Friday, July 29, 2016

Repost: Open Letter to Alaska Bible Institute

Why Truth For Homer?

The purpose of this blog... Ahh, I remember it like it was yesterday, in fact it has been ten years now (1999) since my family and I moved to Homer, Alaska. Why did we move here? Well both my wife and I felt a strong calling to full-time ministry, perhaps missions perhaps church service. We decided to sell everything, quit our jobs and move to Homer in order to attend the Alaska Bible Institute. 
  
  Our intention was to get a basic level education together as a family and see if perhaps the Lord could use us in a full-time ministry capacity. My trouble started about the 2nd or 3rd day after we arrived in Homer. We were staying on campus at ABI in the married couple housing, we were not even unpacked yet. We were invited to a Bible study by the president of the school, a wonderful privilege I thought. We got there, prayed and began the study. It was not like any other Bible study I had ever been too. Our background is with the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church where open discussion is encouraged, not so at this particular Bible study. 
  The study just happened to be on Romans chapter 8. The president of the school/study leader got to Romans 8:29 which happens to mention predestination. When the study leader said the word "predestination" the gentleman sitting next to me slammed his fists on the table in anger and shouted "Don't tell me God predestines people!" He got up from the table and began pacing and ranting in anger. The study leader did not seem bothered and just said "Well the Bible mentions predestination, so we have to read it". I responded "What's wrong with predestination? The Bible teaches it and its a good biblical word." 

  I don't recall how the rest of the study went, but I distinctly remember wondering what kind of people I was surrounded with. You see, I was converted to Christ after reading the Bible from cover to cover, and God graciously reached down and saved my lost rebellious self-centered soul. I was not raised in an Arminian denomination/tradition. I simply believed what the Bible said - all of it. Whether I liked it or not. It does not contain the teachings of men but it is in fact (as it testifies of itself) the Word of God. And so the study ended and we got in the car to head back to ABI. The study leader had drove my wife and I. After we got in the car, the study leader leaned over, looked at me and said in a threatening manner, 

 "Don't you cause any trouble around here now." 

  My stomach sank with a horrible feeling. What in the world have I gotten myself and my family into. The Internet sight said all were welcome from all denominations etc. Apparently this was not true, at least it wasn't during our stay in 1999. And this was just the beginning of a very, very difficult experience at ABI, but a very wonderful experience of discovering what the Bible actually taught. As a matter of fact I probably got a way better education than I bargained for

  On the flip side, as "fate" would have it, I happened to get a job at the local print shop with two men who were leaders in a local church - Grace Covenant Church. They were both great guys and also wonderful Christians. One was actually the pastor of the church and had studied under John Piper. He began to teach me just what was actually happening at ABI. I found out the the school was an "Arminian" School, which I had never heard of before, you see, as I said I simply believed the Bible. Of course the Bible study leader said the same thing, but apparently he didn't really mean it. This became increasingly more evident as the school year went on. Almost every day we heard stories of how someone "lost out" in the end because he didn't keep up his good works and his faith in Christ. 

  I later came to learn that the Arminian view of salvation is that it is fallible. A Christian can lose his/her salvation. A believer is not eternally secure in his/her position as a child of God. According to Arminianism a believer can in fact be unborn again. This is not what the Bible teaches. I found myself raising my hand in class not a few times and commenting "but the Bible says...", or "but the next verse says..." In all good conscience I could not remain silent. It was a travesty to witness the kind of false teaching, miss-interpretation and eisegesis that occurred, and to my knowledge continues to occur at the Alaska Bible Institute. I am not one to gossip or talk behind someones back. I made every effort to reason with the leadership at ABI. The last thing in the world I wanted was to cause any kind of trouble or controversy, I mean this very sincerely. I recall specifically asking the president of the school if he was an Arminian. He said, and I quote "No I am not an Arminian, I am just a Christian and I believe the Bible". This seems to be a common response from those within Arminian groups, for example Dave Hunt says the same thing and yet everything he teaches lines up completely with Arminian theology. The difficulty is that this is also what Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholics etc. say. 

  It became imperative for me to dig deeper and find out just exactly what this man believed the Bible taught and whether or not it was accurate and consistent and most importantly true. I came to learn that "Arminianism" teaches something very different than what I had read in my Bible. That you can lose your salvation. As I mentioned previously, we heard this over and over again in the classroom at ABI. My thought was, then what good is it if you can loose it? Jesus didn't say He came to give us temporary eternal life, He said ETERNAL LIFE! In fact that very first Bible study in Romans 8 debunks the whole of Arminian teaching in the area of soteriology. Quite providential don't you think? Ever since then I have applied myself to the study of the Word of God even more intensely and prayerfully with the goal of actually understanding it. I came to find that what the Bible teaches is not Arminianism, but Calvinism. As Charles Spurgeon said "Calvinism is simply a nickname for the Biblical Gospel." I also found out that the pastor of the one Reformed Church in Homer had also had a run in with the same person that I did and he was accused of teaching a "doctrine of demons" after he had simply read and commented on Ephesians chapter one. Well now once again I was faced with a dilemma just like the one I faced before leaving the Roman Catholic Church; was I going to abandon what the Bible teaches so that I could be accepted into this group? How could I, for in it are the Words of eternal life, the words of Christ Himself. 

  And so the aim of this blog is to bring the truth of the Bible - the WHOLE Bible - to anyone who is open to it (as well as simply expressing my own personal view of spiritual things). 

  It may seem that I spend allot of time writing about predestination, but am I obsessed with it? Absolutely not! Perhaps, just perhaps I say, could it be that those of an Arminian persuasion are actually the ones obsessed with suppressing the truth about election/predestination contained throughout the entire Bible? It's been a long lonely road but I'll keep trusting the Lord and we'll see what happens. He never promised that this would be our best life now. I also would like to say that we made some wonderful friends during our one year of study at ABI, friends that we still have today. My hope and prayer is that things will change there (and perhaps they already have) and young believers will be able to be grounded in the whole counsel of God and not indoctrinated into a system/tradition that imposes its own beliefs onto the text of Holy Scripture. 

  I know that I am not the only one that has had this kind of experience at ABI but I hope I am one of the last. Another solution would be to openly state the doctrinal position of the school. If I had known ABI was "arminian", and teaches that Christians can lose their salvation I would have thought that's nice, but I'll look elsewhere for a school more in line with my own doctrinal convictions.  

  In conclusion, I would like to give an open invitation to ABI to dialogue the issues I have raised. I welcome an open public discussion. Would not the Christian thing be to lovingly correct my false beliefs and bring me back to the truth of the Bible, if in fact you believe me to be in error? Let's talk about it in the Spirit of Christ ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Transcript for copy and paste

