The Street-Preacher’s Guide
What is Logic?
A Street-Preacher does not need to be on his podium for long before an atheist will suggest that religious belief is irrational, mystical, a belief in the unknown, or just plain fantasy. “It is not logical,” it will be asserted without argument, “to believe in the existence of God.”
How, then should the Street-Preacher deal with the question of logic? Is the atheist on strong grounds when he asserts biblical belief is ‘illogical’? What, however, is logic?
Logic has been described as the science of necessary inference. Logic is the use of propositions in a particular manner. Propositions are statements that are either true or false. Syllogisms, the use of propositional statements, on the other hand, are either valid or invalid, sound or unsound. An argument may be logically valid, but unsound because of the nature of one of the premises. A sound argument is one that is both valid and the premises are true. It is the combination of these concepts that allows logic and logical arguments to take place.
To address the question “What is logic?”, however, the Street-Preacher will find it necessary to have an argument not so much about logic, but about the philosophy of logic. What is logic? What determines whether certain propositions are logical or not? What determines that an inference is necessary? And in order to find a philosophy of logic, the Street-Preacher need search no further than his doctrine of God.
Logic is the claim that certain ‘facts’ stated as propositions fit together in some kind of relationship and the correct relationship is “logical” while the incorrect relationship is a ‘fallacy’.
All wisdom and knowledge find their resting place in the concept of God as the absolutely self-attesting, or self-determinative, God. To understand what this means, consider the competing worldviews of atheism and biblical theism. The atheist is adamant that the ‘facts’ of the universe came into existence by chance. Having denied a Creator who is a person, the atheist is left with no intelligent designer behind the ‘facts’ that came into existence. All facts to him are impersonal. Their existence and their place in the cosmos is the result of randomness.
Atheists in a crowd heckling the Street-Preacher will eventually pull an argument out of their basket of comments that goes something like this.
“You believe in talking snakes. There is no evidence that snakes can talk. Your religion is ridiculous.”
Now the Street-Preacher has a simple response.
“It is true that the Bible refers to a talking snake, the ‘whisperer’. In its context, it refers to the serpent’s temptation to Eve that she could ‘be like God’ determining for herself what is good and evil.
“Now an atheist who has rejected God’s definition of good and evil has simply followed the snake’s advice and decided to ‘be like God’ making up his own rules of good and evil.
“So there are those who say snakes can talk and who refuse to follow the suggestions of a snake to ‘be like God’ and make up their own morality.
“And then there are others who don’t believe in talking snakes, but adamantly follow the advice of a talking snake they say doesn’t exist.
“The Bible indicates that those who think they can determine for themselves what is right or wrong are the ‘fools’ who follow the talking snake. It makes more sense to follow God than a talking snake. But some choose to do it — follow the snake, that is.
“Everyone’s a believer in something. Some believe it is smart to follow the ideas of a talking snake. Some don’t.
“The followers of the ideas of the talking snake appear to be the genuine believers in the talking snake. Why follow the snake’s advice otherwise?
“The Bible also speaks of a talking ass who heard the word of the Lord and acted accordingly. The world needs more people who will heed the words of a talking ass, and fewer people who prefer to follow the advice of a talking snake — even though they say they don’t believe that snakes can talk.”
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:16)
“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” (Ex. 1:18-19).
As the Street-Preacher presented his message about the Name that is above every name, the name at which everyone will eventually bow the knee in subjection, the name, Yeshua HaMaschiach — an atheist interrupted.
“Does God condemn lying”?
“Yes,” replied the preacher. “You shall not bear false witness.”
Ah, the atheist thinks to himself. I have this preacher trapped. And very quickly he refers the preacher to the instance of the Hebrew midwives who told a clear “lie” to Pharoah.
Atheism and the design of the universe
Another night on the streets and discussions with the atheists. This time with Peter and Paul (not their real names), and the conversation went something like this.
I had finished a bottle of Diet Coke, and as I stood there holding it in my hand, the discussion began concerning interpretation of data—the ‘facts’. This is not the first time I’ve had this kind of discussion with these two characters. But sometimes you can step into the same topic a different way and get a better result. Tonight was such a night.
Now the discussion had turned towards the creationist argument that ‘no one was there historically to observe what went on.’ Peter and Paul were keen to establish that that argument went in both directions, that it applied to creationists as well as atheists. I agreed the argument went in both directions, but there were some other issues to be considered.
I was tempted initially to go down the path of ‘God was there’ and turn it into a discussion yet again on the existence of God. I resisted, and went in another direction. Sometimes it’s necessary to sidestep an important argument temporarily in order to make your case somewhere else.
