowing, all powerful being who created the Universe, does not exist. Throughout this debate I have defended atheism in this sense in three different ways. First, I have shown that Dr. Fernandes’ objections are based on unsupported assumptions about what atheism entails. He does not argue for but merely asserts that atheists cannot give an account of knowledge, cannot have absolute standards of morality, cannot live meaningful lives, and so on. Second, I have shown that Dr. Fernandes’ arguments–variants of the Cosmological Argument and the Design Argument–for believing in God either contain unsupported premises or else “prove” something less than the theistic God, In addition, his attempts to rebut my refutations have been uniformly unsuccessful. Third, I presented three arguments for disbelief in the theistic God–the Argument from Incoherence, the Argument from Evil, and the Argument from Nonbelief– and have shown that Dr. Fernandes’ attempts to rebut these have failed.

Unfortunately, Dr. Fernandes’ Third Statement is almost exclusively a rehash of his early ineffectual defense of theism, his unsuccessful criticisms of atheism, and his unavailing rebuttals of my arguments. In what follows I will once again show the difficulties of Dr. Fernandes’ position.

CRITICISMS OF ATHEISM

Consider yet again Dr. Fernandes’ question begging. In his Third Statement he once more claims that human knowledge is only possible in a universe that contains God. But he still gives absolutely no reason to suppose that this is true. He tries to escape the problem by saying that he is merely suggesting a hypothesis. But hypotheses should only be taken seriously if they are supported. He provides no support.

Dr. Fernandes accuses me of not arguing for the possibility of human knowledge in a Godless universe and he insists that I personally must show how secular knowledge without God is possible. However, since he has not demonstrated any problems, it is not necessary that I do so. Indeed, I have already gone beyond what is required of me by pointing out to Dr. Fernandes important existing secular epistemological theories in order to show that secular knowledge is possible. Instead of attempting to refute these theories, he simply rejects my appeal to them out of hand.

Suppose the situation were reversed. Suppose I had suggested that knowledge was only possible in a Godless universe but I gave no argument for this position while rejecting appeals to theistic theories of epistemology as prima facie counterexamples to my hypothesis. In this hypothetical situation, I believe Dr. Fernandes would have been ill-advised to try to answer my unsupported charge. In fact, in my Second Statement I did raise problems with theistic epistemology. However, I did not merely assert these as Dr. Fernandes now asserts the impossibility of atheistic epistemology. I presented a four paragraph argument in direct response to Dr. Fernandes’ appeal to Genesis 1: 26-27. Does Dr. Fernandes answer this argument in his latest statement? In fact, he ignores this argument except to say that he is merely presenting a hypothesis. But why should we believe this hypothesis?

Dr. Fernandes uses similar tactics in his claim that absolute moral standards are impossible in a Godless universe. Again he give no argument for this claim but instead demands that I demonstrate the possibility of secular absolute standards. However, since no problem has been demonstrated with having absolute moral standards in secular ethics, there is no reason for me to do so. Again he rejects my appeal to existing objective theories of ethics as prima facie counterexamples to his claim. In addition, he objects to my appealing to the arguments for objective ethics I used in my own book on the grounds that he argues that he is debating me and not my 500 page book. But my discussion of ethics is not 500 pages–it is only about six. Since he has refused to read my book, for his convenience I will briefly summarize my position in a footnote. 1

To make matters worse, although Dr. Fernandes demands that I defend atheistic ethics although he brings up no problems against it, he refuses to defend theistic ethics against one of its primary problems which I have raised in this debate. One of the most difficult problems facing theistic ethics is epistemological: how does one know what God commands since what God commands is the standard of moral right and wrong? The traditional answer is that one knows by divine revelation. This answer raises the difficult questions of which purported source of God’s word should be chosen since there are conflicting sources and of how the chosen source should be interpreted since there are conflicting interpretations of any source. Surely any rational acceptance of theistic ethics must come to grips with these questions. Unfortunately, Dr. Fernandes has explicitly refused to answer this challenge to his position in this debate. 2

Dr. Fernandes attempts in two sentences to reply to another problem of theistic ethics: the Euthyphro dilemma. However, I presented serious problems with the sort of reply in a recent paper. 3 But since Dr. Fernandes refuses to respond to any argument not explicitly brought up in this debate, I will summarize my criticisms in a footnote. 4

Dr. Fernandes again begs the question by assuming that a person’s life can only have meaning if it is eternal. Thus, he assumes without argument that the goals of happiness, contribution to knowledge, and contribution to one’s community can only have meaning if one lives forever. 5

ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM

In his arguments for the theistic God Dr. Fernandes relies on two versions of the Cosmological Argument and one version of the Design Argument. The first version of the Cosmological Argument–the Kalam Cosmological Argument–maintains that since the Universe has a beginning it must be caused and that cause must be the theistic God. In response I have argued that the possibility that the Universe is uncaused has been entertained by many leading cosmologists. It should not therefore be dismissed as absurd, which is what Dr. Fernandes did in his Second Statement. Second, I pointed out that even if the Universe has a cause this need not be the theistic God. Third, I argued that because causality in its standard sense is a temporal notion, it is incompatible with the Universe (including time and space) being caused by God.

I am pleased to see that Dr. Fernandes no longer dismisses the possibility of the Universe occurring without a cause as absurd. Relying on arguments from quantum theory as interpreted by William Craig 6, his position now seems to be that quantum theory is irrelevant to the origin of the Universe since quantum theory assumes space and time. Since he assumes that I base my argument directly on quantum theory, he thinks that my argument fails. But careful readers of this debate will recall that I do not base my argument on quantum theory in any direct way. My point is that quantum theory indicates that science is not committed to causal determinism as Dr. Fernandes claims. In fact, the relevance of quantum theory to cosmology is much more controversial than Dr. Fernandes seems to suggest. Indeed, one finds cosmologists explicitly linking quantum notions and Big Bang cosmology. 7 I, for one, certainly have never implied that there is universal agreement among cosmologists. I have only wished to suggest that the hypothesis of the spontaneous generation of the Universe “out of nothing” is still considered plausible by many leading cosmologists and cannot be dismissed as an absurd view. (Of course, spontaneous generation cosmologists could be wrong. This goes without saying. But the same thing can be said about their opponents.) I will only add here that such cosmologists, despite Dr. Fernandes’ suggestion to the contrary, do discuss what is meant by nothing. 8

My second point against the Kalam Cosmological Argument was that even if there was a cause of the Universe, this cause need not be the theistic God. Dr. Fernandes attempts to counter this by arguing that his case is cumulative and that he has ruled out the other possibilities by his other arguments. But where has be done so? He refers us to his Opening Statement where he assumes a monotheistic and infinite God but gives no arguments in support of this. All of his various points–the causal beginning of the Universe, the design in the Universe, the meaningfulness of life, the existence of absolute moral standard–are compatible with polytheism or a finite god.

Dr. Fernandes dismisses my third point against the Kalam Cosmological Argument that causality in its standard sense is a temporal notion and, as such, is incompatible with the Universe (including time and space) being caused by God because he confuses the issue by introducing a discussion of other dimensions of time. My point, however, is that it makes no sense to speak of something in time–or, indeed, of the beginning of time–as being caused by something outside of time. Adolf GrŸnbaum has pointed out that the supposition that it does make sense has generated creationist pseudo-explanation in cosmology. 9

Dr. Fernandes’ second version of the Cosmological Argument is that, since parts of the Universe are dependent, the whole must be. I pointed out that Dr. Fernandes committed the fallacy of composition. He continues to do so when he assumes in his Third Statement that the dependency of the parts of the Universe with respect to Universe is like the color of the individual tiles of the floor with respect to the whole floor. Nor does it follow, as Dr. Fernandes assumes, that if the Universe as a whole is independent, it is “virtually synonymous with God.” After all such a Universe would not have most of the traditional properties of God: omniscience, omnipotence, etc.

Dr. Fernandes’ defense of Design Argument confuses two different points: the legitimacy of probability estimates in the Design Argument and the legitimacy of probability estimates in arguments that use the hypothesis of world ensembles. In his Opening Statement he argued that this Universe is astonishingly improbable if it occurred by chance. I replied that probability estimates are meaningful only given certain assumptions and that these assumptions cannot be made in the case of the Universe. Dr. Fernandes continues to ignore this.

In relation to the second point I said that IF such probability estimates could be made, they could be used to argue for the high probability of this Universe without recourse to design. It is at this point I suggested the world ensembles idea. To be sure, such an idea is speculative–I never assumed otherwise– but it is no more speculative than the hypothesis of a theistic God and has fewer conceptual problems. 10 However, nothing in my argument hinges on this idea. The important point is that my criticism of Dr. Fernandes’ appeal to probability estimates remains unrebutted. And yet the possibility of making such estimates is essential to his version of the Design Argument.

I also argued that the Design Argument, even if sound, does not prove theism and is compatible with other hypotheses. Since appeals to such events such as miracles and Christ’s resurrection have been ruled out of bounds for the purpose of this debate by Dr. Fernandes, he resorts to his “cumulative case” to support his theistic interpretation of design. However, as I have already pointed out, Dr. Fernandes’ cumulative case does not rule out other interpretations and is compatible with other hypotheses such as polytheism and a finite God.

ATHEISTIC ARGUMENTS

I gave three arguments for atheism in my Opening Statement: The Argument from Incoherence, the Argument from Evil and the Argument from Nonbelief.

In the Argument from Incoherence I argue that God’s attributes are not only inconsistent (as specified by the Bible) but His essential attributes are in conflict with one another (as specified by philosophers). 11 Dr. Fernandes’ position on Biblical argument is difficult to understand. In his Second Statement he said that my Biblical arguments are irrelevant to this debate but he decided to address them any way. In my Second Statement I showed how his attempt to answer my argument was implausible. In his Third Statement he refused to address them at all since “Christianity is not on trial”. However, he appeals to Christianity to help his own case. 12

With respect to conflicts among the attributes specified by philosophers, Dr. Fernandes ignores completely my argument from knowledge by acquaintance, he fails to answer one of my main criticisms of the coherence of omniscience 13, and he unsuccessfully tries to answer the argument from knowledge how. He seems to assumes that knowing how to swim is reducible to knowing certain facts about swimming. Consequently, God could know how to swim without having a body. But a little reflection should convince him otherwise. On the one hand, paralyzed people can write knowledgeable books on swimming and not know how to swim, that is, not have the requisite physical skill. On the other hand, animals–not to mention many people–know how to swim and yet have no factual knowledge about swimming.

In the Argument from Evil I showed how the existence of evil makes the existence of an all good, all powerful God implausible. I showed in my Second Statement that all of Dr. Fernandes’ attempts to reconcile evil and the existence of God fail. I argued that his appeal to the Free Will Defense (FWD) as a defense of moral evil is unavailing and that his defense of natural evil is unsuccessful. In his Third Statement he appeals to a new justification for evil: the existence of evil is a mystery beyond our human ken. However, if this is his position, then what was the point of his arguments in his earlier statements? In these he assumed that evil was not a mystery and, indeed, that he had a good idea of why evil existed. Has Dr. Fernandes retreated to a new position in the light of my criticisms or he is simply confused? His unsuccessful attempt in his Third Statement to answer my earlier criticisms is inexplicable. If he now believes that evil is mystery, why is he still trying to provide reasons for its existence? 14

In any case, Dr. Fernandes’ appeal to the mystery of the evil is problematic in its own right. On most interpretations of the theistic God, He desires His creatures to love Him. However, the mystery of evil conflicts with this desire. It is difficult for rational humans to love God when they do not understand why there is so much evil. If the reasons for evil are beyond human’s ken, God could at least make THIS abundantly clear. Why does He not do so? Moreover, why does not an all powerful God have the power to raise human intelligence so humans can understand why there is so much evil? If there is reason for not doing this, then why is THIS not made clear? There is mystery on top of mystery here which seems to conflict explicitly with God’s desire to be loved.

In contrast, nonbelievers need not appeal to mystery in explaining moral evil. Murder, cruelty, genocide, torture are explainable in various ways–psychologically, sociologically, historically–depending on which particular moral evils one is talking about. Sometimes, of course, the reasons for some moral evil is not known. But there is no problem in principle. The explanation of moral evil will depend on the empirical evidence and the social scientific theories available. The same is true of natural evil. The explanations of, for example, hurricanes, floods, and many diseases that cause human death and suffering are fairly well-known. In some cases, of course, we may be ignorant of the cause of natural evil. Again there is no problem in principle. The explanation of natural evil will depend on the empirical evidence and the natural scientific theories available.

Dr. Fernandes wants to know what I mean by evil. I would have thought that the examples I used to illustrate moral and natural evil made that fairly clear. Indeed, I would be surprised if there is not a great deal of agreement between us on what counts as evil. At the very least I am referring to suffering and premature death. No doubt far more is included by the concept, e.g., dishonesty and unfairness. But such refinement is not really necessary for my purposes since a rather minimal account of the meaning of evil is sufficient for making the Argument from Evil. Dr. Fernandes asked what my remedy for evil is. Of course, remedies will vary with the specific evil at issue. For example, possible remedies for the evil of rape might include women’s self-defense courses and the elimination of gender stereotypes by education. Possible remedies for the evil of AIDS might include education in safe sex, developing an AIDS antidote, and needle exchange programs. These possible remedies, of course, would have to be tested in light of experience to see how they work.

In the Argument for Nonbelief which I presented in my Opening Statement I argued that if God exists He wants everyone to believe in Him. Since He has the capacity to produce much more belief than there is now, why is there so much nonbelief? I argued that there are various ways God could increase the number of nonbelievers without intervening with human free will. I showed in my Second Statement that all of Dr. Fernandes’ rebuttals fail. In his Third Statement, he again wrongly assumes that in order to increase belief God would have to force people to believe. However, his main rebuttal now seems to be based on an appeal to Molinism, the view that God has knowledge of certain counterfactuals about how people would respond if, for example, they were to be presented with the Gospel message. Thus, God knew from all eternity that 12th Century American Indians would not have accepted Christ even if Christianity had been attractively presented to them and consequently they did not deserve to be saved. But this suggestion does not explain the mystery of why a high proportion American Indians in later centuries did accept Christianity when given the opportunity. 15 Moreover, it is difficult to reconcile this idea with the assumed efficacy of Christian missionary work, that is, the assumption that there are many people who would accept Christ if they were preached to. 16

CONCLUSION

In his conclusion, Dr. Fernandes lapses into metaphor, claiming that I throw rocks at theism while refusing to give us the address of the glass house called atheism. I would have thought that, if metaphors are appropriate, the outcome of the debate so far reveals that the glass house of theism is completely shattered while the brick house of atheism (whose address believers know well) is without a scratch.

Metaphors aside, I have shown the utter failure of Dr. Fernandes’ case. Dr. Fernandes claims I either misunderstands his thesis or choose to ignore it. On the contrary, I understand his thesis all too well and, far from ignoring it, have refuted it point by point. What I have refused to do is attempt to answer Dr. Fernandes’ unargued for charges against atheism. For some unstated reason, he seems to suppose that when he fails to give arguments for his so-called cumulative case he can defend himself by saying: “Don’t forget. I am only putting forth a hypothesis”. For some unexplained reason, he thinks that the strength of atheism over theism is not manifest when his case for thesis has been destroyed and my atheistic arguments are successfully defended. For some inexplicable reason he believes I should be doing more than refuting the arguments for theism, defending atheism against criticisms, and providing reasons for denying God’s existence. In contrast, any reasonable person would suppose that doing this successfully shows the advantages of atheism over theism and provides a strong case for atheism. 17

ENDNOTES

1  Let us consider two ways in which atheism is compatible with objective morality. First, objective morality could be based on ethical naturalism–the view that ethical properties such as being good or being morally obligatory are identical with natural properties. Naturalism in ethics can take many forms and need not result in a position that would be characterized as objective ethics. However, naturalism is also compatible with analyses of ethical properties that are not subjective.

The late Roderick Firth, a Harvard philosophy professor, proposed the most plausible version of naturalism that is not subjective. According to his view, ethical terms such as “good” are analyzed in terms of what an ideal observer would approve under ideal conditons. These conditions would include being fully informed, being completely empathetic, being completely dispassionate and unbiased, and completely consistent. So to say that honesty is good would be to say that if there were an ideal observer under ideal condition, it would approve of honesty. This analysis entails a decision procedure for ethics: one makes ethical decisions by seeing what one would approve of when one approximates to these ideal conditions. Appealing to these criteria defines what moral good is and provides the criteria for adjudicating ethical disagreements: if there is disagreement over some ethical issue, one looks to see if there is agreement over the facts, whether there is hidden bias, consistency with analogous principles, and so on.

Objective morality could also be based on a sophisticated version of non-cognitivism–the view that ethical statements are neither true nor false and do not state facts but have other functions. On recent sophisticated versions of non-cognitivism ethical expressions are used to make proposals, recommendations, advice, and so on. In its most plausible versions these recommendations, proposals, and so on are to be made from a particular point of view: a point of view that purports to be fully informed, empathetic, unbiased, and consistent. Ethical disagreement would be attributed in the vast majority, if not all, of the cases to differences in factual belief, hidden biases, and so on. William Frankena, a University of Michigan ethical theorist, advocated this form of non-cognitivism.

2  He says: “The issues that Martin raises about conflicting sources claiming to represent God’s revelation and various punishments for crimes have absolutely nothing to do with this debate. Therefore, I will not address them here. This debate concerns theism verses atheism. Whether or not God wrote a book is an entirely different issue.”

