This is a transcript of the debate between Greg Bahnsen and Edward Tabash on the topic, “Does God Exist?” This debate took place at UC Davis in 1993. The video below contains timestamps.
Bahnsen – 1st Opening Statement
The Centrality of Presuppositions
Tonight’s debate is kind of like going to a movie after it’s started, say midway through the screening of the movie. In order to understand and assess the conflict or the struggle that you’re presently seeing, you have to catch up with the background that you haven’t seen, but which explains and actually develops what’s now going on presently on the screen.
And I think that’s true about tonight’s debate, as well. You really can’t understand and evaluate what you see up here until you look into the unspoken beliefs which are really the context of what’s going on. There is a crucial and a determinative intellectual background to tonight’s public conflict between the theist and the atheist, a background which involves radically different underlying philosophies about reality, knowledge, human value, and conduct.
On the one hand, you have a view that says the world is at base matter and motion, and over against that a view that says the material world is actually the creation and is controlled by a sovereign and all-knowing personal God. These different ultimate perspectives or worldviews are the context in terms of which each proponent reasons—what he takes to be relevant, what method and standards of reasoning he employs, how evidence is recognized, how it’s assessed, and how it’s applied.
Mr. Tabash has a fundamental philosophy of life, an underlying worldview which he brings as background baggage to the debate tonight. So do I. We each have as yet unspoken beliefs about the nature of reality, human experience, the possibility and methods of knowing, and how we should live our lives.
And when all is said and done, these two opposing world views will guide and always be at work in our respective arguments or our appraisals of evidence. For example, atheists can be undaunted when Christians show the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, pointing to it and saying, “See, there’s a miracle.” But you see, given the atheist’s naturalistic presuppositions he believes that someday, or he can believe someday, scientific explanation of that event is theoretically possible, in which case then it’s not a miracle.
On the other hand, theists are not dissuaded when atheists point to the evidence of natural disasters or children suffering in the world, for you see, given their presuppositions, God has a morally sufficient reason for ordaining such events. And thus they are not contrary to his goodness and his power given those presuppositions.
In both cases, the underlying worldview is the controlling factor in the reasoning and the conflicting conclusions to which the proponents come. And thus progress can be made in the atheist-theist debate only if we recognize that we all have, as it were, come into the movie midway and we must confront the philosophical background to our disagreements.
Tonight’s debate comes down to a choice between the conflicting worldviews in terms of which we will be reasoning and arguing tonight. Now, I believe that the existence of the Christian God is an objective reality which is rationally provable.
Please note four things, though, about what I’ve just said:
- First of all, notice that I am defending Christian theism. Specifically, I don’t believe there is any unambiguous and coherent notion of theism in general. I’ll be defending the Christian version of theism.
- Secondly, our concern here tonight is with the question of the truth of atheism or of theism—not with psychological motivations, not with subjective desires, or the social functions, or even the personal character of theist or atheist. The truth about God either way and the truth about devotees to theism or atheism again either way may be happy or it may be sad. It may be useful or it may be counterproductive. It may be corrupting or it may be ennobling. But, regardless, whatever the truth is, it remains the truth.
- Thirdly, remember that an argument need not be accepted by everyone for it to be nonetheless conclusive. We must obviously distinguish between proof and persuasion. Personal persuasion is subjectively qualified. Proof is not. You see, something can exist—for instance, a cancer for which the doctor has proof—something can exist, even though a person is unpersuaded that he has cancer and even offers reasons. Maybe, you know, avidly reasons against the possibility that he has cancer. We’re dealing here with proof, not persuasion, tonight.
- And fourthly, many hearers need to disabuse themselves of an old canard that goes something like this: faith is believing what you know ain’t true, or faith takes over where reason leaves off. Faith is not something that stands over against reason, whether above reason or contrary to reason or however you wish to put it. Rather, reasoning itself rests upon the presupposition of faith and collapses as arbitrary without it.
The Problem of Induction
Now, to make this point, I’ve chosen to look not to what committed Christians have reasoned or said, which you might feel is too easy and partisan on my behalf, but rather to have us consider what our hostile opponents have pointed out about a central problem in philosophy. We’ll look at an issue treated by David Hume, the 18th century Scottish skeptic, and also by Bertrand Russell, 20th century English philosopher.
Both of these men wrote in strong opposition to religious faith and especially to Christianity. The problem we’re going to look at for a few moments here is the problem of induction. Among the expectations with which we encounter experience and encounter the world is the expectation that uniformity can be found between the diverse events, things, or experiences in the world.
This expectation may in some cases be quite explicit and self-conscious, but it need not be. For instance, when we learn to drive a car or to speak a foreign language we usually pay close attention to what is the regular function of certain parts of the car, or of the grammatical rules and ordinary word usages of the language.
But we eventually come to do these things more automatically or more habitually and we no longer consciously think about the expected uniformity or use of cars or our use of language. Our learning and reasoning tacitly assumes that the universe is such that uniformities are expected and exhibited in similar things, even though they are separated by time and space, that the way things happen can be viewed as instances of general laws and what has occurred in the past is a reliable guide for predicting and thus adjusting to the future.
Now, this can be described in an elaborate and abstract way, but not many of you are philosophy majors and would want me to do that. The fact is, each of us is very familiar with what I’m talking about. From personal experience, we’re all quite acquainted with the process of moving from particular facts in our experience to general truths, which are exhibited by those particular experiences.
For instance, that children don’t merely conclude from their pain that a particular case of flame is burning them. They usually project that fire in general, or if you will, all fire, any fire will burn, as well. From observed regularities or associations we infer universal regularity, even in the unobserved cases or yet future cases.
In popular parlance, we say we assume the uniformity of nature. The method of generalizing from observed cases to all cases of the same kind is called induction. The basic guiding principle here is that future cases will be like past cases—that similar things will behave similarly.
So, for instance, if certain conditions and events bring about a certain effect today, the same factors will cause a similar effect. Later, I’ll give you a down-to-earth example.
Why do we expect toothpaste to spurt from the tube when we squeeze it? You might call this the toothpaste proof of God’s existence. Okay, we support that expectation in terms of two things: 1) our past experience with toothpaste tubes and 2) the belief that nature is uniform, that the future is like the past.
Without that second belief, we would not be able to learn from experience. We would not be able to use language. We would not be able to rely on memory or advanced science, all of which involve observing similarities and projecting them into the future.
Moreover, our belief about uniformity or the inductive principle is a very firmly entrenched belief. When scientists found that there were deviations in the expected orbit of Uranus, they did not draw the conclusion, “Okay, nature is not uniform after all.”
That just impelled them to start looking for another factor, as yet unknown, that was influencing the orbit of Uranus. They did not give up the inductive principle, but they rather hypothesize the body—which by the way we now know to be the planet Neptune. And so from toothpaste to the planets, we believe and reason in terms of the inductive principle.
Now, David Hume’s question was this, and I quote, “What is the nature of that evidence which assures us of any real existence and matter of fact beyond the present testimony of our senses or the records of our memory? By what logical right,” he was asking, “do we claim to know that some empirical generalizations are true? Are we warranted in asserting on the basis of our experiences?”
And he said to be very strict in his empiricism. Only that in the past or in the case of so far observed, such and such has been the case. But, Hume said we have no basis for projecting that into the future and I quote him again, he says, “If you insist that the inference is made by a chain of reasoning, I desire you to produce that reasoning.”
Now, of course, many people make the mistake of responding to him, saying, “Hey, listen, we all assume the future would be like the past.” Hume said that he understood that there’s no question that in practice we act that way, but as he said, and I quote him again, “I want to learn the foundation of this inference.”
And then, there are people who say, well, we know it’s very probable, even though it may not be certain. But, that misses Hume’s point, as well. Hume knew very well that we don’t have certainty about all matters of science.
His point is that we have no logical right to affirm, on the basis of our past experience, that even probability is true of the natural order and so that the principle of induction is left without a foundation.
Bertrand Russell, the 20th century philosopher, said that we cannot justify our belief in induction on the basis of the past success we’ve had in believing that the inductive principle is true—because that too assumes that what happened in the past is going to be like the future.
Let me quote Russell here:
The inductive principle is equally incapable of being proved by an appeal to experience. Experience might conceivably confirm the inductive principle as regards the cases that have been already examined, but as regards unexamined cases, it is the inductive principle alone that can justify any inference from what has been examined to what has not been examined. All arguments which, on the basis of experience, argue as to the future or the unexperienced parts of the past or present assume the inductive principle. Hence, we can never use experience to prove the inductive principle without begging the question.
So now, do we have reason for believing the inductive principle? We need to set the Christian worldview—the theistic worldview— side by side with the atheist worldview and ask which one comports with the inductive principle and thus provides the preconditions for science, language, learning, and any intelligible human experience.
And I would say it’s certainly not atheism. Atheism’s view of reality and historical eventuation cannot provide a cogent reason for what all of our reasoning takes for granted. It is debunked by its philosophical arbitrariness at just this point, as even men like Hume and Bertrand Russell realized.
Accordingly, it is most reasonable to believe, and entirely unreasonable not to believe, in God for God’s existence is the precondition of all reasoning whatsoever.
Tabash – 1st Opening Statement
There is a reason why those of us who do not believe in the Christian concept of God have decided not to adopt that belief. And that is a lack of evidence that pertains to our experience of the physical world in which we live.
And I must say that the Christian concept of God itself is highly offensive to a rational conceptualization of a just, omnipotent being because what kind of God is it that would tell me that my sincere disbelief in that theology will result in eternal punishment? What kind of a cosmic egomaniac is this to cast people like me in a lake of fire and take flaming vengeance on me, as is said in the New Testament, and to do all the things to me that will happen throughout the New Testament—damnation, everything—for those who believe not the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Where is the evidence to our sensory perception, even to our concept of the order of the universe, to the order of the physical environment in which we live? Where is the evidence that that whole cosmos is structured by a being that has so sinister a purpose for us, so sinister a purpose as to consign us to eternal damnation because we cannot bring ourselves to believe in that which is invisible?
I submit that such a being is not a God, but a devil, and i submit that such a being is non-existent. And if such a being were existent, then this is not a God, but a cosmic trickster who is playing a colossal scheme of hide and seek because we can’t see this being.
If this being truly exists, let it not speak to me from the antiquity of ancient books and tell me that I have to believe in it, even though I have no direct evidence because of the hearsay of people who lived two and three thousand years ago. Why not appear to all of us directly?
In fact, God, you—who if you’re listening and you’re really there—show yourself right now. Come out of hiding. Manifest on the stage. Do a colossal miracle. Levitate this building. Do something to show me more than the words of ancient men—as women weren’t even permitted to draft and participate in the Bible.
how me something more than ancient hearsay from the dust of antiquity to prove your existence. And if you do not meet my challenge, I say to you—if you’re awake and listening—that you are violating your moral duty to manifest yourself, considering that you yourself have erected such harsh penalties to befall all those of us who will not believe in you.
If there is such a penalty to be paid for disbelief, then you must, to be fair, give us greater evidence to induce that belief rather than to expect us to take questionable testimony from primitive times as a basis for making a judgment about the nature of eternity.
And so, I would say that not only is there no evidence, but that the Christian concept of God is an immoral monster for positing such eternal punishment for understandable lack of belief.
If I am sincerely wrong after I die, God should say, “Well, Eddie, you blew it, but it’s understandable. I didn’t give you much to go on, so you still get to avoid the barbecue pit.”
But the fact that Christian theology says that if we do not accept Jesus, it’s the grill room, that is something which is offensive to the nature of not only normal human evidence, but it’s offensive to our nature of right and wrong.
