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Andy Bannister is a funny apologist. His book The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (Monarch, 2015) combines intellectual sharpness with witty humour as he deals with the ideas of modern atheism. As director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Bannister has a lot of experience in defending the faith. We got to talk to him about his ministry and ideas.
What made you integrate humour in your apologetics?
Over the 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in Christian ministry (most of it focused on reaching sceptics) I became frustrated with the fact that so many really great books explaining the Christian faith never find their way into their hands of atheists or agnostics. Most evangelistic and apologetic books are simply read by Christians. Now on the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with that: Christians need to be equipped to share and defend their faith. But I wanted to write something that would actually be read by sceptics. The question was how.
Then I came across a quote by C. S. Lewis. Asked why he had taken up writing fiction (like the Narnia books) Lewis explained that too often the front entrance to people’s minds is guarded by “watchful dragons”: things like cynicism, pride, and poor arguments. But story and imagination could let you “steal past those watchful dragons”. That was a revelatory moment for me: maybe I could use a whole different approach, something completely fresh, to engage with atheism. And that’s what The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist does—but rather than creep past the dragon, it uses comedy and wit to tickle the dragon’s nose, so that whilst it’s busy laughing, we can bring truth in through the front door. (more…)
Arguments from miracles to show the existence of the divine have been used almost since the dawn of religion. In the New Testament, miracles are used to form arguments for Israel’s God being with Jesus (John 3:2), being involved in contemporary life (Luke 7:16) and existing (Acts 17:31). Throughout church history, arguments from miracles have been frequently used to defend truth claims of Christianity or certain sects of Christianity, not the least on the mission field.
In modern apologetics, one particular argument from miracles is widely discussed and defended, namely the resurrection of Jesus. Apologists try to show that this is a historical event, since the truth claims of Christianity rests on this miracle according to 1 Corinthians 15. But many of them are hesitant to base an argument for God’s existence on modern-day miracles, even though that would cast increasing doubts on the metaphysical naturalism that many opponents of the resurrection’s historicity base their reasoning on.
In fact, well-known apologist William Lane Craig has said “I don’t appeal to miraculous healings as arguments for God’s existence […] I think that there are weightier arguments for the existence of God than pointing to miracles.” Timothy McGrew concludes in his well-written article on miracles in the Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy that arguments from miracles are interesting but can’t stand on their own. Justin Brierley, host of the apologetic debating program Unbelievable at Premier Christian Radio, have had a few shows on contemporary miracles, but has admitted that they don’t talk about it very often and gives the following explanation for this:
This is kind of unusual for me […] we’re tending to deal with the kind of philosophical arguments for God, can we trust Scripture, those kinds of bariny, intellectual issues if you like. And in the field of apologetics, as it’s sometimes called, the sort of miracles stuff is sort of considered a bit like, “out there”. It’s very difficult to verify, it’s not objective in the way that we can talk about evidence for God and the Bible and that kind of thing. So in my view I think a lot of apologists tend to steer away from it.
The fine tuning of the universe and the complexity of DNA provides powerful evidence for God’s existence. It even made well-known atheist Anthony Flew change his mind in the late part of his life to make him proclaim that there is a God! From the Spiritual Q&A class at Holy Treasure, Kettering, UK.
When people think about the Bible they often think about contradictions. But how can we be sure that the Bible really contradicts itself rather than that’s is we who do not fully understand it? This lecture is part of the Spiritual Q&A apologetics series I hold at Holy Treasure in Kettering, UK.
In the third lecture of my Spiritual Q&A series, I talk about the alleged hiddenness of God. Why doesn’t God make His existence more obvious? Is it because He doesn’t care, or is it because it wouldn’t change our skepticism anyway?
I’ve just finished Narnia author C.S. Lewis’ book Miracles and provide a review in the video above. I really enjoyed it and was fascinated by the philosophical arguments Lewis uses to argue against naturalism, the idea that nature is all that there is and that miracles thus are impossible. His main argument is that if naturalism were true we would have no reason to believe that our reasoning reflect reality, an argument I have written more about here. Lewis also uses a moral argument for the existence of a supernatural or transcendent reality, and answers to several objections to miracles.
I’m currently reading C.S. Lewis’ classic book Miracles, where he starts off by discussing why naturalism – the idea that nature is all that exist and that anything supernatural is impossible – really is an unreasonable position to hold. This is because reason itself would be fully explained by nonrational causes, and thus be unreliable. Naturalism is thus self-defeating since one cannot then reasonably subscribe to it.