3  Michael Martin, “Atheism, Christian Theism, and Rape,” July 23, 1997

4  Some theists suppose that the Euthyphro dilemma can be avoided by basing morality on the necessary attributes of God’s character rather than directly on His condemnation. It may seem that to say that God condemns rape as wrong because His character is necessarily good avoids the dilemma, but this is an illusion. For example, Greg Bahnsen argued that in the Euthyphro Plato set up a “false antithesis”: “The truth of the matter is that good is not independent of God. Certain behavior is good because God approves of it, and God approves of it because it is the creaturely expression of His holiness — in other words, it is good. To be good is to be like God, and we can only know what behavior is good if God reveals and approves of it. The important point is that good is what God approves and cannot be ascertained independent of Him. . . “(Theonomy in Christian Ethics, p. 284)

Unfortunately, however, Bahnsen’s position is not clear. The quotation suggests both that something is good because God approves of it and that God approves of it because it is good. But these two positions cannot both be maintained at once. Suppose that “X because of Y” means “X is caused by Y”. This would mean that when one says that rape is bad because God disapproved of it one means that God caused rape to be bad by disapproving of it. But if one says that God disapproved of rape because it is bad, this would mean that the badness of rape caused God to disapprove of it. But how can what God caused by disapproving of it have caused God to disapprove of it? If “X because of Y” means “Y is the reason for X,” a similar problem arises. If the reason for rape being bad is God’s disapproval of it, how can it be the case that rape being bad is the reason for God’s disapproval of rape?

In any case, appealing to God’s character only postpones the problem since the dilemma can be reformulated in terms of His character. Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character? Is there an independent standard of good or does God’s character set the standard? If God’s character is the way it is because it is good, then there is an independent standard of goodness by which to evaluate God’s character. For example, suppose God condemns rape because of His just and merciful character. His character is just and merciful because mercy and justice are good. Since God is necessarily good, God is just and merciful. According to this independent standard of goodness, being merciful and just is precisely what a good character involves. In this case, even if God did not exist, one could say that a merciful and just character is good. Human beings could use this standard to evaluate people’s character and actions based on this character. They could do this whether or not God exists.

Suppose God’s character is good simply because it is God’s character. Then if God’s character was cruel and unjust, these attributes would be good. In such a case God might well condone rape since this would be in keeping with His character. But could not one reply that God could not be cruel and unjust since by necessity God must be good? It is true that by necessity God must be good. But unless we have some independent standard of goodness then whatever attributes God has would by definition be good: God’s character would define what good is. It would seem that if God could not be cruel and unjust, then God’s character must necessarily exemplify some independent standard of goodness. Using this standard one could say that cruelty and injustice are not good whether God exists or not.

This attempt to avoid the dilemma by basing objective morality on God’s necessary character has another problem. It assumes that there would not be an objective morality without God. However, this seems to beg the question against an objective atheistic ethics. After all, why would the nonexistence of God adversely affect the goodness of mercy, compassion, and justice? Yet, this is precisely what would happen if being part of God’s character created the goodness of mercy, compassion and justice. This point can perhaps be made in another way. One could affirm the objective immorality of rape and deny the existence of God with perfect consistency. There is no contradiction in claiming “Rape is objectively evil and God does not exist.”

5  He says: “Martin fails to realize that all these things lose any meaningfulness if the entire universe will some day die. What contribution to knowledge would there be when knowledge is no more? Can loved ones have happiness when they have ceased to exist long ago? Can a community enjoy Dr. Martin’s contributions when the community (along with Martin and the rest of the universe) is extinct? Without the existence of God and life after death, life becomes ultimately meaningless.” Note that no reasons are given for the first and last sentences in this quotation and his rhetorical questions are confused. For example, of course, my loved ones will not be happy when they cease to exist. But what is the relevance of this to the question of whether my contribution to their happiness while they are alive gives my life meaning? Dr. Fernandes’ other questions are confused in a similar way.

6  Craig’s criticisms of recent critiques of Kalam Cosmological Argument has been evaluated by Graham Oppy who concludes, “the points raised by Davies, Hawking, and Grünbaum do suffice to undermine the dialectical efficacy of the kalam cosmological arguments.” See Graham Oppy, “Professor William Craig’s Criticism of Critiques of Kalam Cosmological Arguments by Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking, and Adolf Grunbaum,” Faith and Philosophy, 12, 1995, p. 237.

7  See, for example, Adolf Grünbaum’s discussion of Weisskopf in his paper “Creation as a Pseudo-Explanation in Current Physical Cosmology,” Erkenntnis, 35, 1991, p. 249.

8  See note 7.

9  See note 7.

10  For example, unlike the concept of the theistic God it is not incoherent.

11  Dr. Fernandes contends I cannot bring up contradictions if I assume an atheistic worldview. However, he gives no argument for this claim.

12  He says: “Christianity can easily justify the possibility of human knowledge, for it teaches that a rational God created man in His image…” He goes on to mention Christianity two more time in this paragraph to support his case.

13  I said: “Dr. Fernandes attempts to answer my argument that God could not know He was omniscient by arguing that God could know the set of mathematical truths in one eternal thought and not one at a time. As far I can see, this does not answer the crux of my argument that God would have to know there were no facts He did not know.”

14  (1) In my Opening Statement I pointed out that the FWD assumes contracausal freedom (CCF) and CCF assumes that brain events do not cause human decisions. However, Dr. Fernandes gives no evidence for this assumption. In his Second Statement he confused the thesis that brain events cause human decisions with materialism. He still confuses this. Mind-body dualism is compatible with determinism. Dr. Fernandes thinks otherwise but gives no argument. I took him–apparently mistakenly– to suppose that if human decisions were caused by brain states, punishment would not be possible. He now says that his claim was that if brain events cause human decision, punishment would be absurd since people would not be responsible for what they do. Yes, criminal law assumes people must be responsible in order to be punished. However, unfortunately for Dr. Fernandes’ thesis, in a criminal trial the question of whether events in the defendant’s brain caused the defendant to act in illegal ways is not at issue. In a criminal trial the Court tries to decide questions such as whether the action of the defendant was a proximate cause of the wrong, whether the defendant intended to bring about the wrong, whether the defendant was acting under duress, and so on. I recommend that Dr. Fernandes consult any textbook on criminal law or consider what is at issue in any well publicized criminal trial to see how far removed his ideas are from legal responsibility.

(2) In my Opening Statement I argued that God could have made human beings with a tendency to do good and that this would have eliminated a lot of moral evil and yet would be compatible with CCF. In his Second Statement Dr. Fernandes maintains that humans were indeed so created and their present tendency towards evil is the result of the Fall. In my Second Statement I raised several problems with this idea none of which are answered by Dr. Fernandes in this Third Statement. He pleads now that he was merely suggesting a hypothesis. But the problems with a hypothesis must be answered if it is to be taken seriously.

(3) In my Opening Statement I argued that people could be created who were less vulnerable to physical attack and that natural laws could be created which made it more difficult to harm human beings. Both of these possibilities are compatible with CCF. In his Second Statement Dr. Fernandes attempted to answer this by maintaining that if God did not allow people to suffer, there would be no incentive for compassion. However, I argued in my Second Statement that if God is all powerful, He could have created less evil and still permitted the exercise of compassion. If God was good, He would want to do this. In his Third Statement Dr. Fernandes maintains that God might have good reasons–presumably which He has not revealed to us–for allowing so much evil– evil that is not necessary for compassion. This seems to be an appeal to the unknown reason argument and suffers from the same problems specified in the text.

15  Nor does it explain why there are so many more people in American and Europe than in Asia and Africa who accept Christ given the opportunity. See Theodore Drange, Nonbelief and Evil, (unpublished), p. 75.

16  See Drange, Nonbelief and Evil, p. 75.

17  See my definition of atheism in the Introduction to this statement.

Third Statement: Phil Fernandes

Theism vs. Atheism

Phil Fernandes/Michael Martin Debate

Third Statement: Phil Fernandes
A Response to Michael Martin’s Second Statement

INTRODUCTION

Once again Dr. Martin should be commended for the graciousness and brilliance he has displayed in this debate. It is truly an honor to debate a man of his stature.

In his second statement, Dr. Martin accuses me of “begging the question” against atheism. However, he fails to understand that I am presenting theism as a hypothesis. I have argued that theism is superior to atheism as an explanation for nine different aspects of human experience. I have challenged Dr. Martin to prove me wrong by pitting his world view against theism in these nine areas. But, Dr. Martin has ignored my challenge. He has refused to defend atheism in these nine areas. Rather, he merely attempts to tear down the theistic world view. Apparently, he does not have enough confidence in his atheism to show the readers how it fares in comparison to theism in the nine areas I have noted.

In this section of the debate, I will show that Dr. Martin’s attack on theism, at best, merely shows that finite, fallible minds run into difficulties when confronted with the complexities of an infinite Mind.1 He does not prove that theism is contradictory. But, first, I will show that my thesis remains intact: theism is more reasonable than atheism.

MY THESIS: THEISM IS MORE REASONABLE THAN ATHEISM

1. The Beginning of the Universe

Michael Martin agrees with me that the universe had a beginning, but argues that it does not need a cause. He bases this view on the fact that many leading cosmologists believe that the universe came into existence uncaused. In response to Dr. Martin, several things should be noted. First, Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty is not in question here. Rather, faulty applications of this principle are what I reject. Second, Heisenberg’s principle is space and time dependent.2 If absolutely nothing existed, there would be no space and no time. In fact, there would be no matter, no energy, no God, and no rules of quantum physics. J. P. Moreland has stated:

Nothingness is not an entity which has an equal amount of positive and negative properties which comprise the stuff for the production of a specific state of affairs. Nothingness has no properties whatever, and it is not identical to an existent state of affairs where the positive and negative charge, or the positive and negative energy, is equal. The latter contains some sort of stuff (protons and electrons or energy); the former contains nothing.3

If nothing existed, even quantum events would be impossible. I challenge Dr. Martin to define what he and his cosmologist friends define as “nothing.”4 Third, William Lane Craig points out that, even if we assume that quantum events are uncaused (it may be that these events have causes though we have not been able to find these causes), this tells us nothing about the cause of the beginning of the universe. Quantum events pertain to the change of condition of particles, not the bringing of these particles into existence from absolutely nothing.5 Fourth, in reference to the beginning of the universe, cosmologists have proposed many different competing interpretations and applications of quantum theory.6 If Martin is implying universal agreement among contemporary cosmologists, he is simply mistaken. Fifth, even if cosmologists did agree, I do not accept the ex cathedra pronouncements of a supposedly infallible scientific community. This community of experts has been wrong before; they can be wrong again.

In short, if the universe had a beginning (Dr. Martin has conceded this point), it needs a Cause. Martin has said that this Cause might not be the theistic God. However, my argument for the God of theism is a cumulative case. In my opening statement I argued that this Cause is infinite, one, moral, intelligent, etc. However, Martin ignores my cumulative case and mistakenly handles each argument individually and independently from the rest.

Also, I see no logical problem with stating that in eternity God created the space-time universe. In this case, the decision to create would not be made in time, but in eternity. I am surprised that Martin argues that a cause must precede its effect in time. Many of his cosmologist friends now accept other dimensions of time, and many theists are open to the possibility that eternity is one of these dimensions.7

2. The Continuing Existence of the Universe

Dr. Martin accuses me of misinterpreting Aquinas’ five ways to prove God’s existence. However, I never intended to repeat Aquinas’ five ways verbatim. Rather, I utilized certain aspects of his arguments and combine them into one argument. The argument is mine; the concepts came from Aquinas.

I argued that if all the parts of the universe are dependent then the entire universe must be dependent. Dr. Martin accuses me of committing the fallacy of composition. I disagree. Just as a floor made up of only green tiles is a green floor, so too a universe made up of only dependent parts is a dependent universe. Adding dependent beings will never produce an independent Being. Just because logically necessary propositions can be made up of contingent propositions does not prove that adding dependent beings can produce an independent Being. Martin is here using logical propositions with metaphysical realities in his analogy, thus making it a weak analogy at best. My example deals with metaphysical realities throughout.

Martin rejects my view that the property of dependency is additive. However, if the universe has emergent properties over and above the properties of its parts, then the atheist is no better off. Geisler and Feinberg state:

The atheist has a choice. He may assert that all the contingent parts of the universe are equal to the whole and therefore the whole is also contingent (since adding up contingents only yields a contingent). Or, he may claim that the whole is not caused – it is simply there (as Bertrand Russell said). But once the atheist admits there is an eternal, uncaused something which is more than all the finite parts of the universe and is the cause upon which they are dependent, then he has acknowledged what the theist has argued for all along, namely, God. Once the atheist has acknowledged this much, all that remains is to see whether this Necessary Being is personal, good, and so on.8

The only universe that science knows is the entire collection of dependent beings. To speak of an independent universe is to use the word “universe” in an entirely different manner. It is to speak of an unseen reality that is not limited by time, matter, or space. In short, the “independent universe” of the atheist is virtually synonymous with what the theist calls “God.”

3. The Design and Order Found in the Universe

Dr. Martin claims that my design argument uses illegitimate probability estimates and that the design found in the universe can be explained by the world ensembles theory. To the contrary, it is the world ensembles theory that should be called into question. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross states:

Gott’s possibility for an infinite number of universes gave some non-theists an opportunity, so they thought, to replace God with chance or, more specifically, with random fluctuations of a primeval radiation field. In other words, they suggested that a random fluctuation out of an infinite number of possible fluctuations in a primeval radiation field could generate a universe with all the conditions necessary for our existence. This suggestion is a flagrant abuse of probability theory. It assumes the benefits of an infinite sample size without any evidence that the sample size exceeds one…. What we see here is another case of the “no-God of the gaps.” It seems that many non-theistic scientists (and others) are relying on gaps, and in this case a very minute one, to provide a way around the theistic implications of scientifically established facts. Surely the burden of proof lies with those who suggest that more than one universe exists or that physical conditions or physical laws were totally different in the period before 10-43 second. Actually, evidence for more than one universe will never be forthcoming…. The universes can never overlap.9

By definition, there cannot be any observable evidence for the existence of these supposed universes. It seems that the cosmologists who hold to the world ensembles theory are willing to go to any extreme to explain away the obvious evidence for intelligent design in the universe-the real universe, the only one we can observe. Again, theism is more reasonable than atheism.

Dr. Martin claims that the argument from design could prove the god of deism just as easily as the God of theism. But, as I pointed out earlier, if deism is true, this would crush atheism as quickly as it would destroy theism. Also, historical arguments for God’s intervention (miracles, fulfilled prophecies, Christ’s resurrection) can be used to refute deism, but that goes beyond the scope of this debate. It should also be noted that my cumulative case for God provides evidence for theism, thus disproving deism.

4. The Possibility of Human Knowledge

I argued that if a rational God created the universe and man, then it makes sense that man is able to know about the universe in which he lives. Martin states that human knowledge is possible within the atheistic world view. However, he offers absolutely no argumentation for this assertion. Though most atheists are probably not epistemological skeptics, this does not automatically mean they are consistent with their atheism.10 I stated that theism is more reasonable than atheism in this area. Martin has not even attempted to refute my assertion.11

5. The Reality of Universal, Unchanging Truths

I stated that the existence of universal, unchanging truths are more consistent with theism than with atheism. Dr. Martin’s response is inadequate. He states that many atheists who believe in universal, unchanging truths are consistent with their world view. Once again, he does not argue for his position – he merely asserts it. If an infinite Mind exists and is the Creator of the universe, then the existence of these eternal truths is to be expected. Martin has given us no reason as to why atheism is more plausible than theism on this point.

6. The Existence of Absolute Moral Values

Eternal, unchanging moral values exist. Murdering innocent children and slavery were always wrong. If the atheist denies eternal, unchanging moral values, then murdering innocent children and the practice of slavery could be morally right 100 years from now. But if the atheist accepts the existence of eternal, unchanging moral values, then he is hard-pressed to explain how his world view could produce such values. Dr. Martin has stated that many atheists have provided a defense of absolute moral values. However, Martin fails to is introduce any argumentation of his own for absolute moral values. Martin does admit to “objective” moral values, but it is less than obvious what he means by this.12 It seems that he is not willing to openly express his views for fear of refutation. Clearly, in the area of eternal, unchanging moral laws, theism a more reasonable explanation than atheism, for theism posits a personal God as the moral lawgiver.

7. The Absurdity of Life Without God

Dr. Martin admits that there is no “cosmic meaning” if atheism is true. Still, he states that there are other senses is which life can have meaning within the atheistic world view. But this ignores the point. If the entire universe will someday cease to exist, can life have any lasting meaning? If there is no meaning with a capital “M,” then any meaning with a small “m” will not suffice. It is irrelevant how a person lived his life if everything will eventually cease to exist.13

8. Respect for Human Life

If theism is true, then we have good reason to believe that human life is sacred and worth protecting. If atheism is true, it is hard to imagine an adequate explanation as to why human life has intrinsic value.

9. The Existence of Evil (it’s cause & ultimate defeat)

Dr. Martin will not tell us if he acknowledges the real existence of evil. If he claims that evil has no objective reality, then he cannot call the horrible actions of Hitler “wrong.” But, if Martin accepts the reality of evil, then how does he explain its source? Does atheism offer any hope that evil will be defeated? Theism offers both an explanation of what evil is and a solution to the problem. Again, theism is superior to atheism.

