Critique: When Skeptics Ask – Chapter 2, Part 1

I was handed a book, When Skeptics Ask, by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, and told that this would help convert me from an intelligent atheist and scientist into a Christian apologist. While reading this book I have noticed that it is so painful that I had to write a rebuttal. Thereby, I am beginning with the second chapter, as the first is introductory, and really not worth it at all.

The second chapter is titled – Questions About God.

I must state that the authors are quite correct at the opening of the second chapter.

“The existence of a personal, moral God is fundamental to all that Christians believe. If there is no moral God, there is no moral being against whom we have sinned; therefore, salvation is not needed. Furthermore, if there is no God, there could be no acts of God (miracles), and the stories of Jesus can only be understood as fiction or myth.” (When Skeptics Ask, pg.15)

I must agree wholeheartedly. This is precisely the point I make when I discuss religion.

The chapter is divided into two question – does God exist and if God exists, what kind of God is He? We can easily see that the second question is conditioned by the first. If the first is incorrect, then the second question is irrelevant.

Does God Exist?

The authors bring up the four basic arguments – cosmological, teleological, axiological, and ontological.

The cosmological argument is mostly from Thomas Aquinas and can be found in the Summa Theologica, part I, question II, article III. Basically it states that anything that has a beginning, was caused by something else. Since the universe has a beginning, that beginning is the first cause, or as Thomas assigned the name, God. This is refuted simply.

Firstly, to label the primary cause, God is a loaded term way of ascribing powers that are not necessary, or sufficient, to assign for the assumption of a primary cause that is unknown. Just to not know what the cause was means we must remain agnostic about the initial cause. However, this also begs the question, what was the initial cause’s cause? This infinite regression is a painful way to argue, as the end is always a place where the scientist states, “I don’t know” and the religious state, “that is God.” That statement is unfounded, and is easily explained. If you state that the universe needs a first cause, then that is all your being needs and all that is sufficient to make your argument work. To add that this being forgives sins, saves those that sacrifice to him, worship his presence, that he is infinite, omnipresent, all-powerful sky daddy is ludicrous. If this makes sense, then if a sandbag falls and kills an actor on stage we should assign intelligence to the sandbag as it had to have a choice in the destruction and choose to drop on the actor. It can’t be because the rope was frayed, or someone cut the rope and therefore must have special properties. This is the same argument as above.

The initial cause is a coming together of all the conditions needed to begin the universe. The last condition to come to be would be known as the initial cause. To state that this is God is intellectually harmful and dishonest. We don’t know and no one can. It is not, because we don’t know, therefore God; it is we don’t know, because we can obtain no evidence prior to the Big Bang.

I’m going to gloss over the next portion of this argument – God is the continual cause that causes the change in the universe. This is simply stated as shown by science. To state that God is everything, including science is like trimming a bonsai tree with a pair of 13 inch shears. This portion is irrelevant to the argument for God. If the first portion here does not hold up, neither does it.

The teleological argument is the famous argument by design. All designs imply a designer and there is a Great Design in the universe; therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. This argument is a good one – logically speaking – however is not sound.

Watches imply watchmakers; buildings imply architects; paintings imply artists; and coded messages imply a intelligent sender… another way of stating the principle of causality.” (Skeptics, pg. 20)

This is quite true. However notice that all of these are inanimate objects that are engineered works of mankind. Stars are complex, yet they come together under the principles of physics; biology appears complex, yet are governed by simple principles of evolution. Just because something is complex in appearance does not mean that it is from a complex origin. I suggest that a viewing of Evolution is a Blind Watchmaker by cdk007 – found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0.

The next portion is an argument made by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. The argument from moral law. Since all men are conscious of an objective moral law, and moral laws imply a moral lawgiver, there must exist a supreme moral lawgiver.

What an argument. Let’s dispatch it shall we? We are conscious of objective moral laws because they are culturally and socially given. When we became civilized – city dwellers – these arose. There is a moral lawgiver that we are conscious of, ourselves. With these conditions, properly defined and investigate, we find that a supreme lawgiver is ourselves in consensus essentially, not the sky daddy that is going to throw us – hypothetically – in hell.

Now, we have dispatched three of four arguments for just the existence of God being necessary and sufficient. Let us proceed to the ontological argument.

The argument goes as such that “whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect being possible must be attributed to it (otherwise it would not be the most perfect being possible) and necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect being; therefore, necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect being.” (Skeptics, pg. 24)

Now, this argument has a problem expounded within the text. “ This argument succeeds in showing that our idea of God must include necessary existence but it fails to show that God actually exists.” (Skeptics, pg. 25). This is correct because the argument assumes that existence is better than non-existence. I must utilize the argument from Douglas Gasking, who made this as a parody to Anselm’s argument – the previous one, and made it quite humorous.

  1. The creation of the world is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.
  2. The merit of an achievement is the product of its intrinsic quality and the ability of its creator.
  3. The greater the disability of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
  4. The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
  5. Therefore, if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater being – namely, one who created everything while not existing.
  6. An existing God therefore would not be a being greater than which a greater cannot be conceived because an even more formidable and incredible creator would be a God which did not exist.
  7. Therefore God does not exist.

*Lines here taken from a quoted text in The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins, pg.107-108.

Needless to say, this argument does not prove that God doesn’t exist; however, it does the same stating that the idea of God here must include him as not existing, but it fails to show that God actually does not exist.

By here, the book offers no more evidence that God exists. I shall go further into this later and complete the second chapter in a second part as I am only halfway through and this post is quite long enough.

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