Does God Exist? And What Does Sin Have To Do With It?

In Saturday’s debate, held at Biola University (and co-sponsored by the students and Biola’s Apologetics Department), between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig, I found it interesting that, as near as I recall, the only time the word sin (actually “sinner”) came up, our atheist proponent, Mr. Hitchens, used it (and even then, in my notes I may have used the word, not he, to indicate what he was describing).

I believe the occurrence came in his rebuttal. Essentially he said that the Christian belief is extraordinarily contradictory. On one hand we believe that we are so despicable and wayward, in fact that we are sinners in need of God to rescue us by dying a painful, bloody death. On the other hand, we believe that this same God designed this incredibly vast and complex universe over billions of years just for us. In short, that prideful position stands in stark contrast to the Man-as-worm view.

Well, bravo! He got it. There is a contradictory chasm between the two views. And if Mr. Hitchens would follow that train of thought, he’d get to the truth.

His primary focus, it would seem is that religion is bad for society. He points to things like the Crusades and the Inquisition, to religious terrorist bombers.

The truth is, sin is bad for society. And Satan, who Mr. Hitchens undoubtedly also does not believe in, masquerades as an angel of light. How Satan must love to see people fight and kill in the name of God, or in the name of their religion.

Did God initiate any of this? Someone might immediately point to places in the Old Testament where God’s people were commanded to annihilate other nations. But that’s missing the point. Sin was already in the world, and God didn’t bring it.

I’m sure the concept of sin is something Mr. Hitchens has a hard time with since he doesn’t want to be accountable to a higher being, since he doesn’t want a “celestial dictator” telling him what to do.

But there’s the problem. This blatant rejection of God’s authority is the problem, and the wars and brutality and inhumanity Mr. Hitchens cites are the symptoms, regardless if the people involved claim to be religious or not. I don’t care if a “Protestant” terrorist or an Islamic terrorist explodes a bomb. At the heart, both are sinners acting sinfully, in need of a Savior.

The Protestant can claim he knows the Savior, but his actions say otherwise. The societal “Does God exist?” debate is muddied by the existence of false religions and false teaching within Christianity.

During the cross examination phase of the formal debate, Mr. Hitchens asked Dr. Craig if he thought there were false religions. He said yes, Then Mr. Hitchens asked if he thought there were any false Christian denominations. Unfortunately, after answering yes, Dr. Craig hedged when asked which ones. He turned the question to doctrines he disagreed with. Instead he could have stood up for the truth and named heresy. If he didn’t want to say Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses or health-and-wealthers, he could have said something like any who add or detract from the inerrant, authoritative Word of God.

A missed opportunity. I think it’s time Christians separate from pseudo-Christians. Instead, because a social agenda seems to have dominated our goals in the last few decades, it seems like we are more apt to pander to anyone with morals like ours.

The fact is, morality doesn’t win us points in Heaven. We are no closer to reconciliation with God if we go to church or live a monogamous, heterosexual lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think having a relationship with God will effect our behavior and certainly our lifestyle. But we must not give the impression that abiding by a list of do‘s and don’t‘s increases our standing with God and makes us more acceptable.

I think that’s what the people who go to war in the name of religion are all about. They think their standing up for “the cause” earns them special consideration. It is false.

But because one form of religion is false, a thinking person should not conclude that God does not exist. Sin accounts for it. So does man’s pride. Which, by the way, seems to also be at the heart of anyone saying he wants to be emancipated from a “celestial dictatorship.”

Does God Exist? – The Debate Continues

In the debate held Saturday at Biola University between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist William Lane Craig dealing with the question Does God exist, Dr. Craig made what I thought was a brilliant debating tactic. In his opening statements he undercut what I surmise is Mr. Hitchens primary position. He said, and repeated from time to time throughout the evening, that the social implications of belief in God were not part of the discussion about His existence.

Mr. Hitchens, having written god Is Not Great and Is Christianity Good for the World?, certainly seems to have strong opinions about the social implications of belief in God.

I suspect that’s why much of the debate settled on the discussion of Dr. Craig’s moral arguments for the existence of God. Mr. Hitchens did begin, however, addressing some of Dr. Craig’s other arguments.

He said first that atheism, being a position against a particular belief, can’t disprove God. Rather, atheists believe there is no plausible or convincing evidence for the existence of God.

However, he also said that a test of a good argument is that it can be falsified. [Which seems to me to undercut his view that atheism can’t disprove God]. The idea of a designer starting the evolutionary process can’t be disproved and therefore isn’t a good argument.

Further, he said that even if you did believe in a designer, you can’t get from that position to belief in a being who cares. He then said that if there was a God, He was a poor designer because the universe takes up so much space and so much time passed before He made Himself known to save any humans at all. Such waste shows that if there was a designer, he did a poor job or just doesn’t care.

In fact, he said, all the evidence Christians point to for God can be explained without God. He stated that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence, and he doesn’t find any.

Interestingly, I though Dr. Craig, in his rebuttal, had a great answer to the suggestion that God was ineffectual or wasteful. He said efficiency is only important to people with limited time or limited resources. God, having an infinite amount of both time and resources, wouldn’t have any need to meet some finite definition of efficient.

