By Keith Thompson
In my documentary Atheists Don’t Exist I argued transcendentally for God’s existence engaging in what is known as presuppositional apologetics. I showed atheism makes impossible and inexplicable valid human experience relating to moral absolutes, laws of logic, human dignity, uniformity of nature, the validity of reason and empirical learning, and the possibility of knowledge. I argued since Christianity accounts for such valid things we all assume and live by, and atheism makes them impossible or can not account for them, Christianity is therefore true and assumed deep down by professed atheists, and atheism is false and not truly affirmed by anyone. I did briefly interact with those “atheists” who would respond by asking: why doesn’t Islam or Judaism for example account for valid human experience? However, I am going to thoroughly address this question now.
As affirmed in the documentary, Christianity accounts for moral absolutes since morals are based on God’s eternal nature or character (Lev. 19:1-2ff; 1 Peter 1:16). It also accounts for why men know right from wrong and live and speak as though morality is absolute even though atheism does not justify such behavior. This is because God writes the works of His Law on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15), though men do rebel and suppress or distort their knowledge of good and evil at times. God is the absolute and personal creator who is responsible for the personal obligation men feel to abide by moral absolutes. Christian theism accounts for why we feel and live as though humans have dignity or value since it affirms all men know God (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:17-23), that men are in God’s image (Genesis 1:26ff.), and that they belong to God and are accountable to God (Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:36; Revelation 4:11). Christianity accounts for the immaterial nature of the laws of logic since we do not claim all that exists in the universe is matter, and by noting they are unchanging, eternal expressions of the attributes of the unchanging (2 Timothy 2:13), eternal God. This is deduced from the fact that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Col. 2:3). The Bible affirms God does not contradict Himself (2 Corinthians 1:18) and it is impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). This is because the law of non-contradiction is part of His nature. Scripture affirms the laws of logic which reflect God’s nature (Exodus 3:14; Matthew 12:30; Luke 6:43). Christianity accounts for uniformity of nature by appealing to God’s sovereignty and provision (Nehemiah 9:6; Matthew 5:45; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 1:17) and explains the reason all men assume uniformity day-to-day without worrying reality will spiral into chaos (a valid worry if atheism is true) is because all men know and depend on God the sustainer (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:17-23) deep down. Christianity explains why we all assume reason is a valid tool since we all know the God who provided us with a logical, orderly universe where trusting the mental activities in our head actually makes sense (Proverbs 1:7; Colossians 2:3). It accounts for our trust in empirical learning by explaining all men know the God (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:17-23) who created men to know things through observation (Exodus 4:11; Proverbs 20:12), and that all men trust in God to sustain the viability of the senses. Lastly, it accounts for the possibility of knowledge by noting all men know God (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:17-23) provided us with and sustains our universe (Genesis 8:22; Psalms 103:19; 104:2; Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 31:35; Amos 8:9) which is conducive for knowledge (i.e., an orderly, guided, non-chaotic, rational universe where probability and possibility, which are required for knowledge, actually make sense). This is why Proverbs 1:7 and Colossians 2:3 affirm one must start with God in order to account for knowledge. Thus, Christianity must be in order for what is to be what it is. Atheism cannot not be in order for what is to be what it is. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7). "[I]n whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).
It will be demonstrated other religions do not account for this type of valid human experience. In demonstrating this I will refute one of the main objections to presuppositionalism by atheists. I will cover Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Greek Polytheistic Paganism, Deism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the ever-so-popular, but fictional, “green aliens from Mars” argument. Doing this helps justify the presuppositionalist view that Christianity alone is the precondition for intelligibility.
Islam and Moral Absolutes. In the film I adopted John Frame’s argument that the precondition for the obligation we all feel to be moral must be both absolute and personal since morals are absolute and obligation to be moral only makes sense in interpersonal relationships. Thus, a personal, absolute being is required (John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, [Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994], pp. 97-102). The Islamic god, “Allah,” is not truly personal. While the members of the Christian Trinity enjoyed eternal communion and relationship (meaning they have been eternally personal), the Islamic god is Unitarian and has not had relationship for eternity. Therefore, “Allah” fails as the truly personal precondition of the obligation we all feel to be moral. Another fact that proves the Islamic god is not personal is that the Koran teaches an impersonal, arbitrary fatalism and predestination of people (Islam teaches predestination in texts such as Koran 9:51 and Sahih Muslim, Book 33, Number 6406 with no explanation or care for how there is purpose or meaning in this), while the Bible explains God’s predestination of individuals has significance, purpose and meaning (e.g. Romans 9 explains God displays all His attributes of wrath, power, glory and mercy to His elect by His predestination of individuals to both heaven and hell – and this is a loving gift to His elect since God is not required to disclose His attributes to them). Hence, unlike YHWH, we are left with an impersonal god in Islam who fails to be the absolute and truly personal precondition to make sense of the obligation we all feel to be moral.
