SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE and the Apologetic Method

Sye Ten Bruggencate

As I become more familiar with different apologists on the internet and watch them on You Tube, I learn what to do and what not to do. Sye Ten Bruggencate teaches me both. Its interesting how Sye really cages in his hosts and virtually stone-walls his dissenters by calling upon them to scale an epistemic wall that is impossible for them to do. His method is to call into question their inadequate epistemology and then demand them to abandon that tool or at least attempt get them to call ‘uncle’. The ‘pin’ is when he refuses to acknowledge their assumptions about ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ and demand via a (verbal stone-walling) as I call it; that only when they abandon their own presumptions about knowledge or truth can they be allowed to judge Sye’s claims about Christianity. I believe Sye wants to offer the planking necessary to build a new belief-platform, but I’ve not heard any of his debates get that far.

A couple of things to note:

1. I agree with Sye that the unbelieving mind cannot rightly judge the things of God, God himself or Spiritual things because they cannot know them.

2. I agree with Sye that the unbeliever must use the borrowed tools of Christianity or ‘from a world where an Almighty God exists’ in order to attack Christianity.

3. I agree with Sye that unbelievers have an unbridgeable gap between their assumptions of truth and knowledge and the ‘rightness’ of their criteria using their own personal epistemology based upon human autonomy.

4. I agree with Sye that unbelievers are not honest with themselves, nor have they adequately thought through what he asks them, nor do they fairly permit any other criteria that is not based upon skepticism and human autonomy.

There is no doubt much more we may also agree upon. Nevertheless I do have some things I do not feel is conducive to good apologetics. I think as Sye leads his hosts and debaters into this stone-wall it creates more frustration, and hence a rejection of Sye’s position rather than inviting them to consider it…even when Sye’s reasoning has truly stopped them in their tracks, I just don’t see Jesus leading his people into frustration.

I’ll just get to the point. As I see it, Jesus brings people to the end of themselves by revealing to their minds the truth that they have failed themselves, God and His word. But the gospel invite remains ever so bright and clear without any insinuation that their present state of mind must be re-worked first before they believe.

In short, its not a pre-salvation revamp of epistemology that gets the unbeliever to validate the Christian’s claims. What epistemic-revamp that does occur takes place in the transformed mind subsequent to salvation whereby the new believer can piece together the revelation of God and the world he lives in and begin to make sense of it.

Presuppositionalism is not about demanding the unbeliever to change his mind before he can make judgments. Yes, I understand what Sye is getting at, that folks like AronRa will publicly attempt to beat down Christianity with cat-tails and Sye is trying to show everyone atheism beats upon the anvil of God’s word with daffodil stems. For Sye and every other biblical apologist recognize the atheist attempts are worse than vain, they are ruining their own souls in the process.

It appears to me that the salvation of God comes to us, not because the abstractions of epistemology have been corrected, but because the person himself believes the claims of the person of Christ will forgive, love and accept them. Its personal not abstract reasons that convince. In saying this, I do not in anyway want to suggest God doesn’t have myriads of ways to work on the minds and hearts of people and God can use Sye’s method all he wants and get glory from it. Nevertheless there are things that red-flag in me and appear contradictory to sound evangelism/apologetics.

I don’t see that Sye is accomplishing the goal of evangelism. Apologetics is only a tool in which to conduct evangelism under another method. Though I can cheer on Sye when he stops the arrogant atheist debater…I am saddened the atheist walks away not feeling engaged but stone-walled, not challenged to consider Christ but challenged to re-work his belief-platform without the planks of God’s word to build with.

In all fairness and love towards my brother Sye Ten Bruggencate, I offer this critique for myself first, then for him and any others using his methodology. We as brothers and sisters in Christ are in this battle together, my admonitions are for edification and help.


Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail

Excellent article by Eric Hyde, reposted here.

Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail

Point FailI write very little in the area of Christian vs. atheist apologetics, and for good reason.

It was in atheist chat-rooms and blogs that I first cut my teeth in theology many years ago. Since those days I have not heard anything new from atheists.

It seems that many atheists today (some like to use the title ‘New Atheists’ to distinguish them from the more profound philosophical atheists of yesteryear) have very little to add to the discussion. To be fair, the same goes with most Christian apologists.

However, I thought it would be fun to comment on the ten arguments I hear the most. My hope is that it will help expose some of the more obvious problems with them and maybe help both sides—atheists and Christians alike—to move on to more interesting debate material.

One additional note: another reason I do not enter into the atheist-Christian debate world much anymore is because of the sheer discourtesy that both sides tend to show the other. I will not delete any comments, no matter how uncivil or juvenile they become, because, for me, it is an important part of the article. The responses (if there are any) will demonstrate the current state of atheist vs. Christian banter. Also, I will not respond to rude posts. This is advanced warning so please don’t think me rude as well if I ignore them.

Okay, here we go:

1. There is no evidence for God’s existence.

There are a couple of problems with this line. Starting with the idea of ‘evidence,’ what exactly does one mean by evidence? What is sufficient evidence for one person is often not sufficient evidence for another. A court of law provides innumerable examples of how two parties can possess the same collection of data, the same power of logic and reasoning, yet argue for completely different interpretations of the data. The old saying is true: the facts do not determine the argument, the argument determines the facts.

When confronted with the charge that there is no evidence for God the Christian often does not know where to start with a rebuttal. It’s as G.K. Chesterton once said, asking a Christian to prove God’s existence is like asking someone to prove the existence of civilization. What is one to do but point and say, “look, there’s a chair, and there’s a building,” etc. How can one prove civilization by merely selecting a piece here and a piece there as sufficient proofs rather than having an experience of civilization as a whole?

Nearly everything the Christian lays eyes on is evidence of God’s existence because he sees the ‘handiwork’ of God all around him in creation. But this is hardly sufficient evidence in the court of atheist opinion, a court which presupposes that only what can be apprehended by the senses rightly qualifies as evidence (in other words, the atheist demands not evidence of God’s handiwork, but rather material evidence of God Himself). For the Christian who believes in a transcendent God, he can offer no such evidence; to produce material evidence of God is, ironically, to disprove a transcendent God and cast out faith.

The second part of the line is equally short-sighted. What does one mean by ‘existence’? If one means, ‘that which has come into existence,’ then surely God does not exist because God never came into existence. He always was; He is eternal. This was a famous assessment of the matter by Soren Kierkegaard (dealing with the incarnation of Christ). The argument is a bit involved, so for times sakes I’ll just have to state it and leave it there.

2. If God created the universe, who created God?

This is one of the more peculiar arguments I’ve ever come across. Those who use this charge as some sort of intellectual checkmate have simply failed to grasp what Christians understand as ‘eternal.’ It is an argument usually levied once a theist posits that a ‘first cause’ or an ‘unmoved mover’ is required for the existence of the universe (a ‘necessary’ Being upon which all other things exist by way of contingency). Some atheists then shift the weight over to the theist saying, “Well then who created God?” What is a Christian to do but smile at such a question? God is the antecedent of all things in creation and is eternal. If God had a Creator then His Creator would be God. God is God precisely because He does not have a creator.

3. God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.

Bang! Owned.

Not so fast. This argument would be fantastic—devastating maybe—if God was more of the ancient Greek god persuasion, where the gods themselves were subject to fate and limited to their specific roles in the cosmos. The Orthodox doctrine of God is much different. Christians (at least Orthodox Christians) view God’s ontology as subject to His perfect free-will. Why is He good? Because He wills to be good. Why does He not lie? Because He wills to be honest. Why does God exist as Trinity? Because He wills it. He could just as easily will to not exist. And yes, He could just as easily will to lie. The fact that He doesn’t is no commentary on whether He could.

(Note: Due to the immense amount of discussion that this point has raised, one clarifying statement is worth noting. An argument based on strict logical word games can render the idea ‘all-powerful,’ or ‘omnipotent’ self-defeating. When one considers the juvenile question, “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” this point becomes clear. But in reality, such an argument winds up further solidifying what Christianity means by calling God all-powerful. For the Christian it simply means that all power and authority are God’s. Following the logical word game above forces the believer to make a redundant proclamation in order to remain consistent: “God cannot overpower Himself.” But this fact is anything but confounding, it merely stresses the point that there is no power greater than God, so much so that one is forced to pit God against Himself in order to find His equal.)

