Welcome to Part 2 of this series!
See Part 1.
See Part 3. (Coming soon)
1. There’s no evidence for a god’s existence!
This would depend on what one means by “evidence.”
Should one expect appropriate evidence to mean that God is to allow himself to be dissected in a laboratory then of course that is demanding evidence which does not exist. A Christian might show that expecting this type of evidence wouldn’t make sense on his own worldview since God is spirit according to the Bible (John 4:24).
Instead, evidence for God’s existence would come from deductive/inductive arguments from the fields of history (Jesus’ ministry & resurrection), science (fine-tuning, cosmological arguments), and philosophy (moral argument, ontological argument, religious experience etc.). These several arguments have convinced rational minded people of a god’s existence.
What the Christian can point out is that it comes across as intellectual dishonesty to say that no evidence for God exists. Sure, an atheist might say that the evidence is weak or unconvincing, but that does not negate the fact that there are many arguments that have convinced rational minded people of a god’s existence. These same arguments have also been taken seriously by atheist intellectuals too. Atheist intellectuals wouldn’t take alleged arguments for God’s existence seriously if they were flimsy, nonsensical conglomerations of words in syllogisms. I’ve written on this here, should anyone wish to read further.
A final point is that one can see the apparent power of these arguments when judging atheist responses. Case in point would be a host of uncharitable responses to lead apologist William Craig. Atheists have accused Craig of using “tactics” because he is a skilled and brilliant debater (1). The impression given, even if it is unintentional, is that atheists feel threatened by these arguments. That, it may seem, is why they resort to childish retorts. I am sure this would not be the impression that atheists would want to give.
2. The Bible undermines women.
My reply here will just be procedural; we won’t go into great detail and analyze all the alleged problematic verses due to space, but we can say a few things.
Firstly, I believe that we need to read the Bible in its ancient context. The ancient context of both the Old & New Testaments clearly evidences cultures and societies where women were second class citizens with little value outside of marriage. A Christian could point out that it is this backdrop that the God of the Bible reveals himself to his people, and because the Bible is clearly a historical library of documents we would expect the norms of the cultures to come through in our biblical texts. The Bible is very much a product of the time that it was written and we should never forget that; God did not drop a manual from the sky.
Secondly, the Bible is broken into five Acts, as biblical scholar N.T. Wright observes: Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, New Testament church & Us. Essentially if we were to us this model to help us make sense of this challenge then we should look into Act 1: Creation (in Genesis). In this act we see God’s view on man/woman prior to the fall in Genesis 3; where, according to exegete Paul Copan, we finds the “genuine realization of creation ideals” (2). What we find is that the narrative goes counter to patriarchal norms as it is the woman who is actually the dominant figure in the story! The woman is also the saviour of the man; saving him from his loneliness (Genesis 2:23)! These details are momentously counter cultural.
Nonetheless, this contention is largely irrelevant for seekers of truth. The way the Bible represents women (however the critic wishes to charge it with) says nothing about the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection or anything else for that matter. The challenge is therefore reduced to a non-sequitur should one use it as an argument against Christian truth.
3. Look at all that slavery! The Bible clearly supports slavery; it cannot be inspired.
Much of how I would reply here is reminiscent of our answer in point 1 above. We have to understand the cultural-historical context from which the Bible emerges. Christian scholars such as Copan and Enns have argued that God accommodated himself to non-ideal circumstances as he progressively revealed himself to his people.
Both our Old & New Testaments originated from periods in history where slavery was commonplace; much like us having mobile phones today is considered commonplace. When we understand this things become more understandable. Copan has actually argued that the slavery in the Old Testament may support biblical inspiration since “As we progress through Scripture, we see with increasing clarity how women and servants (slaves) are affirmed as human beings with dignity and worth.” In contrast to the law codes of other Ancient Near Eastern nations, which surrounded the early Israelites, we find an “Old Testament improvement on ancient Near Eastern culture: Though various servant/slave laws are still problematic, the Old Testament presents a redemptive move toward an ultimate ethic: there were limited punishments in contrast to other ancient Near Eastern cultures; there was a more humanized attitude toward servants/slaves; and runaway foreign slaves were given refuge in Israel” (3).
Copan would argue that what we see is God progressively refining his chosen people as time goes on.
Further, one ought to be aware of the type of slavery we find in the Bible which is more commonly understood as indentured servitude. This is not 18th century American slavery with all its whips and chains. Instead, Old Testament servitude was when one would, via his own volition, sell himself or family members into the service of a fellow Israelite since he has come on hard times financially. This would mean that his family would still be able to eat, have a roof over their heads, and be productive members within Israelite society. This is remarkably different from what critics would have us assume. Theologian James White explains that “In the biblical context, slavery was often the last resort, and as such, was a life-saving institution, allowing a person to remain alive when all other possibilities were exhausted, even with a hope of redemption and eventual freedom” (5).
Lastly, it was actually Christianity that inspired the abolition of slavery through the efforts of William Wilberforce and co. David Marshall, founder of the Kuai Mu Institute for Christianity and World Cultures, writes that “Not only “can” Christianity be credited for the abolition of slavery, it is, by historians who have read the data — nicely preserved in Rodney Stark’s For the Glory of God, among other sources” (4). It would be argued that this is a direct reflection of the ethic taught by Jesus within the New Testament.
4.The Bible says the Earth is 6000 years old; that’s just dumb.
The critic must be careful not commit a strawman fallacy by which she dismantles one caricature he claims represents Christianity while ignoring the many other interpretations. The truth is that a large number of critical thinking Christian believers do not adhere to such a reading of the Genesis narrative which some suggest denotes a 6000 year old Earth, although many still do. In other words, to argue this line will, to many, come over as a strawman since it is not what they, as Christians, themselves believe. In fact, such a Christian believes that the Bible actually does not teach that the Earth is a mere few thousand years old.
However, if the critic wishes to pursue this argument then she try and remember two things. Firstly, it’s not true that all Christians hold to a Young Earth interpretation.. Secondly, she should confront the Young Earther on his turf and interact with his arguments.
5. You only believe in Christianity because you were born in America and brought up to believe in it.
This very much commits the same fallacy as I outlined in point 10 in our previous response; namely, the Genetic Fallacy.
The way through which a person inherits a belief does nothing to render that belief true or false. The way an Indian comes to embrace Hinduism says nothing about the truth of Hinduism. The way a person in Africa comes to believe in Christianity says nothing about the truth of Christianity. The way an atheist in Australia comes to believe in his naturalism says nothing about the truth of naturalism.
One could also show that this is also not a true diagnosis of all Christians. Many people who become Christians weren’t brought up in such a way. It would be analogous to saying something like “You’re only an atheist because all atheists were brought up by fundamentalist Christian parents that put them off Christianity.” Would that be a true diagnosis of all atheists out there? Probably not.
Part 3 to come…
1. Hallquist, C. 2012. A proposal for all future debates with William Lane Craig. Available.
2. Copan, P. Is God a Moral Monster? p. 83-84 (Scribd ebook format)
4. Marshall, D. The Case for the Prosecution (mostly) Fails.
5. White, J. 2015. A Believing Response to Matthew Vines’ 40 Questions. Available.