Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 22, May 27 to June 2, 2007

Apologetics Dialogue

Hall of Fame Paper

By Shaun Cross

Date: 12/06/06
Professor: Dr. John Frame
Theme: Apologetics Dialogue

Shaun: Hey. I'm Shaun. What's your name?

Aaron: Aaron.

Shaun: Nice to meet you!

Aaron: You also—so how long have you worked for Starbucks?

Shaun: About six months.

Aaron: Oh. Do you do anything else?

Shaun: Yeah, I'm going to school.

Aaron: Me too, I'm an anthropology major. What about you?

Shaun: I'm getting my masters in Christian Thought. I want to teach theology and philosophy some day.

Aaron: That's neat… I like philosophy. I don't really believe in God, though.

Shaun: Why not?

Aaron: Well, I am an anthropology major, you know!

Shaun: So?

Aaron: Science has, well, disproved creation and therefore, God. It just doesn't fit with any of the facts of science.

Shaun: Like what?

Aaron: Well, take for example the age of the earth. It's billions of billions of years old. Still the Bible says that it's like 6,000 years old.

Shaun: I'm not so sure. The Bible never comes out and says that the earth is x- amount of years old. That is really just one perspective on it. Many, including myself, believe that an old earth would fit perfectly within the context of the Bible. Besides, how can you, or science for that matter, be absolutely sure of the age of the universe.

Aaron: Well, I'm not really sure. That's usually more a physics type question. I'm anthro. So I am sure the universe is at least millions of years old, because that's how long evolution on earth has been happening.

Shaun: Again, how can you be sure?

Aaron: Well, we have the fossil records! You can't deny those!

Shaun: And I wouldn't. What I would question though, is how a bunch of bones disprove creation and, therefore, God. Or to ask it in a different way, how do those bones prove evolution?

Aaron: You can look at the bones and see how creatures have adapted to their environment and have passed on those adaptations. You can even look at humans. There are different bones structures, melanin levels, and muscle structures depending on where and when the human being lived. Humans have evolved and are still evolving!

Shaun: I don't deny that. All creatures are adapting. Evolution does occur within species, but that's not the evolution that creationists would deny. That's macroevolution.

Aaron: Sure. But you've got to believe in macroevolution then as well.

Shaun: Why? Are there bones of transitional creatures?

Aaron: Yes, actually! Just recently they found the fossils of a fish that had the beginnings of foot bones.

Shaun: I read about that. It was interesting.

Aaron: And that didn't convince you?

Shaun: Well, it left me with some unanswered questions. I remember my junior high and high school science classes. We talked about the scientific method. We always were told test as much as possible.

Aaron: Yes.

Shaun: Just because you could produce one result once did not make it strong scientifically. Well, the breadth of evolution is far more reaching than just a shore of an island. There would have to be an incredible amount of transitional species and therefore fossils. One fish with the beginnings of foot bones, if that is even the proper interpretation of the fossil found, among a sea of normal fossils seems to be more a fluke than the norm.

Aaron: What's your point?

Shaun: My point is less the fossil and more the interpretation of that fossil. The scientists in that article were set on interpreting that fossil as conclusive evidence for evolution. Couldn't there be another interpretation, say, that this was a fluke mutation or even perhaps two fossils that were somehow fused together?

Aaron: It would be a stretch.

Shaun: Why?

Aaron: It's just grasping at straws because you don't believe in evolution.

Shaun: So what your saying is that my interpretation of the evidence is shaped by the fact that I believe God created?

Aaron: Right!

Shaun: So isn't it fair, then, to say that your interpretation of the evidence is shaped by the fact that you believe in evolution?

Aaron: I guess.

Shaun: Here's what I'm getting at. Our understanding of the evidence is subject to our interpretation. Our interpretation of the evidence is shaped by our presuppositions.

Aaron: So what's the point of this?

Shaun: Well, we have conflicting presuppositions. You are an atheist, I believe in God. You believe in evolution, I believe in creation. We cannot both be right.

Aaron: But you've already established that we cannot sufficiently convince each other of our beliefs because of our presuppositions.

Shaun: Not quite, I said that they were different and they govern our interpretation of evidence, but what if I could prove that practically speaking, one of these presuppositions does not stand?

Aaron: What do you mean?

Shaun: What if I could prove to you that you do not operate under atheistic principles, but rather theistic ones?

Aaron: Well, good luck with that.

Shaun: I am prepared to say that you live your life under theistic principles. You're an anthropology major, right?

Aaron: Yes.

Shaun: Why?

Aaron: I don't know, I just like learning about humans.

Shaun: Why? What do you intend to do with your degree?

Aaron: I'm not to sure. I hadn't really thought that far ahead. Something for the betterment of humanity.

Shaun: So you believe, then, there is some ideal for humanity?

Aaron: Of course.

Shaun: What does that ideal look like?

