apologetics, Apologetics of Christ, arguments for God, Cosmological Arguments, The Moral Argument

The Case for Christianity in 15 Minutes (or less)

Recently, the need for defending Christianity in a short time period has come to light. I was in a discussion with some acquaintances and was asked to outline why I believe what I believe, but we were on a time crunch so I only had about 15 minutes. Thankfully, I have had access to some wonderful resources that allowed me to memorize some quick, but useful arguments.

This post is intended to provide other Christians with a case for their beliefs that they can memorize and share with others. Note that the study cannot stop here. Most people will not be convinced by the basics outlined here. The goal of this post is to provide a springboard for discussion and keep people engaged in  the idea that God exists and Jesus is Lord. Each section is intended to flow directly into the next. I encourage my fellow Christians to memorize a “case for faith” in a manner like this, so they may be prepared with a reason for the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15).

The arguments are necessarily short and simple due to time constraints, but they offer a short defense that will, hopefully, spur further conversation (again, don’t forget to do more research!). Greg Koukl says we don’t need to convince someone right away–we just need to “put a rock in their shoe” so that we can keep the discussion going later. As always, the most effective apologetic is a prayerful, Christ-reflecting life. May the Holy Spirit guide you all.

1. God Exists (7 minutes)

There are many reasons to believe God exists, let me share a few:

Kalam Cosmological Argument

1) Everything that began to exist has a cause

2) The universe Began to exist

3) Therefore the universe has a cause.

It seems intuitively obvious that 1) is true. Things don’t just pop into and out of existence. 2) follows from modern scientific discoveries like the Big Bang, which implies a single cosmological beginning. 3) follows via modus ponens (the most basic form of argument) from 1 and 2. This argument shows a transcendent cause of the universe. The cause must also be personal because [it] brought the universe into existence at some point, which requires a choice. Choices can only be made by persons, so this entity is personal. (See William Lane Craig in “On Guard”, linked below, for more.)

[For more reading on the Kalam Cosmological Argument see my posts linked below.]

The Moral Argument

4) If there are objective moral values, then God exists

5) There are objective moral values

6) Therefore, God exists.

“Objective moral values” here means that moral values are true regardless of what anyone thinks. For example, “murder is wrong” would be wrong even if every single human being thought murder was the way to achieve greatest happiness and encouraged it as an extracurricular activity for teenagers. But the only way to hold that objective moral values exist is to grant God’s existence, because objective laws require an objective lawgiver.

Without God, however, morals reduce to “I don’t like that.” It seems ludicrous to believe that murder is wrong just because we don’t like it. It is something actually wrong about murder that makes it wrong. That which makes it wrong is, again, the commands of the Lawgiver: God. People have a sense of moral objectivity built into them, which also suggests both the existence of objective morals and a God who created in us this conscience. (See Craig “On Guard” and C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”.)

2. Christianity is Unique (3 minutes)

Religions are not all the same:

1) Many religions have contradictory truth claims. (Some forms of Buddhism say: There is no God; Christianity argues: There is a God; Hinduism states: there are many gods)

2) Even among theistic religions, there are contradictory claims (Christianity: Jesus is God; Judaism: Jesus is not God; Islam: Mohammed is prophet; Christianity: Mohammed is not a prophet; Judaism: Mohammed is not a prophet; Islam: Jesus is not God; etc.).

3) The Law of Noncontradiction (actual contradictions like “square circles” or “married bachelors” cannot exist and are not real) shows us that therefore, these religions cannot all be true.

4) Christianity is unique in that  its central religious claim is a historical one: that the person Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead. This is a historical event which can be investigated just like any other historical event. Yet exploration of this event leads to the conclusion that…

3. Jesus is God (5 minutes)

1) The Gospels are reliable. They demonstrate many criteria for historical truth: multiple attestation (four Gospels telling the same story, but with enough significant differences to demonstrate they didn’t copy off each other), principle of embarrassment (the authors of the Gospels included details which would be embarrassing either to themselves or culturally, such as the fact that women were the first witnesses to the risen Christ in a culture in which women were not trusted), the writers died for their belief in the historical events (while many religious believers die for their beliefs, it seems unfathomable that the Christian Gospel writers would willingly die gruesome deaths for things they made up–which is what alternative theories argue), etc. (See Strobel, “Case for Christ”)

2) Jesus made divine claims “I and the Father are one” John 10:30; “Before Abraham was, I am” John 8:58; etc.

3) The miracle of the resurrection is God’s confirmation of Jesus’ divine claims. If the Gospels are reliable (per 1), then Jesus is divine.

Conclusions

There is good evidence to think that God exists. There are even other arguments that could be presented, such as the teleological, ontological, transcendental, argument from religious experience, and more. We can also see that not all religions can be true. Furthermore, there are good reasons to think the Gospels are reliable and that Jesus claimed to be God and had His claims authenticated by God Himself in Jesus’ resurrection.

Remember, this is not even close to a full defense of Christianity. It is simply a condensed, easy to remember defense designed to be ready at a moment’s notice for when the Holy Spirit leads people into our paths. We need to do more research, offer more arguments, and continue to witness as the Holy Spirit works through our testimony. This defense is by no means a total apologetic; it is meant only as an introduction to spur further conversation. Always have a reason.

Later Edit:

Some have objected to this post on various grounds, most of which are reducible to my arguments not being developed enough. I emphasize once more, this is supposed to be used for a 15-minute defense of the faith, not an entire survey of the field. See my links for more reading, and continue to investigate for yourself.

Further Reading

If you are interested in further reading on these topics, I suggest:

1) On my site, check out the posts on the existence of God: here. Specifically, for the Kalam Cosmological argument:

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Dawkins and Oppy vs. Theism: Defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument

“The Multiverse Created Itself” and “Who made God after all?”- The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (not developed in this post).

