Thoughts on God’s Existence and the futility of Atheism

Thoughts on God’s Existence and the futility of Atheism                                                    by Jack Kettler

 

In this article, there will be some distinctive quotes about atheism. First, there will be quotes against atheism, then interaction of quotes from atheists and quotes critical of atheism. Following the section on quotations will be commentary and analysis.

 

Note: In most cases, the source of many quotations are not listed since the citations herein are readily available on the internet.

 

Definition of Atheism

 

a’-the-iz’-m (atheos), without God and not any God of any depiction has ever existed.

 

The Scriptures declare:

 

“The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.” (Psalms 14:1)

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” (Psalms 19:1)

 

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 ESV)

 

Introductory observations:

 

According to the apostle, this truth of our knowledge of God is stamped upon the consciences of all mankind. God has engraved it upon their conscience. When interacting with atheists, we are not dealing with lack of evidence for God; we are dealing with the suppression of evidence. All of the evidence in the world will convince an atheist.

 

There is no God, says the atheist absolutely. The atheists has no basis for claiming absolutes, therefore, he is involved in a self-refuting contradiction. In addition, the atheist’s assertion is a universal negative and impossible to prove in terms of how it is advanced by the atheist. One cannot prove a general broad claim that is a “negative” claim. Since the atheist is finite, he cannot really be sure of his assertion, which requires infinite knowledge.

 

Quotations to provoke thoughts:

 

“God is that, the greater than which cannot be conceived.” – Anselm of Canterbury

 

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” – G.K. Chesterton

 

“Agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality.” – Cornelius Van Til

 

“By this rejection of God, agnosticism has embraced complete relativism. Yet this relativism must furnish a basis for the rejection of the absolute. Accordingly, the standard of self-contradiction taken for granted by antitheistic thought presupposes the absolute for its operation. Antitheism presupposes theism. One must stand upon the solid ground of theism to be an effective antitheist.” – Cornelius Van Til

 

“When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist world view cannot account for our debate tonight.” – Greg Bahnsen

 

“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.” – Michio Kaku

 

“The greatest artists, saints, philosophers, and, until quite recent times, scientists… have all assumed that the New Testament promise of eternal life is valid…. I’d rather be wrong with Dante and Shakespeare and Milton, with Augustine of Hippo and Francis of Assisi, with Dr. Johnson, Blake, and Dostoevsky than right with Voltaire, Rousseau, the Huxleys, Herbert Spencer, H. G. Wells, and Bernard Shaw.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

 

“Atheism cheapens everything it touches-look at the results of communism, the most powerful form of atheism on earth.” – Peter Kreeft

 

“But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

“Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

The next four quotations show a connection of philosophies that are relevant:

 

“We were taught that atheistic historical materialism was built on the three major scientific discoveries of the 19thcentury, namely, the First Law of Thermodynamics, the cell theory in biology, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. It was said of Darwin’s Origin of Species: ‘Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is a book which contains the basis of natural history for our views.’” – Dr. Yingguang Liu

 

“Chinese socialism is founded upon Darwin” – Mao Tse-Tung

 

“Darwinism was to Nazism and communism like fuel and spark to fire. Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Castro, Kim Jong II, and all communist despots past and present have been committed scientific materialists. They shut down churches and promoted atheism, exalted Darwinism and promoted evolutionary theory as the scientific rationalization for the state and the ethical justification for their brutal policies.” – Russell Grigg

 

“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.” – G. K. Chesterton

 

“One thing I could never get on the same page with my fellow atheists about was the idea of meaning. The other atheists I knew seemed to feel like life was full of purpose despite the fact that we’re all nothing more than chemical reactions. I could never get there. In fact, I thought that whole line of thinking was unscientific, and more than a little intellectually dishonest. If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death.” – Jennifer Fulwiler

 

“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics, as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” – Frank Tipler

 

“I remember how frustrated I became when, as a young atheist; I examined specimens under the microscope. I would often walk away and try to convince myself that I was not seeing examples of extraordinary design, but merely the product of some random, unexplained mutations.” – Rick Oliver

 

“A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.” – Francis Bacon

 

“I now believe there is a God…I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.” “…we have all the evidence we need in our immediate experience and that only a deliberate refusal to “look” is responsible for atheism of any variety.” – Antony Flew

 

“The atheist is cheating whenever he makes a moral judgment, acting as though it has an objective reference, when his philosophy in fact precludes it.” – William A. Dembski

 

“A universe whose only claim to be believed in rests on the validity of inference must not start telling us the inference is invalid.” – C.S. Lewis