I held the plastic Coke bottle up and suggested we view it as a fossil. Both the atheists and myself had the same data in front of us. None of us were ‘there’ historically to observe what happened, so we had to find a way to ‘interpret’ the data in front of us—my imaginary fossil.
Very quickly Peter and Paul suggested we would need more information in order to interpret this ‘fossil’. I agreed. All of us would need additional information in order to interpret the data.
But what if the other information we had was wrong? Could we still ‘interpret’ this fossil with incorrect data? Of course not, they agreed. But the ‘scientific method’ had within it steps to check and confirm the accumulation of data collected along the way, they reminded me. I agreed that might be the scientific method, but these two atheists were about to learn a lesson about jigsaw puzzles.
How does an atheist know when he is speaking the truth?
When an atheist confronts the Street-Preacher the discussion must eventually turn to the question of epistemology: how you know, and how you know that you know what you claim to know.
The initial problem the Street-Preacher will encounter with the atheist is either ignorance of the meaning of the word epistemology, or else he will meet an atheist who has been in philosophy classes and will most likely tell the preacher that a discussion on epistemology is a waste of time.
In order to move the discussion in the right direction, however, the Street-Preacher just needs to keep asking one question, “How do you know that?” And then wait for a reply.
If the Street-Preacher is fortunate enough to get a reply, he will rarely get an answer to this question. He will be given words that cannot be construed as a reply to the question. And that’s because the atheist doesn’t understand what is being asked.
It is important, then, to make sure the atheist understands and comprehends that the Street-Preacher is not asking what the atheist might know, but how he knows what he claims to know. For example, an atheist might reply that he knows that 1+1=2, and when asked how he knows it, he might reply that this is a ‘verifiable’ proposition. If that answer is given, however, the Street-Preacher needs to recognize that he has not been given an answer to his question. What he has been told is the process which is open to the atheist that the atheist alleges answers the question.
But as soon as the Street-Preacher asks yet again, “how do you know that ‘verifiable’ identifies how a person knows something,” you can see that the atheist’s answer does not address the how question at all. Often the atheist will come up with yet another response, and suggest he ‘knows’ because the issue is agreed to by 93% of current scientists. And so the atheist needs to be asked again, ‘how do you know that 93% of the scientists are correct?’ Or, ‘how do you that 93% is the cut-off point rather than 95% or even 99.9%?’
In the history of ideas, Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) stands as one of the key figures in philosophy. He earned this status by his rigid analysis of causality and the empirical method of knowledge. Empiricism, in case you are not sure, is a more philosophical name for the scientific method.
Hume lived in the 18thC, not too long after some of the key figures in the new ‘scientific’ movement. He was aged 16 when Sir Isaac Newton died. Galileo (1564-1642) with his telescope developed laws for astronomy; Newton (1642-1727) with his experiments developed laws of motion. Both were carving out new territory in the scientific world.
But in the background there were some disturbing currents. Bishop Berkeley had asked the question, “Is there sound of a tree falling in a forest if there is no one there to hear it?” The proper answer is that there are only sound waves, since it takes an ear to convert the waves into sound. But this small matter did not stop Berkeley the philosopher from calling into question the existence of an external world outside of the mind of man. His philosophy of immaterialism denies the existence of material substance. You think you see a chair and a table, but they are only perceptions in your mind. Berkeley denied the existence of matter, but did not deny real objects such as apples or mountains.
Another atheist loses it.
When Street-Preachers are confronted by atheists, there is always a challenge. “Prove the existence of your God,” they demand. Then when you present them with the evidence they reject it as proof. It is a rather obvious conclusion that the proof for a Creator is the creation itself, as the Bible affirms. But atheists reject this. They have convinced themselves there is no evidence for the God of the Bible. Thus, one atheist threw down the gauntlet in a Facebook group:
So here is my challenge to anyone on this page. Make a positive argument for the existence of the Christian god that does not ultimately fall back on the “I know because of personal experience” position. If you are unable to do such a simple task then your position is ultimately untenable.
I took up the challenge, with a deliberate plan of how I was going to do it. And the way I did it frustrated this atheist. We pick up the dialogue:
“Show me God!”
When the Street-Preacher steps up onto his podium, he can be sure to be confronted by competing claims about knowledge. “The Bible is true,” he will proclaim, “for God says so.”
And back will come the atheistic question: “But have you seen God?” Or it may be a demand, not a question: “Show me God.” This is the request “Matt the Horrible Atheist” (as in Hagar the Horrible) kept asking me on his last visit, too. He thought it was a winning question.