2) On Guard by William Lane Craig- a basic level introduction to many of the ideas discussed here.

3) The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel-a wonderful book which goes through many issues of historical Christianity. Presents evidence for the historicity of the Gospels and the divinity of Jesus.

4) Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis-a Christian classic, this work is a fantastic defense of Christianity. C.S. Lewis is a masterful writer and I highly recommend this work.

———

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

54 thoughts on “The Case for Christianity in 15 Minutes (or less)

  1. Every believer ought to come up with something like this. Also, thanks for your kind words on my post on the problem of evil, and for adding me to your blog roll. I highly appreciate it!

    Posted by erik | January 17, 2011, 5:20 PM
  2. No, the claims of the NT writers are no more “historical” than those of any other religion which has adherents willing to say they saw a supernatural event, or professed alien abductees, etc. You are in the same epistemic position in regards to both.

    And at any rate, there is NO EVIDENCE that ANY claimed divine inspiration or similar revelation is real. The phenomenon, if it exists, is unobservable. By Occam’s Razor we should suppose it doesn’t exist. It is as reasonable to suppose Abraham and Moses were hallucinating as any patient in a psychiatric institution for experiencing things that appear to everyone else to not be real. (And I’m referring to revelation here, not God)

    Posted by Nightvid Cole | June 17, 2011, 3:56 PM
    • What evidence do you have to support any of these claims? You paint a broad stroke, but have provided nothing more than the dogmatic tenets of skeptical atheism.

      You say, “the claims of the NT writers are no more ‘historical’ than those of any other religions…”

      Really? What evidence do you have to support this claim?

      You say, “You are in the same epistemic position [as those who profess alien abductions (sic)].”

      Really? What argument can you present to support this claim?

      You say, “there is NO EVIDENCE that ANY claimed divine inspiration or similar revelation is real”

      Interesting. The all caps really set it off for me. Note that you’re making a claim that there is a universal negative. Have you investigated every claim of divine inspiration yourself and found they are false? What allows you to infer that all instances of inspiration lacks evidential value?

      You wrote, “Abraham and Moses were hallucinating”

      What evidence can you present to support this claim?

      I think the bottom line here is that you’re quite capable of making unsupported claims, but incapable of admitting any kind of evidence for the other side. I sincerely doubt you’re capable of articulating a single line of evidence for any one of these claims, because it seems clear that you’ve dogmatically excluded any evidence for theism from the picture. Sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and shouting does not make one right.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 17, 2011, 11:00 PM
      • 1. The one claiming unequal epistemic positions has the burden of proof, not the one claiming equal epistemic positions.
        2. Since the claims of revelation are not backed up by independent evidence, they are industinguishable from hallucinations. I mean, it’s not logically impossible that other evidence could exist, but the historical community hasn’t presented any as of yet. Don’t straw-man my claims by insisting that I prove this with absolute certainty. You don’t live like that in day to day life and neither does anyone else.

        Posted by Nightvid Cole | September 20, 2011, 3:35 PM
      • Regarding your first point, you are claiming that Christianity and the claims of people who say they’ve seen aliens are equal epistemically. You’ve made a claim, but are unwilling (unable?) to support it. I won’t let you shift the burden just because it’s too heavy for you.

        Regarding your second point, the claims of sensory experience are not backed up by independent evidence either. Ultimately, any evidence used for sensory experience is more sensory experience. Thus, they can occupy equal epistemic grounds.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 22, 2011, 2:31 PM
      • (Regarding your later comment) 1. Equal epistemic position was a claim about being historical/attested. Anything in writing is, at a basic level, historical. If you mean more than simply asserted in a written document, please define exactly what you mean by “historical”. Now I’m NOT saying all documents are equally reliable, but rather that the assertion you are making depends upon a category (“historical”) which applies also to the other claims, so any difference must come from something other than the mere fact of being written down. I interpreted your post to mean that you think merely being in writing is your “evidence”.

        2. Sensory perception is not the only way of finding out about reality. For instance, I can detect the direct effect of a psychoactive drug on my brain when I am “not really there”, but this is not a sense.

        Posted by Nightvid Cole | October 17, 2011, 12:35 AM
  3. Awesome post, this is really helpful. I’m linking to this post as we speak. Making my way through the list of blogs on CAA! Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    Phil

    Posted by Phil Duncalfe | July 25, 2011, 12:19 PM
  4. Hi J.W.,

    Are you familiar with paraconsistent logic, and if so how do/would you refute it? If you are not familiar with it, advocates of paraconsistent logic hold there is some proposition(s) P that is compatible with ~P (in exactly the same sense and same way), even if most propositions are incompatible with their negations. Now the typical response to anyone denying the classical law of noncontradiction is to assert that one must presuppose the law to deny it, making the law undeniable. But this does not seem to work against the advocate of paraconsistent logic. If asked if their very statement, or proposition, affirming paraconsistent logic is true or false, they would say it is true, that in the case of this statement, it is a proposition that is not compatible with its negation. Thus it seems they could say the assertion that paraconsistent logic is true does not presuppose the classical law of non-contradiction (that for any proposition P, P is incompatible with ~P in exactly the same sense and same way); rather, the statement simply presupposes the truth of paraconsistent logic: that most propositions are incompatible with their negations, including this very statement or proposition affirming paraconsistent logic, while nevertheless there are some propositions that are compatible with their negations. How would you refute this?

    Posted by Jarvis | August 30, 2011, 5:22 PM
  5. Granted, but is there any way to show that they are wrong, that no proposition can be compatible with its negation? Thanks for you prompt reply, by the way!

    Posted by Jarvis | August 30, 2011, 6:01 PM
    • They are trying to say the law of noncontradiction is false. The only way around it is to special plead that their principle (and I would imagine some others they select) are not contradictory, but other things might be.

