The Atheist's Fake God

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

–Deuteronomy 6:4; Exodus 20:3

Sometimes, throughout the course of discussion between Christian presuppositionalists and atheists, the objection is raised that the atheist could just fabricate a god, and ascribe to that god all of the unique attributes which Christians find in Scripture about the one true God. In this way, they think, they can demonstrate the supposed arbitrariness of presuppositional thought. After all, the atheist could just do the same thing without any way for the presuppositionalist to prove him right or wrong.

The Proposed Problem

The atheist sees a difficult problem for the Christian. First, the atheist sees himself as being unable to prove a negative, that being something like, “God does not exist.” This is why many atheists have defaulted to a more subtle characterization as, “an atheist is someone who lacks belief in a god.” They see this as something which scoots them out from under the immediate problems which arise with the statement “God does not exist.” However, though many atheists say this, they are unable to remain consistent. Also, in some instances, it is possible to prove a negative.

For instance, if I were to ask why they lack belief in a god, they’d have to give me an answer, presumably, “because there doesn’t appear to be sufficient evidence to indicate the existence of a god.” After that, the conversation would take a turn toward presuppositions. Questions like, on what basis do you determine evidence? What is evidence to you? etc, will eventually force the atheist to make positive claims, which he will not be able to account for granted his position.

As a result of the Christian questioning the foundations of the atheistic worldview, the atheist might default to a sort of tu quoque (you too) fallacy where they say, in essence, “I could just do what you do, but with a made up god!” Let’s say the atheist makes up a god named Billy. Billy transcends the universe and possesses all of the attributes the God of Scripture has, never mind this was just made up on the spot, they see this as an unanswerable “gotcha!” moment. Even though they evade the burden to prove a negative, they now expect the presuppositionalist to prove the negative, “Billy does not exist.”

This may catch some off guard, but no worries. It’s just a device similar to something an illusionist would have up their sleeve. This is the type of thing ancient Greek rhetoricians would do to humiliate people.

There are a few things we need to consider:

  • We need to make known that the atheist has just had to leave their own atheistic paradigm, albeit hypothetically, in order to argue with the Christian theist. They have given up their commitments. This is a sign that their own philosophy of reality is unable to sufficiently answer the Christian. This would be akin to a Christian pretending he is an atheist in order to argue with the atheist since, it would be thought, Christianity doesn’t, itself, answer atheism directly. Of course, Christianity does answer atheism directly, but that’s just an example of the folly we see here.
  • It ought to be answered to the atheist, when they throw Billy at us, that this isn’t a problem from the vantage point of the Christian. According to our worldview, the Triune God is the only true God. He is the precondition for intelligibility, and the very reason I am able to write this post. The contrary, therefore, is impossible. Now, when the atheist objects and says, “oh yes, it is a problem for you!” he must be questioned. We need to ask, by what authority is this seen a problem for us? Who ultimately says this is an issue for the Christian? The atheist has no basis upon which to stand where he can objectively say that this is a problem for the Christian unless he assumes a universal character of things like evidence, method, etc. However, the foundations of all these things need to be questioned because they are largely unargued philosophical biases. They need to be put through an intellectually rigorous test. The atheist, according to his own view of the reality in which we find ourselves, cannot account for why Billy would be a problem for the Christian. Thus, Billy is nothing but arbitrary conjecture.
  • Upon the submission of the transcendental argument for God, which demonstrates how something like proof itself is not possible without the Christian God, we can now consider the claims and attributes of the Triune God as seen in Scripture. According to God, there is no other transcendent being outside of time, space, and matter. There is no other being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and constitutive. Everything in creation is derivative of the Christian God. The Christian God exists, and since we can demonstrate, by virtue of the transcendental argument, the impossibility of the contrary, Billy cannot exist.

These are three considerations which serve to demonstrate the folly and insufficiency of such a device. To be sure, upon further study, there would be more issues we could spot along the way, but these three, I believe, will work to show the atheist how such an objection (if you could even call it that) is unhelpful to the discussion and even counterproductive for them, since they have to step off of their atheist suppositions in order to argue with the Christian.

Ending Thoughts

Could you imagine if the Christian had to become an atheist in order to argue for Christianity? If we had to do that, the debate would be lost. It appears the debate truly is lost for atheists. They need to bow the knee to Christ! They need to confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead.

Additional Links:

Van Til’s Apologetic, by Dr. Greg Bahnsen


Co-founder, editor, and contributor of The Reformed Collective. He is a member and pastoral intern at Word of Life Baptist Church, Kansas City, MO. He has co-coordinated the evangelism ministry at Grace Bible Church in San Diego, CA. At present he is pursuing a B.A. in Biblical Studies as well as an M. Div. He currently resides in Overland Park, KS with his wife, Christina.

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