Friday, January 6, 2012

Proving a negative conversation

By D. Adams
September, 14 2007

Often times I will listen in on a VOIP chat or text forum to gain knowledge about other worldviews. During a brief lapse of my theological studies at TTP this September, I ran across an Atheist on Paltalk. Granted, I tried to have a conversation with some intellect. Despite Mr. Bad*****’s reasoning maneuvers (actually logical fallacy gymnastics) I did not have any of my basic life’s questions answered when it comes to why we exist, and since we exist what is our purpose. I haven’t given the Nihilist position much thought. I ask why there is something rather than nothing. There seems to be a certain amount of despair that often comes with being a Nihilist.

Mr. Bad*****’s derelict position espouses the same old arguments, so bear with me. Many atheist’s or skeptics make these same presumptions that Apologists have answered on numerous occasions. I have compiled a simple list of the counter-arguments (against the existence of God) that Bad***** has in his bag of tricks filled with mojo (moot). I will give a somewhat detailed answer to some of the questions, and I will show why the questions he raises are not based upon reason or logic. Granted a few of the chide remarks were from fellow Atheists in the room at the time. Mr. Bad***** will be further addressed as Mr. B in this article.

Reason #1 not to believe in God (Mr. B’s reasoning)
The first line of reasoning that was presented; “You can not prove a negative axiom.” Before we get into answering this argument let’s first acknowledge that when Mr. B. was confronted with the premise on establishing that there is no God he answered with this classic response. It is true that we cannot prove God exists or does not exist with mathematical certainty. We can however reach a conclusion through deduction and reason (as shown later). This is a case of special pleading, where the Atheist states he cannot prove his statement that there is no God, however the Christian must be able to prove God exists in order to meet the special demands of the skeptic.

Here are a few ways to address this so called dilemma. First off, the best answer to reply to the skeptic with is “can you prove that statement?” this in reference to the “you can not prove a negative” maxim. At first glance the skeptic/Atheist will think s/he has won the argument, however let me show you how we can prove a negative.

Let’s start with a simple example “I am not an architect.” Indeed, I am not an architect by trade nor do I have a certificate or credentials as such. I cannot produce anything to suggest that I am, therefore I am not an architect. Let’s try another argument “I am not a mother.” I am a male and a father however, I am not a mother, nor can I be both (physically or anatomically) at the same time according to the law of non-contradiction. One more just for titters “Michael Jordan does not play for the Cleveland Browns.” Unless you are from another planet, we all know that Michael Jordan did not play football for the Cleveland Browns. I could go on but suffice it to say we can indeed prove a negative.

The problem lies within how the premise of the argument is presented. Most skeptics cannot answer their own premise (them not being able to prove a negative). We have just proven that we can prove a negative by deduction. The statement is invalid in that sense, but one can be more accurate and change the statement to “physical limitations can make it more difficult to prove an empirical universal negative than it is to prove an empirical universal positive existial.” Nevertheless, deduction is process of logic. Remember if you cannot prove a negative, then similarly you cannot prove a positive. This is a self-defeating statement (you can not prove a negative) for if one could not prove a negative--one would not be able to arrive at a deduction (God does not exist) and the skeptic/Atheist could not arrive at their premise without the use of deduction.

This axiom falls on its face when confronted with logic. Granted, due to our limited capabilities we cannot provide tangible mathematical proof that there is a God, nor could we disprove that there is no God. We can conclude by means of deduction that there is a God (See upcoming articles). And I am sure that the skeptics, through a deduction process could also conclude there is no God. In this article, we will see how well Mr. B constructs his syllogisms to justify his position.

Chide remark
As for Mr. B’s reply,… he stated “are you stupid, what, you didn’t go to school, don’t you know you can not prove a negative, you are a fundy”? Indeed while I did not attend Yale, Harvard, or Princeton, nevertheless I managed to attend a local college. As for Mr. B, well… we will let him speak for himself, of himself, and by himself.