      Thus their argument is formulated around special pleading, so it is logically fallacious. Unless they can provide incontrovertible evidence that an actual contradiction exists, then there is no reason to take them seriously. They are making the assertion, so the burden of proof rests upon them. They claim “Contradictions exist,” Let them demonstrate that.

      So I don’t think there is any other way to show they are wrong. I don’t see a need to do so. They’re going against one of the fundamental laws of logic and their only defense is fallacious.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 30, 2011, 6:17 PM
      • J.W., thank you for the very helpful and insightful response. Let me ask you this, though: do you believe that the law of non-contradiction can be shown to be undeniably true? If so, that would show that paraconsistent logic is necessarily false. And it seems this is the only way it could be; otherwise, we must always entertain the doubt, however small, that paraconsistent logic is true and there is at least one contradiction in reality. What do you think?

        Posted by Jarvis | August 30, 2011, 10:09 PM
      • Given that contradictions are necessarily false I don’t see how it could be otherwise.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 30, 2011, 10:12 PM
  6. So you are saying that the law of non-contradiction is simply self-evident? If so, shouldn’t at least be able to be indirectly proven by showing that any attempt to deny it actually affirms it?

    Posted by Jarvis | August 30, 2011, 10:25 PM
    • That’s essentially what I’m saying. And, as has been pointed out already, the attempt by paraconsitent logicians to deny it is steeped in logically fallacious reasoning. A denial of the law of non-contradiction entails that very law. As you pointed out, the only way around that point is by special pleading. Use of a fallacious reasoning tool to escape a law of logic doesn’t threaten my epistemology.

      I know I’m being quite hardlined about this, but the onus is 100% on the person who argues there are contradictions to show that this is the case. Given that their position entails contradictions exist, and given that their position can only be held by special pleading, I really do not find it convincing at all.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 30, 2011, 10:29 PM
  7. Please indulge my continued pressing on this issue. Can you spell out as clearly as you can how “A denial of the law of non-contradiction entails that very law”? Perhaps you could show it in premise/conclusion form. I am trying to see this as clearly as you do, friend!

    Posted by Jarvis | August 30, 2011, 10:39 PM
    • The law of non-contradiction affirms that for any P, it is not the case that both P and not P. Or, ~(P and ~P).

      Now suppose I say ~(~(P and ~P), as those who would deny this law would.

      Well, then for any P, ◊(P and ~P).

      Suppose I call the statement “There are contradictions” P. Then, ◊(P and ~P) would entail that possibly, there are not contradictions.

      But if there are no contradictions, it would be necessarily true that there are none. If there are contradictions, it would not be a necessary truth (because its necessity could be contradicted).

      So I introduce the rule within S5 modality: ◊□P ⊃ □P. In other words, if, possibly necessarily P, then necessarily P. But then we already know that ~◊(□P) (where P is “There are contradictions”) because we know it cannot be necessary. But then ◊(□~P) is true. So we know that, necessarily, there are no contradictions, and this is based upon the propostion that there are contradictions. How? Again, by simply pointing out that if that statement is true, it cannot be a necessarily truth, and so the negation of it, which is the proposition that “there are no contradictions,” which is necessary if true at all, is possible. And because it is possibly necessarily true, it just is necessarily true. This is based upon S5 modality.

      But a simpler answer would just be “Those who deny the law of non-contradiction must affirm that it is possible the law of non-contradiction is true, because it could be contradictory. If that is the case, then the law of non-contradiction is true.”

      The underlying principle just happens to be S5 modality. It might be a weaker version, but I don’t claim to be fully familiar with all of formal logic by any stretch of the imagination.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 30, 2011, 11:06 PM
  8. Wow! Thanks for this. Unfortunately, I do not know what the diamond, square, and sideways U symbol mean. Could you give me a key for those, so I can read your generous explanation. Thanks, JW!

    Posted by Jarvis | August 31, 2011, 8:42 AM
  9. JW, thanks so much for your wonderful explanation. Really insightful stuff! I appreciate you taking the time to help me. Essentially what I am trying to prove is that the real is rational, that is, that there is no irrational reality; but rather, all reality is rational. Why? Because if it is even possible that there is some irrational reality, that would mean that there can be no certain theistic proofs, as one could always say maybe that proof only shows we must think that way, but not that reality really is that way. Have you ever worked on this problem?

    Posted by Jarvis | August 31, 2011, 11:46 AM
    • Certainly there are plenty of people who use things like Quantum Mechanics to justify unbelief or skepticism about logical proofs. But the bottom line is that if someone says reality is irrational, then in saying “Reality is irrational” and making a rational statement with English words grouped in such a way as to reasonably make sense, they have undermined their own position. People might toot the horn for irrationality, but when it comes down to it, no one is capable of holding the position.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 31, 2011, 3:20 PM
  10. Good points, JW. I agree that saying “reality is irrational” is a self-defeating assertion, but what about the position “there may be some reality that is irrational”? Or, “it is possible that some, though not all, reality is irrational?”

    Posted by Jarvis | August 31, 2011, 3:55 PM
  11. Yeah, I was trying to come at it at a different angle. Granted about S5 modality, but would you agree that the assertion “some reality may be irrational” is self-defeating like the assertion “some reality is irrational”? For it seems that to assert, “some reality may be irrational” is to make a rational statement about that reality. Or is this not quite correct?

