What’s In A Name?

whatsinaname

I recently hosted an interaction on Twitter between myself and about a dozen people who claimed to be atheists, in which I asked the following question, “What do you think are the strongest and the weakest arguments for the existence of God?”  Many of the comments that I got back were pretty mean-spirited and insulting, and I could tell that some people just wanted to argue with me. Here are some of the more mild responses that I received from those who were gracious enough to offer one. Most of the comments were along the same line:

  • “There is no argument for the existence for god other than a knee jerk reaction to the unknown. Weakest argument is, any.”
  • “At best, the strongest argument for God’s existence is weak, but I can give you tens of thousands of pages proving he doesn’t.”
  • “There are no good arguments for the existence of gods…zero objective evidence and no logical proof.”
  • “Strongest=weakest: the claims made in the Bible.”

I then got a little more specific and asked about their reactions to the philosophical arguments for the existence of God – the cosmological, ontological, teleological, and moral arguments – and I got the following responses:

  • “I don’t see any argument whether it be cosmological, moral etc to be any stronger or convincing than blind faith. All fail equally.”
  • “Ahh ok well in that case my reaction to any person trying to argue that God exists would be pity.”
  • “I do not feel as such: I have concluded that such arguments display a lack of critical thinking skills by the proponents.”

All-in-all, it was a rather frustrating exchange for me. Other than the gentleman that stated that the claims made in the Bible were both the strongest and weakest arguments (a logical contradiction), I could not get anyone to give an actual example of a claim for Gods existence that they felt either had or lacked merit. All I was offered were sweeping generalizations.

I really expected more. Responses were coming back from people who had the words “atheist” and “agnostic” and “secular” right in their profiles. These were people who not only didn’t believe in God, but they were proud of the fact! Their identities (on Twitter at least) were wrapped up in the fact of their unbelief. One would expect that they would have given a lot of thought to the question that I had posed, and were better equipped to give a more precise answer to my inquiry.

This makes me wonder if people who claim to be atheists and agnostics have any familiarity at all with the classical arguments for Gods existence. I suspect that most of them do not. I suspect that most of them have made their decision to be an atheist based not on any sincere and thoughtful examination of the evidence, but simply because they do not want God to exist because they do not want to be accountable to him. It is not so much that they are “a-theist” (without God), but that they are “anti-theist” (against God).

The following chart illustrates the four positions possible with regard to our personal theology. I believe that everyone falls into one of these four groups. Future articles will take a closer look at each of these groups to see what the Bible has to say about them, as well as looking at the classical arguments for Gods existence.

 

Four Types of Personal Theology

So, what’s in a name? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but no disrespect to William Shakespeare, an atheist is not an agnostic is not an anti-theist is not a theist! Being able to recognize the difference when we are talking to people will better enable us to communicate to them the truths about God.

Soli Deo Gloria

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About Mike Ritt

I tell people that I am a writer trapped in the body of a Consumer Safety Inspector for the USDA. I love to spend my free time (ha-ha) reading and writing, and I write everything – stories, poems, essays, and shopping lists – it doesn't matter. I have been married to my redhead (Tami) for over twenty-five years now. Although we live in the mountains of western Montana, we are still die-hard Packer fans! I have been a Christian for over thirty years now, and each day seems like a brand new day, with more to learn about God and his word. What a wonderful journey this has become! Click the “Contact” button on the menu bar if you want to write me for any reason, whether it’s to know more about me or the glorious gospel of grace.
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14 Responses to What’s In A Name?

  1. keithnoback says:

    Must have missed this. I think the strongest argument is the modal ontological argument that Plantinga proposes. As he notes, the argument establishes the possibility of a deity, which I think is the best one could hope for through argumentation.
    Even then, I think the relevance of the possibility which it seeks to establish is doubtful, as I think it allows for something like Pascal’s God – something incomprehensible by its nature..

