The Loftus-Wanchick Debate on the Existence of the Christian God

Tom Wanchick challenged me to a friendly little debate on the existence of God, but that's not an interesting question to me. The reason is because the God Tom wants to defend stems from his Christian beliefs. He doesn't just want to show God exists. He wants to defend his Christian faith. Besides, even if God does exist he may only be a distant deity, which is not much different than having no God at all. So after some talk we decided to debate the existence of the Christian God. We shall do so here, and my opening statement is up (and also posted below). With a 600 word limit I cut to the chase.

Previously Tom debated Richard Carrier on Naturalism vs Theism. This present debate narrows his focus even more.

John's Opening Statement:
1) The Bible is filled with mythic folklore. Here are just a few examples: There isn’t any way to harmonize the creation accounts in Genesis with the age of the universe, granting the time necessary for galaxy, star, solar system, earth, animal, and human formation. The stories of Adam & Eve, Cain, the pre-flood ages of men, and the flood itself have no basis in historical fact. There are similar polytheistic stories like these which predate Genesis by as much as 350 years. Since older sources are to be considered the more reliable sources, then a monotheistic God was not involved, if these events happened at all. There is also no archeological evidence for the Israelites in Egyptian slavery for 400 years, or of their wilderness wanderings for 40 years, or of their conquest of Canaan.

2) I find it implausible to believe that a Triune God (3 persons in 1 who always agree?) has always and forever existed without cause and will always and forever exist (even though our entire experience is that everything has a beginning and an ending), as a fully formed being (even though our entire experience is that order grows incrementally), without a body (and yet acts in the material world), in a timeless existence (and yet creates time), having all knowledge (who consequently never learned anything), and who is the source of all complex information found in the details of the makeup of this universe. This God purportedly has all power (but doesn’t exercise it like we would if we saw a burning child), and is present everywhere (and who also knows what time it is everywhere in our universe even though time is a function of movement and bodily placement). How is it possible for this being to be called a "person," who thinks (which demands weighing temporal alternatives), and who freely chooses who he is and what his values are (even though we never find a time when such choices were made by him)?

3) This barbaric God commanded that witches and people who worship other gods should be killed. He commanded that men should rape women in the spoils of war, and even commit genocide. He allowed people to own slaves which could be beaten within an inch of their lives. He commanded that men should divorce their wives simply because they had a different religion, and women were pretty much defenseless without a husband. He demanded blood sacrifice in order to forgive sins. There is no cogent explanation for how Jesus’ death atones for our sins. He will eternally punish those who don’t see enough evidence to believe in Jesus, while not providing enough of it to believe.

4) The world this God created is not like the world we would expect to find if a good God exists. There is too much natural suffering in it for man alone to be blamed. The law of predation is simply unnecessary. If God exists he could’ve made us all vegetarians and made edible plants grow like weeds do today. If God exists he could end the wars between religious faiths by revealing himself more clearly in this world.

5) God revealed himself in a historically conditioned book before the printing press, even though almost anything can be rationally denied in history, even if it happened. For an omniscient being, he chose a poor medium to do so. I challenge Tom to find one passage in God’s OT revelation to be considered a prophecy (and not wish fulfillment) of the life, death, or resurrection of Jesus which singularly points to him.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Remember this.

Benny said...

Anon,

Thank you for the link, that was a great read.

Lee Randolph,

I think the link could be a good addition for your FAQ?

Michael Ejercito said...

3) This barbaric God commanded that witches and people who worship other gods should be killed. He commanded that men should rape women in the spoils of war, and even commit genocide. He allowed people to own slaves which could be beaten within an inch of their lives. He commanded that men should divorce their wives simply because they had a different religion, and women were pretty much defenseless without a husband. He demanded blood sacrifice in order to forgive sins. There is no cogent explanation for how Jesus’ death atones for our sins. He will eternally punish those who don’t see enough evidence to believe in Jesus, while not providing enough of it to believe.

That is the way God chooses to be.

If you do not like it, you can go to Hell.

John W. Loftus said...

Michael, you seem to have the same attitude that your God does. Why is that?

John Stuart Mill: “In everyday life I know what to call right or wrong, because I can plainly see its rightness or wrongness. Now if a god requires that what I ordinarily call wrong in human behavior I must call right because he does it; or that what I ordinarily call wrong I must call right because he so calls it, even though I do not see the point of it; and if by refusing to do so, he can sentence me to hell, to hell I will gladly go.”

exapologist said...

If there's a god, and he's like that, then we're already in hell.

Georg said...

Bonjour everybody,

Since the dawn of mankind, people have always had some religious belief.

To imagine that when you die it's all over and that you rot like any dead animal or vegetable is an unpleasant thought.

So I think religion or any other belief is a kind of universal need, like music.

