Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTSMy previous posts in the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil and the Crusades. Today’s post includes my article about the objection that religious beliefs are merely reflections of where one was raised.

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides answers to many of these perplexing questions from the Crusades, religious plurality, and the problem of evil along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

Here is the article:

“Don’t Religious Beliefs Just Reflect Where One Was Raised?”:

Are religious beliefs just a reflection of where one was raised? It’s hard not to notice that people who grow up in India almost always become Hindus and people raised in Saudi Arabia usually become Muslims. Likewise, most Christians accept Christianity because their parents were Christians. Since a person’s religious beliefs most often reflect the dominant religious beliefs of the region in which they were born, many people conclude that all religions are just cultural expressions. In this view, religious beliefs are not the result of reason, evidence, or the movement of God in a person’s life. Rather, religion is just a product of the way you were raised. There are two significant problems with this theory.

First, the origin of a belief does not determine whether or not it’s true. Each truth claim (and hence, each religion) must be weighed independently of questions about its origin. We examine how it matches up to things like history, logic, and data from science. If the belief stands up to examination, it does not matter how you came to hold it. For instance, what if a lunatic told you how to get to New York City? The man believes many wrong things about himself and the world, but if his directions succeed in getting you to the “Big Apple,” you can be sure that his belief about the route to New York was correct. It does not matter that he is certifiably crazy. Your belief originated with a crazy man, yet the crazy man knew the truth.

Second, the skeptical view described above says your surroundings determine your beliefs, and yet this theory cannot explain religious conversions in which a person chooses against their upbringing. Every day all across the world, many thousands of people convert from one religious belief to another. If religious beliefs merely reflect where one was raised, this would not happen. The reality of religious conversion shows that religious beliefs are more than the result of upbringing. People change their religion because they come to question their inherited religious beliefs, examine the beliefs of other religions, and thus choose to reject their cultural influences and upbringing and the beliefs that come with them. The most impressive historical example of this is the spread of Christianity. The Christian faith began as a tiny group of Jews huddled in Jerusalem, but then spread all across the world, traversing many cultures and languages, as people examined the case for Christianity and came to believe it was true.

In conclusion, where you were raised does have an obvious impact on your religious beliefs, but evidence proves that this can be overcome when people reconsider their beliefs in light of evidence and argumentation. While most people’s religious beliefs reflect where they were raised, they still have the freedom and responsibility to consider the evidence and claims of their religion. Christianity excels when people take the time to seriously explore

In 2008 Broadman & Holman first released the Apologetics Study Bible.  Two years later they produced the Apologetics Study Bible for Students selling well over 100,000 copies. Features of this Study Bible included:

APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTS

 “Twisted Scriptures” explanations, “Bones & Dirt” archaeology meets apologetics, “Tactics” against common anti-Christian arguments, and“Personal Stories” of how God has worked in real lives.  It did so well they are releasing a new updated edition.  I had the honor of writing three articles for the first release and they are rolling them over in the new updated edition.  They are:

1. “Why Does God Allow Evil?”

2. What About the Crusades?”

3. “Don’t Religious Beliefs Just Reflect Where One Was Raised?”

I guess you can say I wrote the Bible (just kidding), but I am releasing my articles for the next several weeks for preview.  If you know of any students, this would be an excellent resource for them.  The new edition includes updates such as:

  1. Articles have been updated.
  2. Authors went through each of their articles and improved them substantially.
  3. 12 new articles on “hot” topics like tattoos, euthanasia, transgenderism, Islamic Jihad, religious freedom, singleness, race, and more.
  4. Each of the special features (Bones & Dirt, Tactics, Twisted Scriptures, Stories, and Fast Facts) have been expanded with 5-10 more articles.

Here is the first article I wrote for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students (they apparently gave me the hard questions):

“Why Does God Allow Evil?”

“In December 2, 2015, a mass shooting by two terrorists killed fourteen people in California’s Inland Regional Center. Years earlier, in 2012, a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut: he shot twenty first graders and six adults.

From shootings like these to natural disasters that level communities, we regularly hear about or even experience the effects of sin and evil in the world. This leads many to ask, “If God can prevent such massacres and destruction, why doesn’t he?” That people routinely ask this question implies the widely held conviction that an all-powerful and all-good God would choose to destroy all evil. How could he possibly allow evil to exist?

