Arguments Against Christianity – Episode 11 – No Evidence

“I do believe; help my unbelief.” – Mark 9:24

Christianity is a blind faith, based on zero evidence. Why, for instance, would anyone believe that someone created the world or rose from the grave?

I find this argument more among lay atheists, as anyone who has done some reading on Christian apologetics knows that there is evidence for Christianity. One might say that the evidence at hand is not enough to satisfy the conscious, but saying there’s not enough evidence is quite different from saying there’s no evidence. Thus, I see this post as a kind of “part two” to my previous post dealing with the claim that there’s not enough evidence.

This post will briefly outline the more well known arguments for God’s existence, to include the Kalam cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the ontological argument, the moral argument, the transcendental argument, as well as the historical arguments for both the Resurrection of Christ and the reliability of the New Testament. Because this post will need to be brief, those who would like each argument in greater depth will want to read Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis by Greg Bahnsen, and The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable by F.F. Bruce. (Also, for a discussion on how best to use evidence with an unbeliever when defending the faith, see: Covenantal Apologetics Part 6: The Use of Evidence in Apologetics)

Kalam Cosmological Argument

This argument asserts: “Every being which begins has a cause for its beginning; now the world is a being which begins; therefore, it possesses a cause for its beginning.”[1] While many would affirm the first part, some might object that the universe had a beginning. To illustrate this point, it would be argued that there cannot be an infinite number of past events, for an actual infinite number of things cannot exist (c.f., Hilbert’s Hotel).[2]  We must therefore conclude, as William Lane Craig does:

The cause of the universe must therefore be a transcendent cause beyond the universe. This cause must be itself uncaused because we’ve seen that an infinite series of causes is impossible. It is therefore the Uncaused First Cause. It must transcend time and space, since it created time and space. Therefore, it must be immaterial and non physical. It must be unimaginably powerful, since it created all matter and energy… Finally, it must be a personal being.[3]

Teleological Argument

“The teleological argument,” as Herman Bavinck describes, “proceeds from the order and beauty, the harmony and purpose observable in the world either in its entirety or in particular creatures (the stars, elements, earth, humans, animals, plants, the hand, the eye, etc.), infers the existence of an intelligent cause.”[4] Or put another way, Craig offers a three-step argument for design:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.[5]

To defend this argument (especially premise 2), the apologist would employ statistics to discuss probabilities of various things coming about by chance and random processes. The positioning of the sun to the earth, the intricacies of the human eye, or bacterial flagellum are but a few possible examples the apologist would employ to discuss just how improbable it would be for, say, bacterial flagellum to form, in all of its intricate parts (and in proper order), by chance. To give another example, Roger Penrose, of Oxford University, has calculated that the odds of a low-entropy state (with which the world began) existing by chance alone is on the order of one chance out of 1010(123), a number that is almost completely inconceivable.[6]  Therefore, just as one who found a watch in the woods would conclude that there was a watchmaker, so too should one look at the fine-tuning evident throughout the universe and conclude a designer. (See: Darwin’s Black Box and The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe).

Ontological Argument

Originally created by St. Anselm of Canterbury, this argument has been restated in recent times by Alvin Plantinga. This argument essentially “attempts to prove from the very concept of God that God exists: if God is conceivable, then he must actually exist.”[7] Anselm states the argument as follows:

And surely that than which a greater cannot be thought cannot exist only in the understanding. For if it exists only in the understanding, it can be thought to exist in reality as well, which is greater. So if that than which a greater cannot be thought exists only in the understanding, then that than which a greater can be thought. But that is clearly impossible. Therefore, there is no doubt that something than which a greater cannot be thought exists both in the understanding and in reality… This [being] exists so truly that it cannot be thought not to exist. For it is possible to think that something exists that cannot be thought not to exist, and such a being is greater than one that can be thought not to exist. Therefore, if that than which a greater cannot be thought can be thought not to exist, then that than which a greater cannot be thought is not that than which a greater cannot be thought; and this is a contradiction. So that than which a greater cannot be thought exists so truly that it cannot be thought not to exist… So then why did “the fool say in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” when it is so evident to the rational mind that you of all beings exist most greatly? Why indeed, except because he is stupid and a fool?[8]

Put simply, Craig outlines the argument as such:

God is the greatest conceivable being. This is true by definition, for if we could conceive of something greater than God, then that would be God. So nothing greater than God can be conceived. It is greater to exist in reality than merely in the mind. Anselm gives the example of a painting. Which is greater: the artist’s idea of the painting or the painting itself as it really exists? Obviously the latter; for the painting itself exists not only in the artist’s mind, but in reality as well. Similarly, if God existed only in the mind, then something greater than him could be conceived, namely, his existence not only in the mind, but in reality as well. But God is the greatest conceivable being. Hence, he must exist not merely in the mind, but in reality as well. Therefore, God exists.[9]

In recent times, some have added possible world theory to this argument. That is, if it is possible for God to exist in a possible world, then he exists necessarily in that world. And since a necessary being is such that he exists necessarily in all possible worlds, then he would exist in this world as well. God is able to be conceived as existing in a possible world. Therefore, God exists in this world.

Regarding the value of this argument, Bavinck believes:

The value of this argument, accordingly, consists rather in the fact that it demonstrates the necessity with which humans think the idea of God and think him as existing, and so confronts them with the choice of either trusting this necessary witness of their consciousness or else despairing of their own consciousness.[10]

Moral Argument

Craig’s three-step approach to this argument is:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.[11]

This argument can be introduced with the question: “Why is it wrong to kill someone or steal from someone?” From there the atheist will attempt to root such an objection. Some might be content to say morality is created by societies. But, however, if society is the arbiter of our morality, our society has no right to say that another society is morally wrong—even if that society were killing Jews or practicing cannibalism. What is more, if you were to fly to another part of the world, you would need to adopt their ethic, for society, after all, is the arbiter.

Another route might be to say that evolution made us moral creatures. This, however, doesn’t speak to objective moral values. Rather, it merely speaks to what made us operate as we do. Morality, then, would not be objective, but would be the product of something random and meaningless. Thus, moral constructs would be meaningless: we could show how it is we assert them, but would be unable to argue objectively for rightness and wrongness.

Transcendental Argument

Admittedly, this is my favorite argument, but also one that takes some time, thought, and study. It can be stated simply, but the apologist must have already plumbed its depths in order to be able to refute objections. For a greater study of this argument, be sure to read chapters 4-8 in Van Til’s Apologetic by Greg Bahnsen, Chapter 14 in Reason and Revelation: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics ed. by K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton, and The Consistency of Van Til’s Methodology by Scott Oliphint.

To state the matter simply, “The Bible must be true because if it were not, we could not actually know anything at all.”[12] This argument is based on the impossibility of the contrary. That is, this argument seeks to illustrate that Christianity makes sense of the world, while other worldviews cannot.  Cornelius Van Til writes, “The best and only possible proof for the existence of such a God is that his existence is required for the uniformity of nature and for the coherence of all things in the world.”[13] He also writes that Christianity is the only position that “does not annihilate intelligent human experience.”[14] More pointedly, perhaps, Greg Bahnsen has said:

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 world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes.[15]

Jason Lisle writes this: “In order for a worldview to be rationally defensible, it must be internally consistent,” and “must provide the preconditions of intelligibility” (e.g., the reliability of memory, the reliability of senses, and the laws of logic).[16]  Lisle continues:

We all presume that there are law of logic that govern correct reasoning. Earlier in the chapter I stated that contradictions cannot be true. It probably didn’t occur to any reader to question that claim; it is a law of logic that all take for granted. And yet how could we prove that there are laws of logic? We would have to first assume them in order to begin a logical proof. Therefore, laws of logic constitute a precondition of intelligibility. They must be assumed before we can even begin to reason about anything—including reasoning about laws of logic themselves… Only a consistent Christian can have justification (a sound reason) for things like laws of logic and the reliability of our senses. Without justification for things we take for granted, we can’t really know that any of our thinking or observations of the world are correct… For the Christian there is an absolute standard for reasoning; we are to pattern our thoughts after God’s… According to Genesis, God has made us in His image (Gen. 1:26) and therefore we are to follow His example (Eph. 5:1). The laws of logic are a reflection of the way God thinks, and thus the way He expects us to think… Laws of logic make sense in a Christian worldview. But other worldviews cannot account for them.[17]

To sum up this survey of the transcendental argument, Bahnsen states:

Man must think God’s thoughts after Him, for “in Thy light shall we see light” (Ps. 36:9)… To make God’s word your presupposition, your standard, your instructor and guide, however, calls for renouncing intellectual self-sufficiency—the attitude that you are autonomous, able to attain unto genuine knowledge independent of God’s direction and standard… All knowledge begins with God, and thus we who wish to have knowledge must presuppose God’s word and renounce intellectual autonomy… The foundation of knowledge is God’s revelation. Are you founded there or intellectually adrift?[18]

Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection 

William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and NT Wright have written a tremendous amount on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, so for a complete study be sure to read their works. Below are a few of the historical arguments:

  1. The disciples left Jesus when he was taken to be crucified (Matt. 26:55-56), Peter denied Jesus (John 18:25-27), Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in Him (John 7:5), and Thomas doubted Jesus (John 20:25). Then, they all said they saw the risen Christ and all but one went to their martyrdom, proclaiming and spreading the good news. Is it likely that a group of men, who found it no trifle to abandon and reject Christ, would die terrible deaths for what unbeliever’s claim was a made-up story?
  2. The Bible narrates that women found the empty tomb of Jesus (Luke 24:1, 22, 24). In that day, a woman’s testimony could not be heard in court, so if the writer wanted to write a piece of persuasive fiction, he would not have narrated that women found the empty tomb—unless it actually happened.
  3. More than 500 people were reported to have seen the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor. 15:6).
  4. Paul received an early Christian creed (probably orally spoken) from Peter and James 3-5 years after the crucifixion of Christ affirming the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
  5. The idea of resurrection came from neither pagan nor Jewish influence; thus, showing the uniqueness of resurrection of Jesus in that part of the world and at that time period.
  6. The early eye witness testimony—both oral and written—went uncontested. That is, if these eye witness accounts were made up, then they would have been contested by the people that were there and still alive.
  7. Non-Christian historians in antiquity have written of the risen Christ; thus, we have sources outside of the Bible that speak of Jesus’ resurrection.
  8. The event of the resurrection best describes the spread of Christianity. Because of the historical resurrection of Jesus—confirmed by eye witnesses—the movement spread all over the world.[19]

Manuscript Evidence for the New Testament

The reader will want to read my previous post dealing with the claim that the Bible is a work of fiction, as I deal with some other aspects of Scripture there, as well as give book recommendations for further study.  As I did above, I will outline some of the evidences here. (See: The Reliability of the New Testament Text by James White)

  1. The entire New Testament was written within the first century—during the life time of eye witnesses. The Book of Revelation being the last book, which is dated to the AD 90’s.
  2. The earliest Gospel (Mark) dates to maybe around AD 55,[20] and some of Paul’s epistles date even earlier. This makes Christianity different from other historical figures (e.g., Plato) and even religions (e.g., Buddhism, Islam, etc), for the gap between the eye witnesses’ written testimony and the actual events is short.
  3. We have well over 5,500 NT manuscripts, some of which date as early as the first century. This again is unique to Christianity, as most other historical figures and religions do not have nearly as many ancient manuscripts.
  4. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it has been demonstrated that the copying of texts by scribes is extremely accurate (e.g., the Isaiah scroll).

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:27-28

Also in this series:

Episode 1 – No Ultimate Truth

Episode 2 – Not Enough Evidence

Episode 3 – Christians Arbitrarily Choose What Teachings to Follow in the Bible

Episode 4 – Too Much Suffering in the World

Episode 5 – The Bible is a Work of Fiction

Episode 6 – Christianity is a Form of “God of the Gaps”

Episode 7 – Faith is Confused with Fact

Episode 8 – Belief is Determined by One’s Context

Episode 9 – Christians Persecuted Men of Science

Episode 10 – Science and Religion are Irreconcilable

Episode 11 – No Evidence

© copyright J. Brandon Burks

[1] William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), 74.

[2] Ibid., 78-83.

[3] Ibid., 99.

[4] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol.2, ed. by John Bolt, trans. by John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 82

[5] Craig, On Guard, 111.

[6] Ibid., 109.

[7] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 95.

[8] Anselm, “Proslogion,” in Classics of Western Philosophy, ed. by Steven Cahn, 8th ed. (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2012), 432.

[9] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 95.

[10] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 85.

[11] Craig, On Guard, 129.

[12] Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 42

[13] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, ed. Scott Oliphint (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1955), 126.

[14] Ibid., 198.

[15] Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein, “A Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence,” in Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, ed. by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 142.

[16] Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 38-39.

[17] Ibid., 39-40, 52.

[18] Greg. L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, ed. by Robert R. Booth (Nacogdoches, TX: CMP, 1996), 19-21.

[19] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 333-400; Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 19-91, 205, 243; Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 209-221; Matt Perman, “Historical Case for the Resurrection,” Desiring God, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection.

[20] Mark L. Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 203-204.

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