Dear Atheist,

Having discussed the God questions 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. As you said, and I agree, this does not necessitate the God of the Scriptures being this creator, but, upon concession, it would 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 a 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 can be no place for moral statements such as “should” or “ought” in your worldview.

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 out of necessity have to reject your arguments 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 are possible because of order and design. You use a theistic system 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. No freedom in any sense. As some people have put it “Naturalism has nothing outside the box.” All that is in the box is fatalistically 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 not only who we are, but 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, once again, your argument is self-defeating.

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 thorough 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.

You can find it here. (Please forgive me as the audio is not the best. You get used to it after a while.)

Evolutionary Argument Against Atheism

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

Truly,

Michael Patton


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. 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. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

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