Back to Mr. Hitchens’ positions. I thought he came to the heart of his views toward the end of the debate, but let me back up. When he was introduced, the host said something about him being an advocate for freedom. I didn’t understand that until the end.

Mr. Hitchens, you see, when discussing the idea of objective morality said this:

It’s degrading to say that morality comes from on high. It’s servile. A kind of heavenly North Korea.

He added that he believed in free will, though he didn’t know why. But a bossy god would seem to reduce free will because then we would be accountable.

Then towards the end of the debate he said:

Emancipate yourself from a celestial dictatorship and you’ve taken the first step to being free.

At last, the notion that Mr. Hitchens was an advocate of freedom made sense. Above all else, it seems he wants his autonomy, even though he believes his life serves no lasting purpose and will end in oblivion. He would rather be the master of his fate and the captain of his own … well, I doubt that he believes he has a soul.

And how is he a master of his fate when he himself states that the end is oblivion?

So it is only in the here and now that he wants to be in charge. Apparently he wants to be the one to say what is right and what is wrong. For although he believes there is a right and a wrong, that any atheist can do any moral act that any Christian can do, he wants to be the one to say what is moral.

The acts of religious people down through history are clearly immoral, according to Mr. Hitchens. And the good that religious people have done can be duplicated by anyone without a belief in God. So what good is he if he existed?

Tomorrow more of my thoughts on Mr. Hitchens’ assertions, because obviously I’ve reported his views with some of my reactions woven in.

By the way, if you would like to read other detailed reports on the debate, I recommend Doug Geivett’s Blog and Wintery Knight Blog (this latter gives you a play-by-play account, next best thing to an actual transcript).

Does God Exist?

Saturday night atheist author Christopher Hitchens (god is Not Great and Is Christianity Good for the World?), pictured on the right, and theology professor and author Dr. William Lane Craig (Reasonable Faith), on the left, met in a formal debate of the question, Does God exist? The two-and-a-half hour interchange took place at Biola University in La Mirada, CA. And I had the privilege, thanks to fellow blogger, Mike Duran (who also posted on the event), of attending. For those of you interested in a brief, fairly objective overview, I suggest you read the front page article that appeared in the Whittier Daily News this morning.

Demand for good seats was high. I stood in line for over two hours, then sat another hour waiting for the debate to begin, but the time was well worth it. Actually this was the first formal debate I’ve every attended, and it was a good one.

After opening remarks by the host (including a caution against raucous or rancorous audience response—a caution wonderfully observed) and the introduction of moderator Hugh Hewitt and of the two participants, the debate began with opening arguments. As I recall, Dr. Craig and Mr. Hitchens each spoke for twenty minutes.

Round two consisted of rebuttals followed by cross examinations in which each debater had a set number of questions to put to the other. Round four consisted of a response to the points made during the cross examination, followed by closing arguments. The debate ended with several students asking questions which both men answered. Afterward they participated in a book signing.

So what did they actually say?

Dr. Craig spoke first and presented five arguments for the existence of God based on deductive reasoning (if point A is true, that leads logically to point B. If B is true, then logically C). As he explained, in order to dispute the logical conclusion of such an argument, a person would necessarily have to disprove the premise.

His first argument was cosmological. He stated that whatever begins to exist has a cause and reasoned from this premise to the existence of God.

His second argument was teleological, or the argument for the existence of God from the evidence of order. In pointing out the incredibly small margin of error that allows for life on this planet, Dr. Craig stated that, if the universe was in fact a result of chance or of some law of nature, there should be observable evidence of an ensemble of finely-tuned worlds such as our own.

I couldn’t help but think that much of space exploration may be driven by the desire of atheistic scientists (not all scientists are atheists) to find just such evidence, much as there used to be a determined hunt for the missing link to prove evolution.

But back to the debate. Dr. Craig’s third argument centered on morals. The premise he reasoned from is this: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. His position reminds me of Mike Duran’s post more than a year ago about atheists and thanksgiving. If God does not exist, then moral values do not exist, so what prompts an atheist to be thankful?

The natural conclusion of a-morality is that whatever a person does is right, therefore one act is no more heinous or virtuous than another. Lions are not accused of murder or pedo-cide, not branded as cannibals because they may eat their young. They are what they are and there is no good or evil attached to their actions. So too should be the truth about Man, if God did not exist. But, of course, it is not the truth about Man. Atheists as much as Christians or Hindus or Jews believe there are virtuous acts and attitudes as well as heinous ones. In fact, on many points nearly all groups, religious or otherwise, agree.

Dr. Craig’s fourth argument surprised me. He stated that the resurrection of Jesus is proof of God’s existence. I had thought that such a miraculous event wouldn’t be convincing to an atheist, but Dr. Craig reasoned from historically verifiable positions:

There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

Dr. Craig’s final evidence for the existence of God was “The Immediate Experience of God.” If a rational, non-delusional person claims he experiences God, his experience validates his belief if said belief does not rest solely on the experience but is grounded in other rational argument.

Well, obviously I have more to write about this event. Tomorrow I’ll give some of the things I gleaned from Mr. Hitchens’s side of the debate.

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