I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Antitheism Answered

NOTE: As of January 3, Daniel folded up the thread to which what follows was responding.  That is one of the sad characteristics of antitheists, when their faith commitments are threatened and challenged for justification--rather than taken for granted--they fold.  At any rate, the following hopefully provides enough context to makes some sense of the issues.

During July of last year I posted a three part email debate that I had with Pelagian heretic Kyle Butt, which was listed as part 1, part 2, and part 3.  A couple of weeks ago, after a few providential clicks, I discovered another soul who had a similar experience with Kyle.  Daniel, however, is a crass antitheist, materialist, and reveals that not everyone knows yet that Alvin Plantinga laid the axe to the root of epistemological foundationalism.  In the email conversation between the two, Kyle, in his tenuous, rationalistic manner, attempted to argue for God’s mere existence.  Not satisfied with Kyle’s attempt at defending the faith (for one thing, he defends a different faith than the Faith), I decided to respond, not to their conversation, but to the heart of Daniel’s apostate worldview.  I did this on the 12th of this month; Daniel has yet to reply, and perhaps won’t.  So, I thought I’d post my response here as well.  If you are familiar with my blog or Reformed apologetics, then nothing below will appear radical or new.  It is just one application of the Reformed apologetic to the old/new antitheism.  Blessings.


I found it quite interesting to discover another person had engaged would-be apologist Kyle Butt in an email debate.  My experience with Kyle was I’m sure different than yours, in the sense that I am a Christian.  So, to the unbaptized my discussion with Kyle might seem to have been mere infighting.  However, Kyle is what is known in historical theology as a Pelagian, and therefore beyond the pale of historic Christian orthodoxy.  So, I perceived our conversation to be of a different nature than mere polemics, something more than two Christians fusing over periphery issues of private judgment.  Nevertheless, you and I have at least one thing in common: we’ve both experienced the frustrations of trying to maintain a rational rally of arguments with Kyle. 

Not only do Kyle and I have antithetical views of anthropology, our approach to defending and commending the Christian gospel and worldview are radically at odds.  With that in mind, I thought I would share with you some thoughts and challenges that I find to be insurmountable problems for those committed to metaphysical naturalism.  And please bear with the following, though, as I will likely present several points, which are more or less related.  The reason being, I simply cannot predict exactly when or whether I will be able to return to whatever conversation you are willing to indulge in for follow up remarks.  Similarly, I do not engage in blog battles often, but I thought that your material and Kyle’s poor representation warranted whatever meager offering I could present.  So, if you are willing to give ear, let me begin.  Essentially, for simplicity’s sake, what follows will be restricted to the field of epistemology.   

Begin by considering this.  If our brains are merely a random collection of atoms, responding to various stimuli, in accord with the laws of physics, biology and chemistry (whatever ‘laws’ may be in a materialistic universe), then true beliefs are illusory, since these beliefs would be only the consequences of these bits of matter reacting with other bits of matter in ways predetermined by antecedent material causes.  It seems inescapable that, according to materialism, our brains are just a random collection of atoms, which behave according to physical laws and predetermined antecedents.  It follows necessarily, then, that true beliefs are illusory, not least the belief in materialism. 

More than that, if the materialists’ perspective is correct, and our reason is reducible to brain stuffs, working as described above, then a subject’s seeming favorable attitude and volitional commitment to any ‘belief’ would likewise be determined not by meaningful reflection and rational deliberations but by material-only antecedents.  So, on your view, I don’t believe beliefs signify anything personal or rational, but are best understood to be sensational effects of purely material causes.   On materialism, I can find no grounds for believing in belief.    

At any rate, what difference this makes is insignificant in terms of materialism.  For like beliefs, truth—the object of knowledge—cannot exist within the context of the materialists’ world.  Truth itself is immaterial.  Moreover, it is eternal.  For instance, there never was nor ever will be a time in which the law of non-contradiction was or could be false.  This fact also points to the immutability and absoluteness of truth.  In a materialists’ world the only thing that enjoys these attributes—immateriality, eternality, immutability, absoluteness—is the fact that there is no ontological (or even logical) residency for such, and therefore no home for truth, thus leaving knowledge homeless as well. 