“This, as it seems to me, is what Naturalism is bound to do”, Lewis writes. “It offers what professes to be a full account of our mental behaviour; but this account, on inspection, leaves no room for the acts of knowing or insight on which the whole value of our thinking, as a means to truth, depends.” (Miracles, Fontana Books 1947, p. 22).
Alvin Plantinga has developed a simliar argument where he points out that evolution, which basically all naturalists accept, presents a defeater for why one should believe in naturalism. this evolutionary argument against naturalism can be presented as such: (more…)
There’s a theological problem known as the hiddenness of God which is sometimes used by atheists as an argument for God’s existence. If there is a God and He cares for human salvation, why isn’t He making His existence more obvious? Why isn’t He putting a neon cross in the sky or stamp every cell with “Made by God” in Hebrew letters? Why is He so silent and invisible if He exists?
Apologists generally offer two responses to this. First, God’s existence is already obvious as it is, the arguments from natural theology are good and atheism is really a position held by a minority on a global scale. Second, we cannot be sure that more people would actually be saved if God’s existence was even more obvious, knowing that He exists isn’t the same thing as building a relationship with Him.
I think those responses are good but would also want to offer a third response – a charismatic one. In the video above you can see how a deafmute boy in Zambia starts to hear and speak. On this page you will find resources on medically verified healings. There you go, evidence for God’s existence.
The atheist may respond that these events have natural explanations that we just don’t know yet. But that’s probably what s/he would say about the neon cross and the “Made by God”-stamps as well. And so there’s no way those kind of atheists will accept the existence of God. But if they’re open-minded, they’ll realise that He isn’t far away from any of us, and He can do convincing miracles in all of our lives.
My video on how atheists need to deny evident truths like everything that begins to exist having a cause or the objectivity of moral values and duties gave rise to a debate between me and an atheist called John Hammond in the YouTube comment section. He confirmed my point in that he as an atheist did deny that everything that begins to exist has a cause and that morality is objective, but he thought that it was evident that these things aren’t true.
What follows is our online discussion, with John’s comments in quotation blocks and my responses in normal bread text:
Its so easy to mock others on YouTube that don’t agree with you isn’t it. We atheists are so stupid according to you aren’t we. I have argued against the Kalam Cosmological Argument so many times that I can’t be bothered to type it all out again. So will this do?
Subjective morality. Lets take two people, Hitler and me, both moral people. Now Hitler’s morality allowed him to initiate the murder of millions of people. My morality does not allow me to hurt anyone. So Hitler and me do not agree on what’s good or bad, whats moral. This is whats called ‘subjective morality’ I think Hitler’s morality was wrong. He would have thought my morality was wrong. Now lets develop this a little more. There are something like seven billion people in the world. That’s seven billion different moralities although most would agree on most points like not eating babies or torturing little kittens. We get our morality [what we personally think is right or wrong, good or bad] because of being a social animal, our upbringing and the society we live in. I personally think murdering millions of people is wrong, Hitler or Jehovah for example think its O.K. to murder millions of people.
No, we atheists do not deny truths as you falsely claim, we just stay within the bounds of reality and what we do know, not what we don’t know. In other words we do not believe in your supernatural God.
I respect you right to your beliefs sir so please respect my beliefs [or non belief] as an atheist.
With respect, John.
In this video I eat a delicious avocado sandwich and talk about how atheists often have to deny truths that are really evident to most of us in order to defend their atheism. I’m thinking for example on how most atheist debators argue against one or both of the premises in the Kalam cosmological argument, which are:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause
- The universe began to exist
This is of course to avoid the conclusion of the universe having a cause, since this cause must be transcendent, outside of space, matter and time, and very powerful – which of course sounds an awful lot like God. But the premises aren’t easy to refute, they seem in fact very obvious. Of course everything that begins to exist has a cause, and of course the universe began to exist.
Another example is the moral argument for God’s existence, which states:
- If God does not exist, there is no objective morality
- There is objective morality
- Therefore, God exists
You’ll be surprised to find when discussing with atheists that many believe in both premises while they refute the conclusion. In fact, some will claim that they deny both premises and they’ll try to efute premise 1 by providing support for premise 2, and vice versa. I believe this is because we live in a culture that despises logic and so what young people in particular are told is that no opinion is better than another and that nothing’s objectively true, while they’re also told that certain moral beliefs are outrageous and unacceptable. The same person can firstly accuse Christianity for claiming that certain moral truths are universal and required by all, and later accuse Christianity for having errant moral stances on marriage or abortion.