MARTIN’S THREE ARGUMENTS FOR ATHEISM

Dr. Martin’s “three arguments for atheism” are actually nothing more than three arguments against theism. This is an important distinction, for he does not show the strength of the atheistic hypothesis. Instead, he discusses what he believes to be inconsistencies or weaknesses in the theistic world view.

1. The Argument from Incoherence

Dr. Martin’s claim that the Bible contains contradictions is irrelevant to this debate. This debate is between theism and atheism; Christianity is not on trial. If the readers are interested in further investigating this issue, I recommend Gleason Archer Jr.’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties and Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe’s When Critics Ask.

Martin’s philosophical argumentation on this issue is relevant to this debate. He claims that knowing how to swim necessitates having a body. I disagree. I see no problem with the idea of an omniscient Being foreknowing from all eternity whatever man would learn from his bodily experiences. I draw a sharp distinction between knowledge and how it was attained. God knows everything innately in one eternal thought; man learns much of what he knows through his experiences.

Martin tries to prove that theism has contradictions. However, there can be no such thing as contradictions unless universal, unchanging truths exist. These truths fit well in a theistic worldview, but appear rather out of place in an atheistic world view. Dr. Martin has failed to show that atheism offers an adequate explanation for these universal truths.

Dr. Martin misunderstood my argument concerning actual infinite sets. I did not state that they cannot exist; I stated that they cannot exist outside of a mind. Therefore, God (the infinite Mind) has knowledge of an infinite number of things, but He knows them in one eternal glance. This set could not be learned one member at a time, for an infinite set cannot be traversed.

2. The Argument from Evil

This existence or amount of evil in the world does not disprove the existence of the God of theism. A theist can argue that an all-good, all-powerful God can co-exist with evil so long as this God has a “morally sufficient reason” for allowing the evil which exists. The theist can further argue that God may have chosen not to reveal His reasons for allowing evil in general or in specific situations.14 It only makes sense that finite minds would not be able to fully comprehend the workings of an infinite Mind.

I never stated that if human decisions are caused by brain events, then punishment is impossible. I said that punishment would be absurd, for if human decisions are caused by brain events then human decisions would be biologically determined. People would not be free to choose and therefore not accountable for their actions. We don’t punish someone if their heart fails to function properly. Why should we punish a person when their brain does not function properly? It seems that our criminal justice system presupposes that people are accountable for their decisions. Thus, it assumes that we are not controlled by are bodies; rather, we control our bodies.

Two or more people can share the same idea or knowledge, yet they do not share the same brain or brain events. One cannot weigh a thought or a moral value. These immaterial entities are found in the realm of the mind. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that mind is also immaterial. If the mind is not immaterial, then our beliefs and our behavior is physically determined. If that is the case, then one wonders why Dr. Martin bothers to debate.

Martin states that I am wrong to assume the creation of man in God’s image and the Fall with providing evidence for these events. Again, he is forgetting that I am presenting theism as a hypothesis and showing that it explains certain aspects of human experience in a more plausible fashion than does atheism. Martin has refused to accept my challenge. This may be due to the lack of explanatory power of atheism. I am willing to put theism to the test, but Martin refuses to discuss the atheistic explanation in these areas.

Martin states that God could have permitted less evil and still produce the exercise of compassion. This is true. However, it is possible that there would be less than the right amount of compassion if there were less evil in the world. Also, the exercise of compassion is not the only reason why God allowed evil (as I have shown). How does Martin know that God could have accomplished all of His good purposes with less evil? If an all-good, all-powerful God exists, then He will allow only the amount of evil necessary to accomplish the greatest good. But, since God alone is all-knowing, only He knows the perfect amount of evil. Theism is a consistent hypothesis.

My response to the Euthyphro dilemma is as follows. Moral values flow from God’s good nature. Therefore, the standard is not arbitrary, for God wills only what is actually good. Still, the standard is not something above God, for God is the standard – God is good.

The issues that Martin raises about conflicting sources claiming to represent God’s revelation and various punishments for crimes have absolutely nothing to do with this debate. Therefore, I will not address them here. This debate concerns theism verses atheism. Whether or not God wrote a book is an entirely different issue.

Does Dr. Martin believe in the existence of evil? If no, then that is unfortunate. (How can a person look at the holocaust and not consider it evil?) If yes, then how does he define evil, where did it come from, and what remedy for it does atheism offer?

3. The Argument from Non-Belief

Martin argues that the large number of nonbelievers in the world is evidence against theism. This is simply not the case, for God gave man the freedom to reject His grace. God will not force anyone into heaven. Martin appears to be unaware of Molinism (also known as middle knowledge), which is the basic way I reconcile divine sovereignty and human free will. Basically, God foreknew what free beings would freely choose to do in all possible worlds. God chose to actualize the possible world in which everyone who would freely accept Christ (given certain circumstances) actually do come to Christ. The fact that God foreknew their free choices does not make these choices any less free. Still, God’s choice to predestine the right circumstances (the possible world) essential to persuade these people to freely choose to believe in Christ should not be overlooked. Man is free, but God is still in control since He uses the free choices of men to accomplish His good goals.15

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Martin either misunderstands my thesis or he chooses to ignore it. He never states why atheism is more reasonable than theism in any of the nine aspects of human experience that I mention. He shows only that there are some difficulties with the theistic world view. However, due to our limited knowledge, we will always have difficulty understanding the workings of an infinite Mind. What I have shown is that theism is more reasonable than atheism. On the other hand, Martin has offered absolutely no argumentation for the explanatory power of the atheistic hypothesis. He merely throws rocks at theism, all the while refusing to give us the address of his glass house – a glass house called atheism.

ENDNOTES

1  This is precisely what the theistic hypothesis predicts.

2  I acquired this information through dialogues with a personal friend, Richard Boyd, Ph.D. Quantum events are space and time dependent, for the probability of the occurrence of a quantum event increases with more time and decreases with less time. Also, quantum events involve the location and movement of sub-atomic particles in space. However, the big bang model declares that all space, time, matter, and energy came into existence. Therefore, before space and time began, there could have been no quantum events. It is therefore highly suspect to appeal to quantum physics in an attempt to explain how the universe could have popped into existence out of nothing. If absolutely nothing existed there would be no space, no time, and no quantum events.

3  Moreland, Scaling the Secular City , 41.

4  Martin cannot bring himself to believe that an all-powerful God created the universe out of nothing. Yet, he has no reservations entertaining the idea that nothing created the universe. Apparently my concept of nothing differs from Martin’s concept of nothing. My nothing is nothing and has no power to do or cause anything. Martin’s “nothing” is so powerful that it is able to bring the entire universe into existence.

5  William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology (New York: Clarendon Press, 1 99 5), 143.

6  Hugh Ross, “Astronomical Evidences for a Personal, Transcendent God,” in The Creation Hypothesis, ed. J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove: lntervarsity Press, 1994), 154 -160. Ross lists some of the more popular views promoted by modern cosmologists to explain away the theistic implications of the big bang. 1) Quantum tunneling is the view that the universe popped into existence out of nothing without a cause. 2) Some cosmologists propose the existence of infinite, parallel universes which can never overlap. Therefore, the existence of these supposed universes can never be confirmed. 3) Some cosmologists have attempted to escape the big bang singularity by speculating that there was no singularity. Instead, a vacuum totally void of space created the universe. 4) Other cosmologists argue that the universe produced man, but once mankind is on the scene he brought the universe into reality through his observations. In this view, observers are necessary to bring the universe into existence. 5) Another popular proposal among non-theistic scientists is called the final anthropic principle. This view teaches that the universe created man, man created the universe, and in the final state both the universe and man will reach the Omega Point (a point in which all of reality becomes omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent). Ross points out that the reason given for these types of fanciful speculation is often the lack of absolute proof for God’s existence. Ross further states that since man is limited and fallible he cannot be absolutely certain of anything. Man cannot even offer absolute proof that the earth is a sphere. Still, asserts Ross, man acknowledges that the earth is a sphere since the evidence enables us to know this beyond a reasonable doubt. Just because we cannot prove God’s existence beyond reasonable doubt does not give modern cosmologists a license to invent fanciful explanations that cannot be verified. I leave it to the readers to decide whether theism or modern cosmological speculation is more reasonable. The words of the apostle Paul are relevant to the current state of scientific speculation: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools . . .” (Romans 1:21-22, New American Standard Bible, 1977).

7  Hugh Ross, Beyond the Cosmos (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1996), entire book.

8  Norman L. Geisler and Paul D. Feinberg, Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 302 – 303. See also Moreland, Scaling the Secular City , 36 – 37.

9  Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 92 – 93.

10 Martin stated that “almost every contemporary cosmologist has attempted to give an account of knowledge that does not presuppose God and yet is committed neither to relativism nor skepticism.” Still, Martin does not present one of these accounts in this debate. I am not debating volumes of contemporary atheistic thought-I am debating Michael Martin. In fact, I am not even debating Michael Martin’s 500 page defense of atheism. I am only required to discuss the argumentation which Dr. Martin introduces into this debate. Otherwise, Martin could simply say, “In the limited amount of space allotted for this debate (approximately 50 double-spaced pages for each participant), refute every non-theistic epistemological theory presented in the last 20 years.” Obviously, this would not be fair. Therefore, Martin needs to do more than claim the evidence is there-he must argue for his points in the limited space allotted for this debate.

11 Martin claims that I need to prove my assertion that only intelligence can cause intelligence. I disagree, for I find my assertion to be rather obvious. The burden of proof falls upon Martin’s shoulders, for his view that intelligence can evolve from non-intelligence is highly suspect. What examples can he give showing intelligence arising from non-intelligence? I can provide examples of intelligence coming from intelligence (i.e., intelligent human beings coming from other intelligent human beings), but do we see any cases of non-intelligence causing intelligent effects? I think not. Why should I have to prove the obvious, when Martin refuses to prove his extraordinary claim?

12 Martin may have argued for “objective moral values” in his book, but certainly not in this debate. I am debating Martin now, not his 500 page book. I have read his book and I appreciate that he reads current Christian philosophical thought. Still, I find his arguments against theism unimpressive. If he wishes to introduce arguments from his book into this debate, I will gladly deal with them. However, I refuse to respond to 500 pages of argumentation in a debate as limited in scope and space as this debate, especially when that argumentation has not been expounded upon by Martin in this debate. If Martin wants to propose his own argument for “objective moral values,” then he must introduce this line of thought into this debate. It would be foolish for me to attempt to refute volumes of contemporary atheistic thought just because my opponent says they are there. If Dr. Martin throws a baseball in my direction I will try to hit it, but it is not reasonable for someone to expect me to refute arguments that my opponent has yet to expound upon in this debate. Also, Martin assumes prescriptive laws do not need a prescriber. However, if words mean anything, then prescriptive laws must have a prescriber. Otherwise, they were not prescribed. Finally, it should be remembered that my case for God is cumulative. My moral argument is only one aspect of my cumulative case for theism. Martin repeatedly implies that each of my arguments was presented in total isolation from the other arguments. This was not the case. Martin should attempt to refute my cumulative case for God rather than demolishing a straw man. If he wants to attack my thesis, then he must show atheism to be a more reasonable explanation than theism is in reference to the nine aspects of human experience mentioned in my opening statement. Dr. Martin has not done this. He has pointed out difficulties that confront finite minds with respect to the theistic explanation, but has given us no reason to conclude that atheism has more explanatory power.

13 Martin claims that the atheism does not entail the absence of all meaning in life, although he admits that consistent atheists recognize the absence of any “cosmic meaning” in life. This is exactly the point that I am attempting to make. Cosmic or ultimate meaning is absent from the consistent atheistic world view. Martin states that after his death he hopes to be remembered for his “contribution to knowledge,” the happiness he provided for his loved ones, and the contributions he made to his community. Martin fails to realize that all these things lose any meaningfulness if the entire universe will someday die. What contribution to knowledge would there be when knowledge is no more? Can loved ones have happiness when they have ceased to exist long ago? Can a community enjoy Dr. Martin’s contributions when the community (along with Martin and the rest of the universe) is extinct? Without the existence of God and life after death, life becomes ultimately meaningless.

14 Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, Directions for Defending the Faith (Atlanta: American Vision, 1996), 171 – 172.

15 William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), entire book.

Second Statement: Michael Martin

Phil Fernandes/Michael Martin Debate

Second Statement: Michael Martin
A Response to Phil Fernandes

INTRODUCTION

I am grateful to Dr. Fernandes for the courteous tone he has adopted in this debate and his thoughtful attempt to answer my criticisms.

RESPONSE TO “MISUNDERSTANDINGS OF ATHEISM”

In my opening statement I said that Dr. Fernandes misunderstood atheism because he claimed that atheism is committed to materialism, epistemological relativism, epistemological skepticism, ethical relativism, and the meaningless of life. In his reply he reaffirms these claims with the clarification that atheists who deny their commitment to these positions are being inconsistent. I affirm that there is no inconsistency in atheists denying these positions. Instead of bringing up solid arguments for his claims against atheism, Dr. Fernandes is inconsistent and begs the question. For example, he accuses atheism of being committed to both epistemological skepticism and epistemological relativism. Dr. Fernandes cannot have it both ways. Epistemological skepticism is the denial of all claims to knowledge; epistemological relativism is simply the denial of all claims to absolute knowledge. Relative knowledge is not denied but affirmed by epistemological relativism. If atheists are skeptics, they are not relativists and conversely.

In fact, Dr. Fernandes does not show that atheists are committed to either position. He simply assumes that human beings cannot know absolute truths without God being the source and thus begs the question against atheism. His basic argument seems to be this:

(1)   Human knowledge is possible.
(2)   (1) could only be true if God exists.
_________________________________
(3)   Hence, atheism is false.

I can find no arguments for premise (2) in his reply. What I find again and again is that Dr. Fernandes simply assumes that (2) is true. In fact, almost every contemporary epistemologist has attempted to give an account of knowledge that does not presuppose God and yet is committed neither to relativism nor skepticism.1 Perhaps all of these attempts fail but Dr. Fernandes does not show this. Indeed, he does not even try.

Dr. Fernandes also assumes that theism provides a solid foundation for human knowledge and that skepticism is incompatible with belief in God. Both assumptions are dubious. His argument for both assumptions relies on Genesis 1: 26-27 that God made humans in God’s image. Since God is a perfect knower, and God made humans in His image, He would create humans with a reliable cognitive apparatus. However, in what specific respects God was supposed to make humans in His image is not clear. After all in many respects humans are not created in God’s image: God has no body, humans do; God cannot sin, humans can and do; God is infinitely strong, humans are weak, and so on. Given all these disanalogies why should one expect human cognitive abilities to be remotely close to God’s?

In addition, as Evans Fales has pointed out in a recent article, the event specified in Genesis 1: 26-27 purports to be a factual event about our prehistory.2 But why should one believe that such an event occurred? There is also the mythical character of Genesis in which many of its themes are influenced by or borrowed from the myths of other cultures. In addition, Biblical archeology indicates that the stories of the Egyptian captivity of the Jews and the Exodus are mythical. All of this suggests that it is problematic to rely on Genesis as sources of accurate historical facts.

Fales also points out that the New Testament complicates the picture. Rom. 8:29., II Cor. 3:12-4:4, and Col. 3:10 imply that humans have lost the divine image and need to regain this image through Christ. On the other hand, I Cor. 15:29 suggests that we never had this image and will obtain it only when we enter the Kingdom of Heaven while 1 Cor. 11:7 suggests that men, and not women, are made in the divine image. Moreover, Fales also points out that Adam’s fall creates a particular problem for theists such as John Calvin who believe that human beings inherited cognitive depravity–not merely moral and volitional depravity–from this event.

In addition, as I pointed out in a footnote in my opening statement that was apparently overlooked by Dr. Fernandes: God may have good reasons for not providing us with reliable knowledge. If God has unknown but good reasons for allowing evil, He could have good but unknown reasons for allowing such an epistemological gap [between appearance and reality].3

Dr. Fernandes claims, as he did in his opening statement, that absolute moral truth must be based on God. He provides no non-question begging argument for this claim, however. He simply assumes without argument that prescriptive laws “need a prescriber” and this prescriber must be God. In my opening statement I pointed out that I argued for objective ethics in my book and that others have as well. Dr. Fernandes, far from refuting my position or other non-theistic foundations of ethics, shows no awareness of them.4

In addition, Dr. Fernandes seems to assume that a theological foundation of ethics is unproblematic. It is not.5 First, there is the Euthyphro dilemma: If something is moral simply because God commands it, morality is based on the arbitrary will of God. But if God commands something because it is moral, then morality is independent of God. In addition, if morality is based on the commands of God, how does one discover what God commands? There are many conflicting sources claiming to represent God’s revelation: the Koran, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, etc. I know of no rational way to decide between them. Moreover, even if one can single out one source, for example the Bible, there are still different interpretations of what God commands and no apparent rational way to decide between them. Finally, the Bible commands many things that sensitive moral persons find morally absurd, for example, the death penalty for homosexuality, bestiality, blasphemy, cursing one’s parents, witchcraft, working on the Sabbath and non-chastity.