Embedded into the atheist’s question, though, is a belief about knowledge, a particular kind of knowledge. He wants to know if the Street-Preacher has ‘seen’ God. He asks this question because he believes that the only valid knowledge is empirical knowledge — knowledge via the senses.
Now seeing, along with taste, touch, smelling and hearing, is one of the five senses. And knowledge that is obtained via the senses is referred to as empirical knowledge. It is usually taken for granted that there is some correspondence between our senses and external objects. That is, we think we see a tree in the distance, and we expect that that tree actually exists in time and space. But ever since David Hume picked up his pen and wrote on the topic, knowledge by way of the senses has come under question. Instead of certainty of knowledge, Hume introduced skepticism. Is it really possible to have knowledge by sense perception?
Atheism is a belief system that has no philosophy of factuality (i.e. no clear definition of a “fact”), it has no philosophy of logic (i.e. cannot define “logic”) and no philosophy of truth (i.e. cannot tell you what is true, and how you will know that whatever answer is given is the correct answer), and finally, no philosophy of morality (i.e. cannot provide a universal standard of good and evil to which all men and women should adhere to).
In other words, atheism is intellectually and morally bankrupt. But that does not stop them from asserting their irrational system. One atheist calls himself “the thinking atheist”. This “thinking” atheist posted his credo – that which he believes.
Maybe its time the genuine “thinking atheists” provided some evidence or proof why the “stuff” of the universe should not be allowed as “Exhibit A” for the existence of God.
I’ve called my response: The Unthinking Atheist. Here’s why. (Atheist’s credo is in blue)
Humans do not require a god to be moral.
I don’t now if this is intended to be some profound solution to the question of morality. Humans certainly need a standard in order to be moral. ANd if there is going to be genuine community, then the moral standard needs to be a universal standard. Atheists have trouble saying there is a universal moral standard, because they are committed to the idea that morality is person-relative — merely a matter of personal opinion. They also need a standard that is not abstract, and in order to get that, they need a moral standard where all the ingredients are related. That requires a Mind, a Mind big enough to encompass all of reality. This just goes to show that humans do need not just any god, but the personal, infinite God of the Bible as the Creator of all things to be a non-abstract and universal moral standard.
Religion divides more than it unites.
What does religion divide? It certainly makes a division between people. But the response is “so what?” This is a rather trivial explanation that apparently is supposed to explain everything (all divisions) yet it fails to address the idea of community, the origin of community, and how Christian community in particular unites people of like faith. Atheism similarly divides people because it offers another view of the world. The “thinking atheist” is no doubt hinting that if all people were atheists there would be no divisions. But, then again, neither would there be divisions if all people were Christians. Like atheists, who disagree on some particulars of atheism, Christians would continue to disagree on some particular point in Christianity. But the essential unity remains.
Since our culture until recently was Christian in its orientation, it is noticeable that some of the most divisive people in the community are the atheists themselves. They demand changes in legislation regarding gay rights, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and most of all, are champions of killing the unborn. And they think these things are not divisive?
“All you need is love.”
Thus sung the Beatles.
Perhaps no other song illustrates the influence of Romanticism and its emphasis of “feelings”. When the human body urges “love,” do it. And do it often.
Yet more and more people are finding themselves devoid of love. When love finds its primary definition as self-love—narcissism—then love soon finds itself all alone. And loneliness is the cry of our modern age, even when lying beside a partner or spouse. Listen to the popular songs for evidence.
What went wrong? What was wrong with this notion of “love?” After all, it seems a better option than hate, which can only lead to fighting and war. Want to know why so many marriages break down? Look no further than the lack of love between the partners.
Self-love demands; it does not give. And there is hardly a person untouched by Romanticism and its aftermath. For Romanticism had its birth in a growing atheism—a rejection of the God of the Bible and his notion of love.
Asked in a recent debate, “why does God have to be Trinitarian,” I responded by saying he does not have to be trinitarian other than this: that is how the Bible portrays God.
In the biblical context, the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” is not an invitation to a narcissistic standard of love, but a call to duty and action governed by the commandments of God—the Torah.
Not surprisingly, as the idea of the tri-unity of Persons in biblical theology is worked out in a system of thought, God makes the declaration that he is the standard of love. Not that he defines the standard of love in some abstract method, but he himself is love. The very nature of God, then, is the foundation of love.
When stripped of its roots in Romanticism, love is soon seen as something that has less to do with human “feelings” and more to do with the way people act. “If you love me, keep my commandments,” said the Second Person of the Trinity. The same Person who also wrote, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:18). And who inspired the apostle John to write, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3). Love is thus God-centered, not man-centered.