Q&A: An Atheist Sits on God's Lap

An Atheist Sits on God's Lap

Question

Atheism seems like nonsense to me. Their arguments make no sense. Is arguing from an atheistic viewpoint self-defeating?

Answer

Atheism presupposes theism. So yes, arguing from an atheistic viewpoint is self-defeating. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good" (Psa. 53:1).

The laws of logic and reason presuppose the existence of God. Every sound theistic argument not only presupposes that God exists, but also provides evidence that he exists. And every atheistic argument that maintains God doesn’t exist depends upon the very existence of God to make and maintain its argument. It is only because God does exist that the atheist may argue at all.

Here are a couple of helpful illustrations by Cornelius Van Til:

Once while Van Til was a youth traveling on a train in Holland, he noticed a father with his young daughter sitting in his lap. Apparently, the father urged his daughter to do something when she suddenly slapped her father in the face.

Van Til's application? The girl's behavior illustrates rebels who live in God's world and who are supported by God's common grace (Psa. 24:1). They sit, as it were, on the lap of God, and it is precisely because they sit on God's lap that they are able to deliver the slap of ingratitude. Thus unbelievers who toot their own independence and autonomy are only able to do so as they are supported by God Himself (John 19:10-11). Their denial of God is His affirmation. Atheism does not invalidate theism, but proves it because atheism is only possible given the premise of theism.(emphasis mine)

As the atheist Nikita Khrushchev once described the Soviet Union, "In Russia, thank God, there is no God." [1]

Sitting in God’s lap while arguing that God — and thus his lap — doesn’t exist is self-defeating and self-deceiving. It’s like sitting in Heathrow Airport in London while proudly maintaining that London doesn’t actually exist. Foolish!

Atheism’s Problem of All Truth Being Divine Truth

The laws of logic and reason come from God. Without the laws of logic and reason there could be no atheism — at least no logical atheism (cf. Psa. 14:1). We can place this into a proposition revealing that the atheist in finality naturally argues himself into the corner that God must exist. Take for instance their ultimate stated belief that God doesn’t exist:

(1) God doesn’t exist.
(2) It is true that God doesn’t exist.
(3) There is at least one truth: God doesn’t exist.
(4) But if there are truths, they are divine truths.
(5) There is at least one truth.
(6) All truth is divine truth.
(7) Therefore, God exists.

The above proposition doesn’t mean a professing atheist believes or will even acknowledge that God exists. Rather, when all his arguments are properly analyzed they logically and eventually lead to the conclusion that God must exist. The so-called atheist will, of course, debate item #4 above and the conclusions which flow from it. They will say that truths aren’t divine.

But it stands to reason that the knowledge of all truth is greater than the mind of man, as no one man is the repository of all truth. Man isn’t omniscient.[2] Even the sum total of all humanity’s learning doesn’t begin to make a dent much less dive into the depths of all truth. Science is still making discoveries. Man can’t even number all the stars in the universe much less count to infinity! [3] So, all truth is necessarily first and foremost divine thought. Therefore, God exists.

Atheism’s Problem with the Complexity of Truth

Truth is very complex. Every component of it must be consistent and compatible; no truth is an island. To be true, one truth can’t stand independent of other truths. All truth is interrelated; i.e., all truths must be compatible with all other truths. These intersecting associations of truth are infinite in number and beyond mere man's ability to count much less to know, understand, and apply to all of life. Therefore, for absolute consistency and compatibility to exist, all truth must logically come from one ultimate, omniscient truth source — an Intelligent Designer and Creator knowing all truth and having all wisdom, Who is truth itself (cf. John 1:14; 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; Heb. 6:18). [4]

God’s omniscience — absolute knowledge of all things, including all truth and its multiple interrelated associations — reveals he is the only being capable of originating and authoring all truth. For instance, if God knows one star completely and its entire relationship to all other stars in the universe, then this necessarily means he intimately knows every detail of each and every star in the universe (cf. Psa. 147:4; Isa. 40:26). A similar thing may be said about truth. If God knows one truth absolutely and its total relationship to all other truth, then this necessarily means he fully knows all other truth. Only he who is omniscient knows all truth. Only God is omniscient (1 Kings 8:39; Psa. 139:1-3, 4, 15-16; Isa. 46:9-10; Matt. 10:29-30; Rom. 11:33-36; 1 John 3:20; cf. John 1:47-48; 4:18). Therefore, God exists.

