Responding to Atheistic Dogma
“When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
It is a wonder that naturalistic atheism continues to be taken seriously by its disciples. You would think, by now, the “liberating” fad would have worn off, and it has for many, but not all. Insofar as I’m concerned atheism has been dead since it began because God renders foolish all lofty opinions raised against His supreme knowledge (1 Cor 1:20). On the other hand, our faith is intellectually defensible just as Scripture says, and we ought to take advantage of that fact in order to reach the lost (1 Pet 3:15).
I wanted to publish this post responding to the popular arguments used by atheists. A lot of these come in the form of rhetorical zingers, yet there are some Christians who do not know how to responds to them. This article is for them and their desire to defend their faith to the glory of God.
“The Bible is Full of Contradictions!”
Ah, yes. The attack on the foundation for Christianity itself. Of course, if you are going to attack someone’s worldview, it’s best to go to the source in an effort to make it look irrational. Aside from the fact that atheists are really not able to find real contradictions, but only really point out apparent ones at best, there is another way to answer this argumentative claim.
First, the atheist doesn’t come to the biblical text with biblical presuppositions. He comes to the text under the assumption that it is just like any other work in need of a textual critique. But this assumption precludes even the possibility of supernatural inspiration outrightly. We as Christians come to the text presupposing that God has inspired its authors and that His inspiration resulted in an infallible Word, which serves as His special revelation to humanity. On the other hand, the atheist sees the Bible as nothing more than a book written and compiled by fallible men, who were not inspired by God, but only claimed to be such. Again, there is an outright preclusion of the supernatural in their observational method.
The verses which may appear to contradict one another are usually reconciled by way of a unifying principle not allowed by the atheist. Let’s look at an example:
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God (Rom 4:2).
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (Jam 2:21
Now, in the former verse Paul seems to imply Abraham was not justified by works, and in the latter verse, James seems to imply just the opposite. Atheists usually write this off as a contradiction and therefore our claim to biblical infallibility cannot stand. They almost never take the time to ask questions like: is “justification” being used in the same sense by both authors? What else does Paul say, in broader context, concerning faith and works? What about James, what does he say throughout the rest of his letter?
The apparent contradiction shown above in the two Bible verses are eliminated with only a small amount of biblical exegesis. If we look at both authors, and what they say concerning the matter, we will find that two different areas within the theological locus of soteriology are being explained, and the term “justification” is being used in two different contexts. John Calvin writes concerning James:
The sophists lay hold on the word justified, and then they cry out as being victorious, that justification is partly by works. But we ought to seek out a right interpretation according to the general drift of the whole passage. We have already said that James does not speak here of the cause of justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this is plain to every one; but that his object was only to shew that good works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares that Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof he gave of his justification.
Now, we do not have time to go into every apparent contradiction, but we can now note how the atheist just lazily writes passages off as contradictory simply because they come to the text trying to find issues. It’s their objective. If this was not the case, and my accusation is too hasty, then they wouldn’t call things contradictions which are not contradictions, according to a broader context around either passage.
Ultimately, this argument is defused when one questions their interpretive standard. By what standard do they impose upon the text to interpret it? At least two principles obtain: the ultimacy of the human mind, and the alleged impossibility of the supernatural. Both preclude the Christian God outrightly and therefore these ought to be the place the conversation travels.
“Evolution Eliminates the Need for God!”
Sometimes the atheist will appeal to evolution as the mechanism which renders religion unnecessary in our day and age. Usually, when the atheist puts this to the Christian, the Christian will respond by submitting evidence from creation scientists, and that is great. But it’s not too effective when you’re dealing with a person who sees evidence in a completely different light according to their philosophy of reality. What is evidence for the Christian, is not evidence for the atheist.