Reason #2 not to believe in God (Mr. B’s reasoning)
Second line of reasoning, the prayer doesn’t work shibboleth. Mr. B’s reply was “Why don’t all the Christians get together and pray to end the war, or pray for a cure for cancer, you see prayer doesn’t work.” “Why don’t you Christians pray for these things, and why hasn’t God answered them”? This is an appeal to emotions logical fallacy were the reason for God’s non-existence is due to one’s own emotions of who one thinks God should be or what he should do in this case.

Well if it were only that easy, then what would be the reasoning be behind learning from mistakes, or going through tribulations? Should we make God into a mere yes man, do as I command? This would diminish the essence and eminence of who God is. If we control God then he no longer is God, and he would be bound by us, thus creating our own God in a box. If God would end war and cure cancer, (he could mind you) what would be his motivation to do so? Didn’t he already promise to do so, later in his own time (not ours)? This is why, we, as Christians have a reason for hope and not despair. This is how we distinguish the here and now from upcoming heaven. The Nihilist goes on in despair blaming God for not stepping in, yet not believing in God. So where does this leave the Nihilist, or Atheist? When God is out of the picture, who or what do they blame for their despairs. In some instances, they chose to blame Christians. I hope I am talking to the right folks here, or should I say scapegoats?

Anyone that has read the Old Testament (Yes Mr. B claims he has extensive knowledge in the OT) can attest that God did allow some negative things to happen in order to perform his will. The Old Testament teaches reward and punishment, honor and shame, God’s love, forgiveness, and his wrath. We know that circumstances sometimes need to occur out of necessity even if we think they are wrong or do not seem logical at any given moment. If Pearl Harbor was never attacked by Japan then how could we know the true effects of a nuclear bomb? I am not trying to suggest that killing is acceptable in any manner but there was a critical lesson learned about our capabilities and how destructive we as humans have become.

My Experience with Cancer
Having a father that passed away due to bladder cancer, and a grandmother that also succumbed to the effects of cancer, I can honestly say I do pray for a cure. I know there will be no more cancer or war in the place that God has promised in the Bible. Is it correct for me to ask God to change his mind and do it now? I have learned to be patient in this realm of difficult issues.

Chide Remarks
I asked Mr. B what he has done to help stop the war and he would not reply. He simply stated “See all you Christians are just fundies and prayer doesn’t work.” I retorted that “I don’t just pray” He was a bit befuddled when I made that statement. I went on to say “how can we be the hands and feet of Jesus if we limit ourselves only to prayer?” Another Atheist went on to state the condition of America in which I asked him what does he do about the dilemma in Africa (Darfur mainly)? Of course, I stated I pray for them, and my church has an agriculture project (2000 acre) that I helped finance through my selfless donations. I couldn’t get a response for anything (other than complaints about Christians) that he or other Atheists in the room have contributed to help with these catastrophes (other than finger pointing). They seemed to be focused mainly on their agenda on tearing down Christians with their appeal to emotions, and logical fallacy techniques.

To make a long story short. I pray for many things including the end of war and future wars. I pray for the end of cancer, and I know in time these will be eliminated because of my faith in the word of God. I have had several family members deployed to Iraq so yes I do pray for them and the people native to Iraq (despite cultural differences). This is one just one of the things separates Christianity from other religions, cultures and worldviews (praying for our enemies). Just as God had heard the prayers of the Hebrew slaves, I am sure he will redeem us from all this suffering when the timing is right (Hope vs. despair). What hope does the Atheist have for the end of Cancer? They simply put their trust in man and science. When will medical science be able to cure Cancer? Why haven’t they been able to cure it? When someone suddenly is cured of cancer (many cases of this) without medical attention it is unable to be explained by science, yet it still occurs. Science and Atheists seem silent on such matters.

My experience with prayer
My daughter was cured of Aplastic Anemia despite all the futile attempts that our doctor demanded the only way for her to be cured is through a bone marrow transplant. Years have passed and still the doctors cannot provide an answer as to how she has been cured without their care. With diligence, proper attitude, and knowing God’s nature, prayers can be answered. Should we expect God to answer our every whim? No. I have found that some situations are better to go through then to go around.