    Posted by Jarvis | August 31, 2011, 4:12 PM
    • It is correct. Analyzing that statement means that the person who says “some reality may be irrational” is saying “Possibly, there is irrationality in this world.” But again, that opens up the possibility that “There is no irrationality in this world.” And only one of these can be necessarily true, the latter.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 31, 2011, 4:19 PM
  12. Cool! Man, you are really helping me see things better. Thank you so much. Let me ask you this. In Stephen Parrish’s book “God and Necessity” (I know you reviewed this book), he argues that one cannot admit even some irrationality into the world without that irrationality “spilling over” into the rational, since the irrational would have relations with the rational. He used the example of accomodationists who say that God is not subject to logic (=God is irrational), and showed how that would make all other reality irrational along with God because all other reality would be related to God. For example, all reality would be both created and not created by God. Now, I see how his point works specifically against the accomodationists theory of God, but I am having trouble seeing how asserting just any reality is irrational would make all reality irrational, as that irrational reality would spill over into the rational reality through the relations of the irrational to the rational. I think my difficulty, specifically, is seeing how all reality must be somehow related to all other reality. Is it true that all reality is related? If so, how? And if so, wouldn’t that mean that if there was any irrational reality, then because of that reality’s relations to the rational, all reality would be irrational, which in turn would lead to self-defeating agnosticism/skepticism? And that would be another proof against even the possibility of some irrational reality.

    Posted by Jarvis | August 31, 2011, 4:32 PM
    • If the world has irrationality then I agree with Parrish’s assessment.

      Think of it this way. We have three propositions, A, B, and C. C is irrational, but exists in our hypothetical world. A and B are fundamentally rational. Now because C is irrational, it is possible that it could enter into irrational relations with A and B. A and B are restricted to rational relations, but C is not. C can contain contradictions and so can both interact with and refrain from interacting with A and B. So C interacts with A and B, which “pollutes” A and B with an irrational relation, thus leading to all of reality being irrational.

      You said your difficulty “, is seeing how all reality must be somehow related to all other reality. Is it true that all reality is related? If so, how?”

      Yes, all reality is related, at the very least modally. Consider concrete objects like rocks. Even if they never interact, they’d still have spatial relations. Now consider properties and other abstract entities. These have modal relations. For example, the proposition that “There is no Santa Claus” would be related to all other propositions about the world. It would contradict “There is a Santa Claus”; it would be logically neutral in relation with “There are rabbits”; it would contradict “There are no humans” (assuming Santa Claus would be human); it would be questionable as to whether it could be true if “There are no females” (where did he come from?), etc. etc. Now, do these relate to concrete objects?

      Consider the rock once more. There are propositions about the rock which are true and false. If “There is no Santa Claus” is true, then the rock has a modal property which it would not otherwise have: “The rock exists in a world without Santa.”

      So every part of the world has infinite possible relations with other parts of reality, including abstract objects.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 1, 2011, 9:51 AM
  13. Hey JW, I’m back for more, if you have the time. Earlier you wrote, “A denial of the law of non-contradiction entails that very law. . . . the only way around that point is by special pleading.” Suppose someone says, “there might be contradictories in reality, whose to say.” How would you respond to show that the position is 100% certainly false? I know, I know: we’ve circled the wagons on this. I am just trying to slow things down and see step by step how to refute this position. I hope that isn’t too annoying!

    Posted by Jarvis | September 2, 2011, 2:37 PM
    • There are three ways to answer this question (that is, “There might be contradictions in reality, who’s to say?”):
      1) I’ll let my previous comments speak for themselves as far as the modal implications for possibility and necessity.

      2) The speaker seems to be conflating between broadly logical possibility and actual possibility. Suppose for a moment I granted the broadly logical possibility of contradictions. Well all that means is that there might be a possible world in which contradictions exist. But it remains to be seen whether there are contradictions, or whether they are possible in the actual world. But the person asking this question needs contradictions to exist in order for there to be any weight to the remark. Thus, it is up to them to show a contradiction does exist (and don’t get me started on people who use Quantum Mechanics for this–there is a huge difference between having something act like a wave and a particle and an actual, logical contradiction).

      3) Most pointedly, contradictions cannot exist. They aren’t even broadly possible. As Richard Swinburne writes in “The Coherence of Theism” (paraphrased), when someone utters a sentence with a contradiction, they haven’t really conveyed any information at all. It’s a meaningless sentence. Similarly, when one argues that there can be things like square circles, they aren’t speaking in terms that have meaning. What is a square circle? It’s nothing. It’s not anything. It’s not just that it doesn’t exist, it’s that it doesn’t even mean anything.

      I would challenge anyone who claims “there might be contradictions” in this manner: “Name one.”

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 2, 2011, 8:23 PM
      • JW, great stuff as usual! I especially like your last, “most pointed” point. I had not really thought about it quite at that angle. I need to track down Swinburne on that. Do you have a page number?

        Let me ask you this, do you think that you could reduce the person’s position to logically entailing skepticism or agnosticism? If so, how? Again, I really appreciate your thinking through these things with me.

        Posted by Jarvis | September 2, 2011, 10:26 PM
      • Regarding the second part of your comment: If there could be contradictions “out there” we have no reason to think there aren’t any “right here.” We have no reason to think things shouldn’t just be popping into and out of existence, or that we haven’t ourselves popped into existence with all our memories formed, etc, etc. After all, if there are contradictions, these propositions could be both true and false at the same time. So I think it would have to entail skepticism in order to be consistent.

        Swinburne’s page # is 149- “A logically impossible action is not an action. It is what is described by a form of words which purport to describe an action, but do not describe anything which it is coherent to suppose could be done… ‘making a square circle’ does not describe anything which it is coherent to suppose could be done.”

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 2, 2011, 11:37 PM
  14. Hey JW, thanks for your response, and I really appreciate you tracking down the quote from Dr. Swinburne.

    What I hear you saying is that to know something one must presuppose not simply,

    1. that thing is not its negation, because that very thing cannot be its negation.

    but

    2. that thing is not its negation, because no thing can be its respective negation.

    You are saying it is not possible to think the former about something without presupposing the latter. In other words, one cannot not that something is not its negation without knowing that all things are not their respective negations. Is this right?

