Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

10/20/2008 (7:03 pm)

I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist: Introduction

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was working on a presentation of the seminar, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” Several of my regular readers expressed some interest in the content, so I’ll be posting the bare bones of the seminar as blog posts from time to time over the next couple of weeks, in between watching the Phillies win the World Series. I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to leave comments (even if they’re comments on the order of “This is not what I come here for.”)

Christian kids face an astonishingly hostile environment when they enter college in America. Not only is the average college professor far to the left of the average American, and not only do more than half of college professors admit to an unfavorable view of Evangelicals (the next nearest negative rating is of Mormons, of whom some 33% of professors hold a negative view, and then Muslims, 22%,) there are actually college professors who state as their goal that every one of their students who admit to being Christian at the beginning of the term will not be Christian by the end. These profs engage in tactics to shame their Christian students, expose their faith claims to ridicule, and otherwise persuade them to reject their faith. In a power-laden situation like the professor-student relationship, this is abusive, not to mention completely unfair — but Christians frequently have to face this. Statistics show that of the students who enter university self-identifying as born again Christians, half will self-identify as something else by the time they leave.

Moreover, while roughly 3/4 of American teens will attend church at least 2 consecutive months sometime during their teen years, 3/4 of those will not attend church in their 20s — and many of them will never come back. The American church has a tremendous opportunity to reach teenagers, but chooses instead to simply provide holding tanks for them, with snacks and movies.

Among these nominally Christian young people who choose to abandon Christianity in their young adulthood, one of the most common reasons given is that they simply do not believe Christianity to be true, and most of those will say it’s because of the impact of science on Christianity.

To reject a religion because you think it’s false is arguably the best reason to reject it — if your reasons are sound. However, to reject Christianity because it stumbles over science is simply ignorant. Science does not refute Christianity, it supports it. And that’s the point of this series, and of the seminar “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”: given the current state of the sciences, philosophy, and historical research, Christianity is the most reasonable position for a well-educated, intellectually skeptical individual to take. More to the point, atheism requires faith that truly impossible things have occurred, much more faith than is required to accept anything Christianity claims. All this is provable without reference to the Bible as anything but historical data (and I’ll provide the support for the claim that it’s believable historical data).

I will be presenting, in installments over the next several weeks, the arguments covered in the seminar. The seminar itself was written by Dr. Frank Turek and Dr. Norman Geisler, both of Southern Evangelical Seminary. They’ve also published a book by that title, and if you want the full treatment rather than the bare bones I’m going to present, I recommend that you buy the book and read it. It’s also available as an audio book (12 CDs) or as downloadable MP3s. All of the above can be found at Impact Apologetics, or you can find the book at Amazon.com, Christian Book Distributors, or other internet sources. For more information, visit Frank Turek’s web site, CrossExamined.org.

I want to make it clear before I begin: this series is not why I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian because I met Christ. He didn’t walk up to me on the street and shake my hand or anything like that — He’s not corporeal in that sense these days — but He did make Himself known to me in tangible ways in real life, and continues to do so on a regular basis. If I were the only person who could say this, I’d have long since checked myself into a mental health institution, but my experiences match those of literally millions of people, spanning all people groups, geographies, cultures, times, and points of view. I can pick up a book by a medieval French mystic and read experiences that match mine; I can do the same with a 4th century African skeptic, or a 20th century Oxford professor. I’m not crazy; I’ve encountered the living God, just like lots of other people have. I could no more deny His reality than I could deny my mother’s, who is, by the way, equally unavailable to me in corporeal form (she died in 1988).

This series is, however, how I can explain the likelihood that God exists to people who have not experienced what I have, and explain that the God who exists is the Christian one, not the Zoroastrian one, the Muslim one, or the Pantheistic one. For whatever reason, it’s a fact that the majority of human beings on the planet have not shared my experiences with God. I think some version of the encounter I’ve had is available to anyone who asks Him for it, but sometimes it takes some explaining to bring skeptical Westerners to the point of admitting that there’s even a possibility that they’re not just asking the air and making asses of themselves. Hence, this seminar.

In the coming installments I’m going to address four questions in sequence:

1) Does Truth exist?

This is necessary because most people in modern America deflect religious questions with postmodern objections, aimed at making the claim that religious truths are simply unknowable. This turns out to be false; religious truths are no less knowable than any other sort of truths, and usually, the attempt to say that they are turns out to be self-refuting.

2) Does God exist?

There’s no point in examining Christianity if God is not at least a reasonable possibility. I’ll be using three of the major arguments that prove that God does exist, and not only that He exists, but that He’s most likely a Theistic God (God who made all things but remains logically separate from them,) as opposed to a Pantheistic God (God who IS all things.) For those who can’t stand suspense, the arguments I’ll raise will be the Cosmological argument (argument for a First Cause,) the Teleological argument (argument from Design,) and the Moral argument (argument from the existence of morality.) There are other good arguments — my own personal favorite is the argument from Meaning — but those three are the simplest and most direct, and the first two of them are supported by truly overwhelming scientific information.

3) Are miracles possible?

Having established the likelihood of a theistic God, which rules out everything but Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, it’s important to make the point that if God exists, miracles are possible. Skeptical Westerners tend to assume that miracles can never be accepted even if God made the world, and if miracles are not possible, the New Testament cannot be true. We’ll take the time to establish the possibility of miracles, and examine the major Enlightenment arguments favoring skepticism, which turn out simply to be wrong.

4) Is the New Testament true?

This is where we use historical evaluation to determine whether the New Testament is an accurate source of believable historical information. If it is, then not only is Christianity probably true, but the Old Testament is probably accurate and usable as well, since the New Testament characters claiming authority accepted the Old Testament as authoritative.

So, welcome to the seminar. Next installment: Does Truth Exist? See you then.

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9 Comments »

October 23, 2008 @ 5:54 pm #

[…] This is the second installment in a series based on a seminar that I teach, which is in turn based on a book by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler entitled, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. The introduction can be read here. […]

October 29, 2008 @ 12:42 pm #

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December 1, 2008 @ 3:54 pm #

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August 3, 2009 @ 9:54 am #

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August 13, 2009 @ 5:19 pm #

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April 16, 2010 @ 2:04 pm #

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