Many suppose that the existence of evil disproves God’s existence. But the human ability to recognize evil is actually a good reason to believe in a Creator. If there was no God, there would be no objective, universal standard by which to measure good and evil. Since, however, all humans agree that the two are distinct, there must be an independent, eternal standard by which we ground moral convictions.

Nonetheless, some philosophers claim that the existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of the all-good, all-powerful God described in Scripture. If God exists, the theory goes, evil cannot. If evil exists, God cannot. God and evil, like square circles, are logically contradictory and thus cannot coexist. But few philosophers think this argument successful. In fact, even philosophically-informed atheists acknowledge the weakness of this view. After all, it is logically possible that God, though all-powerful and all-knowing, has a good reason for allowing evil to exist. For instance, evil’s presence ensures the preservation of human free will. If we have genuine freedom, then we have the possibility of choosing to do evil rather than good. God is certainly powerful enough to prevent us from doing evil, but he would be taking away our free will by doing so. He cannot force us to always choose the good, because being made to choose the good would mean that we are not free.

There are other reasons God could allow evil to occur. For instance, coping with the effects of evil in the world often contributes to the development of virtues such as empathy, patience, and trust in Jesus as Savior. Without the ability to choose and exercise free will or the opportunity to develop virtue, our lives would be shallow and without love; we could not truly love one another or love God. We would essentially be robots lacking the ability to have a relationship with God, and loving relationship with us is the very thing God desires.

Though it is reasonable for God and evil to coexist, some say the presence of so much evil makes it difficult to believe in God. However, this is a subjective judgment. How much evil is too much? Who but God can say? We are all troubled by evil, but God has dealt evil a fatal blow through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

We are in the midst of graduation season and some of us either have a graduate or know a graduate who is going to be headed off to college in just a couple of months.

How can we help prepare them to face some the challenges and opportunities that college offers.

Here is a list of the top apologetic books to buy for a recent graduate that would be helpful:

1. Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey, 2nd edition by Jonothan Morrow (Kregel Publishers, 2017)

welcome to college

Jonothan Morrow is the director of Impact360 which has a two-week Immersion worldview training and a Gap Year for college students. His book Welcome to College, newly published, is now in its second edition.  J. P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, states that “this is the book I’ve been waiting for the last forty years to give to college students.  It is the single best volume I have ever read for preparing students to follow Jesus and flourish as His disciples in college.”  Morrow covers issues ranging from ethics, apologetics, money management, and practical tips for navigating college.  Definitely worth giving a new (or even seasoned) college student.

 

 

 

2. On Guard for Students: A thinker’s Guide to the Christian Faith by William Lane Craig (Cook, 2015)

on guard for students

William Lane Craig (double doctorate), of Reasonable Faith, has been establishing RF Chapters all over the U. S. and the world with several on campuses.  This book takes you on an exploration of life’s deepest questions: why anything at all exists, the origin and fine-tuning of the universe, the nature of moral values and the reality of evil, the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrection of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

3. A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle (Cook, 2017)

guide to culture

Another new book this year by John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center, and Brett Kunkle, the Student Impact director ofStand to Reason Ministries.  They explore questions such as: What unseen undercurrents are shaping twenty-first-century youth culture? Why do so many kids struggle with identity? How do we talk to kids about same-sex marriage and transgenderism? How can leaders steer kids away from substance abuse and other addictions? How can we ground students in the biblical story and empower them to change the world?

 

 

 

4. How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski (TH1NK, 2014)

how to stay christian

J. Budziszewksi, professor of philosophy and politics at the University of Texas since 1981, blogs daily at The Underground Thomist.  In How to Stay Christian in College Budziszewski “discusses the foundations of the Christian faith and directly addresses different worldviews and myths that students may encounter at college. Filled with quotes, statistics, resources, stories, and encouragement, this book will equip students to conquer the dangers that lie ahead.” Budziszewski divides the book into three sections: worldviews, campus myths, and how to cope with social, religious, and classroom issues.

 

 

 

5.  I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek (Crossway, 2004)

no faith to be an atheist

Turek and Geisler make apologetics accessible and practical in the complete introduction to the topic.  Frank Turek, who travels around the country giving presentations with the same title as the book on college campuses, is a dynamic presenter.  Starting with complete skepticism they build on the existence of truth, God’s existence, reliability of Bible, the divinity of Jesus, and his resurrection.  Includes great examples and stories to illustrate the points they make in the text.