    Posted by Jarvis | September 4, 2011, 3:10 PM
    • Jarvis

      My apologies. I seem to have missed this comment and forgot to respond. I think you’ve gotten what I’m saying. If there are contradictions, there’s no reason to assume that everything is not a contradiction.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 10, 2011, 10:03 AM
      • Hi JW,

        I thought I had worn out my welcome! But I’m glad to see that wasn’t the case, because I’ve really enjoyed our discussion. Unfortunately, I am still wresting with being certain “the real is rational.” Basically, my hold-up is showing the laws of thought (identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle) are also laws of being. How do we know that reality in itself, all reality, is not contradictory? Is the LNC an ontological principle or is it merely a law of thought, a principle that governs how we must think if we are to make sense to ourselves and others? Is it an ontological principle or merely a transcendental one? That is what I’m wrestling with. Again, can we be certain the real is rational? I agree with your earlier “retorsion” argument that “if someone says reality is irrational, then in saying ‘Reality is irrational’ and making a rational statement with English words grouped in such a way as to reasonably make sense, they have undermined their own position.” But, still, it seems like this only shows that we cannot think reality, any reality, is irrational; not that all reality actually is, ontologically, rational. Can you shed any more light for me?

        Posted by Jarvis | September 10, 2011, 12:02 PM
      • It is an ontological principle because it directly applies to reality. The law of noncontradiction prevents things from existing. Can you imagine an object that is simultaneously and in the same way both a square and a circle? Or what about something that is simultaneously and in the same way both red and blue all over?

        These things cannot exist due to this logical law.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 11, 2011, 2:48 PM
  15. Hi JW, thanks for your response. I think I have run this thing into the ground now! I will continue reflecting and let you know if I have anything else to add to our discussion. Thanks for the great dialogue. You have been a big help!

    Posted by Jarvis | September 11, 2011, 10:14 PM
  16. So many fallacies, so little time!

    ***

    The Kalam Argument only leads to there being a cause for the universe. That cause may or may not be God; this is open to conjecture.

    ***
    Your unsupported statement that “The cause must also be personal because [it] brought the universe into existence at some point, which requires a choice.” holds no water – lots of things we already know about have non-personal causes. There is no reason to assume that the cause of the universe is personal; it could just as well be a non-personal cause.

    ***

    The Moral Argument has so many holes it’s not funny.

    For starters, I can use the same format to DISprove God:

    1. If there are objective moral values, then God does not exist.

    2. There are objective moral values

    3. Therefore, God does not exist.

    Or, to prove that pigs can fly:

    1. If trees are green, then pigs can fly.
    2. Trees are green.
    3. Therefore, pigs can fly.

    By taking the conditional from the first premise, and then asserting it as the second premise, you can prove anything. It’s like dividing by zero in maths.

    ***

    You then assert – without proof or supporting evidence – that there *are* objective morals.
    >“murder is wrong” would be wrong even if…

    Says who? The God who you’re trying to prove by this argument? That’s assuming the answer – you can’t use the conclusion to prove the conclusion. If something is objectively right or wrong, there must be some way to prove this without God (given that you want to use this statement to then prove God).

    ***
    As for the historicity of Christianity’s central premise, there is no proof *outside of the Bible* that Jesus even existed, let alone was crucified and resurrected.

    ***

    You then assert that 2,000-year-old written documents are reliable when there are no other sources which support them. And, the fact that people died for these documents is no proof at all – at the very least, they might have been mistaken in their writings, and died for something they *thought* was true, but which in reality was not.

    ***

    >If the Gospels are reliable, then Jesus is divine.

    But, the only way we know Jesus is divine is because the gospels say so. And the Gospels are only reliable because they say Jesus is divine. But Jesus is divine because the Gospels say Jesus is divine because the Gospels say Jesus is divine because the Gospels say Jesus is divine because the Gospels say Jesus is divine… A circular proof is no proof.

    ***

    There may be a case for Christianity – in 15 minutes or less, or more – but this isn’t it.

    Posted by Algernon_Asimov | October 26, 2011, 5:38 PM
    • Thanks for your comment. Let me examine your critiques one by one.

      You wrote, “Your unsupported statement that ‘The cause must also be personal because [it] brought the universe into existence at some point, which requires a choice.’ holds no water – lots of things we already know about have non-personal causes. There is no reason to assume that the cause of the universe is personal; it could just as well be a non-personal cause.”

      Indeed, we do know a lot about nonpersonal causation, but you apparently neglected the fact that in order to cause the universe, such an entity would have to make a choice. Why? Because the universe was created ex nihilo–out of nothing. You failed to actually address the argument.

      Your critique of the moral argument is just confused. You wrote, “By taking the conditional from the first premise, and then asserting it as the second premise, you can prove anything. It’s like dividing by zero in maths”

      Right. It’s called modus ponens, the most basical form of syllogistic reasoning. I suggest you look it up.

      If the premises are true and the argument is valid, then the argument is sound. The difficulty with your parodies is we don’t have any reason to think the premises are true. I argued to establish the premises, which is what you must challenge. Your criticism shows a lack of familiarity with deductive reasoning.

      I leave it on you to deny the wrongness if murder. People profess relativism, but no one lives that way. If someone stole your car/house/spouse you’d think they wronged you, regardless of supposed relativism.

      “As for the historicity of Christianity’s central premise, there is no proof *outside of the Bible* that Jesus even existed, let alone was crucified and resurrected.”

      I hate to say it, but apart from internet atheism, this is patently false. There is an extraordinary amount of proof that Jesus existed and was crucified. There is also extraordinary evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. I’d be happy to go over said evidence. If you look across the board of NT scholarship, from those who are agnostic/atheistic (Bart Ehrman) to evangelicals, no one denies that Jesus exists. The only ones who do are so steeped in the dogma of atheism that they can’t objectively consider historical evidence.

