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THE TRANSCENDENTAL REFUTATION OF ATHEISM
The clash between Christian theism and atheism is primarily a worldview clash. A worldview is a network of presuppositions. One’s worldview is one’s view of reality. The debate over the existence of God is not simply a debate over sensory evidence. This is because our worldview determines what we will accept as evidence in the first place, what degree of certainty we require before we consider evidence authentic, and what options we will consider in our explanation of the evidence at our disposal. The atheist, for instance, looks at the magnificent expanse of the universe and stands in awe at the wonders of time and chance and evolution. The Christian looks at the same data and glorifies the God of the Bible, the Creator of heaven and earth. The atheist looks at the fossil evidence and sees overwhelming evidence for the theory of macroevolution, whereas the Christian looks at the same data and finds evidence for the Genesis flood and considers macroevolutionary theory contradicted by the lack of intermediate species. The Christian believes that answers to prayer and miraculous occurrences validate faith in Christ whereas the atheist resorts to the most likely naturalistic explanation and considers the power of the mind sufficient cause to explain those phenomena.
One of the ways I know that He exists is His personal intervention in my life. He has saved me, touched my life in a spectacular way, transformed me from sinner to saint, filled me with love and contentment and with His Holy Spirit. You can’t convince a man that’s been to the moon that no moon exists. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. But the naturalistic atheist won’t consider this as evidence because there is no God and therefore it couldn’t have been God intervening in my life. Perhaps it was a psychological aberration, a hallucination, or a freak of nature, but it couldn’t have been God because there is no God. It is easy to see how each side looks at the evidence through the eyeglasses of its worldview.
The question that needs to be asked is, which worldview comports with reality, with human experience? Which worldview provides the preconditions necessary to make the very debate of atheism versus Christianity intelligible in the first place?
After debating this topic with atheists, I have had them admit that their worldview does not provide the metaphysical foundation of what they all do when they express moral outrage, employ logical analysis or inductive reasoning in scientific experiments or in their scrutiny of Christianity. And they will simultaneously admit that Christianity does provide such a foundation! Yet they still insist on an empirical and naturalistic basis that Christianity is false and atheism is true, all the while admitting that atheism cannot provide the basis for the assumptions they make in their very criticism of Christianity! And who’s the one with blind faith? The naturalist excludes supernaturalism as a premise rather than as a conclusion, and so he is unwilling to go wherever the evidence leads. If they were, they would be led to the truth of Jesus Christ, because the transcendental evidence leads one inevitably to the Christian God. As long as they remain stubborn in the face of such thorough refutation, they demonstrate that their problem is not a lack of knowledge, but rather, a hard, sinful heart. The Bible confirms this truth: unbelievers are not ignorant, they’re not sincere seekers who just can’t find God, but rather, all sinners know the Creator but they’ve changed the truth of God into a lie for selfish reasons (Romans 1:18-32). Truly, “the fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
The Christian God can be proven by the impossibility of the contrary. That is, reject the Christian God and no sense can be made out of moral obligation, moral indignation, the laws of logic, or induction, entities that are a part of the lives of all sane, intelligent human beings. Only Christianity as delineated in God’s self-attesting revelation, the Holy Bible, provides the framework in which human experience is intelligible. Atheism cannot make sense of anything, even the very arguments they bring forth to criticize the Christian faith! The atheist need only be open-minded, tender-hearted, and be willing to go wherever the evidence leads in order to brave the paradigm shift that will lead to discovery of the truth.
The existence of moral obligation and moral indignation cannot be made intelligible alienated from the existence of the Christian God. An objective morality presupposes God as the founder of that law of good. In the Christian worldview, the moral law is an idea within the divine reason of the eternal God, an idea that behavior that best affects the happiness of being is morally obligatory. This moral law, summed up in love, is the standard by which God voluntarily governs Himself and impresses as obligatory upon the minds of those sentient beings He has created.
The atheist who defends the myth of relative morality proposes his version of moral obligation just as vigorous as does the Christian theist proposes his. “No one has a right to force his moral code on others.” “Every one has the right to freedom of thought and opinion.” “Tolerance of alternative lifestyles is virtuous.” “The Catholic priests are wrong to molest little boys.” “Christian churches were wrong to defend slavery in the American colonies.” “Criminals shouldn’t be punished, but treated with compassion.” “Women should have the right to choose to get an abortion.” “People shouldn’t kill abortionists.” “Society should care for the poor.” “No one should discriminate against another because of his sex, race, or sexual orientation.” The moral commandments of the atheists go on and on, and don’t you think for a moment that they are any less dogmatic about their moral code than the Christian theist is about the Bible’s.
