I am about to read Peter Boghossian’s new book A Manuel for Creating Atheists which is just one more attempt to turn atheists into an army of evangelists. I recently went to the facebook page called “street epistemology” which happens to be an open group. By the way, my friend Tom Gilson has recently written a response to the book which is available on his website. On the facebook page, you will see atheists doing what they call “interventions.” They attempt to find Christians or religious people and cause them to think about their position. The ultimate goal is to plant seeds of doubt and unravel their belief system. The key here is the issue of knowledge. Questions and comments are some of the following:
“How can you say you KNOW that God exists?”
“Stop acting like you KNOW a, b, or c, which can translate to “stop acting like you KNOW the New Testament is reliable or that KNOW we can trust memory and things like eyewitness testimony.”
I could go on and on. But for me, I took epistemology in seminary and have dabbled into it a bit ever since. I also don’t claim to be a full blown epistemologist like Tim McGrew, Alvin Plantinga, or Paul Moser. But from what I see in these discussions, many of these atheists don’t even have a basic understanding of epistemology nor have they ever read the philosophical work done on religious epistemology. And for the record, it wouldn’t hurt to read some Stanford articles such as this one called “epistemology.” And for anyone that’s interested, see John M. Frame’s “Unregenerate Knowledge of God,” for IVP Dictionary of Apologetics.
J.P. Moreland’s Kingdom Triangle
Regarding the issue of knowledge, J.P. Moreland brought this to the forefront his book Kingdom Triangle. In this book (which I read many years ago),and elsewhere Moreland said that Christians needed to start doing the following.
1. Christians need to start using cognitive language and not just faith language. Christians need to use terms relating to knowledge, evidence, reason, learning and thought, in addition to language about a tender heart and about faith. The Bible uses the word “knowledge” more than it does the word “faith.” Christians must become comfortable with the idea of ourselves as a community of thoughtful and learned people. A Christian can be learned without being snooty or arrogant. If knowledge “puffs up,” the solution is not IGNORANCE. The solution is HUMILITY.
2. Christians must be taught how to argue for their faith and defend their faith. Christians need to be taught why they believe what they believe.
3. Christians need to restore a view of Jesus Christ as an intellectual – as an intelligent and thoughtful person with a knowledge of reality – in addition to being holy. Christians must restore the value of the life of the mind in the Christian community. The division within contemporary society is fundamentally a clash of worldviews – between those who believe in a transcendent God and those who believe science is the only clue to reality and the physical world is all there is. In that context, Christians cannot afford to propagate our religion on the basis of the claim that it works, that it will address your heart, and that you’ve got to believe it with an act of blind faith. Christians must restore our message as one that is based on knowledge of reality. People can know that God exists – they don’t just have to believe that He exists.
Well keep in mind that Kingdom Triangle came out in 2007. Did many in the Church read Kingdom Triangle and take it seriously? I know many of us as apologists did. But that still leaves out thousands of laymen that could care less. So here we are in 2014 and we now have an atheist evangelistic movement that attempts to show Christians they can’t make any knowledge claims. Granted, this also stems from Boghossian’s attempt to show a “faith-based epistemology” can’t hold up under critical thinking. In other words, faith is a virus and can’t give us any knowledge.
Now I know from my other discussions with some atheists that they attempt to use dictionary definitions of the word “faith” which is not even close to what the Bible says about the word itself. Forget about actually utilizing etymology or studying the social world of the New Testament and seeing how the word “faith” is exegeted in the Bible. I guess it is just easier to just mock the word “faith” itself and make straw man arguments. After all, when you already had people like Dawkins and other pop atheists selling the “faith virus” rhetoric, this is just one more way to keep the ball rolling. One feeble attempt is seen when they quote Hebrews 11:1 passage out of context and then conclude:
1. If we can’t empirically verify God’s existence, faith is blind, irrational, and silly.
2. We can’t empirically verify God’s existence.
3. Therefore, faith is blind, silly, and unsupported.
Certitude and Doubt
In Mortimer J. Adler’s Six Great Ideas there is a chapter called The Realm of Doubt. Let’s expand on what Adler discusses in this wonderful book:
The problem we encounter is when we attempt to decide which of our judgments belong in the realm of certitude and which in the realm of doubt. In order for a judgment to belong in the realm of certitude, it must meet the following criteria: (1) it cannot be challenged by the consideration of new evidence that results from improved observation, nor can it be criticized by improved reasoning or the detection of inadequacies or errors in the reasoning we have done. Beyond such challenge or criticism, such judgments are indubitable, or beyond doubt.
A judgment is subject to doubt if there is any possibility at all (1) of its being challenged in the light of additional or more acute observations or (2) of its being criticized on the basis of more cogent or more comprehensive reasoning.
So why does this matter?
This fellow is essentially expanding on what Richard Dawkins has said about atheism:
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))
And Cornell University atheist William Provine agrees (this is taken from his debate with Phillip E. Johnson):
Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.
Back to Certitude and Doubt
So here we see some comments by atheists about their views of purpose, morality, values, origins, etc. Now go back to the certitude issue above. Are you actually going to tell me that these people have certitude about these things? Are the claims here being made by atheists not able to be challenged in the light of additional or more acute observations or criticized on the basis of more cogent or more comprehensive reasoning? Are they beyond doubt? So can they say they “KNOW” there are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind and no life after death? Never mind the fact that they have to create their own teleology and assume they have a moral obligation to “deconvert” religious people.
On a Positive Note
It is my hope that something like the street epistemology movement will finally wake up ministry leaders from their slumber and actually want to train people in apologetics. I recently posted this article called The Tragedy of the Dumb Church. Remember, there is more than enough resources out there and capable people to teach apologetics. We have been ready and willing to help you in your churches and campuses for years. You can see here how to start an apologetics ministry in your church or start a Ratio Christi chapter on a campus. Times a wastin!