“Everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power and everything is for His glory.” Romans 11:36
I recently received a response to my blog entitled “Ten Good Reasons to Believe God Exists” so the intention of this blog is to respond to a person who calls himself @ActFactFeminist on Twitter. After each of his responses, I offer my rebuttal.
- The Ontological Argument:
Let’s look at the start of this argument:
God is the greatest conceivable being.
If we can conceive of something greater than God, then that would-be God.
Do you want to tie yourself to this argument? All I have to do is think of a greater God and that would-be God. If you argue against what I say below then you’ve basically made “Great” such a subjective term that the argument can’t lead us to any God.
Let’s ask a question. Which God would be greater? One that condemns slavery or one that does not condemn slavery? A God that creates and requires Satan or a God that does not? My God is maximally good and would not knowingly create Satan. Does your good require Satan? Via your argument, my God would be God and your God would not be good.
In short, if you fully believe the ontological argument, you cannot believe in the Christian God since a greater God than this God can be conceived.
The bottom line to ActFactFeminist’s assertion is that God has permitted evil in this world, so he can conceive of a higher power than God who would not have permitted evil. Yet evil, as horrible as it is, has a purpose: overcoming evil makes us stronger and strengthens our spirits and character. How could we ever fully appreciate love without knowing hate, or develop empathy if we saw no suffering, or grow tolerance if never exposed to the intolerant? In a yin and yang sort of a way, we are exposed to that which we don’t appreciate to develop an appreciation of that which we do.
- The Cosmological Argument
Our current understanding dictates that there can’t be an uncaused cause. This would necessitate an infinite chain of causes for any cause. This infinite regress seems logically and quite possibly naturally impossible. This why people appeal to a supernatural cause and allow it violate what we understand. This is special pleading.
I can simply use your rules and say that the universe is an uncaused cause and has always been and will always be.
If you’re screaming at your computer now that I can’t prove that and I have no evidence of this, thank you. I can’t prove this and have no evidence of it. This however shows that there is an alternative to your uncaused cause you call God. There is more than one answer to the question and we have no way of figuring out which one is the right answer. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the best answer to this question which is simply:
I don’t know.
Rather than come up with an answer because we so desperately need one, we must admit when we don’t know things. I don’t know how the universe began. That is such a complex question that I don’t know if we will ever know. It’s ok to say “I don’t know”.
But we do know. The majority of scientists support the Big Bang, which gives us a start date that was around 13.82 billion years ago. Therefore, we do not have an infinite regress. Instead we have a start date of time, matter, and space. What existed prior to the Big Bang had to be timeless and immaterial. What existed prior also had to have intention, omniscience, and omnipotence. God has all of those qualities. He is the uncaused cause who ignited inflation at the Big Bang.
- The Teleological Argument
Have you ever tried living in a volcano? Have you ever tried living at the bottom of the ocean? These are absurd ideas. No human could possibly live in these places because we can’t survive there. There are however many things that survive in these environments. There are sharks that swim through underwater volcanoes!
The truth is that the life that survives in a given environment is the life best suited for that environment. It is not shocking at all that our environment is so perfect for us. We are a product of it. What’s interesting about this argument is that it neglects the 99.99999% of the universe outside our planet (And even within).
We don’t need Jupiter, Mars or any other planet to survive on Earth. We don’t need all the galaxies. We simply need our planet. The search for a planet like Earth shows us just how rare our livable space in the universe is. Life exists on Earth because Earth allows for life to exist. Change the constants on Earth or in the universe and you’ll see life that is able to survive those constants.
You have no scientific proof that if we tweaked the constants slightly life would still survive. In fact, scientists make it quite clear that tweaking any of the constants that govern physics even slightly would make conditions not conducive to life.
Source: R. Lanza & B. Berman (2009)
In addition, as Hugh Ross points out in his book “Improbable Planet,” ongoing studies on the convergence of the habitable zones on the earth suggest that to sustain life, we could not modify any of their conditions.
As examples, the liquid water habitable zone requires an appropriate level of atmospheric pressure and temperature. James Kasting found that a planet orbiting closer than 95% of the Earth’s distance from the sun would experience a runaway evaporation. The atmospheric pressure on Mars is too low, so a drop of water would evaporate in a second.