4. Believing in God is the same as believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

What I love about this well-worn atheist ‘argument’ is that it actually serves to demonstrate how vastly different a belief in God is to these myths and imaginations. When one honestly assesses the Judeo-Christian doctrine of God he will find multiple thousands of years of human testimony and religious development; he will find martyrs enduring the most horrific trauma in defense of the faith; he will find accounts in religious texts with historical and geographical corroboration; etc (these fact are of course not ‘proofs,’ but rather ‘evidences’ that elicit strong consideration). Pit this against tales of the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and Spaghetti Monsters and one finds the exact opposite: no testimony or religious refinement, no martyrs, no historical and geographical corroboration, etc. Instead, one finds myths created intentionally for children, for point making, or for whatever. It’s strawman argumentation at its worst.

5. Christianity arose from an ancient and ignorant people who didn’t have science.

Indeed, those ancient, ignorant people who believed in the virgin birth of Christ must have believed it because they did not possess the knowledge of how babies were born. Goodness. The virgin birth of Christ was profound and of paramount concern to the ancients precisely because they understood that conception was impossible without intercourse. Ancient man considered the virgin birth miraculous, i.e., impossible without divine action (and at the time most people scorned the idea), and the same could be said with every miraculous story in Scripture.

Indeed ancient people did not have the Hubble telescope, but they were able to see the night sky in full array, something almost no modern person can claim (thanks to modern lighting which distorts our ability to see the full night sky). On average, ancient people lived much closer to nature and to the realities of life and death than many of us moderners.

In terms of a living relationship with these things the ancients were far more advanced than we are today, and this relationship is essentially the nature of religious inquiry. If people lack religious speculation today, maybe it is because they spend more time with their iphones and Macs then with nature. Maybe.

But the claim that Christianity was viable in the ancient world because it was endorsed by wide spread ignorance is a profoundly ignorant idea. Christianity arose in one of the most highly advanced civilizations in human history. The Roman Empire was not known for its stupidity. It was the epicenter of innovation and philosophical giants. I would wager that if a common person of today found himself in a philosophical debate with a common person of first century Alexandria, the moderner would be utterly humiliated in the exchange.

6. Christian’s only believe in Christianity because they were born in a Christian culture. If they’d been born in India they would have been Hindu instead.

This argument is appealing because it pretends to wholly dismiss people’s reasoning capabilities based on their environmental influences in childhood. The idea is that people in general are so intellectually near-sighted that they can’t see past their own upbringing, which, it would follow, would be an equally condemning commentary on atheism (if one was consistent with the charge), but the idea is fairly easy to counter.

Take the history of the Jewish people for example. Let us say that to ‘be’ Jewish, in the religious sense, is much more than a matter of cultural adherence. To be a Jewish believer is to have Judaism permeate one’s thinking and believing and interaction with the world. But is this the state of affairs with the majority of the Jewish people, whether in America, Europe, Israel, or wherever? One would have to be seriously out of touch to believe so. The same phenomenon is found within so-called Christian communities, that is: many sport a Christian title, but are wholly derelict in personal faith. “Believing” in Christianity is a far more serious endeavor then merely wearing a church name tag. Indeed, being born in a Jewish or Christian centric home today is more often a precursor that the child will grow up to abandon the faith of his or her family, or at least be associated with the faith by affiliation only.

7. The gospel doesn’t make sense: God was mad at mankind because of sin so he decided to torture and kill his own Son so that he could appease his own pathological anger. God is the weirdo, not me.

This is actually a really good argument against certain Protestant sects (I’ve used it myself on numerous occasions), but it has no traction with the Orthodox Christian faith. The Orthodox have no concept of a God who needed appeasement in order to love His creation. The Father sacrificed His own Son in order to destroy death with His life; not to assuage His wrath, but to heal; not to protect mankind from His fury, but to unite mankind to His love. If the reader is interested to hear more on this topic follow this link for a fuller discussion.

8. History is full of mother-child messiah cults, trinity godheads, and the like. Thus the Christian story is a myth like the rest.

This argument seems insurmountable on the surface, but is really a slow-pitch across the plate (if you don’t mind a baseball analogy). There is no arguing the fact that history is full of similar stories found in the Bible, and I won’t take the time to recount them here. But this fact should not be surprising in the least, indeed if history had no similar stories it would be reason for concern. Anything beautiful always has replicas. A counterfeit coin does not prove the non-existence of the authentic coin, it proves the exact opposite. A thousand U2 cover bands is not evidence that U2 is a myth.

Ah, but that doesn’t address the fact that some of these stories were told before the Biblical accounts. True. But imagine if the only story of a messianic virgin birth, death, and resurrection were contained in the New Testament. That, to me, would be odd. It would be odd because if all people everywhere had God as their Creator, yet the central event of human history—the game changing event of all the ages—the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ had never occurred to them, in at least some hazy form, they would have been completely cut off from the prime mysteries of human existence. It seems only natural that if the advent of Christ was real it would permeate through the consciousness of mankind on some level regardless of their place in history. One should expect to find mankind replicating these stories, found in their own visions and dreams, again and again throughout history. And indeed, that is what we find.

9. The God of the Bible is evil. A God who allows so much suffering and death can be nothing but evil.

This criticism is voice in many different ways. For me, this is one of the most legitimate arguments against the existence of a good God. The fact that there is suffering and death is the strongest argument against the belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. If suffering and death exist it seems to suggest one of two things: (1) either God is love, but He is not all-powerful and cannot stop suffering and death, or (2) God is all-powerful, but He does not care for us.

I devoted a separate article addressing this problem, but let me deal here with the problem inherent in the criticism itself. The argument takes as its presupposition that good and evil are real; that there is an ultimate standard of good and evil that supersedes mere fanciful ‘ideas’ about what is good and evil at a given time in our ethical evolution, as it were. If there is not a real existence—an ontological reality—of good and evil, then the charge that God is evil because of this or that is really to say nothing more than, “I personally don’t like what I see in the world and therefore a good God cannot exist.” I like what C.S. Lewis said on a similar matter: “There is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’—it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘the place you have reached.’”

What is tricky for the atheist in these sorts of debates is to steer clear of words loaded with religious overtones. It’s weird for someone who does not believe in ultimate good and evil to condemn God as evil because He did not achieve their personal vision of good. So, the initial criticism is sound, but it is subversive to the atheist’s staging ground. If one is going to accept good and evil as realities, he is not in a position to fully reject God. Instead, he is more in a position to wrestle with the idea that God is good. This struggle is applauded in the Orthodox Church. After all, the very word God used for his people in the Old Testament—“Israel”—means to struggle with God.

10. Evolution has answered the question of where we came from. There is no need for ignorant ancient myths anymore.

This might be the most popular attempted smack-downs of religion in general today. It is found in many variations but the concept is fairly consistent and goes something like this: Science has brought us to a point where we no longer need mythology to understand the world, and any questions which remain will eventually be answered through future scientific breakthroughs. The main battle-ground where this criticism is seen today is in evolution vs. creationism debates.

Let me say upfront that there is perhaps no other subject that bores me more than evolution vs. creationism debates. I would rather watch paint dry. And when I’m not falling asleep through such debates I’m frustrated because usually both sides of the debate use large amounts of dishonesty in order to gain points rather than to gain the truth. The evolutionist has no commentary whatsoever on the existence of God, and the creationist usually suffers from profound confusion in their understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis.

So, without entering into the most pathetic debate of the ages, bereft of all intellectual profundity, I’ll only comment on the underlining idea that science has put Christianity out of the answer business. Science is fantastic if you want to know what gauge wire is compatible with a 20 amp electric charge, how agriculture works, what causes disease and how to cure it, and a million other things. But where the physical sciences are completely lacking is in those issues most important to human beings—the truly existential issues: what does it mean to be human, why are we here, what is valuable, what does it mean to love, to hate, what am I to do with guilt, grief, sorrow, what does it mean to succeed, is there any meaning and what does ‘meaning’ mean, and, of course, is there a God? etc, ad infinitum.

As far as where we come from, evolution has barely scratched the purely scientific surface of the matter. Even if the whole project of evolution as an account of our history was without serious objection, it would still not answer the problem of the origin of life, since the option of natural selection as an explanation is not available when considering how dead or inorganic matter becomes organic. Even more complicated is the matter of where matter came from. The ‘Big Bang’ is not an answer to origins but rather a description of the event by which everything came into being; i.e., it’s the description of a smoking gun, not the shooter.

That’s it… my top 10 list. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

VICTOR STENGER A Christian Response to His Atheist Primer 1

victor stenger

Victor Stenger Physicist and PhD wrote an article published in the Huff post blog Feb 28th 2014 called How to debate a Christian apologist.  Please read the article here.

