The Bible says that the “Fool says in his heart that there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). This fact is continuously demonstrated to me as I reflect upon my interactions with atheists. I have heard all sorts of silly responses to the arguments for God’s existence and the truth of the Bible. While it is not the case that all atheists believe or say the same things, here are a few of the comments that have been thrown around throughout the course of my many interactions: 1) It is impossible to know anything at all.1 2) The universe brought itself into existence. 3) Everyone knows that Jesus never actually existed. 4) The existence of God is equivalent to the claim that invisible pink unicorns exist. 5) I can’t believe the Bible because it was written by man.
Not all atheists make these kinds of assertions. There are plenty of clear-thinking atheists that bring up far more important and logically rigorous objections, but in my experience, these sorts of responses have been the norm. So let me address each one in turn so that the error of these assertions are made apparent.
- It is impossible to know anything at all:
This assertion was made in the context of my speaking with a materialistic atheist. Since he reduced all mental activities to chemical reactions in the brain, he admitted that there is no basis therefore to trust our senses and our conclusions about anything. Hence, he concluded that knowledge is impossible. This statement was interesting given the fact that he repeatedly asked for evidence for God’s existence. How does one present rational evidence for God’s existence to someone who on the other hand, denies that knowledge about anything is possible? Given his position, nothing I could provide would be enough to convince him of the Christian perspective. He could just resort to his extreme form of skepticism. Furthermore, his position was literally self-contradictory since in order for the statement (knowledge is impossible) to be true, how does he “know” knowledge is impossible? If he claims that he “knows” that knowledge is impossible, then the statement is false since he “knows” that knowledge is impossible. However, if he says that he does not “know” whether knowledge is possible or not, then does he “know” that he doesn’t “know” whether knowledge is possible or not? Given his view, he cannot avoid making some sort of knowledge claim.
- The universe brought itself into existence:
This assertion was made in the context of speaking about the beginning of the universe. This debate is well known in apologetic circles. Most atheist are familiar with what is known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It goes like this:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause
- The universe began to exist
- Therefore, the universe had a cause
The point of the argument is to demonstrate the truth of the 1st two premises so as to get to the conclusion that the “the universe had a cause”. At this point, the apologist will then provide an analysis of what it means to be a “cause” of the universe, with the hopes of demonstrating that the most plausible cause of the physical cosmos is a transcendent being, namely God. Now the gentlemen with whom I was speaking with agreed with both premise 1 & 2. From this the conclusion follows by logical necessity that “therefore, the universe had a cause”. At this point he wholeheartedly agreed. But what did he posit as a cause of the universe? Well, he suggested that the cause of the universe was itself. The universe brought itself into existence. I hope the reader can see the logical problem here. For in order for the universe to bring itself into existence, the universe must have had to exist before it existed, which is a logical contradiction. Although the gentlemen claimed that his position was a “paradox”, I was quick to point out that it was not a paradox, but a clear contradiction, which in turn makes the position false by definition.
- Everyone knows Jesus never existed
This assertion tends to come up when the Christian goes to the New Testament as a source for the life of Jesus. The retort that Jesus never existed usually stumps the average Christian who may not be aware of the historical evidence for Jesus. It should be pointed out that the denial of the historical Jesus is a tiny minority within scholarly circles. Even skeptical scholars in the field of historical studies affirm the existence of the historical Jesus based upon the available evidence. Consider the words of Bible scholar and atheist/agnostic Bart Ehrman:
- “Despite the enormous range of opinion, there are several points on which virtually all scholars agree. Jesus was a Jewish man, known to be a preacher and teacher, who was crucified (a Roman form of crucifixion) in Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea”. (Did Jesus Exist? Pg. 12).
Notice that Dr. Ehrman says that “virtually all scholars agree”. Now granted, numbers do not determine truth, but for those who deny the existence of a historical Jesus, they need to back that claim up against the majority of scholarship which is comprised also of skeptics. The position known as Mythicism (they deny that Jesus was a historical person), is not taken very seriously in scholarly circles; Ehrman goes on to say:
- “It is fair to say that mythcists as a group, and as individuals, are not taken seriously by the vast majority of scholars in the field of New Testament, early Christianity, ancient history, and theology”. (Did Jesus Exist? Pg. 20).
Apparently, “everyone” does not know that Jesus never existed. In fact, most scholars and those familiar with the subject are quite confident that he did. It takes a very biased look at the data to draw the conclusion that Jesus never existed. This is why it is important that when speaking with a skeptic, they need to back up their claims just as much as the Christian who makes claims.
- The existence of God is equivalent to the claim that there are invisible pink unicorns:
I suppose if anyone is involved in apologetics for any amount of time, this assertion will definitely be heard on the lips of many a skeptic. The assertion is made so as to equate God with mythology, fantasy, and superstition. It is also made so as to make the point that just as there is no evidence for the existence of invisible pink unicorns, likewise, there is no evidence for the existence of God. However, this holds no water when we take a closer look. For instance, the notion of an invisible pink unicorn is incoherent. If the unicorn is “invisible”, how can the unicorn also be “pink”? Interestingly enough, if an invisible pink unicorn is logically incoherent, then I suppose that there would also be no evidence for the existence of such a thing (since it cannot exist by definition since it is a logically incoherent concept). However, this is not analogous to God since the concept of God has not been shown to also be logically incoherent. There have been attempts to demonstrate this, but to no avail.
- I can’t believe the Bible because it was written by man:
I have lost count how many times I have heard this statement within the context of conversation. The implication is that because the Bible was written by man, it therefore cannot be trusted. Is this a valid assertion? Not at all. Just because a document is written by man does not mean that everything man writes is untrustworthy. As a matter of fact, to fault a source because of its human origin is to also fault the assertion of the man or woman who made it. No Christian would deny that men wrote the Bible. That is not nor has it ever been under dispute. The real question is whether or not the Bible was also inspired by God in the way Christians believe it to be (1 Timothy 3:16). On the one hand, we have countless examples of men writing books that contain accurate information; so being a human author does not automatically invalidate everything you write. On a purely human basis, the Bible stands up very well against critical scrutiny. However, along with the fact that the Bible is historically reliable, Christians believe it is also inspired of God so that ultimately, the message the Bible contains has its authorship in God himself. Now the unbeliever does not believe this to be true, but this point is not refuted by merely saying that the Bible was written by man.
Again, these points do not represent the more intellectually rigorous critiques and objections raised by atheists and skeptics, but they are regularly bantered about by many and represent a failure to identify the central issues. Ultimately, I do not believe that there is any good reason to reject Christianity even when considering the more scholarly and well thought out objections that have been raised. Whether the objections are raised by the village atheist or the intellectually rigorous atheist, the biblical truth is still confirmed all the more clearly, that the “Fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1).
1. This is usually said as a result of the implications of materialistic determinism inherent within the atheistic materialistic framework. Because all is physical and material, thinking occurs merely in the brain, which is manifested in changing chemical states. Rationality and think are merely one chemical state changing into another chemical state. On this view, knowledge is impossible since chemical states do not produce truth. What one thinks and believes is based upon brain activity which is physically determined by the laws of physics.