Islam and the Laws of Logic. In order for the Islamic god to qualify as the eternally logical precondition who accounts for the laws of logic, he (and his alleged divine book), must show themselves to be logical. If they violate the laws of logic through irreconcilable contradiction then they violate the law of non-contradiction and show “Allah” is not the source of the laws of logic upon which “his” nature is based. Do the “infallible” religious texts of Islam have irreconcilable contradictions? Consider how on the one hand the Koran and “inspired prophet” Muhammad affirm the validity of the Old and New Testament’s of the Bible (Koran 4:136; 7:157; Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4434; Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, [Oxford University Press, 1995], p. 268), while on the other hand it contradicts the Bible’s clear teachings on original sin, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, justification being by faith, the deity of Jesus etc. Another contradiction is that while Koran 88:6 says the only food for those in hell will be bitter dari, Koran 69:36 says the only food for the wicked in hell will be pus from their wounds. Since the Koran (which is allegedly from “Allah”) violates the law of non-contradiction, this means the false Islamic god’s nature is not logical and hence “he” is not the source of the laws of logic.
Islam and the Possibility of Knowledge. The Koran and hadith literature, upon which the Islamic world view is based, are not texts which offer relevant epistemic, philosophical discourses. The Bible on the other hand, as we have demonstrated, does. Instead, what is contained in the Koran are merely 114 chapters of petty stories, warnings to obey Allah and Muhammad and a skewed Islamized version of history. The hadith literature contains the actions of Muhammad as well as his extra-Koranic sayings, yet no hadith even deals with the issue of the justification of knowledge through “Allah.” Since these many volumes of sources do not even touch on this issue (though they make sure to cover all they can, including answering how many rocks a Muslim should use to clean himself after going to the bathroom), we can be confident the author of these sources did not have a justification for knowledge.
Judaism, the Laws of Logic and Moral Absolutes. If Judaism is true then that means the God of Judaism lied when he said the Messiah would come before the destruction of the Second Temple (Daniel 9:26) which occurred in A.D. 70. If the God of Judaism is a liar then he contradicted himself since he stated he does not lie (Numbers 23:19). If he contradicted himself then he violated the law of non-contradiction and thus his nature is not logical and the laws of logic cannot be grounded in his eternal nature. Moreover, if he is a liar (an immoral characteristic) then moral absolutes are not based on his eternal nature. Thus, he fails as the source for moral absolutes. Moreover, since those who believe in Judaism affirm Unitarianism, this world view suffers from the same difficulty Islam does. That is, the God of Judaism is not truly personal. While the members of the Christian Trinity enjoyed eternal communion and relationship (meaning they are truly personal), the God of Judaism is Unitarian and has not had relationship for eternity. Therefore, the God of Judaism fails as the truly personal precondition for the obligation we all feel to be moral.
Judaism and the Uniformity of Nature. Judaism denies God is in active sovereign control over the universe. Instead it says nature simply remains the same way God created it (Maimonides, Guide 2:29). However, this idea does not account for what is true about the uniformity of nature. Nature is uniform for human life and rationality partly because the material entities of the universe are not merely set in motion but actively moving about being sustained by God. They exhibit constant action or motion which shows constant sovereignty. For example, consider how atoms, of which all matter is comprised, are always in motion. This suggests the constant working of God behind the scenes as Christianity affirms, not a mere creation and sort of abandonment of the universe as Judaism teaches. Or consider how in atoms you have constantly active or moving electrons. You also have moving particles in gas, liquids and solids, though the particles in solids vibrate while held closely together. This type of thing in nature, which was unknown to medieval Jewish scholars like Maimonides, presupposes a sovereign God in complete, total control of every minute detail of the universe, not one who sits back and leaves the universe on its own, apart from the odd miracle. Thus, Judaism’s rejection of God’s full sovereignty over nature proves he is not a valid precondition for the uniformity of nature.
Hinduism and the Laws of Logic. Since Hinduism affirms Monism (i.e., all is one) and denies differentiation or true distinctions, there are no contradictions and hence no law of non-contradiction. This therefore disqualifies Hinduism from being a valid precondition for the laws of logic such as the law of non-contradiction. This also applies to and refutes the other world religions which affirms monism (e.g. New Age, Christian Science, Hare Krishna).
