In wrapping up my refutation of J.T.’s critique of Christianity and arguments for God’s existence, a large amount of material will be covered. Because of this, the installment you’re about to delve into will be the lengthiest of the three. So, although no topic will be completely exhausted, patience and attentiveness will serve you well. Now then, let’s proceed.
Discussing whether or not science is a matter of faith, J.T. talks a bit about the consistency demonstrable in the natural world and uses examples such as stones falling, satellites being launched into orbit with extreme precision, and hot stoves (16:30). J.T., I believe correctly, states that religious people also operate on the assumption that the universe is consistent. For the moment, we won’t cover why this is not problematic on a Christian worldview, so I’ll simply refer you, the reader, to Teleological arguments (also known as Fine-Tuning arguments) for God’s existence. Expounding in the hot stove example, J.T. says, “If you walk by a hot stove one week and burn your hand on it, you’re not going to put your hand on the stove next week because you expect the universe to be consistent” (16:55). He then finishes his thought by saying, “All we’re asking of the religious people in terms of science and in terms of their own beliefs is that they stay consistent” (17:12). As we’ve seen previously (and will discuss further throughout Part Three), J.T. has a hard time remaining consistent himself, so charging others with remaining consistent in their views feels a lot like the pot calling the kettle black. Lost on J.T., however, is that there is nothing inherently inconsistent with a Christian holding the view that the universe operates consistently according to natural laws and that God is capable of supernatural intervention in human history. The only reason this appears inconsistent to J.T. is that he presupposes atheism is true and that the supernatural is impossible. It would be no different if I asserted that J.T.’s position is inconsistent because his worldview does not match mine. This leads directly to a stalemate in the debate and its use within his presentation hardly represents a legitimate critique.
Next, J.T. attempts to refute Christianity’s argument for God’s existence via fulfilled prophecy. Beginning with what he refers to as “vague prophecies,” J.T. uses Luke 7:27 as an example, which says, “This is the one it is written about: Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You; he will prepare Your way before You.” Commenting on this prophecy, J.T. claims, “This is not much of a prophecy” (17:42). Taken completely out of context, I can sympathize with J.T.’s assessment. However, removing the context simply allows J.T. to manipulate the quote of choice to look as favorable or unfavorable as he frames it. The entire context of the prophecy involves its origination found in Malachi 3:1 , which was written nearly five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Also, completely incapable of being manipulated by Jesus and His disciples is the fact of John the Baptist’s thriving Judean ministry preaching baptism and repentance for the forgiveness of sins. A large, well-known ministry such as John’s is vital to this fulfillment. John would then reveal that he was simply preparing the way for Jesus and the new covenant He would bring to the people. Far from being a vague prophecy, there was no one else at the time of Jesus’s entrance into public ministry who could have fulfilled the words of Malachi as precisely as John the Baptist.
J.T. makes quick mention of “trivial prophecies” which is an objection not needing to be addressed because his example is not categorized as a legitimate biblical prophecy. Rather, it’s simply a straw-man erected by J.T. to be knocked down in a feat of self-congratulatory triumph. So, we’ll move on to the next category, which he refers to as “cheating.” Setting up his example, J.T. incorrectly informs the crowd, “Jesus, if He existed, was a Rabbi. He would’ve known the Jewish literature and He would’ve known what prophecies He had to fulfill” (18:53). I say incorrectly because Jesus was not, in fact, a trained and ordained Jewish Rabbi. In the first-century, Rabbi was a term of respect for someone’s teacher or master. Training in the Scriptures only occurred if one was a Pharisee or Sadducee and ordination as a Rabbi did not yet exist. So, while Jesus was certainly familiar with the Scriptures, He was not formally educated in Jewish literature or ordained as a Rabbi. The example J.T. then gives is Zechariah 9:9 which states, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The fulfillment is recorded in all four gospels, but J.T. uses Matthew 21:2-5 and emphasizes verse four which reads, “This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled.” To this, J.T. charges that this comes across as cheating and says, “How difficult is it to fulfill a prophecy you already know about? Hint: Not” (19:40). So, is this prophecy really that easy to fulfill just because you know what’s involved? How easy would it be for me, or anyone else, to tell a group of friends to procure a red Ford Mustang from a neighboring town, convince its owner that they have good reason for taking it, and to then use it in accordance with a prophecy written beforehand? Well, first is the issue of availability of the object on the day and time it is needed at that location. Second, removing it from the owner without trouble also poses a problem. Finally, what if I had only one day in history at one specific location in a geographic area larger than New Jersey full of a few million inhabitants in order to fulfill the prophecy? Leaving out context, as J.T. often does, his critique fails to take into consideration the prophecy of Daniel 9:25 which predicted the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem to the very day recorded 572 years prior (Prophecy will be covered in-depth in subsequent articles). Taken together, the odds of one man pulling this off are insurmountable, yet J.T. plays it off as if it is no problem. He ends by saying, “Couldn’t God have done better if He was really trying to communicate with us?” (19:53). Considering the probability of this prophecy alone being fulfilled by Jesus, along with the hundreds of Messianic and non-Messianic prophecies fulfilled in the person of Jesus and throughout history, I would say God has done an excellent job communicating with us.
After taking a moment to discuss Christians who will “move the goalposts” when arguing, J.T. turns his attention to the argument of historical accuracy and its implications. Speaking of the Bible, he says, “But even if it were totally historically accurate, I could take a history book compliant with history as we know it and write on the last page, ‘and Elvis rose from the dead.’ The fact that it’s historically accurate will not mean that Elvis rose from the dead” (20:47). This is an incredibly poor example because the comparison leads the audience to believe the entire New Testament is nothing more than a general history book with an arbitrary mention of Jesus’s resurrection. It also fails to recognize that the gospel narratives are records of the life of Jesus as a real person in history and not a history of the area or people where Jesus just happens to find a place within the pages. J.T. sums up his argument by saying, “Historical accuracy says nothing to the truth of miracle claims or the existence of God” (21:15). While historical accuracy does not necessitate the truthfulness of all claims within the Bible, it helps build the case for trusting that the authors recorded actual events as they truly happened. Without presupposing the impossibility of miracles, how would we determine whether or not a miracle recorded in a historical account actually happened? There are many factors lending to the credibility of such claims and this includes, but is not limited to, an accurate record of people, places, and events.
J.T. moves from history to the moral argument and frames it as though Christians hold the idea that believing in God makes a person better. J.T. says belief in God does not necessarily make a person better and I would agree. However, this is another straw-man because I know of no moral argument framed this way. Instead, moral arguments argue for the existence of objective moral values and duties which then lead logically to the existence of God. Speaking of moral absolutes, J.T. says, “You’ll hear with atheism that you can’t have absolute morality. And there is no absolute morality” (24:52). So if absolute morality does not exist, how does J.T. distinguish something morally permissible from that which is not? What sort of arbitrary criteria does he use to determine whether or not he or anyone else has acted morally right or wrong? Remember the story of Madeline Neumann he told in Part One? He called what those parents did “bad.” If absolute morality doesn’t exist, how can he level this charge again the parents with any certainty? To support his claim that absolute morality does not exist, J.T. references the Ten Commandments, citing the ninth commandment incorrectly by saying it reads, “thou shalt not lie” (24:57). This is important because the ninth commandment does not say this and is not an explicit prohibition against lying in all circumstances, but rather against lying to deceive or incriminate your fellow man with morally wrong or evil intent. Keeping this in mind, J.T.’s subsequent example goes nowhere. Using the scenario of harboring Jews in Nazi Germany and being approached by the Gestapo, he says, “…the moral thing to do is to lie your ass off. Morality changes based on our situations” (24:58). While I agree that the moral thing to do in this situation would be to lie in order to protect the Jews, it has nothing to do with morality changing depending on the circumstances. Is there any situation where it would be morally permissible to torture a child for fun? If there are no moral absolutes (actions that are wrong in all situations at any time) and morality can change based on our situations according to J.T., this would imply a scenario where torturing a child for fun would actually be morally permissible. J.T. continually preaches for consistency throughout his presentation, yet his view of morality is incredibly inconsistent and leaves the door open to arbitrary designations contrary to his own conclusions with no clear way to establish whose view is correct.
Faith is then placed into the crosshairs next as J.T. asks rhetorically, “Can you distinguish faith from gullibility for me? And if you can’t, maybe faith isn’t as noble as you thought” (25:15). While faith, specifically in God through His revelation in Scripture and in the world, contains an element of trusting the unknown, it is built upon an intellectual assent grounded in reason and a thorough evaluation of the evidence available. This is far from the blind descent of gullibility J.T. would have people believe Christians partake in.
Concluding his presentation, J.T. leaves the audience with a few key remarks worthy of attention. First, with ego on full display, he says, “And the last one you get is, after you trash all their arguments, you’ve held their feet to the fire, ‘But one day might we find evidence for God? Isn’t that possible?’ Yes, it is possible, and at that point we’ll change our minds but not a second sooner” (26:27). Once again, J.T. is either being intellectually dishonest or he’s just ignorant of the evidence available. Regardless of the case, evidence for God’s existence does exist and can be readily investigated by anyone willing to seek it out. Also, recall that J.T. wants to argue plausibility and not possibility. Based on scientific evidence, philosophical arguments, and intuitive experiences, God’s existence is much more plausibly true than false in many situations while the realm of possibility is inhabited by atheism. Finally, he states, “And if the basis for your belief in God is that we might find evidence somewhere down the line to confirm it, you are, you are by definition basing your beliefs off information you don’t have, which is a moral failing, period” (26:47). Leaving aside the moral aspect of J.T.’s worldview because it has been thoroughly handled previously, doesn’t J.T. fall victim to his own perceived designation of a moral failure? When discussing the origin of the universe and questions we haven’t yet answered, J.T. relies not on what is known, but on information he doesn’t have. His belief that all future events and circumstances will be explained by natural means is basing his beliefs on information he doesn’t have. All you have to do is substitute the word “atheism” for the phrase “belief in God” in his statement and he incriminates himself as guilty of what he calls a “moral failing.”
While J.T. is an energetic speaker who puts on a lively presentation for his fellow atheists, his critique of the arguments for God’s existence is incredibly shallow, underwhelming, and lacks any substance legitimately challenging Christianity or the Christian worldview.