 

 

 

 

There is a wealth of resources readily available to guide students and assist them during their college years.  Great graduation gift ideas.

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 8.32.51 PM.pngThe Tower of Babel is recorded in Genesis 11:1-9.  Critical scholars have traditionally viewed this story as mythical and not historical. There just seemed to not be enough corroborating evidence.

But, recently the Smithsonian Channel’s show titled Secrets aired its first episode of season four titled “The Tower of Babel” which seemingly supports the biblical record.

The episode focused on the Tower of Babel Stele (i.e., stone tablet) from the Schøyen Collection which is the private collection of Norwegian businessman Martin Schøyen. Joseph M. Holden, author of The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Biblestates that “according to most critical scholars, this event [i.e., the Tower of Babel] found in Scripture is mythical and certainly could not have taken place in Mesopotamia, where it is said to have occurred.  Originally, support for this notion was found in the fact that no extra-biblical Mesopotamian record existed that documented such an incredible event.” That is until, apparently, now:

 

On the website of the Schøyen Collection the commentary section on the Tower of Babel Stele states: “Here we have for the first time an illustration contemporary with Nebuchadnezzar II’s restoring and enlargement of the Tower of Babel, and with a caption making the identity absolutely sure. We also have the building plans, as well as a short account of the reconstruction process.”  Apparently the ziggurat in Bablyon was originally built during the time of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC).

The Secrets episode on the Smithsonian Channel states that there is “some very compelling evidence the Tower of Babel was real.”  Professor Andrew R. George, featured in the episode and the professor of Babylonian history at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, states that “This is a very strong piece of evidence that the tower of Babel story was inspired by this real building.”

Related Articles on The Tower of Babel Stele:

Evidence for Bible’s Tower of Babel Discovered” | The Christian Post May 9, 2017

Ancient Babylonian Tablet Provides Compelling Evidence that the Tower of Babel DID Exist” | Ancient Origins May 8, 2017

Smithsonian Channel Spotlights Stone Tablet Believed to Confirm Biblical Tower of Babel” | Christian News Network May 7, 2017

Tower of Babel Discovered? Ancient Tablet Describes Mesopotamian Structure Built By ‘Multitudes’ ” | Breaking Israel News May 8, 2017

____________________

Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

50 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.39.41 AMA couple of months ago I did a string of post on trends in apologetics.  One of the trends is Children’s Apologetics (other trends included Urban Apologetics, Cultural Apologetics, and Women’s Apologetics).  Just over a year ago, Hillary Ferrer started the blog and podcast called Mama Bear Apologetics.  The opening page tag line explains succinctly the purpose of their blogs/podcasts: “Mess with our kids . . . and we will demolish your arguments.”

That tag line is not just for attention. They deliver it.  Recently, they have taken to task a series of articles posted at Patheos.com under the blog title Unfundamentalist Parenting.  On April 12 of this year Anna Register, one of the contributors to Unfundamentalist Parenting and (according to the bio on the site) a children’s pastor working on her Master’s of Theological Studies at Vanderbilt, posted an article titled “The Trouble with Easter: How To (and not to) Talk to Kids About Easter.”  She listed several things she would NOT teach about Easter:

  • Jesus died for you/your sins
  • That God killed Jesus/wanted Jesus to die/intended for Jesus to die as the primary purpose of his life
  • Jesus died to save them from God’s judgement/hell
  • Coming back from the dead is something you can expect to happen.

She went on the reiterate that:

Stories don’t have to be factual to speak truth. And it’s okay to question a literal resurrection – questions are how we learn. And there is always truth to be found in curiosity, even if the answers don’t turn out to be what you thought they’d be. 

Ask: “Do you know of a story like a myth or fable that teaches a great lesson but isn’t filled with facts? How might the Easter story work the same way and what do you think we can learn from it?”

Well, the article “The Trouble with Easter” obviously troubled those at Mama Bear Apologetics.  They responded with a blog post and a podcast both titled “Is the Progressive Gospel a Gospel at All? (i.e. Why you need to know what your children’s pastor is teaching).”  It is well worth the read and listen.  The blog post is a point for point rebuttal of the claims in “The Trouble with Easter.”