Hinduism and Moral Absolutes. Since in Hinduism Brahma, which accounts for the world, is not a person but an impersonal principle, it fails as a precondition for the obligation we all feel to abide by moral absolutes. Again, obligation to be moral only makes sense if we are in personal relationship with an absolute, truly personal being. Since Brahma is not a personal being, Hinduism fails as a precondition for the obligation men feel to be moral. This criticism can also be leveled against Taoism and its absolute principle called Taidi which means “Great Energy.” It is impersonal. The same can be said about the principle called Mana behind the gods of animism. Moreover, Brahma is said to be “beyond good and evil” (John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, [Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994], p. 213) and thus fails as the source of absolute morality we assume and live by.
Hinduism and the Uniformity of Nature. Since monistic world views like Hinduism have impersonal principles which do not control and sustain nature, instead of a sovereign all-controlling God like in Christianity, Hinduism fails to account for the uniformity of nature. For, in order for the universe to be uniform it must be guided, sustained and not chaotic, unpredictable, nebulous and irrational. Moreover, Hinduism, unlike Christianity, does not account for why all men depend on the uniformity of nature day-to-day. The Christian affirms all men know God deep down and depend on Him for uniformity of nature, even though many outwardly profess to deny His existence due to having a fallen, rebellious nature.
Buddhism and moral absolutes. In Buddhism evil is an illusion. This contradicts valid human experience since we all, for good reason, speak and live affirming certain things are truly evil. When on the news we hear about a brutal murder, rape or some other heinous act, we don’t say “although this seems wrong it’s just an illusion.” No, we know it is wrong and thus make valid laws against such things accordingly. Moreover, Buddhism is atheistic and hence does not give us a source accounting for where objective, moral absolutes come from. Lastly, Buddhism has no personal absolute which is needed to account for the obligation men feel to abide by moral absolutes.
Buddhism and Laws of Logic. Buddhism denies the existence of the soul while also teaching reincarnation. This is an internal contradiction. What is reincarnated? Thus, by breaking laws of logic it fails as a precondition for laws of logic. Moreover, Buddhism teaches reality is just an illusion. If a world view claims reality (which would include laws of logic) is just an illusion then the laws of logic do not exist and can’t be accounted for by such a world view.
Greek Polytheistic Paganism
Greek Polytheistic Paganism and Moral Absolutes. Although gods in paganism can be personal, none of them are absolute. They all have different responsibilities and roles in regards to the world. Thus, paganism fails to provide a personal and absolute source required to make sense of the obligation men feel to abide by moral absolutes. Zeus, the so-called father of gods and humans, for example is said to be finite and had a birth. He is not said to be in absolute control of everything. This critique can also be leveled against animism, other forms of Hinduism, ancient Roman paganism, Shinto, and ancient Egyptian polytheism. Moreover, the gods of Greek paganism were extremely immoral according to Aristides (Aristides, Apol. 13.8). They engaged in theft, adultery, and homosexuality etc. Thus, absolute morality can not be based on their natures.
Greek Polytheistic Paganism and Laws of Logic. In Greek Paganism the Dioscuri brothers (twin gods) were honored and exalted as moral helpers of mankind. Yet they were beings who were said to have ravished the already married daughters of Leucippus. This is a clear violation of the law of non-contradiction in Greek paganism. Either they are moral, noble and exalted helpers of mankind who deserve respect, or they are not since they are rapists of already married females. If a world view violates the laws of logic it can not be the basis for the laws of logic. Contradictions among the gods shows laws of logic are not based on the nature of the gods of this system.
Deism and the Uniformity of Nature. Deism suffers from the same difficulty as Orthodox Judaism. That is, there is a god who set the world on its course and then withdrew from it. However, again, due to the nature of the world’s utterly complex uniformity (which was unknown to the founders of deism in the 17th century), a totally sovereign God is required to sustain the movement of atoms, the moving parts in atoms (i.e., electrons), as well as the movement and vibrations of particles in gasses, liquids and solids. Due to Deism’s absence of providence, it fails as a valid precondition to make human experience on this issue intelligible. Moreover, Deism does not explain why all men assume day-to-day that nature will be uniform.
Deism and Moral Absolutes. If a god created the world and then withdrew from it then the fact men know right from wrong is inexplicable. If the deistic god does not write the works of his law on the hearts of men at their birth (since he is not around) then man’s knowledge of good and evil is unaccounted for.
Deism and Knowledge. Deism can not account for the fact that all men know God exists from birth (as I proved in my film), being the basis for trusting in their mental faculties and a non-chaotic universe as being able to bring them to true knowledge. One Deist source says “Deism is knowledge of God based on the application of our reason. . .” However, people assume God in order to reason and come to knowledge. Deism has it backwards. People do not reason in order to come to the conclusion that God exists. Knowledge of God is innate. This proves Deism fails as the precondition for knowledge.
Deism and Human Dignity. Deism fails to explain why men attribute dignity or value to other men the way they do. In Deism men are not in a god’s image, nor are they viewed by all men as being accountable and owned by a god. Thus, Deism does not account for humans attributing dignity and value to other humans.
