Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case

Stealing From God

Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case

Frank Turek is a speaker and author who wrote or co-wrote Correct But Not Politically Correct, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist, and Legislating Morality. Turek speaks on college campuses and hosts a weekly radio and television show. He has a DMin in Christian Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary. (I knew it! He came eating and drinking, so he has a DMin!)

Turek’s writing and speaking, as well as his radio and television shows, center on Christian apologetics, and this book is a natural extension of his work.

In Stealing From God, Turek argues that the kinds of ideas atheists appeal to in order to disprove God would not even exist if God did not exist, and therefore atheism is almost certainly false. Turek discusses six of these ideas using the acrostic, “CRIMES:”

  • Causality
  • Reason
  • Intelligence and Intentionality
  • Morality
  • Evil
  • Science

He then covers each point in the first six chapters. In chapter 7 Turek makes a case for mere Christianity by addressing the existence of truth, God, miracles, and the reliability of the New Testament. Finally, chapter 8 defends the idea of eternal punishment.

In his discussion of causality, Turek notes that many of the new atheists appeal to science, especially the principle of causality, for what can be known. However, when it comes to the universe, suddenly there is an exception. In response to arguments such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, where it is pointed out that anything that begins to exist must have a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause, atheists appeal to some as-yet undiscovered natural process to explain its origin. Some, like Lawrence Krauss go as far as to redefine nothing to muddy the waters. Moreover, Turek addresses Krauss’ claim that physical effects must have physical causes, and notes the need to explain the causes of the laws of nature and the fine-tuning of the universe for life. Finally, Turek notes the absurdity of the “Who made God?” challenge.

Reason

Atheists appeal to reason but reason points to a rational ground without which reason is an illusion. All of our capacities for reason are grounded in logic, but as Turek points out, the origin of logic needs to be accounted for. Atheists will sometimes claim that logic is a human convention, but the universal applicability of logic defies this explanation. Some will go as far as to deny logic, but it is inescapable. Turek argues that immaterial entities like the laws of logic cannot have a material origin. Therefore, reason would be impossible if atheism was true.

Information and Intentionality

Turek notes the common experience that information comes from an intelligent source and that DNA contains large quantities of information, and that along with epigenetic information provide the instructions for the various body plans. Atheism cannot account for the origin of such information. In response to the claim that appeals to Intelligent Design are not scientific, Turek notes that neither are appeals to Darwinism. The difference is philosophical.

With respect to intentionality, Turek points out many examples in the created order that point to being made for a purpose. This is evidence that there was a mind behind their existence. (While “intentionality” is used correctly here, though more for the sake of the acrostic, it seems to me teleology would have been clearer since in philosophy intentionality is more the “aboutness” of thought.)

Morality

Atheists will often complain about their rights while at the same time denying an objective ground to them. Moreover, they will appeal to evolution and biological processes to explain morality. Turek demonstrates the confusion that often surfaces over how people behave, how they ought to behave and how we know it. Turek then shows how the very moral intuitions atheists have but try to suppress are grounded in One who is good by his very nature.

Evil

Atheists complain about the evil they see in the world. What they don’t recognize, as Turek points out, is that evil proves the existence of good, which proves the existence of God. Without God, evil is just us “dancing to our DNA.” Moreover, contrary to the claim that religion causes wars and evil, Turek notes the millions killed in the 20th century by atheistic regimes.

Turek illustrates the hypocrisy of many skeptics who complain about evil by showing how we all want all the evil in the world removed… as long as it is that which is more evil than ourselves. He goes on to explain the purpose of suffering in the context of the purpose of our lives.

Science

It is sometimes claimed by atheists that science has disproven God. Scientific evidence is interpreted just like all kinds of evidence is. Turek notes that differences in worldview shape how the evidence is seen. Different approaches are required for studying origins than studying operational science. Science searches for causes whether event or agent. For an atheist to assert that all causation is event causation is to beg the question. Atheism only allows for event causation. To allow for agent causation requires the abandonment of materialism, which atheists are unwilling to do.

Science depends on the laws of physics, logic, and morality, none of which can exist without God. As Turek notes, it is not God that is at odds with science, but atheism.

Case for Christianity

Turek argues for mere Christianity by showing that the existence of truth, the existence of God, the possibility of miracles and the reliability of the New Testament provide sufficient evidence to think it is true.

Defense of Hell

In the final chapter, Turek offers arguments for the justice of eternal punishment for unregenerate sinners, noting that it is not loving for God to force people who don’t want him to spend eternity in his presence.

In his introduction, Turek defines his terms so it is clear what sort of God he is defending. Additionally, Turek’s treatment of the Canaanite conquest is well balanced by showing both Copan and Jones’ responses. Moreover, Turek’s engaging style and use of acrostics and catchy subtitles make for enjoyable reading.

Stealing From God is written at a level appropriate for highschoolers all the way to graduate students. It is a must read for anyone who thinks atheism is a robust alternative to the Christian worldview.

The Allure of Gentleness

The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith In the Manner of Jesus

By Dallas Willard

 

A review

Dallas Willard received his PhD in Philosophy from Baylor University in 1964. He served as Philosophy professor from 1965-2012 at the University of Southern California. In addition to The Allure of Gentleness, Willard wrote 13 books including The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heart, and Spirit of the Disciplines. He passed away in 2013.

The Allure of Gentleness was put together by Willard’s daughter from a series of talks given in 1990, along with notes and a list of additions Willard wanted included.