And where is the proof, other than a dusty old book written thousands of years ago of questionable authorship. Now, the argument is that there is design in the universe, but if there is such design, then the theists can’t have it both ways, because intelligent planning in the universe means that there are physical laws that we can apprehend that have uniformity of application.
And if those physical laws have uniformity of application and the design is such, that it possesses pattern precision and regularity so that we may know that that design is reliable, then those very laws cannot be violated by the introduction of unprovable miracles.
And so the claim for miracles is itself a violation of the very claim of design and the theists cannot have it both ways because if the universe is so well ordered like a perfectly running mechanism then it means that that design reveals to us that we can apprehend the uniformity of the rules which are inviolable and which are invariable and thus the very claim of miracle violates that principle of design and uniformity.
And that would tend to show that if a God exists it is not the God of Christianity or orthodox Judaism or Islam. It is not the invisible male deity in the sky that gets a temper tantrum every time you don’t worship him in the right modality it would show that that deity is more or less the pantheistic concept, as articulated by Spinoza, which is a being that is a prisoner of and subject to its own laws.
It means that the God force is as much a subject of its laws as we are because the uniformity and design of the universe reveals laws that are predictable and immutable and that do not get altered.
Also, when I was five years old and the rabbis were teaching me about God’s parting the Red Sea, my first impulse was to become quite jealous. I was jealous because it meant that my ancient forebears got a chance to see direct proof of something which I was being denied. They had the opportunity to witness a miraculous event directly and I was being denied that opportunity because miracles no longer happened and I told the rabbis that if we could go to the Santa Monica beach and see God part the Pacific Ocean in a miraculous fashion, that would induce belief.
And why is it that we must rely on a book written, I guess altogether somewhere between 1350 BC and maybe when everybody got it together about 250 AD, which wasn’t even in its initial codified form until 325 in the council of Nicaea. Where even the book of Luke, as I understand it, only made it into the gospels by one vote and other books were discarded.
So if we have a book that took about fourteen hundred years to put together of dubious authorship, at a time without word processors, without reliable testimony, without floppy disks and mac cards to show fidelity to the original texts, without even good xerox machines, how in the world are we to be expecting that not one word in that book is in error?
How can we expect not one word in that book is in error? And in the Gospels, we see a few errors and or contradictions. The resurrection: one book says that two women went to the tomb. Others said three women.
One book says that the stone was already pulled aside when they got there. The other book says, “No, it wasn’t. It was pulled aside when they got there.” One book says there was an angel outside saying he has risen. The other said there was one man in a white garment inside. That it says, “No, there were two guys inside.”
And so, if the bible is absolutely inerrant, there could not be this contradiction. There couldn’t be this God of the Old Testament that says, “Yes, you Jews, you’re my people you are my sons and daughters. You are my chosen people. And then in the book of Thessalonians, talking about how the Jews are accursed because of their denial of Jesus and that they are contrary to men.”
There also could not be chapter 7 verse 14 in the book of Isaiah, which says that, in fact, a child will be born, not to a virgin, but the original Hebrew al-mah is young woman. If they wanted to use the word virgin they would have said bethullah not alma in the original Hebrew.
And then to say that his son will be Immanuel. Well, Jesus’ name was not Emmanuel. And the whole chapter of Isaiah was talking about assigned to a king 600 years before Jesus was to be born, 600 years before Jesus, a king who was being beset by the kingdom of Israel and a kingdom to the east and this was a poor king of the kingdom of Judea who was besieged.
So hold up, yeah, okay, so the the whole point is that not only is the Bible not containing evidence in the physical rational universe to exhibit its authenticity, it doesn’t show internal consistency, and even if it did show internal consistency, that does not mean that its claims of supernaturalism are true.
Now, it’s true that I can’t explain every phenomenon in the universe, but I don’t have to. If there is lightning, and I don’t necessarily know how that came about, that doesn’t mean that the superstitious offering of somebody from a primitive tribe that says that this is the alligator God who gets angry at the trees.
That doesn’t mean that that’s true. So, the fact that religionists can fabricate myths that explain away as of yet unknown phenomena doesn’t mean that their God of the Gaps, that their filler, is true.
I don’t have to say that I can prove to you that there are not, in the words of Dr. Leonard Peacock, right now a convention of gremlins on Venus studying Hegel. I don’t have to prove to you because such a thing is so outside the ordinary sensory and scientific and empirical everyday experience of the normal course of these very immutable laws the theists say show design.
Because of that, because of that, the burden of proof is on them to show that there are a convention of gremlins on Venus studying Hegel and even a little Immanuel Kant if you want to add spice to it.
So again, where is the proof? If somebody is going to tell me that my eternity depends on the acceptance of supernaturalism, which is unprovable, and show me a book which came from the murky past and is already over 2000 years old and to tell me that that book was written by infallible people and that the testimony in there is without mistake even though nothing was written down contemporaneously during the New Testament.
There is nothing in the New Testament—perhaps we’ll disagree on this—that was directly witnessed by an author of the New Testament. The gospels, the Gospel of Mark, was written maybe 75 AD, which was about 45 years after Jesus died.
The book of Revelation, which supposedly houses the infallible word of Jesus as to the final destiny of the world, wasn’t written until about 100 AD, about 70 years after the death of Jesus.
What possible proof is there that each of these books was written without mistake and that when the various councils throughout the first 16 centuries met to decide which books were to be part of the canon, which were not that their decisions were infallible?
Where is the proof that the cosmic entity guided the selection of every book so that what was deleted and what was accepted was without error? And also, where is the proof that there is such a curmudgeonly ill-tempered God as the one in the book of Exodus, who ordered Moses to have a guy stoned to death because he did nothing more than pick up sticks on the Sabbath ?
I don’t want to know that kind of God. Also, I have concrete proof that God is already an error. God made a mistake in the Bible and has been proved empirically wrong by history.
God said in the third chapter of genesis that the woman shall be ruled over by her husband. I submit that the past three millennia of human history has shown that was a bad idea so we see then that there is a strong likelihood.
And in terms of miracles we have to accept the most believable: that ancient human beings superimposed on a fabricated being their ancient concepts. Patriarchal societies invented a patriarchal God who is nothing more than an extension of their own primitive psychological yearnings and there is no concrete scientific or empirical proof to demonstrate that that entity governs the world today and will punish us forever because we do not believe in Jesus.
I submit that the Christian God is an unproven myth.
Bahnsen Question to Tabash
Question: The Inductive Principle
Mr. Tabash, on what rational basis do you then as an atheist justify belief in the inductive principle?
I justify belief in anything—whether the inductive or the deductive principle—pursuant to what my sensory experience, aided by scientific tools, will demonstrate to me.
But I feel no obligation to believe in claims of the supernatural, of which there is no evidence and which violate not only my sense of moral justice as the exclusive club of Christianity portrays itself to be.
Okay, the inductive principle is a question of reasoning from one item to another and in that sense, for purposes of discussion tonight, it’s no different from a deductive principle.
There’s absolutely no difference between the two and what you do is induction or deduction builds upon or strips away excess dross based on the physical evidence that you have to work with.
That is how you develop your tools for induction or deduction and they are a sensory, empirical manifestation and therefore they do not require recourse to stepping outside the perceptible universe to a postulated supreme being.
Tabash Question to Bahnsen
Question: Fairness of Hell
Dr. Bahnsen since you said that it is your purpose to defend Christian theism, I wanted to ask you about the fundamental fairness of a God that would—and it says in New Testament—many places talk about damnation, hellfire, lake of fire, inflaming vengeance, taking fight of taking vengeance on flaming fire all those who believe not Jesus.
If in fact Jesus is the only modality to salvation for our eternity, shouldn’t God give more direct evidence by directly appearing to each of us? Isn’t it fundamentally unfair, for instance, for as many Christians have said, my mother, an Auschwitz survivor, miserable life, dies and winds up in hell?
I’m not sure—perhaps, Eddie, you’ve been asleep at the wheel of your studies. The Christian claim is precisely that God has made direct appearance to us and he’s done so in any number of ways.
First of all, he has done so in every single one of your sensory experiences that you try to appeal to or to make intelligible in your reasoning. He does so because without his existence, you cannot make sense of the inductive principle by which you reason from past experience to the future.
I’ll rebut your answer in a minute, so I don’t wish to be unfair to you, but what I’m getting at is that God hasn’t left himself without a witness. He testifies to you in the very fact that you’re trying to reason and debate tonight and to reason in a uniform fashion.
God has appeared in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. That’s the Christian claim. We can get into that later, but to say, “Why doesn’t God directly appear?”, is to miss the whole point. God has directly appeared.
You wish to know about the fundamental fairness of God. The strange thing about that question is that within the worldview of atheism, where all reality is matter in motion, there is no fundamental fairness about anything. There are no ethical notions whatsoever. There’s just matter and motion.
Things happen and that’s all there is to it. And so, for an atheist to try to raise a moral consideration against God is itself contradictory. It’s to give up your worldview, presume on mine for a while to get an idea of fairness, and then turn around and try to use that against my worldview as well.
God is fundamentally fair because he has given abundant evidence to all men and their use of science and their use of morality, their understanding of human dignity. God has made himself abundantly clear to all men and God will not, according to the teaching of Scripture, send anybody to hell for not knowing better.
Bahnsen Question to Tabash
Question: Should God Submit to Demands for Evidence?
Mr. Tabash in your opening presentation, at one point, you challenged God to appear and to make himself known right now. And I’m glad, for your sake, because if he did appear it wouldn’t be just an academic matter for you.
But I have a a question about that “if you don’t meet my challenge” approach to things. Now, i’m just going to ask you to reason in a consistent way.
If God exists—this is a hypothesis; I know you don’t at this point affirm it—but if God exists, would it be reasonable, would it be true to his nature as God, as sovereign, as the one who has final authority and so forth, would it be true to the nature of God to submit to your authority and say, “You lay down a test for me. Let me prove myself to you. And then, finally, ‘Oh, thank you, you’ll believe in me.'” Would he be God if he submitted to that kind of test?
Absolutely, and the reason why I say that is because if I am expected to believe in this entity, then this entity, in fairness, that has so much power compared to me, assuming that it exists, would be morally obligated to recognize my dilemma in lack of perception and to give me a concrete sign.
This entity, with its omniscience, would have the knowledge to know that with all my struggles in this world, with all my struggles with science and philosophy, I have not been able to see this being and it would understand it has to make a greater demonstration of its existence.
And so, if God created us, now using your hypothesis, if your God exists and is supposedly a God of mercy, then the very act of mercy would entail a manifestation of its being to us, so that we could have concrete proof, particularly since—and I still will fight about this—but I still read the New Testament as providing eternal punishment for those who do not accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And I’m saying if that’s the stakes, if even the finest, most selfless people in the world wind up in some kind of eternal punishment if they reject the Gospel of Jesus, which I think is fundamentally unfair to do to them. But if that is how it is set up, then I absolutely believe that that God is required to give concrete manifested evidence of its existence, so that we do not make that fatal eternal mistake.
If the stakes are so high, then I think that God is incumbent upon us to show itself and if it were not so, then God should not have implanted in me the reasoning facility to look this way. If it’s not so, God should not have designed my mind in such a way that my questioning of the God’s fairness leads me to this doubt.
Tabash Question to Bahnsen
Question: Fairness of Hell
Dr. Bahnsen, you didn’t exactly answer my question last time and I choose to repeat it about the biblical claims. In the book of Thessalonians, book of Romans, in the book of John, only saying that those who believe in Jesus Christ will have everlasting life.
What about all the Auschwitz survivors like members of my family who chose not to believe in Jesus or any God after that experience? What about the sincere Buddhist monks who simply have said, “Yes, I’ve looked at Christianity, but I choose not to be”?
