I’ve struggled with how to communicate the inherent contradictions of worldviews that do not start with the unchanging, unbound, transcendent Creator revealed in creation, the Bible, and in Jesus.
This is not the perfect communication medium, but if a picture is worth 1000 words, it assists with pointing out the inconsistency when naturalists assume certain aspects of reality. Based on their assumptions, to give a proper satisfactory explanation (justification) for the following components of reality, they must borrow from the Christian Worldview.
Truth – how it can be known for certain
Absolute Laws – math, physics, chemistry, laws of logic, thermodynamics
Internet philosophers love to point out contradictions…especially perceived contradictions in the Bible. The charge that the “Bible endorses slavery” is rampant and definitive. To those making the charge, no further argument is needed, and the case is closed because <outrage font> “slavery is wrong!”
Let’s analyze this claim and tactic. By what absolute standard do YOU declare slavery to be wrong/immoral/evil? For those who claim the worldview of naturalism/materialism/absurdism, what is evil? The priests of naturalism have this to say about human origins:
Carl Sagan – “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”
Tyson – “We (humans) are not figuratively but literally stardust.”
Dawkins – “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
Nye – “We are just a speck, on a speck, orbiting a speck, in the corner of a speck, in the middle of nowhere.”
So, if humans are the accidental aggregate of stardust on a speck of a speck in the midst of a blind, pitiless, indifferent universe made only of atoms, how can they justify unchanging, abstract universals like truth, morality, math, laws of logic, and physical laws by which to judge something or someone as evil? It is inconsistent and absurd for the naturalist to make judgments against the Bible as somehow immoral. What does stardust (humans) care about morality? What intrinsic value does stardust have such that it needs to be protected from slavery? How could stardust reason…and with what unchanging absolute tools?
So, if you do not start with the God of scripture, who revealed Himself in creation, in the Bible, and in Jesus – your outrage against ANYTHING God does, commands, or endorses is impotent.
But how do Christians understand the “endorsement of slavery” within the Bible? Is there a positive case to be made that would help Christians to understand the negative perception? Let’s look at scripture and see:
Because everyone has sinned and there are uncontrolled consequences for rebellion against the Creator, mistreating people has become ubiquitous. Since the fallen idea of might-makes-right was recognized as the dominant paradigm in place of being God’s image bearers, slavery had a fertile garden in which to grow. The mightiest, richest, and/or craftiest have always been able to selfishly extort and manipulate other people. Slavery is actually the expected result of the human condition BECAUSE of the sin nature within mankind.
The charge is that the Bible endorses slavery. What is the definition of slavery? In 1960, if someone said they were gay, what would that have meant? They were happy. In the 21st century, saying you’re gay has a completely different connotation. In the 21st century slavery is a polarizing term that means: White people owning/abusing/killing black people. To put this into perspective, let me explain a few things, Americans have received free education from our respective local governments from K-12 grades. We learned reading, writing, arithmetic, history, sociology, physics, music, and biology. With that education, and in a capitalist society, we can use those precious gifts to find employment and support our respective families. This was not the case 3000 years ago when the Bible was written. All over the world, for someone to live and eat they would need to “sell or rent” themselves into indentured servitude (slavery). Those who did not own land or were uneducated had no recourse other than to serve in the military or serve as a laborer. Both the old and new testaments set requirements for masters to treat their workers as valuable humans. The Bible gives clear boundaries and punishments for masters to treat their indentured servants as they themselves would want to be treated.
Those who would kidnap and enslave others involuntarily are specifically condemned: I Timothy 1:10 “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.”
In Matthew 22 Jesus is recorded to have said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So whether as a master or an indentured servant, love God and love people.
The Egyptians, who had enslaved the Israelites for over 400 years, were harsh masters…so much so that the Hebrews cried out to God for divine intervention (Ex 3:7). God delivered them from the harsh slavery of the Egyptians, and told the Hebrews very clearly to treat indentured servants with mercy. Deuteronomy 15:12-15 says “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.”