 

“Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.” – Alister McGrath

 

“Atheists themselves used to be very comfortable in maintaining that the universe is eternal and uncaused. The problem is that they can no longer hold that position because modern evidence that the universe started with the Big Bang. So they can’t legitimately object when I make the same claim about God-he is eternal and he is uncaused.” – William Lane Craig

 

“If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. It cuts its own throat.” – C.S. Lewis

 

“When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?” – Ravi Zacharias

 

“You think you are too intelligent to believe in God. I am not like you.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

 

“I don’t understand how, up to now, an atheist could know there is no God and not kill himself at once.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

“Atheism: It seeks to replace in itself the moral power of religion, in order to appease the spiritual thirst of parched humanity and save it; not by Christ, but by force.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

“If the laws of logic are metaphysically dependent on God, it follows that every logical argument presupposes the existence of God. What this means is that every sound theistic argument not only proves the existence of God but also presupposes the existence of God, insofar as that argument depends on logical inference. Indeed, every unsound theistic argument presupposes the existence of God. And the same goes, naturally, for every antitheistic argument. The irony must not be missed: one can logically argue against God only if God exists.” – Dale Tuggy and Greg Welty paraphrasing Van Til

 

Atheist and Christian Ideas Contrasted:

 

“That scientific inference requires, for its validity, principles, which experience cannot render even probable is, I believe, an inescapable conclusion from the logic of probability. . . .   “Knowledge,” in my opinion, is a much less precise concept than is generally thought, and has its roots more deeply embedded in unverbalized animal behavior than most philosophers have been willing to admit. . . . To ask, therefore, whether we “know” the postulates of scientific inference is no so definite a question as it seems. . . .   In the sense in which “no” is the right answer we know nothing whatsoever, and “knowledge” in this sense is a delusive vision. The perplexities of philosophers are due, in a large measure, to their unwillingness to awaken from this blissful dream.” – Bertrand Russell

 

“Modern science boldly asks for a criterion of meaning when one speaks to him of Christ. He assumes that he himself has a criterion, a principle of verification and of falsification, by which he can establish for himself a self-supporting island floating on a shoreless sea. But when he is asked to show his criterion as it functions in experience, every fact is indeterminate, lost in darkness; no one can identify a single fact, and all logic is like a sun that is always behind the clouds.” – Cornelius Van Til

 

“It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’” –

Aldous Huxley

 

“That which is called humanism, but what would be more correctly called irreligious anthropocentrism, [atheism] cannot yield answers to the most essential questions of our life.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

“I wanted certainty in the kind of way in which people want religious faith. I thought certainty is more likely to be found in mathematics than elsewhere. But I discovered that many mathematical demonstrations, which my teachers expected me to accept, were full of fallacies, and that, if certainty were indeed discoverable in mathematics, it would be in a new field of mathematics, with more solid foundations than those that had hitherto been thought secure. But as the work proceeded, I was continually reminded of the fable about the elephant and the tortoise. Having constructed an elephant upon which the mathematical world could rest, I found the elephant tottering, and proceeded to construct a tortoise to keep the elephant from falling. But the tortoise was no more secure than the elephant, and after some twenty years of very arduous toil, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing more that I could do in the way of making mathematical knowledge indubitable.” – Bertrand Russell

 

“If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions… Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz, we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.” – Douglas Wilson

 

“There is darkness without and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness, anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing.” – Bertrand Russell

 

“Humanism or atheism is a wonderful philosophy of life as long as you are big, strong, and between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. But watch out if you are in a lifeboat and there are others who are younger, bigger, or smarter.” – William Murray

 

“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” –

William Provine

 

“To say that something is wrong because… it is forbidden by God, is…. perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong… even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable… The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” – Richard Taylor

 

“There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” “The hard answer is it [a moral decision] is a matter of opinion.” – David Silverman

 

“Without God man has no reference point to define himself. 20th century philosophy manifests the chaos of man seeking to understand himself as a creature with dignity while having no reference point for that dignity.” – R.C. Sproul

 

“What (Stephen) Hawking says in his book The Grand Design is the universe exists because it needed to exist, and because it needed to exist, it therefore created itself. His conclusion merely restates his premise, which means his argument is circular. Nonsense is nonsense, even when spoken by famous scientists.” – John Lennox

 

“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self-evident… Christianity is a system.” [When getting rid of Christian morality] “Everything is permitted.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“I am convinced that when Nietzsche came to Switzerland and went insane, it was not because of venereal disease, though he did have this disease. Rather, it was because he understood that insanity was the only philosophic answer if the infinite-personal God does not exist.” – Francis A. Schaeffer