Will my mother, an Auschwitz survivor, will the Dalai Lama, will the Buddhists all over the world, will the sincere atheists, will they all wind up in hell? Or, what will be the fate of all of us who really say, “You know, I simply cannot buy into this and I reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ as being mythology”?
Will we, because the bible says so, wind up being damned?
The answer is yes you will. Let’s explore that just for a moment. In a sense, this question is really a version of the challenge that you offered in your opening statement: If God doesn’t appear to me right now, if he doesn’t accept my challenge, then I’m not going to believe and so forth.
When you ask, “Now, what will God do when people reject the evidence that he’s given of himself, do not live according to his character, will not accept his offers of mercy and so forth, and despise him altogether and live unto themselves as though they were God, as though they could issue challenges to Him, and say you, ‘Meet my criteria. Let me play God and then I’ll let you be God after I’m satisfied.'”
When people reject the obvious evidence of God’s existence—and it’s a rational necessity to believe in him, to use morality, to engage in scientific inference, and so forth—when people do that, then of course God will be true to his own character.
He will say, in the end, “You will not determine the final end of things. I will determine them by my own character.” If the doctrine of hell is not true, then God is not true to his character because God says those who will be with me must emulate my character—they must be like me.
Now, of course, He is under obligation to show what He is like, and He has done so. He’s done so pervasively. He’s done so as the apostle Paul says in a way that cannot be avoided by any man, and it’s only for that reason that Christian theology teaches that those who end up going to hell do so by their own perverse choice.
Now, if God were to say, “I’m going to create people, and even though they, in the face of obvious evidence, despise my character, living to themselves, and I’m just going to let them come to heaven anyway,” God is basically saying they don’t have to be like Me. My character really means nothing. He’s saying, “I despise you. You have chosen to reject me.”
Now, I hope you don’t continue to do so, Mr. Tabash, but for the moment, if you reject God and then He says, “You’re going to live with me,” He’s basically saying, “I’ll not respect your wishes.”
Bahnsen – 1st Rebuttal
So far, in our evening’s debate, about all Mr. Tabash has demonstrated is that he personally does not like the Christian God. But we really have to ask—please do so no matter what side of the shoes you’re on—the fact that he’s told you he doesn’t like things in the Bible and he doesn’t think this is right and so forth, how in any way is that philosophically relevant to our debate?
That’s what I want to know. How is it at all relevant that Mr. Tabash doesn’t like the Christian God? Now, it would be relevant to the debate if his implicit assumption is this: If I don’t like something, then it doesn’t exist.
But that would be intellectually childish, wouldn’t it? Kind of like the child who gets angry at his restrictive father and pulls the covers up over his head and says you don’t exist because I don’t like you or throws a temper tantrum because he doesn’t like spinach in his experience, and so spinach doesn’t exist.
I mean, do we really think that way? Do we assume that because we don’t like something about God that He can’t be God? Well, if we don’t assume that, then actually most of the time Mr. Tabash took was wasted because all he’s told us is a piece of autobiography. He doesn’t like God.
I also think, by the way, that he’s greatly misjudged and distorted what God says in the Bible. I mean, you present these little events out of context and not telling the whole story. He tries to make God look like a real meanie, but I mean that’s a standard thing.
Criminals never think the police have done fair by them and Mr. Tabash is a criminal in the universe and when he talks about God he’s going to make him out to be a meanie. There’s no doubt about that.
You see, the point is there are people in this world that I don’t happen to like one bit. I’m sorry to admit that. I try to love everybody. There are some people who are real asses, you know, but is the fact that I don’t like them one bit affect their reality? It’s okay, you don’t exist because I don’t like you. I mean, that’s about all you’ve heard, and that’s just not philosophically cogent or sound.
In the tabloid that was passed out about the debate tonight, Mr. Tabash is quoted in a way that is similar to something he said in the debate already. He says, “If the God of the Bible actually exists, I want to sue him for negligence for being asleep at the wheel of the universe when my grandfather and uncle were gassed to death at Auschwitz.”
And let me—before I deal with you as a philosophy, as a person—I think it’s tragic that that happened and I don’t want you to think for a minute that it’s just a matter of playing debate games. We talk about this but since you’ve raised it I want to respond that you have to understand that if the God of the Bible does not exist, you have lost all principled moral complaint about what Hitler did to your relatives in a godless universe.
What one animal does to another animal is ethically irrelevant, where, you see, there is no rational basis for moral indignation or outright outrage. In a godless universe, there is no moral obligation. What happens in a world where it’s matter in motion just happens. Period.
You see, we’re left on the atheist conception. We’re left with Mr. Tabash’s feelings and desires. We’re left with his feelings versus the feelings and desires of, say, a Hitler. And neither one of them in a Godless universe have any more rights than the other.
Indeed, as a staunch defender of liberalism and a supporter of personal freedom, Tabash really should, in terms of his atheist worldview, defend Hitler’s freedom to do whatever he wanted to do in a godless world.
Might makes right. Hitler had the might to kill your relatives and you have no complaint with that. Of course, you really do have a complaint. You refuse to see the foundation of that.
I have a complaint and you should join with me in making that complaint based on the character of God. My main point here is that moral absolutes do not comport with a materialistic view of the universe. The atheist view of the universe—it makes no objective sense to call Hitler evil if this is a godless universe.
I mean, a certain bag of, you know, biological stuff that is subject to the laws of chemistry and physics did certain things to other bags of biological stuff. In the atheist universe there’s no moral consideration here at all.
Mr. Tabash has used what is often called in philosophy of religion the problem of evil against the Christian worldview, but he has to understand that in order to use that argument from evil he must first be able to show that his own judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful, which is precisely what, in his unbelieving world, you cannot do, logically speaking.
The question is how the atheist can make sense of taking evil seriously, not simply as something inconvenient, not simply as something unpleasant, not simply as something contrary to your desires. The moral indignation which we feel about Auschwitz and other kinds of evil in this world just doesn’t comport with theories of ethics which atheists espouse, theories which prove to be arbitrary or subjective or relativistic in character upon analysis.
Usually atheists try to argue that evil is based on human reasoning and human choices and thus, in the final analysis, it’s relative to the individual or culture. When the atheist professes that people determine ethical values for themselves rather than having them based on the absolute unchanging character of God, who’s made himself known to all men, the atheist implicitly holds that those who commit evil are not really doing anything evil, given the values that they have chosen for themselves, given the values chosen by Hitler.
Who can complain? He didn’t do anything evil. The atheist must secretly rely upon the Christian worldview in order to make sense of his argument against God based on Auschwitz and other things of that nature.
That is to say, anti-theism presupposes theism in order to even make its case. The problem of evil, you see, is a logical problem for the unbeliever, not for the believer.
Tabash – 1st Rebuttal
Well, with all due respect, I believe that it is Dr. Bahnsen who is just being autobiographical. The only thing is, is rather than his personal sense of what should and shouldn’t be, he is using an ancient book, which to me is filled with great moral flaws and also has no evidentiary basis for belief.
Now, Dr. Bahnsen says that without God I have no basis for the moral complaint against Hitler. I submit that with God I have an even greater moral basis, because there is an even larger problem and that is, “How can an omniscient, omnipotent being that is supposed to be full of mercy and justice sit by while innocent people to the millions are tortured and gassed to death by Nazi Germany?”
And so, not only that, but if you compound that horror with the fact that the decent people who were the victims of that holocaust are supposed to, after going through the holocaust, go into an eternal holocaust because they didn’t accept Jesus, you have the most monstrous conception of God.
Now, if I have, or if we as human beings according to Dr. Bahnsen and other Christian theists, have the intelligence to, in their view, apprehend and understand that the Bible reveals such great moral truths, I submit that we also have the intelligence to see beyond the illusion to wake up from the myth and superstition and say, “Hey, wait a minute. What is this God that takes so many decent millions of people, and just because they didn’t pray the right way or pray through the right figure, the right intermediary, they wind up eternally damned? What is this God who opens the pit of hell to all those who simply adopted the wrong theology or sincerely adopted no theology?”
This is not a God that many of us want to worship, and if God is the designer of the intellectual capacities that we all used to analyze issues of philosophy, then God is also unavoidably the designer of the thought processes in my head which lead me to reject the Christian God of the Bible.
And so what kind of an impossibly ridiculous being is this to plant in my head the seeds of rejection knowing that he plans for me eternal punishment because I have exercised the rejection for which he inclined me in the first way by the way my thought processes have been composed?
This is a very cynical, dangerous being that makes many of us in such a way that we sincerely can’t accept certain postulates and then tosses us into a lake of fire for eternity because we followed those very inclinations which he, the Christian God himself itself, placed in us.
This is not a God that’s worthy of believing and it’s not a question of whether Dr. Bahnsen’s autobiography or my autobiography prevail. It’s a question of when human beings collectively look at and analyze what it means by morality.
We do have some independent right to assess a situation for ourselves. If the God of the Bible had not stayed the hand of Abraham and if the God of the Bible had made Abraham kill his son Isaac unto an offering, I think that we should be able to say that that was wrong.
When God instructed the ancient Israelites to wipe out to the last breathing person every Hitite without taking into account the innocent children among them to be spared, I think that was a problem. I think that if Sodom and GOmorrah’s story is true, that it is not possible that there wasn’t some innocent children in either of those two cities who didn’t deserve to survive, even if the adults were irremediably wicked.
I also think—and again showing the absurdity of biblical mythology—that it was very cruel of God to turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt merely for looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah, particularly the poor woman on a low sodium diet.
So, I think that when you look at the fact that the types of supernatural absurdities which occur in the Bible would be believed in no other context. But there is a kind of generous modality of suspended credulity that comes to the Bible that we compartmentalize the normal analytic process that we use to confront and to deal with every other facet of the human condition but that when it comes to the Bible, we suspend our rational analytic capacity and accept the most outrageous fairy tales and horror stories as actual truth which we would not do in any other context.
It tells us something, and it gives us a legitimate basis for doubt. It would be more appealing to believe ability if those things set forth in the Bible were the types of phenomena which we saw manifested in all other areas of human life, if supernatural events were a daily occurrence, if the appearance of angels and supernatural beings were something that accompanied our daily experience.
That is something that would make the Bible more believable. But, to say that in an empirical universe that the only exception to the standard laws we live with every day is the biblical account of truth, I think is a very very weak argument and so I submit that the evil supernaturalism of divine retribution for failure to pray the right way is an anathema to justice and that this God does not in fact exist.
Tabash – 2nd Opening Statement
What an incongruous sight you have, to have humor about life. Here I am standing with the Bible like a TV preacher. Love the irony of existence.
I quote from the book of Mark chapter 16 verse 16: “and he he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Now, I have a problem with that, and my problem with that is that there is no proof that only those who believe—as said forth in the book of Mark—will be saved and that others will be damned.
Let’s take Gandhi, for instance. Here is a man who rejected Christianity. He gave of himself to free his people. Whether his concept of non-violence may have been a little bit impractical, he meant well and no one could impugn his motives. He was selfless and was as close to the giving self-effacing concept of the saint as we’ve seen in the 20th century.
Is he burning in hell just because he, like many of us, had some kind of spiritual cataract that blinded us to the true reality of Jesus? Is Mahatma Gandhi in hell because for all his good works, he didn’t accept the Gospel of Jesus?
Is the Bible reliable when the first Gospel wasn’t even written until about 75 AD, when in the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD, a lot of records were destroyed? When the earliest fragment we have of a biblical text—and we have none signed by the authors themselves—with a few pieces from the book of Hohn in anywhere between 135 AD and 150 AD, more than 100 years after Jesus? When the books of the Bible weren’t even codified into a uniform cannon of what’s in and what’s out until about 325 AD, 300 years after Jesus lived at the council of Nicaea?
