Monday, March 1, 2010

Proving God Exists: Foundations

Eric Hovind is a man who really has no idea what he is talking about (much like his father). His inherited website, Creation Science Evangelism, is a website dedicated to -what else? - creationism. He's got a series going called "How Do You Prove God Exists?" where he interviews a man named Sye TenBruggencate, from whom comes the website I blogged about not too long ago. It's only a 4-part series, so I thought it'd be relevant to go through these so-called "proofs" and see if they really hold up or if they're just creationist propaganda. So, without further ado, here's my response to "How Do You Prove God Exists? Foundations":

 When arguing for the existence of God, the unbeliever often demands that the discussion not include anything from Scripture. After all, if we are to prove the existence of God, we can't use the Bible..., because we must meet the unbeliever on neutral grounds. But this is a trap! When we drop our weapon and discuss anything with an unbeliever on only rational grounds, using only logic or science, the unbeliever does not join us on these "neutral" grounds. And don't think these grounds are neutral. To the contrary, he is the only one left with a weapon! He uses his rationalization. This is the foundation (or weapon) for the unbeliever's worldview—logic and rationalizing.
I agree that our starting point should be logic and rational thinking (not rationalizing, which is usually trying to justify preconceived notions... like a god). However, the bible does not fall under the category of presupposed truths and it should not. What if, for example, you are a Christian trying to dialogue with a Muslim. You have your Bible and he has his Qu'ran. Are you supposed to both quote scriptures back and forth until one of you gives in and converts? No, that doesn't work, and I think we all realize it. For the same reason here, you can't use your bible in the discussion of the existence of god because I don't think the bible is necessarily true on all points, especially not when it comes to its position on a god.

Christians build their worldview on the foundation of the Bible. God's Holy Word is the only sure truth we can build our house upon. All other ground is shifting sand. With that said, the unbeliever's worldview is built upon something as well: the ability to reason or invoke logic. As the Christian builds his worldview on the foundational assumption (faith) that God's Word is true and complete, the unbeliever, using the logic of empiricism, will often build his entire worldview on the assumption (faith) that all things must be observed to be true. However, while he is correct to point out that we are presupposing (assuming) God's Word is true, he is also presupposing that his logic is correct! We both start with our own fundamental assumptions. After all, how does he absolutely know that seeing is believing (empiricism)? What if his sight deceives him? How can he trust his logic to be sound? What if all of his senses and his capability to reason are skewed?
I like how here they seem to imply that our two presuppositions are at odds - it's faith vs. logic, people! Of course, I'm not saying that's the case. You, hopefully, would be using both faith and logic, whereas I do not have faith. However, I am not required to buy into your "faith" arguments and as such, we must both start with logic and move up from there. You state that empiricism is the assumption (faith) that all things must be observed to be true. This is a patently false claim. Empiricism is simply a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge arises from the senses. I have never claimed that something must be observed to be true necessarily, but I would have no justification for believing something that has never been observed in some sense.

Eric dips his foot into the cold waters of solipsism here, inquiring as to how I know that my sight doesn't deceive me, that my logic is sound, or if all of my senses and capability to reason are skewed. I would first respond by asking him the same question: how do you know your senses are functioning correctly? Faith in a god is not an acceptable answer. We're both working on the same playing field here. In theory, my senses could be malfunctioning and my sense of sight could be mistaken, but I have no reason to currently think so and I will operate as though everything is functioning correctly. I assume you'll do the same.

If we are to have a rational debate, I cannot allow you to simply assert the validity of the bible, because it carries no weight with me. Certainly, debate on that topic is up for grabs, but this idea that we're at least on "equal ground" with our two worldviews is false. Mine is based on observable, repeatable phenomena that can be verified by my peers. Yours is based on a book written thousands of years ago by men that understood little to nothing about how the world works. I think I have the stronger ground, but we can't start arguing "science vs. the bible" if we haven't yet settled on where the bible stands with respect to science. All clear? Ok.