 

“If there is no God, why bother to tell the truth? Why not steal?” – Ben Stein

 

“If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

“Apparently it was just an amazing coincidence that every Communist of historical note publicly declared his atheism … .there have been twenty-eight countries in world history that can be confirmed to have been ruled by regimes with avowed atheists at the helm … These twenty-eight historical regimes have been ruled by eighty-nine atheists, of whom more than half have engaged in democidal acts of the sort committed by Stalin and Mao … .” – Vox Day

 

“To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.” – Ravi Zacharias

 

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?… Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying; it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” – C.S. Lewis

 

This next entry by Cornelius Van Til explains the psychology of unbelief:

 

“Agnosticism is, in the first place, psychologically self-contradictory upon its own assumptions. Agnosticism wants to hold that it is reasonable to refrain from thorough epistemological speculations because they cannot lead to anything. But in order to assume this attitude, agnosticism has itself made the most tremendous intellectual assertion that could be made about ultimate things. In the second place, agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality. . . . the alternative is not between saying something about ultimate reality or not saying anything about it, but that the alternative is rather between saying one thing about it or another. Every human being, as a matter of fact, says something about ultimate reality.

 

It should be noted that those who claim to say nothing about ultimate reality not only do say something about it just as well as everybody else, but they have assumed for themselves the responsibility of saying one definite thing about ultimate reality. They have assumed the responsibility of excluding God. We have seen again that a God who is to come in afterward is no God at all. Agnosticism cannot say that it is open-minded on the question of the nature of ultimate reality. It is absolutely closed-minded on the subject. It has one view that it cannot, unless its own assumption be denied, exchange for another. It has started with the assumption of the non-existence of God and must end with it. Its so-called open-minded attitude is therefore a closed-minded attitude. The agnostic must be open-minded and closed-minded at the same time. And this is not only a psychological self-contradiction, but an epistemological self-contradiction. It amounts to affirmation and denial at the same time. Accordingly, they cancel out one another, if there is cancellation power in them. . .

 

Incidentally, we may point out that, in addition to being psychologically and epistemologically self-contradictory, the agnostic is morally self-contradictory. His contention was that he is very humble, and for that reason unwilling to pretend to know anything about ultimate matters. Yet he has by implication made a universal statement about reality. He therefore not only claims to know as much as the theist knows, but he claims to know much more. More than that, he not only claims to know much more than the theist, but he claims to know more than the theist’s God. He has boldly set bare possibility above the theist’s God and is quite willing to test the consequences of his action. It is thus that the hubris of which the Greeks spoke so much, and upon which they invoked the wrath of the gods, appears in new and seeming innocent garb.” (1)

 

Gordon H. Clark on the Atheist’s Argument, abridged:

 

“The reader of this may expect to find a straightforward refutation of atheism. But he may be disappointed, for the situation is somewhat complicated. In the first place, one might accuse the atheist of never having proved that the physical universe is the only reality and that there are no supernatural beings. This would be satisfactory, if the term atheism means the argued denial of a Deity. But atheists, like agnostics, shift the burden of proof and say the theist is under obligation to demonstrate the truth of his view; but the atheist considers himself under no such obligation. Atheists usually wobble back and forward. Yet, Ernest Nagel, who may be called a naturalist in philosophy, seems to argue: “the occurrence of events [he means each and every event without exception]…is contingent on the organization of spatio-temporally located bodies…. That this is so is one of the best-tested conclusions of experience…. There is no place for an immaterial spirit directing the course of events, no place for the survival of personality after the corruption of the body which exhibits it.”

 

This is an atheistic, not an agnostic, statement. He argues that science has proved the nonexistence of God, but the argument is invalid. No scientist has ever produced any evidence that man’s intellect ceases to function at death. Since his methods have not discovered any spirit, Nagel assumes there can be none. He refuses to question his methods. Atheism is not a conclusion developed by his methods; rather it is the assumption on which his methods are based. (2)

 

From the Dictionary of Theological Terms: Arguments for God’s Existence (Traditional)

 

“The evidences produced, by the use of logic, in favour of God’s existence. Some have held that by one or other of these arguments the existence of God can be demonstrated or proved. Others hold that a demonstration is not possible, but that the accumulated weight of the evidence from all the arguments confirms belief in God’s existence. Still others give even less credibility to all logical arguments on the subject and hold that God’s existence is a truth revealed to, and received by, faith alone.