And when, as the former California episcopal bishop James Pike points out in his book Of This Be Heresy, that the Gospel of Luke was the gospel with the least number of votes and made it by only one vote out of 318 bishops who were there and where there were a lot of other gospels—I think about 30—that were rejected.
And we looked at the Bible according to the finest scholars in Old Testament Bible study began to be written the Old Testament about 1350 BC and was not in fact according to the modern biblical scholars and even the orthodox rabbis who believe in the inerrancy of the Old Testament was not codified until about 250 BC.
We see even the Old Testament was written by a span of over a thousand years. How could it be that in over a thousand years not one word of mistake crept in when you had a primitive society with none of the modern stenographic capacities that we have today?
There was no ancient Israelite equivalent of a word processor. There were no xerox machines. There was no verifiability. Superstition was rampant. How can the writings of a primitive society supersede the rational facility of a modern society? How can we, as modern human beings on the cusp of the 21st century, be the philosophical and moral prisoners of ancient, unprovable superstition?
If in fact the Bible were true, then I would recommend that God do what we do with our law books every year: update them. File updates, revised editions deal with the problems of modern technology, deal with the problems of pollution, deal with problems which we know very well were not even anticipated by the biblical authors.
But let us not take a book that was frozen in time two thousand years ago and claimed that it many times just speaking an obscure parable carries with it eternal truth that holds for today without error or without mistake. So I think that contrary to Dr. Bahnsen’s contention that I respectfully submit that it is perfectly rational of people like me to reject the inerrancy and the metaphysical literal truth of the Bible and if for some quirky method of historical fact it’s true, that every word in the Bible magically is true, it is a truth so preposterous that those of us who can’t accept it should certainly not be punished for our failure to so accept.
And if Dr Bahnsen feels and another distinguished Christian philosopher, J.P. Moreland feels that he’s had direct contact with Jesus, that he has met Jesus and has been convinced internally of the certainty of Jesus’ divinity, why can’t the rest of us have that same internal certainty of a more universal benevolence?
Why is it less logical or less compelling by our sensory perception experience of the world to say that even if there is a God, this God will accept all of us based on our goodness and not punish us just because we don’t worship him in the right fashion?
What if we turn around and postulate a God of the 21st century who says you are all my children and all I want you to do is love each other? That is how you worship me but I don’t need to be prayed to directly, and if you happen to like Muhammad better than Jesus, or Buddha better than Jesus, it’s your choice.
I just want you to be good to each other because you’re my children I would say that that is an even more plausible concept than the Christian deity. It is a more magnanimous concept and I don’t believe that I am precluded from superimposing my own value system of magnanimity and morality just because I reject the Bible.
See, Dr. Bahnsen sort of begs the question. He initially begins with the fundamental premise that the Bible is true or that the proofs in it are already established and that those of us who don’t see those proofs have a severe kind of spiritual blindness and he doesn’t accept the fact that there are compelling reasons to reject the dictates of the Bible
And he doesn’t accept the fact that there is a common sense self-evident compelling notion that beautifully justifies the idea that a true God would not have such an exclusive country club of, either you worship him the right way or you get punished.
So I think that if we’re talking deities here that I can come up with a much more divine, true, just, merciful concept of God than the biblical God who punishes us for rejecting its existence.
But what about the argument from design? Isn’t this great uniformity of law—isn’t this great immutability, isn’t the fact that German shepherds always have german shepherds and that they don’t have roosters and that roosters give birth to roosters and the roosters do not give birth to rainbow trout—doesn’t that sort of say that these rules in the universe hold and if they hold then they hold across the board and thus we turn the argument for design back on its proponents and say your very argument defeats the theistic concept you’re trying to promulgate because your very argument postulates a universe that is locked into a sequence of perceptual laws that no one can violate, not even God, and then if we have a concept of God we are thrown back on the pantheistic notion of Spinoza, which sees God as just the zeitgeist, the inspiring aspect of nature.
And then we don’t have room for, we don’t have room for any proofs because they have not yet been deduced that the universe is dependent for its creation and continued sustenance on a supernatural invisible being outside the universe that within the time and space conceptuality of this universe that it is being contained and supported and upheld by something outside the universe the argument from design argues the opposite the argument from design argues that the laws of the universe are uniform even onto its creative elements and that would negate the Christian concept of God.
Bahnsen – 2nd Opening Statement
I have a great appreciation for my opponent’s feistiness, that he wants to continue to show, you know, he has a sharp tongue and can issue these challenges to God and so forth.
But, I am still waiting for proof of the kind of, you know, things that he just throws out there on his own authority: that there can’t be a hell because of this reason. He can superimpose his values and so forth.
I want you to notice something about what’s going on in the debate here tonight. In the first place, Mr. Tabash has not yet understood the challenge that’s been directed to him. He has very little time left to deal with it. I hope that he’ll use it when when it does come.
In my opening remarks, I pointed out that the inductive principle needs a rational foundation and that we use the inductive principle when we reason, when we engage in discourse, when we do anything to make our experience intelligible.
Everything Mr. Tabash has been saying tonight—all of his reasoning, all of his argumentation, fallacious or not—all of it has assumed the inductive principle, that there’s a uniformity in nature.
That is not the design argument, so I hope that he gets to the debate tonight and catches up with what’s going on, because no one is arguing the teleological argument tonight.
Your opponent is arguing that those who argue against the teleological argument and those who argue in favor of it, those who argue against God and those who argue for God, everyone who argues assumes the uniformity of nature in the inductive principle and we haven’t been given a rational foundation for that.
In fact, the inductive principle is contrary to the atheist view of the universe. So, atheists continue to reason, continue to draw on past experience and to draw conclusions from past connections and that sort of thing, and yet they have no basis for believing that they have the right to do that.
I’m just waiting for an explanation that hasn’t been given. When you appeal to sensory experience, you beg the question. By the way, better atheist philosophers than Mr. Tabash have already pointed that out. Hume and Bertrand Russell both pointed out you can’t appeal to experience to prove the uniformity of nature.
Why? Because the appeal to experience already assumes the uniformity of nature. Now, as you consider the background worldviews of atheism or Christian theism I want you to observe that the life of the atheist is riddled with inconsistency and thus is exposed as being utterly irrational.
Atheists will pre-suppose human dignity and attend the funeral of a friend or to honor a relative, even a child with down syndrome, but then they will turn around and argue that man has no dignity is no different than any other product of evolution like a snail or a dog or a horse.
I don’t see how they bring these two things together. The atheist will insist that man is nothing more than a complex of biochemical factors controlled by the laws of physics and yet he kisses his wife and his children when he goes home as though there is something called love that each of us share in the family.
The atheist will argue that in sexual relations anything goes. There are no moral absolutes. Don’t impose your views on others. He’ll even defend prostitution, but then indignantly condemn child molesters or morally repudiate necrophilia.
You see, I don’t. The atheist is just a bundle of contradictions. He can’t bring his worldview into harmony with itself. He’ll suggest that things which happen in the universe happen randomly. it just is that way.
Arbitrarily talk about primitive thinking, that’s far more primitive than anything you can find even in the time the Bible is written. It just happened, but then he’ll turn around and he looks for regularities and law-like explanations of events. He looks for uniformity and predictability in the things that he studies in natural science.
You see, the atheist doesn’t have a workable worldview. He may go on and on autobiographically about how he doesn’t like the God of the Bible and doesn’t like the doctrine of hell and all that, but he doesn’t have a workable worldview in terms of which to reason in the first place to argue at all and he exposes its weaknesses at every turn in his life.
You see, you can claim that there is nothing spiritual, nothing in material nothing abstract and universal. That only concrete particular things exist. You can claim that events are just random, that there’s no personal plan or control or purpose in the universe. You can claim that reality amounts to nothing more but matter in motion, but you can’t act or reason in that way and as long as Mr. Tabash continues to reason, as long as he continues to assume the uniformity of past experience with what he’s saying now, what conclusions he draws scientifically, how he makes his experience intelligible, he’s not living in terms of his own assertion about the nature of reality.
We have to ask the atheist, “Why should you be rational?” I mean, if man doesn’t have a mind—he’s just, you know, this has a brain that’s subject to the laws of chemistry and physics—then there is no objective reasoning and there’s no freedom, actually, for us to consider evidence in an argument and choose one way or another.
You know, just like weeds grow, so the mind of man does whatever it does by the laws of physics. We have to ask the atheist, “Where is the origin of life on the evolutionary hypothesis?”
We are led to the irrational view that life spontaneously generated, and yet science today, all of biological science, proceeds on the opposite assumption that spontaneous generation is wrong.
As a matter of fact, you know, no matter how much you tinker or work with a cake mix you’re not going to get the cake mix to make a political constitution. No matter how much you tinker with the cake mix you’re not going to get it to make a dream of a spring day.
Why is that? Because the elements of a cake mix have nothing to do with what we’re talking about. We talk about political constitutions and dreams and so forth. These are different kinds of things. Similarly, inorganic matter doesn’t, by a mechanical reconfiguration, give rise to organic things.
That kind of thinking is mythical. It’s going back to the days of alchemy. But that’s what the atheist worldview leaves us with. We don’t know why we should be rational. We can’t understand the origin of life.
On the atheist worldview, why should we think in terms of scientific influence? This is what I keep driving at. If you’re a materialist, there is no uniformity in nature. There is no answer to Hume’s skepticism, in which case the atheist can’t assert anything, even that he doesn’t like God.
Why should we be moral in terms of the atheist universe? On a naturalistic principle, there is no right or wrong. There’s just might. There’s just what happens.
You can’t find obligatory authority anywhere in the world. If it’s just matter in motion, you see, the atheist just cannot answer the tough questions of philosophy. You cannot make intelligible use of his rationality of scientific inference, of moral obligation.
Now, of course, some atheists will say, “Well, we don’t need to answer that.” Reality is simply this way. That is to say, he wants to be arbitrary. Well, if they’re going to be arbitrary, don’t bother to debate, to say I’m going to say whatever I want to say.
Or sometimes the atheist will say, “No answer is possible to those deep philosophical questions. No one can know for sure.” Of course, that’s self-contradictory, isn’t it? If no one can know for sure, then how do you know that no one can know for sure?
Basically what atheists end up saying is that, well, everybody knows nature is uniform. Everybody knows there’s moral absolutes. Everybody knows these things, and you know what? On that point I agree with the atheist.
Everybody does know these things, but the problem is they don’t comport with atheism. These things that people know very well—the continuing evidence that you need a Christian theistic worldview to make sense out of experience—these things don’t comport with atheism.
Key philosophical questions are answered by atheists arbitrarily and inconsistently, in a way which can’t make sense out of ordinary human experience and reasoning. And atheists try to hide this gaping defect in their theorizing from themselves, but it’s not being hid from you tonight.
I want you to consider a parallel. A person who were to come tonight and argue no air exists continues to breathe air, doesn’t he,while he argues? And when I point out that if, as he says, no air exists, he couldn’t be breathing, it would be intellectually inept for him to respond, “No, you’re wrong to say my theory implies I couldn’t be breathing because in fact I am breathing.”
You see, he would be so self-deluded that he wouldn’t catch the significance of the fact that the facts belie his theory. And the facts, the most common facts of life—inductive reasoning, scientific conclusions, moral judgments, making experience intelligible—belie the theory of atheism, intellectually speaking.
Atheists continue to breathe. I know that they continue to reason to be scientific, to make moral judgment. I don’t doubt that, but the atheistic view of things would, in theory, make such breathing impossible, would render science arbitrary, logic impossible, and ethics nonsense.
