This week, the New York Times published an article by Peter Atterton, a Professor of Philosophy at San Diego State University, titled: “A God Problem,” with the byline: “Perfect. All-powerful. All-knowing. The idea of the deity most Westerners accept is actually not coherent.” Sadly, the people responding to Atterton’s article have taken his bait. They have defended belief in a “god” that is subject to the laws of logic, rather than THE God that is Lord of them.
In Romans 11:36 we read that from God, through God and to God are all things. What do all things include? Logic, truth, science, morality, and in fact, ALL things! Since all of these things belong to God, it is not a stretch to conclude that they don’t belong to anyone else.
Imagine a nation that owned all of the weapons and ammunition that existed. Then, another nation with no weapons at all wanted to challenge them to war. When would they be able to start the war? It would begin when the nation with the weapons and ammunition gave some to the nation with none. It might be kind to hand over some ammunition, but I suspect it would be considered an act of treason.
What is Atterton’s main objection? “The concept of God is not coherent.” He is assuming a standard of rationality that God apparently does not meet, but where does he, as an Atheist, get that standard?
According to any Atheistic worldview, man is but the advanced by-product of primordial soup. In that worldview, our brains are highly evolved meat machines, and our thoughts are merely the results of time and chance acting on matter. As Doug Wilson writes:
If this is true then the difference between your thoughts (the atheist’s) and mine (the Christian’s) correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically.
My question to Atterton would be: “Where do you get the absolute laws of logic by which you call anything ‘not coherent’ when, according to your view, our thoughts amount to nothing more than brain barf?”
Of course, that’s a rhetorical question – we know exactly where he gets logic from – God.
It ought to be sufficient to know that logic comes from God by His declaration in Scripture. I am loath to expand on that as all too often, people take the explanation as the reason for this truth rather than on God’s own Word, nevertheless, I will.
The laws of logic are understood to be universal (apply to all people at all times everywhere), immaterial (not made of matter), and invariant (do not change). God in His Word is known to be universal (Psalm 139:7-10), immaterial (John 4:24), and invariant (Malachi 3:6). Now I am not saying that God IS logic, but indeed He is logical — and we, as Christians, have a worldview in which universal, immaterial, invariant things can and do exist. Logic in the Christian worldview is a reflection of the thinking of God.
How does evolved pond scum know anything to be universal? How does evolved pond scum account for any immaterial entity? On what basis does evolved pond scum expect anything to not change?
It is not logically incoherent for an all-good God to exist and for evil to exist. Indeed, the Atheist would have to prove that God could not have a morally justifiable reason for evil — something they simply cannot do. The point, however, is that of the two of us, the Christian is the only one who could have a problem with incoherence as we are the only ones with a worldview that justifies the laws of logic by which we call anything incoherent. I’m not going to give the Atheist the tools that God has given us, to argue against the Lord that I adore. I am not going to hand over weapons and ammunition so he can attack my worldview. I simply will not do it.
Atheists often claim that the burden is on the Christian to defend the existence of God, yet they borrow the foundations for the rationality of their objections from the very God they are objecting. They claim that Atheism is merely a lack of belief, and they have no burden of proof since they are not making any positive claim. Linguistic revision on the definition of atheism aside, their lack of belief carries with it the positive claim that they can have rationality without God. Prove that positive claim, Mr. Atheist.
Back to Atterton’s article in the New York Times: “The concept of God is incoherent.”
What is the typical response? “Oh ya, well let me show you that God is in fact coherent!”
Granted, some Christians may have difficulty reconciling certain attributes of God, and some responses to Atterton have (in most cases poorly) addressed them (I even bring it up on the streets on occasion).
But those are questions more suited for a Bible study, not reasons for handing our weapons to the unarmed.
When someone brings an objection to God’s existence, we want to take that objection at face value and refute it on merit. I believe the desire to do so is sincere but ends up defending belief in a “god” that I don’t believe in and, hopefully, the person offering the defense does not believe in either. We make God subject to the objection of the Atheist, rather than Lord of all.
Earlier I said that my response to Mr. Atterton would be: “Where do you get the universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic from that you appeal to when you call the concept of God “not coherent?” I have been engaging unbelievers for a number of years, and have asked that question on many occasions. One can see by their responses why Scripture describes them as “fools,” not in a name-calling sense to insult their intelligence, but in the sense of their willful rejection of the God they know exists. The more I do this though, the more I see that giving such a response is also to be fooled by them; wasting our time to philosophically prove to them the God that Romans 1 tells us they already know exists.
Brothers and Sisters, we need to stop wasting our time – myself included — and simply point them to Jesus. The argument is already won. Refutations don’t save souls. Ask them if they want to know how to be made right with God before they die. If they don’t, move on.
Sye Ten Bruggencate is a Christian Apologist in Ontario, Canada. He has taught apologetics throughout North America and in the U.K. and engages non-Christians in formal debates and on the streets. His documentary films include “How To Answer the Fool” and “Debating Dillahunty.” Sye can be reached via his website www.proofthatgodexists.org