Is this the best Christian Apologists can do?
It ain’t easy being a Christian: sure, they might be the majority (for now), but every other day the faith is challenged by objective reality. While many Christians will scoff at the idea that their religion is in trouble, the truth is that countries like Canada, Sweden, and Australia are quickly shedding their religious coat in favor of a broader “spirituality” that doesn’t have to deal with the many inconsistencies or outright lies of organized religion. Over half of all Canadians, according to a recent survey, are convinced that religion does more harm than good.
Enter the Apologist. Their “job” is to try and defend their faith against the harshness of reality. Christian Apologetics have been around since the very founding of the religion; St. Paul was the first to begin the tradition when confronted by desert shepherds possessing some measure of skepticism. In the modern world, it’s much more difficult to defend the faith, and so a whole cottage industry has sprung up to meet the demands of increasingly skeptically-minded kids.
I spotted this article entitled “Top 10 Defences youth can give for their beliefs“, and I thought I might share with you the kind of “advice” they’re giving young Christians in a vain attempt to prevent them from leaving the religion in frustration. I think you’ll agree that any teenager attempting to use any of these arguments would be eaten alive by anyone with a moderate understanding of history or science:
1. How can you know for sure that anything is true?
Among your acquaintances are likely to be some people who don’t believe in truth. That is, they don’t believe truth can be known. However, that idea is easily refuted, as this fictional conversation in the 2011 novel, “The Quest”, illustrates:
It took a minute, but I finally realized what she was waiting for. “You’re saying that if I think that’s a true statement, then I’ve claimed to know something that is true….By saying truth can’t be known. I contradicted myself.”
Here the author tries to argue that if an agnostic claims that truth cannot be known, this itself is a truth-claim and the statement is therefore inconsistent. While it’s true that consistency is a desirable attribute of any philosophy, we have to examine what’s actually being argued instead of over-analysing the statement itself. What is truth? How do we determine what’s real and what isn’t? Humans create models to explain the natural world, and while they can be amazingly accurate, there is still much to discover. We must accept that our understanding of the Universe is limited, flawed, but constantly improving. To claim otherwise is only possible when one sees the world through the arrogant prism of religion.
2. Is God a human invention?
A popular view these days is the idea that humans invented God in order to meet their needs and fulfill their desires. But it is at least as reasonable to believe exactly the opposite: that the innate desire humans have for God exists because there is Someone who satisfies that desire.
“Observe that noses were made to wear spectacles; and so we have spectacles.”- Voltaire. The fact that we have a tendency to see patternicity, agency and intentionality has more to do with our environment than some invisible man in the sky. For millions of years, our ancestors braved a cruel, violent world which placed survival above skepticism. As a result, we’ve inherited brains susceptible to superstition, and the persistence of religion in a world of scientific discovery is an excellent example of this.
3. Doesn’t the Big Bang disprove Creation?
There is a common misconception that the Big Bang has pretty much eliminated the idea that God created the heavens and the earth. But the opposite is true. Former atheist Antony Flew, in his book “There Is a God”, explained that the Big Bang model eventually led him to believe in a God who created the universe, because it pointed to a beginning point in the universe, and to something (or Someone) behind that beginning that was too big for science to explain.
So the Universe needs a beginning, but Super-Monkey doesn’t? The best science we have now tells us that a Universe can indeed come from nothing, so while the science we have today tells us that the Universe requires no supernatural “party-starter”, religionists can’t seem to abandon this lost “first” cause. I won’t pretend to know for certain that a god couldn’t have done this; however, our faithful opponents have still failed to provide a compelling explanation of their deity’s apparent ability to transcend the law of causality. Lastly, this idea that something can be “too big” for science is just an invitation to ignorance.
4. How can an intelligent person not believe in evolution?
Atheist Richard Dawkins has famously written, “Beyond doubt evolution is a fact,” adding that no reputable scientist disputes it. However, neither statement is true. First, it is necessary to understand what people mean when they use the world “evolution,” because it can refer to both micro-evolution (the observable process by which change happens over time within species) and macro-evolution (the arguable claim that starting with a common ancestor, over time simple organisms have changed into the species that exist today). Macro-evolution is not as widely accepted as some claim. In fact, more than eight hundred world-class scientists have signed a formal dissent from Darwinian evolution.
So, you’re willing to accept that species gradually change over time, but somehow still can’t grasp that over geological time-frames (millions of years), these incremental changes would form entirely new species? Also, if you want to put this whole “over 800 scientists express doubt about evolution” number into perspective, there are currently over a million scientists working in the US alone. 90% of all the scientists who have ever lived are alive today. The fact that you have 800 dummies on your side only proves that education is no guarantee of intelligence.
5. How can you trust the Bible when it has been changed and corrupted so much through the centuries?
I aimed to show everyone that Christianity was nonsense. I thought it would be easy. It wasn’t. In fact, I discovered that the Bible is far and away the most meticulously preserved and widely attested document of the ancient world. No other book even comes close (we go into greater detail on this subject in our book, “Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door”). This reliability was confirmed by the 1948 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which showed that after a thousand years of copying, the text as it appears in modern Bibles was more than ninety-five percent the same, word-for-word and letter-for-letter, as it had been three thousand years earlier! And what differences did exist were mainly spelling variations.
The relative consistency of nonsense is of little interest to us. The fact remains that the Bible is little more than a book of fairy-tales. The ancient stories of Gilgamesh and Enkidu have survived the ravages of time, and yet we do not believe that the ancient stories of Sumer are anything but poetic allegory. As a Christian, you’re far more likely to be asked “How can you trust the Bible to guide your morality when it advocates rape, incest, genocide, infanticide and cruelty?”. I’d try and work on the response for that one instead.
6. Hasn’t modern science pretty much disproved the Bible?
It’s hard to imagine anything that is farther from the truth than the idea that modern science has disproved the Bible. In fact, the science of archaeology, to name one field, has repeatedly confirmed the trustworthiness of the biblical accounts (we devote a chapter to this subject in our book, “Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door”). Archaeologist William F. Albright wrote,
The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history
We don’t need 18th century skepticism to tell us the Bible is full of holes. Where do we begin? The creation story perhaps, or Noah’s Flood? Shall we discuss what science has to say about the possibility of Jonah living inside a giant fish for three days, or Samson killing thousands of men with a donkey’s jaw-bone? As for the Bible’s take on history, modern archaeology has found little in the way of proof. Take the “City of David“. While Israeli archaeologists acknowledge that there is no evidence linking David to the site, they anticipate eventually finding this proof, and as far as they are concerned, there is no way to convince them otherwise. Proof has remained elusive for Israel’s archaeologists, but it hasn’t prevented anyone there from trying to use it as a political tool to bolster Israel’s claim to ancient Palestine. Does this sound like good science to you?
7. Who even knows if Jesus ever really existed?
The existence of a man named Jesus who lived in Galilee and Judea in the early part of the first century is utterly indisputable from a historical standpoint. In fact, if you ever encounter such a view from a friend or teacher, invite that person to travel with you to Israel. In the land where Jesus once lived, everyone—Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists—consider the idea he that never existed to be laughable. Why? Because the evidence of his historicity is a daily reality there.
Is this guy for real? I don’t find the idea laughable at all, and I’m not the only one. Some of the very first Christians, the Gnostics, didn’t believe in a historical Jesus either. You don’t hear much about these early Christians since, like the Arians, they were mostly wiped out. Questioning the historicity of Jesus isn’t new; we just weren’t allowed to voice contrary opinions for a long time. To claim that everyone agrees on his historical existence is a pretty big disservice to Christian teens desperately trying to defend their bullshit, trust me.
8. Don’t you think Jesus could have been just a good teacher who didn’t intend to be worshiped as a god?
Though Christianity and Christians can be pretty unpopular these days, Jesus remains widely admired… even by many people who don’t profess to believe in him or worship him. He is revered as a “good teacher,” as a “philosopher,” but not as who he said he was, according to the historical record. C. S. Lewis famously wrote about this phenomenon:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse…let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Creating this kind of dichotomy can’t possibly work in your favor, guys. Any person with a logical mind not indoctrinated to your cult would immediately realize that, if given the choice between God or madman, Jesus certainly fits the description of the latter. When he curses a fig tree for failing to give him fruit, the choice seems fairly obvious. When he claims that diseases are the result of demonic possession, we recognize the words of a loon. Giving him the status of godhood only serves to prove how little Jesus knew about the real world. If he did exist, he is no more remarkable than Apollonius of Tyana, who was claimed to have performed the exact same miracles as Jesus (with the added bonus of being able to pass through walls like David Copperfield).
9. Do you really believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead?
Many theories have been put forth to try to cast doubt on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. All of them are inadequate; some are even ludicrous (we devote three chapters to these theories in our book, “Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door”). In fact, the historical evidence for the resurrection is so overwhelming, historians have to become “anti-historical” in their efforts to build a case against it. As Lord Darling, a prominent English judge, once said, “No intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.
Lord Darling, for any of you who gives a shit, was a minor historical figure of little importance, and little relevancy. Authority here, in any case, is not needed to contest the Resurrection of a Palestinian Jew 2000 years ago. Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence, and what little there is consist of “witness” accounts written decades after his supposed death by people who never even met the guy. If our standards for evidence are so low, than should we also believe that Perseus really did kill the Medusa, and Orpheus braved the underworld to rescue his beloved?
10. How can you believe in that stuff?
The most convincing evidence for the Christian faith is not historical, textual, or archaeological; it is the testimony of a changed life. When I (Josh) set out to disprove the Christian faith, my mind met unassailable facts… but my heart met irresistible love. I met a group of Christians at Kellogg College in Battle Creek, Michigan, who exposed me for the first time to the love of God. Oh, how they loved each other. And I wanted what they had. That love paved the road of faith for me, and thus began my journey of faith. All the evidence in the world—the most powerful arguments and most convincing proofs—probably wouldn’t have gotten through to me if the transforming power of God’s love had not reached my heart through that student group and others.
Always keep in mind that the same will be true of anyone who challenges or questions your faith. Your answers can help open their hearts, but the vibrant evidence of a changed life will always be the most convincing apologetic you can offer.
This is usually where arguments with Christians end: this idea that “a changed life” is somehow proof that their faith is real. While I don’t deny that their beliefs may be genuine, it has no bearing on reality whatsoever. The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458 meters per second regardless of how I feel about it, or whether my life is transformed with such information. If relying on emotion is your idea of a strong defense in face of legitimate criticism, than there’s very little I can do to convince you otherwise. Of course, I can offer you this little piece of advice: don’t expect to blow anyone away with these kinds of pathetic arguments, boys and girls.