Atheists work hard to hide this intellectual poverty from themselves. That’s why they look at verses in the Bible and try to ridicule things rather than getting down to the basic issue of, “Do you have a philosophy of life in terms of which you can reason about anything at all?” And they pretend, philosophically speaking, that they’re not breathing God’s air all the time they’re arguing against them.
The apostle Paul, in Acts 17, said to the philosophers in Ancient Greece, in Him, in God, we live and move and have our existence. You see, God is the very atmosphere of our lives. He’s the intellectual precondition of all of our rationality and all of our morality.
Tabash Question to Bahnsen
Question: Biblical Inerrancy
Dr. Bahnsen, my challenge to you is: I accuse you of conducting this debate as if it’s already a given that the Bible, written over the span of more than a thousand years, absolutely contains no error whatsoever and that magically, unlike any other book in human society, that the Bible, when it speaks to supernaturalism, it’s correct.
That everything else is incorrect and notwithstanding the murky mists of authorship and the ancient antiquity of many books of the Bible, that not one word is it in it is a mistake.
How do you defend, rationally, your claim of absolute biblical inerrancy, so that we can be sure that the Bible is the highest manifestation of divinity we have in written form?
There’s a very strange form of reasoning that goes on. Mr. Tabash speaks this way. He wants to know how it could possibly be, in an ancient, primitive book, that there is just no mistake whatsoever? How could it be so unique and so different?
What have we forgotten here? What is the claim now? I’m not saying it’s true in this, but to answer this question, what has my opponent forgotten? He’s forgotten that on the Christian plane, the Bible is inspired by an all-knowing, sovereign, eternal God and that therefore God is able to bring it about, even through alleged primitive people, that no mistake is made in what He says.
Now again, I am not asking—I didn’t, by the way, he wanted to bring this up—had you heard me refer to the Bible once tonight except in a passing allusion at the end just a moment ago?
I will come and say, “Look, the Bible says there’s a God. You’ve got to believe the Bible.” We keep going back to that. But, he wants to keep, you know, going into these things.
But the answer to the question is: if the Bible is what it claims to be, if it’s accepted on its own terms, it is the Word of the living and true God, who knows all things, controls all things, and can bring it about. Therefore the book is whatever He wants it to be.
Now, no other book is like that book. Christians are not embarrassed by that claim that they think that’s one of the things that, you know, sets forth their faith to the world. No other faith—not the Hindus, not the Muslims—no one has a book like that.
In fact, there’s only one or two other claims that even come close to that point. But if the claim is true the answer to your question should have been obvious to you before you came to the debate tonight. It’s God’s word through the words of men and it’s God’s word. It’s without error.
Bahnsen Question to Tabash
Question: What’s the rational proof against hell?
I heard I heard you refer, Mr. Tabash, during your second speech tonight, of compelling proof that the Bible is erroneous about its doctrine of hell.
And in the process, you spoke of your right to superimpose your own values. I’d like you to explain to me—because I guess I’m busy after you’re trying to write and take notes I miss that somehow—could you, I mean I heard you say you don’t like it, I heard you ridicule it, I heard you say all sorts of things to appeal to, you know, the the audience, to say, “Oh, you’re not going to like this either,” but could you please tell me now, what the compelling rational proof is that the doctrine of hell was mistaken? Repeat the proof, not just your ridicule.
The proof is the same as my ridicule of the concept. That there are gremlins on Venus studying Hegel at this very moment. When someone asserts the supernatural preposterous, the burden of proof is on them.
I don’t have to prove that there are not flying saucers resting atop this building right now. There may very well be. I don’t have to prove that they are not because it is outside the sensory scientific and empirical experience.
And so, what I’m saying is that as a rational human being I have a right to look at an ancient writing that has no verifiable evidence of divine inspiration and say that it’s entirely harsh and unacceptably cruel eternal punishment just for mistakes in theology is something so cruel that to accept it violates every common sense notion of morality.
What I’m saying is a double-edged sword. That if I, as a human being, do not have the rational capacity to look to this biblical account of hell and say this is a moral obscenity, then human beings wouldn’t be able to look to it and say this is justifiable.
Even those who say that the Bible’s eternal sentence upon non-believers is justifiable are making a recourse to their own reasoning power to make that claim of support for the Bible. And I’m saying that it is in terms of basic justice and mercy that the concept of eternal punishment for merely a mistake in philosophical thinking. If the Bible happens to be true, is what we would call cruel and unusual punishment and punishment disproportionate to the crime.
Tabash Question to Bahnsen
Question: Proof that the Bible is without mistake
Dr. Bahnsen, you said that Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God and you said that the way that such a supernatural event could happen, as a book written over so many centuries could be infallible, is because of the guidance of the divine creator.
Let me ask you then, what is the proof—I want to put you to the proof—that the Bible is inspired by God and that everything God wished to say to humanity is contained in the Bible and that in fact that divine inspiration resulted in a book without mistake.
What is the proof of that?
Okay let’s remem—I’m going to answer your question along the way—let’s remember that you are supposed to be showing that God doesn’t exist. I’m to show that God does exist.
You’re now asking to debate the theological point about the inspiration of scripture and I’m glad to meet you at whatever level you wish to, but let’s remember that what we are ultimately going to have to deal with is worldviews.
In terms of the Christian worldview, the proof that the Bible is inspired is rather clear. God himself makes this claim. As a self-authorizing claim, He identifies his own word and says those who reject His word are reduced to foolishness and absurdity in their reasoning because they cannot make sense out of the world in which they live. They cannot make sense out of morality, cannot make sense out of rationality, cannot make sense out of science, cannot make sense out of human dignity, cannot make human experience intelligible.
So God, on his own authority reveals His word. Now, this is the Christian theory here, and no one’s asking you to accept it. I, you know, that’s not what we’re debating tonight, but you ask this question and it should be obvious that within the framework of Christian reasoning and philosophy, the Bible has that ultimate authority and those who reject it—this is what I’m telling you tonight in terms of my argument—those who reject it are reduced to absurdity and so the proof that the Bible is the word of God is not only that it makes that ultimate claim and it verifies it in that all who reject it cannot make sense out of science, morality, and so forth.
They are, as the Bible puts it, fools—not in the name calling sense—in the descriptive sense, that they are mentally dull and refusing to take what is obvious to everybody and draw out the conclusions and worship God in the way that they should.
As Paul says in Romans, the first chapter, “God has made himself known to all men so that they’re without excuse but they suppress that truth and unrighteousness. They rebel against them and their reasoning is made futile as a result of it.”
And what I’m showing you tonight is that your reasoning is futile. It’s philosophically arbitrary.
Bahnsen Question to Tabash
Question: How do you know all knowledge is limited to what you can physically encounter in the empirical world?
Mr. Tabash, the first time you said this in your lecture I kind of passed over it because I didn’t really think you you wanted to assert something that is so philosophically preposterous, but you come back so many times.
I’m now going to use my fourth question and ask you—you keep referring to things which are outside sensory experience being unproven so that if you can’t see something, if you can’t observe it then you can’t know it—and so my question is:
If you are working on the assumption that all knowledge is based upon empirical experience, is your thesis that all knowledge is based on empirical experience itself based on empirical experience? Is that an observational claim? On what basis do you know that all knowledge is limited to what you can physically encounter in the empirical world?
Because I don’t restrict all knowledge to what I can encounter in the physical world. I restrict it to all knowledge that can be, by inference, derived from the empirical world.
To say that a supernatural being exists outside the universe and that the universe is sustained on that breaks the chain of command of empirical causation. But to say, for instance, that subatomic particles exist and that microcosmic subatomic particles exist is an extension of trying to determine the components of larger macrocosmic entities.
But, even though neutrinos and neutrons electrons and protons escape the human eye they are inferable along the same causal chain of command, as are the larger objects that they constitute.
However, unlike microscopic entities, the notion of a God that is transcendent to and outside the universe and actually leaps away from that very causal chain of command that is something which is not empirically inferable from the evidence available to us.
So things don’t have to be seen if there is a causal chain that can lead to their inference, as, for instance, viruses. We can’t see them, but we see that they are in a continuum, along the same chain of command of causal events.
But to go outside the universe and say God stands to the universe as an atom stands to this wooden podium, I believe is not analogous because God is outside the causal chain and the reasoning does not empirically follow.
Tabash – 2nd Rebuttal
Well, Dr. Bahnsen wants to focus me away from the Bible, but I can’t let him do that, you see, because he believes as a Christian theist and Christian theism, by very definition, stands or falls on the Bible.
Now, I’m afraid that Dr. Bahnsen did something which was very much question-begging. He said that the Bible is self-authenticating because it makes that claim.
Well, I know Mr. Dr. Bahnsen, as a fundamentalist, a protestant Christian, probably would not like the claim of the Roman Catholic Pope to divine infallibility, but a Roman Catholic could make the same argument. That claim is self authenticating by the papacy.
Also, a few years ago, on Sunset Boulevard, in West Hollywood, a guy came down from the Hollywood Hills carrying a sign saying he was the messiah and he was very entertaining.
And I walked up to him. I said what proof is there and he says because I say so. So all you have to do to claim divine authority is to write in a book of antiquity that you in fact are the word of God then anybody could lay claim and here’s the point: everybody’s claim would be as valid as anybody else’s claim.
So, if self-authentication is a very very dangerously poor argument to get at the notion of divine authority because all religions claim self-authenticating. There are Buddhist monks who will tell you that the proof of their doctrine can be experienced directly through a meditation process and that that itself is an even greater authenticity because you can experience it directly.
Shouldn’t that be a superior mode of inquiry your direct experience through meditation than just an ancient book that was written such a long time ago? Does that mean then that the mystics, the yoga masters of India, the Taoist masters of China, and the Tibetan Buddhists, and the Zen Buddhist masters of the Japanese language islands, that they are superior to Christians because they don’t rely on putative words written in a book, but they engage the experience directly?
And so wouldn’t that be a greater authenticity and leave Christianity in the dust? Because then the eastern religions based on direct experience aren’t just unwritten hearsay but on direct encounter with the infinite to direct contemplative merger.
So, that would seem to not only establish some kind of deity, but it would certainly be the most powerful rejection of the Christian deity that God is not something that you can that you have to read in a book about, but that you can experience directly.
And this brings me to a very important point. if this God exists, then why shouldn’t it be amenable to direct experience rather than asking us to believe the hearsay of a bunch of ancient authors whose authorship isn’t even authentic?
So if, in fact, the divine creative force exists, why would it manifest through ancient Bibles without updating them, without giving updated confirmation of miracles? Why would that God not turn around and say, “Forget what men have written about me. They’re just men and women weren’t even permitted authorship in those patriarchal societies. So, why don’t you experience me directly?”
And if we can experience God directly then we have no need for Christianity because that explodes the whole concept of Jesus as a valid intermediary. And so the point is is that if the Bible fails by its claim of self-authentication to validly make that claim.
If it is nothing but a self-serving proclamation then Christian theism, which is what my opponent is defending tonight, not theism in general, but Christian field theism falls apart completely because it is dependent on that book and I’m arguing a larger point, which is the fact that a book claims something doesn’t mean it’s true.
Otherwise, the people who write books about their ufo abduction experiences are telling the truth because they’re self-authenticating it and they’re putting it in a book so I would say the Bible, with its inconsistencies, with its irregularities, in its span of over a thousand years in composition, is simply not a valid basis to say all our brothers and sisters on this planet will go to hell unless they believe in Jesus.