After reading the article I decided to answer his atheist debate primer by responding to the polemic myself. In his articles he offered the Christian answer to various atheist assertions. Under these Christian statements he adds his own retort to help the atheist appear smooth and keep the audience from taking sides against the atheist debater. My reasons for responding are simple. First, I will attempt to show Dr. Stenger’s coaching the atheist debater ends up coaching him into a substantial defeat. Second, I wanted to use this article of ‘defending atheism’ against the Christian apologist as a means of training myself and other Christian apologists. Thirdly, this Christian author enjoys subjecting the New-Atheist light regime to critical examination, so once examined, the arguments of the New Atheist do not frighten younger Christians. I will attempt to expose the darkness of atheist-thinking to the light of Christian-thinking and a biblical worldview. With all educational heavy-weights, they use what they believe is sound reasoning and critical analysis upon the Christian claims. These atheist apologists usually pull no punches when it comes to reproaching the Christian as a novice-thinker and logic-lightweight. It does the Christian good to see these men such as Dr. Stenger, are not heavy-weight philosophers nor do they share some DNA that makes their logic irrefutable. In short, like the hot-air filled Dr. Dawkins they are deflated easily once the source of their lofty words are exposed.

I believe Dr. Stenger’s article is plain ole damage control. The good Dr. is recognizing the atheist debater is losing his shirt when debating the Christian apologist and to help stem the tide of continual debate failures Dr. Stenger wrote up a few ‘primer’ pieces so the atheist will not appear utterly foolish in debating someone who knows more about atheism and what it asserts than the atheist does.

Over the years I have debated many atheists in person and online in informal one-on-one scenarios. What the Christian will find as I have is each atheist attempts to nuance his personal atheism in such a way that when the Christian apologist attacks the assertions of the atheism, this specific atheist claims “that’s not what I believe”. Because there is no formal external dogmas within atheism this act of ‘dodging’ the Christian apologists assertion is part of what it means to debate or discuss atheism with an atheist. The Christian apologist learns debating atheism one-on-one with another atheist cannot proceed like it would with a cultist so pseudo-christian cult where various dogmas differentiate between it and orthodox Christianity. As can be seen by Dr. Stenger’s comments, the appeal to ‘differences’ in atheist views is supposed to dislodge the Christian Apologist argument by insinuating the Christian apologist is referring to beliefs held by other atheists not present to defend themselves.

The nuanced atheist has a self-manufactured belief structure; the spongy-ness of atheist thought soaks up whatever appeals to the self-described atheist. Normally our nuanced atheist gathers from various sciences and other atheist thinkers. The atheist blog, even You Tube are good places for the atheist to go learn new arguments to support their own personal ideology. Facebook has also become the bully pulpit for internet atheists to confront Christian doctrines and philosophy.

The New Atheists are of a stripe that attacks Christianity and attempts to turn others away from belief in Christianity. The use of various arguments against Christianity is only one tool; if that doesn’t work its followed by shaming them by ad hominem attacks or bandwaggoning their own  favorite PhD. New attacks to Christianity arrive by the media. In some article, essay or book the latest Dr. So-and-so has provided some kind of science admixed with atheist philosophy to serve their purposes and season the meal they serve the public. Because it is labeled ‘science’ the impression they want to give is their information is ‘fact’ and not ‘blind faith’. This tactic works well on a public that wants only sound-bites, not a discourse in technical terms. I shall attempt to show several of Dr. Stenger’s statements originate from blind-faith. What the atheist condemns in Christians is used openly by atheists writers trying to prove their arguments.

Let us begin with an analysis of Dr. Stenger’s article, putting his ideas and answers alongside the Christian Apologist rebuttal.

Dr. Stenger has said he has participated in a number of events (Christian vs Atheist debate) and watched others that include arguments that have all been refuted by the atheist many times. If this were true, those refutations would have been headliners for every atheist blog and repeated ad nauseum on You Tube or played on the media. But in reality we find a far different story. Debates with Dr.William Lane Craig have been crushing defeats for every atheist so far. When Dr. William Lane Craig and the panel debated Dr. Dawkins and his panel it was obvious the atheist never mounted a real attack on Christianity nor did they really prove their own point. In fact the atheist panel under-whelmed everyone with side stepping. No serious attempt was even made to undermine the argument of Dr. Craig by any of the atheist panel. See it for yourself here. . I need not elaborate on the failure of Sam Harris in his debate with Dr. Craig and the Disaster of Dr. Dawkins had with John Lennox. When it comes to debating the issues the Christian Apologist clearly can prove his points and leave without them being overcome by any atheist argument presented thus far.

Dr. Stenger says “Atheists…with one or two exceptions don’t make a living promoting atheism” he evidently realizes this lack of expertise in presenting their own case makes it a “tougher job preparing for these debates”.

I think it might be important to understand that if the original argument from the atheist was as sound, rational and empirically provable as the atheist wants us to believe, there would be little necessity to answer minor issues dragged up by Christians attempting to derail valid atheist argument. But as Dr. Stenger wisely notes, these statements or questions from the Christian take a lot of steam from the atheist argument. In short, they must be addressed. This is nothing short of a confession of inadequate argument arising from the atheist.

During the debate rebuttals Stenger is concerned the atheist is not well versed in points the Christian Apologist will make and because of that, ignore or be unable to defend himself against them. The failure to give a cogent reply supplies the impetus for Dr. Stenger’s primer.

I believe this is a very important point to consider. Instead of Dr. Stenger working on polishing the original atheist argument so that it makes the best impression, carries the most weight and delivers the knock out punch, he moves over into the very arena that he earlier warned the atheist layperson not to go “It is unwise for a layperson to debate a theologian”. He is moving from his expertise in physics to theology and philosophy. This is important for every apologist to consider, the empiricist cannot conquer ideas with observations, bare data, experiments or theories, they must be inserted into a philosophy that addresses the intangibles of life where we all live. What intangibles? I think it is these; is it true?, is it real? is it logical? is it important to me? What is the value of arguing for atheism if the atheist believes it to be irrelevant to a persons well being or understanding the world he lives in? He does not argue as though it is unprofitable, the whole atheist-engine is based upon the intangible basic belief  ‘truth is better than falsehood’. So with that ethic driving the debate between Christian and Atheist the very platform for establishing materialism or naturalism from the atheist perspective rests upon the intangible explained only by the philosophical.

What comes next is in my opinion appalling. Dr. Stenger says “In a debate, impressions are more important than the substance of an argument and not answering the point makes a bad impression”. When the most important things of life are being debated; things like God, religion, faith, scientific knowledge, truth, reality; these are no trifles and true substance in ones answers to these topics means everything. By merely creating the impression that you have a substantive argument verses actually having true substance contained in your argument is a tremendous distinction to make. Anyone wanting truth over falsehood considers creating the appearance of substantive argument deceptive; especially when it is come to light substance and evidence were missing. Its one thing to fail to defend your position, its another to know your position is indefensible but cloak it with pretended facts. 

It is in the next section that Dr. Stenger forms his primer for the atheist debater. He suggests memorizing these as canned responses so the atheist will appear as smooth as the Christian apologist. Again its important to note that Dr. Stenger is placing high value on appearances, these “canned responses” as he calls them are essentially anecdotal. The atheist debater has no in-depth knowledge of what he is responding with so when called out by the Christian apologist the atheist may likely rebut with only his own observations and biased commentary. A valuable point for the Christian Apologist to understand, if this sort of anecdotal response is given by the logic-claiming atheist he/she is contriving an informal fallacy. Accordingly there may follow hasty generalizations or inductive reasoning giving the Christian apologist answers in the form of post hoc fallacies. What is important to understand is this is a cat-bag for the atheist debater. Once he has opened this bag and let one cat out ( a piece of anecdotal evidence) he will forever be unable to re-bag that cat in front of the Christian Apologist. This is an important warning to the Christian apologist as well and a savvy atheist debater will eat his lunch over a trivial point and minimize the much greater and important points the Christian apologist is attempting to show. In at debate similar to a wrestling match, these are ‘point makers’ and the audience remembers these point makers later.

Dr. Stenger quotes Dan Barker an apostate and atheist who says the audience will not remember 10% of what was said but will remember an “impression” made by one or the other debaters and go home with that impression being influential on future learning. There is some truth behind the nature of debates, the idea of one side prevailing over the other makes for the ‘draw’ so curiosity and plain ole partisanship meet together.

Now Dr. Stenger sets forth the philosophical statements of the Christian and coaches the atheist debater on how to reply.

The Christian statement will be bold and Dr. Stengers commentary will be analyzed and contained in my response under each statement. For the sake of brevity I will not quote all of Dr. Stengers comments on each Christian statement; please read the article by Dr. Stenger or place it alongside for comparison. I gave the link at the front of this article.