The exchange doesn’t end there.  Cindy Brandt, the founding contributor at Unfundamentalist Parenting, followed up on May 5 with an article titled “Why Your Children do NOT Need Apologetics.”  Mrs. Brandt essentially states that apologetics transfers parental fear, confines faith to doctrine, and burdens children with the task of defending God.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.45.20 AM.png

Mama Bear Apologetics responds with a piece entitled “Why Your Children Do Need Apologetics: Correcting Misconceptions.”  A taste of their article:

. . . when I went back and reread the article on why we shouldn’t teach our kids apologetics, the faults that I wanted to apologize for didn’t match with the author’s complaints. Her main concern seems to be (ironically) a fear of passing on fear and rigid doctrine to kids.  In fact, most of her concerns seem to stem from misconceptions of apologetics, not bad experiences with apologists. I am more than willing to apologize for the areas where misguided apologists have hurt our cause. However, I don’t think I can apologize for someone not understanding what we do. All I can do for that is correct the misconceptions, and hope for better mutual understanding.

Some of the key points Mama Bear Apologetics enumerates include:

  • Apologetics is not based on a “proof-text” of 1 Peter 3:15
  • There are healthy and unhealthy kinds of fearApologetics, responsibly handled, frees a child to think well. It doesn’t coerce them into a boxed set of doctrines
  • Apologetics is not about us defending God because “He needs it.” It is about making our faith “more sure and more convinced.”
  • Apologetics is about having a firm foundation, NOT determining a prefabricated house of faith

It is definitely worth the read.  Looks like some good things are happening over at Mama Bear Apologetics.  Along with the founder Hillary Ferrer, who has a master’s degree in biology and is pursing a master’s degree in apologetics from Biola, Mama Bear Apologetics includes Rebekah Valerius, who is studying for her masters in apologetics from Houston Baptist University, and Cathryn Buse, is the author of Teaching Others to Defend Christianity and holds a bachelors and masters in engineering.

I have definitely subscribed to their podcast as well as placed their site in my favorites list.

faith defined (incorrectly)

There are many misunderstandings on what “faith” actually is.  For example, Richard Dawkins states that, “Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”  Peter Boghossian, Portland State University philosopher and author of A Manuel for Creating Atheists, describes faith as “pretending to know what you don’t know.”  Even popular culture depicts faith as a blind leap into belief with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade scene showing Jones stepping blindly into the abyss to be caught by and invisible bridge:

 

All of these descriptions and definitions of faith are wrong.  They are not biblical or found in the bible.  Here is the correct understanding of the concept of faith:

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 9.30.15 AM.png

William Lane Craig of Biola University and Houston Baptist University answers the questions “how should we define faith?” at the 2014 Unbelievable? Conference in England in this short video:

 

Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason answers the question: “Is Faith Blind?” A taste of the article:

The Greek word for faith, pistis, is derived from the verb pisteuo, which means “to convince by argument.” Hebrews 11:1 explains that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Some translations replace “conviction” with “evidence.” Faith, then, is being convinced that the things we can’t see (e.g. God, heaven, the resurrection, etc.) are real.

The word “faith” is so often misunderstood that I avoid using it in most conversations. I use a different word in its place: trust. This better characterizes the Bible’s use of faith, but is free of the misleading baggage.

Biblical faith, then, is not blind, but functions the same way as trust.

Greg Ganssle, former lecturer Yale University and senior fellow of the Rivendell Institute at Yale and current professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, explains the relationship of faith to reason in this video:

 

Just look at my menu above title “Is Christianity True?” and I cover the reasons and evidence of why we believe God exists, that Jesus is God, that the Bible is historically reliable, and the evidence for the resurrection.

J. P. Moreland, in his great book Love God With All Your Mindexplains how theologians have understood the biblical concept of faith throughout the history of the church:

Throughout church history, theologians have expressed three different aspects of biblical faith: notitia (knowledge), fiducia (trust), and assensus (assent). Notitia refers to the data or doctrinal content of the Christian faith. Assensus denotes the assent of the intellect to the truth of the content of Christian teaching. Note that each of these aspects of faith requires a careful exercise of reason, both in understanding what the teachings of Christianity are and in judging their truthfulness. In this way, reason is indispensable for the third aspect of faith — fiducia — which captures the personal application or trust involved in faith, an act that primarily involves the will but includes the affection and intellect too.

So, non-believers AND, more importantly, believers need to stop defining faith at believing without evidence.  Faith and reason are not opposed.