      This critique applies to your next sentence as well.

      You wrote, “But, the only way we know Jesus is divine is because the gospels say so. And the Gospels are only reliable because they say Jesus is divine. ”

      This is an obvious straw man. I’ve never argued that the Gospels are reliable because they say Jesus is divine. They’re reliable because we know they accurately report historical places, persons, and people. The events in them are actually largely undisputed as well (the meaning is hotly debated), other than the miracles. A simple survey of the

      So ultimately your critiques show a lack of familiarity with deductive logic, a naive acceptance of internet atheism, and a serious streak of historical anti-realism.

      I ask you truthfully, have you ever even explored the position you’re critiquing? Have you ever even read one work by a serious New Testament scholar? I sincerely doubt it.

      Finally, I suggest a thorough investigation of deductive reasoning before you try to critique an argument that uses modus ponens.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 27, 2011, 12:11 AM
      • “you apparently neglected the fact that in order to cause the universe, such an entity would have to make a choice … You failed to actually address the argument.”

        No, I didn’t. Firstly, it’s not a FACT that an entity made a choice – it’s an assumption. Actually, it’s two assumptions: first, that an entity created the universe; second, that it made a choice. I addressed these assumptions head-on. There is no evidence at all that the original cause of the universe was a result of a choice rather than an unchoosing process. This is an assumption and, as such, is open to question. Your saying that it must be so doesn’t make it so.

        As for your modus ponens argument, it may be well-formed, but it again rests on unfounded assumptions:
        • That objective morals must come from a god.
        • That objective morals exist.

        Without proving these premises, your argument is unsound.

        Firstly, moral behaviour has been observed in non-human animals: mothers protecting children; herdmates warning of predators (and thereby endangering themselves); “aunties” taking care of children which are not their own; and so on. The existence of some few morals across most human societies may be no more than these evolved behaviours being reinforced by our societal rules. This possibility is just as valid as that some external entity has laid down moral rules for us to follow – and yet you assume the latter without even addressing the former.

        So, the derivation of “objective morals” from an external entity rather than from evolved behaviour is another assumption.

        You say that we have no reason to think the premises in my parodies are true. What reason – apart from the fact that they’re included in your own modus ponens argument – do we have for thinking that your premises are true? Alternative explanations for what you call “objective morality” have been proposed: the assumption that this comes from a God is merely an assumption.

        What if I therefore framed my parody thus?
        1. If there are objective moral values, then these come from evolved behaviour.
        2. There are objective moral values.
        3. Therefore, these come from evolved behaviour.

        My first premise is as valid as your first premise. The modus ponens argument is well-formed. If you accept the second premise (and you do!), then my conclusion is also valid.

        However, I would argue that even the second premise in that argument is still an assumption.

        The number of morals which have been accepted as bad or good by all human societies is minimal. Even “murder is bad” has been put aside in societies which upheld an “eye for an eye” type of justice (there, I did it!). Cannibalism, child sex, rape, slavery – all these things have been lauded as virtues by at least some societies. The evidence for a universal morality is thin at best.

        As for relativism, I can’t deny that I would consider someone stealing my possessions to be doing wrong – I was raised in a society which considers theft to be immoral. I’m constrained by the morality I was raised in. As are most people. Even you.

        ***

        I challenge you to provide me with one non-Biblical source which explicitly mentions Jesus. I searched once, spending a few hours in front of my computer, trying to track down any such reference. If such evidence exists, I assume it would be publicised wide and far – by Christians wanting to prove their case, if not by anyone else. However, I came up empty-handed. If you have even one non-Gospel document which has not been edited after the fact (Josephus), I would very much appreciate seeing it.

        Just because the Gospels are accurate in describing some historical events, we can not assume that everything in them is fact. This would be like assuming that Shakespeare’s Histories are non-fiction because they describe some verifiable people and events. However, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is more fiction than fact: even though Macbeth did exist, and he did kill Duncan, he actually ruled equably and was accepted as a good king. Inclusion of some verifiable historical facts does not put a text entirely beyond question.

        Posted by Algernon_Asimov | October 27, 2011, 3:16 AM
      • Your rebuttal to the conclusions of the Kalam is a bit off. You wrote, “There is no evidence at all that the original cause of the universe was a result of a choice rather than an unchoosing process. This is an assumption and, as such, is open to question. Your saying that it must be so doesn’t make it so.”

        It is your response which is actually an assumption: namely, that there are some kind of meta-laws which govern the laws of our universe. Furthermore, it assumes that there was something before the universe. Even meta-laws would have to have physical operation, for otherwise they wouldn’t be laws of anything. These laws would have to operate without space, time, matter, or energy. I leave it to you to demonstrate that a physical law exists without physical entities.

        You wrote, “Without proving these premises, your argument is unsound.”

        Again, I think this betrays a lack of familiarity with deductive reasoning. The only requirement for the argument to work is not proof that the premises are true, but premises which are more likely than their contradictions. As such, in order to attack the moral argument one would have to say that either there are no objective moral values or that objective moral values do not rely upon God. The former would be extremely implausible, because it goes against our moral experience. When someone is murdered, we intuitively know a wrong had been committed. Thus, we would have to distrust our moral senses in order for premise 2 to be falsified. It seems that therefore that premise 2 is more plausible than its contradiction. Holding the contradiction of premise 1 to be true would lead one to have to show that plausibly, something else can account for objective morals. The onus is upon the detractor to show that this is more plausible an explanation than deity.

        Now again, your example betrays a bit of confusion about deductive reasoning. You wrote, “If there are objective moral values, then these come from evolved behaviour.”