Your primary problem is rooted in your epistemological autonomy.  Granting your faith commitment to metaphysical naturalism and materialism, in your strivings for knowledge, you are left with and only with the epistemological perspective of pure empiricism.  This leads into a number of problems of significant proportion. 
Firstly, empiricism cannot stand the rigors of its own criteria for knowledge, e.g., “Knowledge comes only through sense perception.” The truth of this proposition is not itself something known through sense perception and observation.  Empiricism, ultimately, can tell us nothing about the future, since the future is yet to be observed, and all knowledge is reducible to observation through the senses.  Closely related is the fact that your man David Hume observed, namely that the cause and effect relationships presupposed by empiricists are (obviously!) not subject to empirical observation, analyses and/or verification, and therefore cannot be known, according to the rigors of empiricism.  At best, two events or states of affairs, what are commonly called “brute facts,” occurring in close relation to one another are mere coincidence, happenstance, without any meaningful relation.

Moreover, pure empiricism’s history cannot even agree about the metaphysical reality we’re supposedly observing.  Locke rendered “substance” to be inexplicable; Berkeley decided to simply do away with material reality; but, who really cares, since Hume discovered that there was no mental/immaterial self to do the observing!  Even if a consensus were established, it makes little difference, since empiricism, presuming the principle of induction, and not having an internally coherent justification always begs the fundamental question.  An eminent spokesperson of your stripe understood this much.

It has been argued that we have reason that we know that the future will resemble the past, because what was the future has constantly become the past.  But such an argument really begs the very question at issue...We have therefore still to seek for some principle which shall enable us to know that the future will follow the same laws as the past (Burtrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy [New York, NY: Barnes and Noble, 2004] 45).

In your opening statements in this discussion with Mr. Butt, you made much of ‘verification.’ However, the argument for empirical verification breaks a formal law of logic, and is therefore always fallacious.  It goes like this: If hypothesis P, then effect Q will result; Q was the result, therefore P is verified and may be considered ‘theory’ or ‘law.’  This is the fallacy of affirming the consequent.  Because every line of verification must proceed thus, no method of verification is logically valid or sound.  Besides this, if truth were dependent upon verification, then we’d never know anything to be true, since every verification would itself need verification, ad infinitum.  Empiricism has no answer to the problem of an infinite regress in establishing epistemic justification.  Furthermore, empiricism cannot verify, much less account for, the abstract, absolute, universal, and invariable logical laws and concepts it takes for granted. 

It may be added that empiricism leads to solipsism.  Empiricism begins, is checked, and ends with the subject’s mere (brute) perceptions; and, those perceptions can only be verified by other perceptions, thus leading to solipsism.  The epistemology which most loudly boasts objectivity actually eliminates genuine knowledge of any reality outside oneself—crass subjectivism.  Additionally, our senses are often deceptive, and empiricism provides no means of determining which and how the data should be filtered. 

Finally, empiricism is destroyed by means of the so-called ‘problem of criterion.’  Empiricism is an epistemological ‘method’ for investigating reality; it is a chosen criterion for judging and verifying claims made about what ultimate reality truly is.  The problem comes when one asks, “How do we know that empiricism is the proper criterion for evaluating reality, one that truly corresponds with reality?”  You see, empiricists would already have to know in advance, and exhaustively so, what reality is ultimately like before they would ever be able to identify their epistemological method.  But, they tell us that such is only achievable by means of their method, empiricism.  The point is: You must already presuppose your metaphysical perspective (i.e., materialism) in advance before ever selecting your method of investigation—you must first make a faith commitment.  This, ironically, is the very thing for which you attempt to mock Christians.  Therefore, I believe it apropos to cite Psalm 7:14—15 as a proper acclamation for the antitheistic position:  “Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.  He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.”

Granting all this—making the concept of beliefs unbelievable, making truth a cosmological hobo, and by faith in a false metaphysical construct, making epistemic justification unjustifiable—your materialism, like the mute pagan idols of antiquity, make the idol of autonomous human reason, in a word, dumb. 