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 9.26.33 AM.png

Recently several bloggers, scholars, and apologists have posted videos on the reliability of the bible.  Three such videos are below, in order of lenght (shortest first, then longest)

1. Does the Bible Have Contradictions?

Sean McDowell, Assistant Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University, earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2014 and is the  author, co-author, or editor of over eighteen books including The Fate of the Apostles, and Is God Just a Human Invention?  In this short video (2:50) answers the question “Does the Bible Have Contradictions?”

 

Michael Licona of Risen Jesus ministries and associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University recently published a book with Oxford University Press on the same topic: Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?

2. Are the Gospels Accurate?

J. Warner Wallace, a former cold-case homicide detective and continues to consult on cold-case investigations, applied his investigative skills to investigations the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts.  He wrote about his in his book Cold-Case Christianity. In God’s Crime Scene, he investigates eight pieces of evidence in the universe to make the case for God’s existence.  In this nine minute video Wallace answers the question: “Are the Gospels Accurate?”

 

3. Can We trust the New Testament?

Michael J. Kruger (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) is the president and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary and is author of The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament DebateThe Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford University Press), and Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament BooksIn this video (28 minutes) Dr. Kruger is being interviewed by Ratio Christi on the topic, “Can We Trust the New Testament?” The interview covered a wide range of topics from textual criticism to bible contradictions to the development of the NT Canon:

 

Visit my page titled “Is the Bible Reliable” in which I cover the topic of the when the New Testament was written, the manuscript evidence, archaeological evidence, and non-biblical sources concerning the New Testament.

case for christ movie posterThis past weekend the dramatic retelling of Lee Strobel’s conversion is retold on the big screen.  Strobel, best-selling author of the books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faithand The Case for a Creatoris portrayed in the movie The Case for Christ based on his book by the same name. The tagline about the movie states that it is “Based on the true story of an award-winning journalist who, working to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife, begins chasing down the biggest story of all time … with unexpected, life-altering results.”  The trailer can be viewed here:

 

Tom Gilson over at The Thinking Christian and The Stream argues that there are “7 Reasons You’ll be Glad You Saw The Case for Christ.”  He makes an apologetical case which includes:

If you’ve read Strobel’s book of the same name, you have a pretty good idea how his search came out. But you’ve got no clue what a great love story was wrapped up in it. Watch it this weekend — you’ll be glad you did. Specifically, you’ll be glad you saw it if:

  1. you love a good story
  2. You love a good love story.
  3. You love a good love story where the man is determined to do the right thing- and he does.

You can read the other four reasons over at his website.

Matt Brown provides another “4 Reasons You Should See ‘The Case for Christ’ ” at The Christian Post.   A couple of those reasons include:

1. LEE’S STORY IS ICONIC AND UNFORGETTABLE

2. LEE’S STORY HELPS US SEE THE LOGIC BEHIND OUR FAITH

This weekend the movie has even broken into the box office top 10.  Rotten Tomatoes, an American review aggregator website for film and television, has critics giving the film a high 79% rating, while viewers are pushing it to 84%.

Variety magazine’s Joe Leydon comments that the movie “The Case for Christ” sustains interest, and even generates mild suspense, while offering a faith-based spin on the template of an investigative-journalism drama.”

History vs. Hollywood piece on the movie comparing the facts with the film.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.27.03 AM.png

Here is by far the BEST review of the film by David Wood:

 

 

case for christ movie poster 2

threeIn presenting apologetics there are certain points I focus on in order to systematically examine the evidence for the truth of Christianity.  While there are many other areas of interest and concern for the apologist, these areas are essential in determining the veracity of the Christian religion. These main features of Christianity include 1) the existence of God 2) the reliability of the Bible 3) the divine claims of Jesus and 4) the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.  I organize them in the form of a question, which can possibly be answered yes or no, in order to be objective in the analysis.  This first question is: “Does God Exist?”

Obviously, if God doesn’t exist then Christianity cannot be true.  It is pretty fundamental. There are dozens (and here) of arguments for God’s existence, but there are three powerful arguments for theism.  If you can just remember GOD’s name you can remember these three arguments:

G = Good and evil

O = Origins of the universe

D = Design of the universe

The ‘g’ in God’s name stands for good and evil.  The fact that there exists objective moral truth is evidence for God.  Check out this video titled “The Moral Argument” for a quick introduction.  The ‘o’ in God’s name stands origins of the universe.  This video, titled “The Kalam Cosmological Argument” provides evidence for the origins of the universe that deduces that existence of God.  There are many versions of the cosmological argument, but the kalam version argues from the beginning of the universe to the existence of God.  The ‘d’ in God’s name stands for design of the universe.  This video shows how design is the best explanation for the fine-tuning for life in the universe.