 

The arguments most often used in favour of God’s existence are as follows:

 

  1. The a priori argument argues from cause to effect and is based on “self-evident truths,” or upon essential laws of human intelligence. From these principles, it labours to show that belief in God is a logical necessity.

 

  1. The ontological argument of Anselm—i.e., Anselm’s argument from the nature of being or existence. Recognizing the difference between absolute, perfect being, and relative, imperfect being, he argued in the form of a syllogism.

 

Major premise: The human mind possesses the idea of an absolutely perfect being.

 

Minor premise: Absolute perfection of being implies necessity of existence (for that which must exist is of a higher order than that which may exist).

 

Conclusion: An absolutely perfect being does exist—for that which must exist, does exist.

 

  1. The cosmological or a posteriori argument argues from effect to cause. It proceeds: Every effect must have a cause adequate to produce it. The world, or the universe, is an effect and, therefore, must have an adequate cause. The only cause capable of producing such an effect is an all-powerful, eternal Creator, God.

 

  1. The teleological argument is the argument from design. The universe bears evident marks of design or purpose; everywhere there is a wise and skillful adaptation of means to end. But design presupposes an intelligent designer, God.

 

  1. The moral argument considers the phenomena of conscience in the human soul and the universal feeling of accountability and dependence in men (the religious sentiment). It is argued that this sentiment is common to the moral constitution of all men, and if God does not exist, this universal conscience is a lie. Thus, the primary sources of our belief in God are built into our moral constitution.

 

  1. The historical argument shows three things: (a) that the human race is not eternal—that it had a beginning, or was created; (b) that the providential presence of God is evident in human history; (c) that it has been the universal consent of all men of all races throughout all history that God exists.

 

  1. The Scriptural argument uses the evident supernatural origin of the Bible, its miracles, its prophecies, and the beneficial effects it always produces wherever it is introduced as proofs that the God of the Bible does indeed exist.

 

In all such arguments, the danger to be avoided is that of assuming man’s ability to be a competent judge and interpreter of the facts. All argument starts with some presupposition. To presuppose the ultimacy of human reason and interpretation is to deny the ultimacy of God and the fallen state of man. On the presupposition of the ontological Trinity, each form of argument has merit and appears in Scripture. But on any other presupposition, no argument can demonstrate the truth of God’s existence, for truth cannot be established by presupposing a lie.

 

A consistently Christian way of arguing for God’s existence rests on the implications of God’s revelation of Himself as the I AM. God is. He is not one fact among others, to be proved as a mathematical formula or logical proposition may be proved. He is not the most probable way of explaining the observable data of the universe that may be satisfactorily interpreted without reference to Him at all. He is the necessary ground of all facts and all predication. The only reason there is anything to know, and the only reason anything has any meaning so as to be knowable, is the reality that God is. He is back of all the facts of the universe, giving them reality and meaning (John 1:1–3; Col. 1:17). Nothing can exist apart from Him. We do not think of any fact rightly unless we see it as a God-created fact. Thus David, in considering the heavens, spoke to the Lord of “thy heavens, the work of thy fingers” (Psa. 8:3). Those who study God-created facts apart from the God who created them simply take what Cornelius Van Til calls God’s capital and invest or use it in illicit ways.

 

Because of the truth of this line of argument, we may say that it is only the presupposition of the great I AM that the facts of the universe “fit.” If they find their true meaning in God their Creator they cannot be consistently interpreted on any other basis than the acceptance of God’s existence. Without God, they become a meaningless jumble (see Atheism). Thus, one of the uses of rational argument is to shew that any other presupposition than that of the ontological Trinity of Scripture is incapable of making sense of the facts of the universe. It is only because God is that anything is (Psa. 19:1–3; Rom. 1:19–20).” (3)

 

The Irrefutable Transcendental Argument:

 

  1. God is a necessary precondition for logic and morality (because these are immaterial, yet real universals).
  2. People depend upon logic and morality, showing that they depend upon the universal, immaterial, and abstract realities, which could not exist in a materialist universe but presupposes (presumes) the existence of an immaterial and absolute God.
  3. Therefore, God exists. If He didn’t, we could not rely upon logic, reason, morality, and other absolute universals (which are required and assumed to live in this universe, let alone to debate), and could not exist in a materialist universe where there are no absolute standards or an absolute Lawgiver.