The Apostle Paul wrote an impassioned letter to a fellow Christian, and it is included in the Bible under the name of the recipient, Philemon. Philemon is the master of an escaped indentured servant, Onesimus. Paul exhorts Philemon “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother”
I listened to the audio books of Game of Thrones. I one of the books there were several chapters that described the story of the Dragon queen conquering a land that was defined by slavery. She succeeded in ending slavery in the whole land. When she (as the new queen) began seeing petitioners, one of the former slaves asked her to re-instate slavery because he and many others were now suffering as indigents. He makes the case that as a slave, he was cared for and protected in his master’s house, but when slavery was forcefully ended, it created a new class of homeless and downtrodden. In much the same way, the world prior to Western Culture was plagued with generational slavery. Because many masters were evil and de-humanized their slaves, chattel slavery flourished. But the Christian abolitionist, William Wilberforce helped to re-calibrate the philosophical assumptions that described certain classes of slaves as sub-human to instead show that they were created in God’s image and thus had inherent value. His crusade to end chattel slavery in England swept across Europe and finally into the western hemisphere. Thankfully, today, in this culture, slavery has ended and is unnecessary (for the indigent). Sadly, in other countries, young girls are still forced into sexual slavery because of generational illiteracy and corrupt rulers/elite.
The charge that the Bible is immoral fails for these and other reasons.
Because God has revealed Himself as Holy, unchanging, and transcendent, we can trust his revelation and praise Him in fulfillment of our created purpose. Jesus truly is worthy of all praise!!!
The following is an interview I conducted with Dr. Assumptîon after he evaluated the evidence of the successful resurrection of a thousand year old fossil from its icy grave.
ApoloJedi: Thank you, Dr. Assumption for agreeing to give us your scientific analysis of the evidence of the fossil resurrection. Did I get your name correct?
Dr. Assumptîon: Actually, it’s Ass-oomp-shee-ohn
Dr. Assumptîon: Swiss
ApoloJedi: Excellent. Please tell us a little about your scientific analysis of the fossil revival.
Dr. Assumptîon: It’s my pleasure, Mr. Jedi. Before, I begin, I want to construct a framework from which we evaluate the evidence. Scientists have to observe and make conclusions based on what is repeatable and demonstrable rather than relying on myths and pseudo-science. I have to prefix my comments with the proper scientific foundation because certain creationists have taken the evidence for this fossil resurrection and used it for their own nefarious purposes.
ApoloJedi: Most appreciated Dr. We wouldn’t want to have the thought police shut us down for spreading creationist propaganda. Please continue.
Dr. Assumptîon: So, in 1988 a group led by Patrick Epps and Richard Taylor used scientifically-developed tools such as ground-penetrating radar and snowmobiles to discover 8 large metallic objects, which we now know to be the fossils buried deep in the ice of Greenland. It wasn’t just deep…the fossils were covered with over 250 feet…that’s over 75 meters in scientific lingo…of snow and ice. About 2 years after the discovery of the fossils, the team returned to the grave to “unearth” their discovery. With additional scientifically-developed tools, these men and their team were able to melt a 4 foot-wide hole in the ice all the way down to the metallic fossils.
ApoloJedi: Excuse me, Dr. Why did the team look for metallic fossils in a place covered in ice?
Dr. Assumptîon: There were some myths that have been propagated by creationists that historical documents can trump scientific measurements, and they were taking the long-shot odds of trying to prove them correct. I want to show that a scientific evaluation of the evidence indicates that while they did get lucky with their discovery, they were completely wrong in their conclusions.
ApoloJedi: I see
Dr. Assumptîon: To shorten a long story, the scientific team was able to carefully disassemble one of the fossils, bring the pieces up through their 1.26 meter hole, and then reassemble the thousand year old fossil.
ApoloJedi: Sorry to interrupt again. How do you know the fossil was 1000 years old?