Bahnsen – 2nd Rebuttal
Well, now I really am convinced—with all due respect to my opponent as a human being and so forth, I care for you and I’m not at all trying to to take down your dignity—but I really am convinced now that your worldview reduces to philosophical absurdity.
We have heard Mr. Tabash claim that all knowledge is either by direct observation, or he said as though he were answering my question—he didn’t—it’s either direct observation, he said, or it’s empirically inferrable.
That is, it’s something you can infer from your direct observations. But, don’t you see that the claim that all knowledge is observational or based on empirical inference is itself a claim that’s not observational, nor is it based on empirical inference?
No, no number of observation reports from people in the world will logically infer will bring down the conclusion all knowledge is restricted to observation. That is a self-refuting claim and our opponent here tonight hasn’t even thought through his world view enough to realize that he stepped into this, and now, you see, he doesn’t know any of the things that he has claimed tonight whatsoever because he hasn’t proved them by observation.
Notice that he claimed there can’t be a hell because that’s just too preposterous. Oh, did he observe that it’s too preposterous? Now, on the one hand, you have an opponent here who says you only know what’s based on observation or by inference from it and then you have them making all sorts of claims that have nothing to do with observation and no attempt is even made to make them observational.
So, you see, he contradicts himself in the very process of trying to defend his atheism. He tells us that proof is not by a mere claim to inspiration. Of course, I didn’t say that it was by a mere claim to inspiration.
I talked about the fact that the Bible must first make such a claim. It must be self-attesting or we wouldn’t have any reason to take it to be that way. And I said those who reject the claim are reduced to rational absurdity.
Not all claims to self-authentication are in fact true. I know that you can have some guy wander down from the Hollywood Hills and make all kinds of claims that have nothing to do, but the Bible says reject this claim and you’re made a fool intellectually, morally, in terms of human dignity, and all the rest.
What Mr. Tabash just totally skirted, so he could get back to his ridicule approach, rather than debating is that I said that we prove the claim of the Bible from the impossibility of the contrary, that it’s the very foundation and precondition of what all of us do all the time in our reasoning and our making moral judgments and are living with one another and making human experience intelligible.
Throughout this debate, repeatedly, we’ve heard false assumptions set forth as though he has the right to say it on his say so and that’s strange for a man who just got upset about thinking I was making a claim true just because it was claimed. He’s told you about the questionable text of Scripture, the questionable authorship.
I’m prepared to defend every one of those points: the text of the Bible, the authorship of the Bible, were that the issue tonight. It’s not.
All I want to point out is that his saying that they’re questionable shouldn’t lead you to think so. I’ll give you extensive scholarly bibliography to show that he does not know what he’s talking about. He assumes arbitrarily that the Bible doesn’t have good credentials as a text. It has excellent credentials.
Compare the Bible to what we know about the text of Plato. There’s only about a 1200 year difference between the evidence we have for the New Testament and what we have for Plato, and yet no one questions.
We understand what Plato said and so forth, and yet we have this man making a claim that you can’t trust the text of the Bible. These are false assumptions and I just don’t want you to think that Christianity crumbles because a man makes claims about it crumbling. It doesn’t.
Mr. Tabash’s appeals for evidence for the plausibility of reasoning don’t make any sense in terms of his own worldview. His own discourse in debating has assumed the uniformity of nature and the inductive principle, but the worldview he’s come to defend cannot rationally warrant or even make intelligible the assumption that we can use the inductive principle, that we can reason from the uniformity of nature as David Hume showed.
Mr. Tabash has been reduced to skepticism tonight and yet he keeps making claims to knowledge, even though he has no rational foundation for him by continuing to implicitly use and affirm the principle of uniformity, even though his most distinctive and crucial presuppositions can’t rationally allow for that affirmation, is engaging in debate has become its own refutation.
Questions and Answers
Question to Bahnsen – Burden of Proof Is on You
Dr. Bahnsen you have done a good job in disproving Mr. Tabash’s arguments against why he doesn’t believe in God, but the burden of evidence lies with you. You must first prove that God does exist. Please prove it.
You have not proved that God does exist more than Mr. Tabash has proven that God is not merely a human projection.
I think the person who’s asked the question has really missed the point of the argument. I have proved that God exists in that all proof requires an assumption about induction and the uniformity of nature and only the Christian worldview comports with that assumption and therefore God is the foundation of all reasoning about any matter whatsoever.
Now, I’ve set that out there as a philosophical argument. I’m waiting for some refutation of it. I’m not asserting that just on my own authority. I’m saying atheism doesn’t comport with the uniformity of nature.
The Christian theistic view does, and that shows that that worldview is more rational than the other. That the one is irrational, as a matter of fact.
The questioner says that the burden of proof is on me to prove that God exists. Well, that’s a very misguided philosophical notion. I hope you didn’t all come in here tonight with the presumption of atheism.
You should have come in here to realize that philosophical worldviews all have the burden of proof to show that they make sense, that there’s a reason to believe them and so forth.
Atheism has not offered any reason any constructive reason for why it’s worldview should be believed. What I have shown is that if you reject the theistic worldview, if you affirm the atheistic one, then you undermine all reasoning, all science, all human dignity, all moral absolutes, and so forth and so on. No, I don’t have the burden of proof any more than my opponent does.
Or, if you will, I would speak from a Christian standpoint. Since God is so clearly known to everyone, we all come in here knowing God. The burden of proof is on people to show that he doesn’t exist.
Well, I believe that, in a sense, the burden of proof is on the proposer of the supernatural phenomenon. And I say that to go back to Dr. Bahnsen’s analogy of who has the burden of proof about the convention of gremlins on Venus studying Hegel.
And I believe that the one who posits an entity of supernatural quality outside the boundaries of the natural universe outside of our experiential comprehension, that that is the one who has the burden of proof. Now, I believe that there are many many good and intelligent people who do not see this evidence, this ever-present evidence that Dr. Bahnsen sees of this God.
Dr. Bahnsen acts as if this God were somebody sitting in the audience who could be seen. It’s almost like the invisible friends we all had when we were a child. The three-year-old says, “I want you to meet my friend Ralph, but you can’t see Ralph.”
Well, I can’t see Dr. Bahnsen’s Ralph, who he calls God. I admit that I don’t see Ralph and I don’t believe that my inability to see Ralph is because of a defect in my perception. I believe that it’s up to Dr. Bahnsen, since Ralph is invisible, to prove that Ralph exists.
And the absence of that, I believe that the burden of proof is on him because he is postulating the claim that requires going outside of nature.
Question to Tabash – Where does morality come from?
Explain morality and its inception into a pro-atheist, pro-science world.
Morality, in its inception, practically speaking, is no different from what a lot of believers think, but it is superior. It develops from compassion, from mercy, and from understanding the plight of the human condition.
And its derivation comes from the fact that I absolutely do not believe in Dr. Bahnsen’s God and yet I have no trouble condemning the Nazi Holocaust, even if my family were not direct victims of it.
During the break, a gentleman with a very distinguished British accent came up to me and said that the Nazi Holocaust is not the only evil in the world. That’s true. There are so many other evils.
Where is this God? And the final point I would make is that the superiority of the atheist derived compassion is evidenced by the fact that we don’t talk about how justified it is for people to go to hell forever just because they made the wrong theological choice.
That, to me, is the most damning immoral obscenity articulated by Christians. The notions of them, the notion of damnation for non-believers violates every fundamental sense of common sense and fair play and I think I, as a rational human being, am qualified to make that judgment, even if Dr. Bahnsen’s God gets upset with me
Well, you’re not really qualified to make any judgment whatsoever until you can give a rational foundation for reasoning or for moral absolutes. And in your answer, you haven’t done it.
You’ve simply once again asserted your point of view and it’s not as though we shouldn’t hear your point of view and talk about it and so forth, but you’re here to debate tonight and you were asked to offer proof and you haven’t done it.
So you’ve just simply said you know atheist compassion is better and so forth. Well, hey, let me tell you the French Revolution and the Soviet gulags were not actually the best representation of compassion anybody has found in history.
Atheists are quite capable of oppression, of being nasty, and so forth. The difference is that atheists, you see, have every reason to act like a bunch of asses because in their worldview, there’s nothing but matter in motion.
When an atheist talks about being compassionate, I’d like to know, “How do you ask molecules in motion to be compassionate?” You’re going to have to change your worldview to make sense of what you’re saying tonight, Mr. Tabash.
Question to Bahnsen – Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. Where is the extraordinary proof of your extraordinary claim for God’s existence?
You’re right. Extraordinary claims do require extraordinary proof and here’s extraordinary proof: when you talk about a claim which, when rejected, undermines the possibility of making intelligible all other claims, that’s extraordinary.
But, you see, if I reject, you know the idea that there’s, you know, so many pounds of cocoa puffs in the world, that claim doesn’t really have an effect on a whole bunch of other claims. It may affect claims about how much money can be made for selling cereal and so forth, but it’s rather limited.
But, when you make the extraordinary claim that the philosophical precondition of intelligibility for anything is based upon that worldview, that’s a rather magnanimous thing and now that hasn’t been disproven.
In fact, that has been assumed in all of what my opponent has had to say: that the universe is uniform, that we can use the inductive principle, that there are moral absolutes. And that comports with the Christian worldview and that’s why the extraordinary claims of Christianity or about the existence of God or the supernatural have been met with the extraordinary proof that when you reject it, you undermine all philosophical possibility of making rationality, science, morality possible.
You see, in a sense, the supernatural is the presupposition of the intelligibility of the natural, so whenever anybody appeals to the natural world and says, this is intelligible, I say you’re already assuming that you reject.
Well, the problem with Dr. Bahnsen’s argument is that he assumes what he has completely failed to prove thus far. He’s talking about morality deriving only from the Christian God and cannot derive from anywhere else in the same level of moral sublime quality, but he has never proved his Christian God, his claims of biblical self-authentication, and his claim that the Bible is not mistaken is something he has not proved.
So, if the Bible does not support the Christian theist position and there’s no other document that supports the Christian theist position and there’s no other avenue other than the Bible in which God allegedly said to people only Christianity is the way to reach me, then I think that Dr. Bahnsen has a problem because the Orthodox Jewish rabbis who argue with me day and night in my life could come up to him and say we don’t need the Christian overlay on initial Judaism to be highly moral people.
And then a buddhist could come along and say, we don’t need your anthropomorphic concepts of a self-willed conscious separate deity to have moral concepts. And so could the yoga masters of India say the same thing. So could Gandhi say to Dr. Bahnsen, “I don’t have to be a Christian to recognize these truths.”
Question to Tabash – Abortion vs. the Holocaust
Mr. Tabash, since you probably support the right of abortion, how do the events and death in the concentration camps differ from the unborn child in its mother’s womb, i.e, for the child dying is held in the concentration camp.
Well, I didn’t think I’d be having to reprise my abortion debate, but here goes in 90 seconds. Okay, first of all, up until the 32nd week of pregnancy, when abortions are no longer occurring, there is no capacity for consciousness.
Conscious awareness can only come about when the cortical neurons in the brain are linked to each other by a system of synapses, and until that is in place, there’s no capacity for self-awareness, which means there’s no capacity for consciousness, which means there’s no capacity for suffering also.
No one at law is ever required to sustain the existence of another person. If you wake up in a hospital, you’re attached to some great scientist, you wouldn’t be required to give of your bodily functions to sustain that other’s existence.
So, to require a woman to sustain a pregnancy against her will would be the only time in our legal system where one human being is required to give other bodily functions to sustain the life processes of another.
And, in this case that other is not fully developed and is entirely dependent upon the woman and is inside her and, as I said, the latest that abortions occur are at 28 weeks of pregnancy. More than 97 percent of them are completed by the 20th week of pregnancy and the significant brain function to sustain an awareness of pain and consciousness doesn’t even have possibility until much later on.