You can give your opinion as to how you think men should live, Mr. Atheist, but that's all it is, consistent with your worldview, it's your opinion. The question is, WHY should men live as you say? Because of pragmatic concerns? Because it’ll go better for them in this life if they do? Well, what if they disagree? Is it thereafter good for them to do as they wish without regard to their fellow man because, after all, there is no such thing as right and wrong, there is no future day of reckoning, and they think it's better for them in this life to do as they please rather than as you please? All you can do, atheist, is disagree, but you cannot, consistent with your worldview, have moral confidence in condemning immoral behavior. Atheists, to condemn immorality, must borrow the worldview they reject, the Christian worldview, without which moral indignation makes no sense.
Moreover, there’s the commonly used “problem of evil” argument employed to refute the concept of a God: “If God is all-powerful and all-good, how can evil exist in the world? Either He’s not all-powerful and couldn’t prevent it or else He’s not all-good and caused it or allowed it when He had the power to prevent it – or, there is no God!” The fatal flaw in the “problem of evil” argument is that it assumes to be true what can only be true in the Christian worldview, the existence of evil! When the atheist rails against the evils committed by professing Christians in the Inquisitions or the Crusades or when they bring up the pedophilia crisis within the Catholic priesthood, for instance, in order to refute Christianity, they’ve lost the debate. For within the atheist universe, there is no problem of evil because there is no moral evil. (There is a problem of evil in the theist universe, but not the atheist universe. The problem is resolved by faith: God has a reason for everything that He causes or allows that is consistent with His love.) The atheist who uses the “problem of evil” argument is like the philosopher who debates whether he exists or not, all the while presupposing his existence in order to debate in the first place. He’s like the philosopher who debates whether air exists or not – imagine it! - profound, articulate arguments as to whether or not air really exist or not, all the while both debaters are breathing air as they huff and puff their arguments. They atheist presupposes the very God he fights against when he brings forth his arguments to refute His existence!
When the atheist assumes the reality of evil or when they express moral indignation, they undermine their own profession and confirm the Christian worldview. After all, how can the atheist, consistent with his worldview, condemn immoral behavior? I know how he can do it inconsistently, that is, by assuming the existence of the Christian God, but how can he do it and be consistent with his profession? The Nazi who thinks that blacks and Jews are a little bit further down the evolutionary tree and should be abused for the white man's benefit in accordance with Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest - what atheist can condemn him and be consistent with his atheistic profession that all morality is personal and subjective? That's his own personal morality and who are you to enforce your moral code down his throat? Who are you, consistent with your worldview, to tell him that he is wrong to be racist and that he should not be a racist? Oh, you can give your opinion, but annexed to your opinion is that your opinion is your opinion and his opinion is his opinion and no one has a right to say what's right and wrong for anybody else but himself. Atheism is a house built on sand when it comes to providing a refuge for the discriminated. Christianity, however, provides the moral foundation to condemn judging others according to involuntary attributes.
The atheist cannot, consistent with his worldview, assert that kidnapping and raping little five-year-old girls is wrong. They can give their opinion that it is wrong. They can judge it to be illegal in our society. But they cannot, consistent with their worldview, call it a moral evil. In the society that has not outlawed pedophilia, they cannot provide a condemnation of it, and even in our society, they cannot, consistent with their worldview, condemn them whose personal preference is to break the law by raping five-year-old girls. Atheists must assume that which they are trying to disprove in order to assume the reality of moral evil. Thankfully, like all sane men, many atheists have moral indignation and roundly condemn the man in California who kidnapped a five-year old girl in early 2002 and raped her before killing her. They condemn the Nazi Holocaust, and the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans by the colonials, the falsification of data in scientific studies, the 9/11 terrorist attacks against innocent Americans. However, when they criticize immoral behavior without regard to the personal preference of the transgressor, or whether these acts were legal or illegal in that transgressor’s culture, or the way in which the transgressor was raised, or the democratic consensus of the day, they have presupposed objective morality (they’ve also assumed true the universal, invariant, and immaterial laws of logic and absolute truth, but more on that later). The atheistic worldview cannot provide the preconditions necessary to confidently condemn these deeds, so when you condemn these deeds, Mr. Atheist, you presuppose Christian Deity, which alone provides the preconditions to make intelligible the testimony of reason and conscience.
Many atheists propose utilitarianism as the foundation of moral obligation. Utilitarianism is the theory that all actions are to be judged by their consequences; “The greatest happiness of the greatest number” is the sole criterion for moral choice. The utilitarian way of judging right from wrong has its place - indeed, it is Biblical to consider the consequences of your actions before you do it! However, by itself, it is easy to see how this formula for morality falls short. But my primary refutation of it is aptly demonstrated with this question: WHY is man obligated to pursue the course of action that takes consequences into account or produces the greatest happiness? Because you think he should, Mr. Atheist? And what of the man who thinks that he should pursue “negative outcomes”, Mr. Atheist? Who are you to disagree with him? What of the hedonist who thinks the happiness diminished in his victims’ lives is more than offset by the happiness that murdering and raping others brings to him? What of the man who opines that producing the greatest misery is his moral obligation? On what basis would you condemn these? Oh, that’s right, you’d condemn them based upon your opinion. It’s my opinion that chocolate is better than vanilla ice cream, but I suspect that you as well as I would refute a child molester with much greater enthusiasm than you would in arguing with him about which flavor of ice cream is better. No, Mr. Atheist, you can’t live like moral obligation is just your opinion. You’re not programmed that way. In your instinctive condemnation of malicious behavior and your praise of benevolent behavior without regard to utilitarian concerns or the personal moral code of the offender, you show that you live like moral obligation is objective, not subjective. In your affirmation of moral obligation and your practice of moral indignation, you affirm the Christian God, without which moral obligation and indignation would not comport with reality.
