When I first discovered how insupportable the God theory was, I was devastated. I had lived my entire life on the supposition that God existed, his will, purpose and teachings were all contained in the Holy Bible and every doctrine of the Christian faith was not just true but demonstrably true. Of course, like all good Christians, I did not go further to investigate how Christian "truths" could be shown to be true; I merely accepted that they were all true. It was only when I read up more and tried my hand at defending the faith that I realized how utterly defenceless faith was.
At that point, I took it upon myself to read up every argument in favour of God. I was not one to let the grass grow under my feet and I researched extensively into the subject. It was easy to weed out the dunces from the scholars. The dunces are people who know nothing about real Bible scholarship and they write mainly popular books that appeal to the Christian masses but their facts are at best broad generalizations or at times totally concocted and even fine Christian scholars would blushingly avoid them. Josh McDowell, an apologist I admired when I was a boy in school, is of course one of the dunces. His "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" and "More Evidence that Demands a Verdict" that meant so much to me as a boy are books that should go under the category of "Jokes". His arguments are the same old ludicrous arguments that CS Lewis first forwarded a century ago. Today, most Christians are too embarrassed to bring up these arguments in a debate with atheists because they are so obviously flawed and it wouldn't take an atheist more than a minute to chew them up and spit them all out in the Christian's face. I have limited time for this entry and I won't discuss how wrong McDowell/Lewis' argument is unless someone really needs me to go through it which I am prepared to do in a separate blog entry. McDowell's section on the canon of scriptures is shoddy, misleading and easily dismissed. Anyone who's read the real scholars Bruce Metzger and FF Bruce on the canon will know McDowell was talking through his behind when he wrote the book.
I don't want to say anything bad about McDowell; I'm sure he's a fine Christian and I respect him for that. I recall how excited I was when he visited my university and I wanted his autograph very badly and the only book I had with me was my textbook on Family Law. He was gracious enough to sign it and he included a biblical quotation and he made a joke about how wrong divorces were and to be fair to me, I have never in my entire life done a single matrimonial matter and so you might say I took McDowell's advice quite seriously.
McDowell has no pretensions about being a scholar. He's an apologist and his job is simply to defend the Christian faith. He hasn't got the depth of learning and scholarship that Bruce Metzger and FF Bruce have.
So I was desperately looking for strong arguments in defence of God. Sadly, every debate that I read or watched on the net ended with atheists beating us Christians flat. In every argument, we were floored and given the knock-out blow. Our embarrassing defeats continued debate after debate until I stumbled upon a shrewd and sly debater called William Lane Craig.
Craig is a philosophy teacher and he is a professional debater. He seems to beat the atheists who are unfortunate enough to have to debate with him. So, do I rejoice in this formidable champion and defender of God? Not in the least.
You see, what I want to see in a debate is honest victory in God's favour. I need an affirmation that my faith is true. But Craig is not what I would call an honest debater. He is artful and deceitful. I'm sorry I have to refer to a Christian debater as deceitful but that is precisely what he is. Every time I listen to him, I get this very uncomfortable feeling in me that here is Christendom's most illustrious conman. Craig's arguments are always the same old trite arguments that my poor fellow Christians have been using for the past few centuries. But what makes Craig different is he conceals the unfair arguments in such a way that his opponent fails to see why the arguments are flawed or unfair. His methods are varied but they are all underhanded. He uses technicalities, sophistry, play of words and confusion to defeat his unwary opponent. I can give examples of every method he has used so far. I've even seen him start his debate by insulting the opponent and his books as a preemptive measure. I've seen him declaring "universal truths" and try to bind his opponents to those "truths". I have seen him use old and hackneyed philosophical arguments (that have long been abandoned by most Christian apologists) but by playing on words, he gives a new lease of life to these flawed arguments.