 

“The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality.” – Greg Bahnsen

 

Presuppositionalism and its response to Atheism:

 

“‎People have presuppositions… By ‘presuppositions’, we mean the basic way that an individual looks at life- his worldview. The grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. A person’s presuppositions provide the basis for their values- and therefore the basis for their decisions.” – Francis A. Schaeffer

 

Worldview apologetics or presuppositionalism sets forth the biblical basis for Christianity and then by contrasting it with other worldviews and establishing its superiority. It points out and questions the inconsistencies and absurdities of alternative worldviews. It does this by using the reductio ad absurdum argument.

 

How presuppositionalists start by Gordon H. Clark: The Axiom of Scripture:

 

“Every philosophic or theological system must begin somewhere, for if it did not begin it could not continue. But a beginning cannot be preceded by anything else, or it would not be the beginning. Therefore every system must be based on presuppositions (Require as a precondition of possibility or coherence. Tacitly assume to be the case) or axioms (An accepted statement or proposition regarded as being self-evidently true). They may be Spinoza’s axioms; they may be Locke’s sensory starting point, or whatever. Every system must therefore be presuppositional.

 

The first principle cannot be demonstrated because there is nothing prior from which to deduce it. Call it presuppositionalism, call it fideism, names do not matter. But I know no better presupposition than “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs.

 

If the axioms of other secularists are not nonsense, they are nonetheless axioms. Every system must start somewhere, and it cannot have started before it starts. A naturalist might amend the Logical Positivists’ principle and make it say that all knowledge is derived from sensation. This is not nonsense, but it is still an empirically unverifiable axiom. If it is not self-contradictory, it is at least without empirical justification. Other arguments against empiricism need not be given here: The point is that no system can deduce its axioms.

 

The inference is this: No one can consistently object to Christianity being based on an indemonstrable axiom. If the secularists exercise their privilege of basing their theorems on axioms, then so may Christians. If the former refuse to accept our axioms, then they can have no logical objection to our rejecting theirs. Accordingly, we reject the very basis of atheism, Logical Positivism, and, in general, empiricism. Our axiom shall be that God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.” (4)

 

Clark continues:

 

“Logically the infallibility of the Bible is not a theorem to be deduced from some prior axiom. The infallibility of the Bible is the axiom from which several doctrines are themselves deduced as theorems. Every religion and every philosophy must be based on some first principle. And since a first principle is first, it cannot be “proved” or “demonstrated” on the basis of anything prior. As the catechism question, quoted above, says, “The Word of God is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify Him.” (5)

 

To paraphrase the Christian starting principle by Gordon H. Clark:

 

Scripturalism (all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, the Bible).

From this principle, the presuppositional argument for God’s existence and its implications stated, and atheism challenged by Jack Kettler:

“The Bible contains the Christian’s starting principles or presuppositions. God speaks to us in the Scriptures (special revelation) with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. The Christian worldview has the necessary preconditions to talk intelligently and give justification for the use of logic, science, and morality. Consequently, the strength of the Christian worldview is seen by the impossibility of the contrary. The impossibility of the contrary can be asserted because as of this day, no non-Christian anywhere has shown how their worldview can account for the use of science, logic, and intelligently talk about ethics. Begging the question is the typical response by the atheist to their worldview’s failure and this begging the question is a logical fallacy. We are not saying the atheist does not use logic or talk about right and wrong. We are saying the atheist cannot account for these things within his system.

Note: Begging the question is a fallacy of assumption because it directly presumes the conclusion, which is the question in the first place. For example, “Killing people is wrong, (premise) so the death penalty is wrong.” Begging the question is known as circular reasoning because the conclusion is seen at the beginning and the end of the argument, it creates an unending circle, never achieving anything of substance. The atheist system assumes it can account for logic and ethics without ever providing substantiation. One must accept the premise to be true for the claim to be true.


Why the atheist cannot find God:

The Christian says if an individual starts with a non-Christian syllogism or presupposition, the individual will never arrive at a Christian conclusion. As Clark noted above, every system or belief has a starting point. Starting with a non-Christian premise reminds us of “…of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:18-19). The atheist in his suppression of the truth refuses to start with the testimony of Scripture or natural revelation, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalms 19:1). All non-believing presuppositions ultimately lead to complete skepticism or the philosophy of no-nothing-ism.

Furthermore, because of this ultimate skepticism, the atheist cannot live consistently with the result of where his worldview takes him. That is why many atheists still talk about morality, science, and logic. They are inconsistent. From their starting premise, nothing can be proven. As stated, a materialistic worldview or atheism cannot justify or account for science, logic, or morality, since matter is silent! A rock cannot tell the atheist the difference between right and wrong. Likewise, the moon, which is a big rock, cannot tell the difference between what is right, and what is wrong. Atheistic materialism has nothing to say about science, logic, and ethics reliably. The matter making up the universe is silent. God is not silent. Closing this paragraph with a quote by William Provine, Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell University, “There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” “No ultimate foundation for ethics, no meaning to life,” says Provine. With assertions like this, the intellectual bankruptcy of atheism is exposed.


Atheists refuse to acknowledge how their system works:

Atheists generally refuse to acknowledge that they have presuppositions and that presuppositions govern interpretations of the world. In short, the Christian’s presupposition is God’s revelation in the Bible is our authority and standard of interpretation. The atheist’s presupposition is the man himself is the authority and standard of interpretation. This clash or antithesis of worldviews happened in the beginning, Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The consequence of Adam’s disobedience is that Adam’s descendants in their rebellion will seek to be the interpreters of reality and reject God’s interpretation. Now that the fallen race of man is acting like God, he appeals to his authority in his attempt to answer the demands of speaking intelligently about science, morality, and logic. It is the authority of the infinite versus the authority of the finite. The atheist may not like this conclusion; until he comes up with epistemological solutions, he should remain silent like a rock.


Pressing the antithesis:

In addition to numerous philosophical problems regarding atheists and other non-Christian interpretations of the world, it should be clear that matter or material has nothing to say within the framework of non-believing philosophy. What could it say? Within this framework, material or matter is ultimately an accident and therefore meaningless. In addition to this problem, all men have a priori commitments, which are at work and from which truth or falsity is deduced. The question is not do men have a priori commitments, but what are they? The non-believer has suppressed and substituted God’s revealed truth for his interpretation of the world. When dealing with ethics in particular atheism cannot speak intelligently. The atheist has to borrow from and assume Christian definitions when talking about evil and good. To quote Nietzshe: “When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self-evident… Christianity is a system.” When rejecting the Christian system, “Everything is permitted” – Friedrich Nietzsche. According to Nietzsche, if “everything is permitted,” good and evil are meaningless terms. Nietzsche was a consistent atheist.

In essence, the atheist has erected a closed system. His system is closed to God. He does not allow God to speak. Since the atheist rejects the Creator, he has nothing within his closed system that he allows to speak with moral certainty. As long as fallen man excludes God from his system, he cannot know anything with certainty. The atheist thought has no basis for absolutes. An atheist has plenty of arbitrary social conventions. If there are no absolutes, there can be no meaning attached to anything since everything could be said to be true and not true at the same time, which is unacceptable irrational nonsense. As noted earlier by Aldous Huxley: “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’” An example of a failed atheistic attempt at determining morality for society is pragmatic majoritarianism, i.e., the majority makes right. This system does not work out so well for the minorities, like the Jews in Nazi Germany.


Unanswerable questions for the atheist:

John Locke is known as the originator of the epistemological theory known as empiricism, which postulates the mind at birth is a blank tablet (tabula rasa) and then assimilates knowledge through sensations. This theory could be called the “blank mind theory” of knowledge. The details of how this theory works out with the mind receiving, interpreting, and retaining these sensations are lacking, to say the least.

For example, can atheistic empiricism provide a basis for certainty? It cannot. For example, empiricism historically argues that knowledge comes through sensations in the following order: (a) sensations, (b) perceptions, (c) memory images, (d) and the development of abstract ideas. In this system of interpretation, perceptions are inferences from sensations. How does the atheistic empiricist know valid from invalid inferences?

Can atheistic rationalism (reason alone) provide answers to big questions of life? Does the atheist have the necessary preconditions to interpret reality? The Christian says God is a necessary precondition for interpretation. The atheist says no. From a Christian worldview, it can be explained why life has a purpose. Can the atheist explain why life is purposeful? To remember an earlier quote: “There is no splendor, no vastness, anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing” – Bertrand Russell. This assertion by Russell is an example of a bankrupt worldview. Dostoevsky countered this idea of Russell by saying: “I don’t understand how, up to now, an atheist could know there is no God and not kill himself at once” – Fyodor Dostoevsky.


Pressing the antithesis further:

We can ask the atheist, what is the origin of laws of logic? Are the laws of logic interpreted in the same way universally? If not, why not? The laws of logic within the framework of non-belief are nothing more than a philosophical construct, which ends up collapsing into irrationality and inconsistency. Thus, the atheistic rational man has no rationale for his rationalism. The assertion that God is not silent is the solution to obtaining knowledge. God has spoken through the Scriptures to all of mankind. As Christians, we have a foundation for knowledge; it is revelational. God-given revelation is objective. Atheists reject this revelation; they suppress the truth that God has revealed to them through creation (Romans 1:18). God has spoken in the Scriptures, God’s special revelation to all men concerning what is required of him, and thus, we have a rationale for ethics. To repeat two quotes from David Silverman, “There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” In addition, “The hard answer is it is a matter of opinion.” David Silverman is an American secular advocate who served as president of American Atheists. According to Silverman, we are left with opinions. Different opinions are not solutions.