Dr. Fernandes claims I have misunderstood him concerning atheists and the meaning of life. No, I think he has misunderstood me. I understood him to be saying that atheists have an inconsistent worldview if they suppose life has meaning. But, as pointed out in my book, atheists to be consistent should not claim that life has cosmic meaning. However, as I also pointed out, life can have meaning in other senses. I do not see why my life would have no meaning, as Dr. Fernandes implies, if I and those I love ceased to exist. (For example, I would hope that the significance of my life would be judged by such criteria as its contribution to knowledge, the happiness I provided my loved ones, and the contributions I make to my community. This significance is not affected by my life’s finite duration.) To suppose otherwise assumes what is at issue: that life cannot have meaning in a different sense from the cosmic sense. In my opening statement I urged Dr. Fernandes to study my arguments on this point. Apparently he has not done so. I urge him again.

DEFENSE OF ARGUMENTS FOR GOD

1. Kalaam Cosmological Argument

Dr. Fernandes maintains that the Universe must have a cause. He provides no argument for this claim. He simply asserts that the view that Universe has no cause is “absurd” although he admits that such a view is not inconsistent. Dr. Fernandes does not care that this view has not seemed absurd to many leading cosmologists. Indeed, Dr. Fernandes seems to think that the indeterminacy of quantum physics is an absurd view despite the fact that this is a primary part of contemporary physics and at the present time there seems to be no plausible alternative to it. For support he cites Einstein’s opposition. However, although Einstein was a great physicist, he was capable of error and in the judgment of the vast majority of physicists he was mistaken in this case.

Dr. Fernandes suggests that I should offer logical guidance to cosmologists rather than accept the results of their poor reasoning. But Dr. Fernandes has not shown that acceptance of indeterminacy is the result of poor reasoning since has not given any counter arguments to this position. Moreover, the acceptance of indeterminacy in quantum theory is justified by good scientific reasoning, for example, the theory accounts in the simplest way for the experimental facts and it coheres with well-supported background theory. What it does not do, which is irrelevant to science, is to cohere with commonsense and long standing metaphysical prejudices.

I also argue that even if the Universe is caused, the cause need not be the theistic God. It could be a malevolent being or an impersonal force or a plurality of gods or a finite God. Dr. Fernandes says that if this is so atheism will be refuted. This is to miss the point. These other possibilities show that Dr. Fernandes’ argument from a cause of the Universe to a theistic God is a non-sequitur. Nothing he says rules out these other possibilities. As I pointed out, even if intelligence cannot evolve from non-intelligence, this would be compatible within non-theistic causes. However, Dr. Fernandes gives no argument for the impossibility of this evolution and simply appeals to readers of this debate to decide the issue.

I also maintained that God’s desires and intentions cannot be the cause of the Universe since a cause–especially one in terms of intentions and desires–must be temporarily prior to its effect. Since time and Universe began together according to the Big Bang theory, God’s desires and intentions could not be the cause. Dr. Fernandes dismisses this point too quickly. I believe he should carefully consider the ordinary concept of causality. According to this concept it makes no sense to suppose that someone’s desire at time t1 is the cause of something at time t1. Indeed, the notion of creation implies a temporal gap between the creative act and the beginning of creation.

2. The Thomistic Argument

Dr. Fernandes appeals to St. Thomas’ Five Ways to prove the existence of God. I criticized Dr. Fernandes’ by pointing out that (a) he misinterprets St. Thomas, (b) St. Thomas in the Third Way and Dr. Fernandes in his argument from dependency commits the fallacy of composition, and (c) the conclusion of St. Thomas’ and his arguments need not have the properties of the theistic God. Dr. Fernandes chooses only to try to answer (b). He attempts to answer (b) by distinguishing emergent properties and additive ones. However, he immediately begs the question by assuming without argument that the property of dependency is additive and not emergent.

With respect to his Third Way Thomas argues that contingent parts of the Universe could not make up a Universe that is necessary. It is certainly not obvious that he was correct. The following logical analogy is suggestive: Logically necessary propositions can be made of contingent propositions. (For example, “Either P or not P” is logically necessary while “P” and “not P” can be contingent.) Might not a similar thing be true with respect to metaphysical necessity? With respect to dependency?

3. The Design Argument

In his opening statement Dr. Fernandes argues that it is astonishingly unlikely that life could have arisen by chance and cites a number of seemingly impressive statistics to support his case. He then concludes that the theistic God must be the cause of life in the Universe. I criticized this argument by arguing that (a) the probability estimates used in the argument are illegitimate, (b) there are other naturalistic hypotheses to account for life and (c) other supernaturalistic hypotheses are possible. Dr. Fernandes chooses to ignore (a) in his reply although this argument is crucial. With respect to (b) without argument he dismisses my example of an alternative naturalistic hypothesis such as the world ensembles theory by saying I am grasping at straws, although this hypothesis is seriously considered by world class cosmologists. He claims in his opening statement he has answered (c), but a rereading of his opening statement has convinced me that he has not and has simply begged the question.

In this second statement he tries to eliminate the possibility of Deism by arguing that the Deistic God is problematic since (1) if He could create the Universe, He could have intervened in it and (2) if He cared enough to create the Universe, He would intervene. Dr. Fernandes assumes one common meaning of Deism: a god who creates the world and stays remote from it. But this is not the only meaning of the term or the one closest to the historical reality. However, even granting Dr. Fernandes’ sense of Deism, there is a problem in accepting his quick dismissal of it. Just as the Theistic God intervenes or does not intervene for unknown reasons, so a Deistic God might not intervene for unknown reasons. One cannot have a double standard–allowing that the Theistic God has some unknown reason for not intervening to prevent, for example, the Holocaust and yet disallowing that the Deistic God has unknown reasons for not intervening at all.

CRITICISMS OF ATHEISTIC ARGUMENTS

1. The Argument From Incoherence

In my opening statement I argued that the concept of God is incoherent: The Bible attributes contradictory properties to God and qualities specified in philosophical accounts of God are either in conflict with one another or are internally inconsistent. With respect to Biblical contradictions, Dr. Fernandes in large part attempts to explain them away by maintaining that they are based on the anthropomorphic and figurative uses of language. In regard to many of the examples I cite this reply seems far fetched. For example, Dr. Fernandes that says God does not do evil although He allows evil for a greater good. But in some of the passages I cited God Himself is portrayed as doing evil, for example, sending an evil spirit to torment people. (In other passages God is portrayed as merciful and just.) But what are the figures of speech involved in these passages? In fact, many of these passages seem rather non figurative. And even if a figure of speech could be identified, why suppose it should be translated in such a way that it eliminates the contradiction? Dr. Fernandes points out that some important thinkers have not found contradictions in the Bible. This is hardly a telling point since there are an equal number of important thinkers– many of them Biblical scholars–who have found them.

I argued that God could not know how to swim since He does not have a body and knowing how to swim is a physical skill. Dr. Fernandes wrongly supposes that knowing how to swim is an intellectual affair, something that goes on in one’s mind. There is long line of philosophical argument that knowing how to do X cannot be reduced to intellectually knowing that things are true about X.6 Dr. Fernandes ignores this line of argument; indeed, he does not seem to be aware of it.

I argued that God could not have knowledge by acquaintance, that is have direct experience of such things as fear, envy, lust and thus could not be all knowing. Dr. Fernandes admits that God could not experience such things but refuses to call this experience knowledge and considers my willingness to do so a confusion. But knowledge by acquaintance is implicit in our ordinary concept of knowledge–for example, one might say: “I know all the facts about poverty but I do not know poverty.”– and has long been recognized as a type of knowledge by epistemologists.7

Dr. Fernandes attempts to answer my argument that God could not know He was omniscient by arguing that God could know the set of mathematical truths in one eternal thought and not one at a time. As far I can see, this does not answer the crux of my argument that God would have to know there were no facts He did not know. Furthermore, this reply seems inconsistent with Dr. Fernandes’ rejection of actual infinities in his opening statement. Now he seems not only to accept them but to maintain that God could know them.

2. The Argument From Evil

I used the argument from evil in my opening statement and brought up several objections against Dr. Fernandes defense of moral evil and natural evil. Dr. Fernandes’ defense against my criticism of the free will defense fails to answer any of the problems I raised.

1)  I argued that contra causal freedom (CCF) assumes that human decisions are not caused by events in the brain and that no evidence is provided for this assumption. Dr. Fernandes counters by saying that if human decisions are caused by brain activity, this would make punishment impossible. No evidence is given for this remarkable claim. He also seems to assume that my argument commits me to materialism. But materialism entails that the mind is identical with the brain and not simply that human decisions are caused by the brain. Moreover, he wrongly takes me to be asserting that human decisions are caused by the brain. In fact, what I argued was that believers in CCF assume that human decisions are not caused by the brain and give no evidence for this assumption. The burden of proof is on them.

I argued that God could have made human beings with a tendency to do good and that this would have eliminated a lot of moral evil and yet would be compatible with CCF. According to Dr. Fernandes, humans were indeed so created and their present tendency towards evil is the result of the Fall. This reply raises more problems than it solves. There is no solid historical evidence for the Fall and, in any case, it unjustly punishes people for the sins of their ancient ancestors. In addition, why should people be blamed for their evil deeds when they have an innate tendency towards evil–a tendency caused by their ancient ancestors?

I argued that people could be created who were less vulnerable to physical attack and that natural laws could be created which made it more difficult to harm human beings. Both of these possibilities are compatible with CCF. Dr. Fernandes attempts to answer this by maintaining that if God did not allow people to suffer, there would be no incentive for compassion. But I never claimed that human beings should be made completely invulnerable or that they should be totally free from harm. If God is all powerful, He could have created less evil and still permitted the exercise of compassion. If God was good, He would want to do this.

Dr. Fernandes supposes that moral evil is no problem so long as it brings about some greater good. However, this is a plausible reply only if we have some assurance that this greater good could not bring about in less harmful ways. Many theists believe that part of this greater good is the exercise of CCF. However, I have shown that CCF is compatible with the existence of less evil. Other theists have argued that this greater good is the development of human character. But this too could have been accomplished with less evil.

2)  Dr. Fernandes’ defense against natural evil is contained in one short paragraph: Natural evil is a consequence of the Fall, and a world with the amount of natural evil contained in this world is the best possible way God has of persuading humans to desire His Kingdom to come to earth. I have already criticized the Fall defense. This second defense strikes me as even less plausible. Why should people be persuaded to desire God’s Kingdom by the existence of seemingly pointless suffering and seemingly needless premature death? Indeed, one would suppose that one of the greatest obstacles to accepting God’s existence is the existence of natural evil.

Dr. Fernandes again questions how atheists can have knowledge of evil and again assumes without any argument that atheists cannot have absolute standards of goodness. However, in order to use the argument from evil against theists, atheists only need to appeal to theists’ own examples of evil — they do not need any of their own. For example, theists judge that the Holocaust and the Lisbon earthquake are evil. How are these events compatible with an all good, all powerful God? My argument can be construed as a purely internal critique of theism: What theists themselves judge as evil events make their God’s existence unlikely.

3. The Argument From Nonbelief

I argue that the large number of nonbelievers in the world is itself evidence that conflicts with the tenets of evangelical Christianity. Dr. Fernandes objects to my use of this argument since he says he is only defending theism, not Christianity. This is puzzling since at least twice in our debate he has referred to the Fall and at least once he has appealed to a passage in Genesis. But neither the Fall nor Genesis is necessarily connected with theism per se. Be that as it may, my argument can be formulated independently of Christianity: If God exists He wants everyone to believe in Him. If God exists, He has the capacity to bring much more belief than there is now. Then why is there so much nonbelief? I suggested in my opening statement that there are various ways God could increase the number of nonbelievers without intervening with human free will. Many of these ways still apply in my reformulated argument.

Dr. Fernandes’ response to this argument is short and inadequate.

1) I suggested that God could have implanted a belief in God and His message in everyone’s mind. Dr. Fernandes says that God has done this but humans have repressed it. He supplies no evidence for this claim and makes no attempt to answer my detailed refutation of it that has appeared on the Internet.8 Moreover, this ploy simply pushes the problem back. Why are there so many people who repress their belief in God? God could have done many things to overcome their repression.

2) Dr. Fernandes says that if humans act upon the light God has given them, God will see that the Gospel message is presented to them. This is difficult to believe this. For example, for hundreds of years before the coming of missionaries, Native Americans and Black Africans had no exposure to the Gospel message. They lived and died in ignorance of it. How could Native Americans living in the 12th Century be presented with the Gospel message if they had acted on God’s light? The existence of Native Americans was not even known by Christians. To be sure, God could have provided 12th Century Native Americans with exposure to the Gospel message in some of the ways that I suggested in my opening message. But we have absolutely no reason to suppose that He did.

3) Dr. Fernandes’ attempts to answer my argument by advocating God’s foreknowledge, not just of actual events, but also of hypothetical ones. He says that God knows in advance who would accept His message if it was presented to them and thus has no obligation to proclaim His message to those who would reject it. How Dr. Fernandes reconciles this view with his assumption of CCF is unclear. Yet belief in CCF is an essential part of his defense against the argument from evil. Moreover, unless I seriously misunderstand him, Dr. Fernandes also seems to advocate some form of predestinationism. He says that God “foreordained” certain circumstances that would bring some people “to faith.” This undermines his belief in CCF and raises serious questions about the justice and mercy of God. Since belief in God is essential to humans’ eternal happiness, how can an all good God foreordained those who will be brought to faith? No only does Dr. Fernandes supply no answer to this problem, he does not seem to realize that there is problem.

RESPONSE TO CONCLUSION

Dr. Fernandes’ Second Statement has been characterized by question begging arguments, unargued for claims, seemingly incompatible positions, and non sequiturs. In his conclusion he continues this pattern of argumentation.

He claims that I refuse to defend materialism, epistemological relativism, epistemological skepticism, ethical relativism and meaningless existence. But Dr. Fernandes assumes without argument that I am committed to these positions. He claims that he has shown that the hypothesis that the Universe is uncaused is less reasonable than the hypothesis that God caused it. But let us recall that Dr. Fernandes gives no arguments for his view that an uncaused Universe was impossible. Indeed, he merely asserts that such a view is “absurd.” He assumes he has shown that my three arguments for atheism do not prove my case. But let us not forget that his criticisms are based largely on question begging arguments, misunderstandings, and implausible assumptions.

In the final paragraph and footnote of his response he attempts to defend Pascal’s Wager. In my opening statement I referred him to my detailed critique of this argument. Unfortunately, he does not deal with the brief critical point I made in my opening statement. Let me state it more clearly. Dr. Fernandes points out in a footnote that Pascal’s Wager is not an argument for God’s existence. He is correct. I would say it purports to provide humans with good pragmatic reasons for belief: If you do believe and God exists, you will be rewarded and if you do not believe and He exists, you will be punished, and so on. But as many critics have pointed out God might not appreciate people believing in Him for these pragmatic reasons. God may want people to believe in Him for purely nonpragmatic reasons and punish those who avail themselves of this argument. Dr. Fernandes makes no attempt to answer this argument let alone the other arguments I raised in my book.

ENDNOTES

1  Dr. Fernandes makes a lot of the fact that in my book I do not attempt to provide a systematic defense of induction and an extended account of epistemic justification. He makes it sound as if defenses and accounts of nontheistic epistemology are not available. But they are. For extended discussions of nontheistic epistemology, see for example, Lawrence BonJour, The Structure of Empirical Knowledge (Harvard UP, 1985), Arthur Danto, Analytical Theory of Knowledge, (Cambridge UP, 1968), Alvin Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition, Harvard UP, 1986), Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge, (Oxford UP, 1972). For a defense of induction see Michael Martin, “Does Induction Presuppose the Existence of the Christian God?” forthcoming in Skeptic.

2  Evan Fales, “Plantinga’s Case Against Naturalistic Epistemology,” Philosophy of Science, 63, 1996, pp. 447-48.

3  I argue this position at length in Michael Martin, “Does Induction Presuppose the Existence of the Christian God?” forthcoming in Skeptic.

4  See Richard Boyd, “How To Be a Moral Realist,” and Peter Railton, “Moral Realism,” in Moral Discourse and Practice, ed. S. Darwall, A. Gibbard, and P. Railton, (Oxford UP, 1997) and David O. Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge UP, 1989)

5  See Martin-Frame Debate http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/ and Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity, Chapter 6, Appendix 1.

6  For an account of these two types of knowledge see Israel Scheffler, Conditions of Knowledge (Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Co. 1965).

7  See D. W. Hamlyn, The Theory of Knowledge, (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1970), pp. 104 -106.

8  Michael Martin, “Are There Really No Atheists?” Sept. 11, 1996 http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/no_atheists.html

Second Statement: Phil Fernandes

Phil Fernandes/Michael Martin Debate

Second Statement: Phil Fernandes
A Response to Michael Martin

INTRODUCTION

Before I respond to Dr. Michael Martin’s opening statement, I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Martin for his approach to this debate. I found his opening statement to be both fair and insightful. I respect Dr. Martin for his decision to attack my arguments without attacking me. I hope that I will be as much of a gentlemen as my prestigious opponent throughout this debate.

In my opening statement I argued that it is more reasonable to be a theist than it is to be an atheist. I presented a cumulative case for the existence of a personal, infinite God by examining nine different aspects of human experience that are more adequately explained by theism than by atheism. First, the beginning of the universe shows that the universe needs an eternal Cause. Second, the continuing existence of the universe needs an independent sustaining Cause. Third, the design and order found in the universe reveal that the Cause of the universe must be an intelligent Designer. Fourth, the possibility of human knowledge strongly implies a rational Cause for the universe. Fifth, universal, eternal, and unchanging truths point to the existence of an eternal and unchanging Mind as their source. Sixth, absolute, unchanging, eternal moral laws provide evidence for the existence of an unchanging, eternal moral Lawgiver. Seventh, if God does not exist, then life would be without ultimate meaning. Eighth, the sanctity of human life makes no sense if man was not created by God and in God’s image. Ninth, the existence of evil and the hope that it will someday be defeated indicate the existence of an all-good God who alone guarantees evil’s ultimate defeat.