Aaron: It's hard to say completely, but a peaceful society, where we have cures for diseases and poverty is not an issue.

Shaun: That's a pretty good answer. I have a question though. What makes a society peaceful?

Aaron: When people talk out their issues before fighting them out. When people care for people before their own ideologies.

Shaun: So, people ought to talk out their differences and ought not go to war first.

Aaron: Right.

Shaun: That's a moral statement.

Aaron: Yes.

Shaun: It doesn't seem that atheistic Darwinism allows for moral judgment of any kind.

Aaron: I know where you're going with this. Let me just say, I don't believe that people have to believe in hell in order to do good.

Shaun: Perhaps not. But why do you do good?

Aaron: It's like I said before. I do good for the betterment of society. I do it for hope of the positives that come from it, not fear of the negative. Do you see what I'm saying?

Shaun: I do. But that seems to be a matter of semantics. To do good for the good is the same as to do good to thwart the bad.

Aaron: Fine. It's semantics, but so what?

Shaun: We don't just do good things for knowledge of the reward, but simultaneously for the knowledge of the punishment. This says something of the nature of morals. Morals are based on some sort of authority. Morality cannot be individual because from the beginning of our lives we submit to a moral authority greater than ourselves. Moreover, it is considered right to do so. As children we listened to our parents. It was not always because of the good that we would receive. When our parents told us to clean our room, we did it because we feared grounding or a spanking, just as much we did it to please them. We obey the law, not for hope of reward from the government, but out of fear of the punishment. We know if we break the law we can be fined, imprisoned, or even executed and so we keep the law.

Aaron: Sure, but how does the prove God.

Shaun: Well, do you still do everything your parents tell you to do?

Aaron: No.

Shaun: Why not?

Aaron: Because I'm an adult and don't have to listen to them anymore.

Shaun: But you do obey the law, because it still is authoritative presence.

Aaron: Yeah.

Shaun: Then it could be said that your level of responsibility is directly related to their level of authority. You fear the government more than your parents because your parents can no longer punish you the way they could before. So with the disobeying of a higher authority comes a greater punishment.

Aaron: Okay.

Shaun: But there also comes a higher level of law. If your parents tell you to clean your room, you do. But if your parents tell you to evade you taxes, you disregard them because the government has told you otherwise. Wouldn't you agree.

Aaron: Yes.

Shaun: Why is this?

Aaron: Well because your parents are the head of your house. The government is the head of the entire nation. Your parents can't through you in jail; Uncle Sam can!

Shaun: Exactly. The level of an entities moral authority is directly proportional to its realm of control.

Aaron: I'll go with that.

Shaun: There is a part of the Declaration of Independence that I think of here. It says that when a government infringes upon universal rights, the citizens have an obligation to rebel against that government and implement a new one. This is similar to the government saying that when your parents tell you to break the law, you must disobey them. There is a higher moral authority than the government, an authority whose scope of control is universal.

Aaron: Okay.

Shaun: So we can infer now that there is an absolute moral authority.

Aaron: Fair enough. But that absolute moral authority does not need to be God.

Shaun: What else could it be?

Aaron: People all around the world believe in karma.

Shaun: Let me ask you this, if a hunk of metal had inscribed on it, "you ought to clean your room," would you?

Aaron: Probably not.

Shaun: Yet your parents told you to as a child and you did. It goes back to what we were talking about before; a parent can punish you! A tree cannot. For a moral authority to be relevant, it must be able to give you a punishment or a reward that you are consciously aware of. In order to do that it must be personal. Karma is not personal. In fact it doesn't always, or usually work. We see cheaters win all the time. Karma seems to be more dependent on fear of unconscious punishment in a future life. It does not have the qualifications necessary to demand obedience. Ultimate morality can only be attributed to an infinite, ultimate, personal God.

Aaron: Okay.

Shaun: If grounding is necessary for appeasing your parents, and jail or execution for the government, what punishment do you think is adequate for offending an infinite, ultimate God?

Aaron: So what you're saying is that we do good things unconsciously to avoid going to hell.

Shaun: Not quite. I'm saying that we are inclined to morality and that morality is dependent ultimately on a God who is both personal and supreme, a God who lords over all creation, namely the God of the Bible.

Aaron: That's all very well and good, but what difference does that presupposition make? As an atheist, I live by the same moral laws that you do.

Shaun: It does make a difference. The first of the Ten Commandments says that we are to have no other gods before God. Jesus tells us that we're supposed to love God with everything that we have. The Bible makes it clear that God's primary command for us is to recognize and to honor His Lordship, both over us and all of universe. This requires a presupposition that recognizes Him as Lord.

Aaron: Well, that may be so, but the Bible is full of contradictions, even in when it talks about God.

Shaun: Could you give some examples?

Aaron: It says that God loves everyone and yet He sends people to hell; He's all good and powerful but He can't stop evil.