The Great Debate: Does God Exist?
Dr. Greg Bahnsen versus Dr. Gordon Stein
At the University of California, Irvine, 1985
SEGMENT ONE
I. OPENING STATEMENT—BAHNSEN
A. Introductory Remarks About the Nature of the Debate
1. Defining Terms
♦ The Argument is for Christian Theism
It is necessary at the outset of our debate to define our terms; that is always the case.
And in particular here, I should make it clear what I mean when I use the term "God".
I want to specify that I'm arguing particularly in favor of Christian theism, and for it as a
unit or system of thought and not for anything like theism in general, and there are reasons
for that. The various conceptions of deity found in world religions are in most cases logically
incompatible, leaving no unambiguous sense to general theism - whatever that might be.
I have not found the non-Christian religions to be philosophically defensible, each of
them being internally incoherent or undermining human reason and experience.
Since I am by the grace of God a Christian, I cannot, from the heart, adequately defend
those religious faiths with which I disagree. My commitment is to the Triune God and the
Christian world view based on God's revelation in the Old and New Testaments. So, first I
am defending Christian theism.
2. What the Debate is About
♦ We are debating about philosophical systems, not the people who
adhere to or profess them
Our concern is with the objective merits of the case which can be made for atheism or
Christian theism, not related subjective or personal matters.
The personalities of those individuals who adhere to different systems of thought are not
really relevant to the truth or falsity of the claims made by those systems. Atheists and
Christians can equally be found emotional, unlearned, intolerant or rude in their approaches.
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Subjective claims made about the experience of inner satisfaction or peace - claims that
are made in earnest by both Christians and atheists in their literature - and promotional
claims made about the superiority of Christianity or atheism.
For instance, some atheist literature suggests that greater mental health comes through
the independence of the atheist outlook. These sorts of things are always subject to
conflicting interpretations and explanations, being, I think, more autobiographical, rather
than telling us anything for sure about the truth of the system under consideration.
The issue is not whether atheists or professing Christians have ever done anything
undesirable or morally unacceptable.
One need only think respectively of the atheist involvement in the Reign of Terror in the
French Revolution, and the professing Christian involvement in the Spanish Inquisition.
The question is not whether the adherents to these systems have lived spotless lives, but
whether atheism or Christian theism as philosophical systems are objectively true. And so I'll
be defending Christian theism, and I'll be defending it as a philosophical system.
B. A Concession to Stein's Area of Expertise
My last introductory remark is something to the effect that I want to concede to my
opponent all issues pertaining to The Control of Ovarian Maturation in Japanese
Whales, the subject of his doctoral dissertation in 1974 at Ohio State.
Dr. Stein is a man of intelligence, and that's not a question in this debate. I would not
pretend to hold my own in a discussion with him in the empirical details of his narrow
domain of specialized natural science.
However, our subject tonight is really much different, calling for intelligent reflection
upon issues which are philosophical or theological in character. For some reason, Dr. Stein
has, over the last decade, left his field of expertise and given his life to a campaign for
atheism. Whatever his perception of the reason for that, I do not believe that it is because of
any genuinely cogent philosophical case which might be made for atheism as a world view.
And it is to this subject that I now turn for tonight's debate.
C. Opening Case for the Existence of God
My opening case for the existence of God will cover three areas of thought: the nature of
evidence, the presuppositional conflict of world views, and the transcendental argument for
God's existence
1. The nature of the evidence
How should the difference of opinion between the theist and the atheist be rationally
resolved? What Dr. Stein has written indicates that he, like many atheists, has not reflected
adequately on this question. He writes, and I quote, "The question of the existence of God is
a factual question, and should be answered in the same way as any other factual questions."
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 3 -
The assumption that all existence claims are questions about matters of fact, the
assumption that all of these are answered in the very same way is not only over simplified
and misleading, it is simply mistaken. The existence, factuality or reality of different kinds of
things is not established or disconfirmed in the same way in every case.
We might ask , "Is there a box of crackers in the pantry?" And we know how we would
go about answering that question. But that is a far, far cry from the way we go about
answering questions determining the reality of say, barometric pressure, quasars, gravitational
attraction, elasticity, radio activity, natural laws, names, grammar, numbers, the university
itself that you're now at, past events, categories, future contingencies, laws of thought,
political obligations, individual identity over time, causation, memories, dreams, or even love
or beauty. In such cases, one does not do anything like walk to the pantry and look inside for
the crackers. There are thousands of existence or factual questions, and they are not at all
answered in the same way in each case.
Just think of the differences in argumentation and the types of evidences used by
biologists, grammarians, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, magicians, mechanics,
merchants, and artists. It should be obvious from this that the types of evidence one looks
for in existence or factual claims will be determined by the field of discussion and especially
by the metaphysical nature of the entity mentioned in the claim under question.
Dr. Stein's remark that the question of the existence of God is answered in the same way
as any other factual question, mistakenly reduces the theistic question to the same level as the
box of crackers in the pantry, which we will hereafter call the crackers in the pantry fallacy.
2. The presuppositional conflict of world views
Dr. Stein has written about the nature of evidence in the theistic debate, and what he has
said points to a second philosophical error of significant proportions. In passing, we would
note how unclear he is, by the way, in speaking of the evidence which must be used,
describing it variously as logic, facts, or reason. Each of these terms is susceptible to a whole
host of differing senses, not only in philosophy, but especially in ordinary usage, depending
on who is using the terms.
I take it he wishes to judge hypotheses in the common sense - by tests of logical
coherence and empirical observation. The problem arises when Dr. Stein elsewhere insists
that every claim that someone makes must be treated as a hypothesis which must be tested
by such evidence before accepting it. "There is to be nothing," he says, "which smacks of
begging the question or circular reasoning."
This, I think, is oversimplified thinking and again misleading, what we might call the
Pretended Neutrality fallacy. One can see this by considering the following quotation from Dr.
Stein: "The use of logic or reason is the only valid way to examine the truth or falsity of any
statement which claims to be factual."
One must eventually ask Dr. Stein, then, how he proves this statement itself. That is,
how does he prove that logic or reason is the only way to prove factual statements?
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He is now on the horns of a real epistemological dilemma. If he says that the statement
is true by logic or reason, then he is engaging in circular reasoning; and he's begging the
question which he [supposedly] forbids. If he says that the statement is proven in some other
fashion, then he refutes the statement itself, that logic or reason is the only way to prove
things.
Now my point is not to fault Dr. Stein's commitment to logic or reason, but to observe
that it actually has the nature of a pre commitment or a presupposition. It is not something
that he has proven by empirical experience or logic, but it is rather that by which he
proceeds to prove everything else. He is not presuppositionally neutral in his approach to
factual questions and disputes. He does not avoid begging crucial questions, rather than
proving them in what we might call the garden variety, ordinary way.
Now this tendency to beg crucial questions is openly exposed by Dr. Stein when the
issue becomes the existence of God; because he demands that the theist present him with
the evidence for the existence of God. Well, theists like myself would gladly and readily do
so. There is the evidence of the created order itself testifying to the wisdom. power, plan,
and glory of God. One should not miss the testimony of the solar system, the persuasion of
the sea, the amazing intricacies of the human body.
There's the evidence of history: God's deliverance of His people, the miracles on
Passover night and [at] the Red Sea, the visions in Isaiah, the Shekinah Glory that filled the
Temple, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, His mighty miracles, His resurrection from the dead.
There's the evidence of Special Revelation, the wonder of the Bible as God's Word,
unsurpassed in its coherence over time, in its historical accuracy and its life-renewing power.
In short, there is no shortage of empirical indicators or evidences of God's existence -
from the thousand stars of the heavens to the 500 witnesses of Christ's resurrection. But, Dr.
Stein precludes the very possibility of any of this empirical evidence counting as proof for God's existence. He
writes, " Supernatural explanations are not allowed in science. The theist is hard put to
document his claims for the existence of the supernatural if he is in effect forbidden from
evoking the supernatural as a part of his explanation. Of course, this is entirely fair; as it
would be begging the question to use what has to be proved as a part of the explanation."
In advance, you see, Dr. Stein is committed to disallowing any theistic interpretation of
nature, history or experience. What he seems to overlook is that this is just as much begging
the question on his own part as it is on the part of the theist. who appeal to such evidence.
He has not at all proven by empirical observation and logic his pre commitment to
Naturalism. He has assumed it in advance, accepting and rejecting all further factual claims in
terms of that controlling and unproved assumption.
Now the theist does the very same thing, don't get me wrong. When certain empirical
evidences are put forth as likely disproving the existence of God, the theist regiments his
commitments in terms of his presuppositions, as well. Just as the Naturalist would insist that
Christ could not have risen from the dead, or that there is a natural explanation yet to be
found of how he did rise from the dead, so the supernaturalist will insist that the alleged
discrepancies in the Bible have an explanation - some yet to be found, perhaps - and that the
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 5 -
evil of this world has a sufficient reason behind it, known at least to God. They both have
their governing presuppositions by which the facts of experience are interpreted, even as all
philosophical systems, all world views do.
At the most fundamental level of everyone's thinking and beliefs there are primary
convictions about reality, man, the world, knowledge, truth, behavior, and such things.
Convictions about which all other experience is organized, interpreted, and applied. Dr. Stein
has such presuppositions, so do I, and so do all of you. And it is these presuppositions
which determine what we accept by ordinary reasoning and evidence, for they are assumed
in all of our reasoning - even about reasoning itself.
3. The Transcendental Proof of God's Existence
How should the difference of opinion between the atheist and the theist be rationally
resolved? That was my opening question. We've seen two of Dr. Stein's errors regarding it:
the crackers in the pantry fallacy and the pretended neutrality fallacy. In the process of
discussing them we've observed that belief in the existence of God is not tested in any
ordinary way like other factual claims. And the reason for that is metaphysically because of
the non-natural character of God, and epistemologically, because of the presuppositional
character of commitment for or against His existence.
Arguments over conflicting presuppositions between world views, therefore, must be
resolved somewhat differently, and yet still rationally, from conflicts over factual existence
claims within a world view or system of thought.
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 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. In that sense the atheist world view cannot
account for our debate tonight.
II. OPENING STATEMENT—STEIN
A. Introductory Remarks
I will grant Dr. Bahnsen his expertise on A Conditional Resolution of the Apparent
Paradox of Self-Deception, which was his dissertation. I don't know how much more
relevant that is to our discussion tonight than mine is, probably not any more. But I would
also like to thank Dr. Bahnsen for showing us that he really doesn't understand too much
about atheism. I will try to straighten him out.
This is an important question we're discussing. Perhaps it is the most important question
in the field of religion, because if God doesn't exist, then the Bible is not the word of God,
Page - 6 - The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein
Jesus can't be the Messiah, and Christianity can't be true, as well as any other religion. So,
we're dealing with an important issue here.
Now, Dr. Bahnsen repeated for me that the existence of God is a factual question. I
don't think he would dispute that. I think he misinterpreted what I said, when I said we
resolve factual questions in the same way. I didn't mean exactly in the same way; I meant
with the use of reason, logic, and evidence. And that is what I am holding.
B. Definitions
1. Atheism
Now, first of all, let me make clear what atheism is and is not. I think this has been a
very commonly misunderstood subject. Atheists do not say that they can prove there is no
God. Also, an atheist is not someone who denies there is a God. Rather, an atheist says that
he has examined the proofs that are offered by the theists, and finds them inadequate.
Now, if I were to say that this gentleman sitting in the front steps could fly by flapping
his arms, I'd be making a kind of unusual statement. And it would be up to me or him to
demonstrate that he can fly. If he can't demonstrate it, then we don't believe that he can fly.
Now, if he doesn't demonstrate it right now, it doesn't mean that he can't fly; it just means
that he can't fly right now. So, we do not deny that he can fly because he can't demonstrate it
right now; but you see, he has not proven his case. And therefore, we do not believe that he
can fly until he proves so.
And this is what the atheist says about the existence of God: He says the case is
unproved not disproved. So, an atheist is really someone who is without a belief in God, or
he does not believe in a God. It is not someone who denies the existence of God, or who
says that one does not exist, or that he can prove that one does not exist.
2. God
Well, I think would like to define a god, as well . I'm not so sure I like his definition. I'm
not going to stick to just the Christian God, I'm going to stick to all kinds of gods. I'm going
to use the definition which Father Coppleston and Bertrand Russell both agreed on in their
debate. Now this is a definition that both sides agreed to, so I think it must be an adequate
one, if not a great one. And this is the definition: "A supreme personal being, distinct from
the world, and creator of the world."
Now before asking for proof of God's existence we need a satisfactory definition, and I
think I've given one which I will find at least satisfactory. If Dr. Bahnsen doesn't agree, we
