Sunday, March 14, 2010


The past five posts have presented the arguments of Atheists that prove [to them] that Christians are, by logic, ignorant and unquestioning. Some very good responses have come in the comment section as a result.

I have a portion [only a small portion thus used without permission] of a Q@A time between a skeptic and a philosopher who is a Christian that underscores the thought that all operate on a system based on faith. It's like Woody Allen said "There is no evidence that God doesn't just have to take it on faith."

I thought you would enjoy reading a philosopher's approach who is also a fair to middlin theologian. I'll post his picture next time. I'm not assuming you will agree with the Philosopher on every point. [As somone said in a comment, you get two Baptists in the same room you have three opinions on every issue.] But I thought you would enjoy giving him a hearing. He's, as I said, fair to middlin. [Which in Oklahoma is "quite good."]

The Skeptic asks how I KNOW that Jesus was God and not just a really amazing human being. 'You can't know that can you? You have to just believe it. Objectively, it's kind of preposterous.'

My response:

"You've asked the gazillion-dollar question. And this is where it often gets uncomfortable for the skeptic. [Or, in our case, the Atheist.] You're right about having "to just believe it," although I am loath to minimize it by using the word "just." Believing is not easy. While the Bible affirms that belief (the same word as "faith" in the original Greek language) is a gift from God, the Bible also says that those who have not been given the gift of faith are nonetheless without excuse concerning God's existence and the deity of Jesus.

Here's why:

When we as human beings assess the things we know -- and it is a inevitiable human thing to do -- the more thoughtful and astute among us will wonder, "How do I know what I know?" This question, strangely enough, ought to lead each and every human being to the conclusion that God exists, that Christ is God, and that we are all accountable to him. I realize that's quite a claim, and here's the basis of that claim:

The ultimate epistemological [theory of knowledge] question asks for a foundation -- a solid ground -- on which to base all of one's reasoning, inference, thinking and knowledge. This is why Archimedes said, "Give me a ledge on which to stand and I will move the earth," or something like that. He recognized a deficit in his reasoning, namely, that he needed to justify his method of knowing. David Hume, one of my favorite philosophers, wrote eloquently about this. In a nutshell, he acknowledged that there exist no objective grounds on which to trust logical inference, to use induction or to expect uniformity in one's experience.

Epistemologically speaking, the true skeptic should not trust chairs. Every time he attempts to sit in a chair, the true skeptic, if he is consistent with his espoused thesis, must check the chair to see if it will hold his weight this time. It should not matter that the chair held his weight just 5 minutes ago.

Surrealist artist Salvador Dali seemed to pay homage to this conundrum with his Lobster-Telephone sculpture. The quote that accompanies the sculpture at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. says: "I never understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster, I am never served a cooked telephone."

What's the point of all that? It's this: ALL knowledge and reason is based on belief/faith. How does one know one can trust logic and reason? Do you have to just believe it? One cannot prove the verity of logic and reason. To say, "It just works" is to beg the very question, to commit a violation of logic itself.

Some say that the only way to ascertain reality and truth is by the scientific method. The problem is glaring: By what method does one establish the verity of the scientific method? The statement is self-refuting. Rather than face this problem, all the skeptic scientists I've debated on this matter are forced to the conclusion (although most refuse to admit it): You have to just believe it.

This was unacceptable to Hume, and for good reason (no pun intended). If someone is committed to sound logic, that very logic demands that logic itself must be logically grounded. But it is utterly impossible to do so without question-begging (that is, to commit a logical fallacy).

It is important to recognize that objectivity is not the believer's problem, but the skeptic's. You used the word "objectively" when you wrote: "Objectively, it's kind of preposterous."

I agree with you, IF we assume a godless and purposeless universe. Hume assumed there was no god and no purpose in the universe, and it led him to irrationality, concluding that there is no ground for logic or reason. One can only go on blind faith.

Archimedes realized that there had to be an ultimate foundation, and without God, there is no "ledge." Without God, there is only blind faith. The existence of God gives us the only rational grounding for logic, a basis for trusting in mathematics and science, a foundation for expecting uniformity in nature, a bedrock to undergird the inductive principle and modus ponens.