Willard’s purpose in writing this book was to return to a sense of apologetics as a shared journey of exploration, where we invite people to examine their doubts, welcoming the questions that trouble believers and seekers. The main thesis is that a gentle spirit and a kind presentation of the intellectual aspects of apologetics make them more effective.

The book is short, just seven chapters on 170 pages of content. Chapter 1 lays out Willard’s case for using our rational faculties in service of Christ. Chapter 2 applies this idea to apologetics as a practice. Chapter 3 offers a biblical model for apologetics. Chapter 4 explores the relationship between faith and reason. In chapter 5, Willard defends divine revelation. Chapter 6 addresses pain, suffering and the problem of evil. Finally, chapter 7 explores the ongoing interaction between the disciple and his Lord.

I really like reading anything Willard writes. When I read his work, I feel like I am having a conversation with the Christian grandfather I never had. I always come away feeling challenged and motivated to strive to do better, to seek God more fervently, and to emulate his manner. This book is no different in that respect. However, for those very reasons, there are a few things in this book that bother me.

One of the less troubling comments Willard makes is with respect to cosmic evolution. He notes that, “The suggestion of cosmic evolution (order out of chaos) as an alternative was not presented until the nineteenth century.”(76.) But it seems as though Willard is conflating the idea of cosmic evolution with biological evolution. Until the early 20th century, the reigning paradigm was that the universe was eternal and static. It was not until the work of Einstein and Hubble foreclosed on the steady state model that theories like Big Bang cosmology were proposed. Another place where Willard’s views could bring about confusion is in his section “Reading E=MC2 From Left to Right.” Here Willard asserts that God is energy. This lends itself to confusion because of equivocation of “energy.” If by energy one means the ability to do work, this is not a problem. However, when physicists speak of energy in the context of E=MC2, energy is a form that matter can take. However, I do not believe Willard means to say that God is a physical being.

In addition, Willard has a section he calls, “There is No “Good” Without Evil.” However, if it is the case that evil is a deprivation of good, how is good dependent on evil? Willard seems to be arguing that human evil is necessary. I can see his argument that certain goods require evils, such as courage requiring threats, mercy requires wrongs, and generosity requires needs, but a world without threats, wrongs and need could still be good.

The most troubling thing Willard writes is in his discussion on the hiddenness of God. Willard argues that God “…is capable of not knowing whatever he does not wish to know—should there be any such thing.” (66.) This idea is not even coherent,  for in order for God to choose to not know something, he would have to know it and when it would obtain in order to be sure he does not know it. This is a strange departure from the classical view of divine omniscience. Willard defends the view by drawing a parallel to divine omnipotence, noting that on omnipotent God is able to do anything power can do, but it does not mean he does do everything his power allows him to do. However, omniscience is not the ability to know, but the possession of the knowledge.

Finally, Willard gives a weak defense of the idea that God speaks to individuals. I say weak because the Bible passages offered do not support his argument. I do not mean to say that God does not, or cannot speak to individuals even today. What I am saying is that the passages Willard cites do not teach that every believer can expect to experience this. (For a more detailed treatment of this issue, see http://www.str.org/publications/does-god-whisper-part-1#.VOUFmVPF9Oh)

These concerns aside, I highly recommend this book, as well as anything else Willard writes. It is written at a level that a high school student can understand, and an academic can enjoy. It is an encouragement for those considering apologetics as a part of their skillset, and a challenge to those of us who have developed some skills to apply them in a more Christ-like manner.

Finding Truth

Finding Truth

By Nancy Pearcey

A Review

 

Nancy Pearcey is the director of the Christian Worldview Center at Houston Baptist University. She is the author or coauthor of six other books, including Total Truth, Saving Leonardo, and How Now Shall We Live (with Chuck Colson.)

Many Christian philosophers and apologists have written effective critiques of worldviews that compete with Christianity in the marketplace of ideas. In that sense there is nothing new in Pearcey’s book. The beauty of Finding Truth is in how Pearcey offers a systematic way to evaluate these worldviews in a way that exposes their weaknesses, and shows Christianity to be a viable alternative.

Working from the text of chapters 1 and 2 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Pearcey outlines a five-step process for evaluating worldviews that compete with Christianity. She notes that every worldview has an ultimate concern, or something that has the status of divinity, hence the first step is to identify what this is for the worldview. What stands in for the God the worldview denies?

Every God-substitute turns out to be something within the created order, and therefore smaller than the God who is. Pearcey shows how all competing worldviews entail some form of reductionism. She then helps the reader identify it. If you think of a worldview as a box, only Christianity has one big enough to contain reality. All others are too small, and therefore they must deny, dismiss, or ignore aspects of reality that do not fit in the box.

Having noted the aspects of reality that must be denied, the third step is to compare the view with how one experiences the world. How well does the worldview make sense of the world as we find it?

In the next step, we examine the worldview to see if it passes its own test. Ultimately, worldviews contrary to Christianity are self-refuting.  For example, materialism denies the existence of free will. However, some form of free will is necessary for rationality to be possible. If rationality is not possible, the materialist cannot affirm or defend materialism. In the final step, the case is made for the Christian worldview, noting how the competing worldview is already borrowing from Christianity while denying it at the same time. Pearcey closes by arguing for an integrated faith that applies critical thinking, rather than shuns it.

Finding Truth is a must read for parents of high school students contemplating college, college students, youth pastors, and anyone else who wants to think carefully about faith and be able to share their faith more effectively.