Again, we can ask the atheist and all non-Christians, what standard for interpretation is being used; identify your worldview and its basis for predication. Predication is attaching a predicate to a subject; hence, making an assertion. Van Til says, “Only the Christian worldview makes predication possible.” The atheist needs to demonstrate how his worldview can accomplish this.


For the atheist, there is ultimately only irrationalism:

Thus, the atheistic man has only matter, unintelligible or debatable explanations for sensations (sense perception), or his finite, fallible reason. An unclear debatable sensation is one reason for the bankruptcy of atheistic, materialistic humanism. The Christian has a rational basis for knowledge; it is the Biblical revelation. The Christian allows God to speak through creation and Scripture. The non-Christian will not allow room for the God of the Bible to speak in their system. As said, their system is closed to God’s revelation. The atheist insists on being the ultimate interpreter of reality, God is excluded. The Christian system is not closed like the atheist’s system. The Bible tells us about general and special revelation and man’s requirement to submit to a God-given interpretation of all things. It is because we have God’s revelation that an intelligent conversation on these matters can be carried on. How can a finite man who does not even know how many atoms are in an orange speak intelligently when asserting, absolutely and omnisciently, there is no God? These same people talk about the universe coming into existence from a big bang out of nothing. Was there a spark before the explosion of nothing? How did this spark happen? How does nothing explode? A big explosion sounds like the primitive view of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation is illogical nonsense. In contrast to the atheist’s hypothetical speculation, the Christian has a God-given rational case for knowledge.

Philosophically, atheism vacillates between two positions of knowing and not knowing. These two opposite poles of allegiance constitute a never-ending dilemma, thus revealing the futility of non-Christian epistemology. Despite this, the atheist presses on irrationally. To illustrate, for example, some atheists claim absolutely that there are no absolutes, a self-refuting contradiction. The philosophy of non-belief contradicts itself when it claims not to know (uncertainty, agnosticism) and to know (certainty, atheism). Both atheism and agnosticism are two sides of the same coin. Thus, the non-believer is left with contradictory uncertainty and certainty, which are manifestations of his epistemological inability to derive meaningful intelligibility from an ultimate irrational meaningless universe.

The Christian Solution to knowledge:

As Christians, we have a coherent theory of knowledge. God has spoken. God speaking through revelation is certain: God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. Language has the same meaning for God and man. Because of this, presuppositionalists argue that Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. The atheist position of the contrary has never been articulated successfully. See the great debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein at Davis University in California in 1985.* Atheistic epistemology has different theories, but no universal certainty and cannot escape skepticism better explained as no-nothing-ism. The non-Christian philosophers will argue on and on, never reaching an agreement.

The following picture illustrates the atheist and other non-believers dilemma.
The following picture illustrates the atheist’s impossible escape to nowhere. Picture credit **

At this point, the atheist needs to be confronted with the consequence of his unbelief. Hence,

 

Pascal’s Wager:

 

(1) It is possible that the Christian God exists and it is possible that the Christian God does not exist.

 

(2) If one believes in the Christian God then if he exists then one receives an infinitely great reward and if he does not exist then one loses little or nothing.

 

(3) If one does not believe in the Christian God then if he exists then one receives an infinitely great punishment and if he does not exist then one gains little or nothing.

 

(4) It is better to either receive an infinitely great reward or lose little or nothing than it is to either receive an infinitely great punishment or gain little or nothing.

 

Therefore:

 

(5) It is better to believe in the Christian God than it is not to believe in the Christian God.

 

(6) If one course of action is better than another then it is rational to follow that course of action and irrational to follow the other.

 

Therefore:

 

(7) It is rational to believe in the Christian God and irrational not to believe in the Christian God.

 

In other words:

 

“Pascal therefore proposes a wager, Either God exists or He does not. The agnostic professes that human reason cannot decide which alternative is true. But one must be true, the other must be false. Which one will you accept? The agnostic cannot refuse to make a decision; he cannot refuse to wager; he is already wagering. Whether he lives or dies, he either believes in God or he does not.