Reason #3 not to believe in God (Mr. B’s reasoning)
The third line of reasoning was, “Christians don’t follow the Torah, they don’t follow the entire Bible and therefore they are fundies.” It’s complex to reply to this reasoning without going through the theocracy of ANE culture, and reasoning behind the 613 laws. Mr. B goes on to claim that “I know the Bible better than Christians do” If Christians are to judge ye righteous judgment then how will Mr. B fair against his claims of knowing the Bible? Mr. B seems to be making many judgments against Christianity and has yet to provide anything in the realm of scholarship. We wait in squeamishness expectancy. So far all Mr. B has spread is balding assertions and animosity against Christians.

The Laws
The 613 laws were in place for the Israelites for that given time in order for God to perform his will. The main reason for God to create a counter-culture was to separate them from other societies. It prepared the way for a coming messiah that Moses writes about in the Bible. It also showed the Israelites what was pleasing to God, and what was displeasing to God. It also showed them that in order to be forgiven of sin--the sacrifices that needed to be made in order for them to understand repentance. Hence the term shame. The equivalency for today could be considered a fine in terms of money. Since agriculture was dominant for the time, it was easy for them to understand that losing cattle was a great tragedy. Not all were farmers, and some were allowed to purchase these animals for this purpose. This is where a thorough study of honor and shame should take place for the given culture at that period. 

Some of the dietary laws were to keep out disease and sickness within the culture. Sometimes a separation was needed until the disease or sickness resided. Imagine a plague with no antibody; it could wipe out an entire civilization with ease. Some of the laws dealt with cleanliness since there were no readily made antiseptics. And yes, some of the laws had to deal with punishment for crimes such as stealing, rape, bestiality, cheating, fornication, murder, etc. These laws helped to establish moral values and a theocracy for the Hebrew culture. Some surrounding ANE cultures performed human scarifies, and other rituals that by today’s standard would be considered as unacceptable. As Christians, we do understand those laws that were set in place for the nation of Israel, and we understand that breaking any of the 10 commandments is a violation to God. To my knowledge, no one today is keeping all 613 laws (Torah) since the sacrifices have officially been discontinued in the lost temple where the Dome of the Rock now resides.

I replied to Mr. “B” that “I am not a Hebrew in the ANE culture of Israel.” Of course, he went on to commit a logical fallacy using the slippery slope argument “that since I did not follow all 613 laws (not that anyone today can either) I did not follow any of the 10 commandments.” My reply was “that is a slippery slope argument.” His reply was “nut-uh it’s not a slippery slope” and did not bother to explain his conclusion to that premise. To recap a slippery slope is an argument that presumes that if a certain condition is met (e.g. not following all 613 laws) then immediately that person falls into a deeper despair or a certain classification--usually the worst case scenario possible (such as not following the 10 commandments).

In closing
We, as Christians know what God finds appeasing and displeasing. In fact, 9 of the 10 commandments are reaffirmed in the NT and some exemplified in the beatitudes that Jesus preached in the Sermon of the Mount about murder and lust for example. Even the notion of hating another was now equivalent to murder, and just thinking about an affair was equivalent to committing adultery.

Reason #4 not to believe in God (Mr. B’s reasoning)
The fourth line of reasoning was “The Christians had segregation of blacks and whites during the early beginnings of America, especially in the 1950’s” This is what we call a hasty generalization and guilt by association fallacies.

The premise made here by Mr. B is that all Christians are anti-black or anti-Semitic. One could easily turn the tables and say that “Pol Pot and Stalin were Atheists and they killed millions of people, therefore all Atheists are bad.” This is also a sweeping generalization and guilt by association logical fallacy. A sweeping generalization fallacy is committed when a certain group or sect is the rudimentary cause behind a cause or catastrophic event. Guilt by association fallacy goes even further in that all who claim to be part of this group are guilty by association with this group. This is can be based upon past events, or even present events. This is considered as profiling (sometimes racial).

This is a classic tactic utilized by many skeptics; however, it does nothing to disprove Christianity as wrong, just the people making claims to be Christians. It also displays nothing on the skeptic’s stage of truth where they obtain their morals or standards. If morals are solely dependent upon time and a certain culture then this could be deemed as relative. Relative is not the same as objective truth that is applicable to all people at all times. If this is the case then how do Atheists condone any tragedy, or God’s wrath in the Bible? If the standard was different in ANE culture then why create an anachronistic fallacy?

An anachronistic fallacy (in this case) is that a certain culture is bound to the rules and theocratic laws we have in place today, even though they do not live in our society today (or vice versa when it comes to the 613 laws). This is usually due to poor scholarship and the lack of ANE culture studies. Too bad Mr. B wasn’t deeply rooted into historicity as he suggested in argument #3.

We, as Christians look to Christ as the measure that defines Christianity, not other people claiming to be mere Christians. We are told we will know them by their fruit. Unfortunately, (by implication) Mr. B doesn’t have a working grasp of the NT either when it comes to defining Christianity. Mr. B looks at the worst case scenario, and then develops a picture of what he thinks Christianity is. This is also a relative view.

The Chide Remarks
Mr. B. replies with the classic rebuttal “well that one guy (Meaning Lot) slept with his daughters and God thought it was OK” This could be a quoting out of either context logical fallacy or a classic strawman logical fallacy argument. Evidently, Mr. B did not quote the surrounding context for if he did he would find that Lot did not willingly sleep with his daughters.

The strawman is an argument that is based upon a faulty (usually un-researched) premise that grossly mis-represents or misquotes an opposing view. Once the opposing view has been represented (incorrectly represented) then it’s an easy way for the opponent to tear down the opposition. Sometimes this can be unintentional such as finding a faulty source by accident or reviewing information that has not been thoroughly backed through scholarly studies.

If we assume Mr. B is correct in his earlier statement that he knows the Bible better than Christians do, then his remark totally defeats that statement. Surprisingly Mr. B is his own worst enemy when it comes defining truth and establishing any consistency with his worldview. If he truly knows the Bible (such as any historian, theologian, or Bible scholar) and logic as well as he claims then he may need to take a refresher course in his studies.

Reason #5 not to believe in God (Mr. B’s reasoning)
The fifth line of reasoning was yet another classic “Jesus is just another copy cat myth; I can show you similar claims in other religions.” Mr. B goes on to state that “I can show you parallels within Krishna, Buddhism, and other ancient religions that resemble Christ.” “Did you know Christ’s’ birth date is also claimed as the same date as other deities”? Yet another Atheist chimes in on the astrological claims mentioned in Acharya’s book “The Christ Conspiracy”

Apparently, Mr. B has been using sources such as Kersey Graves, Acharya S. and the likes of the Christ myther crowd. Of course, Dr. Edwin Bryant, Professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University is a scholar on Hinduism and Professor Chun-fang Yu would disagree with Mr. B on this premise. Note that Dr. Edwin Bryant has devoted most of his life to his studies and he strongly disagrees with any parallel claims in Hinduism and other religions for that matter. Mike Licona wrote a fine rebuttal to these claims which you can find in the link provided at the end of this article.

I have covered a portion of this in a previous article so I will not add any more to the response.

Reason #6 not to believe in God (Mr. B’s reasoning)
This is the final argument by Mr. B. It goes something like this “You Christians are just afraid of the truth, and you can’t refute me.” Well Mr. B you are correct in one premise I am afraid. I am afraid of relative truths. I am afraid of inconsistent worldviews. I am afraid that people like yourself will paint a distorted picture of truth, and you will continue to base your epistemology on false premises. I am afraid that people will actually listen to you in blind faith and not fully research your claims.

Mr. B thus far, all you have are relative truths that are based upon a gross misrepresentation of Christianity, history, culture, and logic. While I have answered your every question and in return, I expect the same. I don’t really expect to hear a reply from you. If you can assemble a much better syllogism to refute Christianity then I do welcome the challenge, but until that time I will remain fast in my master studies of theology, epistemology, philosophy, and of course, the fellowship I find in The Theology Program.

God Bless,

Mike Licona article on Christ parallels: