XFiles: Proving that faith is irrelevant

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 14.)

Geisler and Turek’s gimmick throughout the book has been to pretend that they’re building an iron-clad case, piece-by-piece, each well-documented conclusion building on the proofs that came before. It’s only a pretense, though, and the nearer we get to the end the less they even try to keep pretending. They’ve never intended to do any more than preach to the choir, and it shows.

For example, here’s their “proof” of why the Bible cannot contain any errors.

1. God cannot err.

2. The Bible is the Word of God.

3. Therefore the Bible cannot err.

Notice anything missing in their logic?

The problem is, nowhere in the book have they ever bothered to try and document the claim that God cannot err. They just assume it ought to be true because, well obviously God can’t ever make a mistake (like, for example, doing such a botched-up job of Heavenly-Fathering that He ends up having to wipe out virtually the whole human race and start over with a handful of survivors). Because, well, obviously He’s God and therefore He just can’t make mistakes. You know, uh, obviously.

And besides, the Bible tells us that God cannot err, and the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, doncha know.

Seriously. This is their argument.

Since this is a valid syllogism (form of reasoning), if the premises are true, then the conclusion is true. The Bible clearly declares itself to be the Word of God, and we’ve seen strong evidence that it is. The Bible also informs us several times that God cannot err, and we know this from general revelation as well. So the conclusion is inevitable.

Unfortunately, Geisler and Turek just toss off that reference to “we know this from general revelation,” without any attempt to explain what they mean by it. But don’t worry, it really boils down to just one word: superstition. “General revelation,” in conservative Christian jargon, means “what you can learn about the Creator by observing His Creation.” It’s what apologists appeal to when they don’t have actual Scripture to back up their claims.

Sadly, the Bible itself isn’t quite adequate to the task of providing us with rules for literally everything. Fortunately, however, there are verses that say things like “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). In other words, you can look at the amazing world we live in, notice that the human mind fails to grasp all of its intricate details, and then use that ignorance as a justification for imagining all kinds of wonderful characteristics God must have.

Like I said, “general revelation” is really just an appeal to superstition. You see things in the real world you don’t understand, and you attribute them to an invisible, supernatural force. And then you have carte blanche to imagine whatever characteristics seem right in your own eyes, as far as what or Who this supernatural force might be and/or might want. The trick is that by calling it “general revelation” instead of superstition, you get to imply that your speculations about God have all the infallible authority of the written revelation. Which, ironically, they probably do.

So what have we got left then? Geisler and Turek claim that they have a valid syllogism, and that it’s based on “strong evidence” that the Bible is the Word of God and on “general revelation” that the Creator cannot make mistakes (despite a huge number of genetic defects and less-than-fortuitous designs in His Creation). If we look back through the book, though, we see that Geisler and Turek haven’t actually presented us with a documented case based on strong evidence. Instead, they’ve presented a carefully selected subset of the evidence, which they’ve interpreted one way in the case of, say, Darwin, and quite a different way in the case of, say, Luke. This is what Christians call “worldview.”

What’s behind that selection, though? How do they know they’re supposed to adopt very easily-satisfied standards of evidence in Luke’s case, and impossibly-demanding standards of evidence in Darwin’s? How do they know they need to invent false contradictions to discredit scientific explanations of cosmology, while simultaneously glossing over Biblical contradictions as mere “difficulties”?

The answer is that the Bible tells them so. Or rather, their interpretation of the Bible tells them so. That’s what guides their selection and interpretation of the evidence. Geisler and Turek’s “valid syllogism” is ultimately based on the assumption that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and is therefore the key to the correct selection and interpretation of the evidence that allegedly supports it. By the time they reach point 3, they haven’t produced a conclusion, they’ve merely re-iterated the assumptions they made in Step Zero.

And Dr. Norm Geisler and Dr. Frank Turek see nothing wrong with using their conclusion to prove the premises that they use to prove their conclusion. They claim that it’s a valid syllogism even though the fallacy of assuming your conclusion is one of the oldest and best-known fallacies in the study of logic. They try to disguise the problem by pretending that their premises are based on other things besides assuming their conclusion, but that’s mere misdirection, not actually solving the problem. And they see nothing wrong with that.

The fix for this particular fallacy is simple: remove it. Don’t use your conclusion to try and establish the truth of your premises. Leave out the claims that the Bible says your premises are valid. Very simple and easy to do, except that Geisler and Turek know, deep down, that the Bible is all they really have to back up their claims. If you take away what the Bible says about God, and about itself being the Word of God, and if you don’t insist on interpretations of the evidence that have been harmonized with what the Bible teaches, you can’t produce a substantive case for the claim that the Biblical God exists, let alone that He cannot err and that the Bible is His Word.

But that doesn’t matter to Geisler and Turek, because they know that the Bible must be the inerrant Word of God. Yes, ok, technically their reasoning is fallacious, but that doesn’t count because they know their conclusions are true anyway. If I say “All dogs have tails, my pet has a tail, therefore my pet is a dog,” that’s the Converse Fallacy, but it doesn’t matter because it so happens my pet is indeed a dog. So fallacious reasoning like Geisler and Turek’s still convinces Christians because they already “know” that the conclusion must be true, even though (unlike my dog) their God does not show up in real life.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that it successfully “proves” that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God whether or not such a god even exists. Christians may “know” that their God is real and has given them an inerrant Bible, but since they would “know” that whether it were true or not, their “knowledge” means nothing. Geisler and Turek, in their book I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, are actually documenting that Christian faith in Jesus means nothing, as far as actual truth is concerned. And that, being fairly opposed to the conclusion they would like to reach, ought to be conclusive.

 
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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “XFiles: Proving that faith is irrelevant”

  1. Dave Rattigan Says:

    I have really enjoyed this series on Geisler and Turek.

    How on earth do they think they’ll convince a skeptic with such careless arguments? I think in reality this kind of book’s main purpose is just to soothe the insecurities of rank-and-file fundamentalists.

  2. Erika Says:

    @Dave,

    I do not think they have any desire to convince skeptics with their arguments. The very title of the book gives that away. The claim that atheists believe that their is no God because of faith is immediately off putting to most atheists, in my experience.

    What they want to do is to reassure wavering believers, those who have thought about the possibility of being wrong but do not want to believe it.

  3. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Yup. The primary market for apologetics is believers who need to be convinced that their religion is true. Kinda tells you something, dunnit?