In my opening statement I wrote that the atheist either denies the reality of these nine aspects of human experience or he admits to their existence but concludes that they are “just there.” Therefore, atheism fails as an explanation of human experience, for it either attempts to explain away the relevant data of human experience or it admits to the data but offers no adequate explanation whatsoever.

After providing the cumulative case for God, I encouraged the readers of this debate to choose God, for their eternal destinies are at stake if God does exist. If He does not exist there is nothing to lose by choosing God.

Dr. Martin responded to my cumulative case for God in several ways. First, he charged that I had misunderstood and/or misrepresented atheism in several areas. He accused me of wrongly equating atheism with materialism, epistemological relativism, epistemological skepticism, ethical relativism, and meaningless existence. Second, Dr. Martin attempted to refute three of my arguments: the argument from the beginning of the universe, the thomistic argument, and the design argument. Third, Dr. Martin presented three arguments for atheism: an argument from the incoherence of the concept of God, an argument from evil, and an argument from non-belief. Dr. Martin concluded that my case for theism is extremely weak. Obviously, I disagree. Hence, the debate continues.

MY SUPPOSED MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT ATHEISM

I apologize if I did not make my views concerning atheism clear enough in my opening statement. I recognize that many atheists are not materialists, epistemological relativists, epistemological skeptics, or ethical relativists. However, if the atheist does admit to an immaterial reality, universal truths, the possibility of human knowledge, and the existence of universal moral values, then I think he has given the theist enough rope to hang the atheistic world view.

If an immaterial realm exists, how does the atheist account for it? Was it caused by the material realm, or is it “just there?” If an atheist rejects epistemological relativism and accepts universal, eternal, unchanging truths, then from what source did they come? It seems to me that Augustine was correct in concluding that only an eternal, unchanging Mind would be an adequate source for eternal, unchanging truths. Does the atheist who rejects epistemological relativism have a more plausible explanation for these truths? I think not.

If the atheist rejects epistemological skepticism, then how does he explain how man knows what he knows? Even Dr. Martin in his massive, well-researched book Atheism, A Philosophical Justification admits that he gives his readers “no extended theory of rationality or justification.”1 He also confesses that even though he uses inductive arguments he offers his readers no defense of induction.2 Christianity can easily justify the possibility of human knowledge, for it teaches that a rational God created man in His image (i.e., a rational being). Christianity also teaches that God created the universe in an orderly, rational way, so that man, through reason and sense perception, could attain true knowledge of the universe in which he lives. Atheism throws out the rational Cause of both man and the universe and assumes that the universe is not a product of intelligent design. Rather, it came about through random evolutionary processes. My point is this: if man and the universe have no rational Cause and the universe is a product of chance, then what gives the atheist who rejects epistemological skepticism the rational right to justify his claim to knowledge? If Christianity is true, then God created the categories of the human mind (the preconditions for thought) so that they enable us to genuinely know reality. I do not think that atheism offers an adequate explanation as to why we should have any confidence that we can interpret reality as it is, for atheism teaches that both man and the universe are not products of a rational Cause. I acknowledge the fact that many atheists are not ethical relativists. (Personally, I think the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was more consistent than these atheists. Nietzsche recognized that if God is dead, then universal moral values are dead as well.) However, if an atheist will admit to universal, unchanging, and eternal moral laws, then I think he has conceded too much. Theism offers the most plausible source for these moral laws by positing the existence of an eternal moral Lawgiver. Moral laws are, by definition, prescriptive; they prescribe what ought to be done or the way things ought to be. Prescriptive laws need a prescriber. My point is that if the atheist denies absolute moral values, he cannot call the actions of Hitler “wrong.” However, if he admits to the existence of absolute moral values, then he must explain their source. Theism, I believe, is the most reasonable explanation.

I never stated that all atheists believe that life is without meaning. Rather, I believe that any atheist who believes that life has meaning is being inconsistent with his world view. Consistent atheists like Albert Camus and Nietzsche recognized the absurdity of life without God. A more optimistic atheist like Jean-Paul Sartre encouraged his followers to create meaning for their lives to fill the void left by a universe without God. But atheists who believe that life has ultimate meaning are not being consistent with their world view. What difference does it make how a person lives their life if they and all the people they have influenced will someday cease to exist for all eternity? I acknowledge that there are atheists who believe that life has meaning, but they believe this despite their atheism. They refuse to accept the consequences of a world without God. Dr. Martin misunderstood portions of my opening statement. In my conclusion, I did clearly indicate that the atheist could either deny or affirm absolute moral values, design in the universe, universal truths, the possibility of human knowledge, and meaning in life. But, as I pointed out in my opening statement, either way atheism is in turmoil. The atheist who chooses to deny that these aspects of human experience are real still lives as if they are real. The atheist who chooses to affirm these aspects of human experience cannot account for their existence within his world view. Theism offers a more reasonable source for these aspects than atheism does.

Now that I have removed any misunderstanding about my thesis, I challenge Dr. Martin to divulge his views on these topics. Does he acknowledge an immaterial realm? If so, how does he explain its existence? Obviously, he believes that man can know truth, but how does he account for this? Does Dr. Martin believe in universal moral values? If no, then how can he call the actions of Hitler morally wrong? If yes, then where did these moral values come from? Dr. Martin apparently believes that life has meaning. I challenge him to state how this is consistent with his atheistic world view. I look forward to further dialogue on these matters.

DR. MARTIN’S ATTEMPTED REFUTATION OF THREE OF MY ARGUMENTS

1. The Kalaam Cosmological Argument

Dr. Martin states that he is willing to grant the premise that the universe began in time. Though I agree with him that this premise is rejected by many thinkers today, there is no sense in arguing for a premise we both accept. However, Dr. Martin rejects that the beginning of the universe was caused. He states that “the universe could arise spontaneously, that is, ‘out of nothing.'” Dr. Martin backs this bold statement by writing that “several well known cosmologists have embraced this view and it is not to be dismissed as impossible.” Personally, I do not care if leading scientists believe in the possibility of the universe popping into existence out of nothing. Nothing is nothing. Therefore, nothing can do nothing. Hence, nothing can cause nothing. If the universe had a beginning (both Dr. Martin and I have agreed to this premise), it needs a cause. It seems that Dr. Martin is willing to accept absurdities rather than accept the existence of God. There are many things that are logically possible, but actually absurd. I would classify the universe popping into existence out of nothing as one of those actually absurd things. A clear minded philosopher like Dr. Martin should offer logical guidance to those cosmologists, rather than accept the results of their poor reasoning.

Dr. Martin accuses me of “badly” misunderstanding modern science due to the fact that I believe that the law of causality (everything that has a beginning needs a cause) is essential for proper scientific investigation. However, Albert Einstein held the same view. In response to his colleagues who entertained the possibility of uncaused effects on the subatomic level, he stated, “God does not play dice.” Einstein saw that uncaused events would take away the underlying order of the universe necessary for true science to function.3 If I “badly” misunderstand modern science, then so did Einstein. Dr. Martin argues that if there is a cause of the universe, it might not be the theistic God. My response is twofold. First, this would still refute atheism so Dr. Martin should not find refuge in this line of reasoning. Second, I use other premises in my opening statement to provide evidence for this Cause being eternal, personal, one, infinite, and good. These attributes identify the Cause of the universe as the theistic God. Martin scoffs at my statement that intelligence cannot come from non-intelligence. I will allow the readers of this debate to decide whether it is more reasonable to conclude that intelligence came from an intelligent source or from a non-intelligent source. I find it hard to imagine intelligence coming from a tree, a mound of dirt, or even from some sort of invisible non-intelligent energy. Intelligence requires an intelligent Cause.

Dr. Martin is mistaken when he assumes that causes must be temporally prior to their effects. I see no contradiction in affirming that God created time and the universe in eternity, and that time began at the moment of creation.

2. The Thomistic Argument

Dr. Martin accuses me of committing the fallacy of composition, for the whole is often greater than its parts. However, Dr. Martin does not differentiate between additive properties and emergent properties. It is true that the whole elephant is greater than its parts (i.e., eyes, trunk, tail, legs, etc.). This is an example of emergent properties. Here the fallacy of composition would apply, for the whole elephant is an animal, while its separate parts are not. However, if a floor is made up of tiles and every tile is green, then the entire floor will be green. This is an example of additive properties. Additive properties do not entail the fallacy of compositions.4 If the entire universe is made up of dependent beings, then the whole universe is dependent. Therefore, the universe is dependent on some independent Being for its existence. Since Dr. Martin does not elaborate on the other so-called problems of the Thomistic argument, I will not deal with them here.5 It should also be noted that I do not adhere to every aspect of Aquinas’ five ways to prove God’s existence. Therefore, it will only be necessary to defend the premises I utilize.

3. The Design Argument

Dr. Martin entertains the “world ensembles” model of certain cosmologists. Like Martin’s denial of the law of causality, this suggestion shows the lengths that Dr. Martin will go in order to avoid the Creator’s existence. Dr. Martin is a great thinker, but he seems to be grabbing at straws. He is willing to suggest the existence of many alternative worlds existing simultaneously with our universe to downplay the evidence of design in our universe. It appears that Dr. Martin is willing to accept anything that is logically possible, rather than admitting God’s existence. Since I am limited to the guidelines of this debate (a 15 page second statement), I will leave it to the readers to decide whether it is more reasonable to accept the theistic explanation or the “world ensembles” model.

Dr. Martin adds that my design argument, if successful would be compatible with polytheism, deism, and a finite and evil god. As I stated above, my opening statement provided evidence for there being only one God, and that this God is infinite and good. Deism itself is problematic in that if God was able to create the universe, He is also able to intervene in its affairs. Since He cared enough to create the universe, it seems that He would also be willing to intervene in its affairs.

DR. MARTIN’S THREE ARGUMENTS FOR ATHEISM

1. The Argument From Incoherence

Martin argues that “some of the properties attributed to God in the Bible are inconsistent.” Though this debate has nothing to do with biblical inerrancy, I will briefly address this objection. He claims that God is portrayed as being invisible and visible, merciful and lacking mercy, and a Being who changes His mind but does not change His mind. Scripture, according to Martin, depicts God as being deceptive and not deceptive, the cause of evil and not the cause of evil, and one who punishes children for their parents’ sin and one who does not do so. However, Martin is mistaken, for these are not contradictions. A few examples will suffice. First, though God is by nature invisible, He can choose to manifest Himself in visible form.6 Second, God is merciful to all who accept His salvation, but He exercises His wrath on all who oppose Him. Third, God does not change His mind, however He is sometimes portrayed in anthropomorphic language. In other words, when the Bible states that God was sorry that He had created man it is using figurative language to emphasize God’s displeasure with man. The Hebrew language is a very poetic language; therefore, figurative language is often used in the Hebrew Old Testament. Fourth, God is the ultimate Cause of the possibility of evil in that He created mankind and angels with free will, and He allows evil choices and evil consequences for purposes of a greater good. Still, He Himself does no evil, nor does He force any angel or man to do evil. Fifth, God will not eternally condemn any person for the sins of their parents, yet at times He does allow the consequences of a parent’s sin to pass from generation to generation.

It is interesting to note that throughout history many great thinkers (i.e., the apostle Paul, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Pascal, Edwards, Hodge, Warfield, etc.) devoted their lives to the study of Scripture and never found the numerous “contradictions” that Dr. Martin has so easily discovered. Perhaps if Dr. Martin was more diligent in his study of the Bible, he would become more proficient in identifying figurative language or the sense and context of the passages in question.

Dr. Martin asserts that the theistic concept of God is also incoherent. He claims that God cannot be all-knowing because He does not have a body and therefore cannot know how to swim. Again, Martin’s argument is not persuasive. I maintain that all that we know is in our immaterial minds. It is true that God without a body cannot experience the act of swimming.7 Still, throughout all eternity He knew every thought that every person would ever have. Thus, He always had the knowledge of how to swim. Though God would need a body to experience everything a person with a body experiences, He does not need a body to know everything that a person with a body knows. Since God exhaustively knows the mind of each person, He has all the knowledge each person has gained through bodily experiences. It should also be noted that He created both the swimmer and the water, and, as their Creator, He knows them intimately.

Dr. Martin incorrectly assumes that if God is all-knowing He must feel lust and envy, and He must experience fear, frustration, and despair. It appears that Dr. Martin is confusing knowledge with feelings and experiences. it is true that God has never lusted or envied. He has never experienced fear, frustration, or despair. However, this does not mean that He has no knowledge of these feelings or experiences, for He has exhaustive knowledge of the persons who have had these feelings or experiences.

Martin believes that since there are an infinite number of mathematical entities God cannot know them all. Hence, according to Martin, God is not omniscient. My response is as follows. Zeno proved that one cannot arrive at an actual infinite set by traversing it. However, the theist can respond by saying that God did not learn the infinite set of mathematical entities one member at a time; rather, He knew them all in one eternal thought. Hence, Martin’s objection raises no serious problem for theism.

2. The Argument From Evil.

Dr. Martin argues that the large amount of evil in the world is a good reason to reject God’s existence. However , if theism is true, then only the infinitely wise God would be in the position to know precisely how much evil in the world is the right amount for God to accomplish His good purposes.

Dr. Martin attacks my view that moral evil was brought about through human and angelic abuse of free will. First, he implies that all human decisions are caused by either brain events or the nervous system. However, if this is the case then any punishment of crime would be absurd. All moral judgments become meaningless. (Martin seems to play the role of a materialist only when it benefits his case.) Also, there are good scientific reasons for believing that human choices are not caused by physical or chemical events.8

Second, Martin argues that God could have created human beings with a tendency to do good. This is interesting because many theologians believe that this is exactly what God did. Man’s tendency to do evil is a product of the Fall, not the creation.

Third, Martin fails to realize that God may have allowed evil and the consequences of evil for the purpose of a greater good (Romans 8:28). If God did not allow people to suffer physical harm, then incentive and opportunity for works of compassion would be extinguished. If God removed the harmful effects of evil acts, then much incentive for refraining from these evil acts would be removed as well.

Fourth, the Bible teaches that the sufferings of this present age pale in comparison to blessings to be revealed at the consummation of the ages (Romans 8:18). Therefore, from the Bible’s standpoint, the greater good that God will bring from His allowance of evil and its consequences will far outweigh the death and suffering of this present age.

Fifth, even though God fore-knew future free acts of evil, He is justified in allowing these acts to be actualized so long as He uses them to bring about a greater good.

Dr. Martin also argues that natural evil (i.e., earthquakes, tidal waves, etc.) makes the existence of God unlikely. Though Martin is right that God did not have to actualize this world, it may be that this world is the best possible way to achieve the best possible world (i.e., heaven). Natural evil is a consequence of man’s fall in the garden. Therefore, natural evil may be one way that God persuades man to desire His kingdom to come to earth to make all things new. How does Dr. Martin know that God could accomplish His long range purposes through other methods with less pain and suffering?

Apparently, Dr. Martin recognizes evil when he sees it. However, if evil exists, how does Dr. Martin define it? It seems to me that evil is a corruption of something good. When Dr. Martin judges things to be more evil, he implies an absolute standard of goodness, for without the knowledge of a straight line one could never recognize another line to be crooked. The atheistic world view has no basis for this absolute standard of goodness. Therefore, theism has more explanatory power, for God’s nature is the absolute standard of goodness. His will flows from His good nature, so His laws are good. His creation was perfect, but then the abuse of free will corrupted God’s perfect creation.

Not only is the definition of evil problematic for atheism, but any hope for evil’s defeat is also difficult to find within the atheistic world view. The Christian can trust in God to defeat evil and its consequences through the death, resurrection, and return of Christ. The atheist can only identify evil and question God’s goodness. The atheistic world view has no basis to call anything evil, nor does it offer any hope that things will get better.

3. The Argument From Non-belief

Dr. Martin believes that the large number of non-believers in the world is another reason for rejecting God’s existence. I respond as follows. First, two thousand years ago, Jesus predicted this would be the case (Matthew 7-.1 3-14). Second, I must remind Dr. Martin that our debate is between theism and atheism. In this debate I am defending theism, not Christianity per se. Issues of the biblical view of salvation are more properly discussed in a debate concerning Christianity. Nevertheless, I will briefly respond to this objection raised by Dr. Martin since It raises a serious concern for Christian theism. He asks why God would require humans to accept His gospel in order to be saved when so many people (in this generation as well as past generations) have never heard the gospel or read the Bible. Can God punish them for not accepting a gospel they never heard? Martin makes six suggestions as to how God could have saved more people. Martin’s fifth suggestion is actually something God has done, for the Bible teaches that all men know that God exists, but many suppress this truth (Romans 1: 18-22; 2:14-15), and the Bible teaches that if a person longs to do God’s will, he will recognize God’s truth when he hears it (John 7:16-17). Martin’s other suggestions miss the point, for some people will never freely accept God’s salvation offer no matter how much evidence they are given.