        Well it seems pretty clear that this premise doesn’t establish what you want. The second half of your premise says “these [objective morals] come from evolved behavior…” The problem with this, of course, is that evolved behavior would only be an argument about our belief in objective values, not their ontological status. Our behaviors are not the groundings for existence, they stem from observations of the universe and our reactions to those observations. Your first premise commits the genetic fallacy and is therefore unsound. It is not, as you said, “as valid as your first premise.”

        Again, your counter ” I was raised in a society which considers theft to be immoral” is another example of the genetic fallacy.

        I suggest you seriously research deductive reasoning before you go much further. I am not saying this to try to be condescending–rather I’m genuinely trying to urge you to take some logic classes, or pick up a text or two on the topic. You’ll find that you are liberated in conversation as you can identify fallacies and draw out conclusions on the fly. It’s a wonderful experience. You’ll also find that many of the arguments you have used in the past are fallacious (I can attest to this! I kicked myself numerous times in my logic classes in undergrad). As I’ve shown, many of your arguments are fallacious to their core, and other assumptions show a lack of familiarity with how deductive reasoning works. I really urge you to explore this field more fully.

        Anyway, You wrote, “I challenge you to provide me with one non-Biblical source which explicitly mentions Jesus. I searched once, spending a few hours in front of my computer, trying to track down any such reference.”

        Honestly, you must not have looked very hard. For a simple list of citations: see here.

        You’re touching on Josephus shows you have indeed interacted with internet atheism. It’s interesting to see how naive such arguments turn out to be upon even the slightest investigation. Josephus scholars, such as the eminent Paul L. Maier, an historian respected throughout the field as one of the foremost scholars on Josephus, has shown rather conclusively that while some redaction occurred, Josephus still did mention Jesus in his original text. F.F. Bruce provided an alternate translation, expunging the redactions: “Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus, a wise man who performed surprising works, a teacher of men who gladly welcome strange things. He led away many Jews, and also many of the Gentiles. He was the so-called Christ. When Pilate, acting on information supplied by the chief men around us, condemned him to the cross, those who had attached themselves to him at first did not cease to cause trouble, and the tribe of Christians, which has taken this name from him is not extinct even today.”

        So we can see there are a wide variety of extra-biblical sources. The naive skepticism of internet atheism aside, no historical scholars take these arguments seriously. Again, the gamut runs from radical skeptics like Ehrman all the way to people like N.T. Wright. Only the unlearned doubt the existence of Jesus. I don’t intend this as an ad hominem, more as a statement of fact. A few hours of serious historical research in a local library would cast off all doubt. Unfortunately, the halls of internet atheism are relatively unfilled with those willing to explore alternative views.

        As far as the accuracy of the Gospels are concerned, you have to realize the argument is not in a vaccuum. Certainly, if all we relied upon were the Scriptures themselves, we’d have little reason other than faith to take the miraculous accounts seriously. But in light of the evidence from archaeology, historicity of the Resurrection, and the arguments for the existence of God, the Bible becomes much more plausible.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 27, 2011, 11:29 AM
      • JW: Indeed, we do know a lot about nonpersonal causation, but you apparently neglected the fact that in order to cause the universe, such an entity would have to make a choice. Why? Because the universe was created ex nihilo–out of nothing. You failed to actually address the argument.

        You’re assuming that the universe was created “ex nihilo”, which is not a result of modern cosmology, or of any of the hypothesis proposed to explain the big bang event.
        You’re also asserting a choice was made when time presumably did not exist, and yet the actual process of choosing only seems intelligible within time.

        Posted by Havok | June 17, 2012, 1:51 AM
  17. Please explain to me why your “If there are objective moral values, then God exists” is irrefutable and needs no support – it is more genetically fallacious than the alternative suggested. The alternative, “these come from evolved behaviour” is logically preferable to yours (as it doesn’t rely on a being of which many have no experience) … It is no more a genetic fallacy than yours – yours could be rephrased genetically as “If there are objective moral standards, then these come from God” (if that doesn’t work why is your phrasing preferable?). In any case, yours is more genetically fallacious than the alternative suggested. The alternative was not arguing based on causes but was just suggesting a different genesis than the cause proposed by your genetic argument.

    And I find the alternative infinitely more satisfactory, logically speaking.
    As Bertrand Russell said, if confronted with God after death, he would have to say “Pardon me, but you and I both know that the evidence was insufficient”

    Posted by My Philosophy degree is 35 years old. Forgive me for forgetting a lot. | January 2, 2012, 9:53 PM
  18. Quote: “The Case for Christianity in 15 Minutes (or less)”

    Not even close. In fact your ‘arguments’ better prove the falsity of Christianity than any truth it claims. This has been the one consistent fact for this faith for 2,000 years – the ‘proving’ of it disproves it.

    Posted by Jim Jones | June 18, 2012, 9:52 AM
  19. There are many reasons to believe God exists, let me share a few: Kalam Cosmological Argument will not get you to your [Insert Brand Name] magical friend. The Kalām argument was named after the Kalām tradition of Islamic discursive philosophy. It’s very old and very much rejected.

    The Moral Argument
    4) If there are objective moral values, then God exists

    Very silly.

    The Moral Argument

    4) If there are objective moral values, then Baal exists. If there are objective moral values, then Odin exists. If there are objective moral values, then the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists etc.

    But the only way to hold that objective moral values exist is to grant God’s existence…

    Ah, the gift that keeps on giving

    But the only way to hold that objective moral values exist is to grant Isis’s existence, because objective laws require an objective lawgiver.

    Without Sky Woman, however, morals reduce to “I don’t like that.” It seems ludicrous to believe that murder is wrong just because we don’t like it. It is something actually wrong about murder that makes it wrong. That which makes it wrong is, again, the commands of the Lawgiver: Tarhunt.

    Christianity is Unique

    Scientology is unique. Mormonism is unique etc. Really, really bad argument.