I have heard atheists argue that moral obligation is simply a description of how we evolved. But that cannot be so. It is not a description of how we act because we universally admit violation of it! Rather, it is prescriptive: it does not describe a certain code of conduct, but rather, prescribes a code of conduct. Moral obligation, like the laws of logic, are prescriptive and not simply descriptive. Therefore, moral obligation is objective and not simply subjective.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me freely admit that subjectivity is an attribute of the moral law – God holds us accountable for what we know in accordance with our nature and relations. The conscience is not totally developed at birth. As the intelligence develops, the sentient being becomes aware of how he wants to be treated and what kind of behavior results in happiness. In this way, he comes to grip with his moral obligation to treat his neighbors and His Creator with benevolence so as to promote happiness. Society and parental upbringing play important roles in the development of the conscience, but no sane person is justified for wrongdoing because of an immoral society or wicked parents. The environment is an influence upon us but not a cause. We have free wills and have the power of contrary choice in every temptation, and this is presupposed in all criminal justice systems just as it is presupposed in debate. The moral law is external to self, objective, and universal inasmuch that it respects the motive and intent of the heart. All men know that malevolent behavior is always objectively bad and wrong and benevolent behavior is always objectively good and right. Outward behavior may differ, but moral obligation respects outward behavior only indirectly. Moral obligation directly respects a state of heart. Love is the sum of all of God’s law. No man will be able to plead ignorance on Judgment Day, because he is fully aware of the state of heart that moral obligation impresses upon him. All sane men know all they need to know to be obligated to love God and their neighbors as themselves.
The atheist rebuts the notion that morality is objective with evidence of differing codes of morality in different nations and cultures. First of all, this is no refutation of Christianity because Christianity teaches that all have sinned against this objective law of good and therefore we would expect to find instances where sin was justified and legalized. We would expect to find similarities in the moral codes of different societies as well as differences, because there is one Creator who impressed His law on our hearts and minds and we have all sinned against Him. More or less, men’s laws and institutions generally express this supreme, universal law of good just as they universally confess their failure to comply with moral obligation.
Furthermore, this rebuttal assumes that all codes of morality are morally equal, and this is something that even the decent atheist, as morally depraved as he might be, cannot accept. Is the clitorectomies of little girls, the execution of abortionists and atheists and gays, and the discrimination of women in Arab nations morally equivalent to the traditions of the west in these matters? Is the slavery of non-Arabs in Arabic societies morally equivalent to the west’s respect for human rights? Was the Aztecs’ practice of skinning a virgin and putting her hide on the high priest to wear as a robe morally equivalent to western traditions of the fair treatment of women? Were the Inquisitions in which Wiccans were burned at the stake morally acceptable, Mr. Atheist? The atheist freely expresses his dogma here – “Of course not!…” Then typically will come a long string of harsh criticisms of the evils of religious totalitarianism. In so doing, the atheist’s worldview is contradicted and the Christian God is proven, for without Him moral indignation is nonsensical.
Our discussion about morality should make it ever so clear to the reader that the concept of a Supreme Lawgiver is CRITICAL in order to make human experience and conscience’s testimony intelligible. God’s laws are given to us for our good, and those that break God’s laws will be damned for it. Though they’ve been deceived by their society or parents to think that their malicious behavior was acceptable, though they escape conviction and punishment in this life, though it be legal in the society in which they live, God will judge them on Judgment Day according to HIS law. He has revealed this law to all men through conscience and intelligence and the created order, and so all men are without excuse. Furthermore, this law is confirmed in the written word through the Holy Bible.
The Christian God can be proved by the impossibility of the contrary. The Christian worldview uniquely provides an explanation for the universal laws of morality, laws that all men universally assume and yet no other worldview can adequately metaphysically support. God is supremely intelligent and eternally complicit with his own law of love, and He impresses His laws upon the heart and mind of beings He has created in His image. The sane atheist cannot escape the reality of God anymore than he can speak or breathe. Indeed, the existence of God is the sine qua non of reality.
Click "Next" and we shall see that only the Christian worldview can account for universal, unchanging, and immaterial entities like the laws of logic. So when the atheist accuses Christianity of illogic, he presupposes the Christian God.
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