In response to Dr. Martin’s question about those who never heard God’s salvation message, several things should be noted. First, God is near enough to save any man who seeks Him with all of his heart (Psalm 145:18-19; Jeremiah 29:13; James 4:6-10). Second, God draws all men to Himself through His witness in creation and conscience (Romans 1:18-22; 2:14-15), and through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men (John 12:32-33; 16:7-11; Hebrews 3:15). If a man will act upon the light that God has given him and is willing to accept the gospel message if presented to him, then God will see to it that the gospel message is presented to him (James 4:6-10; Romans I0: 11-15; John 3:19-21). I believe that God fore-knew those who would respond positively to His gospel message given certain circumstances, and that He therefore foreordained those circumstances to come about to bring them to faith. In short, God is under no obligation to have His gospel proclaimed to people whom He fore-knew would reject His message. Also, I believe the evidence for God in creation and conscience is clear enough to draw a person to seek God (Romans 1:18-22). However, many people suppress this truth due to their desire for human autonomy (John 3:19-21).

MY RESPONSE TO DR. MARTIN’S CONCLUSION

Dr. Martin claims that my cumulative case for theism is extremely weak. However, I have shown that his supposed refutation of my cumulative case misses the mark. It is more reasonable to accept my thesis that the beginning of the universe was caused than it is to accept Martin’s suggestion that the universe may have come into existence without a cause. It is also more reasonable to acknowledge the evidence for an intelligent Designer of the universe than it is to believe in parallel universes. (Scientists are supposed to observe and study the visible universe, not invent imaginary universes at will.)

Martin accused me of misunderstanding atheism. In reality, he has conceded much to theism by his refusal to defend materialism, epistemological relativism, epistemological skepticism, ethical relativism, and meaningless existence. If there exists an immaterial realm, universal and unchanging truths, a real possibility of knowledge, universal moral values, and meaning in life, then atheism fails miserably as an ultimate explanation. Atheists cannot adequately explain the ultimate source of universal truths and absolute moral values. However, the existence of an immaterial, intelligent, moral Being who rewards His followers with eternal life (thus giving life ultimate meaning) adequately explains all the data in question. I responded to Martin’s three arguments for atheism and showed that he has not proven his case for atheism.

Finally, Dr. Martin is incorrect when he implies that I utilized Pascal’s Wager because my rational arguments had failed. Rather, I use it because I knew my rational arguments were strong, and because I wanted to challenge the readers of this debate to choose God due to the evidence presented. I believe that Pascal’s Wager is much stronger than Dr. Martin would have us believe.9 Pascal showed that the wise man will seek God with all his heart for he has nothing to lose and everything to gain from the choice he has made.

ENDNOTES

1  Michael Martin, Atheism, A Philosophical Justification (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), 25.

2  Ibid., 26.

3  R. C. Sproul, Not a Chance (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994), 59-61.

4  J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House- 1987), 36.

5  for further study, readers are encouraged to read Dr. Martin’s work Atheism, A Philosophical Justification and my recently published book entitled The God Who Sits Enthroned, Evidence for God’s Existence. This latter work can be ordered through IBD Press, P.O. Box 3264, Bremerton, WA. 98310. The cost of the book is $10.00, plus $1.50 for shipping and handling.

6  God temporarily manifested Himself in visible form in 0ld Testament times on several occasions. Theologians refer to these manifestations as Theophanies. Also, God the second Person of the Trinity became a man in the New Testament.

7  I am not dealing with the incarnation at this point in my argumentation.

8  Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland, Immortality, the Other Side of Death (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), 81-83. Habermas and Moreland discuss the results of brain research done independently by several scientists: Wlider Penfield, Roger Sperry, Hans Kornhuber, and B. Libet. Their research seems to indicate that the human decision making process occurs apart from the brain, though it does affect brain states.

9  Either the theistic God (an all-powerful, all-good Being who rewards those who seek Him with eternal life) exists or He does not. If He does exist His followers receive eternal life, but those who oppose Him receive eternal damnation. If He does not exist, it makes no difference how a person responds. If atheism is true, all will cease to exist. If pantheism is true, man is already saved (man is god). If deism is true, then God isn’t concerned enough for man to offer man salvation. If god is finite, he can’t guarantee anyone eternal life (not even himself). If an evil god exists then he cannot be trusted to save anyone, wicked or good. If universalism is true, then everyone will be saved. Therefore, a person has nothing to lose and eternity to gain by wagering on the God of theism. Pascal’s Wager, rightly understood, is not an attempt to prove God’s existence. Rather, it is an attempt to encourage people to seek the theistic God with all their hearts. Pascal believed that if someone genuinely searched for God, he would find God (Jeremiah 2319). Like Pascal, after presenting rational evidence to my readers, I call upon them to make a decision.

Opening Statement: Michael Martin

Phil Fernandes/Michael Martin Debate

Opening Statement: Michael Martin
Response and the Case for Atheism

I am grateful for this opportunity to defend the position of atheism. I would like to thank Dr. Phil Fernandes for agreeing to debate me and Jeff Lowder for arranging the debate.

MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT ATHEISM

Before I present my arguments I would like to clear up some serious misunderstandings concerning atheism.

First, atheism is not materialism. Although some atheists are materialists, atheists are not committed to this view. For example, atheism is compatible with various forms of mind-body dualism. Unfortunately, Dr. Fernandes seems to think atheism is so committed. He says, “if atheism is true, then man is mere molecules in motion.” Second, atheism is not committed to epistemological relativism. For reasons that are unclear, Dr. Fernandes seems to think that an atheist is committed to the absurd view that “there may have been a time when 1+1 equaled 3.” Third, atheism does not entail epistemological skepticism.. According to Dr. Fernandes, in a Godless universe we would have no reason to suppose that “the gap between appearance and reality can be bridged.” Unfortunately, Dr. Fernandes gives no argument to substantiate this remarkable claim. Indeed, he gives no argument for his assumption that if God did exist, this gap would be bridged.1 Fourth, atheism is not committed to ethical relativism or subjectivism. Dr. Fernandes wrongly thinks that it is. I argued in Atheism: A Philosophical Justification2 that ethical absolutism is compatible with atheism, and more recently other philosophers have argued for ethical realism in purely secular terms.3 Dr. Fernandes seems to be unaware of these arguments. Fifth, atheism is not committed to the view that life is meaningless, absurd, or valueless.4 Again Dr. Fernandes wrongly supposes that it is. I devote ten pages of Atheism to refuting this view and I recommend that Dr. Fernandes carefully study my arguments.

REFUTATIONS OF ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE

Once Dr. Fernandes’ misunderstandings are put to one side, there remain three basic arguments for existence of God in his opening statement. It is easy to show that none of these are successful.

1. The Kalam Cosmological Argument

According to Dr. Fernandes the Kalam cosmological argument demonstrates the existence of God. This is the argument that (1) the universe began in time, that (2) this beginning was caused, and that (3) this cause was God. I am willing to grant (1) although I believe that this premise is much more controversial than Dr. Fernandes supposes.5 The other two premises I do not grant. First of all, the universe could arise spontaneously, that is, “out of nothing.” Several well known cosmologists have embraced this view and it is not to be dismissed as impossible.6 In particular, Dr. Fernandes misunderstands modern science very badly in supposing that embracing such a view would “destroy the pillars of modern science.” It is simply not the case that modern science assumes that everything has a cause. Second, the cause of the universe need not be God. It could be a malevolent being or an impersonal force or a plurality of gods or a finite God. Of course, Dr. Fernandes uses other considerations to support his theistic interpretation of the cause of the Big Bang. But these considerations are not well argued for. For example, he maintains that intelligence cannot come from non-intelligence; hence human intelligence cannot come from a mindless universe. However, no good reason is given for this claim and, in any case, a non-mindless universe is compatible with other hypotheses beside theism, for example, polytheism. Third, it is unclear how God could have caused the Big Bang since time is supposed to have been created in the Big Bang. God cannot have caused the universe in any sense one can understand since a cause is normally temporally prior to its effect. In particular, causation in terms of intentions and desires are temporally prior to their effects. God’s desires and intentions therefore cannot be the cause of the Big Bang.

2. St. Thomas’ Five Ways

According to Fernandes, Aquinas’ Five Ways demonstrate God’s existence by showing that dependent beings are dependent on an Independent Being, namely, God. However, this is a misconstrual of Aquinas. Only in his Third Way–an argument from contingent beings to a Necessary Being-does Aquinas come close to Dr. Fernandes’ construction. However, Aquinas’ Third Way commits the fallacy of composition-it assumes that a necessary whole cannot be made of contingent parts. Furthermore, once explicated, this argument contains several other dubious premises.7 Aquinas’s argument also assumes without warrant that a Necessary Being must have all of the attributes of God. In any case, Fernandes’ interpretation of Aquinas in terms of dependency has precisely the same problems as Aquinas’ argument.8

3. The Design Argument

Dr. Fernandes argues that it is astonishingly unlikely that life could have arisen by chance and cites a number of seemingly impressive statistics to support his case. He then concludes that God must be the cause of life in the universe. However, there are at least three problems with his argument.

1. Probability estimates are meaningful only given certain assumptions. The probability estimates to which he refers seem to be based on the classical theory of probability: the ratio of the possibilities favorable to life to all possibilities. However, this theory can only be applied if we have good reason to suppose that the possibilities are equally likely. But we have no reason to make this assumption in this case. On the other hand, the frequency theory of probability cannot apply either. On this theory, probability is the frequency in which a type of event occurs within a class of events. For example, in the case of life this might be the frequency of universes with life generated by big bangs that occur within the class of all universes generated by big bangs. However, there only is evidence of one universe generated by the Big Bang. Given these considerations Dr. Fernandes’ example of a Boeing 747 created from a junkyard by a tornado is misplaced. Here there is ample evidence that the frequency of Boeing 747s in class of events brought about by tornadoes is zero.

2. However, let us grant one could make the probability estimates consider above. There are several hypotheses cosmologists have constructed to explain life that have nothing to with supernatural beings. For example, cosmologists have developed a model in terms of so called “world ensembles.” They have conjectured that our world–our galaxy and the other galaxies–may be one among many alternative worlds or universes existing at the same time. On this view THE UNIVERSE as a whole is composed of a vast number of such worlds or universes, the overwhelming majority of these are lifeless since the various demands that are required for life as we understand it are not met in them. However, given enough universes it is very likely that in some of the complex conditions that are necessary for life would be found. We happen to be in such a universe.

3. Finally, even if naturalistic models are dismissed, Fernandes’ conclusion that God exists does not follow from his premises. Intelligent design in the universe is compatible with many different hypotheses including polytheism, deism and a finite and evil god.

THREE ARGUMENTS FOR ATHEISM.

With Dr. Fernandes’ misunderstandings out of the way and his major arguments refuted I will briefly consider three arguments for atheism.

1. The Argument from Incoherence (AFI)

One good reason to not believe that God exists is that the concept of God is incoherent. The concept of God is like a round square or the largest number. AFI can be formulated in two ways:

According to one formulation of AFI, some of the properties attributed to God in the Bible are inconsistent.9 For example, God is said to be invisible (Col. 1:15, 1Ti 1:17, 6:16), a being that has never been seen (John 1:18, 1Jo 4:12). Yet several people in the Bible report seeing God, for instance Moses (Ex 33:11, 23), Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ge. 12:7, 26:2, Ex 6:3). God is supposed to have said “you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live” (Ge 32:30), However, Jacob saw God and lived. (Ge 32:30). In some places God is described as a merciful10 and in other places as lacking mercy,11 in some places as a being who repents and changes His mind,12 in other places as a being who never repents and changes His mind,13 in some places as a being who deceives and causes evil,14 and in other places as a being who never does,15 in some places as a someone who punishes children for their parents wrong doing16 and in other places as one who never does.17

On another formulation of AFI attributes specified in philosophical accounts of God are either in conflict with one another or are internally inconsistent. In Atheism I spend thirty pages analyzing in detail the incoherence connected with the concepts of omniscience, omnipotence, and divine freedom. Here I only have space to outline my arguments connected with omniscience.

In one important sense, to say that God is omniscient is to say that God is all knowing. To say that God is all knowing entails that He has all of the knowledge that there is. Now philosophers have usually distinguished three different kinds of knowledge: propositional, procedural and knowledge by acquaintance. Briefly, propositional or factual knowledge is knowledge that something is the case and is analyzable as true belief of a certain kind. In contrast, procedural knowledge or knowledge how is a type of skill and is not reducible to propositional knowledge. Finally, knowledge by acquaintance is direct acquaintance with some object, person or phenomenon. For example, to say “I know Mr. Jones” implies that one has not just detailed propositional knowledge about Mr. Jones but direct acquaintance with Mr. Jones. Similarly, to say “I know poverty” implies that, besides detailed propositional knowledge of poverty, one has some direct experience of it.

To say that God is all knowing, then, is to say that God has all knowledge where this includes propositional, procedural and knowledge by acquaintance. However, theists have not noticed the implications of this account for the existence of God. God’s omniscience conflicts with His disembodiness. If God is omniscient, then on this definition God would have all knowledge including that of how to swim. Yet only a being with a body can have such knowledge in the procedural sense, that is actually have the skill, and by definition God does not have a body. Therefore, God’s being disembodied and God’s being omniscient are in conflict. Thus, if God is both omniscient and disembodied, God does not exist. Since God is both omniscient and disembodied He does not exist.

The property of being all knowing also conflicts with certain moral attributes usually attributed to God. If God is omniscience, He has knowledge by acquaintance of all aspects of lust and envy. But one aspect of lust and envy is the feelings of lust and envy. However, part of the concept of God is that He is morally perfect and being morally perfect excludes these feelings. Consequently, there is a contradiction in the concept of God. God, because He is omniscient, must experience the feeling of lust and envy. But God, because He is moral perfect, is excluded from doing so. Consequently, God does not exist.

In addition, God’s omniscience conflicts with His omnipotence. Since God is omnipotent He cannot experience fear, frustration, and despair. For in order to have these experiences one must believe that one is limited in power. But since God is all knowing and all powerful, He knows that He is not limited in power. Consequently, He cannot have complete knowledge by acquaintance of all aspects of fear, frustration and despair. On the other hand, since God is omniscient He must have this knowledge.

Of course, one can imagine various objections to these three arguments. However, these objections can be met and an extended refutation of them can be found in my book.18 Perhaps the most commonly voiced criticism should be mentioned here. One might object that God’s knowledge should not include knowledge by acquaintance and all knowledge how since it is not logically possible for God to have all knowledge by acquaintance and all knowledge how. Thus, God’s knowledge should be limited to factual knowledge. The trouble with this reply, however, is that it committed to the view that it is logically impossible for God to have knowledge that it is logically possible for humans to have. The result is paradoxical to say the least.

One normally supposes that the following is true:

(1) If person P is omniscient, then P has knowledge that any nonomniscient being has.

Furthermore, one normally supposes that the following is true:

(2) If God exists, God has all knowledge that humans have.

But both (1) and (2) are false given the restriction of God’s knowledge to factual knowledge.

However, even if we restrict God’s knowledge to propositional knowledge, the concept of God is still incoherent.

However, even if we restrict God’s knowledge to propositional knowledge, the concept of God is still incoherent. I only have space here to consider one argument that can be adduced to show that it is logically impossible for God to be omniscient in this sense.19

Consider a neglected argument of Roland Puccetti20 that I reconstruct as follows:

If P is omniscient, then P would have knowledge of all facts about the world. Let us call this totality of facts Y. So if P is omniscient, then P knows Y. One of the facts included in Y is that P is omniscient. But in order to know that P is omniscience P would have to know something besides Y. P would have to know:

(Z) There are no facts unknown to P.

But how can Z be known? Puccetti argues that Z cannot be known since Z is an unrestricted negative existential statement. He admits that it is possible to know the truth about those negative existential statements that are restricted temporally and spatially. But Z is a negative existential that is completely uncircumscribed. Knowing Z, Puccetti says, would be like knowing it is true that no centaurs exist anywhere at any time.

But why could not God with his infinite power search all of space and time and conclude that there are no centaurs? Similarly, why could not God search all space and time and conclude that there is no more factual knowledge that He can acquire? Puccetti is not as clear as he might be but one can assume that he would answer this question by saying that God could not exhaustively search space and time because they are both infinite. No matter how long God searched there would be more space and time to search. Consequently, it is possible that there are facts He does not know. Thus, for God to know that He knows all the facts located in space and time is impossible, and since omniscience entails such knowledge, omniscience is impossible.

Now it may be objected that God will know that Z because He is the sole creator of the totality of facts (other than himself). But this reply begs the question. How could God know that He is the sole creator of the totality of facts unless He also knew Z? But since Z cannot be known, God cannot know He is the sole creator of the totality of facts.

This reconstruction of Puccetti’s argument turns on the factual assumptions that space and time are infinite but some scientists have claimed that space is finite but unbounded. The infinite nature of time is also controversial. At most, then, the argument prove that if space and time are infinite, then God is not omniscient. But since God is omniscient by definition, He cannot exist if space and time are infinite.

However, there is a realm of knowledge that is uncontroversially infinite. If God is omniscient, He will know all mathematical facts and know that there are no mathematical facts that He does not know. In order to know all mathematical facts however, it is necessary to investigate all mathematical entities and the relations between and among them. But the number of mathematical entitiesand relations is infinite. So even God cannot complete such an investigation.

We can conclude, then, that given the existence of an infinite number of mathematical entities, God is not omniscient; hence, if omniscience is an attribute of God, He does not exist. Since omniscience is an attribute of God, He does not exist.

2. The Argument from Evil (AE)

Another good reason to disbelieve in God is the existence of the large amount of evil in the world. How can a perfectly good and all powerful being allow this evil? The simplest and most plausible explanation of this evil is that God does not exist. In his opening statements Dr. Fernandes dismisses this argument, maintaining that atheists have “no basis to call anything evil.”21 However, as already noted, this is based on the misunderstanding that atheists have no objective grounds to make moral judgments. In his unpublished manuscript, The God Who Sits Enthroned, Dr. Fernandes is less dismissive and proposes some solutions. With respect to moral evil–the evil brought about by human beings–Dr. Fernandes uses the Free Will Defense (FWD) to try to overcome the difficulty: moral evil is not to be blamed on God but is the result of human’s misuse of their free will. I have argued in detail in Atheism that this defense is severely flawed and can only briefly outline my main points here.

1. The FWD presupposes contracausal freedom (CCF), in other words that human decisions are not caused by any events in our brains or nervous systems. However, there is no scientific reason to suppose that CCF is true.

2. God could have created human beings with a tendency to do good. This would be compatible with CCF and would have produced less evil.

3. God could have produced human beings with CCF who would be less vulnerable to physical attack, for example, human beings with bulletproof skin.

4. God could have created natural laws that make it harder than it actually is for one human being to inflict harm on other human beings, for example, laws that prevent the making of explosives. This would have been compatible with CCF and would have prevented much evil.

5. There is a distinction between the decision D to do an act A and the outcome O of A. God could have allowed people to exercise their CCF in D and yet have ameliorated the harmful outcomes O of A by divine intervention.

6. The FWD assumes that the exercise of free will is worth the price of millions of deaths and untold suffering. This is a doubtful assumption.

7. Although God is not directly responsible for evil on the FWD defense, He is indirectly responsible. Presumably, He has foreknowledge and knows that His creatures will misuse their CCF. In this case, God is reckless and if He does not have foreknowledge, He knows at least that this misuse is possible and yet took no safeguards to prevent it. In this case God is negligent.

In his unpublished manuscript Dr. Fernandes suggests a variety of strategies for solving the problem of natural evil, that is, evil not brought about by human action, for example, earth quakes, tidal waves, genetic deformities. For example, he suggests that natural evil is necessary for moral perfection, that demons cause natural evil, that natural evil is warning that greater evil would follow, that evils such as the suffering of animals are necessary in the present state of the world. I am afraid that none of these suggestions will do.22

1. Natural evil may be necessary in the present state of the world. However, an all powerful God need not be limited to this world but is capable of actualizing a possible world with different laws.

2. When Dr. Fernandes suggests that demons cause natural evil, he is simply assimilating the problem of natural evil to the problem of moral evil: natural evil is the result of the free will of demons. In this case, all of the problems of the FWD apply and there are additional problems as well.23

3. The suggestion that evil is a warning has at least two problems. First, it is difficult to see why evils such as genetic birth defects are a warning to the innocent children who have them or to those parents who may have lead morally upright lives. Second, an all powerful God could warn people in ways that were less destructive and ambiguous. For example, he could speak to directly to them or send heavenly messengers.

4. The idea that evil is necessary for moral perfection also has great problems. First, a flood or tidal wave that kills thousands of children is hardly character building of those children. With respect to the people who survive, for example the parents of the children, instead of strengthening their character, the trauma may just as well crush them beyond recovery. Second, an all powerful God could have provided opportunities for moral development without causing so much pain and suffering, including the killing of the innocent.

3. The Argument from Non-Belief (ANB)

Still another reason for disbelieving in God is the large number of disbelievers in the world.24 ANB is especially telling against evangelical Christianity although it has some force against other religions, for example, Orthodox Judaism.25 Evangelical Christianity is the view that (1) God is merciful and all-loving God, compassionate and caring towards humanity, (2) the Bible and only the Bible is the source of God’s word, (3) God wants all humans to be saved, (4) a necessary condition for being saved is becoming aware of the word of God and accepting it.

Supposing evangelical Christianity to be true, it is difficult to understanding why there are nearly one billion non-believers in world. Why would a merciful God, a God who wants all humans to be saved, not provide clear and unambiguous information about His word to humans when having this information is necessary for salvation? Yet, as we know, countless millions of people down through history have not been exposed to the teaching of the Bible and those that have been are often exposed in superficial and cursory ways, ones not conducive to acceptance. Even today there are millions of people who, through no fault of their own, either remain completely ignorant of the Christian message or because of a seriously lack in their Christian education reject it. One would expect that if God was rational, He would have arranged things in such a way that there would more believers.

Here are a few obvious ideas about how this could have been done:

1. God could have made the Bible more plausible.. He could have make it free from contradiction and factual errors. He could have seen to it that it contains clear and unambiguous and correct prophecies and no false and ambiguous ones.

2. God could have provided people with exposure to the Bible’s message by having Bibles appear in every household in the world written in a language that the occupants could read.

3. God could have spoken from the Heavens in all known languages so that no human could doubt His existence and His message.

4. God could have sent angels disguised as human preachers to spread His word and given them the power to perform unambiguous miracles and works of wonder.

5. God could have implanted a belief in God and His message in everyone’s mind.

6. In recent times God could have communicated with millions of people by interrupting prime time TV programs and given His message.

Any and all of these ideas and countless others that I have not mentioned would have increased the number of believers and presumably the number of saved people. Yet, God has used none of these.

There are a number of defenses against ANB that I should briefly mention.

1. The Free Will Defense –

Theists might argue that God wants His creatures to believe in God without any coercion. The above suggestions, it might be said, involve forcing people to believe in God and this would interfere with their free will.

However, none of the above suggestions about how God could have increased peoples’ belief in God interferes with their free will. For example, if people are provided with clear and unambiguous evidence of His existence, this hardly interferes with their freewill since they can reject this evidence. In fact, in the Bible God is said to have performed spectacular miracles that influenced people to believe in Him. For example, in Ex 7:5 God performed a miracle to demonstrate to the Israelites that He was the true God. Even if God implanted a belief of God in people’s minds, they could reject the implanted idea. Moreover, it makes no sense to suppose that a rational God would create human beings in His own image and yet expect them to believe in Him without strong evidence, that is, to be irrational.

2. The Testing Defense –

One version of the testing defense that is used by evangelical Christians is that evidence for God is clear and unambiguous but humans have rejected it because of a spiritual defect such as false pride. Those who accept the evidence show that they do not have a spiritual defect and those who fail the test show that they do.

However, there is no reason to suppose that evidence for God is convincing or that people reject it because of a spiritual defect. Another more plausible hypothesis is that the evidence for God is utterly unconvincing. In addition, even if it is convincing, billions of people because of their background or circumstances have not been exposed to it. Moreover, if the Bible is convincing in principle and humans have been exposed to it, they may not see this because of their faulty reasoning. It is grossly unfair to punish people for not believing in God either because they have not been exposed to His teachings or because of errors of reasoning.

3. The Unknown Purpose Defense –

Theists might argue that God has some unknown reason for permitting so many non-believers.

In reply to this defense one could argue that theists have the burden of proof of showing there is an unknown purpose. First, God commanded all people to love Him and to believe in His son. Second, the Bible says that the love God commandment is the greatest of all commandments–not to be overridden by another. Third, Jesus said He came to the world to testify to the truth–the gospel message. Again His mission is presumably not to be overridden by other purposes. These reasons indicate that there is strong scriptural support for there being no unknown reason for the existence of so many non-believers.

In addition, God has further properties that make His having an unknown purpose for permitting so much non-belief implausible. For example, according to evangelical Christianity, God wants humans to love Him. How can He want this and yet fail to make billions of humans aware of the gospel message since loving Him presupposes being aware of His message? The appeal to unknown purposes at worse makes God appear irrational and at best creates a mystery that detracts from the explanatory power of theism.

CONCLUSION

Dr. Fernandes claims that he cannot prove the existence of God with rational certainty but that the cumulative case for theism is far superior to the case for atheism. On the contrary, his case for theism is extremely weak: his three main arguments fail completely and his other points are based on misunderstandings of atheism. He may realize this for in the last paragraph of his opening statement he beseeches his readers to choose God by utilizing Pascal’s Wager–a pragmatic argument for God that is normally used when rational epistemic arguments fail. However, Dr. Fernandes seems to be unaware of the many problems with this argument–one of them being that God might reserve a special place in Hell for those people who choose God because of Pascal’s Wager!26

ENDNOTES

1   After all, God may have good reasons for not providing us with reliable knowledge. If God has unknown but good reasons for allowing evil, He could have good but unknown reasons for allowing such an epistemological gap.

2   See Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Temple University Press, 1990), Introduction.

3   See Richard Boyd, “How To Be a Moral Realist,” and Peter Railton, “Moral Realism,” in Moral Discourse and Practice, ed. S. Darwall, A. Gibbard, and P. Railton, (Oxford University Press, 1997)

4   Atheism, pp. 13-23

5   See the debate between Craig and Smith in William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology (Clarendon Press, 1993).

6   See Graham Oppy, “Professor William Craig’s Criticism of Critiques of Kalam Cosmological Arguments by Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking and Adolf Grunbaum,” Faith and Philosophy, 12. 1995, pp. 237 -250

7   See Atheism, Chapter 4.

8   The same thing is true of an Independent Being. A being that is independent simply means that it is not dependent for its existence on other beings. Nothing follows about its moral attributes, let alone its power or knowledge. Dr. Fernandes commits the fallacy of composition, that is arguing from a property of part to a property of a whole. Just because the men who make up an army are weak it does not follow that the army is weak. In a similar way it does not follow that if the parts of a whole are dependent, then the whole is.

9   I am indebted here to Ted Drange’s unpublished manuscript Nonbelief and Evil (pp. 37-38)

10  Ps 86:5, 100:5, 103:8, 106:1, 136:2. 148: 8-9; Joel 2:13; Mic 7:18; Jas 5:11

11  De 7:2,16,20:16 -17; Jos 6:21, 10:11, 19, 40, 11:6-20; ISa 6;19. 15:3; Na 1:2; Jer 13:14; Mt 8:12, 13:42, 50, 25:30, 41, 46; Mk 3:29, 2Th 1:8-9; Re 14:9-11, 21: 8

12  Ge 6:6; Ex 32:14;1Sa 2:30-31, 15:11,35; 2Sa 24:16:2Ki 20: 1-6;Ps 106:45; Jer 42:10; Am 7:3; Jon 3:10

13  Nu 23:19; ISa 15:29, Eze 24:14; Mal 3:6: Jas1:17

14  Ge 11:7; Jg 9:23; 1Sa 16:14; La 3:38; 1Ki 22:22-23; Isa 45:7, Am 3:6; Jer18:11,20:7; Eze 20: 25, 2 Th 2:11

15  De 32:4; Ps 25:8, 100:5, 145:9; ICo 14:33

16  Ge 9:22-25;Ex 20:5, 34:7;Nu 14;18; De 5:9; 2Sa 12:14; Isa 14:21, 65:6-7

17  De 24:16; 2Ch 25:4; Eze 18:20

18  The reader is referred to Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990) Chapter 12.

19  Another argument is adduced in Atheism, pp. 293-297

20  Roland Puccetti, “Is Omniscience Possible?”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 41, 1963, pp. 92 – 93

21  Dr. Fernandes also argues that atheism “offers no solution to the problem.” There must be a confusion here. The problem is how can there be so much evil if God exists. This is not a problem for atheists since they do not believe in God.

22  Again the reader is referred to Atheism, Chapter 16.

23  See my critique of Plantinga’s solution to natural evil that used a similar strategy in Atheism, Chapter 16

24  See Theodore Drange, “The Argument From Nonbelief,” Religious Studies, 29, 1993, pp. 417-432. Drange is the first philosopher I know to develop and defend this argument in a systematic way. See also Theodore Drange, “The Arguments From Evil and Nonbelief”, 1996 http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/aeanb.html

25  In Orthodox Judaism the question is why are there so many descendants of the Israelites who since the time of Moses have rejected one or more of the following: (1) There exists a being who rules the entire universe, (2) This Being has a chosen people, namely, the Israelites, (3) He gave them a set of laws, The Torah, He wants them to follow and which He wants their descendants to follow.

26  See Atheism, Chapter 9.

Opening Statement: Phil Fernandes

Phil Fernandes / Michael Martin Debate

Opening Statement: Phil Fernandes
The Cumulative Case for God

INTRODUCTION

Before I begin my case for the existence of a personal, infinite God, I would like to express my gratitude to Jeff Lowder for arranging this internet debate, and Dr. Michael Martin for agreeing to debate me. I consider it an honor to dialogue with a thinker of the stature of Dr. Martin. It is my hope that I prove to be a worthy opponent.

I have decided not to rest my case for the existence of a personal, infinite God on the validity of one sole argument. Instead, I have chosen to utilize a cumulative case for God. This cumulative case will examine 9 different aspects of human experience that are more adequately explained by theism (the belief in a personal God) than by atheism (the rejection of the belief in a personal God). The thesis I seek to defend is as follows: it is more reasonable to be a theist than it is to be an atheist.

For purposes of this debate, I will define God as the eternal uncaused Cause of all else that exists. This Being is personal (i.e., a moral and intelligent being) and unlimited in all His attributes. This Being is separate from His creation (transcendent), but He is also involved with it (immanent). In short, I will argue that the God of Theism exists.

1) THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE:

This argument is called the kalaam cosmological argument for God’s existence. Saint Bonaventure utilized this argument.1 William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland are two modern proponents of it.2 This argument is as follows: 1) whatever began to exist must have a cause, 2) the universe began to exist, 3) therefore, the universe had a cause.

Premise #1 uses the law of causality-non-being cannot cause being  In other words, from nothing, nothing comes. Since nothing is nothing, it can do nothing. Therefore, it can cause nothing  Hence, whatever began to exist needs a cause for its existence.

Premise #2 contends that the universe had a beginning. Scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe includes the second law of thermodynamics (energy deterioration) and the Big Bang Model. The second law of thermodynamics is one of the most firmly established laws of modern science. It states that the amount of usable energy in a closed system is running down. This means that someday in the finite future all the energy in the universe will be useless (unless there is intervention from “outside” the universe). In other words, if left to itself, the universe will have an end. But if the universe is going to have an end, it had to have a beginning. At one time, in the finite past, all the energy in the universe was usable. Since the universe is winding down, it must have been wound up. The universe is not eternal; it had a beginning. Since it had a beginning, it needs a cause, for from nothing, nothing comes.

It should also be noted that, due to energy deterioration, if the universe is eternal it would have reached a state of equilibrium in which no change is possible an infinite amount of time ago. All of the universe’s energy would already have been used up. Obviously, this is not the case. Therefore, the universe had a beginning.

The Big Bang Model also indicates that the universe had a beginning. In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding at the same rate in all directions. As time moves forward the universe is growing apart. But this means that if we go back in time the physical universe would get smaller and smaller. Eventually, if we go back far enough in the past, the entire universe would be what scientists call “a point of infinite density” or “a point of dimensionless space.” However, if something is infinitely dense, it is non-existent, for existent things can only be finitely small. The same can be said for points of dimensionless space. If a point has no dimensions, it is non-existent for it takes up no space. Therefore, if the Big Bang Model is correct, it shows that universe began out of nothing a finite time ago.

There have been two main attempts to refute the beginning of the universe. The first is called the steady-state model. This view holds that the universe never had a beginning. Instead, it always existed in the same state. Because of the mounting evidence for the Big Bang Model, this view has been abandoned my most of its adherents.

The second attempt to evade the beginning of the universe is called the oscillating model. This model teaches that, at some point during the universe’s expansion, gravity will halt the expansion and pull everything back together again. From that point there will be another big bang. This process will be repeated over and over again throughout all eternity. However, the oscillating model fails. First, there is no known principle of physics that would reverse the collapse of the universe and cause another big bang. Second, current scientific research has shown that the universe is not dense enough for gravity to pull it back together again. And third, even if it could be proven that several big bangs have occurred, the second law of thermodynamics would still require that there was a first big bang.

Many scientists accept the beginning of the universe, but believe that it does not need a cause. The evidence proposed by these scientists consists of speculation dealing with quantum physics (the study of subatomic particles). Appeal is made to Heisenberg’s Principle of Indeterminacy in order to claim that quantum particles pop into existence out of nothing, entirely without a cause. However, Heisenberg’s Principle does not necessitate such an absurd interpretation. Simply because scientists cannot presently find the causes does not mean that the causes do not exist. All that Heisenberg’s Principle states is that scientists are presently unable to accurately predict where a specific subatomic particle will be at a given time. If this principle proved that events can occur without causes then this would destroy one of the pillars of modern science-the principle of causality (every event must have an adequate cause). It seems obvious to me that the principle of causality is on firmer epistemological ground than the belief that things can pop into existence without a cause. Non-being cannot cause being. If the universe had a beginning, then it needs a cause.

Besides this scientific evidence there is also philosophical evidence for the beginning of the universe. If the universe is eternal, then there would be an actual infinite number of events in time. However, as Zeno’s paradoxes have shown, it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite set of points. If we assume the existence of an infinite amount of actual points between two locations, then we can never get from location A to location B, since no matter how many points we have traversed, there will still be an infinite number of points left. If the universe is eternal, then there must exist an actual infinite set of events in the past, but then it would be impossible to reach the present moment. Since the present moment has been reached, there cannot be an actual infinite set of events in the past. There could only be a finite number. Therefore, there had to be a first event. Hence, the universe had a beginning.