The same idea as mentioned above applies here as well. The atheist precludes God according to their view of the nature of evidence. To the atheist, evidence is nothing but facts which are here just because. For the Christian, all facts are created by God, and therefore all facts are what they are by virtue of His mind ultimately. The atheist, on the other hand, wants to interpret facts as if they are just brute, or dumb (no explanation for them). But facts without a unifying absolute cannot be defined or known in any meaningful way. If they are “just there” the atheist begs the question. Take for instance the uniformity of nature. The atheist takes for granted the uniformity of nature in order to live and operate on a daily basis. Yet, something like scientific naturalism cannot account for the uniformity of nature.
If the atheist response to this objection is, “well, we know nature is uniform because we have observed it over and over again” they, albeit in a fancy way, appeal to experience in order to make their case, but that merely begs the question since an appeal to experience in order to account for the uniformity of nature presupposes the uniformity of nature. It’s a vicious circle. According to both David Hume and atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell, one can’t appeal to experience to account for the uniformity of nature. It’s a dead argument.
So, when the atheist claims evolution as a valid reason to render God unnecessary, remember that, according to their worldview, they can’t even account for scientific observation, nor can they account for knowledge of facts (evidence). Moreover, their version of science, modern science we’ll call it, stands on at least three principles which, again, eliminate the Creator outrightly. These are: the ultimacy of the human mind, the possibility of comprehensive knowledge, and the existence of brute, unknowable fact. Aside from the fact all three of these are philosophically contradictory, especially without a unifying principle, they also work to dishonestly eliminate even the slightest possibility of the Christian God.
This gives a whole new meaning to the atheists claim of an “open mind” doesn’t it? Perhaps they are more closed minded than anyone you’ve ever met!
“God is Evil in the Old Testament!”
Our third and final objection may be one of the most popular, at least on street level conversation. The atheist will make an appeal to the human desire to eliminate suffering in the world. After all, we desire suffering to end. But the desire for suffering to end really only makes sense in the Christian worldview, not the atheistic one. According to naturalism, which is commonly endorsed by the atheist, suffering is the norm throughout billions of years of biological history. Yet, in the last 100,000 years or so, it is thought, humanity has become civilized and all of the sudden suffering is not right! Why is it not right? Because it isn’t desirable, so the claim goes. Neither is it helpful to evolutionary progression, but this is nothing more than arbitrary conjecture, not intellectual reason.
This doesn’t help their case any since someone may find suffering desirable in some strange way. Moreover, there are many who get pleasure from making other people suffer. Why is their pleasure to be hindered by someone’s desire not to suffer? See, none of this makes sense and is really all based on a sociological opinion in flux. There is no actual standard, according to the atheist, by which we can render suffering wrong.
So, when the atheist appeals to the conquering of Canaan in the Old Testament, where women and children are slaughtered, you must ask them, according to their worldview, why is this objectively wrong? Furthermore, they impose some sort of opinionated moral standard upon the God of Scripture, but this is nothing more than another arbitrary conjecture which needs to be addressed according to what has already been said above.
Moreover, they presuppose that mankind somehow deserves not to suffer. But, according to Scripture, according to the Christian, we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:10, 11, 23). The hearts of humanity are inherently wicked as a result of the fall (Gen 3; Jer 17:9). Judicially speaking, God’s recompense is justified according to His ultimate standard.
What is more, the Canaanites had lived in that land for the entire 400 years the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. They knew of the God of Israel yet actively rejected Him in favor of their idols and perverse lifestyle. They had the opportunity to repent for an entire 400 year period. That’s an act of God’s mercy! They should’ve been killed at year 1, just like we all should have been, according to our sinful, inherent rebellion against God.
Now, if the atheist wants to object to our answer, they must demonstrate the sufficiency, and even existence, of the foundation upon which they stand to make and impose moral values. They cannot do this in any meaningful way.
These are three of the most common objections used by the atheist, which I have experienced. I have seen Christians give great answers to these objections, but I have seen even more Christians give horrible answers akin to “God works in mysterious ways.” There are good answers we can give to the atheists objections, which question the grounds for their initial objection, and also shows the absurdity in their thinking.
This of course is all in an effort to bring them the gospel in hopes that God would draw them unto Himself.