God can be proved to exist by logic alone. For example, we have the ontological argument, which appears in many forms. It was first proposed by St. Anselm in the 11th century. He defines God as “a being than which no greater can be conceived.” If such a being only exists in the mind, then we could conceive of a greater being. But we cannot imagine a greater being than God, so God must exist in reality.

Here Dr. Stenger states that this logic is offered in many forms but all of them have logic flaws; namely it attempts to prove too much. He then says it can prove non-existent things or even a perfect pizza. I think maybe Dr. Stenger was writing some humor about the perfect pizza, the pizza I’ve had has been eaten by others and they conceive a greater pizza…so that example doesn’t fit. The logic offered here is sound reasoning, its not unreasonable to think the greatest being to be conceived is actually in existence and that being is God. But that being said, the scripture presents a clearer answer. 1Co 1:21  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 

Putting it precisely God cannot be known by human logic. God’s existence is understood intuitively by the human mind as it understands human morality, truth and judgment. But knowing God beyond the intuitive human mind is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is why the unbelieving mind may give assent to God’s existence or something transcendent but it also uses the same logic to point them to extraterrestrials or even perfect pizzas. These arguments are meant to point to the reasonableness of a ‘belief in God’ not to knowing the God of scripture through logic. The scripture assigns this to the work of the scripture itself and the revelation of truth by the Holy Spirit of God. 

Pizzas, flying spaghetti monsters etc are not what’s in the scope of St. Anselm definition and these are normally used to poke fun at the Christian. 

This next paragraph is a nightmare for Dr. Stenger. In his attempt discredit the use of logic in the Ontological argument for God, and probably the other arguments too, he begins by effectively nullifying the use of syllogism. He starts off saying ” no logical deduction can tell you anything that is not already embedded in its premises.” That is the point good Dr.; in order to make a logical argument major and minor premises are made so that conclusions to the argument can be understood as valid or invalid. What comes next is amazing. Dr. Stenger says “Only by observation can we demonstrate whether the premises accurately describe or reflect the real world.” I would ask Dr. Stenger, have you not heard that logical positivism has been debunked?

Let me help you; how do you know what is right or wrong from observation? Can you observe the logic of your scientific philosophy? Can you observe the scientific method in its propositional form? If you cannot observe it, then you have disqualified your own reasoning to use “only by observation can we demonstrate…”. The philosophy behind the scientific method is taken for granted, it is not of itself falsifiable because it is a preference, a philosophical approach to scientific investigation. Yet, offering such a narrow view of what is true and real by means of the scientific method disqualifies the scientific method itself. Remember this is a battle in the arena of the intangibles; the atheist no matter how much he wants to confine himself to the observable world cannot interpret it from the observed data alone. 

Defeaters like that one which are built into Dr. Stengers primer will lead the atheist debater into instant defeat. Using logic to undermine the use of logic and unwittingly nullify the use of the scientific method lets all the cats out of the cat-bag never to be gathered again. Placing this argument at the head of the debate only to be ‘pinned’ by the Christian apologist later shows clearly that logic used illogically powerfully impresses the audience that you are unable to defend your views. The potential conclusion may be…the atheist is wrong.

Science and religion are compatible as evidenced by the fact that many scientists are believers.

Dr. Stengers commentary here is essentially low-brow. It confines itself to ad hominem attacks on Christianity without producing one shred of evidence for his claims. The ad populum fallacy shows it head here proving nothing. 7% of scientists that are members of National Academy of Sciences are theists with no citation made. Afterwards the following ad hominem compartmentalization tripe. None of this adds anything to atheism, nor does it subtract anything from Christianity. Science and Religion are incompatible because of epistemic sources? There is no Christian looking for an aspirin recipe in the bible, nor is any Christian asking the scientific community to produce faith in a test tube. God is the creator, He has both faith and chemistry available in this world and the Christian can avail himself of both. This dichotomy is insisted upon because the New Atheist regime wants to perpetuate Christianity as rejecting logic and science because it is incompatible with the claim they make that Christianity is blind faith. But, again this is where the atheist debater will encounter much difficulty. The Christian faith is built upon the empirical evidence of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. The miracles of God, healings and the prophetic coming to pass are all part of verifiable historical event. Unfortunately the atheist is resistant to look into these things unless of course it is only to cast endless skepticism upon those events.

Science was the result of Christianity, which introduced the use of rational thinking. Galileo, Newton, and other early scientists were Christians.

 The Dark ages, denoting that time from about the end of the 4 century to the 13th century had a great deal of troubles. The Visigoths pulling down the old establishments, the scriptures being tucked away from humanity in monasteries and the increasing power of the Roman Catholic church and its superstitions all tended towards dampening the human spirit. Instead of progress, lawlessness, instead of freedom, feudalism, instead of Christianity taking humanity forward, biblical Christianity was persecuted by the religious intolerance of popes and killed by Muslim raiders. The Islamic effect upon Europe cannot be mistaken as adding light to humanity, instead it made for more religious bondage. The departure from scripture added the spiritual darkness to a world embroiled in wars and power struggles. The superstition and ritual of the times darkened men’s hearts. Biblical Christianity did nothing to aid in darkening those days, men departing from the truth did that himself. The Dark Ages or the Medieval times were called so by those who thought their own century was more enlightened than previous. To others it was simply the lack of historical documents revealing this period in human history.

Science and religion were never at odds with each other. The Christian views science as a way of learning about the world that God had made. There was not a conflict of scientific investigation and religious devotion. What was discovered did shock the superstitious and called into question the ritualistic devotion. The Roman Catholics in power didn’t want its power base shaken with new ‘ideas’ that drew into question their authority on matters that were purely contrived for the sake of enslaving people to the priests. It was good that God brought in the janitors to sweep away such enslavement. The Humanism of the pre-enlightenment period were not atheists, Voltaire would have been more of a deist and Petrarch one of the first humanists sought for God that resembled more of a return to biblical Christianity. The atheist mindset had not invaded science to the ejection of God, it wasn’t until the later French and German philosophers in decrying the errors of the Roman Catholic Church demanded and pushed for separation from religious enslavement.

It was precisely because Christianity is not antithetical to science that Christianity birthed scientific endeavor. Galileo broke away from the old Greek Aristotelian-ism that still held the Scholastics. Dr. Stenger wants to put science into Aristotle’s lap, but Galileo moved it out and placed it in his own as time would prove. It is an important note for every Christian Apologist, atheism is entrenched itself in a stationary tower. It does not recognize that Christianity is a moving target. Christianity moves along, it receives scientific knowledge, it gains by cultural understandings, it flows under various governments without demanding the government to be toppled. The atheist even now attempts to lock Christianity in the dungeon of ancient political-religious governments or ancient mindsets that belong to centuries past. What the atheist shoots at can only be said to be ‘where the Church was’. It gains favor from the angry atheists by continuing to decry religious oppression, yet cannot find a modern Christian oppressing anyone. This same thinking flows over into the division between science and religion, whereby the atheist harps upon religion stifling scientific endeavor when in fact no such hindrance occurs from Christianity. Abundant cases can be made for secular powers oppressing the Christian and stifling his rights and privileges.

Galileo was not a Catholic on pains of burning, he was one voluntarily. One would think that Dr. Stenger has been reading too many atheist blogs that label any ancient scientist with a religious preference a slave to it on pains of death. History tells us Galileo was threatened for his Heliocentric views because they upset the powerful Roman Church. I would love to see the source for Galileo’s idea that observation rules over revelation. A devout Catholic would hardly have made such a short statement like that without explanation. Context means everything.

The obvious presence of design and complexity in the world, especially in life, proves there was a designer.

Dr Stenger obviously adhering to the theory of Evolution believes intelligent design is an ancient belief, Darwinism replacing such thinking. But, the difficulty arises when the scientist is asked to prove the simple has actually created the complex. In short added more DNA information to its simple structure. This is a monumental problem for all evolutionist because no scientist has been able to show anything but loss of DNA information and what mutation does occur does not create new species. The hype behind evolution is macro evolution gave us complex organisms. The only proof behind it is micro-evolution gives us species mutations and nothing more. The idea of a common ancestor is one of blind faith as no scientist can connect the DNA backwards toward a proof of evolving pre-species. A great deal of talk is generated about this issue, but when it comes to hard data, the jury is out and remains out. As such Dr. Stenger mounts no argument that undermines the design theory. T.O.E is tantamount to belief in a flat earth, only those in academic power attempt to hold to this theory while it has no basis in fact.

