It Is Necessary To Reject Agnosticism In Order To Defend It.

Agnosticism, as it pertains to theism (and my interest here is Christian theism), runs one of two ways: 1) the individualist way—claiming to have no personal knowledge as to whether or not God, (or god, or gods, deity, etc.) exists. Others may make such a knowledge claim, but the individual agnostic claims, at least for himself, to have no knowledge; 2) the second way agnosticism is expressed is universality, stating that knowledge claims about deity is impossible for anyone. No one can know if such a thing as deity exists, and those who claim to know are either simply wrong, deceived, or deceptive.

The reason this distinction matters is that although an individual agnostic may deny the universality of his agnosticism, agnosticism invariably leads to a universal claim about knowledge, and a demand of its acceptance.

If, as Christian theists assert, all people, believers and unbelievers alike, know enough about God and His Law to be held accountable to it, then the agnostic is not telling the truth when he says, “I don’t know whether or not God exists.” This is hardly surprising—people say this all the time. The problem is, of course, that Scripture tells us otherwise (Psalm 19; Romans 2:12-16). According to the Bible, there are no agnostics. If the Bible is true, there are no agnostics.

The tendency to universalize agnosticism stems from the objection to what I said in the paragraph above: “You cannot say that I know there is a God when I clearly know that I do not know. What you say about me (that I really do know that God exists) can only be true if your system is correct. I don’t believe your system and therefore I am not subject to its claims.”

To defend agnosticism is to deny Scripture. But to deny Scripture is to claim knowledge about its truthfulness. Once such knowledge is claimed, agnosticism has been abandoned. So it is necessary to reject agnosticism in order to defend it, which, of course, means it is defeated. Therefore, I would argue, that agnosticism is irrational.

Furthermore, our disbelief or belief in any proposition (such as, “God exists) is irrelevant to its truthfulness. God does not exist because I believe that He does, nor does He not-exist because I disbelieve. What is true is true whether or not I believe it, or accept it. Denying Scripture, and all it says about God’s Law, judgement, and wrath, does not remove its reality if it is real.

So the agnostic must actually claim to know something: that religious knowledge is not true, or at least that it is unknowable. This is, then knowledge, something known.

This moves us into the second way that agnosticism functions, which is as a universal. Just as Christian truth-claims are universal, the agnostic’s knowledge must be universal as well. It cannot be private, or personal, because the nature of the claim is in essence a universal.

An agnostic cannot, consistently, remain so at the personal level. It must be true for all if it is for anyone.

Christians already accept that their beliefs are universal, and not limited to the individual.

Arguing for the Existence of Air Whilst Breathing

Van Til 1

“To make our conversation more interesting, let’s start by comparing notes on our past. That will fit in well with our plan, for the debate concerning heredity and environment is prominent in our day. Perhaps you think that the only real reason I have for believing in God is the fact that I was taught to do so in my early days. Of course I don’t think that is really so. I don’t deny that I was taught to believe in God when I was a child, but I do affirm that since I have grown up I have heard a pretty full statement of the argument against belief in God. And it is after having heard that argument that I am more than ever ready to believe in God. Now, in fact, I feel that the whole of history and civilization would be unintelligible to me if it were not for my belief in God. So true is this, that I propose to argue that unless God is back of everything, you cannot find meaning in anything. I cannot even argue for belief in Him, without already having taken Him for granted. And similarly I contend that you cannot argue against belief in Him unless you also first take Him for granted. Arguing about God’s existence, I hold, is like arguing about air. You may affirm that air exists, and I that it does not. But as we debate the point, we are both breathing air all the time. Or to use another illustration, God is like the emplacement on which must stand the very guns that are supposed to shoot Him out of existence. However if, after hearing my story briefly, you still think it is all a matter of heredity and environment, I shall not disagree too violently. My whole point will be that there is perfect harmony between my belief as a child and my belief as a man, simply because God is Himself the environment by which my early life was directed and my later life made intelligible to myself.”

Cornelius Van Til and Eric H. Sigward, The Pamphlets, Tracts, and Offprints of Cornelius Van Til, Electronic ed. (Labels Army Company: New York, 1997).

Bahnsen on Miracles: What Makes a Theist?

 

Bahnsen on Miracles

Quote from Greg Bahnsen in his closing remarks in a debate with Dr. Gordon Stein (Stein representing the atheist position).

Audio and printed transcript available here.

The full context of the quote below:

Moderator: Dr. Stein, the final question is directed to you. It reads:
You have said that there has been no adequate evidence put forth for God’s existence. What for you personally would constitute adequate evidence for God’s existence?
Stein: Well, it’s very simple. I can give you two examples. If that podium suddenly rose into the air five feet, stayed there for a minute and then dropped right down again, I would say that is evidence of a supernatural because it would violate everything we knew about the laws of physics and chemistry.

Assuming that there wasn’t an engine under there or a wire attached to it, we can make those obvious exclusions. That would be evidence for a supernatural violation of the laws. We could call it a miracle right before your eyes. That would be evidence I would accept.

Any kind of a supernatural being putting it into appearance and doing miracles that could not be stage magic would also be evidence that I would accept. Those are the two simplest way. I would also accept evidence that logically non-contradictory, and I have not heard any yet here tonight that hasn’t been offered already.

Bahnsen: Dr. Stein, I think, is really not reflecting on the true nature of atheism and human nature when he says, “All it would take is a miracle in my very presence to believe in God.” History is replete with first of all things which would be apparently miracles to people.

Now, from an atheistic or naturalistic standpoint, I will grant, in terms of the hypothesis, that that’s because they were ignorant of all the calls of factors and so it appeared to be miracles. But you see that didn’t make everybody into a theist. In fact, the Scriptures tells us that there were instances of people who witnessed miracles, who all the more hardened their heart, and eventually crucified the Lord of glory. They saw his miracles, that didn’t change their mind.

People are not made theists by miracles. People must change their world views; their hearts must be changed. They need to be converted. That what it takes, and that’s what it would take for Dr. Stein to finally believe it. If this podium rose up five feet off the ground and stayed there, Dr. Stein would eventually have in the future some naturalistic explanation because they believe things on faith, by which I mean that they believe things as which they have not proven by their senses.

Prove it.

“No theist can prove the existence of God,” asserts the atheist. But the atheist’s own philosophy doesn’t fare any better: no atheist can prove that God does not exist. When an atheist points out logical inconsistencies, fallacies, faulty arguments, etc., in the theistic approach (and may or may not be correct in so doing), he has still not moved the ball down field one bit toward the goal of proving the non-existence of God. The trouble is, the same criteria demanded of the theist by the atheist must also be demanded by the atheist himself. If it is indeed true that some theistic arguments are unconvincing, one may say only that they are not convinced, not that the point of the arguments have been settled by their lack of success. A person can have a correct position on a subject without being able to correctly argue that position. The truth of the matter stands whether or not it is argued well.

So, for example, the arguments of theodicy against theism are irrelevant (that is, if God exists, why is there evil? Evil exists, therefore there is no God; to put it too briefly). Arguing against an unpleasant deity are not arguments against that deity’s existence. That is to say, one may be angry with God, but in matters of existence it is irrelevant.

The atheist will never allow an argument to prevail, nor evidence to convince. He must, as a precondition to his atheism, deny God’s existence:

Romans 1:18–23 (ESV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

The theist and the atheist both must start with God: the theist presupposes God as the only possible explanation of anything, and the atheist in a presupposed denial. The Christian theist sees this; the atheist is blind to it. It should be remembered, however, that both the theist and the atheist know there is a God.

John Loftus is a Pompous Ass

Never used that phrase before, although I first heard it used at least forty years ago. I always felt it was just too strong, even though I’ve come across many for whom the moniker fit so well. I may never use it again (PA’s can be a litigious bunch). But something I read weeks ago has stayed with me, and in a moment of insomnia, I understood why, and who:

John Loftus is a Pompous Ass.

Why John Loftus? First, let me explain that I only mean one John Loftus, lest the names of other innocent Loftus-es be besmirched. The John Loftus to whom I refer is the author of The Christian Delusion, Why I Became an Atheist, The End of Christianity, and The Outsider Test for Faith. He runs a blog, Debunking Christianity. He is, allegedly, a Christian turned atheist. I doubt he ever was the former but the latter is fairly evident.

John earned the title, not for his arrogance as an atheist (which, lacking the existence of an “humble atheist,” arrogance and atheism seem to be pretty tight friends). No, not for mere arrogance, but for one, over-the-top spew of hubris in one little sentence, one brief comment. This comment, ironically, was regarding a man he allegedly admired, a Christian theologian and seminary professor who died in the Spring of 2014, James Strauss.

 “Now he is gone, forever. He’ll never know his entire life was spent on a delusion, for in order to know this he would have to wake up from the dead for a moment.”

No matter what good will he intended for the late Dr Strauss, this one spot of conceit spoilt it all. For, according to the Loftus’ atheism, this is the end of all sentient life, including his own. In his smirking, self-assured overconfidence, he speaks as one who believes this same fate doesn’t await himself. It is as if Loftus’ overconfidence betrays a deep-seated assumption (perhaps a hope?) that for the intellectually elect there is an afterlife at the so-smart club, stocked well of fine brandy and cigars awaiting those who scoffed at deity while on earth, and who will enjoy an eternity of doing likewise over the graves of the poor sots who didn’t listen to them.

“He’ll never know . . .” Isn’t that the point of atheism? Without any scientific evidence (atheists, I’m told, fancy themselves scientific) for non-being after death, Loftus simply asserts non-existence.

“He’ll never know . . .” But the atheist must deny forever the possibility of true knowledge.

“He’ll never know . . .” So if Strauss had lived longer, perhaps listening to you, he’d wise up?

“He’ll never know . . .” But how do you know that, John?

This is the atheist’s unbearable arrogance, that he knows what no one else can know, unless atheism is the working assumption. But atheism can’t account for knowledge of anything, much less the universe. I would add that atheism is not, in any field of human science, philosophy, or ethics, a requisite for knowledge. Science has grown quite well apart from atheism, and will continue to do so. As a contributing factor to human advancement and achievement, it is theistic, not atheistic, assumptions that account for that advancement. Atheism is simply superfluous.

In atheism, knowledge is merely bald assertion, for this is the only argument atheism can muster. It takes a special kind of person to work up such chutzpah, such hubris.

So the Pompous Ass award must go to the one who asserts knowledge he does not have, nor can have. It must go to one who “knows” what others may or may not know. No atheist has knowledge that there is no God. He may hate God, be angry at God, feel that God is somehow unjust; but no one can know that there is no God.

Our  (I was a student of Dr Strauss and a classmate of Loftus) dear “Doc” spent his life for Truth that is opaque to Mr. Loftus. At the risk of inviting more derision, I will close with the obvious: if Loftus is right, he’ll never know, and that means nothing changes. He doesn’t know now, and never will. If Strauss was right, Loftus will know forever in a most horrible manner.

The New Atheism?

I wonder why atheism is now called “the new atheism.” Is there new evidence, or might it be that the old atheism is simply a failure? When you attempt to prove the existence of non-existnece, the burden of proof gets pretty demanding.

I think it’s a whistle-in-the-dark kind of marketing scheme. Sells books, anyway.