Picking up from the previous post in this series of responses to Bob Seidensticker’s reissuing of Marshal Brain’s 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer, we move to question number six:
Why is faith required?
What is meant by the word “faith” in that question? Depending upon how the term is being used, it may not be “required”. If it’s meant in the way that atheists often intend for it to be understood, a “belief without evidence”, then it is met with a resounding, “No!” However, if it is meant in the way that the Bible uses the term, then, “Yes!” It could reasonably be analogous to asking is it necessary to breathe in order for a person to live?
But, what does Bob say?
In John’s gospel, Thomas missed Jesus’s first appearance. He didn’t believe the others’ story that Jesus had risen and said that he needed to see the nail marks in the hands of Jesus as proof. After Jesus appeared again and satisfied Thomas, Jesus said, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29). In other words, Thomas believed because he had evidence—nothing special there. But someone who can believe without that evidence? Ah, that person is blessed!
Yeah, it’s that bad. He used a similar argument in another post, an argument that I refuted here by pointing out that John uses two completely different Greek words for “see”, and both deal with different kinds of evidence. It goes to show that these people will not go any deeper than superficial arguments. Oh, and he has to put John’s additional commentary in the mouth of Jesus by falsely adding the pronoun “me” to the end of the quote as well as changing what is clearly meant to be a question to a statement. Anyway…question 7,
Why is God hidden?
There are any number of reasons that can be posited to answer this question, but ultimately it is God’s desire to hide from his creatures so that he may be found. Like a father playing hide and seek with a small child, God wants us to seek him out, but ultimately it comes from his sovereignty over creation where he delegates authority and then holds to account all that he has made responsible for the use of his creation. God is compared to a wealthy man who gives money to be used for a return, a silent partner who has certain expectations about a positive return on his investment. When he returns, he wants what is due. Steve Paulson expresses this eloquently in his article on the question when he says,
God hides in order not to be found where humans want to find God. But God also hides in order to be found where God wills to be found.
God’s hiddeness is meant to distinguish himself from his creatures and give them ample opportunity to respond to him. But Bob says,
Thomas had a scientific attitude. Any scientific claim must respond to the demand for evidence. For example, cold fusion would be nice, but “nice” has no currency within science. There is insufficient evidence for any mechanism of cold fusion, so it is rejected. “God exists” is another claim, and the obvious supporting evidence—God simply making his existence known—is unapologetically unavailable.
Actually what Thomas had was not a “scientific attitude”, it was an attitude of stubborn rebellion. Further, the existence of God is not a “scientific claim”, rather it is an encompassing claim about the nature of reality. The evidence of God’s existence surrounds us and is in us, in fact the Apostle Paul said that it was innately understood about him, but that man suppresses what he knows to be true about God in unrighteousness and ingratitude.
Question number 8,
Why are there natural disasters?
The question itself begs another question: what does an event require to be called a “disaster”? Considering that this is simply a restatement of the ideas presented in both questions 1 and 4, it’s ultimately a question about the issue of natural evil, in which case one must necessarily provide a coherent justification that satisfies the necessary preconditions of intelligibility needed to simply call something “evil”, or in this case a “disaster”. The atheist, in posing such a question to the Christian, is assuming what he has yet to prove: that he has sufficient grounds to even pose such questions apart from the truth and sufficiency of the Christian worldview.
The Christian worldview provides the necessary categories to even begin to ask the question (namely that there is a way that the world is supposed to be) and that there is a meaningful response. The Christian begins with the presupposition that this is a fallen world, that is that the rebellious nature of the ones appointed to govern it, has prompted the Creator of all things to let the world run on autopilot rather than assert direct control over its governance, as was his intention at the beginning. Man’s fall in the Garden elicited a curse from God on the earth, one of which are the so-called “natural disasters” that can render a person’s life’s work to naught in an instance. All of man’s great plans to rule this world as he sees fit can be overturned in an instant by the True Ruler through the elements of his creation. Bob’s response,
Christians have responded that the forces of nature have a good side. Earthquakes recycle minerals, and hurricanes are a consequence of the same weather system that brings sunshine and gentle rains. Disasters test Christians and give them an opportunity to help through prayer or donations. Christians infer God’s hand in the “miracle child” that survives the disaster that killed its parents.