can hear from him. Nothing can qualify as evidence of the existence of a god unless we have
some idea of what we're searching for. That's why we need the definition.
3. The Burden of Proof
Throughout history there are eleven major kinds of evidence or proof have been offered
for God's existence. In my campus visits all kinds of other things have been offered as
proof, but they all can fit under these eleven categories with some juggling. Now if these
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 7 -
eleven proofs do not work out logically, or lead to logical self-contradictions, then we can
only say that God's existence is not proven; it is unproved, not disproved, as I mentioned
before.
Now if I assert that this gentleman can fly by flapping his arms, as I said, the burden of
proof is on him. Suppose I make a more complicated statement. Suppose I say that my dog
can talk in complete sentences. Well, again, I'm making a kind of unusual statement, and it's
up to me to offer the evidence. So. I'd better be prepared to do that, or I'd better be
prepared to have people not believe what I say.
I'd like a demonstration either of this gentleman flying or of my dog talking, if I were the
person being asked to make a decision before I admitted that such things were possible or
existed. How easy would it be to show that this gentleman cannot fly or that my dog cannot
talk in complete sentences? As I mentioned before, you get into a real problem trying to
show that something cannot happen or that something does not exist.
For example, if I wanted to prove that unicorns do not exist, I could examine this room
and conclude that there are no unicorns in this room, which is a small area. To prove the
general nonexistence of something like unicorns, you would have to search the entire
universe simultaneously. And then you could only say that no unicorns existed at the
moment we searched the universe. But maybe they were there five minutes before, or if
maybe we only searched the whole earth, they were on another planet at the time. There are
all kinds of possibilities. So, you cannot prove that something does not exist. That's why, as I
mentioned before, the definition of an atheist is not someone who thinks he has proven that
God does not exist, because he cannot.
C. The Theistic Proofs
I want to quickly go over some of the eleven major proofs. They have been 900 years in
the formulation, and during this 900 years, this is what people have basically come up with.
1. The First Cause (Cosmological) Argument
Everything must have a cause, therefore the universe must have a cause, and that cause
was God. God was the first or uncaused cause.
Response: This leads to a real logical bind for the theist, because, if everything must
have a cause, then God must have a cause. If God had a cause, he cannot be the first or
uncaused cause. If God did not have a cause, then not everything must have a cause. If not
everything needs a cause, then perhaps the universe doesn't need a cause. Thus, there is a
logical bind and the proof fails.
2. The Design (Teleological) Argument
The universe is wonderful and exhibits evidence of design and order. These things must
have had a designer that was even more wonderful, and that designer was God.
Response: Surely if the world is wonderfully designed, and God, the designer, is
more wonderfully designed, then God must have a designer even more wonderful than He
Page - 8 - The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein
is. If God didn't need a designer, than neither should the relatively less wonderful thing such
as the universe have needed one. Again, there is a logical self-contradiction.
3. The Argument from Life
Life cannot originate from the random movement of atoms, and yet life exists. Therefore
the existence of a God was necessary to create life.
Response: Basically, life didn't originate from the random movement of atoms, and
no scientists would say so. Because there are limits of a chemical composition and physics of
atoms, and they do not move in any possible way, chemicals do not combine in any possible
way. That's why when you see these one billion to one kind of odds that people have set for
life originating. They're all wet. They haven't considered the possibility that not every
reaction can occur. So, it's possible to explain the origins of life without a god and using the
principle of parsimony or Occam's Razor, I think we are left with the simpler explanation.
[which is] the one without the God. I'll go into more detail on that later.
4. The Argument from Revealed Theology
The Bible says that God exists, and the Bible is the inspired word of God, therefore
what it says must be true. Therefore God exists.
Response: Well this is obviously a circular argument. It begs the question. We are
trying to show whether God exists; therefore, calling the Bible the word of God is not
permitted, because it assumes the existence of the very thing we are trying to prove. So, if
the Bible is not the Word of God, then we cannot give any real weight to the fact that it
mentions that God exists. Thus, it does not become a proof. In fact, to prove God from the
Bible is standing things on its head. First you must prove God, then you may say whether
God dictated it or inspired it. But you can't really use the Bible as Dr. Bahnsen seems to
want to do as evidence for existence of God, per se.
5. The Argument from Miracles
The existence of miracles requires the presence of a supernatural force, or a God.
Miracles do occur, and therefore there is a supernatural force or God.
Response: Again, this is begging the question; it requires that you must believe in a
God first, beforehand. Then you say there are such things as miracles, which are acting of a
God who creates violations of his own laws. So, it is not evidence, per se, it can serve as
supplementary evidence, once you have good evidence in another kind of way for the
existence of a God - you can use miracles as a additional argument, but in and of itself it
doesn't show the existence of a God, because it assumes that which needs to be proven.
A quote from Thomas Paine about miracles: "When you see an account is given about
such a miracle, by a person who says he saw it, it raises a question in the mind that is very
easily decided. Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man
could tell a lie? We have never seen in our time Nature go out of her course, but we have
good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in this same time. It is therefore at
least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie" I think those are good odds.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 9 -
6. The Ontological Argument
God is, by definition, perfect. A necessary quality of any perfect object is that it exists. If
it did not exist it would not be perfect. If perfection requires existence, then God exists.
Response: There is a problem with the word exists. In order for something to be
perfect, it must first exist. If something didn't exist, the word perfect wouldn't mean anything.
First you must have existence, then possibly you may have perfection. So, this again is going
backwards; you must first have an existing God, and then you can decide whether He's
perfect, if perfection is a quality of a God, then He may be perfect, but He first must exist.
7. The Moral Argument
All people have moral values. The existence of these values cannot be explained unless
they were implanted in people by a God. Therefore, God exists.
An atheist's problem: There are simpler ways to explain the origin of moral values
without requiring the existence of a God to implant them into people. Besides, if moral
values did come from a God, then all people should have the same moral values. They don't.
People's moral values are a result of an accommodation they have made with their particular
environment and have taught to their children as a survival mechanism.
8. The Wish Argument
Without the existence of a God people wouldn't have any reason to live or be good,
therefore there has to be a God. Most people believe in a God, therefore there is a God.
Response: This really isn't a proof, it is just a wish. It's like saying that it would be nice
to have a God (which it would), but that doesn't have anything to do with whether there is
one or not.
9. The Argument from Faith
The existence of God cannot be proven by the use of reason, but only by the use of
faith. The use of faith shows that there is a God, therefore God exists.
Response: Reason is a proven way to obtain factual information about the universe.
Faith has not been shown to produce true information about the universe because faith is
believing something is so because you want it to be so, without adequate evidence.
Therefore, faith cannot be used to prove the existence of anything.
In addition, there is the fact that faith often gives you the opposite answer to what is
given by reason to the same problem. This also shows that faith does not provide valid
answers.
10. The Argument from Religious Experience
Many people have claimed to have a personal experience or encounter with God,
therefore God must exist.
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Response: This is a difficult one to handle, because, first of all, I've never had such
an experience, but I'm sure that people have absolutely honestly thought they've had such
experiences. But, the feeling of having met God cannot be confused with the fact of having
met God. There is a semantic confusion; and also, we cannot use our own feelings as if they
were valid ways to obtain information about the world. They are feelings that we have inside
of us, but we cannot demonstrate them to another person. They cannot be used as an
evidence. If everyone had that same experience; like if we all looked around the room and
we all agreed that there is a clock over there, then we might say that the vision of a clock is a
consensual one, if everyone agreed on it. Other than that, if you saw a clock and no one else
did, or if only two or three people did in the room, then you have a bit of a problem.
11. Pascal's Wager
We have no way of knowing if a God exists or not, and we have no way of finding out,
but you have nothing to lose by believing in a God, but on the other hand, you do have a lot
to lose by not believing in a God, and it turns out later on that there is one after we're dead,
Response: This is only true if 1) You are right about a God, and 2) you have picked
the right religion, because you might wind up on the Judgment Day and be right about a
God, but He says, "What religion were you?" and you say, "I was a believer in Islam." And
He says, "Sorry, Catholicism is the right religion. Down you go." So, in addition, you might
have a God Who punishes people who have lived virtuous lives, say an atheist who has lived
a virtuous life, did wonderful deeds in the world, but just does not believe in a God, if the
God punishes him, you have an irrational God who is just as likely to punish the believer as
the unbeliever.
III. CROSS EXAMINATION
A. Bahnsen Examines Stein
Bahnsen: Dr. Stein, do you have any sources that you can give to us, very briefly, that
defines atheism as one who finds the theistic proofs inadequate rather than one
who denies the existence of God?
Stein: Yes, sir. George Smith's book, which you will find for sale at the back of the
room, upstairs, later, called Atheism: The Case Against God, makes what I
think is the finest book ever written on the subject which was quite explicit. I
have a copy right here. I can quote you, in exact words if you like....
Bahnsen: Oh , I don't think that will be necessary. Do you have any other sources?
Stein: Do I have any other sources?
Bahnsen: Do You have any other sources?
Stein: Sure.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 11 -
Bahnsen: What will they be?
Stein: Charles Bradlaugh, who, I will give you right now. 100 years ago Charles
Bradlaugh made the comment in one of his pleas for atheism. he said....
Bahnsen: That will be fine. Dr. Stein, did you hear Dr. Bahnsen use the following
argument: "The Bible says that God exists; the Bible is the inspired word of God;
therefore what it says must be true; therefore God exists?"
Stein: You did not use that; you just assume that was so because you were quoting from
the Bible as if it were....
Bahnsen: I didn't ask you what I assumed, I asked you if I used that argument.
Stein: No, you did not use the argument; but you used the results of the argument.
Bahnsen: Dr. Stein, you mentioned eleven basic proofs for the existence of God. Did you
mention Transcendental Proof for the existence of God?
Stein: No, I didn't mention it by name. I think its not a proof. I wouldn't call it a proof.
As I understand it, the way you said it...
Bahnsen: There's no time for rebuttal on that point. Otherwise you didn't deal with that
particular one. All right, are all rational questions answered in the very same way?
Stein: No, they’re not. They are answered by logical methods, though, that are the
same: reason, logic, and presenting evidence and facts.
Bahnsen: I heard you use "logical binds" and "logical self-contradiction" in your speech .
You did say that?
Stein: I used that phrase, yes.
Bahnsen: Do you believe there are laws of logic then?
Stein: Absolutely.
Bahnsen: Are they universal?
Stein: They are agreed upon by human beings not realizing it is just out in nature.
Bahnsen: Are they simply conventions then?
Stein: They are conventions that are self-verifying.
Bahnsen: Are they sociological laws or laws of thought?
Stein: They are laws of thought which are interpreted by man.
Bahnsen: Are they material in nature?
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Stein: How could a law be material?
Bahnsen: That's the question I'm going to ask you.
Stein: I would say no.
B. Stein Examines Bahnsen
Stein: Dr. Bahnsen, would you call God material or immaterial?
Bahnsen: Immaterial.
Stein: What is something that's immaterial?
Bahnsen: Something not extended in space.
Stein: Can you give me any other example, other than God, that's immaterial?
Bahnsen: The laws of logic.
Stein: Are we putting God as an equivalent thing to the laws of logic?
Bahnsen: No, only if you think all factual questions are answered in the very same way
would you even assume that by thinking that there are two immaterial things that
they must be identical....
Stein: I not assuming that. I'm just assuming that because the laws of logic are
conventions among men. Are you saying that God is a convention among men.
Bahnsen: I don't accept the claim that the laws of logic - that Christ's laws of logic - are
conventional.
Stein: OK, Is your God omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent?
Bahnsen: He is.
Stein: You don't find this to be a contradiction at all?
Bahnsen: I do not.
Stein: Well, we'll show, a little later, that it is. If your argument that favors the existence
of God is shown to be incorrect, will you relinquish your belief in God?
Bahnsen: If my arguments are disproved?
Stein: Yes.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 13 -
Bahnsen: Will I relinquish my belief in God? If there were no arguments for the existence
of God, I wouldn't believe in God.
Stein: That's not quite answering the question. If someone could show you that there
are no arguments, would you relinquish your belief? I'm trying to see what's the
basis of your belief.
Bahnsen: You're the one who said that it's impossible to show a universal negative;no one
could show that there are no arguments for the existence of God. So you can
only deal with the ones I know of.
Stein: OK. If some one showed that all the ones you produced were invalid, what
would be your position?.
Bahnsen: Rationally speaking, if there is no basis for believing in the existence of God, I
would relinquish that belief.
Stein: Is God good?
Bahnsen: Yes, He is.
Stein: How do you know that?
Bahnsen: He saved me. He created me. He made the world and made it good.
He sent His Son into the world to die for my sins. Many of these evidences are
quite convincing to me, but I don't use them outside of a world view in which
they make sense, in which they are taken as true. If you mean if God is good in
such a way - or can I give you evidence that you would accept - that would
depend on what your presuppositions are.
Stein: Well, I'm asking if God says something, anything, is it right because...anything
God does is good because God is good, or does it become good just because