It was the Puritan Richard Baxter who declared, “Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known.”  So, I suppose in a sense the above arguments are simply support for this unpretentious dictum.  The good news is that in the fullness of time God the Father sent forth his Son, Christ Jesus, to live such a life and die such a death and be resurrected in such a glory that rebels like you and I, by faith—not in our own will and reason independent of God; instead—in Jesus’ Name, offices, and work alone we might be saved.  That is, that we might be saved from God’s righteous judgment against our cosmic treason and rebellion, and restored to a right standing before him and relationship with him, having peace with God through Christ by the Holy Ghost. 

In addition, Jesus saves us from the various expressions of our sinful reasoning, such as naturalistic/materialistic antitheism.  Such false constructs lead straightway to epistemological self-destruction, as I believe foregoing succinctly demonstrates.  By the mercies of God in Christ, however, the Holy Ghost begins his work of transformation, which includes not least the renewing of our minds, recreating us in true knowledge and righteousness and holiness, after the image of him who created us, and thus conforming us into the image of Christ.  So, I am not inviting you to have faith at the expense of reason.  Rather, I am inviting you to a faith other than the one that you have now, antithetically other in fact.  This faith, faith in the Logos, Christ Jesus and his self-attesting Word, does not disparage reason; no, this faith is the only one that can save reason, just as it is the only one that can save sinners, like you and like me.

May God give you light and this very sort of faith,


The discussion has continued.  Daniel is so committed to his naturalism/materialism so as to understand it not as a worldview but nature/material itself.  This reveals either his utter lack of understanding or the tenacity of his faith commitment to his worldview or both.

@Kevin Stevenson @CEN Rather than support your argument, you "attempt" to dismantle naturalism, which happens to be the foundation of ALL decisions--from assembling a toilet to driving down the street. If you have issues with the scientific method, naturalism, materialism, or rational thought and decision-making, I invite both of you to jump out of a 10-story window and be greeted with the harsh reality of naturalism. Verification and falsification are the reasons science has sent rovers to Mars. Can you pray a ship to Mars?

I don't need to address at length because of the utter ridiculousness of your arguments. Suffice it to say--both of you said "you must choose to have faith". That's bottom line. I MUST CHOOSE to BELIEVE your position without an ounce of testable evidence. Why can't I just "choose to believe" Islam or Buddism or Hinduism? Why Christianity? Do you not see the importance of verification/falsification?

Your premises are baseless and faulty. Shifting sand.

Thank you for your reply, Daniel; it merely illustrated the truth of my conclusions. You misquoted me in order to dress your strawman; you make the sophomoric mistake of failing to recognize that in honest inquiry and debate, epistemological criteria must coordinate the metaphysical nature of the object in question (e.g., when your Mama would tell you that she loved you, did you suspend your belief in the proposition except she offer you empirically testable evidence?!? No, you didn’t). When I attacked naturalism, you present it as an attack on the natural order; when I attacked naturalistic science, you reacted as though I attacked verification (simply because you cannot answer the challenges in terms of your espoused worldview does not mean there is no answer...but such is the narrow-mindedness of antitheism). In sum, your reply provided “testable evidence” in support of my conclusion that your view issues in solipsism. So, it is not at all surprising that your “attempt” to answer--in short or 'at length'--my challenge was barely more than an emotive outburst. Thanks, again. 
Ahhh...old faithful--the Love Argument. Love is an emotion--a mental reaction to stimuli, a natural phenomenon. We simply apply a name to it and make it into something magical and abstract when it is not. For me, someone expressing love does not require the same level of evidence as brain surgery. There is no comparison.

My arguments remain unaddressed. The Christian position is merely a playful exercise in philosophy and nothing more. Philosophical musings on the suspension of reality are a precursor to post-modernist thought.

Demonstrate Christianity is true or we have nothing more to discuss.

Which is more fundamental and sublime in human experience, love or brain surgery? If love is a mere reaction to physical stimuli, as you suggested, then it is no longer a choice, and is therefore no more meaningful than constipation...if you are correct, that is. Again, I love how all your name-calling and snide remarks, rather than answers, bolster the truth of the Christian position; it is immensely helpful for the self-conscious, honest observers.


1. Either Christian theism or materialism
2. Not materialism (as demonstrated above)
3. Ergo, Christian theism...QED!

There ya go, Daniel. Now what would you like to discuss? 