Shaun: The Bible presents to us an image of God that is complex, yes, but not irreconcilable. Some things are beyond our grasp as finite beings. Good parents love their children, but good parents also must punish their children. Besides, God, if he is perfect, must not only be loving, but be just. We cannot give preeminence to any one of his attributes. The Bible says that God is fully capable of stopping evil and that He has and will through Jesus Christ.

Aaron: But how can we know that the Bible is right.

Shaun: Because it's God's word.

Aaron: How do we know it's God's word?

Shaun: Because it tells us so. The Bible says that all of Scripture is breathed from the very mouth of God. We also see time and again that "thus says the Lord." The Bible is quite clear that it is the word of the Lord.

Aaron: So the Bible is trustworthy because it is the word of God and we know it's the word of God because it says so?

Shaun: Exactly.

Aaron: Isn't that circular reasoning?

Shaun: Yes, but we already talked about our presuppositions determining our interpretation of the evidence. All reasoning, at this level, is circular. It does not make it unsound. Besides, what other test would I put it up against? The Bible is claiming to be the absolute authority on Jesus, who is God, who is the absolute authority. There is no greater criterion! Let me ask you this, what do you think of the Bible?

Aaron: How do you mean?

Shaun: What is the Bible to you?

Aaron: It's an ancient text with valuable moral lessons, much like Aesop's fables. Good in nature, but that's about all.

Shaun: Are you familiar with C.S. Lewis?

Aaron: Yes.

Shaun: Well he has an argument for belief in Jesus being God that I think, if modified slightly, will work well when looking at the Bible.

Aaron: Okay.

Shaun: Like I said before the Bible makes claims which no other book does. Aesop's fables do claim to teach us good moral lessons, but not the absolute truth of reality. Scripture claims that there is an almighty, personal God who created and Lord's over His creation. It also teaches that God intends to relate to His creation as Lord and expects us to treat Him as such. Even beyond that, it claims that if we don't do so, we will be eternally damned to hell. And, perhaps most radically of all, it claims to be the only communicated word of God! Or, at the very least, the only trustworthy standard for judging truth.

Aaron: Okay.

Shaun: Well, that precludes the Bible from being merely a good book. You see, if the claims of the Bible aren't true, then it is the collected work of men who intentionally lied. Not merely lied, mind you, but lied about the ultimate truth, lied about God! It is a lie that espouses itself to be the only truth! The only source of knowledge in Jesus Christ and therefore the only way to get to heaven! If that is the case, the Bible is a wretched book and deserves only hatred.

Aaron: Well I hadn't thought of it like that.

Shaun: But we've seen that it is the only text that shows a God consistent with reality. It's the only text that reveals an infinite, ultimate, personal God. It has proven itself true and continues to be proven true. That leaves us with only one reasonable choice. That is that the Bible is true. If the Bible is true, if it is all those things it claims to be, then we have an incredible obligation to trust and follow it in all matters. It must become our guide. It must form our presuppositions.

Aaron: So going back to our original conversation, what does the Bible have to say about science? Should I abandon my major because its presuppositions are different?

Shaun: The Bible says that God created the Heavens and the Earth. It says that Jesus Christ himself is the author of creation! This doesn't hinder science, though. In fact, it is the presupposition that best grounds science.

Aaron: How so?

Shaun: Well, the Biblical account of creation presents us with a world that is ordered, knowable, and which functions under divinely mandated natural laws. Atheism presents a world that is random and has no central meaning or order. Which of these seems more conducive to science?

Aaron: Hmm. Yeah.

Shaun: The Bible even says that nature proves there's a God.

Aaron: So why don't more people believe?

Shaun: The Bible tells us that people don't believe in God because they are sinful. As a result of their sin, they repress the truth about God's lordship. You've seen how evident God is; yet, yesterday you were convinced that He didn't exist. Fortunately, God has revealed Himself to us in other ways, specifically the Bible and Jesus Christ. That is not where it ends though. We are responsible for how we respond to the Bible and its claims about Jesus.

Aaron: You mean that he's God.

Shaun: Yes, but also about our fallen nature as humans and our need for Jesus and redemption. You see? God is not just like the government who should be obeyed only because of fear of punishment. The Bible says that God is the giver of all good things. It says that there is a great reward in acknowledging that Jesus is God and Lord.

Aaron: I remember some of it from Sunday school growing up. You know that Jesus died on the cross and all.

Shaun: You're familiar with the Gospel then?

Aaron: Yes, but God and Jesus had always just seemed to be outdated tools to foster morality. I see now that there is much more to it than just that.

Shaun: Cool. Look, if you have any questions about Jesus or what it means to follow Him, I'd love to talk to you.

Aaron: That'd be great! There is still a lot I'm unsure of, but you've presented me with a different perspective.

Shaun: Well, let me give you my number and when we're not working we can get together and talk.

Aaron: I'd really enjoy that.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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