Snowflake formation hardly validates species mutation into another species. The idea is to extrapolate “we found a plastic laser gun in the back yard” therefore the inductive reasoning follows “there must be a Starship Enterprise out there some where”. This is a classic Darwin-of -the-gaps answer. A great deal of books are written on the subject of Evolution, each one extrapolating from some mutation, some gene potentials, some chemical capabilities; these speculations conclude that our current genetic make-up is the basis for what we have evolved-into. Yet, its not the observations or the experiments that demand T.O.E as the proper interpretation, unfortunately it appears from instances of resistance to Design theory that its the scientist himself that demands to see what it wants

Many Christians believe in evolution

Dr. Stenger believes that theistic evolution and Intelligent Design are one and the same. They are not the same. It would behoove Dr. Stenger to read up on Intelligent Design. William Dembski has written a book called Intelligent Design The Bridge Between Science and Theology. Published by Intervarsity Press, Downers grove. In the book he makes no claim at pointing people towards a Judeo-Christian God, what he does do is show the reasonableness of the claim that complexity in various animals or man has the ear-marks of an intelligent designer. He also goes on to show that there is genuine scientific methods to be used in verifying designer ear-marks.

I will give Dr. Stenger credit there are very few Christian theistic-evolutionists. Dr.Stenger again demanding science eject God as though science cannot be science if God is believed. I wont read much into this non-sequitor other than its a bias of his own not scientific in the least.

Science still has not shown how life began.

Dr. Stenger rejects the idea that God was necessary to bring life from non-life. He remarks that the basic ingredients of life are copious in space. He then references the Miller-Urey experiment in 1953. If you are an atheist debater and want to die a sudden death in a Christian vs atheist debate follow Dr. Stengers coaching here. Allow me to quote Lance Ponder in an article Creative Science 25 Life from Non-Life

In his last paragraph he mentions the Miller Urey experiment and it goes as follows. 

Odds have not stopped hopeful evolutionists in their daunting task to demonstrate how life might have arose from non-life. The principles of abiogenesis were most famously put to the test in the 1953 experiment was performed by Stanley Miller with the help of Harold Urey. They reproduced an artificial atmosphere to simulate what they thought might be early earth conditions. They then added the necessary soup components into that atmosphere, then applied electricity. The result was the spontaneous organization of organic molecules. The initial results were hailed as a huge step forward in human understanding of origins. Only later did the various problems with the experiment come to light. First, the simulated atmosphere, made up primarily of methane and ammonia, is universally rejected as impossible as an early Earth atmosphere. Very high electric charges had to be used to cause formation of the organic (carbon-based) molecules. The molecules generated were actually cyanide and formaldehyde, both of which are lethal to living cells. Although the Miller-Urey experiments have now been discredited and generally disavowed even by Evolutionists, the basic idea still lingers. Some text books in use today still provide a false impression that these experiments effectively demonstrated how life arose. Thus far every successful attempt to organize atoms, molecules, chemicals of any other level of complexity has involved the careful and purposeful implementation of an intelligent design under tightly controlled conditions not found in nature. It seems, then, that for man to create he must play at God, imitating Him with purpose, design, and very careful hands.

The very thing the Evolutionist use to dismiss God’s creative handiwork is an example of Intelligent Design itself. Yet at the heart of the experiment was the creation of chemicals that kill living cells. The big bang proved the universe had a beginning. Everything that begins has a cause. Therefore the universe had a cause, which was God (Kalām cosmological argument).

To Dr. Stenger its important to say “no laws of physics were necessarily broken to produce the universe”. That is to say roughly “I have blind faith that the explanation for the Beginning of the Universe can be explained by natural causes”. Then another use of faith in Quantum Mechanics to fill the gaps of knowledge for the Big Bang. Instead of addressing the Kalam Cosmological argument itself it was easier to skip to the faith he has in future scientific explanation from a naturalistic point of view.

The universe began with a singularity that marked the beginning of time.

Dr. Stenger now pulls back from the ‘singularity’ explanation to more fantastic ones. I said earlier that Dr. Stenger would fall upon Blind faith to resolve his difficulties arising from these statements. Here is one that highlights such a blind faith. He answers that the creator for the Singularity theory Stephen Hawking, abandoned it about 10 years ago. For him Modern Cosmology has turned to the science-fiction namely Multiverse theory. He says our universe is just one of endless universes that are infinite and eternal…therefore no need for a creator. Its does beg the question…”How does Dr. Stenger know this”?

I can’t help but wonder why the good Dr. has abandoned his own philosophy?

Dr Stenger said; “Only by observation can we demonstrate whether the premises accurately describe or reflect the real world.”

Since we have no way of knowing of another universe yet and have not yet found one, it can only be a blind faith, a belief without good evidence to support that belief. But that does not stop him from offering this to the atheist debater as ‘proof’ of an eternal universe, therefore no big bang and no Creator God needed. The multiverse theory is science fiction, abstractions done to create ‘possibilities’ in order to speculate the outcome of our own universe and the particulars of events. If we will permit multiverses as a reasonable cause for our own universe, then God is no stretch of the imagination by any means.

We cannot detect universes beyond our own. Therefore they are not science

Dr Stenger answers that science deals with theory all the time, its a part of how science proceeds to learn. Fair enough, but just what constitutes a “border” of our universe and one of the other multiverses? How does Dr. Stenger know the cosmic microwave has found its way to us from another universe and it does not belong to our own universe? This line of argumentation takes us into more and more speculation without the slightest evidence for any line of reasoning. In short, those with faith in multiverses existing offer far less than the Christian does. For the Christian claims the God he knows enters our universe and our world and directly effects it by his power and will. This is verifiable, the multiverse sets with the mythologies of ancient beings and for all we know has flat earths.

Where did the mass and energy of the universe come from?

These questions only take Dr. Stenger farther down the path of blind faith and speculation. Now Quantum tunneling is funneling in mass and energy by an earlier universe. Again, this ranks right up there with science fiction. Now, there is nothing wrong with speculation, but its anecdotal and offers us only mental abstractions. Again Ocham’s razor should be slicing off more and more of Dr. Stengers elaborate claims. At this juncture the Christian Apologist need do nothing. The atheist debater has no substantive answers unless your a sci-fi fan and these answers appeal to your imagination.

How can something come from nothing?

Dr. Stenger decides here to revert to Aristotle and claim the eternal universe idea. Its not original but its been scientifically faulted and even Dr. Hawking hasn’t nailed it down yet. Remember, when you have no substantive explanation from science, its not an improvement to jump to science fiction. Its desperation. The Christian Apologist need only remind his listeners that science fiction does not qualify as substantive argument; Dr. Stenger has done nothing to undermine the Christians claims at this point. The reality we all live in tells us “nothing” cannot produce “something”. Its a mental impossibility to conceive of it. We may imagine it, but we cannot reason it from anything in our world.

This will end Part one of this Christian response to Victor Stenger.

VICTOR STENGER A Christian Response to His Atheist Primer 2


Continuing with my response to his atheist primer we look at the rest of Victors Stenger’s comments to Christian objections to Atheism.

Atheists claim that the universe just “popped” into existence. I can’t believe this. It’s preposterous.

Some of these statements which Dr. Stenger lays at the Christians feet and expects them to own them are difficult. Its not that Dr. Stenger is wrong in attributing this to Christians, its that unfortunately Christians offer some pretty poor objections. This is one of them.

Dr. Stenger rightly calls the Christian on this one and if this were the case in which a Christian ‘refused to believe’ based on nothing more than an emotional rejection, or at best what strikes the Christian as preposterous proves nothing and offers no real attack on atheism. When Atheism does this to Christianity while flavoring it with ‘myth-god’ names etc. its an empty statement.

Where did the laws of physics come from?

Dr. Stenger’s answer here is a dismissal, he offers no answer only a corrective on ‘laws’ being principles that scientists build into models to describe their observations. In short, axioms to describe repetition. The Christian Apologist could go down this road to insist that Physics, Mathematics, Logic are all intuitive abstractions that beg to exist outside of the mind. In short they cannot be mental constructs alone, otherwise they lose their objective value. Logic, math or physics that changes from mind to mind is as worthless as opinions on what the weather will be standing right here 10 years from now. This raises the question that Dr. Stenger didn’t want to answer, if Physics cannot rightly be a mental construct locked in natural explanation; where is its origin? Why is it like math and logic whereby they are universally understood by all people in its simplest descriptions? Naturalistic explanations are an epic fail when trying to dismiss the existential place of physics in concept. Someone the other day attempted to describe a snowflake according to the freezing of water vapor after the manner of the physical properties of water, air etc. But when it was all done the point of the snowflake was missed entirely…What point? Why are they beautiful to us? Explanations of a snowflake that sound like an automotive manual don’t scratch the surface of explaining beauty.