Dr. Assumptîon: I was just getting to that. We know from science that ice layers accumulate in such a way that can be measured for age. Each year there is an annual layer of snow/ice, and to determine the age, we just have to count the individual layers for the exact age. So, while I said 1000 years, I was just rounding up. The actual age of the recovered fossil is actually only 930 years old. We have a photo of a scale-model recreation of the expedition
Dr. Assumptîon: While the creationists wanted to identify the metallic fossils as P-38 Lightnings built by Lockheed in 1942, scientists MUST reject pseudo-science and go with the evidence. The evidence of over 900 layers invalidates the creationist’s mythology.
ApoloJedi: So, if the fossil was not a world war 2 era propeller-driven fighter as it appeared to be, what were your scientific conclusions?
Dr. Assumptîon: Because creationists are blinded by their pre-conceived notions of the historical validity in their holy book and applying it to all situations, scientists must go with what we can observe. We have observed that a single ice layer forms every year…so if the fossil was buried under more than 900 layers, then it is clear that we must choose scientific conclusions over mysticism.
ApoloJedi: Do you think that science supports the theory that Vikings in about 1000AD used this aircraft to get from Norway to Greenland?
Dr. Assumptîon: Pseudo-scientists would try to tell you otherwise, but the evidence supports the Viking theory. It is a clear example of convergent evolution, which tells us that disparate sources developed the same “solution” under similar selection pressures. When the civilizations of the Vikings in Greenland were lost to natural selection, the need for this particular fossil’s solution was lost until the 1940s when similar selection pressures brought forth the similar solutions we saw by engineers at Lockheed. And this is totally supported by the evidence. The fossil clearly was not as advanced as the Depression-Era P-38Hs, which sadly have once again succumbed to the forces of extinction.
ApoloJedi: You said earlier that this fossil was revived. Can you get into that?
Dr. Assumptîon: Of course. Smart scientists hammered out the dents in the Viking aircraft, re-assembled it, filled it with aviation fuel, and it flew just like it did 900 years ago.
ApoloJedi: Well, you’ve got some interesting theories, and I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us today.
“If there were evidence for God, I would believe.”
“If God were real, he would show me evidence of his existence”
I disagree with all of these statements for multiple reasons that I will point out below, but as often as they come up, I think it’s worth a little push-back to see if the claims can withstand a little scrutiny. Let’s address the claims to see why it is a category error to demand evidence for God.
To evaluate evidence one must be able to account for the preconditions necessary for evaluation. Only the Christian worldview provides these necessary preconditions. Without being able to justify the following 4 absolutes within your worldview, it is a category error to make one of the above claims.
Absolute Truth – If one hopes to evaluate evidence, they must be able to compare it to what is actually true. If there is not a truth anchor, one’s arbitrary truth claims will ultimately lead to an infinite regress or be internally inconsistent (Self-defeating).
Laws of Logic – Evaluating evidence requires the existence of invariant, universal, abstract absolutes. Since God is unchanging, rational, and transcendent, He provides the necessary foundation for laws of logic.
Morality – To honestly transmit observed results, one has to assume invariable honest transmission. At the very least you have to have faith in those transmitting conclusions that the empiricist is unbiased.
Uniformity of nature – To expect nature to be consistent requires assumptions that are inconsistent with a universe that is in a constant state of flux. Justification for unchanging natural laws that bind nature to uniformity requires abstract assumptions that can only be justified by the Absolute Source of uniformity upholding his creation.
Everyone interprets evidence according to their worldview or epistemology. So, it logically follows that evidence cannot sway someone from changing worldviews from say naturalism to Christianity. Imagine an enlightened character in a video game saying, “There’s no game designer or there would be evidence. Game designer theory is a crutch for simple-minded bots who can’t grasp the reality that we are alone on this server. Their pre-Y2K thinking might be good for classic games like Galaga, but today’s games are driven by real scientific thinking not mysterious game-designers in some paradise-like Silicon Valley.” Any effort (short of actually entering the game Himself) by an external game designer to input new elements into the game, the ‘enlightened’ character could say that is part of the game and no game designer is needed to explain it.