 

Now, if he does not believe in God, and he wins, he gains nothing. If he does not believe in God, and he loses, he loses eternal blessedness. The agnostic therefore has nothing to win and everything to lose. If, however, a man wagers on God and loses, he loses nothing; but if he wins, he wins an infinite reward. The believer, therefore, has nothing to lose and everything to win. How then can anyone who is the least interested in his own welfare accept agnosticism?” – Gordon H. Clark

 

The Gospel in a nutshell:

 

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV)

 

In closing:

 

“…in the present day not a few are found, who deny the being of a God, yet, whether they will or not, they occasionally feel the truth which they are desirous not to know. We do not read of any man who broke out into more unbridled and audacious contempt of the Deity than C. Caligula, and yet none showed greater dread when any indication of divine wrath was manifested. Thus, however unwilling, he shook with terror before the God whom he professedly studied to condemn. You may every day see the same thing happening to his modern imitators. The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf. How so, unless in vindication of the divine majesty, which smites their consciences the more strongly the more they endeavor to flee from it. They all, indeed, look out for hiding-places where they may conceal themselves from the presence of the Lord, and again efface it from their mind; but after all their efforts, they remain caught within the net. Though the conviction may occasionally seem to vanish for a moment, it immediately returns, and rushes in with new impetuosity, so that any interval of relief from the gnawing of conscience is not unlike the slumber of the intoxicated or the insane, who have no quiet rest in sleep, but are continually haunted with dire horrific dreams. Even the wicked themselves, therefore, are an example of the fact that some idea of God always exists in every human mind.” – John Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion

 

The Suicide of Thought by G. K. Chesterton:

 

“But the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore, he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything.

 

“For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it.

 

“Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself.

 

“He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself.

 

“A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble [mock scepter of office], and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble.

 

“The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts.

 

“In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics, he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics, he attacks morality for trampling on men.

 

“Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” – G.K. Chesterton (6)

 

In agreement with Chesterton:

 

“If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready-made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it.” – T. S. Eliot

 

Finally:

 

“The statement that ‘God is dead’ comes from Nietzsche and has recently been trumpeted abroad by some German and American theologians. But the good Lord has not died of this; He who dwells in the heaven laughs at them.” – Karl Barth

 

Personal comments above should NOT be understood as being original. Biblical and philosophical indebtedness for the above comments go to Francis A. Schaeffer, Gordon H. Clark, Ronald H. Nash, Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen and R.J. Rushdoony! It has been attempted to re-state the biblical and philosophical genius of the above named!

 

Notes:

 

  1. Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company 1970), pp. 213-214.
  2. Gordon H. Clark, Atheism, Trinity Review, (Unicoi, Tennessee, The Trinity Foundation)
  3. Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International 2002), p. 39-40.
  4. Gordon H. Clark, In Defense of Theology, (Fenton, Michigan, Mott Media, Inc. Publishers, 1984), pp. 31-33.
  5. Gordon H. Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe? (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed 1985), pg. 18.
  6. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 3, “The suicide of thought”, Kindle edition.

 

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

 

Agnosticism by Gordon H. Clark http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/agnosticism-by-gordon-h-clark/

 

* The Great Debate: Christian philosopher Greg Bahnsen debates atheist Gordon Stein at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anGAazNCfdY

 

** Van Til’s Copernican Revolution Van Til’s Waterman-slide picture curtesy of

http://www.christianciv.com/VT_Diagrammed.html

Summary of Dr. Alan Myatt’s Conversations with atheists at http://www.myatts.net/articles/atheists10.html

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Thoughts on God’s Existence and the futility of Atheism

  1. Interesting topic, and I’m impressed by the amount of quotes. I don’t think I will take the time to read them, because I don’t agree with one of the first concepts. Namely that “there is no God, says the atheist absolutely”.
    In my understanding, atheists say that they find no EVIDENCE for a god – which is something fundamentally different.
    And if there really were a god, can he or she possibly be like the Christian God. Permitting evil, suffering, horrible sickness, the list goes on and on, is that what many millions of people call loving, merciful? My opinion is: no way!
    So it must be another (kind of) god. – if any. Which, who, where? The answer is blunt, simple: ATHEIST SAY THEY DON’T KNOW. In some ways, atheists are like agnostics.
    My question is: why MUST we know? I find this uncertainty fascinating, and probably I don’t expect to accept any explication.
    I don’t know where I came from, I don’t know where I’m going when I die. But I DO KNOW very well and happily, that I am here on earth, in this life, to make the best of it, to try and make the world a better place to live in.
    Just my thoughts; thank you for reading them. What is your reaction?
    .-

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