Mormonism and Moral Absolutes. The Mormon god is an exalted man of flesh and blood. He not eternal, nor is he absolute. Thus, he fails as the absolute personal, precondition for the obligation men feel to be moral.
Mormonism and Laws of Logic. Since the Mormon god is not eternal, that means he can’t account for invariant (i.e., unchanging) laws of logic. If they are not based on an unchanging eternal nature, their invariance today is inexplicable.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Moral Absolutes. Since this cult denies the Trinity, their god is not truly personal. For, unlike Christianity, they do not have a Triune God who has been in eternal, personal relationship. Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a truly personal God required to account for the obligation all men feel to abide by absolute morality.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Laws of Logic. According to the god of Jehovah’s witnesses, the Watchtower Society takes the role of “the prophet of God” (Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1972, p. 197). However, the Watchtower claimed 1925 would be the end of the world (Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1923, p. 106). The Watchtower then admitted its organization was wrong and 1925 was based on the inflated imaginations of Watchtower Society members (Watchtower, 1926, p. 232). This is a serious contradiction. Either the Watchtower is a true prophet and makes true prophecy, or it is a false prophet and makes false prophecy. Since this world view violates the laws of logic, it fails as a precondition for the laws of logic to be true. How can their god inspire prophets to make false prophecy violating the law of non-contradiction, if the laws of logic are based on his eternal unchanging nature?
Green Aliens from Mars
When the atheist world view is reduced to absurdity and shown to not account for valid human experience, the atheist often says: “Although you say Christianity accounts for reality, I can just as easily say green aliens from Mars account for it.”
However, green aliens from Mars being the source of the universe is not an actual world view. Second, if the atheist wants to posit green aliens from Mars as the valid precondition for intelligibility, he needs to actually tell us about this world view in depth. He needs to explain this world view’s anthropology, epistemology, view of creation etc., in order that we can test it internally and see if it accounts for reality. Atheists always fail to do this when raising this argument. Thus, their argument does not have any actual force. Moreover, even if they did invent and fully explain such an imaginary world view, the fact that they do not actually believe it but are just raising it to try to stump Christians shows it is not a meaningful world view to consider. Christianity has actually been affirmed and believed for 2000 years and is not some off the cuff response to a transcendental argument.
Michael R. Butler’s words refute this objection:
“. . .it can be seen as the last resort of a non-Christian who has just been shown the impossibility of his own worldview and also shown that the Christian worldview is able to account for human experience. At this point of desperation he says, ‘yes, Christianity is able to account for human experience, but there may be another worldview out there that can also provide the preconditions of human experience.’ This move, however, is of little or no practical value for the non-Christian. In a debate, people argue about actual worldviews not what may possibly be the case. If Christianity is shown to account for human experience and, say, naturalism, Buddhism or Islam is shown to be unable to give such an account, it is of no aid to the naturalist or Buddhist or Muslim to make recourse to some unknown worldview that may, like Christianity, provide the preconditions of intelligibility. Bahnsen’s rhetorical comeback hits the mark. Suppose a basketball player, say Michael Jordan, beats every worthy opponent in one-on-one basketball games. He can justifiably claim to be the best individual basketball player in the world. Suppose further that another jealous (and peevish) basketball player who was previously trounced by Jordan resents that he (Jordan) has titled himself ‘the best player in the world.’ His comeback is, ‘just because you have beat every current player does not mean that there is not another one coming who is better than you.’ Jordan's response can be anticipated; ‘bring on my next opponent.’ The theoretical possibility that there may be another player better than Jordan is not a concern to him. In the world of basketball, it is the one who is actually the best player, and not who is possibly the best player, that is of importance. In the practice of apologetics, things are similar. What matters are actual worldviews not possible worldviews” (Michael R. Butler, The Transcendental Argument for God's Existence, http://butler-harris.org/tag/).
In sum, when atheists object to Christianity being the precondition for intelligibility by positing other religious world views for the sake of argument, this is just another example of them rebelling against the creator they know and finding excuses and ways to keep suppressing their knowledge of Him. However, it is clear the unbeliever as well as the pagan both require and depend on God deep down, despite erecting idols which shelter them from the truth (e.g. false gods, atheist scholars, etc). What the pagan and the atheist need, now that it has been shown their world views are absurd and false, is the gospel. The good news is although you have sinned against your God and denied Him, thereby incurring His just punishment (He is a perfect, just judge), there is a way to have your sins forgiven. On the cross the eternal Son of God Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for the sins of those who repent and believe in Him. When you rely on what Christ did on the cross in order to have your sins forgiven and be right with God then you are saved. This is the greatest truth of this universe all men need to hear.