Notice the contradiction again in my opponent’s reasoning here. He tells us that it’s all right to execute these developing human beings because, according to him, there’s no capacity for consciousness up to a certain point, and yet earlier in the debate, you heard him say that we only know things based on observation.
I’d like to know, on what observational basis does he know what consciousness the developing fetus has or doesn’t have or is even capable of having. Our capabilities something that you observe as well.
You see, he just can’t decide which worldview he wants to use. As a matter of fact, what you see in the case of the developing fetus is always a matter of degree. There is no question after conception that you have all the biological components here of a human being.
The child does not become a human being when it is fully developed in its mental capacities. I can’t believe a man who has relatives who were killed under that kind of thinking would now apply it to innocent unborn children.
For you see, if you start saying those people that you don’t deem fully developed can now be executed, then we’re right back to Hitler and the genocide of people that you think aren’t fully developed.
Question to Bahnsen – Can the Physical Universe Also Have Moral Laws?
Why is it so obvious that morality cannot exist without God? Aren’t you making the mistake of assuming that reality is only a physically probable phenomena? Why can’t reality be composed of a physical, as well as an ethical law?
Well, I suppose if somebody wished to advance that worldview, it would be something similar to what Plato did. I’d be glad to appear at another debate and debate that worldview, but that is not the atheist worldview.
The atheist worldview assumes that its matter in motion and other forms. I mean, I could state it in a more sophisticated way, if you want to go to a graduate course in philosophy, but you know what I’m getting at.
But there have been worldviews that say you have matter and then you also have the realm of ideals or in abstract notions and you could have ethics there and you could have science in the material world.
And the problem with that worldview is, as it was for Plato and everybody else who tries to be a dualist, you can’t bring the two together. You can’t relate the two. You can’t use the principles for one to explain, understand, or be in touch with the other.
But the most important thing relevant to tonight’s debate is that this is not an answer available to my opponent because if he wishes to assert that there are immaterial realities like moral absolutes, he’s going to have to give some account of that that is consistent with his denial of the supernatural, the abstract, the immaterial.
Well, I think I’m just going to give such abstractions and demonstrate how they work in response to my opponent’s challenge. And that is we know that love can be experienced because love is what we define.
It doesn’t have to be a supernatural phenomenon. Love doesn’t have to go outside the realm of human experience because we define it as a feeling that we have. We don’t define it as a separate invisible entity that floats around the universe.
So if love can exist for the atheist, and I assert that it can, then I think that morality can exist for the atheist. In fact I would say that the theist has a problem because the theist then has to justify this Gods—I’ll use the term again—being asleep at the wheel when awful events happen in the universe.
Also, the theist, the Christian theist, has to justify the books of the Bible, where God does some very terrible things to some very innocent people or essentially provides capital punishment for an offense no greater than jaywalking.
And if you have this kind of a disproportionate divine hand slapping you down, then I think that the onus on justifying morality falls back on those who would defend the immoral acts of this colossal being. I refer again to the book of Numbers, which is in the Bible.
No one can get away from it. God orders Moses to have a man stoned for nothing more than picking up sticks on the Sabbath. I mean, talk about a disproportionate punishment. That’s very dangerous.
Question to Tabash – Where does human value come from?
Mr. Tabash, each of your arguments contain such words as “monstrous, ridiculous, justice, plus absurd.” Each of these words assumes a sense of value in a universe without design. Where does this sense of value base itself?
The sense of value comes from our experience as human beings looking at the human condition and struggling with the vicissitudes of life and coming up with, as best we can, realistic answers.
It does not come from inventing in our own minds a fictitious being who we then invest with the authority to control us. It doesn’t come by pretending that something outside of ourselves exists and then using that something outside of ourselves to then put moral controls on us.
Just like love does not require a postulated supernatural being in order to be a valid emotion. Love does not require the God of Christianity in order to abound among people of good will. So it is that love is not the only great moral good that can exist without a deity. So can charity and, most of all, so can mercy.
So can the realization that because we are alone on this planet that all we have is each other and that makes more poignant and more tragic the importance of our caring for each other. That is a high morality that comes from the absence of a divine parent.
In an atheist universe, there’s no obligation for us to care for each other whatsoever because we’re nothing more than bags of biological chemicals and things subject to the laws of physics.
And Mr. Tabash has been asked a very good question. It’d be nice if he finally would come out and address it and deal with it, rather than skirting it. How do values comport with his view of the universe?
Now, no one doubts that atheists feel love. I agree they do, because I know they’re made in the image of God. I can account for the love that they feel. I can account for the compassion they want to show.
But, they cannot account for it because every time they do, they end up appealing to things which are not molecules in motion. Talk about fictitious projections; he thinks that’s what my God is. Without this God, we couldn’t reason at all, make these moral judgments, but you make a fictitious projection that there is something like value or love when all you have to work with are molecules in motion.
It should be commented somewhere along the line because it’s just not right for a man to keep making remarks that are distorted and false and just think he can walk away from that publicly. The Bible does not teach capital punishment for nothing more than picking up sticks, and yes, I know the book of Numbers, and yes, I’ll be glad to debate that with you.
Anyway, the man who picked up sticks defied God to his face. For that, he was executed.
Question to Bahnsen – Your obscure philosophical proof is too confusing
Dr. Bahnsen, you say that the proof of God’s existence is obvious. Yet, the only proof you mentioned is some complicated philosophical argument about inductive something or other inferences and what seems to me to be very indirect, subjective, circular logic. Is there any obvious proof for those of us who never took a course in obscure philosophy?
Oh, sure. Although I really do appreciate the spirit of that, since I teach philosophy and I know the frustration of those who don’t study philosophy. And they think all of this is gobbly gook and so forth.
I assure you, this is not just, you know, verbal ledger domain and so forth. That not all philosophers would agree with Dr. Bahnsen. They like to argue with this, but what we’re talking about tonight, in the history of philosophy, is known as transcendental reasoning, reasoning about the preconditions for the intelligibility of empirical experience or whatever it may be.
And it isn’t just a matter of subjective feelings or reasoning in a circle. A transcendental argument proves itself from the impossibility of the contrary and I can give you passages in the encyclopedia, philosophy and other standard works not written by Christians necessarily, that talk about that line of reasoning.
That’s what we’re talking about here. Now, can this proof be understood by people who don’t want to go through all the sophistication of a philosophy class? Absolutely. I’ve come here because it’s an academic institution and tried to do something midway between very popular and something that I would have done in graduate school in philosophy.
But I could do something, you know, just very popular. That’s what I’m doing when I talk about, you know, on the atheist worldview people are nothing more but matter and motion molecules, you know, moving around.
Now, if that’s all we are, and if all we know is our sense experience, then what I’m saying is we have no basis for making projections into the future about what might happen, you know, in terms of science or anything else and therefore atheism is irrational.
Well, I think that one of Dr. Bahnsen’s techniques is regardless of how I answer something, to accuse me of dodging it and that’s going to be probably the only thing eternal about this debate. So, I’m going to accuse him of the same thing and I’m going to say that I believe that he has dodged the proofs of God and he has dodged, most importantly, the proofs of the text that underlie his claim that God not only exists, but exists in the way that Dr. Bahnsen says God does, which is as a Christian deity.
And so, I believe that as long as Dr. Bahnsen gives what to me are totally weak responses to justify the inerrancy of the Bible, that regardless of his other appeals to things in a natural order, those other appeals would argue against a Christian God. Those other appeals, even if they showed a deity, would show a deity of universality they wouldn’t show a deity that is exclusively favoring only those who believe in Christianity.
And so, I believe that if Dr. Bahnsen wants to make his point for a theistic entity that is exactly as depicted in the Christian Bible, that Dr. Bahnsen has to be very careful to make sure that everything in that Christian Bible can be proven to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, as we say in the courtroom.
And I think that he has not sustained that burden of proof.
Question to Tabash – The Origin of the Universe
Mr. Tabash, if you say there is no God, how do you explain the existence of the universe?
Well, I think that we have to talk about what we mean by God. If you’re talking aboutSspinoza’s God, then maybe we agree that the word God can have application. But Spinoza’s God is not a separate being that can be prayed to. Spinoza’s God is not a separate conscious being that says, “Okay, this person believes in Mormonism, this person believes in Catholicism, and I’m sending one or the other to eternal damnation.”
So, you see, the point is that if the universe is derived from an unknown beginning that does not mean that our inability to yet concretely define that beginning—though I think we can have some greater assumptions than blind faith religionists can—that doesn’t mean that we have to cling to superstition until the answer comes along.
That doesn’t mean that until we define viruses we have to believe it was evil spirits making people sick. Certainly, the universe does show us certain things and that is that the laws of physics are immutable and universal in the universe. If that’s true, that does not allow for a transcendental being beyond the universe to violate those laws on one planet in the solar system a few thousand years ago.
I don’t think that I have avoided any of my opponent’s questions whatsoever. Although, I think repeatedly, he has portrayed them in only half of what I’ve said.
Say, about self-authentication. He’s yet to deal with the problem of Hume and Bertrand Russell and the principle of induction and so forth. And I’m going to keep bringing him back to it whether he, you know, is happy with it or not.
But, about the origin of the universe, to say that we don’t have an answer to that and we’re working on it is to say at this point we don’t have a foundation for our understanding of the world that we’re studying. That we, as far as we know, it’s totally arbitrary. It’s just the chance world.
But, if it’s just a random chance world, we can’t account for it, we don’t know where it came from and so forth, then why do we apply principles that are contrary to randomness, contrary to chance, and trying to understand it? You see, the atheist just can’t have it both ways, appealing arbitrarily to, “Well, it just happens and we don’t know why,” and then saying we have to have an empirical reason for everything if we’re going to believe it.
Mr. Tabash simply will not stand still in his philosophical worldview and decide what his theory of knowledge is and make his theory of reality comport with it. As a matter of fact, atheists have a real difficult time explaining the origin of the universe, and in the end, they end up saying something like everything that we see came from nothing.
I’ll give you the quotations later. My time’s going to run out here, but it has run out.
Tabash – Closing Statement
Well, this is the last opportunity I have to address you as a group and I would say that, notwithstanding Dr. Bahnsen’s swipes at me and I think that immortal line of being a criminal in the universe is a lot of fun but notwithstanding that I think that I don’t have to demonstrate the impossible in order to be able to talk about the possible.
Now, certainly the idea of the hydrogen and the carbon and the basic building blocks of life on this earth are much more plausible from what we can perceive than a putative mythological being some equivalent of ancient societies giant frog or giant crocodile God or whatever.
I think that when you create a myth in order to fill in the gaps of what you don’t know, that that doesn’t validate the argument. I don’t have to know exactly how my typewriter was put together in order to know its limitations. I may not know exactly what piece went where first, but I do know that my typewriter will never be able to make coffee.
That’s the nature of the beast. so I may not know exactly which atoms came together first and neither does Dr. Bahnsen, though he may pretend to by his attempt to seize upon divine knowledge through the Bible.
But, I do know that however it begun—and I think the big bang theory is a scientific theory that is plausible, and that doesn’t depend on supernaturalism—but however the universe begun, I think that we do today know its qualities to a large degree.
So, I don’t know how this microphone was put together exactly, but I know that carries my voice more than it would if I were not speaking through it in a hall this size. So, I know that the universe, in what it shows me, does not depend upon violations of its own laws.
And I know that the universe is not so structured that there is an invisible being who periodically, but hasn’t done so in two thousand years, violates those laws in order to make a point. And I believe that that being, if it wanted me to believe in it, should have had the rabbis take me to the Santa Monica beach in 1955 and part the Pacific Ocean the same as the Red Sea was allegedly parted.