It should also be noted that if it is possible for an actual infinite set to exist outside of a mind, contradictions and absurdities would be generated. To illustrate this point, let us look at two infinite sets. Set A consists of all numbers, both odd and even. Set B contains only all the odd numbers. Set A and Set B are equal since they both have an infinite number of members. Still, Set A has twice the number of members as Set B since Set A contains both odd and even numbers, while Set B contains only odd numbers. It is a clear contradiction to say that Set A and Set B have an equal amount of members, while Set A has twice as many members as Set B. Therefore, actual infinite sets cannot exist outside the mind. Actual sets existing outside the mind can only be potentially infinite, not actually infinite. These sets can be added to indefinitely; still we will never reach an actual infinite by successive addition. Therefore, the universe cannot have an infinite number of events in the past. The universe had a beginning.

Since the universe had to have a beginning, it had to have a cause. For from nothing nothing comes. But if the universe needs a cause, what if the cause of the universe also needs a cause? Could we not have an infinite chain of causes and effects stretching backwards in time throughout all eternity? Obviously, the answer is no, for we have already shown that an actual infinite set existing outside of a mind is impossible. Therefore, an infinite chain of causes and effects is also impossible. There had to be a first uncaused Cause of the universe. This uncaused Cause would be eternal, without beginning or end. Only eternal and uncaused existence can ground the existence of the universe.

It seems to me that there are only four possible explanations as to why the universe exists. First, the universe could be an eternal chain of causes and effects. Second, the universe could have popped into existence out of nothing without a cause. Third, the universe could merely be an illusion. And, fourth, the universe could have been caused to come into existence by an eternal, uncaused Cause (i.e., God). I have provided strong evidence against the first and second options, as well as strong argumentation in favor of the fourth option. It is rather obvious that the third option is not a viable position for either participant in this debate. Just the fact that we are engaging in debate with each other strongly implies that we do not believe the universe is an illusion.

Several attributes of the uncaused Cause of the universe can be discovered through examination of the universe. This debate, hopefully, is evidence that intelligent life exists in the universe. Since intelligence is a perfection found in the universe, the ultimate Cause of the universe must also be an intelligent Being, for intelligence cannot come from non-intelligence. No one has ever shown how intelligence could evolve from mindless nature.

Morality also exists in the universe, for without morality, there would be no such thing as right and wrong. However, the moral judgments we make show that we do believe there are such things as right and wrong. Still, nature is non-moral. No one holds a rock morally responsible for tripping him. There is no way that mere “molecules in motion” could produce moral values. Since nature is non-moral but morality exists in the universe, the Cause of the universe must be a moral Being.

The moral law is not invented by individuals, for one individual judges the actions of another. If morality is relative and subjective, then no one could call the actions of Adolph Hitler wrong. Nor could society be the cause of moral laws, since societies often pass judgment on one another (America and the Allies denounced the actions of Nazi Germany). Even world consensus fails to qualify for the source of moral values since the world consensus once held slavery to be morally defensible. Only an absolute moral Lawgiver who is qualitatively above man can be the Cause of a moral law that stands above man and judges his actions. This moral Lawgiver must be eternal and unchanging since we make moral judgments about the past (slavery, evil treatment of women). Therefore, the uncaused Cause of the universe must be an intelligent, moral Being. This means that God must be a personal Being.

2) THE CONTINUING EXISTENCE OF THE UNIVERSE:

This argument for God’s existence derives its substance from Thomas Aquinas’ five ways to prove God’s existence.3 Experience shows us that limited, dependent beings exist. These limited, dependent beings need other beings for their continued existence. For example, I depend on air, water, and food to sustain my existence. However, adding limited, dependent beings will never give us an independent and unlimited whole. Therefore, the sum total of limited, dependent beings is itself limited and dependent. (If each individual part of a floor is wood, then the whole floor will be wood. Likewise, if each part of the universe is dependent, then the entire universe is dependent.) Hence, the ultimate Cause of the continuing existence of all limited, dependent beings must be unlimited and independent.

There cannot be two or more unlimited and independent beings since, if there were, they would limit one another’s existence, but then they would not be unlimited. Therefore, there can only be one unlimited and independent Being. This Being must have all its attributes in an unlimited way. Otherwise, it could not be an unlimited Being. This Being must be all-powerful, for He is the source of all the power in the universe. No other power can limit Him. He is eternal for He is not limited by time. He is everywhere present since He is not limited by space. He is immaterial since He is not limited by matter. This Being must be all-good since He is not limited by evil. He must also be all-knowing since He is not limited by ignorance.

Since mindless nature works towards goals (such as acorns always becoming oak trees and not something else), there must be an intelligent Designer overseeing natural processes. Without intelligent design, nature’s processes would be left to chance. There would be no orderly patterns that could be described as natural laws. Therefore, this infinite and independent Being, whom all finite and dependent beings depend upon for their continued existence, must be an intelligent Being.

3) THE DESIGN & ORDER FOUND IN THE UNIVERSE:

The order, design, and complexity found in the universe strongly implies that the universe is not a random, chaotic throwing together of atoms; rather, it is the product of intelligent design. And, as the product of intelligent design, it necessitates the existence of an intelligent Designer.

Contemporary scientists have found numerous evidences for design in the universe.4 A few examples will suffice. First, the slightest variation in the expansion rate of the universe would render the universe incapable of sustaining life.

Second, British scientists Hoyle and Wickramasinghe estimated that the chances of life evolving from the random shuffling of organic molecules is virtually zero. They calculated that there is only one chance in 1020 to form a single enzyme, and just one chance in 1040,000 to produce the approximately 2,000 enzymes that exist. However, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe point out that the production of enzymes is only one step in the generation of life. Therefore, they concluded there must be some type of Cosmic Intelligence to explain the origin of life.5 Hoyle compared the probability of life spontaneously generating from non-life as equivalent to the chances of a tornado producing a Boeing 747 from a junkyard.6

The cell is the basic unit of life. The DNA molecule of a single-celled animal contains enough complex information to fill one volume of an encyclopedia.7 An explosion in a print shop will never produce one volume of an encyclopedia. That amount of information necessitates an intelligent cause. Also, the human brain contains more genetic information than the world’s largest libraries.8 There is no way that this amount of information could be produced by mere chance. Intelligent intervention is needed.

Third, astrophysicist Hugh Ross listed twenty-five narrowly defined parameters that the universe had to have in order for life to be possible.9 Ross also pointed out thirty-two narrowly defined parameters for life concerning the earth, its moon, its sun, and its galaxy.10 For instance, if the distance between the earth and the sun was to differ by just two percent in either direction, no life on earth would be possible.11 These parameters for life on earth clearly show evidence of design and purpose. The theistic hypothesis of intelligent design is obviously more plausible than the atheistic hypothesis of random chance.

4) THE POSSIBILITY OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE:

The theist claims to know something (i.e., that God exists), and the atheist claims to know something (i.e., that God does not exist). Even the agnostic claims to know something (i.e., that the supposed evidence for God’s existence is insufficient). However, it seems to me that only theism (the belief in a personal God) justifies the possibility of human knowledge. For instance, Immanuel Kant argued that man could only know reality as it appeared to him and not reality as it is. Atheism and agnosticism offer no good reason why we should assume that the gap between reality and appearance can be bridged. However, theism entails the doctrine that a rational God created man in His image (i.e., a rational being) and a coherent universe so that through reason man could find out about the universe in which he lives. Remove the rational God of theism from the equation, and the basis for human knowledge appears to crumble.

5) THE REALITY OF UNIVERSAL, UNCHANGING TRUTHS:

The denial of absolute truth is self-refuting, for if the statement “there is no absolute truth” is true, then it would be an absolute truth. Complete agnosticism is also self-refuting, for to say that man cannot know truth is a claim to know this “truth.” Therefore, there is absolute truth and it is possible for man to know truth.

Some truths are universal, unchanging, and eternal. An example of this would be the mathematical truth “I + 1 = 2.” We do not invent mathematical truths-we discover them. This also applies to the laws of logic (the law of noncontradiction, the law of excluded middle, the law of identity, etc.). These truths stand above human minds and judge human minds. For instance, if we add I + I and we conclude with 3, the eternal truth that 1 + I = 2 will declare us wrong. However, Augustine argued that it is not likely that human, fallible minds are the ultimate cause of universal, unchanging, eternal truths. Augustine concluded that an unchanging, eternal Mind must be the ultimate source of these truths.12

Atheism has no basis for eternal, unchanging truths. If atheism is “true,” then there may have been a time when I + I equaled 3. There may also have been a time when torturing innocent babies was good. In fact, if atheism is true, there may have been a time when the statement “God exists” was true.

6) THE EXISTENCE OF ABSOLUTE MORAL VALUES:

We all make moral value judgments when we call the actions of another person wrong. When we do this, we appeal to a moral law. This moral law could not originate with each individual, for then we could not call the actions of another person, such as Adolph Hitler, wrong.

The moral law is not a creation of each society, for then one society cannot call the actions of another society, such as Nazi Germany, wrong. The moral law does not come from a world consensus, for world consensus is often mistaken. The world once thought that the earth was flat, the sun revolved around the earth, and slavery was morally acceptable. Appealing to society or world consensus will never give us an adequate cause for the moral law and the moral judgments we make. Appealing to society or world consensus only quantitatively adds men and women. What we need is a moral law qualitatively above man. This moral law must be eternal and unchanging so that we can condemn the actions of the past (i.e., slavery, the holocaust, etc.).

The moral law qualitatively above man is not descriptive of the way things are (as is the case with natural laws). The moral law must be prescriptive-it describes the way things ought to be.13 Prescriptive laws need a Prescriber. Therefore, a moral Lawgiver must exist, and this Lawgiver must be eternal and unchanging.

We are accountable to this moral Lawgiver that stands above all mankind. Atheist Sigmund Freud failed miserably in his attempt to explain the universal experience of guilt. 14 I believe that the best explanation for the guilt we all experience is the fact that we know we stand guilty before a righteous and holy God. Therefore, when we make moral value judgments, whether it involves self-judgment (a guilty conscience) or judgment of another person, we appeal to a transcendent objective moral law. This is a strong indication that there exists a transcendent moral Lawgiver.

7) THE ABSURDITY OF LIFE WITHOUT GOD:

Each of us thirsts for something more; life on earth never fully satisfies. It is my contention that only the God of the Bible can fully satisfy man’s deepest needs. What hope can an atheist offer mankind? People on their deathbeds don’t usually call an atheist to comfort them-normally a preacher or a priest is summoned. Even if an atheist could guarantee us seventy years of happiness, what good would that be when compared with the eternity of non-existence that follows? If there is no God who sits enthroned, then Hitler will not be punished for his evil deeds, and Mother Theresa will not be rewarded for her generous works of charity. If there is no God, then a million years from now what would it matter if you were a Hitler or a Mother Theresa? What difference would it make?

Would life have any ultimate meaning if there is no God? If nonexistence is what awaits us, can we really make sense of life? You live and then you die. There are no eternal consequences. Hitler and Mother Theresa have the same destiny. We all finish our meaningless journeys in total nothingness. The famous atheist Bertrand Russell wrote:

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins . . . 15

Immediately following that statement, Russell referred to his atheistic philosophy as “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.” 16 Without God, life is without meaning.

However, if there is a God, then there is hope. The God of the Bible guarantees the defeat of evil and the triumph of good. He guarantees that Hitler will receive his punishment and Mother Theresa will receive her reward. God gives life meaning, for how we choose to live our lives on earth brings eternal consequences. God is our reason to be optimistic about the future. Only He can overcome our fear of death; only He can defeat evil. Without God, meaningless existence is all we face. Without God, there is no hope.

8) RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE:

If atheism is true, then man is mere molecules in motion. He has no greater value than the animals. In fact, human life would be no more sacred than the existence of a rock. Yet, we act as if human life has more value than the life of animals or the existence of rocks. If the material universe is all there is, then man is just a material part of the universe. There seems to be no basis from which to argue for human rights or the sanctity of human life. Even our founding fathers (who were not always consistent with their ideals) grounded their view of unalienable human rights in their belief that “all men are created equal.” I propose that the most reasonable explanation for our common conception of human rights is the biblical teaching that human life has value since we were created in God’s image.

9) THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL (IT’S CAUSE & ULTIMATE DEFEAT):

Atheists often argue that the existence or amount of evil in the world disproves the existence of the God of the Bible. I see two difficulties with this view. These difficulties cause the argument against God’s existence from evil to backfire into an argument for God’s existence.17

The first difficulty is that the atheist has no explanation for evil within his world view. If the atheist accepts the existence of evil, he must define what it is. If he denies the existence of evil, then he has no basis upon which to call any action evil. Evil can be defined as the perversion or corruption of that which is good. However, for good to be objectively real its existence must be grounded in something ultimately good. In other words, if the atheist acknowledges the existence of evil, his argument dissolves into a moral argument for God’s existence. If he denies the existence of evil, his world view is morally bankrupt. If the atheist chooses to accept the existence of evil, but not seek its ultimate cause, then atheism becomes a non-explanation of evil. Hypotheses that do not attempt to explain the data in question should be abandoned. It is not enough to say that evil is “just there.”

The second difficulty with the atheistic argument from the problem of evil is the fact that, if evil exists, atheism offers absolutely no solution to the problem. After a life of suffering and pain, people die and cease to exist. I believe that the Christian solution to the problem of evil (the death, resurrection, and return of Christ) is the only hope that evil will be defeated. In fact, if Christianity is true, then Christianity guarantees the ultimate defeat of evil. The injustices of this life will be rectified in the hereafter.

CONCLUSION

In the famous debate on the existence of God between Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston, the atheist Bertrand Russell stated concerning the existence of the universe, “I should say that the universe is just there, and that’s all.”18 It is my contention that atheism fails as an explanation of significant aspects of human experience, and that theism is a more reasonable hypothesis. If the atheist could say that “the universe is just there,” could he not say that moral values, design and order, universal truths, the human experience of guilt, the sanctity of human life, the possibility of human knowledge, and meaning in life are “just there” as well. To avoid looking for an explanation is not the same thing as the search for an explanation. In this sense, the theistic explanation is superior to the atheistic explanation, for the latter reduces to a non-explanation.

However, the atheist may choose to deny the reality of moral values, design and order, universal truths, the human experience of guilt, the sanctity of human life, the possibility of human knowledge, and meaning in life. If the atheist takes this strategy, my response is that he can’t live consistently with the view that these things are not real. Even the atheist lives as if some things are wrong and other things are right. He lives as if human life is sacred, and life has meaning.

Rational statements only make sense within some type of rational context. The atheist, by arguing against God’s existence, has removed the rational context (the universe as an effect of the rational God) for rational discourse. He reasons against God, but if there is no God, there is no reason.

Is it reasonable to believe that the universe popped into existence out of absolute nothingness-entirely without a cause? Or, is it rational to conclude that the universe is eternal despite the strong scientific and philosophical evidences that indicate that the universe had a beginning? Is the atheist justified in holding to the idea that time plus chance plus natural laws worked upon “primordial soup” until it eventually birthed a French philosopher who declared, “I think, therefore I am”? If atheism is true, then, given enough time, it did occur. (Atheistic evolution only appears plausible in slow motion. When we hear about a frog instantly becoming a prince, we call it a fairy tale. But if we are told that a frog became a prince gradually over a period of several million years, we call this science.)

From molecules in motion will never come moral values or the laws of logic. From a mound of dirt, a single thought will never be produced – no matter how much time is given. If no God exists and all we are is molecules in motion, from whence come human rights? If an innocent child is merely a random collection of atoms, can we really say that it is wrong to crush him? If there is no life after death and all we face is everlasting extinction, can this life really have meaning? What counsel can an atheist offer a suffering friend on his deathbed? Can we climb above despair if all we face is extinction? When the universe dies, all will die with it. If atheism is true, then human experience is a cruel joke. And, if life is a cruel joke, then why even bother to debate?

I do not believe that we can prove God’s existence with rational certainty. However, I believe that the theistic explanation is far superior to the atheistic explanation. Therefore, I beseech all who read this debate to examine the evidence that I have presented. The God of theism is an all-good God who eternally rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Either this type of God exists or He does not exist. I beseech you to choose this God, for, as the Christian thinker and scientist, Blaise Pascal, has said, if you choose God and lose, you lose nothing. But, if you choose God and He exists, you win eternity. Pascal also pointed out that if you choose against God and He does not exist, you gain nothing, but if you choose against God and He does exist, you lose everything. Therefore, the wise man will choose God.19

ENDNOTES

1 Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy , vol. ii (New York: Image Books, 1950), 262-265.

2 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 91-122. J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 22-42.

3 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a. 2,3.

4 J. P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen, Does God Exist? The Great Debate (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 35-36.

5 lbid., 1 43.

6 Ibid., 35.

7 Norman L. Geisler and J. Kerby Anderson, Origin Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 1 62.

8 Ibid.

9 Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993), 111-114.

10 Ibid.1 129-132.

11 Ibid., 1 27.

12 Augustine, On Free Will, 2.6.

13 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Collier Books, 1 952), 27-28.

14 Ninian Smart, The Religious Experience of Mankind (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), 40-41.

15 Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), 107.

16 Ibid.

17 William Lane Craig, No Easy Answers (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), 99-100.

18 John Hick, ed., The Existence of God (The Macmillan Company: New York, 1964), 1 75.

19 BIaise Pascal, Pensees translated by A. J. Krailsheimer. (London: Penguin Books, 1966), 149-155.