Absolutes exist. Truth is an absolute and we can see the need for absolutes in our lives, for example, science, religion and the need for absolute justice. Without absolutes, the field of science could have no definitive experimentation, measurements or meaningful study. And why does every culture have at least one religion? The fact that religion exists at all – even false ones – reveals that individuals recognize some sense of consequence greater than themselves that gives meaning and definition to all of life. We all have consciences and know things should be a certain way. Something within us innately tells us things are either right or wrong and that there should be a set of just standards. This helps inform us that absolute truth exists and that there must be ultimate justice for all that is wrong. There is absolute truth. Therefore, God exists.

Atheism and its arguments against God’s existence are contrary to the truth and are self-defeating and self-deceiving. John 14:6 states, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" So, a Christian’s proposition is:

Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).
Jesus exists (John 1:14).
Jesus is God (John 1:1).
Therefore, God exists. [5]

Footnotes

[1] Jim West, "Van Til's Illustrations," (https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/van-tils-illustrations). Last Accessed 29 November 2017.

[2] While in his physical body upon earth, Jesus was not omniscient (cf. Phil. 2:6-7). Jesus didn’t know the time of the second coming (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32). Why? While upon the earth, Jesus, a servant to his Father’s will, only knew what God the Father intended him to know (John 15:15; cf. John 8:26; 17:8).

[3] If something has bounds then it is finite, not infinite. Unboundedness of any set, space or thing may be termed as infinite. For instance, if one can continuously add another number to a series of numbers, then that set of numbers may be termed as infinite.

Omniscience is one aspect of God’s holy immutable (unchanging) nature. He is limitless in knowledge and wisdom. He knows the past, present, future and all possibilities that could have existed. He doesn’t learn, he knows, he knows all. There are no bounds to God’s knowledge.

God is the Chief Mathematician, the Designer and Creator of all truth in numbers. Only God knows where infinity doesn’t begin and doesn’t end (cf. Isa. 46:10). How? God is omniscient, so he knows all absolutes, including infinity. If God can’t count to infinity then he can’t know everything that infinity is. His knowledge would be incomplete. Therefore, to state that God can’t count to infinity is to state that God lacks knowledge and thus not sovereign. This would deny that God is God. The problem is not whether or not God can count to infinity, but could we even comprehend it when he did?

[4] Truth is more than a consistent statement of fact that is compatible with all other truth. It is a person (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; cf. Heb. 6:18). The concept of truth is derived from, corresponds to, and is compatible with the character of God — his veracity, nature, personality and being, etc. Truth itself proceeds from the very nature of God. While many things may contain the truth, only one being may be said to be the truth. That person is God himself. For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth" (Psa. 33:4 NKJV; cf. Deut. 32:4; Psa. 57:10).

[5] Nowhere in the Bible do we discover arguments seeking to prove that God exists. While the limits of man’s knowledge and power are clearly shown in the biblical text (cf. Job 38:1-41; 39:1-30, 40:1-2), the fact of God’s existence is presumed from first to last — from Genesis 1:1- Revelation 22:21.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Believing in God is a gift given only to those who are enabled by grace to believe. Every argument in the world for God’s existence, while they may strengthen a believer’s faith, by themselves won’t convince an unbeliever. Without God’s gift of saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 9:16; Phil. 1:29), one can’t and will never believe. Without God’s gift of faith, an atheist will always be an atheist. The atheist needs faith, which is the evidence above all other evidence and God’s gift of absolute truth!

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).