When I did this debate on this campus in March of this year, I began by saying that no one will believe me if I tell you that two thousand years ago, on this very site, here in ancient days, that a spaceship from Mars visited this very site and set in motion a special machine which would determine that two thousand years later a University of California would be built on this site and would be renowned for its veterinary school.
Now, no, none of you will believe me because there’s no proof that such things happen. There is no proof that flying saucers landed in Davis 2000 years ago because there’s no proof that they land in Davis today. And there’s no proof that if the destiny of this university wasn’t finalized two thousand years ago because there is no proof that the present, at any given moment, can predict precisely what the future configuration will be.
If you had proof that people two thousand years ago could predict exactly what future universities would look like, you would then believe my claim, but you don’t. And I can tell you, and I think that I’m being a little bit more magnanimous than my opponent, that I would never even, though I’m convinced that what happened two thousand years ago on the sacred spot, I would never tell any of you that you’re going to go to hell forever because you don’t believe in what happened, even though I believe that in fact the flying saucer came and the prediction came true.
Because verifiability is something that we justifiably can look to in whether or not to believe the supernatural. And self-authenticating accounts in books written a long time ago don’t prove the supernatural if there is no visible outside evidence of the supernatural.
If Dr. Bahnsen chooses and wants to meet me somewhere in the California coast and demonstrate to me that he can walk on water, I submit, and I pledge to all of you I will be duly impressed. Also, if Dr. Bahnsen will come with me to the skid row in downtown Los Angeles and have just a few pieces of fish and feed hundreds of people and I see those fish multiplying in his hand out of nowhere to feed the multitudes of homeless in downtown Los Angeles, then I would be duly impressed.
So, if these extraordinary events can, in fact, occur, then they must visibly occur outside the boundaries of a book that does more than claim about them. Because, you see, that reduces the Bible to the same kind of literature as the UFO abductees who claim that they have been taken aboard UFOs and that their bodies and minds have been modified in order for the God of Christianity based on the Bible to be nothing more than the ancient version of Elvis Presley sightings.
We need verifiability that such types of violations of the laws of nature can and do occur, or better yet, we need verification that they were not laws of nature, but that they were part of nature and that we have in other human beings the same capacity for duplication. So, if other people can resurrect from the dead, if other people can, by the energies within their bodies, suspend the laws of gravity, if other persons can materialize more out of little.
Then, if miracles can be replicated today, it would help the evidentiary foundation of the supernatural claim. I have a friend who is a born-again Christian and I told him that the claim in South India at Banaras is that Sai Baba, an Indian guru, is capable of making ash appear out of nowhere and there are pictures of him holding an urn upside down taking out gallons and gallons of ash and materializing pieces of candy for the little children out of nowhere.
And this born-again Christian friend said to me that unless it is trickery, it is of the devil. Why do the Christians say that if supernatural power is manifested by anybody other than their guy, it is of the devil? Why can’t a believer in Satya Sai Baba say that if Jesus did it, Jesus is the devil.
Why is it justified for believing Christians to say that supernaturalism, when manifested by other people is satanic, but it’s not okay for other types of spiritual seekers to say supernaturalism, as manifested in Christianity, is satanic? Where is the proof either way? Where is the proof that the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth occurred? And if they did occur, where is the proof that they are the only ones that ever happened? A hundred Tibetan monks will testify that their leader, when he died, bodily dematerialized and disappeared in a golden light. Why is that any less verifiable? Why is that any less believable than the claim of Jesus of Nazareth? And if they’re equally believable, why should not that revered Tibetan Lama be considered the equal of Jesus of nazareth in terms of spirituality?
Why this childish claim that only our guy is the man, and everybody else’s guy is not the man? Where is the evidentiary justification to back up the supernatural claim that your supernatural being can beat up anybody else’s supernatural being on the block?
That verifiability, that critical evidence, has not been induced by any Christian thinker whatsoever at any time and so I would recommend, if you have to believe in a God, don’t believe in one that’s going to send you to hell forever just because you don’t buy the right theory. Believe in a God that loves everybody, and if you can’t believe in a God, then let’s really concentrate on loving each other because I suspect it’s all we’ve got.
Bahnsen – Closing Statement
Well, what lessons have we learned tonight? I think this much is plain from Mr. Tabash’s rhetoric about, you know, burning in barbecue pits and things of that nature and challenging God and claiming things about mythology, that having a sharp tongue is not a sure indicator of possessing an equally sharp mind philosophically or using cogent reasoning.
A great emphasis has been placed in my opponent’s speaking tonight upon the idea of visible verification. Well, in the book of Second Peter chapter 1, the apostle Peter makes this claim: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
Now, just reading the verse doesn’t prove that to be true, but you need to be aware that the nature of the system he’s arguing against says God has provided visible verification. And so, when he keeps saying we’ve got to have it, we have to have it, the point is it’s been given, and according to Peter, he wrote this at a time when people could check out the claims, after all hostile witnesses could easily have disproven it. They wanted to, he said.
It has come into history. We have the empirical verification now. A much stronger claim, you see, and this is the one that Mr. Tabash really relies on is that even apart from claims like this in a dusty old book with, you know, inauthentic authorship and all these kinds of pathetic, unproven, you know, slanders that he gives against the book, he’d say, “Well, you can make that claim, but it’s just implausible,” over and over again.
We’ve heard about the plausibility or the implausibility of this, you know, that it’s more plausible about flying saucers than about miracles and resurrections whatever it may be. But remember that the way in which you and I I’m talking to all of us.
Whether, you know, we happen to agree with me or with him, all of us just have to understand this is a matter of intellectual integrity. To note what you think is plausible is a reflection of your basic conception of reality and how you know what you know and how you should live your life.
Plausibility is rated by your worldview. I grant—I mean, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that he finds the miracle claims of Christianity implausible—I don’t expect the person who doesn’t share my worldview to think they’re plausible.
But, of course I find the things he’s saying to be implausible. Now, should we just stand here and call each other names and talk about barbecue pits and magnanimi and all that, or should we get down to the philosophical tough job of arguing about these worldviews and which comport with rationality and morality and so forth?
This is what Mr. Tabash has not done tonight. The bulk of Mr. Tabash’s argumentation has simply been philosophically irrelevant. He’s engaged in the, I think, childless assumption that if he doesn’t like something then it doesn’t exist. He has the right to superimpose his values and says he doesn’t like the God revealed in the Bible the God of the Bible doesn’t exist.
Well, I mean, his likes are irrelevant to what does and does not exist, just as mine are. But, he engaged in that form of reasoning and it ought to be exposed as such. He says the God idea is preposterous. Well, of course. What he’s saying here is not proof. It’s just personal pontification.
What you think is preposterous is a function of your underlying presuppositions. Mr. Tabash has said that, at one point, he said, “I can’t explain every natural phenomenon, but I don’t need to.” Well, you’ve missed my point.
I argued that you can’t explain any natural phenomenon and so every time you say I want natural proof, I want empirical verification, my point is your worldview can’t account for anything in the world, miraculous or not miraculous.
He says, “When we come to the Bible, we should not suspend normal analytical procedures.” I agree with him. No one has asked him to do that. My whole point is that all of our normal analytical procedures presuppose the God that is revealed in the Bible to make sense out of the inductive principle, moral absolutes, human dignity, and all the rest.
Just what has been missing, and what Mr. Tabash said tonight—you go back and if you get the tape listen to it—he did not offer or even attempt to offer one constructive proof for his own thesis or conclusion. He spent his time simply trying to say he didn’t like what I was saying.
He found this preposterous, implausible, barbecue pits, and all the rest, but did he bother to prove what he came here to debate tonight? No. Now, I may not have persuaded you and I may not have proved what I think that I have proved, but at least I have come here and offered you a form of proof.
It’s called transcendental proof—proving something from the impossibility of the contrary. I’ve looked at his presuppositions and shown that they violate the conditions of rationality and shown that the Christian theistic view does not.
He could not offer a rational warrant for the uniformity of nature or the inductive principle and so he has left all scientific inference, all of our daily experience, our learning, memory, our study of the past, and even our use of language, unintelligible.
His world doesn’t make intelligible what he’s been trying to do tonight in reasoning and arguing. In fact, he’s even engaged in the just egregious self-contradiction in his theory of knowledge that we only know things on the basis of empirical experience.
And that he’s made all sorts of claims that have nothing to do with empirical experience including the claim that we only know things based on empirical experience. He couldn’t defend his ready appeal to moral absolutes. He couldn’t show why he wasn’t being arbitrary when he condemns one thing and owns another thing.
My opponent never explained how atheism allows that humans have more dignity than snails or dogs, how love is anything more than some kind of, I guess, what, indigestion that you feel, how life could arise from non-life.
He had no answer that accounts for laws and concepts and rationality. He simply couldn’t cogently answer the challenges that were given to him.
On the other hand, the proof of God’s existence is that without God, you cannot prove anything, at all, whether in science or ethics or just ordinary human experiences. You can’t make sense of or offer rational evidence for the inescapable assumption of uniformity, which atheism violates.
That assumption is foundational to all thinking and all reasoning. You can’t coherently assert any kind of moral evaluation or judgment if people are nothing more but molecules in motion. And so, we found tonight that atheists are uncomfortable with the need for being tough-minded in philosophy.
I know that they can be ridiculing us and I’m certainly sorry when any kind of debate, you know, comes down to that, even if I have engaged in that. But, tough-minded philosophical thinking has just not been found.
In the case that he’s tried to offer, atheists thoughtlessly profess and they are emotionally committed to an underlying worldview that happens to render the reasoning, science, and ethics they want to do unintelligible.
If atheists were consistent with their uncritical fundamental beliefs about the nature of reality—they aren’t of course—but if they were consistent, they couldn’t make sense of what we all take for granted, from toothpaste to the planets. So, contrary to their professed theoretical presuppositions and actual practice in the real world, in debates, before real university audiences, atheists pretend that there’s uniformity in nature, that they can appeal to the absolutes of ethics, but on atheist presuppositions you can’t intelligently account for reasoning or discourse or debate at all.
What I’m saying here simply is that Mr. Tabash is a living contradiction. He cannot account for his fundamental convictions about the world, about life, and about how we know what we know. Indeed, it’s evident that he’s not even thought seriously and critically about such matters because he just wanders into self-contradiction when he starts talking about these basic matters.
He’s indulged in reasoning, which is really—and I don’t mean this personally, pathetic for its arbitrariness and its contradictory character, for its unproven emotion-driven pronouncements—basically a line of thinking which violates the fundamental criteria of rationality.
The atheist is satisfied to ignore the need for intellectual justification and explanation, the need to gain consistency within his total beliefs, and the need to demonstrate systematic cogency in his overall perspective on the world, man, and values. And in this light, atheism, for all its proud boasts of scholarly adequacy, is a kind of intellectual adolescence which refuses to think hard, face the facts, and be tough-minded.
Atheists live, when all is said and done, and you push them, by blind and contradictory faith about how we know what we know and what the nature of reality is. Atheism is arbitrary and irrational, all the while dressing up in the costume of rationality.
Philosophically speaking, it’s really much closer to superstition, undisciplined reflection, and wishful thinking, than to science. No wonder the Scripture says that it’s the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.” Paul says, “professing themselves to be wise, those who are unbelievers, they became fools.”
That is not name-calling. That’s a description of what happens to your reasoning when you will not admit the obvious. Mr. Tabash is in a lot of company, but the fact that there are a lot of people who do that sort of thing doesn’t make his thinking any less superstitious or arbitrary. He is simply taking his intellectual autonomy for granted.