    Jesus is God (5 minutes) 1) The Gospels are reliable.

    No. The bible is the claim, not the evidence.

    As far as the accuracy of the Gospels are concerned, you have to realize the argument is not in a vaccuum.
    Certainly, if all we relied upon were the Scriptures themselves, we’d have little reason other than faith to take the miraculous accounts seriously. But in light of the evidence from archaeology…

    Nope. Archaeology does not provide evidence of miracles.

    ..historicity of the Resurrection…

    Nope. History does not provide evidence for miracles.

    …and the arguments for the existence of God, the Bible becomes much more plausible.

    “Arguments for your god” do not magically poof evidence for miracles. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

    No extra-biblical evidence for Jesus – The Atheist Experience #652

    Posted by Cedric Katesby | August 20, 2012, 10:14 PM
    • Normally I don’t interact with dogmatic atheists, but for the sake of showing that these arguments are pretty ridiculous I’ll respond this once.

      The Kalām argument was named after the Kalām tradition of Islamic discursive philosophy. It’s very old and very much rejected.

      Really? Why is it, then, that we have literally dozens of peer-reviewed philosophy articles debating its premises? Why is it that we have both atheists and Christians discussing it on a high academic level (here for atheists I refer to Graham Oppy types, not Dawkins/internet infidel types)?

      That’s right, because this statement is total bluster. The argument is very much alive. A simple survey of academic literature shows that. But given the rest of this response, I doubt there’s much interaction with academia happening.

      ) If there are objective moral values, then Baal exists. If there are objective moral values, then Odin exists. If there are objective moral values, then the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists etc.

      Really? So the god Baal is capable of being the source of objective morality? Odin? Please show me one place in the literature of these pagan religions where they claim this. These gods were seen as fallible, human-like beings and were certainly not maintained in a classical theistic tradition.

      Again, this is just blind atheism.

      Your parody is fine, but you have to show how Sky Woman/Odin/Baal, etc. are all capable of being omnibenevolent, given their respective religious traditions. Good luck with that.

      Christianity is Unique

      Scientology is unique. Mormonism is unique etc. Really, really bad argument.

      It’s called a header, not an argument. Again, this really demonstrates the great dogma of atheism: criticize everything the other side says without stopping to examine even for a moment.

      Jesus is God (5 minutes) 1) The Gospels are reliable.

      No. The bible is the claim, not the evidence.

      It’s a header. Let’s not be disingenuous.

      History does not provide evidence for miracles.

      Speaking of arguments that are largely rejected in academia…. apart from positivistic scientists and the occasional philosopher, there are even many atheists who reject Humean reasoning about miracles. Cf. John Earman “Hume’s Abject Failure.”

      No extra-biblical evidence for Jesus

      Hello, Jesus myther. Meet actual historiography.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 21, 2012, 7:52 AM
  20. Kalam Cosmological Argument

    A summary of some arguments mainly from the science as to why this argument doesn’t work:

    ** “1) Everything that began to exist has a cause”

    Reconfigurations of existing matter may occur according to known laws of physics, but even that’s not clear, since there is no compelling deterministic model of quantum mechanics (that isn’t weird in some other way). But, in any case, all bets are out of the window when it comes to the origin of matter in the first place.

    ** “2) The universe Began to exist”

    Not necessarily, it could be eternal in the past or cyclical. Whilst physical instantiation of infinities (rather than mathematical ones) aren’t attractive from a scientific POV (hard to test), you can’t rule them out by fiat. Besides, you gain nothing by introducing a transcendental necessary being which would also need to be eternal in the past (since it wasn’t created) and so any infinity traversal arguments would apply equally to that.

    ** “3) Therefore the universe has a cause.”

    The first two premises fail, but it’s still very possible, of course, that our universe is a part of some greater multiverse and had some cause within it, we simply don’t know.

    ** “It seems intuitively obvious that 1) is true. Things don’t just pop into and out of existence.”

    Unfortunately, quantum mechanics isn’t the least bit intuitive in that noone understands it’s consequences (if you think you understand QM you don’t understand QM – Feyman). So this argument is very weak, particularly since QM effects start to become apparent at the Planck scale, which is precisely the point where current physical understanding ends.

    ** “2) follows from modern scientific discoveries like the Big Bang, which implies a single cosmological beginning.”

    - What science says is that there was a big bang and that our observable universe is expanding from that. We can not formulate sensible theories of what might have occurred prior (or even if that’s a meaningful thing to say) to that until we have a convincing theory of quantum gravity.

    Although not certain, the science is quite convincing that if the inflationary model of the particular universe we are in is correct, inflation can not be eternal to the past (Borde, Guth Vilenkin 2003), but that in no way rules out other universes that don’t causally interact with ours and a host of other current models (such as bounce models – that inflation is cyclical in a multiverse). In short it’s all too speculative right now for any sensible conclusions to be drawn.

    ** “3) follows via modus ponens (the most basic form of argument) from 1 and 2.”

    - Not if the premises are false.

    ** “This argument shows a transcendent cause of the universe.”

    No, assuming a cause, there’s no way to distinguish between a transcendent and a proximate cause. But a proximate cause would be simpler, since you don’t need to explain a connection between different realms (or wherever the transcendant thing lies).

    ** “The cause must also be personal because [it] brought the universe into existence at some point, which requires a choice. Choices can only be made by persons, so this entity is personal. (See William Lane Craig in “On Guard”, linked below, for more.)”

    “Choices can only be made by persons” (!?) isn’t a meaningful statement and probably relies on an incoherent concept of free will (i.e. libertarian free will).

    “at some point” is meaningless unless time existed prior to the “cause”. But if it did there would need to be a previous first cause (of time) or infinite past time.

    Posted by Roq Marish (@Roqsan) | November 12, 2012, 7:39 PM

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