Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Brief Response to Biblical Critics and an Examination of the Kalam Argument

The following are two related pieces I wrote in the last few days:

Part 1
Today I had the opportunity to discuss the meaning of Easter with various people; and in the midst of that someone told me they think there are lies in the Bible. Being the philosopher that I am I had to ask "why?" (nearly all philosophies attempt to answer that question in regards to something).

The response was (basically) "Well, it uses fear tactics... do this or you’ll go to hell, there’s no way to prove it". Now how often do we hear that? People are "scared" into religion, that accusation is thrown around a lot. Though I did not have the opportunity to discuss this at length with that individual, I do hope I got them thinking. However, I’d like to deal with it more in depth here.

I’d like to start by addressing that specific argument, that the Bible uses fear tactics to get people to believe. I must say Christianity has mis-represented God and His Word if people believe that the main reason one should be/is a Christian is to avoid hell. Now Jesus didn’t make any bones about, He was abundantly clear in stating that there is a hell, and that it’s not a pleasant place; but truly that is poor motivation to accept Christ. God doesn’t want a relationship with us based on fear, He wants one with us based on love. I’m of the opinion that the only reason God doesn’t force everyone to accept Him is He wants us to love Him because we WANT TO, not because we HAVE TO.

Now it should also be noted that the argument that was presented is an emotional one, not a logical one. As such it should not be one that really needs addressing, but unfortunately there is just as much mis-understanding about this issue in the Church as there is among non-Christians.

The heart of this issue is not one of whether or not there is a hell, but whether or not God exists; and if He does it begs the question "can we know Him?", and "What is He like?". I feel the Church may have been led astray on this, so I must confront it (this should answering many questions of skeptics as well).

In answering the question of God’s existence I will use two brief arguments.
1. To say God does not exist is a logically indefensible position. For example; if I were to say that I’ve hidden three golden coins somewhere in Fairmont and then ask you to find them, you could report back saying 1 of 3 things. You could assert you’ve looked, did not find them, and so they do not exist; you could assert you looked, but could not find them, but they may exist somewhere you have not looked; or you could assert the coins do exist, and you’ve found them (and then show them to me).

Now obviously the last two assertions can be verified; but the first one can not. To assert the coins do not exist one must have looked in every corner, hallway, street, box, cabinet, closet, book, etc... anywhere a coin may fit in the entire city! That position can not be verified. The second one may be, for it is very possible you did not look everywhere so the coins are somewhere you’ve not yet looked; and of course the third one is verified by producing the coins and telling me where you found them. So in short, to say God does not exist, an atheist must have searched EVERY philosophy, every religion, every piece of evidence, every space in the universe, etc... And where as NO ONE has searched the entire universe they certainly can not make the assertion God does not exist.

However, being that I’m attempting to make assertion 3 (the coins exist, I found them; in this case God exists, here He is) I must provide some type of evidence or logical proposition that verifies His existence. I will start with just one simple three-point argument:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. The universe MUST HAVE a cause.

This gets us half-way through assertion 3. However, how do I know for certain that Jesus Christ is the correct way? There are three major monotheistic religions, how do I know Christianity is the correct one?

Well by means of reasoning we can safely say that there can only be one God. For it is quite impossible for there to be two all-powerful or infinitely powerful beings. They would eventually collide and thus limit each other and so they would no longer be all powerful. If you’ve seen "The Year Without a Santa Clause" think of the Coldmiser and Heatmiser; one of them can control a geographic area, but they can not possibly both simultaneously control the same area peaceably when one would lower and the other raise the temperature.

So we know that there can only be one Creator (Ockham’s Razor also leads to this conclusion). How do we know whether Judaism, Islam, or Christianity is correct?

The easiest way to draw lines here is the person of Jesus Christ. As a Christian I hold He is God-made-flesh and the Savior of mankind. Jews generally hold unfavorable (at best) opinions of Him; and Islamists hold He was a great prophet and nothing more, nothing less.

Now the central tenant of the Christian faith (and the greatest verification that Christ is God-made-flesh) is the Resurrection of Christ, for Islam or Judaism to genuinely discredit Christianity they must discredit the Resurrection. However, in light of all the historical evidence there is no logical reason NOT to believe the Resurrection as recorded in the Gospels.

