Dear Atheist,

Having discussed this with you for quite some time, it would seem that we have come to an impasse in our conclusions concerning the evidence that the universe provides. I, on one hand, have argued that the intricacies of the universe from cosmology and biology compel any honest observer to the conclusion that there is a self-existent, all-powerful, intelligent, and personal force behind its genesis. This creator must be self-existent, otherwise we enter into the irrational proposition of infinite regress. The “if God created everything, then who created God” argument. But I argued that�this argument only has relevance within the created order that abides under the law of cause and effect. Since there cannot be�an infinite regress of anything�(a logical absurdity), we are left with the necessary conclusion that some “uncaused�cause” must exist in a realm that transcends this principle. The only realm that could transcend the law of causality is one where time, in the sense of a succession of moments, does not exist. I therefore�proposed that God exists as the single eternity from which all things had their beginning. This creator must also be all-powerful since He is by definition the necessary first-cause of the effect of the universe. Since the effect cannot be greater than the cause, and since our idea of omnipotence is defined by the limitations of the universe, from our perspective, this creator possesses a degree of power that transcends the cumulative effect. I proposed that we call this type of power “infinite” or “omni” power out of necessity and consent to common terminology of “omnipotent.” This creator must also be intelligent for the same reasons as that stated above. The effect (intelligent life forms – present company included!) cannot be greater than the cause. Therefore, the creator surpasses the cumulative intelligence of all creation. Once again, I proposed that we call this intelligence “infinite” or “omni” and use the common terminology of “omniscient.”�Finally, this creator must be personal since the universe came into being a finite time ago. You were confused about this “necessity” calling it a non sequitur. However, I disagreed explaining that if we can establish that the universe came into being a finite time ago – with the big bang for instance�- then there is no explanation for this outside of personal agency. If the creator were not personal, then there would not be a time when creation came into being, but would necessarily exist out of the nature of the impersonal creator. It would necessarily exist as the creator does. But since we know that there was a time when the universe did come into existence, then there was a “choice” or “decision” made by the creator to bring it into being, all of which necessitates some form of personality.

As you said, and I agree, this does not necessitate the God of the Scriptures being this creator, but it does create common ground between you and I with regards to the existence and nature of the creator.

Unfortunately, common ground has not been created. You did not concede to my compelling but responded with many counter arguments of your own, explaining that your view of naturalism was the simplest most reasoned explanation. You concluded, therefore,�”There is no need for a God hypothesis to explain the genesis of the universe. The rational arguments for atheism/naturalism should compel people to abandon belief in God.”

Your last letter had many counter arguments which led you to this�rationale. I do wish to respond to these�in time. Please forgive me, however, as I want to stop and examine something more expedient at this point. I want to deal with what I believe to be the self-defeating premise upon which your arguments stand.

My proposal for your consideration is this: To make a rational argument that people should not�believe in a�creator is self-defeating for two reasons: 1) There is no such thing as “rational argument” in your worldview and 2) There is no place for moral statements such as “should” or “ought” in your worldview. Please understand that this is primarily a philosophical argument against naturalism, but not all philosophy is bad!

1) There is no such thing as a “rational argument” in your worldview. You said in a previous letter that the universe came about by chance and that there was no personal agency behind its creation. You also said that “Chaos cancels creation” and that “Chaos is the foundation of the universe, not God.” If I were to grant this proposition, then I would automatically have to view your arguments false since they become necessarily�chaotic. Let me explain. You define your arguments as “rational.” Rational is defined as “agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible.” Reason is defined as the ability�”to form conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises.” An argument is made when the reasons for a position are explained in a compelling manner. The problem with positioning your stance in such a way is that it assumes that which it denies. If the genesis of existence has no reason or order, then the effect will carry the same attributes (remember, the effect cannot be greater than the cause). Yet you are saying that reason (the effect)�came from chaos (the cause)? Rational arguments, in your worldview, can only amount to a conventional interpretation of the data that is subjectively held, but not universal truth. In other words, your “rational arguments” are not really rational at all.�They are�devoid of the power that�they assume. All you are left with is the statement, “This is true for me according to my conventions that are random and chaotic, but it is not universally true in any way.” If this is the case, then a “rational argument” is not possible. In other words, you are borrowing from my theistic worldview where rational arguments can be made because of order and design in order to make your arguments against�theism. This is self-defeating.

2) There is no place for moral statements�such as “should” or “ought” in your worldview. This is closely tied to the previous argument, but approaches it a little differently. If you believe that�all that exists today is the result of a meaningless chaotic explosion�14 billion years ago, and that there was no personal agency then or now, then we are all destined to a worldview of fatalism. Fatalism is “the doctrine that all events are subject to fate or inevitable predetermination.” “Fate” is defined as “something that unavoidably befalls a person; fortune; lot.” The key here is “unavoidable.” Just like when a billiard ball hits another ball which starts a necessary (unavoidable)�chain reaction�without a�personal determining agency, so also, according to your naturalistic worldview, all events that have transpired since the big bang are just as necessary (or unavoidable). There is no outside determining cause of the events. As some people have put it “Naturalism has nothing outside the box.” All that is in the box is fatalistically what it is due to a series of molecules bumping into each other. We may be billions of years beyond the first “strike of the ball” but we are still caught up in the motions having who we are and why we are who we are determined by fate. Therefore, according to your worldview, there is no such thing as “should” or “ought,” only “is.” You are the way you are necessarily, not because of any good, wise, or rational decisions that you have made. Since all things are fatalistic, being determined by the first strike of the ball, you have no real “self-determinism.” In order for you to come to the conclusions that you have and say that others “should” follow in the same suit, you would have to presuppose that they can, by their own self-determined free will, change their mind and do what they are morally compelled to do. But, once again, in order to have this type of expectation or demand, you would have to assume that chaos and fate are not the foundation for creation. You would have to assume either divine determinism of some sort�or the divine gift of self-determinism. In other words, you are borrowing from my theistic worldview once again to make your argument. Therefore, your argument is self-defeating once again.

I believe that you are intelligent because my worldview allows it even if yours cannot recognize intelligence. I believe that you “ought” to submit to�God because my worldview allows for moral obligations even if yours cannot.

For a much more thurough presentation of this same type of argument, I suggestion you listen to Alvin Plantinga’s interview on Converse with Scholars called An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

I pray that this conversation is stimulating you to think more deeply about the presuppositions that you hold.


Michael Patton

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    3 replies to "A Letter to an Atheist"

    • kolabok21

      I wonder how your argument would stack up against Carl Sagan if he were still alive.
      Some of those guys may or may not be an atheist, but some do present a view that goes beyond the boundaries of what we would call the normal universe, aka 4th dimension, parallel universes, warp tunnels, cosmic string theories and all those star trek kind of things. Ever watch stargate, stargate Atlantis?

    • C Michael Patton

      Bryant, good question. I would say have at it! But don’t present your view as the “best possible explanation”, and certainly don’t say that it is the most rational choice.

      I could present a view that the world came into existence 10 minutes ago and we all have pre-programed memories that create the allusion that the past is real. While possible, this certainly would not demand people’s belief and could not make a good argument for it based upon any cumulative case evidence. You would be in the same category as the Flat Earth Society.

      Once again, once chaos is introduced, there is no such concept as rationality, only conventional beliefs. Therefore, no one could make an argument from these so-called other dimensions that supposedly do not abide by the law of causality, because they would be just as chaotic as the current dimension without God.

    • kolabok21

      I concurr with your statement, flightful fantasy I conjured up out of nothing!!!
      Tthough I wonder do you think God will ever
      define chaos for his creation?

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