Are there any Theistic critiques of Atheism?


#1

Hello everyone! I recently joined the BioLogos Forum. I hope I can fit in well with the community!

On a serious discussion, there are many reasons why one is either a Theist or an Atheist. I am sure we are all familiar with the critiques of Theism, such as:

How can a personal God exist when there is so much evil and suffering in the world?

Atheist critiques of Theism are ancient, and while most of us here are aware of their arguments, I’d like to change the topic around on its head:

Are there any Theistic critiques of Atheism?


(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

Welcome to the forum, Danny! If you want to be here and interact, then you should fit in just fine!

You are correct to notice that theists and atheists of many different stripes do hang out here, and so these kinds of topics do come up. I’ll give an initial response as one of the theists here.

Short answer: yes, kind of.

… but this runs into the problem of trying to criticize on the basis of a lack of something. It will usually take the form of some argument (whether a valid or true argument or not) that atheism leads to bad situations x,y, and z; cue the name dropping from history that shows this; which further cues the atheists present to bring out a laundry list of naughty theists and theistic events of history – and the merry-go-round ride is off and running. But all of this is more an assessment of outcomes which really shouldn’t be asked to bear much weight regarding the establishment of truth. (I allow that it should bear some weight when accompanied by other evidences, but atheists present will perhaps disagree and say it shouldn’t have any bearing at all. --which doesn’t prevent them from keeping their laundry list handy, though, just in case.)

The reason you probably don’t see this approach a lot is probably for the same reason that, for example, I won’t go around and tell people why they shouldn’t be non-bicyclists. As a cycling proponent my arguments instead would center more around why cycling is good. So convincing somebody that they should not be a non-cyclist is really already included in any pro-cycling agenda that I have. They are flip-side views of the same coin. As some atheist somewhere is fond of quoting: “If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby.” And there is some truth to that, though there are differences to be pointed out too. […I personally maintain that some neo-atheists have managed to cultivate their atheism as just that: an ideology or religion or worldview or whatever word they find least offensive.] But the point remains that ultimately the burden rests on the theist to show a positive argument for their positive belief. And to the extent that they succeed, they have already by that action, given a critique of atheism.

Sorry if that ends up being more of a non-answer. But continue persisting if you want more. Others here will chime in too, I’m sure.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

In general we try to stay away from atheism vs. theism debates on this forum, as there are other places on the internet dedicated to exploring these questions from a philosophical angle. We are generally content to let the atheists be atheists here if that is their choice and we welcome their expertise and contributions to the technical science discussions.

That said, we are interested in debunking certain atheists’ claims that science and faith are fundamentally incompatible and we have several blog series interacting with ideas put forward by New Atheist authors. The point though is not really to argue them into theism, it’s to remove intellectual obstacles for those who have been told you can’t have your science and your faith too.

My Christian critique of atheism comes from my a priori acceptance of the truth of the biblical revelation that claims there is one true God. But I don’t think you can argue someone into that position via reason, logic, or science. It is a faith claim, pure and simple.


(jason patterson) #4

I’ve tried running this race and never finished. At first I thought it was because I couldn’t really grasp the arguments. I dropped out because I think it’s more like starring in the movie Groundhog Day.


#5

There is a great tradition of finding evidences for God and reasons for the existence of God. it was all the rage in the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus among others. It was part of a training in theology for ministry. Some of it was to confront the infuence of Aristotle and the idea of a static everlasting universe.

AsI have been studyingthe works of Duns Scotus I can highlight the Scotus “proof” which is a complex one that started from the argument of a First Cause of all other causes. Secondly that wthe First cause is also a Fiinal Cause, that moves things to an end. The Final cause is the reason for the First Cause to act. Thirdly, that there is something most pre-emmiment and most supreme and that this First, Final and Pre-eminant existing thing is also Infinite. Scotus actually uses Aristotles ideas against Aristotle by using his categories of causes to show there was a begining of things, a creator.

Such argmunents from causation etc may not hold quite the same authority today but they do remain a kind of critique of atheism. William Craig Lane has written on the subject and he has a website. There is also “Nature is not enough” by John Haught (a Catholic critique of atheism) and Richard Swinburn has also written defenses of the idea of God and Christian truth.


Do people believe in God mostly because they are afraid of hell? (spin-off topic)
(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #6

Faith, in my opinion, is the least reliable path to the truth. By faith, anything can be taken as factual. By faith, some people (if they are willing) can believe that I am a God.


(Christy Hemphill) #7

4 posts were split to a new topic: Do people believe in God mostly because they are afraid of hell? (spin-off topic)


Do people believe in God mostly because they are afraid of hell? (spin-off topic)
(Matthew Pevarnik) #9

Well said, though I would probably add in dealing with the beginning of the universe it doesn’t even really make sense to think of things in terms of cause-and-effect. I suppose a philosophical reason is that you need a dimension of time to have cause and effect but there was no dimension of time. And then, more convincing to me is the scientific argument where our universe would have been very influenced by the laws of quantum mechanics when it was extremely small. In the quantum world it is not a matter of cause and effect, but more so of probabilities. So in that sense the classical arguments for god are not really that convincing when the classical laws of our universe breakdown.

Personally, all that I see most Christians ever doing is a God of the gaps. I don’t know why we can’t see it, but many apologetics is seeking to disprove scientific results and the conclusion in the science apologetics article is that since science doesn’t have an answer (or it’s very improbable) it’s proof of God. I see it time and time and time again on the major Christian science websites. Probably the only one that doesn’t have it is BioLogos which engages atheism in a different way and I’d recommend skimming some articles searching ‘atheism’ in the search bar.


#10

True. God-of-the-gaps thinking diminishes God to a place-holder for scientific ignorance. And this god shrinks over time with every new scientific discovery.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #11

One interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed that doesn’t happen too often, is that naturalistic explanations get weaker. One of these could be seen in the early zeal of the Urey Miller experiments for example. The origins of life question went from almost solved to not solved as we learned more about the early atmosphere and conditions on earth.

So what do Christians do? We leap on this and pound atheists as this ‘proves’ there is no good naturalistic origins of life model. However, one thing about science is that even if every single naturalistic explanation for a natural phenomenon fails, it doesn’t mean we will never find one. As in the case with the apologist John Edwards who argued that the gap of humans not being able to explain the sun burning process served as apologetic proof of God. His apologetic was effective for over 200 years until we had a better understanding of star burning processes.

And just saw this- atheists are seen as the most immoral even by other atheists in this study:


(Robert J. Kurland, Ph.D.) #13

Danny, to answer your question, there are quite a few theistic critiques of atheism. The most compelling I find are by C.S. Lewis, particularly “God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics”. There is an audiobook by Peter Kreeft, “Faith and Reason”, that gives point-by-point arguments for theism, atheism and counterpoints. I should add that are a series of books by Keith Ward (forget the titles right now) arguing specifically against a prime proponent of atheism, Richard Dawkins. Hope this is helpful.