God said it. I don't know if I said that right. I guess I did.
Bahnsen: No, I understand the problem. What God says to be good is good, because it
reflects his own character. God is good and is the standard of goodness. That's
one of the presuppositions to the Christian world view.
Stein: But isn't it indeed a presupposition which is presupposed before there is any
actual data from God.
Bahnsen: Is this a question about my first opening statement?
Stein: In a sense it is, because it has to do with the whole idea of whether there are
absolutes outside of God which is an important issue in this debate may come up
later.
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Bahnsen: I still think were straining at the limits of debate rules here; but I will answer your
question. There are no absolutes outside of God.
Stein: So, in other words, the fact that God is good is something that God told you;
and that's why you accepted it rather than moving ahead and assuming it as a
presupposition which is what you said a minute ago.
Bahnsen: That's extremely simplistic. God told me and provided evidence of it.
Stein: But you also said it was a presupposition.
Bahnsen: That's right.
Stein: Isn't that a contradiction?
Bahnsen: Not at all. There many things which are presupposed as well as evidenced in this
world. For instance: The laws of logic.
Stein: I would disagree with that. When we talk about immaterial things are you also
saying that there is such a thing, let's say, as a ghost or the soul, which are
examples of immaterial things? Would you put them under immaterial?
Bahnsen: I would say that man is a living soul and has an immaterial aspect to his being,
yes.
Stein: And how would you prove this?
Bahnsen: Does this have to do with the existence of God then?
Stein: Well it has to do with the existence of immaterial things.
Bahnsen: Well, if there is an immaterial Being, God, and if the Bible is His Word, then I
would say that his revealing of the human nature of man in the Bible is sufficient
proof. And that takes us back logically to what you're bound to say to whether
God Himself does exist. That's what we're supposed to be debating.
Stein: So, you're giving me a circular argument.
Bahnsen: No, I'm telling you what the debate is about.
Stein: I know what the debate is about. I'm asking for an answer to the question. I
didn't get one.
Bahnsen: I'm not debating the nature of the soul tonight, but the existence of God. Yes, I
believe man has a soul.
Stein: The only reason I asked about the soul is because this is a simpler immaterial
object that most will hold to.
Bahnsen: I don't believe it is similar. I mean that's your point.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 15 -
Stein: Simpler, not similar, I said.
IV. REBUTTAL—BAHNSEN
We are debating the existence of God. I specified I would be speaking in order to avoid
logical contradictions on one particular view of God, the Christian view of God, which I
personally hold. Dr. Stein said he will not restrict himself to the Christian conception of
God. That's fine, he may not. But all the time he uses anything outside the Christian
conception of God will be irrelevant. In fact I would join him in refuting those other
conceptions of God. The existence of God that I'm arguing tonight is the Christian one.
Secondly, when Dr. Stein defines an atheist as one who finds the theistic proofs
inadequate, that is unproved but not disproved, he's engaging in some linguistic revision. He
does quote for us, of course, (he said that he could and I trust that he can) two atheists who
likewise define atheism in that way. But you see, that strikes me as similar to a Christian who
defines his position as being true at the outset; and therefore it must be true, because it is
true by definition.
He has minimized the task that is before him by simply saying "I'm here to show the
theistic proofs are inadequate." Well, you see even at that point he didn't do his job, even
though that was less than he really should be doing. Because he gave us eleven basic proofs
for God, attributing one to me which I didn't use, do not use, and do not assume. He
mentioned eleven basic proofs, but did not deal with the ones I gave in my opening
presentation. So he has not dealt yet with the argument that is before us this evening.
Dr. Stein has mentioned logical binds and logical self-contradictions. He says that he
finds that the laws of logic are universal; however, they are conventional in nature. That is
not at all acceptable philosophically. If the laws of logic are conventional in nature, then you
might have different societies that use different laws of logic.
It might be appropriate in some societies to say, "Well, my car is in the parking lot, and
it's not the case that my car is in the parking lot." There are laws in certain societies that have
a convention that says, "go ahead and contradict yourself". But then there are in a sense,
some groups in our own society that might think that way. Thieves have a tendency to say,
"this is not my wallet, but it is not the case that it's not my wallet." They may engage in
contradictions like that, but I don't think any of us would want to accept this.
The laws of logic are not conventional or sociological. I would say the laws of logic have
a transcendental necessity about them. They are universal; they are invariant, and they are
not material in nature. And if they are not that, then I'd like to know, in an atheist universe,
how it is possible to have laws in the first place. And secondly, how it is possible to justify
those laws?
The laws of logic, you see, are abstract. As abstract entities, which is the appropriate
philosophical term, not spiritual - entities that Dr. Stein is speaking of - abstract entities -
that is to say, not individual (or universal in character). They are not materialistic. As
universal, they are not experienced to be true. There may be experiences where the laws of
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logic are used, but no one has universal experience. No one has tried every possible instance
of the laws of logic.
As invariant, they don't fit into what most materialists would tell us about the constantly
changing nature of the world. And so, you see, we have a real problem on our hands. Dr.
Stein wants to use the laws of logic tonight. I maintain that by so doing he's borrowing my
world view. For you see, in the theistic world view the laws of logic makes sense, because in
the theistic world view there can be abstract, universal, invariant entities such as the laws of
logic. Within the theistic world view you cannot contradict yourself, because to do so you're
engaging in the nature of lying, and that's contrary to the character of God as we perceive it.
And so, the laws of logic are something Dr. Stein is going to have to explain as an atheist or
else relinquish using them.
The transcendental argument for the existence of God, then, which Dr. Stein has yet to
touch, and which I don't believe he can surmount, is that without the existence of God it is
impossible to prove anything. And that's because in the atheistic world you cannot justify,
you cannot account for, laws in general: the laws of thought in particular, laws of nature,
cannot account for human life, from the fact that it's more than electrochemical complexes
in depth, and the fact that it's more than an accident. That is to say, in the atheist conception
of the world, there's really no reason to debate; because in the end, as Dr. Stein has said, all
these laws are conventional. All these laws are not really law-like in their nature, they're just,
well, if you're an atheist and materialist, you'd have to say they're just something that happens
inside the brain.
But you see, what happens inside your brain is not what happens inside my brain.
Therefore, what happens inside your brain is not a law. It doesn't necessarily correspond to
what happens in mine. In fact, it can't be identical with what is inside my mind or brain,
because we don't have the same brain.
As the laws of logic come down to being materialistic entities, then they no longer have
their law-like character. If they are only social conventions, then, of course, what we might
do to limit debate is just define a new set of laws. and ask for all who want the convention
that says, "Atheism must be true or theism must be true, and we have the following laws that
we conventionally adopt to prove it," and see who'd be satisfied.
But no one can be satisfied without a rational procedure to follow. The laws of logic can
not be avoided, the laws of logic can not be accounted for in a Materialist universe.
Therefore, the laws of logic are one of the many evidences that without God you can't prove
anything at all.
V. REBUTTAL—STEIN
Okay, I'll now touch on the transcendental evidence for the existence of God which the
only time I could really do such is in my rebuttal. But first I'd like to do one more important
thing. Rather than asking what is the cause of the universe, we must first ask "does the
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 17 -
universe require a causal explanation?" Rather than asking what is responsible for the design
in nature, we must ask "does nature exhibit design?"
God is given as a solution to a metaphysical problem, but no consideration is given to
whether such a problem exists in the first place. But God is not an explanation for anything.
For example, if you say, if I ask you "how did the universe come [into existence]" and you
say "God created it," that doesn't answer the question. The question is "how did God create
it". And I defy any theist to define how God created it. Basically what you're saying is that an
unknowable Being is responsible for a given phenomenon which He caused through
unknowable means. And that's not an explanation, but rather a concession that the
phenomena is totally inexplicable.
Now, about the laws of science in an atheist world: first of all I don't think that Dr.
Bahnsen understands what a scientific law is. A scientific law is an observation that is made
over and over and over again. The law of gravitation: we drop objects all over the world in
different situations and we always observe they fall to the earth. So eventually we make a
statistical statement that objects are likely, almost 100% likely, to fall to the earth if they're
not accelerating in the opposite direction. Or if a rocket doesn't fall immediately, but [it]
eventually will if it doesn't escape the gravity of the earth. So these scientific laws are merely
consensuses based on thousands and hundreds of thousands of observations.
The laws of logic are also consensuses based on observations. The fact that they can
predict something correctly shows they're on the right track, they're corresponding to reality
in some way.
If I can plug in a formula and show exactly where a cannon ball is gonna land and
predict exactly where it will strike, then my mathematics is reflecting something valid about
the behavior of cannon balls that are fired on this earth. Otherwise, I wouldn't have picked
the exact spot. And mathematics is basically logic again used in the same way by consensus
of tested things that are self verifying. I'm not explaining it as well as I could, but that's
basically what I'm saying.
An atheist's universe, then, goes on the basis of the fact that matter has certain intrinsic
behavior patterns. Electrons repel each other because they're both negatively charged.
Protons repel each other and electrons and protons attract each other. The opposite poles of
a magnet do that. It's an inherent property of matter.
That is what produces the regularity in the universe. If there were no regularity then
there would be no science possible, because you couldn't predict anything. Matter wouldn't
behave the same way the second time as it did the first time, or the third or the fourth. So
the lack of having a God is in no way detrimental to logic and to having laws in an atheist
universe.
In fact, if we had a God we could very easily have an irrational God who did things
capriciously. So that if I threw a ball one time I threw it would go up and the next time down
and crash right down and soar right up. That would be just as much evidence for a God as a
regularly behaving ball or object dropped. You could have a God who makes the rules and
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changes them from time to time, or we could have one that makes things the same or we
could have a universe that just behaves that way normally.
Now, to ask what caused the universe, although we didn't get into this exact thing. I'm
trying to show you that its to ask an absurd question in the first place. To give God as the
answer, first of all, I mentioned it doesn't explain anything; but secondly, before something
can act as a cause it must first exist. That is, it must be a part of the universe, and the
universe sets the foundation for a causal explanation, but it cannot itself require a causal
explanation.
I don't know if that's clear. If I say every human being had a mother, that's a valid
question. But if I ask, "who is the mother of the human race," that is a non valid question,
because the human race did not have a mother.
I can ask what was the cause of this planet exploding, but to ask what was the cause of
the universe is to ask an invalid question. And to offer the answer as God is to offer an
invalid answer to an invalid question.
We haven't gotten into morality. I think I'm going to leave that for the second half. If
Dr. Bahnsen doesn't raise it I will. He makes an awful lot of statements that are basically
feelings: he felt God enter his life, he felt this happened, he felt that Jesus was resurrected. If
he were held to a historian's standard, especially the standard when a miracle is done, as
David Hume said, "when a miraculous or very unlikely event such as the resurrection..." ,
although he didn't use that exact analogy, that exact example, "occurs, we must demand an
extraordinary amount of proof."
If I say "the sun is going to rise tomorrow," you don't need too much proof because it's
been rising every day. If I say "the sun is not going to rise tomorrow," then we need an
extraordinary amount of evidence, because it's an extraordinary event. Now he has not been
held up to the historian's standard to alot of the things he's accepted from the Bible as
evidence from God; and I think if he did so, he would soon see that those evidences dried
up.
Now to get to transcendental evidence, finally. The statement that if God did not exist
we couldn't prove anything, and that logic and scientific laws would be invalid is nonsense, and
I think I've demonstrated part of that.
He says that the laws of logic are the same everywhere. This is not true, although they
are mostly the same. And I wonder if he ever heard of a Zen Koan, and the answer to a Zen
Koan, is something which is like - "what is the sound of one hand clapping" is the most
famous Zen Koan - The answer to that kind of question is in a different kind of logic in a
sense, or extra logical, if you want to call it that.
But I think that most logic that we accept in the Western world and most of the Eastern
world is the basis of agreement on people that reflect something about the universe. The
idea that transcendental evidence of the existence of God is the impossibility of the opposite,
that the world view would not be rational if it were atheistic, is total nonsense; and I've
demonstrated to you that it depends on the inherent properties of matter. If matter has
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 19 -
properties that it behaves than we have order in the universe, and we have a logical, rational
universe without God. The God issue is not germane if matter behaves in a regular way; and
I would hold that the properties of matter, as demonstrated over and over again, are regular.
It's an inherent property of matter.
So I think the transcendental evidence statement can be dismissed as mere wishful
thinking coupled with misinformation about what scientific laws are and what atheists would
hold. In fact most scientists are atheists - in fact science itself is atheistic. Science is not
allowed to use a supernatural explanation for anything.
There's a very good reason for that. If your experiment came out one way you could say
God did it. If it came out the opposite way you could say God did that. You would never
make any progress in explaining anything in science. And so the agreed upon consensus or