Good and Evil

The Moral Argument (or the argument from good and evil) can be summarized as such:

P1: If God doesn’t exist, objective moral truth does not exist.

P2: Objective moral truths does exist.

C: So, God exists.

Origins of the Universe

The Kalam Cosmological Argument (or the argument from the origins of the universe) can be summarized:

P1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

P2: The universe began to exist.

C: So, the universe has a cause

Design of the Universe

The Fine-tuning Argument (or the argument from the design of the universe) can be summarized:

P1: The fine-tuning for life in the universe is either due to chance, necessity, or design.

P2: It is not due to chance or necessity.

C: So, it is due to design.

Check out this page for a complete presentation of these three arguments for God’s existence which provides a summary of each argument along with links to other articles and videos for the existence of God.

I come across these “objections” repeatedly online, in conversation, in debates, talk shows, and the like.  These are such silly objections against the existence of God that it is ludicrous that an answer has to be brought up.  But, since they keep appearing and reappearing, they must be dealt with.  In the interest of being fair, as well as over compensating, I double with a list of four silly arguments Christians should avoid which are graciously provided by Dr. Douglas Groothius at the bottom of this post.

1. “Believing in God is like believing in a flying spaghetti monster”

This is a real objection one can find online, and it is as silly as it sounds.  There is even a church dedicated to this objection (more of a parody than to be taken seriously) which is also called Pastafarianism.  It is a common meme found online as is seen from the “inspirational” poster here.  It has even been manufactured for car decals.  The Flying Spaghetti monster argument is meant to parody belief in God by showing that since there is no evidence for a Flying Spaghetti monster, you shouldn’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Likewise, since there is no evidence for a God, you shouldn’t believe in God.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason responds to this silly objecton:

Dr. William Lane Craig responds to this objection in his weekly Q&A:

“God and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Q#33” Reasonable Faith. Dr. Craig concludes by:

The real lesson to be learned from the case of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that it shows how completely out of touch our popular culture is with the great tradition of natural theology. One might as well be speaking a foreign language. That people could think that belief in God is anything like the groundless belief in a fantasy monster shows how utterly ignorant they are of the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Paley, Sorley, and a host of others, past and present. No doubt part of the fault lies with equally ignorant Christians who have no answer when called upon to give a reason for the hope within and who therefore give the impression of arbitrary and groundless belief. But it must also be attributed to poor education, intellectual laziness, and a lack of curiosity. Given the revival of natural theology in our day over the last half century, we have no excuse for such lame caricatures of theistic belief as belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The origins of the Flying Spaghetti Monster actually goes back to a response to Intelligent Design (ID) in 2005.  This following video provides the context as well as the Dr. Craig’s response to it as a critique to ID:

“5 Reasons The Flying Spaghetti Monster Parody Doesn’t Make Sense” by Richard Bushey | Therefore, God Exists, December 24, 2015 – A taste of this article:

In an attempt to mock and ridicule religion (as is the great commission of the atheist as prescribed by Richard Dawkins at last years’ Reason Rally), atheists will compare belief in God to something ridiculous, that anybody would regard as false, like Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or even what they call the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Flying Spaghetti Monster came as a response to the advocacy of Intelligent Design being taught in schools. The very concept is as ridiculous as teaching students about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. However I think there are at least 5 reasons the Flying Spaghetti Monster parody doesn’t make sense.

“Conclusion: Why the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ Doesn’t Fly”

  1. Sure, there is no evidence for a flying spaghetti monster, but there are plenty of arguments for the existence of God.  So this argument from a spaghetti monster does not counter any argument for God’s existence, because the spaghetti monster example is assuming that there are no arguments for God. Now, that doesn’t mean any of the arguments for God’s existence are good arguments, but that is what needs to be investigated.  Spaghetti monsters don’t provide evidence against God.
  2. The spaghetti monster is physical, temporal, and material and the concept of God is non-physical, eternal, and immaterial.  Since the spaghetti monster is a material object extended in space and time and can’t be the cause of space, time, matter, and energy.
2.We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

Richard Gervais, the comedian (who is “obviously” an authority in philosophy and religion [please read that with sarcasm]) recently proposed the “one god further” objection with Stephen Colbert (relevant information at 2:20):

This quote apparently originated with Stephen F. Roberts in 1995.  Common Sense Atheism also has utilized this argument:

What I mean is that if you apply the same reasoning to your god as you do to every other god (your “common” sense) then you’ll see that your god doesn’t exist, either.