Asking for natural evidence of the supernatural is irrational. This is related to item 2 above, because no matter what supernatural evidence is presented, someone who maintains a naturalistic worldview will always exclude supernatural causes. The excuse could be as simple as hallucination from bad mushroom pizza or as complicated as master-level illusion (David Blaine, David Copperfield…) In a recent debate, I asked my opponent what evidence could convince them of the supernatural, and he said, “Well, if someone were dead for a few days and then came back to life, I’d have to believe.” To which I responded, you mean like what Jesus did? My opponent remains unconvinced by the evidence.
Most of the time, a person who claims that there is no evidence for God is a naturalist. The high priests of the naturalists claim “We are literally star dust on a speck of a speck of a speck in a blind, pitiless, indifferent universe.” What does a speck of stardust care about evidence/truth/ANYTHING?
This point refers specifically to the 3rd claim from above “If God were real, he would show me evidence of his existence”. It is deplorable hubris of infinite proportion for any created being to expect the Almighty Creator to be subject to their petty whims. For a person to cry out, “I don’t like the revelations and confirmations that God has given. I want Him to do what I want…right now!” is dangerous audacity. It would be similar to a drug dealer in Sri Lanka shrieking “If The Pope doesn’t come sing at my birthday party, he’s not really the Bishop of Rome.” The Pope’s authority and office are not in question because of the insignificant droning of a foreign criminal.
For all of those reasons and probably many more, the person who claims that there is no evidence for God is making a category error.
God revealed Himself in his creation, in his Word, and by becoming a man: Jesus!
Jesus claimed that extraordinary evidence (even someone rising from the dead) is insufficient to convince someone of God’s existence (See Luke 16 below). If you do not start with the Creator (because of his revelation through creation/Bible/Jesus) you will not be convinced by evidence.
[Luk 16:19-31 ESV] 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’“
Praise God that by His Amazing Grace, we can know forgiveness for our rebellion!!!
This is my first “formal” debate. An agnostic challenged me via Twitter to defend my position on Christianity. Any constructive criticism is appreciated.
We agreed beforehand to answer the question:
Does Christianity or Naturalism Better Account For Reality?
But right from the start, my opponent waffled on defending the position in an attempt not to be cornered. But as you can see, he really didn’t arrive with any position or defense.
The format of the debate was to have a 5 minute closing, but since there was a debate scheduled right after ours, the moderator chose to end our debate prematurely. This was my prepared closing:
“As we have heard hear tonight, naturalism is unable to account for reality. Because we have heard no consistent justification for the 8 necessities for explaining reality, it is a worldview that is insufficient for determining truth.
But my purpose for being involved in this debate is to share the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. All of mankind has rebelled against God’s holiness. God’s perfect creation is perverted by sin. We see the effects of the curse of sin all around us: Lying, stealing, adultery, murder are not just pragmatically wrong, socially wrong, or wrong because they cause harm…although they do harm. They are ultimately wrong because they lie about the character of Almighty God. God, who revealed himself through creation, the Bible, and in Jesus is truthful, content, faithful, and kind. His judgment for rebellion is based on righteousness. But God made a plan to redeem those who would repent of their rebellion. In fulfillment of prophecy God became man as Jesus and took on the punishment for sin that each one of us deserve. By his grace, those who repent of their rebellion, will be forgiven and live the abundant life that Jesus promised. He is worthy of all praise.”
“An important concept that’s developed in the documentary comes from Lewis comparing science with magic and calling them twins. He does this by identifying three common characteristics: 1: The ability to function as a religion. 2: Encourage a lack of skepticism. 3: A quest for power.”
I watched a very powerful documentary on the subject of Scientism- an approach to reduce everything scientifically to materialistic, blind, undirected causes; it’s the effort to use the methods of science to explain and control every part of human life.
One reason I was interested in watching this is because it’s coming from the viewpoint of C.S. Lewis, the famous novelist and scholar, most noted for writing The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis is still a very influential figure around the world, and his work is widely respected. He was one of three people who wrote about the dangers of science (G.K. Chesterton and George Orwell were the others).
Lewis had a healthy respect for science, a field that has paved the way for many advancements and progress. Science is a legitimate endeavor and enterprise, but Lewis knew that it could be corrupted, and this is what he was warning us…