rules of science is that naturalistic explanations only are asked for and allowed.
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SEGMENT TWO
I. OPENING STATEMENT—STEIN
It would be logically wrong to say that if all the proofs fail for the existence of God that
one is justified in saying that there is no God. There's a logical fallacy - argumentum ad
ignorantum (or something like that) that says that you accept something just because all
evidence to the contrary fails.
However, we have two other factors here that we must consider. One of them is the fact
that 900 years have passed since Anselm first postulated the Ontological Proof, and Thomas
Aquinas in 1200 or so. So we have a long period of time in which all these proofs that are
being professed failed; that's some evidence about probability - about there being a proof
that someone will come up with that will succeed being pretty unlikely.
In addition, we have a number of things which I wouldn't call proofs, but I would call
evidence which make the existence of God even more improbable. One of them is the
problem of evil: If an all-good God exists, why is there evil in the world?
We are told that with God all things are possible. If it is possible, if all things are possible,
it would be possible to create a world in which the vast majority of suffering which is
morally pointless, such as the pain and misery of animals, the cancer and blindness of little
children, the humiliations of senility and insanity are avoided.
These are apparently the inflictions of the Creator Himself, or else we have a God who
isn't omnipotent. If you admit that, then you deny His goodness. If you say that He could
not have done otherwise, then you deny [that] with Him all things are possible.
So the atheist can present several arguments [in] which we sort of increase the possibility
that there is not a God. [But they are] not proofs, as I said. One of them would be the
problem of evil. The idea is that the presence of evil is incompatible with the all good, all
knowing. all powerful God as Dr. Bahnsen says he believes in.
Now he can come up with the statement that all the injustice in this world will be
corrected in the next world, but that would be something [a statement] that he would make
without any evidence whatsoever. It's just, again, wishful thinking.
He could also get out of this bind by saying that God is not all powerful, that some evil
things are done without His permission, so to speak, in which case his statement that he
believes in an omnipotent God is falsified.
He could also [use] the old argument about free will. That's basically a morass into which
he may fall if he likes, but it will not do. To say that god gave man a free will, and therefore
can choose between evil and good is to imply that God is unable to make a man who could
examine both sides and always choose the good.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 21 -
In other words, He's limited; and the only way He could do it is to let man choose it for
himself, as if that would take something away from man if he could examine both sides and
still have guidance within himself to always choose the good.
Now there's no obvious physical evidence of a God. If God wanted man to believe in
Him . . .all He'd have to do is put in an appearance, and that way anyone would believe in
Him, except a fool.
Well, the Christian says this may sound logical to you but it doesn't to God. God
evidently wants man to believe on faith without adequate evidence. Well, if He does, then
why did He give man the power of reason? And why did He give man more reason than any
other animal has?
If all the many things on the earth were created by a god, and if He is an all-loving God
Who made man in His own image, how do you explain the fact that He must have created
the tapeworm, the malaria parasite, tetanus germs, polio, ticks, mosquitoes, cockroaches, and
fleas? Now, surely, the dog is not suffering from Original Sin and needs to be infected with
fleas , so that he can get to doggie heaven which will be better than his present life!
The standard answer of theists to this kind of question is that things have to be better
after death. You know, we have these things on earth; it's veil of tears, so to speak. That
doesn't make much sense. I mean, any God that would punish a man for what his ancestors
did is not a very moral God. (We're talking about Original Sin now - Adam and Eve and the
Garden of Eden.)
There are many instances on this earth in which no distinction seems to be made
between the innocent and the guilty, between the Christian and the non-believer, for
example, in natural disasters like an earthquake or a fire. It kills Christians; it kills babies; it
kills animals; it kills non-Christians. You surely can't say that these people were punished in
some way for something they did. It also demolishes churches and hospitals without
distinction. Isn't this evidence that, at the very least, whatever force there is controlling these
things doesn't care if people are Christians or not? Or whether they're innocent or not?
If there's only one God and He cares at all [about] how He's worshipped, why are there
so many different conceptions of God and so many different religions, all claiming to be the
one true religion? Does that mean they're all mistaken? Does it mean that one is correct, and
all the others are mistaken?
There's an old joke about that atheist in which he said to a believer, "You now, you
believe that 99 of 100 gods are false. I just go one step further and say that the 100th one is
also false . I'm sure that Dr. Bahnsen - in fact he even agreed that he would help me refute
any other gods but the Christian God.
If Christianity is the one true religion, why are so many people who sincerely believe in it
found in the slums and organized crime? I'm not saying that all people there are Christians;
I'm not saying that all people in organized crime are Christians, either. But, evidently, if
Christianity led to an elevation of moral standards - which we haven't gotten into yet, but I'm
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going to jump the gun here a little bit - Christians would be expected to be highly moral, not
less moral.
In fact studies of the religious beliefs of prisoners have shown that almost all are devout
Christians. The numbers of atheists is less than one percent. These statistics were so
disturbing to the people that conducted them that they stopped collecting them recently.
You can't argue with the facts, though. Any system that seems to fail in its application as
frequently as Christianity does is not a very good or practical system for mankind to follow.
I don't want to get into a real discussion of Christianity, except that Dr. Bahnsen insists
that the Christian God and Jesus and the other evidences that come from the Christian God
and the concomitants with them are true while the others are not.
What are we left with after this exercise? Well, we can see that we can't prove the
existence of God by any rational or logical process - and Dr. Bahnsen has not offered us any.
We have a factual issue here. Again, as I've said, because the proofs fail, it doesn't mean
that His existence is disproved; but it certainly is unproved. This does not leave us in a bleak,
horrible world; there are many things that the atheist does with his life which makes this
world a nice place and in order to get to the solving of the problems of this world, instead of
hoping for a pie in the sky, which does not seem to be very probable.
II. OPENING STATEMENT—BAHNSEN
You've heard Dr. Stein refer to the transcendental argument and try to dismiss it simply
as wishful thinking. If our debate is going to degenerate to that level, then I dismiss
everything he's been saying as wishful thinking and delusion, and why don't we all go home.
But I know we're here to argue. We're here to argue a point, and I'm going to stay with the
argument that has been proposed and see if Dr. Stein has any better answer than just to
engage in name calling.
Dr. Stein proposes an atheist world view. I propose a Christian theistic world view.
There are other proposals out there that may want their evening to debate as well. I'm
maintaining that the proof of the Christian world view is that the denial of it leads to
irrationality. That is, without the Christian God, you cannot prove anything.
As one illustration of that, although I want to get into more than that in the second
speech, I have referred to the laws of logic. An atheist universe cannot account for the laws
of logic. Dr. Stein, in his responding to that, spoke more about scientific law than he did
about the laws of logic, and I'm going to come back to that in my rebuttal to ask about his
understanding of scientific law. However, we still hear him saying that laws of logic are a
matter of consensus and are just this way. That is to say, "I don't have to prove that the laws
of logic exist or that they are justified. It's just this way."
Now friends, how would you like it if I would have conducted the debate in that fashion
this evening? God exists because it's just that way. You just can't avoid it. You see, that's not
debate, that's not argument, and it's not rational. And therefore, we have, interestingly, an
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 23 -
illustration in our very debate tonight that atheists cannot sustain a rational approach to this
question.
What are the laws of logic, Dr. Stein, and how are they justified? We'll still have to
answer that question from a materialist standpoint. From a Christian standpoint, we have an
answer - obviously they reflect the thinking of God. They are, if you will, a reflection of the
way God thinks and expects us to think.
But if you don't take that approach and want to justify the laws of logic in some a priori
fashion, that is apart from experience, something that he suggests when he says these things
are self-verified. Then we can ask why the laws of logic are universal, unchanging, and
invariant truths - why they, in fact, apply repeatedly in the realm of contingent experience.
Dr. Stein told you, "Well, we use the laws of logic because we can make accurate
predictions using them." Well, as a matter of fact, that doesn't come anywhere close to
discussing the vast majority of the laws of logic. That isn't the way they're proven. It's very
difficult to conduct experiments of the laws of logic of that sort. They are more conceptual
by nature rather than empirical or predicting certain outcomes in empirical experience. But
even if you want to try to justify all of them in that way, we have to ask why is it that they
apply repeatedly in a contingent realm of experience.
Why, in a world that is random, not subject to personal order, as I believe [it is] for a
Christian God, why is it that the laws of logic continue to have that success generating
feature about them? Why should they be assumed to have anything to do with the realm of
history? [And] why should reasoning about history or science, or empirical experience have
these laws of thought imposed upon it?
Once again we have to come back to this really unacceptable idea that they are
conventional. If they are conventional, then of course, there ought to be just numerous
approaches to scholarship everywhere, with approaches to history, to science, and so forth,
because people just adopt different laws of logic. That just isn't the way scholarship
proceeds, and if anyone thinks that is adequate, they just need to go to the library and read a
bit more.
The laws of logic are just not treated as conventions. To say that they are merely
conventions is to simply say "I haven't got an answer." Now if you want to justify logical
truths along a posteriori lines, that is rather than arguing that they are self evident, but rather
arguing that there is evidence for them that we can find in experience or by observation -
that approach, by the way, was used by John Stuart Mill - people will say we gain confidence
in the laws of logic through repeated experience, then that experience is generalized. But in
some weaker moments I think Dr. Stein was trying to say that.
Of course, some of the suggested logical truths, it turns out, are so complex or so
unusual that it is difficult to believe that anyone has perceived their instances in experience.
But even if we restrict our attention to the other more simple laws of logic, it should be seen
that if [their] truth, cannot be decided independently of experience, then they actually
become contingent. That is, if people cannot justify the laws of logic independent of
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experience, then you can only say they apply, as far as I know, to any past experience that
I've had.
They are contingent, they lose their necessity, universality, and invariance. Why should a
law of logic, which is verified in one domain of experience, by the way, be taken as true for
unexperienced domains as well? Why should we universalize or generalize about the laws of
logic- especially in a materialistic universe, not subject to the control of a personal God?
Now, it turns out, if the a priori and the a posteriori lines of justification for logical truths
are unconvincing - as I'm suggesting briefly they both are - perhaps we could say they are
linguistic conventions about certain symbols. Certain philosophers have suggested that the
laws of logic would not be taken as inexorably dictated, but rather we impose their necessity
on our language. They become, therefore, somewhat like rules of grammar, and as John
Dewey pointed out so persuasively earlier in the century, laws of grammar, you see, are just
culturally relative. If the laws of logic are like grammar, then the laws of logic are culturally
relative, too.
Why then, are not contradictory systems deemed equally rational? If the laws of logic can
be made culturally relative, then we can win the debate by simply stipulating that a law of
logic that says "anybody who argues in this way has gotten a tautology on his hands, and
therefore it's true.'
Why are arbitrary conventions like the logical truths so useful if they're only
conventional? Why are they so useful in dealing with problems in the world of experience?
We must ask whether the atheist has a rational basis for his claims. Atheists love to talk
about laws of science and laws of logic. They speak as though there are certain moral
absolutes from which Christians were just a few minutes ago being indicted because they
didn't live up to them. But who is the atheist to tell us about laws? In a materialist universe
there are no laws, much less laws of morality that anybody has to live up to.
When we consider that the lectures and essays that are written by logicians and others are
not likely filled with just uninterrupted series of tautologies, we can examine those
propositions which logicians are most concerned to convey. For instance, logicians will say
things like "a proposition has the opposite truth value from its negation."
Now when we look at those kind of propositions, we have to ask the general question:
what type of evidence do people have for that kind of teaching? Is it the same sort of
evidence that is utilized by the biologist, by the mathematician, the lawyer, the mechanic, by
your beautician? What is it that justifies a law of logic, or even beliefs that there is such a
thing? What is a law of logic, after all?
There's no agreement on that question. If we had universal agreement, perhaps it would
be silly to ask the question. It's been suggested to you that it is absurd to ask these sorts of
things, although the analogy that was used by Dr. Stein about the absurdity of asking about
the cause of the world is not at all relevant because that isn't what my argument is...by the
way, it's not absurd to ask that question either. It maybe unnecessary to ask it if you're an
atheist, but certainly not absurd to ask it.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 25 -
But it isn't absurd to ask the question that I'm asking about logic. You see, logicians are
having a great deal of difficulty deciding on the nature of their claims. Anybody who reads in
the philosophy of logic must be impressed with that today.
Some say the laws of logic are inferences comprised of judgments made up of concepts.
Others say that they are arguments comprised of propositions made up of terms. Others say
they are proofs comprised of sentences made up of names. Others have simply said they are