Of course, the laws of logic are sound. After all, they are only consistent with God and His Word. But the unbeliever doesn't necessarily believe in God and His Word, and so it turns out that he has to borrow from our foundation to argue anything. So here's my point: if the unbeliever can keep his foundational presuppositions..., then why can't we? The unbeliever may ask you to be neutral, but don't be deceived—he's not being neutral, and you shouldn't be, either. God is the beginning of all things, and we must invoke the logic He gave us as well as the Word He gave us when discussing anything—be it science, doctrine, or even the existence of God. He is the Alpha and Omega. With all respect, He is the best six-gun a cowboy could need. Don't throw away your weapon, Christian. Don't surrender your foundation. 
Wait now... what do you mean by "the laws of logic are...only consistent with God and his Word?" How do you justify that statement? At what point, exactly, do I "borrow" from your foundation to argue? These assertions require more than  simply being stated to be taken seriously and you've put forth absolutely no effort in justifying them. I have to completely ignore that you ever said that to continue to respect your understanding of logic. You can keep your presuppositions, if you wish, but you cannot use them during a debate. You are not allowed to say things like "God exists because it says in the bible that only the fool thinks He doesn't exist." Those statements, like I've said before, presuppose the accuracy of the bible and basically fall under the circular reasoning category.

When I mention God or Creationism on this blog, I expect people to disagree with my views. What we can't do is have a discussion that begins with you quoting scripture at me or telling me what God thinks (because obviously you speak on his behalf). If we are going to have a debate over existence, science, or the bible, that's fine, but you will have to prove your point without using the bible because I don't care what it says. How the world works (evolution or otherwise) is a fine topic, but the bible has no authority in that area and if you want to make a claim about it, observe the world itself. Don't go running to a book that was written by ignorant sheepherders. If you want to talk about the bible with me, you can't assume it's already true. You have to show why I should believe it to be true. I, likewise, will show why I don't think it's true because of its inherent contradictions with itself, science, history, or what-have-you.

Does that make sense? Make your claim and support it with objectively true facts - the more the better. After all, if the bible is true and Yahweh is real, you should have plenty of facts on your side, right?


Matthew said...

I'll answer your question with the question...

What is the meaning of life?

I'm going to quote from the bible to answer my own question. I'm sure you'll at least agree that some of the proverbial statements are acceptable in an argument...

"Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

Brandon said...

I'll have to disagree with your statement that the Bible was written by "ignorant sheepherders."
Certainly they had no knowledge of astrophysics or the intricacies of animal biology or other such things, but stating that kings (David, Solomon), doctors (Luke), and teachers of the law (Paul/Saul) were "ignorant sheepherders" is simply not true.

Unless, of course, you're referring to them being ignorant of the Enlightenment-era scientific method -- in which case I cannot dispute you without attempting to prove that Elijah or Samuel or Matthew or whoever could in fact travel through time (though I suppose they would have settled this debate some time ago if they were able to do so).

Drew Reagan said...

Matt, I do like some of the proverbial statements in the bible and I think that verse especially speaks on how futile life can seem sometimes. I can't claim that there is a defined "the" meaning of life, but that doesn't mean you can't make your own meaning - as I'm sure you already have.

Brandon, I was actually speaking about the subject of how the world works. I don't think all of the authors were completely ignorant about everything (many were very wise) - just compared to today's educated people, they know a lot less. And it's to those people we shouldn't be appealing when it comes to modern matters that they don't have a say on.

Parabola said...

"...God's Holy Word is the only sure truth we can build our house upon. All other ground is shifting sand..."

This statement, and the underlying belief, is a horrible little thing I hear quite a bit.

Every time we don't stone a woman to death for not being a virgin on her wedding night we demonstrate that god's word is not permanent. It's clear that we edit it routinely, and in doing so debase it as an absolute. God's word seems absolute and unflinching... right up until we change it, or flat out ignore it.

I applaud every time we do, and I know I'm not alone.

Drew Reagan said...

All too frequently, the Bible and its objectionable bits are only paid lip service to. Sure, it may say turn the other cheek, but when push comes to shove Christians will usually stick up for themselves. The ones who don't are called "victims." They're victims of the Bible and poor judgment (which, when taken literally, go hand in hand).

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