If the constants of physics were just slightly different, life would have been impossible. The probability that this happened by accident is infinitesimally small. Therefore they had to be fine-tuned by God.

The argument for fine-tuning was like other arguments for Dr. Stenger, best to side-step than to deal with it head-on. The Christian was not making an argument for ‘any kind’ of life but the plant and animal life we have on our planet now. So, telling us that ‘some kind’ of life might originate from another kind of ‘tuning’ doesn’t answer the question at all, in fact it generates more questions. Dr. Stenger then attempts to turn ‘statistics’ around on the Christian and argue that many things that happen may have very low probability but do happen. This of course only serves the soften the necessary fine-turning for life as we know it. The problem though, for the atheist that offers this argument is, he still must deal with the details of the fine tuning that are germane to the importance of looking at the ‘how’ of fine tuning. Such difficult interaction between, chemical, physical, gravitational, light etc repel chaotic indeterminate chance at every turn. Its the science behind the fine-tuning that mitigates against the Theory of Evolution and calls for re-thinking a theory that will not accept scientific finds that contradict it.

Dr. Stenger then goes on a rant about the probability of God where he ends up implying the Euthyphro dilemma. This is no answer to the fine-tuning objection, but Dr. Stenger is setting up for the Moral argument where he believes he can ‘make points’ .

God gave humans free will so he cannot control suffering.

This is another terrible argument that most Christians would not agree with and surely not me. Defending it against Dr. Stenger is not necessary for me. But we will move on to the heart of the issues in the next statements.

How can there be objective morality without God?

Dr. Stenger now brings up Euthyphro Dilemma. I will allow Matt Slick from Christian Apologetic and Research Ministries to answer this. The main idea for Dr. Stenger is to equalize the morality between Christian and atheist saying both are objectively moral. 

Plato didn’t know about the third option and maybe Dr. Stenger and other atheists don’t read much about these things either. Here’s Matt’s answer.

The Euthyphro dilemma comes from Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue, which has had different forms over the centuries.  Basically, it is “Are moral acts willed by God because they are good, or are they good because they are willed by God?”  Another way of saying it is, does God say that things are moral because they are by nature moral, or do they become moral because God declares them to be?

The dilemma is that if the acts are morally good because they are good by nature, then they are independent of God.  These acts would already be good in themselves and God would have to appeal to them to “find out” what is good.  On the other hand, if something is good because God commands that it is good, then goodness is arbitrary and God could have called murder good and honesty not good.
The Euthyphro dilemma is actually a false dichotomy.  That is, it proposes only two options when another is possible.  The third option is that good is based on God’s nature.  God appeals to nothing other than his own character for the standard of what is good, and then reveals what is good to us.  It is wrong to lie because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), not because God had to discover lying was wrong or that he arbitrarily declared it to be wrong. This means that God does not arbitrarily declare something to be good (ignoring his own nature) or say that something is good by nature (recognizing a standard outside of himself).  Both of these situations ignore the biblical option that good is a revelation of God’s nature.  In other words, God is good by nature and he reveals that nature to us. Therefore, for the Christian, there is no dilemma since neither position in Euthyphro’s dilemma represents Christian theology

Dr. Stenger’s attempt to equalize moral conditions between the Christian and atheist fails here badly. If it is true that God determines what is moral according to his own nature, then a pretended objective morality claimed by the atheist cannot be equal to the Christian claiming his morality and spirituality are derived from God’s word. The Atheist may deny God and the authority of His word, but they cannot offer anything but popular opinion either in ethics or morality to upset the Christians claims.

Don’t atheists believe that morals are relative, depending on the situation?

Dr. Stenger answers this one as I spelled out earlier; atheism is nuanced by the individual therefore its not dogmatic whether one chooses relativism or not. His assertion that atheists are equally as moral as Christians is an impossibility if the morality for man originates with God. Because if God determines the moral criteria, unbelief and a-theism would categorize the atheist in an immoral state and in perpetual rebellion to true morality. The pretense of atheism is that if they are nice to their fellow humans or they give to causes, or other various good things, this good-action-person cannot be distinguished from Christianity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Christianity requires an integrity in thought word and deed, whereby the whole of God’s word is integrated into the Christians way of life. The moralism of atheism is like a fad diet, making temporal improvements to the external while internally the person is craving a return to the former diet.

What about all the millions of people murdered by atheists: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot?

Dr. Stenger answers this one with a deflection, a side-stepping and in fact such a obvious error regarding the history of atheism in power its laughable. If you attempt this publicly, be prepared to lose a good part of the audience. Atheism was the driving philosophy behind Stalinism, Marxism and Communism. Hitler was a Mosaic of philosophies

Fichte, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche are also identified as the “philosophical triumvirate of national Socialism” (21). Sherratt shows that Hitler worked hard to display his philosophical knowledge and promote his image as philosopher-leader. From his claim of carrying Schopenhauer with him in the trenches of World War I, to the walking stick he received as a gift from Nietzsche’s sister, Sherratt shows that, “Hitler was a mosaic of influences” Taken from a review of Yvonne Sherratt’s book Hitlers Philosophers


 Hitler’s influences were not orthodox Christian but like Marx and Nietzsche were atheistic. Dr. Stenger needs to own his predecessors warts and all. If ever the subject of the failings of the Church is raised…so be it. But to deny these men did not act in accordance with the philosophies of atheism is false.

Allow me to quote this article.

Just How Many People Has Religion Killed?
Kirk Durston, National Director, New Scholars Society 

A popular urban legend that I’ve often heard is that religion has killed more people than anything else, so the world would be a lot more peaceful place were it not for religion. The top three largest examples are thought to be the Crusades of the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, and the burning of witches. Scholars estimate that the Crusades of the middle ages cost from 58,000 to 133,000 lives. The most realistic figure for the Spanish Inquisition puts the total killed from AD1480 to AD1808 at up to 31,912. Finally, records indicate that the number of witches killed may be over 30,000. Some argue that records don’t tell everything and suggest that maybe even 100,000 were killed. These three events, totaling over 264,000 killed, are thought to be the largest atrocities perpetrated by one or another form of Christendom. As we shall shortly see, however, they pale into insignificance in comparison to the consequences of atheism.

It must be horrifying to read such numbers and the multitudes of people killed as a result of some form of religious policy. But, before we walk away, lets read the rest of the story.

Kirk Dunston goes on to say.

There are two points to make by way of response. The first point can be made by asking the question, “Are these activities consistent with what Jesus taught?” Most people with even an elementary knowledge of Christ will admit that such killing is inconsistent with His teachings. People often try to justify their hatred, actions, and even killing by appealing to whatever is held in high regard by the population. It follows that if Christianity is or was held in high regard by populations, that certain people with the power to carry out atrocities would attempt to justify them in the name of Christianity. It is a simple-minded person indeed who reasons, “Joe claims he is a Christian–Joe committed an atrocity in the name of Christianity–therefore Christianity promotes atrocities.” The Bible states that the person who says he loves God, but hates his brother, is a liar. There are many people through history that have done horrible things in the name of Christianity, but Jesus’ words, “you will know them by their fruit” tell the real story regarding their love for God and whether they follow the commands of Jesus Christ.

Let us consider these numbers.

The second point to make is that, yes, people who claim to love God do kill, but nowhere near to the extent that the lack of religion does. According to University of Hawaii political scientist Rudolph J. Rummel,[1] <#_ftn1> the total number killed in all of human history is estimated to be about 284,638,000. Of that number, 151,491,000 were killed during the past 100 years. The single largest killer in all of human history is, by far, atheistic Communism with a total of 110,000,000 … over 1/3 of all people ever killed! If we add to that number just two other regimes where religion of any sort was strongly discouraged, Nazi Germany and Nationalist China, the number rises to 141,160,000. Almost 50% of all the killings in human history were committed in the past 100 years by regimes that either actively promoted atheism or strongly discouraged religion. We have not considered the over one billion abortions, where Christianity seems to be particularly unwelcome. When the murders of history are tallied up, it is very clear that atheism is the most dangerous philosophy ever embraced by humanity. The most effective restraint on mankind’s inherently evil tendencies is faith in God through Jesus Christ, a faith that actually follows the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ as a daily way of life.

If we decide to use statistics concerning the claims of Dr. Stenger he simply recites the myth of ‘religion has killed more people’. The truth is far more alarming where we can see the hands of atheism is red with the blood of its victims.

There is convincing evidence that Jesus was a historical figure who performed miracles and rose from the dead.