electrochemical processes in the brain. In the end, what you think the laws of logic are will
determine the nature of the evidence you will suggest for them.
Now in an atheist universe, what are the laws of logic? How can they be universal,
abstract, invariant? And how does an atheist justify the use of them? Are they merely
conventions imposed on our experience, or are they something that look like absolute truth?
Dr. Stein, tonight, has wanted to use the laws of logic. I want to suggest to you one more
time that Dr. Stein, in so doing, is borrowing my world view. He's using the Christian
approach to the world, so that there can be such laws of logic, scientific inference, or whathave-
you. But then he wants to deny the very foundation of it.
III. CROSS-EXAMINATION
A. Stein Examines Bahnsen
Stein: Is mathematics either atheistic or theistic?
Bahnsen: Foundations of mathematics, yes.
Stein: Which?
Bahnsen: Theistic.
Stein: Theistic?
Bahnsen: Christian theistic.
Stein: How do you figure that?
Bahnsen: From the impossibility of the contrary. No other world view can justify the laws
of mathematics or of logic, because no other world view can account for
universal invariant, abstract entities such as them.
Stein: Do you think it's fair, since you pointed out that logicians themselves are in great
disagreement about the nature of the laws of logic, to ask me to explain them in a
way that you would find satisfactory?
Bahnsen: Yes, it's fair.
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Stein: Why?
Bahnsen: Because this is a rational debate about world views. You have a naturalistic world
view, I have a super naturalistic one. I want something even beginning to be an
answer of how a naturalist can justify a universal abstract entity. I haven't heard
one yet.
Stein: O.K. Is logic based upon mathematics?
Bahnsen: No.
Stein: Never? Not symbolic logic, for example?
Bahnsen: No.
Stein: I would disagree with you.
Bahnsen: Well, if we want to get into Russell and Whitehead and debate those issues, I'd be
glad to do that, but if you ask a simple question, I can only give you a simple
answer.
Stein: You said...
Bahnsen: Assume the opposite. As far as I'm concerned, as a Christian, I'm not committed
one way or another to that. If you want to say mathematical laws and the
permutation laws of math are the same as those used in logic, that's fine. How do
you justify either one of them is my question.
Stein: Well, I would ask you a more fundamental question that is: you explained that
the laws of logic reflect the thinking of God. Number one, how do you know
this, and number two, what does it mean?
Bahnsen: What difficulty are you having understanding what does it mean?
Stein: I don't know how you are privy to the thinking of God.
Bahnsen: He revealed Himself through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
Stein: And that explains the logic?
Bahnsen: That explains why there are universal standards of reasoning, yes.
Stein: It doesn't explain them to me. Could you explain them again?
Bahnsen: Yeah, we have Bible studies from time to time where we delve into it.
Stein: You mean you spend some time rationalizing the irreconcilable, or reconciling
the irreconcilable? Like the two accounts in Genesis, the two...
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 27 -
Bahnsen: This is a cross-examination. If you have something other than a rhetorical
question, I'll try to answer it.
Stein: Well, it's not intended as a rhetorical question, it's intended as...
Bahnsen: The previous one was rhetorical only.
Stein: Well, it was intended to show that your...
Moderator: Please limit your comments to questions.
Stein: O.K. Saying that logic reflects the thinking of God is to make a non statement.
How is that an answer to anything that's relevant in this discussion?
Bahnsen: It answers the general metaphysical issue of how there can be universal, invariant,
abstract entities in a particular person's world view. If you want to know the
precise relationship, for instance, if somebody wants to know for instance, "how
did God make a cow?",
Okay. The statement that God made the cow has meaning apart from my being able to
explain the mechanics of God making a cow. Likewise, the statement that the laws of logic
are intelligible within a Christian theistic universe has meaning because there are things
which are, in fact, spiritual, immaterial, and have a universal quality, such as God's thinking,
and those standards that He imposes on people.
And so again we can at least metaphysically make sense of invariant abstract entities in
one universe, whereas we can't make sense of them at all in the other. We're not asking for
the mechanics here, or anything precise such as resolving the relationship of logic to math.
I'm simply asking a more general question. If you're an atheist, how, in the atheist universe,
is it possible to have an abstract, universal law?
B. Bahnsen Examines Stein
Bahnsen: Well, Dr. Stein, you made reference to David Hume and his rejection of miracles.
Have you also read his David Hume and his discussion of induction - or more
popularly - the Uniformity of Nature?
Stein: A long time ago. I can't recall exactly what he says, but I have read David Hume.
Bahnsen: Were you convinced a long time ago that you had an answer to Hume's
skepticism about induction?
Stein: I can't answer that question. I don't remember what...This was at least fifteen
years ago I read this.
Bahnsen: The validity of Scientific Laws were undermined by Hume when he contended
that we have no rational basis for expecting the future to be like the past - to be
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the types of events (so that when one event happened, it's a type of event so that
when you see it happening somewhere else) you can expect the same
consequence from similar causation. Hume suggested that there was no rational
basis for expecting the future to be like the past, in which case Science is based
simply on convention or habits of thought. Do you agree with him?
Stein: Not on this issue I don't.
Bahnsen: Do you now have an answer for David Hume?
Stein: I think he was wrong on that one thing, but I also think he was right about a lot
of other things.
Bahnsen: What is the basis for the Uniformity of Nature?
Stein: The Uniformity of Nature comes from the fact that matter has certain properties
which it regularly exhibits. It's a part of the nature of matter. Electrons, opposite
things attract;[whereas] the same charged things repel. There are certain valences
that fill up the shell of an atom, and that's as far as they can combine.
Bahnsen: Have you tested all electrons?
Stein: All the electrons that have been tested repel each other. I have not tested all of
them.
Bahnsen: Have you read all the tests on electrons?
Stein: Me personally? Or can I go on the witness of experts?
Bahnsen: Have you read all the witnesses about electrons?
Stein: All it takes is one witness to say "no", and it will be on the front pages of every
physics journal, and there are none. So I'd say, in effect, yes.
Bahnsen: Well, physicists have their [own] presuppositions by which they exclude contrary
evidence, too...In other words, you haven't experienced all the electrons, but you
would generalize that all the electrons under certain conditions repel each other.
Stein: Just statistically, on the basis of past observation.
Bahnsen: But we don't know that it's going to be that way ten minutes after this debate
then.
Stein: But we see no evidence that things have switched around, do we?
Bahnsen: Do you accept the Zen Buddhist logic that allows for koans, the different kind of
logic that you referred to which is used by Zen Buddhists?
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 29 -
Stein: I'd use the word "extra logical"; it's outside the normal kinds of logic. It's not
necessarily a different kind of logic, but it's just non logical - accepted in place of
logic.
Bahnsen: Are extra logical things absurd?
Stein: They may seem that way to us, but I would say "no, they aren't absurd in the
grand scheme of things."
Bahnsen: Can claims about extra logical matters be true?
Stein: That's impossible to answer; because if we're using logic to answer if something
is true or not, then extra logical things are not something in the analysis of logic.
Bahnsen: Are claims about extra logical entities allowed or disallowed in your world view?
Stein: It depends on what we're talking about. If we're talking about things like Zen
Buddhism, and they confine themselves to these philosophical speculations, then
yes. If you're talking about science, no.
Bahnsen: That sounds very arbitrary.
IV. REBUTTAL—STEIN
I would first like to make one little factual rebuttal (to) a statement that slipped by in the
first speech of Dr. Bahnsen - that atheists caused the French Revolution. This is a false
statement. The leader of the French Revolution was Robespierre who was a Christian. There
may have been atheists there, but that doesn't mean they caused the French Revolution.
There are atheists everywhere.
We've spent a lot of time talking about logic. And yet I'd like to know why Dr. Bahnsen
stresses the laws of logic so much when he has refused to apply them to the existence of
God. I'm not so sure it's even falsifiable; so, therefore I don't know if it's a statement that
can even be tested in any way.
He has stressed the laws of logic because he knows there is no explanation for the laws
of logic that philosophers agree upon. This is a trap! I might have fallen into it, I don't know.
[Yet] it's not relevant to his position. He doesn't have an answer to the laws of logic, either.
To say that they reflect the thinking of God is to make a non-statement. First of all, he
doesn't know what the thinking of God is. All he knows is what has been by men to be what
they thought the thinking of a god might have been many years ago - maybe, if we granted
all the possible things in his favor.
It's like saying God created the universe. Unless you explain how He created it, you have
not made a statement that has any intrinsic value to it. You may have made part of a
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statement, but I want to hear the other half. What is there in the method that God used that
we can learn from? Why did God do it?
Science doesn't try to answer the question "why"...only "how." But theologians do ask
the question "why" and try to answer it. I haven't heard an answer to why God did anything
He supposedly did. Nor have I heard how he did it. These are the two most essentially
meaningful answers to asking a question. If we don't supply these we have ducked the whole
center of the issue, and it's just giving you another mumbling that doesn't go anywhere.
[I'll give you] an example: If I said, "How did that car that's parked in the parking lot -
the red car - how did it get there?" And you say "General Motors made it," that doesn't
explain how the car got there.
Now if you want to go and explain that in Detroit 100 men worked a certain number of
hours to make this car out of steel which they got from Youngstown, Ohio - from the
smelting plant - then maybe we're getting somewhere: I mean, how it got here in existence.
To say that General Motors made it is not answering the question of how the car got here.
Neither is it an answer to say that God made it.
I would ask Dr. Bahnsen to explain if he thinks he knows the answer [which] none of
these philosophers knows about the laws of logic...to put his answer in some kind of
meaningful language. To say that the laws of logic reflect the thinking of God is to make a
non-meaningful statement - not just to me, [but] to anyone.
I want to know whether God thinks rationally all the time, or whether he can be
irrational. How do we know when he's being irrational? Is it possible for him to be
irrational? I want to know what kind of logic God uses. Does He use the kind of logic that
we can demonstrate, that we can test the same way we use the logic that we are talking about
in science? If so, should it be impossible for God to contradict Himself in any way?
Can he make a stone so big he can't lift it? Is that a logical impossibility? Is God limited
by that kind of a thing? Can God make a square circle? These are little logical games we play,
but they have a reflect of a problem that he is having with his concept of God. If God can
do anything, if He 's omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, can he do those things I
asked? And if He does, what kind of logic is he using? The logic of self contradiction? Until
we have some answers to these questions, I don't think we have gotten very much that is
meaningful from Dr. Bahnsen in the first place about any issue. He certainly hasn't applied
logic to the proofs of the existence of God that have been offered by philosophers.
IV. REBUTTAL—BAHNSEN
Dr. Stein has demonstrated, it seems to me repeatedly, in the course of tonight's debate,
the claim that was made very early on in my original statement, and that's that the Atheist
world view cannot give an account of those things which are necessary for a rational
discourse or science.
When asked about Hume, and the skepticism that he generated about induction or the
uniformity of nature, we don't hear an answer coming forth. I don't think there will be an
answer coming forth from the atheist world view. However, Dr. Stein , who is an atheist, has
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 31 -
said - and I think this is close to a quote - "If there were no uniformity, science would be
impossible."
Exactly, Dr. Stein! If there were no uniformity, science would be impossible. So on what
basis in an atheist's universe is science possible, since in an atheist's universe there is no basis
for assuming that there is going to be uniformity?
For someone to say, " well, it's been that way in all the cases in the past that we know of
and therefore very probably is going to be that way in the future" is to assume, because
you're using probability, that the future is going to be like the past, that is to say, is to beg the
very question that's being asked you.
Now, of course, if you don't like the tough philosophical questions that are asked you
about the nature of laws of logic, how they are justified, the nature of natural law, how it is
justified, and so forth, and just dismiss it as absurd questions or non questions that no one
understands and do not have meaning, seems to me is just to try to give medicine to a dead
man. You see, it's to say, "I'm not going to reason about that, because I don't have an answer
to it, and that's just uncomfortable." But you see, these are philosophical questions which
not just Christians, by the way, but all philosophers have had to ask and face throughout the
centuries.
Dr. Stein doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of giving us an answer of how an
atheist world view can account for laws--laws of science, laws of logic, laws of morality. And
yet he does tell us without them, science would be impossible.
As for the transcendental argument "not being logical," I mean, you can claim that, but I
have yet to see Dr. Stein show any self contradiction on any violation of the laws of logic in
it, but of course, if he were, I would ask him if that law of logic is one of the things that we
are necessarily to live according to?
Are we to reason by this law, or is that just a convention? Should I say, "well, it's your
convention, but it's not mine." Or is that law of logic universal, invariant and something that
must be followed if we're going to arrive at truth? If it is, I'm going to ask him how it's
possible to have such a thing in his universe; how he can justify it at all. But he hasn't, shown
any contradiction; he has simply, again, called it illogical.
Whether it's falsifiable or not - I mean, even asking that question, I think, shows that Dr.
Stein is not really aware of the philosophical nature of the question in the debate before us.
No, transcendentals are not falsifiable--that's right--but they are very meaningful, the very
sorts of things that philosophers deal with all the time. Look at Kant or Aristotle or other
philosophers: you'll see they deal with the preconditions of experience. And since they are
preconditions of experience, they are not falsifiable, and yet they are meaningful.
He says that I do not have an answer to these questions either. Well, I certainly do! It's
just that he doesn't like the answer. The answer is that God created the world, and this world