You have used materialism as a straw man. The Christian claim lies outside the known material world. I simply point out that what you claim cannot be known. Demonstrate Christianity is true, please.

That you cannot (per your materialism) and will not (per your hard heartedness) accept a valid and sound argument is not something I can help you with, Daniel. The fact is, materialism is a strawman construction; that, however, is not my fault. 
NOTE: Daniel has repeatedly deleted the above comment only for me to repost it the next day.  This last time, however, I left it and responded with the following...which he’ll likely delete also.  When one’s position is utterly bankrupt, deletion, I suppose, is a smart tactic.


Logical laws lie outside the known material world as well. Therefore, to demand a logical demonstration of anything presupposes the truth of the Christian worldview. In this sense, if your view were correct, no one could prove anything! There is your demonstration. Our debate over the truth of Christianity would be unintelligible, if Christianity weren't true.

What is odd is that you left one fundamentalist group to only remain a fundamentalist in another...just odd.

Not once have I asked you to "prove" anything. I do not use that word in this context. "Proof" is applied to physics and math. Your claim is philosophical and should be supported with verifiable/falsifiable evidence. Without it, your claim holds as much water as a cheese grater.

Now, I'll explain again (and for the last time). I make no claim. The theist claims "I know the mind of god and I know he is the author of everything". The atheist says "I don't accept your argument. Please provide evidence."

If I said, "I spoke to John F. Kennedy in my apartment last night." You have every right (and should) question my claim. Stop attempting to philosophize your way out of this.

Stop copping out and demonstrate Christianity is true

Look, I'm well-aware of postmodernist attempts to make verification/falsification irrelevant, but it won't work with me. It fails in every way. I encounter it often. If you make a claim, there must be something to support it. If the evidence insufficient, it will be rejected. "God told me in my head" is not sufficient evidence for me. You obviously have a lower standard for evidence and that's probably why you're not in any other field, but religion. You would not survive in the real world where every day decisions are made on facts and reason.

Very well, Daniel. Please just tell me what kind of verifiable evidence for the truth of the Christian claims would it take to satisfy you? But know, I hold to anything but a postmodern epistemology, and that you can't see that is telling. Moreover, I am not challenging verification per se, but only verification grounded in a materialistic frame of reference. Philosophizing in these questions is unavoidable. That you forbid it is, again, telling of your tenuous position and mindset. So, tell me: what sort of evidence would satisfy you; and, secondly, why that sort of evidence alone?

BTW: Positivism is as dead as it is ridiculous today. So, if I were you, I wouldn't speak so disparagingly of postmodernism. Your positivist fathers gave us sour grapes, and now their childrens', the postmoderns', teeth are on edge. Typical of the dialectical tension of antitheistic worldviews.
I don't have time nor do I have interest in giving a dissertation on postmodernism, but you are clearly a subscriber. Religious philosophy requires no firm foundation in reality and no methodological rigor. It is merely speculative and nonsensical--a classic example of postmodern epistemology. Every time I push for evidence for Christianity, in return I receive nonsense responses questioning reality. That's postmodern thought.

I think you're well-aware of what sort of evidence I require. Do not play coy. 1) Establish there is a god with testable, repeatable evidence (e.g. something we can take into a lab and probe); 2) Establish that this particular "god" created everything. Arguments from beauty or design are not testable--only hypothetical. Beyond hypothesis there are test requirements to establish the veracity of the claim. 3) Establish that this particular god is the god of Christianity. If he/she/it is, then all other claims that he is not can be falsified. Islam will be demonstrated as false every time.

All evidence is not only verifiable, but falsifiable. For instance, to falsify 2+2=4, only once does it need to equal 5. Every time I drop a ball, it falls to the earth. If once it does not, the law of gravity is falsified. Likewise, demonstrate that the Christian god created the universe and we can verify/falsify your evidence.

Without verification/falsification of claims, anyone can claim anything they want. I can even claim to be a god and according to your epistemology, no one can challenge it.

Absolute and utter nonsense, my friend.
Daniel, I believe that I can speak for most, when I say I am thankful that you have not subjected us to a dissertation on postmodernism. I can think of few things that would be less edifying. Even your pathetic, pithy definition proffered above is plenty to prove that. I thought self-ascribed ‘scientific folk’ like you appreciated a reasonable dose of skepticism.