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    • Mike Ritt says:

      I find the ontological arguments very interesting, but I think that most people find them rather difficult to grasp. Both Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig do a good job with this argument. I agree with your comment that establishing the possibility of a deity is about the best that you can hope for through argumentation. I think that if I were speaking with someone who was more philosophically oriented, I would use the cosmological argument. If they were more inclined towards imperisism, then I would use the teleological argument. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. makagutu says:

    This

    This makes me wonder if people who claim to be atheists and agnostics have any familiarity at all with the classical arguments for Gods existence. I suspect that most of them do not.

    Mike is such a sweeping generalization that you may need to defend. That said, how many theists do you think are believers because they read the arguments and were convinced to believe in god because of their veracity?
    I find most, if not all the arguments for god inadequate.

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    • Mike Ritt says:

      Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your remarks. Personally, I do not believe that anyone ever comes to faith in God through argumentation. The Bible says that one person sows the seed, another waters, but it is God that gives the growth. I believe that apologetics (arguments for the existence of God) are useful for sowing the seeds of faith, or watering the seeds that someone else may have planted; but unless God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, softens a person’s heart and opens his eyes to spiritual truth, he will never come to saving faith.

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      • makagutu says:

        We can agree on one thing, that belief is a matter of faith. And to say the holy spirit which is god if the trinity was to make any sense does the choosing on whom it wants to enter and as such it is unwarranted to blame a non believer

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      • Mike Ritt says:

        Non believers are not “blamed” (judged) for not believing. They are judged for their sin. The Bible tells us that faith is a gift from God. God does not judge people because he has not given them the gift of faith. He judges them because they are sinful and living in rebellion to him. Some sinners are justly punished for their sin, while other sinners experience the grace and mercy of God and are forgiven.

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      • makagutu says:

        Mitt, did anyone have a say in how they ate made? If not, regardless of what they do, they are blameless

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      • Mike Ritt says:

        My response to your comment here is far more involved than what is appropriate for this forum. If you are genuinely interested in pursuing this further, then I recommend the following resource: http://www.the-highway.com/fall_Sproul.html. Feel free to contact me using the form located in the right-hand column if you wish to continue with the discussion. God bless.

        Liked by 1 person

      • makagutu says:

        Mike, thanks for the offer. I have read the article and unfortunately it comes short of answering my questions and I doubt you’d do a better job.
        Happy holidays

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      • Mike Ritt says:

        The offer stands. God bless and Merry Christmas.

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      • makagutu says:

        Merry Christmas and there is no god

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  3. Survivor says:

    I agree with you that it is a sad state of affairs that you did not get any thoughtful replies, and I would give one if I weren’t at work lunch-break and didn’t have the time. One quick reaction, though. In your chart the 3 entries that do not believe in god have negative descriptions attached to them. Only the theist has a positive description. This has not been my experience. Those that I have met and talked with who question the existence of the traditional god are sincere, thoughtful, intelligent and caring people. Many I have met who were theists were controlling, prejudiced and hurtful individuals. I have also met caring people who were theists.

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  4. Survivor says:

    I agree with you that it is sad that no one answered with depth and thoughtfulness to your blog. I would but I am at work and do not have the time. One quick reaction, though – In your chart the 3 categories that do not believe in god have negative descriptions attached to them and the one category that does believe in god has the positive description. My experience has been different. The people I have met and talked with who question the existence of god have been intelligent, caring and seriously thoughtful people, while a lot of the “believers” I have known have been totalitarian, judgmental, negative and sad people. Not all believers are that way, but a lot of them are. We all have a faith system of some kind. True love does not put down those of a different belief.

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    • Mike Ritt says:

      I really appreciate your comments and the fact that you took the time to read my article. With respect to the chart above, let’s use “Atheist” as an example. For someone to claim that there is no God is to make a claim to all knowledge. This is the height of arrogance. If you can think of a nice way to say it, I am open to suggestions. I do agree that there are people on both sides of the debate who are considerate and gentle in their approach. There are also those on both sides who are mean spirited. The Bible tells Christians that they should always be, “…prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” I hope that I will always be obedient to this admonition. You said that, “True love does not put down those of a different belief.” I believe that true love does not let anyone starve to death when they have bread to give them.

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