I have been involved in apologetics for more than fifteen years, coming in almost literally the moment after Al Gore invented the Internet. The following represents some conclusions I’ve drawn during this time. To be clear, when I say the ‘Five Greatest Challenges to Christianity’ I do not mean it as, ‘here are five great challenges among others.’ What I mean is, THESE. ARE. THE. FIVE. GREATEST. CHALLENGES. I do not suggest that they are all that new. I do propose, however, that apologetics has no answer to them. Is that a surrender by a Christian apologist? Let’s find out.
Most atheistic arguments are worthless. If you were to switch out the terms with more neutral ones, this would be seen easily. Their main power comes from the manner in which they are expressed.
To illustrate: God is supposed to be good. I experience pain, which a good God shouldn’t allow. Therefore there is no God.
That’s an unflattering presentation, but essentially the argument out of many atheist’s mouths. Let’s swap out the terms: Ice Cream is supposed to be good. Ice Cream gives me stomach cramps, which something good shouldn’t allow. Therefore there is no Ice Cream. You disagree? You are a moron. You are stupid. Do you have three PhD’s like me? Are you peer reviewed? All experts agree there is no Ice Cream. All scientists know that when examining whether or not there is such a thing as Ice Cream you must first assume there is no Ice Cream. Are you smarter than all of them? Idiot.
The power here is not in the argument at all, but in the desire to ‘fit in’ and not appear to be a loser, or stupid, or ‘worse.’ No apologetic in the world can counter the desire to not want to appear to others as a moron, even if it means accepting stupid arguments. And believe it or not, Ridicule is among the commonest of challenges to the faith.
2. The ‘Naturalization’ of self-evidently non-natural phenomena.
According to the philosophical naturalists masquerading as methodological naturalists, if one has a truly scientific mind, one will seek naturalistic explanations for everything. One of my funnest examples is the atheist who argued tooth and nail with me that there was no resurrection finally declaring, “but even if there was, that doesn’t mean God exists. We should just look for the naturalistic explanation for a dead man rising.”
Indeed, this sort of moving the goal posts lies at the back of much of the atheistic mindset. They call it a rejection of a ‘God of the Gaps’ mentality. They feel like Science has continually explained away things previously explained by ‘God.’ This is historically false and theologically ignorant. The Christian God is not categorically like Zeus on Mt. Olympus or Thor bowling. But let’s not let the facts get in the way, here. To the point… studies in America continue to show wide spread skepticism towards evolutionary theory. Atheists think that this is because people are scientifically illiterate. Actually, the truth is that many people think that this naturalistic explanatory mechanism fails miserably in explaining things. According to their own experience of reality, evolution just doesn’t add up.
That is why they have to get people as young as possible and why they will not tolerate anything other than evolution even presented in schools.
But the problem is more pernicious than this. To go back to the first example, if all the evidence in the world supports a real resurrection and the atheist still says that there is no evidence for God, something else is going on. What’s going on is most clearly seen in our culture, in our movies and books and the like. Only to illustrate, not to disparage, consider the Star Gate movie and series. (I enjoy this series. 🙂 ) All the ancient stories of gods and the like turn out to be true… but have entirely naturalistic accounts. Do you see what I mean? The disputed facts are suddenly accepted as real but promptly assigned naturalistic explanations. (I call this the ‘Explanatory Fallacy.’)
It takes a lot of work to get someone to look at Paley’s watch- or their own mind- and say, “Sure looks designed… but it just appears so. No reason to invoke a designer here!” This is not ever presented as an argument or given any evidence, therefore it cannot be countered. The closest you’ll get to it is a discussion of the ‘God of the gaps.’ But most people do not think it through. It is received. Thus, to counter it, we must direct our attention to how it is being transmitted.
With the way things are going, when Jesus appears again riding on the clouds at the end of it all, I am convinced that our world’s hardened secular humanists will not (initially) respond with any fear or apprehension. Instead, they will scratch their heads and say, “Dang. There are aliens, after all!” Then they’ll send out a welcoming committee. In the meantime, hordes of the world’s population will easily leap to the same conclusion.
Obviously, the person drenched in this way of approaching the world will not be moved by arguments and evidence or facts or, well, by anything. Does that make me a presuppositionalist? No. It means that we have to take aim at the ‘drenching.’
I have talked about this often on this blog. For example, check out all the posts on Philip Pullman, of which this one can illustrate.
In the interests of brevity, and because Stathei will not read anything over 1,000 words, I will give the next three challenges in a later post.