I guess the fallacy in my thinking here is that anything you have presented is remotely skirting scientific reasoning. That was my mistake. You scorn to shame Christianity as being mere philosophy, all the while demonstrating that you hold a Ph.D in morosophy. Your approach to meaningful questions stinks about as bad as that fat stogie, and is as fleeting as the style of those cheesy aviators in your profile pic. One good word I have for postmoderns, however, is that they have driven your naturalism to its logical end, which glories in the end of all meaning. You have yourself to thank, my friend. If you would only be consistent, you too would embrace postmodernism with all the existential zeal you could muster.

You don’t use term “prove/proof” in this context? Frankly, on your worldview, you never have a right to use it. But, why don’t you? It is because the proof for the Christian perspective is veritable. When I asked what sort of evidence for God’s existence would satisfy you, look what you presented! You want something “testable, repeatable,” something we can “take into the lab a probe”! In other words, you want a physical instantiation of something you well know is an immaterial reality (Jn. 1:18; 4:24). Even if I were to bow the philosophical knee to your would-be epistemic judgment, you cannot even justify (or demonstrate) that your senses give you any reliable information about an objective world round about yourself. You can call me names and make slight me for saying so, but it is true nonetheless, if naturalism is true. And that is something I have demonstrated and you’ve sidestepped. As I said, you get solipsism as the wage of your laboring against the living Christ. That’s a high price to pay, but pay you will.

Again, this is such a stupid approach to the issues so as to force you to give up the rules of grammar, laws of mathematics, physics, and not least logic; and your contributions here have demonstrated or proved, whichever you prefer, that you are neigh unto consistency in this regard. You plainly don’t have the cognitive furniture to even be hospitable to weighty matters like these. You, my friend, are a fool. One day, maybe this day, we will both know who is correct. If it be you, then all things are equal, and an infinite of time will mean nothing to either of us. If I am correct, however,...well, you know how it goes. I only pray that God would grant his Light to shine in your darkened mind and understanding and rescue you from your absurdity and the eternity that faces you, which begins now. Until then, enjoy your mechanistic anemic little world. No, wait; you can’t experience joy...sorry, I forgot who I was talking to. I have a hard time thinking like a materialist.


  1. Your discussions with these men were well organised and cogent. If Daniel and Kyle really had free will, you would have convinced them.

  2. Well put, Bishop Campbell! Yes; free will is a fantasy, whatsoever worldview one holds. For Daniel, the materialist, what he may believe is his authentic volition is really just the result or effect of a long series is fatalistically-driven, irrational, purely material causes. I am being generous, though, since even causal relations are nonsensical in terms of atheism. And. Of course, from the Christian perspective, only the triune God has genuine, unfettered free will. We, however, are bound always to choose according to our greatest desire, which, as Jesus said, is controlled by our bondage to sin (Jn. 8:34). And the natural mind is at enmity with God, and thus cannot submit to his laws, even the logical laws he imposes on creation (Rom. 8:7). Even after regeneration, we still vacillate between our desires to serve self and the new desire to serve God through Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost. Even in the abstract, if our wills enjoyed libertine freedom, we’d all die, because all of our choices would be groundless, because they would be causeless, if totally free. But, of course, we live. So, libertine free will can’t be the case. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Daniel probably thinks he would believe if he could see the Lord and touch His wounds, as Thomas wanted to do. Short of that he at least has to admit the argument from material observation can be used both ways. One way sees no evidence of a Creator, and concludes there is no God. The other sees no evidence of self-creating matter, and concludes there is a God.

  4. I believe that your guess is likely correct, Bishop. That is certainly a popular claim of the naturalists. "If God would simply make an appearance...we'd believe," or so the claim usually goes.
    However, we know that this is simply false. In his post-resurrection glory, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples, "And when they saw him...some doubted" (Matt. 28:17). The Scriptures report several instances of 'God making an appearance,' not least in Jesus' earthly ministry. As Jesus put it, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (Lk. 16:31). It all comes back to the question of authority; and, for naturalists their personal autonomy will always rule the day. Unfortunate for them, God does not negotiate on their terms; fortunately, though, he continues to quicken and save benighted sinners, like us and Daniel!