The ultraviolet habitable zone can neither be too strong not too weak to provide for life’s needs. The range for humans is exceptionally narrow, with some UV exposure necessary for vitamin D production, yet too much exposure can cause life-threatening melanoma and blindness. The liquid water and ultraviolet zones must overlap to make conditions right for life, ruling out 97% of most planetary systems for hosting life.
The photosynthetic habitable zone requires the following factors to fall within highly specific ranges: light intensity, ambient temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, seasonal variation and stability, mineral availability, liquid water quantity, and atmospheric humidity for land-based life. “Over the past 3.9 billion years, earth has undergone some dramatic variations in solar luminosity and spectral response, and these variations impacted all seven conditions for photosynthesis. Detailed models of the early history of the sun and earth (between 4.0 and 3.0 billion years ago) show that surface radiation levels were at least thousands times higher in the 2,000 to 3,000 angstrom wavelength range than current levels in this range” (Ross, 2016, p. 86).
The ozone habitable zone describes the distance from a star where an ozone shield can potentially form. The ozone in the earth’s stratosphere absorbs 97-99 percent of the sun’s short wavelength (2,000 to 3,150 angstrom), while allowing much of the longer wavelength (3,150 angstrom) of beneficial radiation to penetrate through to the earth’s surface (Ross, 2016). “For the level of stellar UV emission to be sufficiently stable for life’s sake, the host star’s mass much be virtually identical to the sun’s” (Ross, 2016, p. 87).
The earth further has an optimal rotation habitable zone. “The faster the rotation rate, the more distant from the host star the water, UV, photosynthetic, and ozone habitable zones would be. Rotation rate would also impact (in different ways) the breadth of all these habitable zones” (Ross, 2016, p. 88).
The tilt of a planet’s rotation axis relative to its orbital axis determines the temperature of a planet’s surface. The higher the obliquity, the warmer the planet’s surface and the greater the obliquity, the further the water, UV, photosynthetic, and ozone habitable zones are pushed from the host star.
The distance range from a host star where the planet is near enough for life-essential radiation but far enough from tidal locking is referred to as the tidal habitable zone. “The tidal force a star exerts on a planet is inversely proportional to the fourth power of the distance between them. Thus, shrinking the distance by one half increases the tidal force by 16 times. If a planet orbits too close to its star, it becomes tidally locked (as the moon is tidally locked with earth), which means one hemisphere faces permanently toward its star” (Ross, 2016, p. 88-89).
The final zone is referred to as the atmosphere habitable zone. “The effective protection offered by a star’s atmosphere depends on the star’s mass and age, as well as on the density of the interstellar medium in which the star resides…The question for habitability is whether, at any given time in a star’s burning cycle, the star’s astrosphere covers the orbit of a planet with the just-right level of protection – neither too strong of a stellar wind nor too weak, all within a region overlapping the liquid water, UV, photosynthetic, and tidal habitable zones” (Ross, 2016, p. 91).
All of these habitable zones need to overlap perfectly to offer the existence of life other than the most primitive unicellular forms. According to Stanford and MIT physicists Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind, the appearance of life in the universe requires “statistically miraculous events.”
- The Moral Argument
If God is truly the source of morals, you have to look at the morality God gives. This really breaks down to covenant and dispensational theology. However, both point to a good with shifting morality.
In covenant theology, your God makes covenants with people. You can therefore say that we are under a new covenant. This means something that was moral could now be immoral (Animal sacrifice) and something that was not immoral could now be immoral (Slavery). How is this objective morality? This is constantly shifting.
In dispensational theology, your God gives morality over time. You can therefore say you wouldn’t know an action is immoral because your God never told you this. This means morality grows over time. How is this one objective morality? It is not. Two people are held to two different standards. This makes morality temporary and not objective.
The question here is whether our moral values and duties have changed over time and if they have changed over time, ActFactFeminist states that they must be subjective. Yet when we say morality is objective, we are saying that we have a standard that stands alone as a source of guidance rather than one that fluctuates by one’s personal tastes, influences, or opinions.
Slavery and animal sacrifice are practices and not moral values. Examples of objective moral values are truth, justice, fairness, and kindness. These are standards against which we judge the aforementioned practices.
- Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22
The problem with using the Bible to confirm the Bible is that the Qur’an confirms the Qur’an. I 100% agree with your holy book confirms that claims within your holy book. Do you agree that other holy books confirm their claims?
Since all holy books aren’t true, this doesn’t prove any holy book is true.
Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, which were written by two different men at two different time periods, clearly and collectively predicted Jesus’ death, crucifixion, and resurrection. The Quran was written by one man at one time around six hundred years after Jesus walked the earth. The Bible was written by 33+ men over hundreds of years, many of whom were martyred for their beliefs. Please see my blog entitled “Multiple sources, martyrdoms, and early religious persecution distinguish Christianity.”
In other words, many men who wrote the Bible did not reap any tangible property or financial benefits as Muhammed did. They wrote what they wrote because they firmly believed their messages, so much so in the New Testament that authors risked crucifixions and beheadings to spread the Good News for decades.
- Christianity has survived against substantial odds.
Any religion that is around today has survived as a religion. This does not mean that religion is any more or less true. It simply means that the religion has survived.
How is it possible that a humble carpenter, a tent maker, some fishermen, and a tax collector could change the world? With God, nothing is impossible.
No other major world religion was born out of several hundred years of persecution and no other religion’s texts include prophecies. No less than 330 prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament.
- Embarrassing Testimony
If someone says they’re abducted by an alien and they got anally probed does that make their story true because such a thing would be embarrassing? No. Just because there are embarrassing things in the Bible doesn’t mean the claims are true.
The reason I pointed out what apologists refer to as “embarrassing testimony” is to discount the notion that those who authored the New Testament had fabricated the message as a “sales pitch.” Had they fabricated the message, they wouldn’t have had women make the most important discovery of the empty tomb. Peter or John would have been more believable. They wouldn’t have had Jesus’ mother and brothers try to stop Him early in His ministry and they wouldn’t have had Peter deny Jesus three times. The authors included this information because it is the truth and the authors desired to share the truth, not a fabrication.
- Extra-Biblical Testimony
There are no testimonies of Jesus from historians who lived during his life time. The earliest testimony is that of Flavius Josephus. He writes about the followers of Jesus and the story they tell. This is enough to convince me that Jesus most likely existed. This doesn’t however convince me of the claims he writes people are making about Jesus.
On top of that, the book is a couple hundred pages and Jesus gets two paragraphs at best. You’d think if Josephus was really convinced of what they were saying about Jesus, he would dedicate a lot more time in his writing to the risen savior. This doesn’t seem to be the case though.
While historians often request two sources of evidence when piecing together histories, we have an astounding forty-two sources within one hundred and fifty years of Jesus’ resurrection that support accounts of Jesus (Habermas & Licona, 2004).
- Nine traditional authors of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.
- Twenty early Christian writings outside of the New Testament: Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Barnabas, Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.
- Four heretical writings: Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and the Treatise on Resurrection.
- Nine secular non-Christian sources: Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar-Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallas.
Based on the extrabiblical sources, we find that (Turek, 2014, pp. 207):
- Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
- He lived a virtuous life.
- He worked miracles.
- He had a brother named James.
- He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
- He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
- An eclipse and an earthquake occurred when He died.
- He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
- His disciples believed He rose from the dead.
- His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
- Christianity spread rapidly in Rome.
- His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshipped Jesus as God.
- Early Christianity Bravery
Bravery doesn’t mean a claim is true. There are many martyrs for different religions. Every religion can’t be true so being a martyr doesn’t make your religion true.
I did not claim that bravery is what makes the claim to be true. Muslim extremists could be brave, but that does not make Islam any more or less true.
One needs to consider why they were brave. In the early Christian martyrs’ cases, many saw the risen Jesus. So they risked their lives for decades and took their deaths willingly to proclaim the Good News. No Muslims have ever claimed to have seen Allah, as the Quran says this is not possible. Yet we know that early Christian martyrs testified that they saw the risen Jesus.
- The Purpose of Life
This is merely an appeal to a greater mystery.
“The LORD has made everything for His own purposes.” Proverbs 16:4
“We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.” Colossians 1:15
The original post “Ten Good Reasons to Believe God Exists” can be accessed here: https://christian-apologist.com/2017/04/22/10-good-reasons-to-believe-god-exists-a-response-to-10-poor-reasons-to-believe-god-exists-by-mr-oz-atheist/
Habermas, Gary R. & Licona, Michael R. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
Lanza, R. & Berman, B. (2009). Biocentrism. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books.
Ross, H. (2016). Improbable Planet. How Earth Became Humanity’s Home. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Turek, F. (2014). Stealing from God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.