I used to get very uncomfortable after listening to Craig and as time went by, I became angry. Craig must know he's dishonest so does he really believe in God? By that time of course, I had lost all hope of ever finding a Christian debater who could argue effectively for God without resorting to deceit and technicalities. God is a lost cause as far as debates go. The other thing about Craig's bag of tricks is it made me see how incredibly honest atheists were. St John's Gospel tells us that those who tell lies have Satan for their father. It's the atheists who are Christ's true followers in the usual religious debate that I read or see.
The reason why I write this post is I have just listened to an old debate. Craig and two other religious chaps were debating with Dawkins, Shermer and another atheist in Mexico in 2010. I listened to Craig's 6-minute talk and I felt the old anger rising. Why can't Craig go to God on his knees and ask for the strength to be honest?
In that short talk, Craig wanted to forward an unfair argument. He wanted to make the atheists prove a negative, that God does not exist. Any idiot knows that you can't prove a negative. Nobody can prove that invisible fairies don't exist or Bertrand Russell's celestial tea-cup doesn't exist. We can't prove that there really is no Santa Claus on flying reindeer any more than we can prove that there are no pixies, leprechauns or purple unicorns with pink polka dots. The usual rule is if you assert the existence of any object or entity, the onus must be on you to prove its existence.
But we Christians don't like that because there is ZILCH evidence for God's existence. Our God is Almighty, all-compassionate and highly intervening in human affairs, so we believe. And yet there is ABSOLUTELY not a shred of evidence for his existence. Craig knows this and he knows that in a debate he's got to unfairly push the burden of proof onto the atheists. He also knows that to say at the outset that he wants atheists to prove a negative would be so obviously wrong that he'll probably be jeered by the audience. So what he does in each debate that I've seen him in is to hide the fact that he's shifting the burden of proof deceitfully. In the Mexico debate, this is how he did it.
The debate is on whether there is a purpose in the universe. Craig starts off by saying that there are two statements that his opponents are sure to accept. If there is a God, there will be a purpose in the universe. If there is no God, there is no purpose in the universe. So far, so good. He goes on to say that if his opponents are to succeed, they will have to show that there is no purpose in the universe and they can't succeed in that unless they also show that there is no God in the first place. There you are!!! Burden of proof shifted unfairly again!
This is really very sad. This is not the first time I have caught Craig up to his tricks. There was another debate that I listened to and I managed to list 5 lies or deceitful remarks that he came up with in the short space of 5 minutes or so. After having read and listened to countless debates between my fellow Christians and atheists, I am now very cautious when I listen to the Christian speakers. I react towards my fellow Christians the way I do towards a gypsy woman carrying a baby who accosts me in the middle of a road in Rome. I become wary, cautious and I hold on to my possessions. And this is not the impression our Lord wants Christians to give to others. Even in a debate for God, we MUST uphold the most rigorous standard of honesty or if we think we can't win in the debate without being dishonest, we always have the option of avoiding the atheist altogether.
I set out to justify my faith by listening to arguments in favour of God and what I got from it is nothing less than clear evidence that my fellow Christians are dishonest when they argue for God. What does that do to my faith?
I wish my fellow Christians will remember the words of our Lord that lies come from the Father of Lies, ie Satan. Even if we are debating for God and we are desperate because we are fighting a losing battle, we should still be totally honest. As an honest Christian, my approach is different from Craig's. I openly admit that there is absolutely no evidence for God's existence. I openly admit that the problem of evil does show that logically, God can't be both omnipotent and all-compassionate. I am totally honest about the outrageous contradictions and concoctions in the Bible and the total unreliability of the Bible and there are serious flaws in its canon, compilation, scribal corruption and transmission.
I really wish there were no problems with the faith but I know that's not true. And of course I'm quite unlike Craig and some of these Christian defenders in that for me, truth is really of paramount importance. I know I can tell lies for God and I certainly have done that in the past (I mentioned this in an earlier blog post) but I have for a long time now resolved to be perfectly honest when I'm dealing with the truth or the lack of it in my own religion.