reflects the uniformity that He imposes on it by His governing, and our thinking is to reflect
the same consistency or logical coherence that is in God's thinking.
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How do we learn about those things? He revealed Himself to us. Again, these are simple
answers, the sorts of things Sunday School children learn, but, you know, I've yet to find any
reason not to believe them.
For Dr. Stein to say, "well, these aren't answers" doesn't convince me at all. He says
there aren't going to be answers unless I include how it took place. What is God's method,
and why did he do it? Well, I don't accept those standards. I don't accept that this is a
requirement for an explanation at all. And he doesn't give us a good reason except that he's
not going to satisfied or it's unhelpful to him.
He says it's a non meaningful statement to say that the laws of logic reflect the thinking
of God. He wants to know things like, "can God be irrational?" Well, if you'd ask those
questions in cross examination, I'd answer them. No, God cannot be irrational. Rationality is
measured by the standard of his thinking and his revelation.
The atheist world view cannot account for the laws of logic, [and] cannot account for
any universals or abstract entities, for that matter. [It] cannot account for the uniformity of
nature, and therefore, [it] cannot account for the successes of science.
Nor can the atheist's universe give us universal and absolute laws of morality. And so on
three of the most important issues philosophically that men must face- logic, science, and
morality- the atheist's universe is completely at odds with those things.
Well, we have one minute left, and I want to answer very quickly those few things that
Dr. Stein brought up in his second presentation so that I might rebut them.
He wants to know about the problem of evil. My answer to the problem of evil is this:
there is no problem of evil in an atheist's universe because there is no evil in an atheist's
universe. Since there is no God, there is no absolute moral standard, and nothing is wrong.
The torture of little children is not wrong in an atheist's universe. It may be painful, but it is
not wrong.
It is morally wrong in a theistic universe, and therefore, there is a problem of evil of
perhaps the psychological or emotional sort, but philosophically the answer to the problem of evil is
you don't have an absolute standard of good by which to measure evil in an atheist's universe. You can only
have that in a theistic universe, and therefore, the very posing of the problem presupposes
my world view, rather than his own. God has a good reason for the evil that He plans or
allows.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 33 -
SEGMENT THREE
I. CLOSING STATEMENT—STEIN
Dr. Bahnsen in his last response, and, indeed, throughout his entire talk, has made a
number of claims about what's possible in an atheist's universe and what is not possible in an
atheist's universe. All I can say is that he has a very strange conception of an atheist universe
and perhaps of the universe in general.
First of all, evil in an atheist's universe. Yes, indeed there can be evil in an atheist's
universe. Evil is, by definition, in an atheists universe, that which decreases the happiness of people,
the most unhappiness in people. In other words, if we have two things that we want to make a
comparative evil statement, which is more evil than another, the thing is more evil which
causes more people to be unhappy.
Well, how do we know this? We don't know this; it's a consensus, just like morality in general is a
consensus. It's a consensus reinforced by the teachings of society through its parents to
children, teachers to students, the media, literature, the Bible: all these things reinforce
morality through teaching and the socialization process. And also we pass laws to punish
people that violate some of the more blatant [offenders in] cases that we have said are nono's.
So the idea that there's no evil in an atheist's universe is utter hogwash. Our evil is at
least a rational determinate thing. We don't say, "well, did God make this evil?", and then we
have to go flipping through the Bible to see if it was covered at all. You know, there [are] a
hundred volumes of commentary--at least a hundred volumes, more--called the Talmud
which is the Jew's interpretation of all the places that the Old Testament didn't give them
any guidance on for ethical and moral issues. So, I mean, these things are not clearly not
spelled out in the Bible.
We have no guidance on a lot of things, as to what's evil. Is organ transplant evil? I
mean, you won't find that in your Bible! You've gotta go and look at the issues, and you do
an analysis just the way any rational philosopher would do it, or an the, the ethnical, whew!
an eth--what do you call that person? an ethicist! Couldn't think of the word. So, I mean, we
have standards by which we determine evil and good and in an atheistic world, the atheistic
world view.
I think I've demonstrated that the regularity of matter, which is an inherent property of
matter, explains the way we are able to make laws, which are generalizations in the field of
science. To say that (first of all, most, many, many scientists are atheists--it's been shown by
studies over and over again) So to claim or, as Dr. Bahnsen claims to claim, that science
doesn't give us an atheistic world view that is in conformity with sci-- I mean that science is
not in conformity with an atheistic world view is utter nonsense! Science is in itself atheistic.
It doesn't use God to explain things, and it understands that matter behaves in a regular and
therefore predictable way. And that is the way in which scientific research is done.
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The same with logic. Logic is a consensus, and I think it has a mathematical and
linguistic basis; it has some conformity to the reality of the world. I don't know how many
times we have to repeat that for to get through to Dr. Bahnsen, but it doesn't seem to be.
And he seems to specialize in what we call the "thinking makes it so" school of logic, if
you want to call it that. Because he says something is so, because he knows what God's
thinking was, therefore it is so. The omniscient Dr. Bahnsen has answered. Well, that doesn't
answer anything, if we're going to apply the tests of reason to what he says. His statements
are not only irrational, they are unreasonable.
The idea that the future is going to be like the past; it's a statistical probability statement.
We have never seen a future. Today is the future from yesterday. And yesterday, what is
happening today was the future. We have not seen anything in that time period that we have
observed, which is several hundred years, to show that the regularity of matter and its
behavior is going to change. If it changes, scientific experiments will go haywire, and we'll
know it right off the bat, and then we'll have to revise a lot of things. I think the chances of
that happening are pretty small.
Now, let me just finish by saying that atheism is not a bleak and negative concept. It
frees man, it sweeps away the theological debris that has prevented man from taking action
to correct the problems of this world. We want to feed the hungry, we want to educate the
illiterate, we want to clothe the naked, we want to raise the standard of living, we want to
spread reason and thinking and progress and science.
These are all things which are, in and of themselves, atheistic. We don't do them because
God tells us to do them, we do them because they're right; they need to be done in this
world. And if we do them because they're right and they make people happy, we will be
made happy ourselves by making other people happy. It's a very positive world outlook,
something which I don't think Dr. Bahnsen has even mentioned, but it's certainly the other
side of the coin.
I mean, what happens when you wipe away the God concept? Are you left with nothing?
No, you're left with responsibility that you have to take on yourself. You are responsible for
your actions, and also, you get the credit for the things that you do.
And I would rather have a realistic world view that gives up a few things that would be
nice to have but just don't happen to be true, and I'd rather operate on a world view like that
than I would on making wish fulfillment on things that just are not so.
II. CLOSING STATEMENT—BAHNSEN
As far as my rebuttal/ my closing statement, I need to deal first of all, perhaps in the
entire time analyzing this remark that my statements tonight have been irrational. Perhaps
they have, but saying so doesn't make it so. That's something we just heard, as well. If my
statements have been irrational then we need some standards of reasoning by which these
statements have been shown to be irrational.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 35 -
Dr. Stein has yet to explain to us even in the broadest simplest Sunday School child
manner that I told you about laws of logic, laws of science and laws of morality. He hasn't
even begun to scratch the surface to tell us how in his world view that there can be laws of
any sort. And if there can't be laws, or standards in his world view, then he can't worry about
my irrationality, my alleged irrationality.
The transcendental argument for the existence of God has not been answered by Dr.
Stein. It's been evaded and made fun of, but it hasn't been answered. That's what we're here
for: rational interchange. The transcendental argument says the proof of the Christian God is
that without God one cannot prove anything.
Notice the argument doesn't say that atheists don't prove things, or that they don't use
logic, science or laws of morality. In fact they do. The argument is that their world view cannot
account for what they are doing. Their world view is not consistent with what they are doing; in
their world view there are no laws; there are no abstract entities, universals, or prescriptions.
There's just a material universe, naturalistically explained (as) the way things are happen to
be. That's not law-like or universal; and therefore, their world view doesn't account for logic,
science or morality.
But, atheists, of course, use science and morality. In this argument atheists give continual
evidence to the fact that in their heart of hearts they are not atheists. In their heart of hearts
they know the God I'm talking about. This God made them, reveals Himself continually to
them through the natural order, through their conscience, and through their very use of
reason.
They know this God, and they suppress the truth about him. One of the ways that we
know that they suppress the truth about him is because they do continue to use the laws of
logic, science and morality though their world view doesn't account for them.
Dr. Stein has said that the laws of logic are merely conventional. If so, then on
convention he wins tonight's debate, and on convention I win tonight's debate. And if you're
satisfied with that, you didn't need to come in the first place. You expected the laws of logic
to be applied as universal standards of rationality. Rationality isn't possible in a universe that
just consigns them to convention.
Dr. Stein said the laws of science are law-like because of the inherent character of matter.
But Dr. Stein doesn't know the inherent character of matter. Now if he were God he might
reveal that to us, as I think God has revealed certain things to us about the operation of or
the universe. But he's not God. He doesn't even believe there is a God.
Since he hasn't experienced all the instances of matter and all the electron reactions and
all the other things that scientists look at. Since he hasn't experienced all of those.
He doesn't know the future is going to be like the past. When he says " Well it always has
been in the past and what if it changes tomorrow, won't that make the front pages," that's
not an answer. You see, we're asking what justifies your proceeding on the expectation that the
future's going to be like the past? When they say, " well its always been that way in the past,"
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its just to beg the question. We want to know on what basis your world view allows for this
uniformity of nature and laws of science.
Thirdly, we talked about laws of morality. He said they had morality, the utilitarian
standard of what brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Well that
doesn't justify utilitarianism [simply] to announce it. He's announced that it's a standard. But
why, in an atheistic universe, should we live by that standard. Marquis de Sade enjoyed
torturing women. Now why should he give up torturing women, so that he may bring
greater happiness to those women that he is torturing.
Now, I've got an answer for that. It's not one that Dr. Stein likes, and maybe [it's] not
one that you like, but at least I can begin philosophically to deal with that. I have an answer -
a universal absolute about morality - Dr. Stein does not. He simply has an announced,
stipulated standard. And if morality can be stipulated, then of course, Marquis de Sade can
stipulate his own even as Dr. Stein has stipulated his own.
Why should he feed the poor? He says they want to do that. I grant that. My argument
has never been that atheists are the lousiest people in the world. That's not the point. Some
Christians can be pretty lousy, too. But why is it that I can call atheists or Christians lousy
when they act in the ways we're thinking of? [It's] because I have absolute standards of
morality to judge. Dr. Stein does not.
Therefore, from a transcendental standpoint the atheistic view cannot account for this
debate tonight; because this debate has assumed that we're going to use the laws of logic as
standards of reasoning, or else we're irrational; that we're going to use laws of science; that
we're going to be intelligent men; that we're going to assume induction and causation and all
those things that scientists do. It's assumed in a moral sense that we're not going to be
dishonest and try to lie or just try to deceive you.
If there are no laws of morality, I'd just take out a gun right now and say, " OK, Dr.
Stein, make my day: is there a God or not". You see, if he says, "Oh no, you can't murder me
because there are laws of morality," of course he has made my day, because I've won the
debate. That shows that the atheist's universe is not correct.
But if he says "Oh no, there are no absolute standards; it's all by convention and
stipulation," then I just pull the trigger and I win the debate anyway. Except you wouldn't
expect me to win the debate in that fashion. Absolutely not. You came here expecting
rational interchange. I don't think we've heard much from Dr. Stein.
I've asked him repeatedly - it's very simple, I don't want a lot of details, just begin to
scratch the surface, - how, in a material, naturalistic outlook on life and man his place in the
world, can you account for the laws of logic, science, and morality?
The atheist world view cannot do it, and therefore I feel justified concluding as I did in
my opening presentation this evening by saying that the proof of the Christian God is the
impossibility of the contrary. Without the Christian world view this debate wouldn't make
sense.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 37 -
The Bible tells us, " the fool has said in his heart: there is no God." Don't misunderstand
that. When the Bible uses the word fool it is not engaging in name calling. It's trying to
describe somebody who is dense in the sense that they will not use their reason as God has
given him. (someone who is rebellious and hard hearted) It's the fool who says in his heart
there is no God.
Paul tells us in I Corinthians the first chapter, that God has made foolish the wisdom of
this world. He calls rhetorically, " Where are the wise? Where is the debater of this age?
Hasn't God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" In a sense I think what Paul is telling
us, if I can amplify or read between the lines, is that the whole history of Philosophy is an
argument for the existence of God. The whole history of Philosophy is an argument for the
existence of God because of the impossibility of the contrary.
Someone who wants to say [something that is] contrary to what the Bible says about
God, let him stand up and answer these questions. Let him show that in his heart he may say
there is no God, but he can't live that way. He can't reason that way.
