Youth Pastor And Joey the Atheist

This is a fictional dialogue between an atheist Joey and Christian youth pastor Luke, that I put together with a hope that it will help some of Christians, with gentleness and respect, give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope that they have.(1 Peter 3:15)

Joey: My sister Jane said you could give me reasons for why you believe in God?

Luke: Oh, Jane is your sister! She is a kind and lovely young lady.

Joey: Indeed she is. I am “the atheist older brother” she told you about.

Luke: Nice to finally meet you in person.

Joey: Same. I am interested to hear your reasons for believing in God. How do you know that God exist?

Luke: Well, they are three ways, I as a Christian, could answer your question. First, I could answer that I know God existed because I experience his joy and glory in my personal life. Second, I could also answer that I believe God exist because of properly basic beliefs, and last, I could offer you good arguments for existence of God, as reasons for why I believe God exists.

Joey: Could we begin with the last one? What do you mean by “good arguments”?

Luke: Well, when I attempt to persuade you to the conclusion that God exist, I need to offer you an argument that:

  1. is logically valid
  2. has true premises and
  3. has premises which are more plausible than their negation

Joey: Okay. Let me hear them.

Luke: I will share with you Leibnzian cosmological argument to begin with and if your interested we could arrange to meet once a week, 5 times for coffee and cupcakes at Crux Café, so that we could go through other arguments like Kalam cosmological arguments, teleological argument, moral argument, historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and also hear your objections and reasons for not believing that God exist.

Joey: Cool! I will so much like that. Let me hear the Leibnzian cosmological argument?

Luke: Leibnzian cosmological argument has three premises that go like this:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the
necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3. The universe exists.

And from premises 1 and 3 it logically follows that;

4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.

And from 2 and 4 the conclusion logically follows:

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

Joey: I can see that its logically valid argument, and I believe premise 3 is undeniable. Before I disagree with the premises 1 and 2, could you unpack them?

Luke: You spoke like a wise man.

Joey: My sister Jane challenged me never to I agree or disagree, unless I am in a position where I can say that I understand what is said. That is why I am here.

Luke: O Jane, she is wiser than I am. Well, according to premise 1 there are two kinds of things: (a) things which exist necessarily and (b) things which exist contingently. Things which exist necessarily exist by a necessity of their own nature. Many mathematicians think that numbers, sets, and other mathematical entities exist in this way. They’re not caused to exist by something else; they just exist by the necessity of their own nature. By contrast, contingent things are caused to exist by something else. They exist because something else has produced them. Familiar physical objects like people, planets, and galaxies belong in this category.(Craig)

Joey: Okay! What reason might you offer for thinking premise 1 is true?

Luke: If you think about it, this premise has a sort of self-evidence.

Joey: How so?

Luke: Borrowing from a Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig, explanation: Imagine that you’re hiking through the woods one day and you come across a translucent ball lying on the forest floor. You would naturally wonder how it came to be there. If one of your hiking partners said to you, “It just exists inexplicably. Don’t worry about it!, you’d either think that he was crazy or figure that he just wanted you to keep moving. No one would take seriously the suggestion that the ball existed there with literally no explanation.

Joey: I am following.

Luke: Now suppose you increase the size of the ball in this story so that it’s the size of a car; Would that satisfy or remove the demand for an explanation?

Joey: No, it would not.

Luke: Suppose it were the size of a house; would that satisfy or remove the demand for an explanation?

Joey: Nope.

Luke: Suppose it were the size of a continent or a planet or entire universe?

Joey: Still no, because I believe by merely increasing the size of the ball does nothing to affect the need of an explanation.

Luke: Exactly

Joey: I can see that it would be “the taxicab fallacy” to say that it is true of everything in the universe that demand an explanation but not of the universe itself.

Luke: You are smart. Just like a 19th century atheist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer explained it, premise 1 cannot be dismissed like a hack once you’ve arrive at your desired destination!

Joey: I have read Copi’s Introduction to Logic. So I am familiar with wrong reasoning.

Luke: Now, that is a good book on the topic! Do you need more explanation on premise one?

Joey: No, I need to ponder more on that. Could you explain premise 2? I believe it is here I can see a problem.

Luke: Well, you know that two statements are logically equivalent if it is impossible for one to be true and the other one false, yes?

Joey: Yes, they stand or fall together.

Luke: Good. Now premise 2 is logically equivalent with a statement that is typically given by an atheist in response to premise 1, namely:

A. If atheism is true, the universe has no explanation of its existence.

That position is logically equivalent to saying:

B. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, then atheism is not true.

So we can’t affirm (A) and deny (B).

Joey: And I can see that (B) is virtually synonymous with premise 2!

Luke: Yes.

Joey: Okay, I can see what you are saying but why should that explanation be God?

Luke: Well, think of it, all of space-time reality, including all matter and energy, what we call the universe must have an external cause as the explanation of its existence. This cause must be a non-physical, immaterial being beyond space and time.

Joey: Go on.

Luke: There are only two sorts of thing that could fit this description: abstract object like number or an unembodied mind. We know that abstract objects can’t cause anything so the only candidate must be a transcendent unembodied mind, which we, Christians, call God.

Joey: You gave me something to think about.

Luke: I hope I did. This is one of the reasons I believe in the existence of a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universe.

Joey: Not so fast! If everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, and you believe God exist, what is the explanation of God’s existence?

Luke: Good question. Remember I said in premise 1 that everything that exists has an explanation of its existence either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. God necessarily exist by a necessity of his own nature.

Joey: I am not completely convinced by the argument but I will go home and take a careful look at it. I hope to bring more objections next Sunday.

Luke: Fair enough. It was wonderful talking to you, Joey!

Joey: It is me who need to say that to you.

;

Dialogue inspired by William Lane Craig’s On Guard and Reasonable Faith Q&A: Question 25

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4 thoughts on “Youth Pastor And Joey the Atheist

  1. Luke said: “If atheism is true, the universe has no explanation of its existence.”

    What argument would Luke use with atheists who do not agree with that statement?

    • Hello Brap,

      Thank you so much for your comment and I am so glad and joyful to have you back. I simply missed you. That been said, I believed Luke gave reason for holding that position which does not depend on atheist’s agreement or disagreement of that statement:

      “Luke: Well, think of it, all of space-time reality, including all matter and energy, what we call the universe must have an external cause as the explanation of its existence. This cause must be a non-physical, immaterial being beyond space and time.

      Joey: Go on.

      Luke: There are only two sorts of thing that could fit this description: abstract object like number or an unembodied mind. We know that abstract objects can’t cause anything so the only candidate must be a transcendent unembodied mind, which we, Christians, call God.”

      The explanation of the existence of universe must be external cause with the properties of time-spacelessness(thus non-physical,and immaterial)and transcendence, which we Christian know to be God.

      I hope I tried to answer your question.

      In Christ,
      Prayson

      • Prayson,

        I didn’t get into those points that you brought up because I didn’t agree with a lot of what Luke said after he gave statements A and B, so I guess we’ll get into those now.

        Although I can’t discuss it in any sort of technical terms without almost certainly being incorrect, I did recently read Lawrence Krauss’ book “A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.” I will admit that I was underwhelmed by the book and didn’t come away from it with the understanding I was hoping to have. (I also thought he made some rather immature comments about religious beliefs that would be more appopriate for internet blog comments than a book written by a university professor.) But I still think I came away with a few key points.

        – Be careful how you define “nothing.” There may actually be a lot going on in what many people would consider “nothing.” (Matter and antimatter popping in and out of existence in very short time frames, for instance.)

        – “Nothing” (properly defined) is unstable. It’s a moderately technical discussion to convince someone of that, and my grasp of the technicalities is quite weak, so I can’t even begin to try. (I hate to say “read the book,” but that’s the best I can do here.) I think that may be the main point of his book, to show that “nothing” is unstable, therefore “nothing” can’t exist because its instability would cause it to be something other than “nothing” more or less instantaneously.

        Although many people won’t agree, I view any attempt to give credit for creation of the universe to an “unembodied mind” or to something “beyond space and time” a God of Gaps, since creation of the universe is one of the two big questions science hasn’t answered yet. (The other one is abiogenesis.) I know some people view the creation of the universe as more of a metaphysical question than a naturalistic question, since they think any naturalistic explanation would have to involve “something,” and where did that “something” come from? Those are good questions, and in a way I can see where it might make sense intuitively. But I’m nowhere close to going from “I don’t know” to “God did it.” History is too full of examples where the “God did it” intuition was wrong.

      • Habari Brap,

        I am always bliss reading your comments. I enjoy them because they are always full of respect, thoughtful concern and so worthy answering.

        Physicist And Nothing:

        Krauss, congruent with Mlodinow and Hawking in The Grand Design, avoid the tough question: why there is something rather than nothing, by equivocation. Their definition of “nothing” is not what is traditionally meant by the term viz.: non-being but “the quantum vacuum”.

        This maneuver of a bookkeeping trick, namely the amount positive energy and the negative energy of the universe add up to zero, errs because their nothing is something: positive and negative charges.

        Ponder it. How can true “nothing” be unstable. Nothing cannot be (un)stable because it is a non-being. If it is a being(charges) then it is something. I do not know why they cannot grasp the metaphysical understanding of nothing, viz.: non-being, thus no positive-negative charges, no vacuum, no laws of physics.

        Sadly, from their re-definition of nothing, our brilliant physicist friends do not begin postulation something from “nothing” but something from something: “balanced, unstable positive and negative charges”.

        Philosopher Edward Feser wrote two wonderful articles worth reading on this subject: What part of “nothing” don’t you understand? and Why are (some) physicists so bad at philosophy?

        God of the Gaps:

        Looking at premise 2, I can see how this form of Leibnzian argument prima facie seems like committing “a-god-of-the-gaps”. I, together with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, would totally agree with you in noticing “how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved”

        I do not think premise 2 of Leibnzian cosmological argument could be said to be a god-of-the- gaps because there is no gaps, in the first place, that needed a god to be pushed into. Premise 2 could be written as follows:

        2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is in an external cause.

        The best of what scientific and philosophic indicates is that this external cause has to have the properties of timelessness, spacelessness, immaterial and non-physical. This is from what we know from astrophysics and correct reasoning . There is no gaps that need to be filled here. Therefore this argument cannot be dismissed/swept under “God-of-the-gaps” rug.

        Pruss And Leibnzian Cosmological Argument

        Associate professor of philosophy at Baylor University, Alexandrer R. Pruss defended the classical Leibnzian argument very well in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology p.24-100(2009). I would so much recommend his work if you wish to go deeper into this argument.

        I hope I tried to answered some of your concern. Sorry for a long answer :/

        In Christ,
        Prayson

        Dietrich Bonhoeffer Letters and Papers from Prison edited by Eberhard Bethge, translated by Reginald H. Fuller, Touchstone, ISBN 0684838273, 1997

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