The life of Jesus is documented so well, its a strange and interesting effect that atheism is having upon Dr. Stenger. The New Testament has so many copies to represent itself and has had so much impact upon history, the cumulative evidence for not only the life of Jesus and his resurrection, but the whole of Christianity; additionally, the changes that the New Testament wrought are everywhere to be seen. Roman historians mention Jesus, but their mention is trifling compared to the New Testament. Dr. Stenger wants us to engage in the Jesus myth and pass it off as a credible fact. There is less evidence for Plato and Socrates than for Jesus. Josephus and Tacitus mentions are not forgeries, but it seems anything that helps his case is as good as gold.

What about Josephus and Tacitus?

Christians a death cult? We as Christians understand we are dead to sin and alive to Christ, baptism being representative of dying to our old self and being raised again in newness of life through the power of Christ. Strange how Dr. Stenger disconnects Jesus from Christianity, the evidences is in and Dr. Stenger has decided that historical revision suits his atheism better than historical fact. The truth is, Josephus and Tacitus offer nothing to the Christian faith it doesn’t already have by the truck load in eyewitness testimonies and the effect their lives had on the Roman Culture around them. In fact the world was never the same again. I do not believe for a moment that Dr. Stenger actually believes Jesus was a myth, its just happens to be a tool in the atheist tool box to perpetuate unbelief even if that tool is unusable for nothing else than providing the shallow-thinking atheist with propaganda.

 There is just as much evidence for the existence of Jesus as for Socrates.

The authors of the New Testament John, Matthew, were both eyewitnesses. Peter is said to have given Mark his information. But the reality is, there were tens of thousands of eye witnesses to Jesus Christ. A great many listened to him speak, others watched him carry the cross, others attended the crucifixion. Others witnessed him after his resurrection. Simply tossing out the New Testament as though its of no historical value to the claims of Christianity is equivalent to tossing out every thing Dr. Stenger has written simply because some folks in the future didn’t like Dr. Stenger and they believed he was false and probably non-existent. The facts are stacked like stones on a pyramid for everyone to recognize and use. Dr. Stenger is offering his atheist debaters more myth and atheist propaganda that has no credibility and surely no truth in it.

Jesus was a great moral teacher whose teachings superseded those of the Old Testament and brought a new code of morality to humanity.

Dr. Stenger appeals to some supposed bible contradictions that support his case. These quoted texts do no pose the slightest contradiction, nor do they support his idea that Jesus was simply some kind of plagiarist. What Dr. Stenger fails to recognize is that Jesus being God gave those laws and judgments to Moses before he became incarnate. For the Christian this is exactly what we believe because the scripture presents a God that is from everlasting to everlasting. The atheist does not believe that claim, but that does not undermine our claim, nor undermine the power and authority of scripture. When Christ brought in the New Covenant, those laws that were a part of a human priesthood, temple service, economy and Hebrew society were removed to make way for the inclusion of the gentiles and the priesthood of all believers. In short, Dr. Stenger doesn’t give the atheist debater anything other than dissenting opinion about scripture he obviously doesn’t understand. Dr. Stenger should have taken his own advice and stayed away from taking on a theologian in his own backyard.

As to the Jews moving from one torment to another. That is a cruel way of saying he thinks God’s judgment to be wrong. Yet, upon what basis can Dr. Stenger make that judgment if God does not exist? There would be no objective morality, nothing but Dr. Stenger’s own criteria for right and wrong…and it holds no more weight than anyone else’s opinion. You must actually presuppose God to indict him on charges of immorality; its the assertion of the Apostle Paul and of reformed apologists like myself that he is merely suppressing his knowledge of God and using arguments to conceal his knowledge.

Atheists believe the only reality is matter. Yet we have many examples of immaterial things such as thoughts, emotions, information, logic, and mathematics. How can that be reconciled with a purely material world?

Dr. Stenger’s answer to this question shows an incredibly weak ability to own what he believes. His epistemic source wont carry his wood for him to the fire place. So, deflection and nuance is the way to answer. To claim some atheists do not hold this view answers nothing for those who do hold that view. Then Dr. Stenger vainly attempts to save himself by offering a materialist answer to the metaphysical. This is the standard answer for a metaphysical naturalist…that the material creates the illusion of the transcendent. The problem lay in that it begs the question. Logical fallacy which is the bane of good argument raises its head here. What Dr. Stenger, Dawkins, Dennett and others have never done is “prove” the impersonal can give rise to the personal. Now, they may say it can and does, but they have no way of proving that. In reading Dr. Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell he goes to great lengths to speculate just how that happens. Yet in the end, we don’t have anything more than speculation over-layed with anecdote and more theory. The Christian apologist might very well respond with asking the atheist debater to explain how the “is” of brain-neurons etc give rise to the “ought” of logic that cannot be proven by anything but itself, so also with math.

If there is no God, how can there be meaning and purpose in life?

Dr. Stenger answers this question by simply ignoring the elephant in the room. Manufacturing your own meaning for life and injecting your own purpose works fine as long as you don’t have to co-exist in harmony with another human being. Otherwise its just short ventures into pleasure seeking that never satisfy to the level Dr. Stenger claims, nor does pleasure anymore than pain carry with it meaningfulness. I call this atheism feeding in the Christians’ pasture. When God has made a comfortable pasture for the people of God, atheism arises at times and says all of this goodness can of itself provide meaning, because the goodness of this life carries with it the value’s and essentially the hope of continued purpose. That purpose being nothing more than the desire to consume the goodness offered in the Christian’s pasture.

Take atheism out of the Christian’s pasture and put him into his own pasture; stark, empty of meaning, materialistically reductionist so that what is beauty can only truthfully be assigned to organized atomic structure. Maybe peacefulness, harmony and joys are banned, maybe the atheist society calls for stoic harshness, cruelty is to be admired, violence to be imitated, survival is not an option nor the theory in some text book but the basic philosophy of human coexistence.

Since there is no God in the atheist mind, the Christians ideas of harmony, peaceful coexistence, joys, love, altruism, benevolence, giving are considered traces of ancient religious oppression. Think for a moment what better way to control the masses but by offering them the hope of peaceful existence. Nietzsche was consistent when he wrote that to remove Christianity is to remove all of it, especially those moral dictates that hinder a society built upon no-god thinking.

The atheist feeding happily in the pasture of Christian-based society may speak bravely how he can live with self-manufactured meaning and purpose, but remove that Christian-based society and look at Communist Russia and Communist China, Communist North Korea and tell me just how many atheists are trying to gain citizenship there? Would Dr. Stenger be able to write his books and live so freely if he were to reject Christian pastureland?

Many people, including myself, have had personal religious experiences where they have had direct contact with God or visited heaven (near-death experiences). Those are empirical facts too.

I dislike these arguments because they only lead to stalemates. Its not that experiences of a religious or spiritual nature are not valid its just that they are as subjective as the atheist’s non-experience. The impossibility of validation between one or the other takes us out of scripture and places us into the realm of judging things according to human autonomy…which as the Christian knows is corrupted by sin. When the Christian apologist surrenders the ground of scripture presupposition and gives entry to human autonomy, the only point of view can be skepticism. But, even that is dangerous. Remember we can be skeptical about skepticism. Its a tail chase.


Dr. Stenger’s argument about hallucinations is a sword that can be used to cut away his arguments as fast as he cuts away at the Christians. Examples along these lines pointing one way or the other are fine as far as they go, but they do not objectively prove God, they subjectively do and that is a different category in which to approach this topic.

There is every reason to believe in God and no good reason not to. If you do, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. (Pascal’s Wager)

Here, we don’t get an answer, we only find ourselves being judged by a back-handed version of Dr. Stenger’s idea that the honest atheist should be in heaven before the deceptive Christian. Again, this is no answer its a deflection. Dr. Stenger does not address the real wager. This is to the Christian apologists advantage, he can show that the atheist debater is no longer answering the Christians objections but deflecting them with opinion.

Many billions of people have a hunger for God. We have a “god-shaped hole” in out hearts. If there was no food, we would have nothing to be hungry about.

It appears Dr. Stenger is trying to draw his own article to a close and offering one liners to answer, which just like the last few questions have not been answered, this one is no different.

The atheist debater should have said this god-shaped-hole is just a mental construct and has no existence outside the mind. But, Dr. Stenger betraying his own philosophy again, we see he must offer the opinion that billions don’t feel that hunger, yet just what kind of questions are going to be asked for science to arrive at a solution that is empirically verifiable? Again, this is another place where the scientist stops talking science and answers with philosophy. He does nothing to help his atheist debater and in fact enmeshes him in existential ideas that are the backyard for the Christian apologist and contrary-wise might as well be Pluto for the atheist. Dr. Dennett tries to answer this and maybe it wasn’t good enough for Dr. Stenger to know or remember. I share that sentiment.