Here’s the thing: yes, it’s true that the same forces that destroy at the same time keep us alive. Earthquakes give the earth a boost of speed to keep the earth turning to generate gravity, which allows the formation of liquid water, as well as the suspension of other compounds in the atmosphere that makes life even possible on this planet. Hurricanes stir the ocean water like great aerators, recycling the atmosphere as well. We literally live on the knife’s edge between order and chaos. But here’s the thing: the atheist has no grounds to complain about anything.
Why does the Bible show God doing terrible things?
Bob writes in regard to this question,
Oh, Bob. God doesn’t “demand genocide” and slavery was regulated because it was a matter of commerce. The things God does are done because he is just and holy, such as the expulsion of the Canaanites because of their wickedness, which is merely an example of God’s terrible wrath against sinners. This then is a good kind of terrible thing because God is putting a stop to evil. Whenever people (atheists) bring up the actions that God initiates against the various people groups, whether they be Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and even his own people, the Israelites, they constantly overlook the fact that God is punishing evil. Further Paul Copan, author of the book Is God a Moral Monster?, notes in this interview that,
The language of “totally wiping out and leaving no survivors” [was] exaggeration or hyperbole [and] was common in the ancient Near Eastern war accounts, and the Bible uses this exaggerated language as well. We use this when we talk about basketball teams “slaughtering” their opponents.
On the issue of Old Testament “slavery”, something I’ve written about here, Copan notes in his book that this socio-economic state was often a product of debt, writing,
[An] Israelite strapped for shekels might become an indentured servant to pay off his debt to a “boss” or “employer” (’adon). Calling him a “master” is often way too strong a term, just as the term ‘ebed (“servant, employee”) typically shouldn’t be translated “slave.” John Goldingay comments that “there is nothing inherently lowly or undignified about being an ‘ebed.” Indeed, it is an honorable, dignified term.4 Even when the terms buy, sell, or acquire are used of servants/employees, they don’t mean the person in question is “just property.”
Excerpt From: “Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God” by Paul Copan. Scribd. Read this book on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/235004678
Simply put, any question or objection raised on either of these two issues are question begging.
The last question,
Why is the historical record so weak for Christianity?
Outside the gospels, there are no biographies of Jesus from contemporary historians, of which there were many. There are not even any mentions of Jesus, aside from disputed passages in Josephus.
So, the fact that there are four, independent sources for Jesus is a weakness? How many other historical figures in the ancient world have any biographical information written about them within just a few decades of their life? Go on, I’ll wait while you look. That’s right: none. Even if we go with a late dating of the gospels (AD60-70) they are still earlier than any other source. The problem is that any reference to an itinerant preacher from a no-where village like Nazareth in a work like Josephus, regardless of their “disputed” state, is remarkable because of what the Jewish historian was doing. As Richard Bauckham notes here,
[The] ancients distinguished between history and biography. History occurs at the macro-level, it is the story of politics and war, the great events that supposedly shaped the destiny of nations. … Biography, on the other hand, even though its subjects might well be politicians and generals, was distinguished [by] its smaller scale.
The clear issue with such a question is that it assumes too much of a time in the world when it cost a week’s wages to purchase materials just to write a short letter, that a daily newspaper wasn’t even a coherent consideration. It’s a question based in ignorance.
Bob simply wants to be dismissive, writing,
Instead of individual reasons that clumsily address these questions by assuming God’s existence, let’s again try to resolve these questions with a simple hypothesis: there is no god. This simple and obvious explanation—which Christians themselves apply to the other guy’s god—neatly cuts the Gordian Knot.
The thing that Bob misses then, by assuming that these are intractable problems, is that they are answerable, regardless of how “clumsy” the answer might be. He assumes that Christians simply must answer these questions. Apart from assuming the existence of God, he has no reason to demand an answer. The problem with his hypothesis is that, apart from the existence of God, he has no grounds upon which to believe that he can form questions much less possess the necessary categories that the questions might apply to. The atheist has his own Gordian Knot: grounds that provide a meaningful justification that satisfies the necessary preconditions of intelligibility. Upon what basis does someone who lives in a godless universe have to think that they can ask questions?
I’m sure that if you look around the internet, you would find several other instances where these questions have been answered. These are mine, and here they stand.