What the atheist then has done is simply to just support both premises and so, s/he has to admit that God exists. Of course, it often takes time before the atheist is ready to make such a shift, and often the reason one is an atheist is not primarily intellectual but emotional. But as we continue to point out that atheism is incompatible with some of the most foundational truths that are universally accepted, hopefully more and more people will realize that there is a God who is both Creator and a moral anchor point.
Since I first presented my formulation of the miraculous a argument for God’s existence I’ve made a slight adjustment. The content is the same but I’ve added an extra premise (2), and because of that an extra conclusion (4), to clarify why the argument is valid even if it isn’t God himself that’s responsible for a certain miracle. This is how I nowadays formulate the argument:
- If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists
- If a supernatural reality exists, God exists
- Miracles occur
- Therefore, a supernatural reality exists
- Therefore, God exists
As this is a deductive argument, the conclusions (4 and 5) are necessarily true if it can be shown that the premises (1-3) are true. So let me briefly defend each one of them.
1. If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists
This premise is fairly non-controversial as long as one gets the definition of “miracle” straight. The definition I have suggested is a supernatural act impacting nature as demanded by human beings. However, if one uses a definition that doesn’t mention the supernatural cause, for example an event requested by humans which is scientifically and naturally inexplicable, then one needs to defend the first premise by showing why it is more plausible than not that such events have a supernatural cause rather than an unknown natural cause. If the supernatural cause is integrated into the definition of miracles on the other hand, such a defence belong to premise 3.
The two latest episodes of the Apologetics Canada Podcast have been dealing with the lack of logical thinking in modern culture. It wasn’t too long ago I realized that all liberal theology per definition is completely illogical since it claims to be Christian while denying things that Christ taught and practiced. And liberal theology is just the Christian version of the trend that postmodern secularization has brought with it: a departure from logic.
As an example the ACP guys name the viral video where a man asks college students what they think about various identical attributes he applies to himself that contradicts his physical appearance. He starts with claiming to be a woman, which all of the students think is great. Then he goes on claiming to be Chinese, two meters tall and seven years old, asking permission to enroll for first grade. The logic that most students had self-implodes due to this reductio ad absurdium.
In fact, most people don’t study much logic in school. And many arguments used in popular debate are emotional rather than logical. While people often refer to science as an argument of authority and certainly think that they’re logical, I have noted myself in recent debates with both Christian nationalists on receiving refugees and with atheists on the existence of God, that their arguments don’t follow the rules of logic. (more…)
When debating with atheists, Christian apologists and evangelists use a variety of arguments for the existence of God, such as cosmological, teleological and moral arguments. I go through several of these in my video on seven reasons why God exists. There I also talked about the argument from miracles, which has often been used historically and which is being used a lot by evangelists, although apologists have not started to use it until recently for reasons I will give towards the end of this blog post.
Let me briefly introduce the argument and add some comments on possible counter-arguments. I would love to unpack this argument in greater depth in the future but for now I would just want to give you a glimpse of how the argument can be formulated. my suggestion is:
1. If miracles occur, God exists.
2. Miracles occur.
3. Therefore, God exists.
As for the definition of “miracles”, I’d use the first half of the Oxford Dictionary definition: “A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency”. Alternatively, I’ve come up with my own definition: a supernatural act impacting nature as demanded by human beings. (more…)
I hope you all have a blessed Good Friday! Over here this day is called “Long Friday” because people were expected to mourn and have a boring time all day, which made it feel much longer. I think the English name is much better – even if it undoubtedly is sad that Jesus had to die for our sake, it is at the same time amazing since we receive eternal life through His sacrifice.
Christianity stands and falls with the death and resurrection of Jesus being historical events. According to the apostles, these are not just doctrines: they are things that really happened, which they witnessed themselves. In this video, I defend the historicity of both Jesus’ death and His miraculous resurrection:
There are some competing theories on what really happened that Passover weekend 2,000 years ago. For a more detailed discussion on what they’re saying and what their problems are, please watch the video. What follows is a brief summary of each theory and my arguments agains them: (more…)
Yesterday my friend Andreas and myself made a video where we go through seven good arguments for God’s existence. They are as follows:
1. The universe was created.
2. There is something rather than nothing.
3. The universe is fine-tuned for life.
4. Morality is objective and not just subjective.
5. There are thousands of scientifically verified miracles.
6. Jesus was awesome and trusted by smart people.
7. Ask God to reveal Himself – you won’t be disappointed.
If you have half an hour, I really recommend you to watch the video. We had a fun time making it! Also, check out the apologetics page on this site for more resources.