In Romans the first chapter Paul says God is making himself known continually and
persuasively to all men, so that men do not have an excuse for their rejection of the existence
of the Christian God. That isn't to say that all men confess this God. Not all will own up to
Him as their heavenly Father. Not all will submit to Him. Some continue to rebel. Some
continue to devise their fools' errands and rationalizations of why they don't have to believe
in Him.
That's what the Bible teaches. I didn't just come here and make this up. I didn't come
here to say, "If you don't agree you're just being rebellious." That is what the Bible says.
What I want you to do tonight is to go home and consider whether there isn't something
to that: Why is it that some people continue to use laws of logic, morality, science, and yet
they have a world view that just clashes with that; and [yet] they just won't do anything to
resolve that contradiction.
Dr. Stein tonight made reference to my doctoral dissertation on self deception. He
wondered how relevant it might be. Well, it's very relevant, because what I do in that
doctoral dissertation is to show that there are some people who know the truth and yet work
very hard to convince themselves that it's not true.
Now, of course, atheists think that's what Christians are doing. I recognize that and that
we'd have to argue about the evidence for and against the self-deception. All I want to leave
with you tonight is the fact that self-deception is a real phenomenon. It does happen to
people. People can know the truth and yet work very hard to rationalize the evidence, as
Paul says, "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" in order to convince themselves that there
is no God.
Well, you may want to cam choose tonight between the Christian world view and the
atheist world view. We haven't touched all the issues that you may want to look into.
However, in broad strokes we have touched on a very important issue. If you're going to be
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a rational man, a moral man, a man of science, can you do so in an atheist universe. I say you
can't.
SEGMENT FOUR
Moderator: The first question in keeping with our format this evening, will be directed to
Dr. Greg Bahnsen.
What solid evidence do you have to maintain that the Christian faith is the only true
religion with a God? There are religions far older and more or just as widespread which
millions of people consider valid. Once again, what solid evidence do you have to maintain
that the Christian faith is the only true religion with a God?
Bahnsen: That's a very good and relevant question. I want to say two things just by way of
preface.
One, that isn't what the subject of our debate was tonight. However, that can't just be
taken for granted and its worthy of a debate. Its just that we couldn't do everything in one
debate.
Secondly, you might be interested to know that in my original opening statement, I have
a long paragraph dealing with that very question so that it wouldn't be thought that I was just
flying over it arbitrarily, and dealing with the matter. But, when I read it back to myself and
timed myself, it just turned out that I had to cut a number of things out, and so I cut that
down.
What I did say, however, was that - if I can find it here - that I have not found the non-
Christian religions to be philosophically defensible, each of them being internally incoherent
or undermining human reason and experience.
Unless it will violate your debate format, I'll give just a couple of illustrations, its
obviously not going to cover all of them. But, for instance, Hinduism, assumes that God, or
Brahman, is the impersonal universal soul of the unchanging One of which all things are part,
for instance, and because of that particular outlook Hinduism says that everything in terms
of my normal experience of the world and thinking is Maya, or illusion, because everything in
experience and thinking presupposes distinctions. But that is contrary the most fundamental
metaphysical fact, and that is that there are no distinctions all is one. So basically, Hinduism
tells me that all of my thinking, all of my reasoning, is illusion, and in so doing underlies
reason.
You can take religions such as Shintoism, its a view of Kami and the forces that permeate
the universe; or Taoism, the ordering force in the universe and they are impersonal forces
and as such are even less than human beings because they don't have volition or intelligence.
Stein: Well, Dr. Bahnsen has criticized Hinduism.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 39 -
I would make the case that Hinduism is no more irrational than Christianity is, nor do I
think it is anymore irrational than Islam is, nor is it anymore irrational than almost any other
religion that you might name. With one exception, I'd say Buddhism is more rational than
either Christianity or Hinduism. That doesn't mean I accept Buddhism either, but I just think
its more rational; at least it makes some psychological sense if nothing else.
Moderator: The next question will be directed to you, Dr. Stein. And the question reads
as follows:
According to your definition and basis for evil, why was Hitler's Germany wrong or was
it? Note: Jews and others were defined as non-persons, so their happiness doesn't really
count. Once again, according to you definition and basis for evil, why was Hitler's Germany
wrong, or was it?
Stein: Well, Germany is part of the Western European tradition, its not deepest Africa,
or some place or Mars.
They have the same Judeo-Christian background and basically the same connection with
the rest of the developed world, so therefore the standards of morality that have been
worked our as consensuses of that society apply to them, too.
They can't arbitrarily, Hitler can't arbitrarily, say "Well, I'm not going by the consensuses
that genocide is evil or wrong. I'm just going to change it and make it right." He has not the
prerogative to do that; neither does the German society as a whole because it is still apart of
a larger society, which you might call a western society.
So, even though morality is a consensus of an entire civilization, he cannot just arbitrarily
do that, so what he did is evil and wrong.
Bahnsen: Dr. Stein continues to beg the most important questions that are brought up.
He tells us that Hitler's Germany was wrong because Hitler or the German people didn't
have the right to break out of the consensus of Western civilization. Why not? Why is there
any moral obligation upon Hitler and the German people to live up to the past tradition of
Western morality. In an Atheist universe there is no answer to that question. He give the
answer, but it is totally arbitrary.
Moderator: Next question is directed to you, Dr. Bahnsen. Why is there pain and evil in
the world?
Bahnsen: There are a number of answers that could be given to a question, "Why is
something the way it is?"
One relevant one, but not the most ultimate answer would be that there is pain and evil
in this world because men have decided to rebel against God, their maker, and that's one of
the consequences of rebelling against God.
Now somebody can say, "Well, that's not fair, God shouldn't punish people for rebelling
against Him." Well, if there is a God, as I have maintained, and if he is the Christian God as
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revealed in Scriptures, it won't do any good to complain about that. That's the way God
governs mankind and if you think you know better than God about morality, then your in
Job's position. You want to have an interview with God and you'll end up like Job. You'll put
your hand over your mouth and you'll say, " I've spoken too soon. I can't contend with the
Almighty."
One answer is that God has decided what would be the outcome of people who decided
to rebel against Him; and if they want to be their own little gods, if they want to make their
own rules of morality and live by them, then the consequences are going to be such and
such, and that includes pain for animals in the created order, because in so doing man
represented all of creation.
Even as the second man, Jesus Christ, represents all of creation, and the new heavens
and the new earth, which I believe based on faith in the Scriptures is yet to come. In that
new heavens and new earth, there will be a redeemed earth where pain and suffering have
been removed.
Why is there evil ultimately? The answer is obviously because God has planned it. I
believe that he governs everything that's in history. Does that mean that he caused it? No, I
don't believe he compelled Adam to fall into sin.
Stein: Well, Dr. Bahnsen has given us another one of his famous non-answers.
Basically, what he said is anything God does is what He does. It's a tautology,
it doesn't say anything.
Now, how can someone rebel against omnipotent God? This is a logical selfcontradiction.
If God is omnipotent, He has the power to prevent them from rebelling
against him. And assuming he doesn't like rebellion - which I think Dr. Bahnsen would
concede, because man is evidently going to be punished for this in some way for his
rebellion, eventually, on the day of judgment - if God had the power to prevent them from
rebelling, then he ought to [have] prevented them from rebelling. And just to say the God
does what he does is not to give us an answer at all.
Moderator: The next question is directed to you, Dr. Stein. It reads:
If you haven't examined all the evidence, then is it not true that you are really an
agnostic? Isn't it true that you are open to the fact that God may exist? If you haven't
examined all the evidence, then isn't it true that you are an agnostic?
Stein: Well, agnostic is a word that is very badly used. Thomas Huxley, who invented the
word, used it in an entirely different way from the way we use it today. And
in fact, the way we use it today is entirely different from the way Herbert
Spencer used it.
I would define an agnostic as a subtype of atheist. An atheist is someone who does not
believe in a God. A theist is someone who does believe in a God. There's no middle ground.
You either do or you don't.
The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein Page - 41 -
Now an agnostic doesn't not believe in a God because of either one or two things.
Either he thinks its impossible to know if there is one or not. That's the Spencerian, the
Herbert Spencer type agnostic, that thinks there are unknowables. Or secondly, because he
or she has never examined the evidence that exists and therefore has not made up his or her
mind, but still at this point he does not believe in a God. Now if he examined the evidence
and found it convincing, then he would move into the theist camp.
So, no, I am not an agnostic because I do think that these answers to these questions are
sound if not maybe we do not know the answer now, but I think we can eventually know the
answer so I'm not a Spencerian agnostic, and I have examined things so I'm not the other
kind of agnostic. Whatever that kind is called, they don't have a name for it.
Bahnsen: It's interesting that the word agnostic is being used as a subclass of atheist. I
would agree with that, but for reasons different than have been suggested.
Its also interesting, that atheist is being redefined. Earlier in the debate an atheist is one
who finds a theist proofs inadequate. I said, "no, traditionally an atheist is one who denies
the existence of God, or he doesn't believe in the existence of God." Now he's using the
traditional definition to answer the question.
One more interesting comment about that and we'll let it go, he says "We do believe
there are answers to these problems. We have yet to find them. You see, that's the problem:
atheists live by faith.
Moderator: The final set of questions are here before me. Dr. Bahnsen, the question for
you reads: Why is it necessary for the abstract universal laws to be . . . derived
from the transcendental nature of God? Why not assume the transcendental
nature of logic?
Bahnsen: Somebody who wrote the question is good, in that you've studied
philosophical issues.
The answer may not be meaningful to everybody in the audience, but very briefly, it is
that I do believe in the transcendental nature of the laws of logic. However, the laws of logic
do not justify themselves just because they are transcendental, that is a precondition of
intelligibility. Why isn't it just "sound and fury signifying nothing?" That's a possibility too.
So the laws of logic do have a transcendental necessity about them; but it seems to me
you need to have a world view in which the laws of logic are meaningful. Especially when
you consider such possible antinomies as the laws of logic being universal and categorizing
things in that way and yet we have novelties in our experience. I mean the world of empirical
observation isn't set rigidly by uniformity and by sameness as it were. There isn't a continuity
in experience in that way as there is a necessary continuity in the laws of logic.
How can the laws of logic, then, be utilized when it comes to matters of personal
experience in the world? We have a contingent changing world and unchanging and variant
laws of logic. How can these two be brought together? You need a world view in which the
transcendental necessity of logic can be made sense of the human experience. I believe
Christianity provides that and I just can't find any other one that competes with it that way.
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Stein: I do not have a rebuttal to that particular answer. I do have a rebuttal . . . to
the last rebuttal if I may make that very briefly.
Dr. Bahnsen's comment that atheists believe things on faith is a false statement. We have
confidence based on experience. We have confidence that things happen in a certain way,
that we have learned a lot of things about the world; and therefore, we will continue to learn
a lot more about the world, things that we do not know now. We will eventually have
answers to. That's not faith, that's confidence based of experience. So, I think he's misusing
the world faith.
Moderator: Dr. Stein, the final question is directed to you. It reads:
You have said that there has been no adequate evidence put forth for God's existence.
What for you personally would constitute adequate evidence for God's existence?
Stein: Well, it's very simple. I can give you two examples.
If that podium suddenly rose into the air five feet, stayed there for a minute and then
dropped right down again, I would say that is evidence of a supernatural because it would
violate everything we knew about the laws of physics and chemistry.
Assuming that there wasn't an engine under there or a wire attached to it, we can make
those obvious exclusions. That would be evidence for a supernatural violation of the laws.
We could call it a miracle right before your eyes. That would be evidence I would accept.
Any kind of a supernatural being putting it into appearance and doing miracles that
could not be stage magic would also be evidence that I would accept. Those are the two
simplest way. I would also accept evidence that logically non-contradictory, and I have not
heard any yet here tonight that hasn't been offered already.
Bahnsen: Dr. Stein, I think, is really not reflecting on the true nature of atheism and human
nature when he says, "All it would take is a miracle in my very presence to
believe in God." History is replete with first of all things which would be
apparently miracles to people.
Now, from an atheistic or naturalistic standpoint, I will grant, in terms of the hypothesis,
that that's because they were ignorant of all the calls of factors and so it appeared to be
miracles. But you see that didn't make everybody into a theist. In fact, the Scriptures tells us
that there were instances of people who witnessed miracles, who all the more hardened their
heart, and eventually crucified the Lord of glory. They saw his miracles, that didn't change
their mind.
People are not made theists by miracles. People must change their world views; their
hearts must be changed. They need to be converted. That what it takes, and that's what it
would take for Dr. Stein to finally believe it. If this podium rose up five feet off the ground
and stayed there, Dr. Stein would eventually have in the future some naturalistic explanation
because they believe things on faith, by which I mean that they believe things as which they
have not proven by their senses.