The last three questions. 

They are poor questions designed to attack atheist sentiment rather than strike down anything substantial. Truth is, Christians can be converted and due to their political surroundings plunge themselves into horrible conditions. This is common the world over…its called persecution. Finally when Dr. Stenger marshals out the apostates that condemn the Church and Scripture, its no surprise to the Christian. Jesus said that would happen and it did. We have enemies from within as well as from without. Those enemies do not invalidate the scriptures or the Church by their words and actions, they only damn themselves irreparably and reveal that God can and does make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor.


I hope my readers can see that the atheist debater is not at all helped by Dr. Stenger’s advice. Not only that, but the good Dr. has shown that the Christian apologist need not try very hard to show his atheist debater how ill prepared he will be if armed with Dr. Stenger’s responses. Canning these responses to use against the Christian Apologist will meet with prolonged embarrassment for the atheist and offer a demonstration that atheism is ill-equipped to tackle Christianity when truth and facts are available to both the debaters and the listeners.

Dr Horton review of Jesus Calling

There is more to Christianity than the mindset of various theologians who have decided that anything experiential in terms of intimate encounters with Christ or the Holy Spirit are errant and turn people away from the word. What those theologians lack, they should seek. Instead they condemn those who have obtained what they don’t have and denounce the practices of those who operate on a level they do not.

I have not read Jesus calling by Sarah Young. But I have extensively read Andrew Murray. I can only say Dr. Horton is as wrong about Andrew Murray as one can get. He is wrong to dissuade people from reading him, he is wrong for turning folks away from what Andrew teaches.

I fully embrace the doctrines of grace, but that is not to leave out Andrew Murray. To the detriment of the body of Christ Dr. Horton undermining the ministry of Andrew Murray and the excellent teaching Bro. Murray gives. It might be because Dr. Horton is not happy unless all things are Presbyterian, but the body of Christ is more than Dr. Horton’s little world of walking with Christ. Its bigger because God is bigger than Dr. Hortons version.  Please see the full article here by Dr. Michael Horton.

Reading through the various posts that equate Murray with every kind of loon or falsehood is guilt by association which is a sin, and which was done to Christ himself “he sitteth with sinners” Mar 2:16  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 

But, because it resembles the same spirit the pharisees have, I condemn such an attitude in anyone posting such and I think Dr. Horton goes too far. His discerning has turned to division, his warnings of falsehood imitate the bad spirit the disciples had in this context…Mar 9:38  And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

Mar 9:39  But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

Instead, we seem to become offenders, people who for their own reason expect everyone to be followers “of them”.

Today instead of love its discrediting the miracle, lampooning the ministry, even guilt by association whereby their books are supposedly in error. The real error is the spirit in which this review takes us away from Christ and places it upon “following us”. The Spirit in which Andrew Murray spoke was never to follow him or imitate some ancient style of worship. He directed people to Christ and sent them there time after time, tirelessly reminding the believers their real power comes from faith in Him. Its beyond me to understand why anyone would attempt to bash Andrew Murray when he is superior to them in helping Christians walk with Christ. His fear is that such ‘experience’ will undermine the word of God. I say nonsense. The word of God is meant to be practiced therefore experience is exactly what God wants. The bible is not hum-drum and Andrew Murray never expressed anything of the sort in any of his writings. This strawman is now exposed and linking his burn down of this strawman cannot be for any reason Andrew Murray gave him. 

There is more to the Body of Christ than those who import a special privlege into their own world. I make no argument for heresies, abuses and misuses of scripture, or exploitation of the believers. But I do take issue with those who seem to think they have a corner on truth and practices. In short if its not their way is the highway. Well, I believe those who write articles to condemn various books or teachers had better have better evidence than its ‘not the reformed method’. If half of our current bible teachers could write sermons like Spurgeon, or guide willing souls like Murray, or take them out of the musty shelves of theology into the living theology of word and experience together they would never quibble about such things. But, quibbling appears in place of real understanding on how to walk with Christ in prayer, intercession, faith and fellowship the reader is bullied into condemning those teachers because God didn’t make them in the same mold as their critics.  Before anyone claims hypocrisy on my part for condemning Dr. Horton’s rejection of Andrew Murray I will clarify. I am a fan of Dr. Horton, I have his systematic Theology “The Christian Faith“. I recommend the book and appreciate Dr. Horton. I seek to emulate his study, diligence and quality in ministry. But, I disagree completely with painting bull-eyes upon all things charismatic and shooting them down. I realize he is a cessationist and he red-flags anything thats’ divergent from cessationism. I am not a cessationist, I am a Charismatic/reformed believer and thankfully I am one. I don’t toss out 1Cor 12-14 as filler for the modern Christian and needy for the 1st century Christian.

I want to include this allegorical conversation in the same vein as “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis.

Cessationism, is in my opinion simply a hold over from the enlightenment. Rationalism creeps in the Church and decides what is God and what is not…all according to the prevailing logic of the time. Of course the enlightened mind is not going to rest on humanism alone, it needs some bible to back it up. So, find some texts quick…yep that text in Corinthians that tells us tongues will cease and knowledge will vanish away. What is perfect? Well the bible is perfect so this must be God replacing the gifts with a Zondervan.

Borrowing from Screwtape, I imagine a conversation about Gifts going something like this.  Mind you, C.S. Lewis didn’t write this segment, I am borrowing his ‘devils apprentice’ idea for a moment so as to give those who have read the Screwtape letters a little background.

Probie: But what about the fact Paul isn’t really talking about the bible in 1 cor 13?

Screwtape: That doesn’t matter, what matters is that its reasonable, rational, fitting to a skeptical mindset. Besides its embarrassing for academics to be lumped in with loonies, quacks, heretics and soothsayers.

Probie: But what if God’s people are none of those things while seeking and receiving God’s gifts?

Screwtape: No matter, discourage seekers them by speaking of the abuses by the clergy, the falsehood of false prophets, and don’t forget Hume to help us really put the screws to anyone saying he’s witnessed miracles. The best antidote for spirituals is to insinuate they are just the opposite, they are quacks, heretics, demonic, impersonators of good.

Probie: But what if they are not?

Screwtape: That does not matter, what matters is the appearance of order, logic, reason and spirituality.

Probie: But the cultist can imitate that too;

Screwtape: Yes, and don’t say that too loud. Its important to vacuum out true spirituality from theology. Its far more important to create a whole theology of the Spirit with the complete absence of the manifestations of the Spirit. We want them to think they can have a bible from the 1st century, fight for it and then openly deny what it teaches by listening to rationalism masquerading as good theology. All of this fits into the plan to make a Church that does not resemble the Church in the New Testament at all. Its important to persuade them that being devoid of Spiritual gifts is really spiritual, being against spiritual gifts of what the Spirit truly wants. We do this with holiness too, its just that after a while it becomes so obvious that compromise has set in, they immediately set out to pray for revival and repent.

Screwtape’s conclusion: The whole idea is to divorce the 21st century Christian from the activities of the 1 century Christian so that imitating Christ becomes something other than following scripture, it becomes an invention of the next ‘non-charismatic leader’ that pulls them farther and farther away from any resemblance of Christian life contained in scripture.
Probie: One last question; What about the excesses abuses and misuses within the Charismatics, doesn’t that prove the gifts are ceased because there is nothing but fakes out there?
Screwtape: Probie you are a failure at logic 101, the abuse of anything doesn’t prove its in-validity, it only proves it can be twisted and that’s the point. Its to twist the gifts for some so that their personal disposition caters to rejecting what is clear in scripture. We want people with academic bents to fight with those who have experiential mindsets, we want division over what is available in scripture so that those who have it are induced to be embarrassed by it and those who don’t believe it are induced to never seek it because they don’t trust themselves to do much of anything without thinking it all the way through. Rationalism for them is making sure they know all that is going to happen before it does…Its a laugh on them… they need to be prophetic in order to even ask for the prophetic. I know it’s contradictory but hey, thats’ what we are about. This is a great help to the legions of darkness, for the twisting and perversion of spirituals helps us and it helps us even more when a segment of the believers resists those who have those gifts and induce them to question them. Killing faith to seek or to use spirituals is what our kingdom is working at.” So says Screwtape. 

Lastly, I consider it on the level of diabolical to toss out the believers that we do not agree with. Instead of allowing a wide berth for various ministries, we fracture, become factious and pretend that Christ is endorsing our little petty litmus tests.