In short, this argument states that the only difference between a Christian and an atheist is that the atheist is just like the Christian theist, but they just believe in one less god than the Christian.  So Christians are atheists when it comes to the belief in Baal to Zeus, so they are just as atheistic as the full atheists. Bill Vallicella of Maverick Philosopher summaries the argument:

The idea, I take it, is that all gods are on a par, and so, given that everyone is an atheist with respect to some gods, one may as well make a clean sweep and be an atheist with respect to all gods. You don’t believe in Zeus or in a celestial teapot. Then why do you believe in the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob?

one-god-futherRationalWiki even has a list of gods that Christian don’t believe in from Aabit to Zurvan for a total of 1,637 deities that Christians are atheistic towards.  This is suppose lead to the conclusion that the God of Christianity doesn’t exist either.  I am not sure how it does this, but that is the claim.  This is just a non sequitur.  Richard Dawkins has used this argument in The God Delusion:

None of us feels an obligation to disprove any of the millions of far-fetched things that a fertile or facetious imagination might dream up. I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.

Here are some responses to this objection:

Ricky Gervais Makes the Usual Atheist Mistakes” by Tom Gilson | Thinking Christian Feb 17, 2017. Tom Gilson answers almost all of Ricky Gervais points in the Colbert clip, but answers the one god objection under the heading of “The Arithmetical Argument.”

Brett Kunkl of Stand to Reason posted this entertaining video answering this silly objection:

Debunking the One God Further Objection ” by Edward Feser | Strange Notions.

Here is a quick video of Dr. Craig’s response to the “we are all atheists” objection:

Why the ‘I Just Believe in One Less God Than You’ Argument Does Not Work” by Michael Patton | Credo House April 13, 2011 – Michael Patton differentiates the important distinction between belief in other gods and the belief in the Christian God.

On the Statement That ‘We Are All Atheists’ ” by J. W. Wartick | Always Have a Reason April  4, 2011. – Wartick examines three problems with the statement “we are all atheists to other religions, we [atheists] just take it one step further.”  The problems are:

1) The statement is false

2) The statement is irrational

3) The statement–as with many false or irrational statements–proves too much (or too little).

“Conclusion: Why the ‘One God Further’ Objection Doesn’t Add Up”

  1. If one takes the argument to mean we are all atheists to multiple gods, but the skeptic is just an atheist of one more god, then the argument just confuses what is means to be an atheist.  The Christian theist (or Muslim or Jew) are NOT atheists.  Atheism is the believe that God doesn’t exist.  Theists (whether Christian, Islamic, or Jewish) or not atheists at all.
  2. This claim that it is irrational to believe in Odin, Thor, Zeus, Baal, etc. is irrational, thus belief in theism is irrational fails to grapple with the arguments for theism.  It is just an attempt to avoid the work of looking at arguments for (or against) God.

As this last point points out, both objections are just attempts to avoid looking at arguments for God’s existence, which there are plenty (kalam cosmological argument, moral argument, teleological argument, ontological argument, contingency argument, and dozens of others).  Both of these objections against theism have run their course and (unfortunately) will pop back up here and there because of the internet, but please, lets put these to rest.

______________________________

Arguments to Avoid in Defending Christianity” by Douglas Groothuis.  Dr. Groothuis calls each argument a non-starter:

Nonstarter #1: Since we do not know everything, no one can disprove the existence of God. God might be somewhere outside of our knowledge. Moreover, if we knew everything—which is the only way to disprove God—we would end up being God ourselves and, thus, atheism would be false!

Nonstarter #2 People do not die for a lie. But the apostles died for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus, so they must have died for the truth.

Nonstarter #3: Evolution (meaning Darwinism) cannot be proven because it is not scientific. Science demands repeatable and empirical observation: things that can be observed through a microscope or a telescope or chemical reactions in a test tube. Therefore, evolution is unscientific and has no final claim on reality.

Nonstarter #4: You cannot argue with a changed life. A Christian’s testimony is the most powerful and irrefutable apologetic. (Some say it is the only apologetic needed.)

Grootuis is author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, Philosophy in Seven Sentences, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture.