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October 05, 2015



"Preach it brother!"
- Let me guess, The Christian´s™ truth claims predicted that you would write that, which makes this yet another observation supporting the plausibility of Christianity because you say so.

Amen!! Preach it strong! Preach it hard!


Ah, I see. How about we call that the "argument from stupidity"? Unguided processes are simply unable to concentrate so much unadulterated ignorance into one person, demonstrating that a God with a rather weird sense of humor must have made you.


Edward Feser just wrote a response to Koukl's video that partly agrees with Randal Rauser. I wanted to respond to Edward Feser's comments here:

Feser believes that Koukl is wrong about the clarity of general revelation in Romans 1 and wrong about the extent of Romans 1. In short, Romans 1 doesn't teach that the existence of God is so obvious that it is "nearly overwhelming" and Romans 1 is probably speaking about unbelievers generally and not each and every individual unbeliever.

According to Feser:

However, Koukl also seems to think that the existence of God is simply blindingly obvious, so that our inclination to believe in God is nearly overwhelming -- again, as difficult to keep down as a beach ball under water. And that, I think, is simply not the case. He also implies that nothing short of culpable irrationality and blatant self-deception could possibly lead one to resist this inclination. And that, I think, is simply not the case either. There is no good philosophical or theological reason to make either of these extreme claims. And the claims are, I think, pretty clearly empirically false.

My response:

Quibbling over the degree of the obviousness of God's existence from natural revelation and asking whether that is appropriately captured by some analogy (holding down a beach ball--an analogy that stems back to Greg Bahnsen in the 90's... not sure who started it) is a bit pointless. So I don't care whether it's *so obvious* that it qualifies as "blindingly obvious" or "nearly overwhelming." The important point is that it's obvious enough that the unbeliever is morally culpable for not acknowledging the truth. And Feser is clearly mistaken if he doesn't think Romans 1 teaches that it is obvious enough to leave the unbeliever morally culpable before God. Romans 1 explicitly states that this is the case:

Romans 1:20–21 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Continuing with Feser:

Certainly Koukl does not give a good argument for his extreme interpretation of the thesis that a tendency toward theism is natural to us. The closest he comes is to appeal to Romans 1:18-20. But “The Bible says so” is, of course, not a good argument to give someone who doesn’t accept the authority of the Bible in the first place (as the atheist does not). Nor is it a good argument to give someone who thinks you are misinterpreting the passage in question.

1. I don't think Koukl was trying to persuade atheists, so it's pointless to fault him for not providing a good argument in that context.

2. Feser doesn't bother to argue for his interpretation of Romans 1 either. All Feser does is say that he thinks Romans 1 is about people having an inclination to believe in God and is about people generally and not each and every individual. (Apparently, then, Feser thinks it's not necessarily the case that each and every individual has an inclination to believe in God... I wonder if Aquinas would agree with that?)

So if Koukl is guilty of not giving a good argument to people who disagree then surely Feser is just as guilty of not giving a good argument to those who disagree with him either. But let me explain why I don't find Feser's interpretation of Romans 1 convincing.

Is Romans 1 just about people generally such that, say, Romans 1:18 may be false for some unbelievers? That would undercut Paul's purpose for writing Romans 1, which is to reach the conclusion of Romans 3:23. If Paul intends to capture each individual in Romans 3:23 then his argument in Romans 1 surely has each individual in mind too. This should also be clear from the argument in Romans 1:18-23 - the conclusion is that "they are without excuse". As many unbelievers who will die without excuse are culpably ignorant of the knowledge of God. And it seems to me, based on the rest of Paul's theology, that this is each and every unbeliever.

Is Romans 1 just about an inclination to believe? While it's certainly possible that Paul has in mind an internal witness ("in them" 1:19) that doesn't rule out an external witness : "[The "in them"] understanding could include both a revelation in man’s nature itself, as well as that revelation found in creation in general, whereas the second understanding ["to them"] would be limited to the latter aspect" (White, J. The God Who Justifies. p. 153). According to Morris (Romans PNTC) "we must bear in mind that Paul uses the preposition “in” very frequently (988 times; this is more than a third of the New Testament total of 2,713). He seems to use it almost from habit, and we cannot always insist on a precise meaning. Since the grammarians usually regard it here as equivalent to the dative case, we should accept to them as the meaning." When Paul explains why it is the case that "what can be known about God is plain to them" he doesn't say "Because God has inclined them to believe it" but instead he talks about "the things that have been made." So I don't see any warrant from the text for thinking this is *just* an internal inclination to believe. But this point doesn't seem very important to the over all debate between Koukl, Rouser, and Feser. The more important point would be that this revelation or inclination is "plain" enough and "clearly perceived" to such an extent that those who refuse to worship God are "without excuse." And no atheist, no matter how honest and open Feser or Rauser thinks they are, is going to be satisfied with that.

Who cares if atheists have genuine intellectual questions/difficulties with theism and Christian theology, or, whether atheists have "darkened hardened damned hearts?"

No doubt it irks Christians to learn about all the ways evolutionists, psychologists, and sociologists explain people's desire to believe and attach themselves to various religions, sects and cults. For instance they claim that religious beliefs arise and sustain themselves out of fear of death, illusions, delusions, peer pressure from family, city, nation, or other social pressures, a desire to feel loved/special, desire for justice, a desire to join one's ego to an enthusiastic mass movement and thereby feel enlarged and empowered (I am nothing, the movement and its beliefs and practices are everything), not to mention confirmation bias, and the way our species places itself inside each story it reads, how characters in stories are made alive in our minds, how we anthropomorphize objects, see minds in dolls, faces in clouds, imagine certain objects have magical connections with those who touched or wore them, or believe that things happen to US for a reason, usually a reason that we imagine applies strictly to us and/or our beliefs.

Yes, those sorts of explanations are irksome to Christian apologists and theists in general. So I guess they require a supernatural explanation like "original sin and blindness of heart" to explain how people could fall for atheism or for the thousands of different denominations, sects and alternative religions and mystical views, or even agnosticism.

But can anyone prove the "darkened hardened damned heart" proposition? And prove it to atheists? And also prove it is true of every atheist?

Equally, one wonders if one could prove the evolutionary and psychological and sociological explanations for religious belief to a Christian apologist. (Though one can at least point to cognitive science experiments that demonstrate beyond a doubt the existence of a plethora of cognitive biases to which we are all subject.)

Let's just say that Christians from Jesus to Paul and today typically believe only members of their denomination or sect has the clearest understanding of Jesus's authority, the authority of the Holy Spirit, biblical authority, and the beliefs and sacramental practices necessary for eternal salvation. While everyone else has only partial truth, truth of a slightly lesser degree, or untruths in comparison with them and their denomination, sect or tradition.

Apologists should stick to trying to prove the existence of God and the inspiration of Scripture, and trying to make rational and moral sense of Christian theology.

Meanwhile, everyone else (not just atheists) shall continue to debate such "answers" and raise questions for Christian apologists.

And so it goes.

Like so many Christians, Mr. Koukl refers to the Bible to make statements about what atheists think, feel, and do. He does not refer to atheists to make statements about what atheists think, feel, and do. Apparently, this is because his epistemology says that knowledge comes from revelation and faith, and not from observation and verification. He apparently thinks he does not need to actually get to know any atheists closely enough to find out what they think, feel, and do, because his knowledge comes from an old collection of writings originally written on animal skins and papyrus, and somehow that is a more reliable source of knowledge than looking, listening, and double checking.

This also allows him to continue to avoid meeting and getting to know any atheists, which sadly is another habit common to many Christians.

His method is similar to referring to the writings of Ptolemy to describe the movements of the planets rather than referring to the observations of modern astronomers to describe the movements of the planets. Apparently, no matter what can be shown to him in the real world, he will reject that in favor of what his old papyrus claims is the way things are, including the way atheists are.

I listened to your podcast because of the promise of evidence for God's existence so that I might believe again. I was disappointed that you only declared that the evidence exists abundantly and is obvious but you never described or named the evidence.

I personally have been unable to find it primarily because natural explanations exist--or potentially exist--for everything humans attribute to God. Would you be kind enough to name the evidence and explain why you think it counts as evidence? I mean, we can't just take someone's word for it, not even the Bible's. Evidence has to meet some empirical standard in order to merit the label evidence because God supposedly does empirical actions in the physical world of humans and nature.

I look forward to your list of evidence and your reasons for it.

Interesting that the argument you use in "reasoning" regarding atheists is bible based. Atheists don't regard the bible as anything more than a historical work of literature, so right there you lost everyone you're trying to reach -- and thus your argument is completely ineffective.

If the existence of God was self-evident, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Romans 1 is just another example of how the Bible gets it wrong. The plain fact is that God is not felt in the world. We quite obviously do not feel God's thumb on the scale, and according to scripture, we should. The Bible itself is an indictment against the existence of the deity.

"I'm not the first person to notice that it’s a very strange sort of loving God who would make salvation depend on believing in him on bad evidence. If you lived 2000 years ago, there was evidence galore: he was performing miracles. But apparently he got tired of being so helpful. And so now we all inherit this very heavy burden of the doctrine’s implausibility. And the effort to square it with what we now know about the cosmos and what we know about the all-too-human origins of scripture becomes more and more difficult." (Sam Harris)


When I was a kid I'd stand on my bed and look at the stars at night and wonder if there was a God. I decided there was because it made me feel better. I still believe in God but it is not self-evident and my atheist friend who is a genuinely nice person is not holding a beach ball under the water. He is very comfortable with his beliefs.

Sincerely yours,

The topic of discussion here is reviewed further. Also, elsewhere the author of that review discusses his own journey out of atheism, a brief quote of which follows shortly. We all find our own Self juxtaposed to, immersed within, “the real” as we volitionally embrace our own paradigmatic irreducibility, that of both kind and of category. In our encountering the contours of the good, of love, of reason, of logic, of person, of the will, and so on, it is true that Harris and others choose there to embrace the obscure, the illusion, rather than the obvious and the real and assert – without possible warrant given the claim – the metaphysical elimination of all such contours. That which is not paradigmatically irreducible is, simply, eliminated at some ontological seam somewhere. It is in fact the oldest story in the world that the price of said irreducibility demands much of the Self. Indeed, love’s peculiar and inescapable contours of Self-Sacrifice, though paradigmatically irreducible in one – and only one – genre on planet Earth, are unfortunately the inverse of much of what we find in such decisions.

As Plotinus’s remark indicates, that does not mean that the will does not have a role to play. But that is true wherever reason leads us to a conclusion we might not like, not merely in matters of religion. And once you have allowed yourself to see the truth that reason leads you to, what reason apprehends is (given the convertibility of the transcendentals) as good and beautiful as it is real. If you find yourself intellectually convinced that there is a divine Uncaused Cause who sustains the world and you in being at every instant, and don’t find this conclusion extremely strange and moving, something that leads you to a kind of reverence, then I daresay you haven’t understood it. Of course, there are those whose heads and hearts are so out of sync that they cannot follow both at the same time. But we shouldn’t mistake this pathology for an insight into human nature.

Speaking for myself, anyway, I can say this much. When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back. As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed. But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.

"If God really exists there should be solid arguments to that effect, and there just aren’t......

From the link in that last comment, an ex-atheist discusses his own journey out of atheism. A second brief excerpt from the Road From Atheism:

“To be sure, like any other atheist I might have cited the problem of suffering when rattling off the reasons why theism couldn’t be true, but it wasn’t what primarily impressed me philosophically. What really impressed me was the evidentialist challenge to religious belief. If God really exists there should be solid arguments to that effect, and there just aren’t, or so I then supposed. Indeed, that there were no such arguments seemed to me something which would itself be an instance of evil if God existed, and this was an aspect of the problem of evil that seemed really novel and interesting………..”

An indirect tie-in of sorts:

The problem of presuppositional confrontations, which is by Vincent Cheung, ties into Romans 1, in part indirectly and in part directly. It begins with “the preconditioning of meaning” and then moves into the suppression of truth on page 8 of an 83 page PDF, and, then, it subsequently moves on into the wider arena of presuppositional confrontations. A few pages in:

“Paul says that this is what humankind has done with their knowledge about God. He states that some knowledge about God is innate, so that every person is born with some knowledge about God, but because man is sinful, he refuses to acknowledge and worship this true God, and thus suppresses and distorts this innate knowledge....... People often complain that there is insufficient evidence about God and Christianity, but the Bible says that they already know about this true God, only that they are suppressing this knowledge because they refuse to acknowledge or worship him. Knowledge about God is "evident within them," because he "made it evident to them." The problem is not a lack of evidence, but an artificially manufactured set of presuppositions that suppresses their knowledge about God. Some think that this passage provides justification for empirical arguments that lead to a knowledge of God. However, we have established by our illustrations and by biblical examples that observation can provide no intelligible meaning or information. Therefore, the passage cannot mean that an observation of creation can provide knowledge about God; rather, certain ideas about God are already resident in the mind apart from any experience or observation.”

Of equal utility on these fronts is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the problem of induction and also on the problem of perception.

Thanks, Greg. I enjoyed the video. I read Paul in Romans too. I get it; it is quite clear unless you want to read it otherwise. And I see strong evidence everyday for what he asserts in Romans. It is not a pretty picture but it is a major foundation of the Christian worldview: Despite widely accessible signs of God, so many resist from a heart of rebellion. (Bending the knee is the hardest thing for so many.) Resistance is quite easy. (Borrowing ideas from Dr. C. Stephen Evans - who derived this from his reading of Pascal.)

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