There are several theories that do attempt to explain the Resurrection as something else. Those of the Islamic faith hold Jesus was never actually crucified, but a criminal that looked just like Him was crucified in His stead and Christ was taken to be with Allah. The problem here is this story has NO historical backing or record, it is contradicted by accurate historical records, and it wasn’t even proposed until the 700-800’s A.D. so there are no witnesses and no way to verify this.

Judaism typically tries to deal with the Resurrection by saying the disciples stole Jesus body from the tomb. Well, here’s the problems with that argument.
1. The tomb was guarded by a Roman guard; and it doesn’t follow logically that 11 (Judas Iscariot would not have been among them at this point) mostly unarmed disciples could defeat a company of the most well-trained soldiers in the world.
2. The Gospels record the origin of this argument as one made-up by the religious leaders in Jerusalem to silence talk about the Resurrection (Matthew 28:12-14).
3. The Disciples would not have died proclaiming Christ crucified, risen, and coming again if they knew the Resurrection was a lie.
4. This does not account for all the post-Resurrection witnesses of Christ.

So now I’d like to propose just a little bit of the evidence for the Resurrection of Christ. There were, in fact, several eyewitnesses, including the 11 disciples, two disciples on the road to Emmaeus, the women and their company at the tomb, the apostle Paul, and over five-hundred cited by Paul most of which were alive at the time (See the last chapters of the Gospels, I Corinthians 15:4-8).

There was also reporting of the preaching of the Resurrection, and the life of Christ in secular writings such as those of Flavius Josephus, and Tacitus. Not to mention records of the early Church in early Jewish writings.

The fact is the Gospels are so well verified from an archeological, historical, philosophical, even medical perspective there is no significant reason to doubt the Resurrection of Christ. Here I’ve only presented a small sample of all the arguments and evidence in the apologetic world, hopefully I’ve left the door open for some debate and discussion.

Well, that seems enough to get the discussion going. God bless!

Part 2
For those of you that read my most recent note, you’ll find I used a three-point argument to briefly prove the existence of God.

For those of you who are familiar with Dr. William Lane Craig or Lee Strobel (individuals from whom I gather many of these arguments) the Kalam argument should ring a bell. For those of you not so engaged in apologetics I’ll re-cap it here:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. The universe has a cause.

Now in my last note I discussed briefly why the cause must be God. In this note I’d like to get into some of the objections to this argument and a few of the finer points.

Now many atheists upon hearing this argument will say one of two things:
1. What caused God?
2. The cause of the universe: is a cosmic-vacuum, can be demonstrated by Hawking’s Oscillating Model, etc...

The first question is an absurdity and completely misunderstands the argument. Notice that ONLY things that BEGIN to exist have a cause. God never began to exist, He always existed. He is eternal; transcending time. It is not the case that God was around for an infinite number of years before He created the world; it is that years were not even in existence, time was not around.

Now the second argument, that the universe was caused by a cosmic vacuum, universe making machine, etc... does not eliminate the necessity of God. Why? Because that universe making machine would have had to begin to exist, and therefore it must have a cause. Based on the same reasons I previously stated that cause must be God I state this cause would have to be God.

No scholar will dispute the fact that everything that begins to exist has a cause. However, some do dispute that the universe began to exist. But, the universe is distinct from God as far as eternal existence goes. For we know that time does exist, and the universe must be finite. To say the universe has existed an infinite number of years is to commit a mathematical absurdity that can only be proved in theory with imaginary numbers.

The universe can not be infinitely old because that would lead to contradictory mathematical results. For example:
Infinity minus infinity= 0
Infinity minus infinity= infinity
Infinity minus infinity =1
To provide a concrete example, say I have an infinite number of dollars, and I give you all of my money, this would be case 1 (above).
If I give you half of my money, this would be case 2.
If I give you all but 1 dollar this would be case 3.

As you can see, these are mathematical contradictions, because infinity is simply a theoretical idea and does not truly exist.

Some would here say that "How did God exist for infinity?" to which I must reply God is eternal, infinity is a span we humans created. God transcends our measurements of time, power, wisdom, etc... God is unmeasurable, not infinitely measurable.

Therefore, the Kalam argument stands up to these various scrutinies.

(For more see: Dr. William Lane Craig,, and Lee Strobel’s "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for a Creator").


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