A redated post.
DeeJay wrote, his comments are in bold, mine are not:
Hi, I am currently reading your C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. (It is a very great book, by the way.) I have not completed the book yet, but I wanted to pose an issue that came up as I scanned the chapter third chapter, "Assessing Apologetic Arguments." I certainly do agree that it is not correct to refer to one with an opposing belief as being irrational, simply on the grounds that he or she disagrees with you; nevertheless, I do think that Christianity is true and, in my opinion, this requires certain things to follow (although I surely could be mistaken in some or all of what I am about to say).
The fact that something is true entails nothing about the people who believe that it is false. Some things are true that it is irrational to believe. If surprisingly enough, the Arizona Cardinals are the next Super Bowl winners (still a mathematical possibility), it would nevertheless be irrational to believe this.
The Bible suggests that if one is to earnestly seek the Truth then He will find God. Bertrand Russell said that he would tell God that there just wasn't enough evidence to warrant a belief in Him. I find it unlikely that God would respond by saying, "Your right. Tough luck!" If after deep and honest inspection, one is completely rational in holding a nontheist worldview, then I think we could say that that person is justified in holding that viewpoint. But I don't think the Bible would agree with that conclusion.
No one possesses perfect intellectual honesty. However, I find that I am not competent to diagnose bad faith in others (though I might know some things that might cause someone to disbelieve out of bad faith, such as a desire not to be ruled by a greater being). I am just unwilling, on the weight of my arguments, to issue charges of intellectual bad faith.
The Bible refers to the one who in his heart says there is no God as a "fool." Of course, this is not to be misconstrued by interpreting the term using modern-day assumptions.
I think some discussion of the "fool" passage has come up on this blog. I suspect it is not about atheistic philosophers like Russell, but rather refers to those who believe that God exists but do not reckon on God in their lives.
But, given that we interpret this passage (Psalms 14:1) correctly, this still is aligned with the claim that a nontheist is ultimately rational or justified in holding that belief. I say "ultimately" because I would agree that one could be prima facie justified in holding a nontheist worldview, but that under closer analysis (which would follow if one were to earnestly seek the Truth) then this worldview just doesn't hold. I think the following web page (which contains a few quotes from Greg Banhsen) helps explain: < http://members.aol.com/BaxterInstitute/Fool.html>. I'm sure you're already aware of all of this and I've only recently began to take my faith seriously, so I'm not trying to "educate" you at all here. I'm just expressing one concern I had with part of the third chapter of your book.
Looking at the evidence that I use to support belief in God (insofar as I use evidence), and here "evidence" is being used broadly, including presuppositional evidence, I would say that I do not know that it is so strong that anyone, say, Keith Parsons, if he knew all the arguments I knew, would be a theist. I don't believe reasoning takes place in a vacuum, that it is contextual in nature and rightfully impacts different people differently. People make deep world-view commitments and try to accomodate the information they have based on these, changing world-views relatively infrequently. It does happen (as it did with C. S. Lewis, and in part as it did with Antony Flew) but when it does there are more contributing factors than anyone can put in a book.
My comments up to this point had do with how I think saying one is completely rational or justified (where it is assumed they have honestly sought after the Truth) in holding a nontheistic worldview doesn't completely align with what the Scriptures have to say (although I could be wrong here, and I'm not at all claiming that you're being unbiblical or anything else "ad hominemistic"—not a word I know). I would also add that from personal experience (which has just been in the last year or so when I began taking my faith seriously—I'm 23 by the way) I've found that several nontheists seem to make crucial errors or ad hoc interpretations, which seem to trace back to their unwillingness to give up their belief. I have only debated the cosmological argument (the Kalam version) and the moral argument (or really the existence of objective morals and how that supports a theistic worldview). But, in doing so, I have come across some nontheists making, in my opinion, absurd statements. I have absolutely no problem with someone holding the types of beliefs a nontheist would hold in, say, an argument against objective morality. My issue is when I seem to soundly refute what they have said and they respond either by (intentionally?) misrepresenting my argument or simply with an inadequate response. I admit that this is not the case for all theistic arguments but for some (such as the Kalam cosmological argument, some moral arguments, and the argument from reason, to name a few) the conclusions, while they don't conclusively prove Christianity to be true, seem to rule out any serious possibility of a nontheistic worldview. But even given this, most don't accept the conclusions and still maintain a nontheistic worldview; they reject one of the premises or claim the argument is invalid. For example, some reject that there are objective morals, but when shown the logical conclusions of this worldview (and even in the face of gut intuition) they remain steadfast in their denial. Anyways, I could be wrong here, but I would just find it perplexing that God would send some to hell even though, after earnestly seeking the Truth, they were completely justified in holding their beliefs. I was just wondering what your thoughts on that were.
Yep. Nontheists make lousy arguments. So do theists. It is important to seek out the best, most mature nonbelievers if you really think your experience in debate supports these sorts of conclusions.
One last question. I was recently in a debate about morality and the existence of God. I took the an argument I had seen, modified it, and presented the following argument:
If evil exists, then an objective moral standard exist.
Therefore, an objective moral standard exist.
If an objective moral standard exist, then there is a way things ought to be.
Therefore, there is a way things ought to be.
If there is a way things ought to be, then there is a design plan for things.
If there is a design plan for things, then there must be a Designer.
Therefore, there must be a Designer.
I talked about this argument recently on this blog when I discussed an argument from Plantinga, and when I posed the question of whether anyone who uses the argument from evil has to be a moral realist. The response seems to be that even if the advocate of the AFE is not a moral realist, the theist must be, and therefore the AFE can be run as a reductio ad absurdum.
As a note, the "ought" in my argument was used in a moral/functional sense (I was attempting to show that the functional sense is inherent in the moral sense), not in a deterministic sense. I noted that from a nontheistic worldview no justification could be given for why evil ought not exist, no matter how one defines evil. Many try to redefine evil in order to maintain the Problem of Evil argument. I noted that from a nontheistic perspective no justification for why evil ought not exist could be given in order to maintain the Problem of Evil as a problem at all—if evil ought to exist then there would be no problem! Many accused the beginning premise, (1) though (3), of my argument of being circular. I maintained that (3) just necessarily followed from (1), but that it was not circular because you can't reason from (3) to (1), where I believe you should be able to do if the argument was circular. Anyhow, I noted that anyone could simply deny premise (1) in order to avoid (3). Nevertheless, could you briefly analyze my argument and if I am making some errors could you clarify where and how, because I don't want to be using some faulty argument.
I would just call your attention to the past entries on this blog where the issue was discussed.