So yes, for the skeptic, you just have to believe it -- BLINDLY. For the believer, it isn't blind faith. It is rather a wide-eyed, perspicuous faith. Everything, all knowledge without exception, is based on faith. The difference is: Some have an unjustified blind faith (the skeptic) and some have a justified grounded faith (the believer).

Those who recognize this deficit in their epistemology ought to conclude that God must therefore exist. Otherwise, nothing makes sense. Thus, the proof of God's existence and the deity of Christ is the impossibility of the contrary. It is a transcendental argument, primarily because that which grounds our very thinking must transcend our thinking. And that ought to lead us to the existence of God and the deity of Christ."

Paul B.


traveller said...

The argument that we all ultimately rely on faith, whether in our belief in God or our denial, is accurate. It is also why our efforts as followers of Jesus to use the reason and the scientific method (Enlightenment/Modern thinking) to "prove" God is a fallacy and, as I stated in an earlier comment, allowing that thinking to force God and the Bible into a conformity to its image.

I am not sure I agree with the author's ultimate conclusion that the skeptic's belief is more blind than the God believer. There is a degree of "blindness" to all faith it seems to me. Yes, we see some evidence to support our faith but by definition it seems to me that to "walk by faith, not by sight" means a degree of blindness. As an aside, it seems most followers of Jesus want to walk by sight and just claim it is by faith.

Paul Burleson said...


I would tend to agree with your assessment fo all faith having some degree of blindness. I think the author may have been thinking the Leap in the dark" kind of thing which a believer's faith is not, but, it is, as you say, a "glass darkly" faith at best right now.

I ESPECIALLY liked this..."As an aside, it seems most followers of Jesus want to walk by sight and just claim it is by faith."

My experience watching my own growth, [slow] ministering to others for fifty years, and counseling who knows how many people has convinced me of the truth of that statement.

Chris Ryan said...


Don't let Al Mohler see this. This effectively describes the epistomological shift between Modernity and Postmodernity and the move away from Cartesian foundationalism ("I think, therefore I am") to narrative and local epistemologies. Mohler, being so against anything Postmodern, would likely send you nasty letters.

That said, I am intrigued by who this fellow may be and will be interested in the unveiling!

Aussie John said...


I loved it!

His argument is the very reason I tell friendly atheists that they DO believe in a god. By faith they believe in a god who does not exist.

The very perspicuity (assuming he means transparently clear, easily understood) of faith, which he mentions, is subjectively, a "proof" which is the convincing, convicting work of the Holy Spirit, the "seeing" of the man born blind.

Ultimately, for those of us who have been treading the mill for such a long (short?) time, the "proof" of the pudding is in the eating.

traveller said...

Aussie John, I think you are precisely correct that everyone believes in a god, it is just a matter of which one.

Chris, unfortunately, it is not just Al Mohler, but far too many of those who claim "leadership" positions in the SBC.

Paul, you may be correct. I may have misinterpreted his point.

Rex Ray said...

The Philosopher said: Archimedes said, "Give me a ledge on which to stand and I will move the earth," or something like that.”

My father told me when I was a boy what Archimedes said; and it was not that. So I copy/pasted the Philosopher’s quote and asked Google.

Google had the same quote and it blew my mind until I saw the source – the reference was from your blog. (HOW DOES GOOGLE DO THAT?)

So I typed in, “Archimedes said”. This was Google’s answer:

"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world."

Paul, as far as a Christian’s belief is on faith only, I believe (Hebrews 10:29) has something to say about that.

“How much worse punishment, do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit.”

It was not faith that caused me the most misery in my life. I was baptized but I wasn’t saved. The Holy Spirit kept pounding on my heart that I was lost. I was miserable until I asked Jesus to save me.

When I told of my experience that I was close to being physical ill to someone, they said I probably had indigestion.

I believe if I’d agreed with them, I’d insulted the Holy Spirit and been guilty of Hebrews 10:29.

I wish you preachers would use language that the pews could understand. It’s like you have your own language. For instance your last comment was short but had:
1. Epistemological shift
2. between Modernity
3. Post modernity
4. Cartesian foundationalism
5. Narrative and local epistemologies
6. Postmodern

You said, “I am intrigued by who this fellow may be…”

I believe we both think alike here and won’t be surprised at the Philosopher’s picture.

The clue is him not knowing what Archimedes said. A ‘philosopher’ would have known and would have been named from the start. :)

Thanks for understanding and accepting my apology.

I believe you saying, “As an aside, it seems most followers of Jesus want to walk by sight and just claim it is by faith”; will be the best quote of this post.

It is right right up there with, 'God told me'.

Paul Burleson said...

A great time was had yesterday in our speaking [Mary and I are co-facilitators of a group of men and women meeting for twelve weeks.] about biblical faith with our group. It was refreshing to do so for the third week of the twelve.

We made a big deal about how in true biblical faith it is the object of our faith that is far more significant than the volume of our faith. [We discovered that most of them would agree that many Christians have faith in faith rather than in God.]

We then discovered, as all of you know, that the volume of faith grows as the knowledge of faith's object increases. This means, as we told them, that it would be far better for our personal libraries to be loaded with books about God, His character, nature, work, and purposes than books on man and his problems and how to solve them.

[All these to be secondary to a solid knowledge to the text of scripture itself is assumed.]

I think this only enhances Traveller's statement that by it's very nature faith has some blindness about it. But for the Christian we DO see the right object though darkly now but one day we'll know as we're known.

I have no real clue why I wanted to say this but I did. I must have enjoyed yesterday and I am still asleep having lost and hour that I can't find. :)

Paul Burleson said...


I realize that some reading this post will quarrel with my approach in posting this statement in answer to a skeptic's question about the existence of God. [You and I have fun hearing from other folks, some people don't.]

To those I would probably need to say that, from my understanding of Truth, there is no understanding of the gospel apart from the divine verbal or written revelation about the Eternal Word made flesh.

Nature does not reveal the God who saves sinners. Nor does logical thought. The holy Scriptures alone reveal for us the nature of a gracious God.

Further, confirmation and growth of our faith in that gracious God comes from our understanding of His specific revelation (the written word of God), not our understanding of His general revelation (nature). Thus my assumption about the knowledge of the text of scripture in my former comment.

Chris Ryan said...


Sorry for my big words. Honestly, what I was talking about there isn't just hard for people in the pews to understand. There are a great many pastors who would look at that and go, "huh?". All those terms are philosophical. When Paul got to talking epistimology, I just got back into "shop-talk" mode. Let me try to explain:

1. Epistemological shift - a change in how we think about how we know the things we think we know

2. between Modernity - a philosophical, epistemoligical framework based upon reason, the scientific method, and optimism that rationality would invariably lead the world to utopia (optimism which was debunked when the atom bomb was dropped)

3. Postmodernity - the philosophical, epistemological framework built on skepticism of "reason alone," mistrust of authorities/institutions, and disbelief in stories that try to make everyone fit a single mold

4. Cartesian foundationalism - based on the work of Renee Descartes, be skeptical of all things until one realizes something that they can't deny - namely one's own existence - and then rebuild what "must be" from there (i.e. "If I have reason to believe that I exist then that reason lets me believe that ____ exists. And if _____ exists, then _____ must also exist...")

5. Narrative and local epistemologies - belief that no two human experiences are the same and therefore cannot be explained in the same way, the stories that our particular cultural contexts tell us about ourselves largely define who we are rather than there being one story that is true of all humanity

6. Postmodern - see "Postmodernity" above

I don't know if any of that will help, but I'm trying.

Chris Ryan said...


Yes. That is correct. But I think I can explain why in very short order.

They are Fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is by its very nature based on Foundationalism (Rex, same definition as above!). Postmodernity denies the existense of a sure, rational foundation. Therefore, Fundamentalism can't make sense in a Postmodern environment. It is wedded to Modernity. If Modernity goes, then Fundamentalism goes. In order to maintain their power (wow, because that's not a postmodern critique) they are invested in defending the Modern project unequivocally.

The fact that Fundamentalism can't be translated out of a particular context tells me a great deal about its likely truth value, too.

That being none, in case that wasn't clear. :)

Chris Ryan said...


How very Barth-like of you.

First you are Postmodern... Now it's Karl Barth and neo-Orthodoxy... You just can't win for all the heresy (if you agree with Fundamentalists about what consitutes heresy - anything different than what they believe)! I love it. :)

We should totally do this more often!

Paul Burleson said...


You're my kind of guy. :)

traveller said...

Chris, I concur with your evaluation that Fundamentalists are wedded to Modernity. This, of course, is ironic since Fundamentalists have been co-opted by the thinking of Modernity. This is my point in an earlier part of this comment stream when I said Fundamentalists have allowed Modernity to shape the conversation about God and the Bible, instead of the other way. When this happened it meant there was no possibility that Fundamentalists could "win" the conversation. It is also why I believe that the idea of Scripture being "inerrant" is a fallacy. The entire concept of "inerrancy" is driven by Modernity/Enlightenment thinking. While I would say there is a rational and logical basis for God and the Bible, neither are completely understandable in these terms alone. Nor can either be constrained by the limits of rational thought.

In my view, Fundamentalists have not only become irrelevant in world that continues to transition to Postmodernity, they made an enormous error in allowing Modern thought drive the thinking about God and Scripture.

Aussie John said...


"....from my understanding of Truth, there is no understanding of the gospel apart from the divine verbal or written revelation about the Eternal Word made flesh."

Me too!

But "...volume of our faith"?

Volume = The amount of three dimensional space occupied by an object, or the power of sound.

I think that terminology exacerbates the problem "faith in faith".

Maybe words such as "little faith" and "much faith" (from which I'm assuming the idea of volume arises) are speaking more of maturity of faith, than quantity?

Maybe it's because I'm hanging upside down in relation to you guys up there, so help me out :)

traveller said...

Aussie John, or maybe all of our blood has run to our feet.

Paul Burleson said...

You guys are cracking me up.

Aussie J,

Help YOU out? I think not. You have done the helping out here.

Of course it is weak/mature faith of which I'm speaking. My "volume" concept, as Chris will correctly point out any moment now, is probably nothing more than my Oklahoma Modernity coming out.

That with my Postmodern and neo-Orthodoxy and now my flagrant Ok. Modernity maybe I'm just winding up being Paul's "all things to all men." [Maybe not.] :)

Who am I tryin to fool! Traveller said it right.. "or maybe all of our blood has run to our feet."

I'll say it again..your my kind of people.

Chris Ryan said...


It's nothing to do with Modernity. It's just the Oklahoma thing. Sorry. :)

Christiane said...

Logic takes us as far down the road as we may possibly travel. But, once there, we are able to stand there and see what lies beyond.

I think we are hard-wired 'for God' because we so long for a home that is not to found in this world. For us, this IS a 'reality'.
Augustine, an early Church Father, said 'You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.'

Christianity and Logic?
Hmmm . . .
Somewhere, in the writings of C.S. Lewis, Queen Lucy tells that in her world too, they once had a stable which contained something that was 'larger than the whole world'.

I want that 'something'. :)

Paul Burleson said...

Great comments from all of you.

And..I DO know the difference between "your" and "you're. But once it's put up I can't figure out how to change it short of deleting a comment and I'm too lazy for all that.

Bob Cleveland said...

And now a word from the Resident Idiot's corner:

Logic gets you the knowledge that God is. You know, from the firmament. I think God says that's why we're all without excuse if we choose to ignore Him.

Anything else takes a move of God. I believe Jesus mentioned that as the conviction of sin, death, and righteousness, courtesy of the Holy Spirit. If I read that correctly, when someone knows of this "God" from his logic, and seeks Him, God's response is the revelation of some truth. As in sin, death, and righteousness.

The conviction is important enough that Jesus said He'd best get back to heaven so He could send the Holy Spirit back down here to do just that.

Since we cannot control conviction and all that stuff, all we can do is tell the story.

I don't know how that relates to anything, but it does seem to have something to do with logic and Christianity.

Oh. Faith "volume"? Quick .. where's the control knob?