If everybody would be a nonbeliever, would we have a better life down here?

Georg

Michael Ejercito said...

Michael, you seem to have the same attitude that your God does. Why is that?
I am just trying to be God-like.


Michael

live-n-grace said...

Well I sure would not want to go to hell.

Your in a room.

Don't go out that door, there's a man with a machine gun who's going to mow you down!

Go out that other door, where Bill Gates will write a million dollar check for however walks through.

Which would you choose? Why? Mind you that hell and heaven are a billions time more extended then the above choices.

Benny said...

l-n-g,

There's a word for the kind of persuasion you're attempting to employ: it's called extortion.

Please take a look at this page, which contains multiple rebuttals of Pascal's Wager, the argument you've paraphrased.

LINK

John W. Loftus said...

Michael said..."I am just trying to be God-like."

Then you and your God are barbaric in my book. Such a view is repulsive in a democratic age where we sincerely disagree about everything from politics to which diet helps us lose more weight.

exapologist said...

That strikes me as morally gotesque and cowardly. If a mob boss said that he'd give me a life of ease and luxury if I would just swear fealty to him, but that, unfortunately, he's gonna have to "whack" my children, I'd be a moral coward and hideously wicked to side with the mob boss to save my own ass.

Similarly, any god that would eternally separate me from my loved ones -- even if he were to save me -- isn't a god that any ethical or reasonable person would follow. A heaven like that is a hell for ethical people. It's only a heaven for people who are capable of chucking their ethics to save their own asses.

The believers are welcome to their life of eternally praising their celestial mob boss; I'll side with the ethical people.

exapologist said...

Ok, that was a little over-the-top with the theatrics -- sorry. Still, theatrics aside, I think the fundamental point of my tirade is fundamentally correct.

Lee Randolph said...

Thanks Benny!
That is exactly what I need. I need some guidance in finding material that already exists for the FAQ. I found Johns "Best of.." article and linked to it.

How would you suggest I use the "swan song" article?

should I break it up into components?

I apologize for handling this here, but I can't think of an easier way at the moment.

Benny said...

Anonymous should get all the credit for finding that link. Organization-wise, yeah, breaking it up into components would probably be best. I was thinking maybe create some new posts, one for each argument and its associated rebuttal. The FAQ can then just link to each new post. Also, you could preface each new post with a link to exbeliever's post, to show where the original material came from.

Lee Randolph said...

A problem I see in the logic of LnG's scenario, and in the bibles, generally, is how can the christian be certain that they love god are not fooling themselves into thinking that a fear of punishment is really the love that god is looking for? I wrestled with the fact that as a christian I might go to hell because I was mistaking self-preservation for love of god.

But I was upset with him anyway for not being as perfect as I expected.

You know... where's the QA in the bible, Why do some people 'filled with the spirit' seem so strange and why would it appear to me if I was a christian too, Why is there so much apparently senseless suffering in the world, Why does prayer seem so much like luck, etc ad infinitum

Kyle said...

I have 2 analogies for the Gospel that don't suffer the same misleading conclusions as the one room two doors scenario.

1) (Roughly borrowing from C.S. Lewis) You are a soldier in the army for your country (this world), fully committed to your cause (rebellion against God). The other army (God's) flies overhead like in WWII and drops leaftlets stating that if you lay down your arms, recant your previous affiliation (repent and submit your life to Jesus Christ), then you will be fully embraced into the other army which will surely be victorious. Otherwise, they are free to bomb at will. They didn't even have to drop leaflets in the first place, that was an act of charity.

2) Imagine that you are a criminal (sinner) that has committed a capital crime. You are on the run from the cops and you know you will get the death penalty (Hell) if caught. You hear word on the streets that the Judge has offerred a full pardon if you will only turn yourself in (repent and submit to Jesus).

Frequently analogies suffer misleading conclusions because they fail to take the biblical understanding of man into account. When you see man's culpability for sin, and God's justice in judging him, then you are ready to begin understanding the Gospel. If you deny man is a sinner, the Gospel will make no sense. God is not a big mean bully picking on little 'ol innocent men. He is the righteous Judge promising full reward to the wicked who violate His law, sin willfully in His creation, and do injustice on their fellow man. Praise God that there is justice after death. That awful, terrible, wonderful justice that is beyond mere human understanding. I laid down my arms, turned myself in, and found that God is glorious, and infinitely gracious. Won't you too fall before the Lord Jesus? As the scriptures say "One day every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, Jesus is Lord." Better now than on the day of Reckoning when there will be no shield for you against God's burning indignation towards your sin.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Georg: Bon jour my long-time friend and correspondent, glad you could make it here and hope you will continue to comment. But having welcomed you, I must difer with you on several points.

You say that all societies have some sort of religious belief because of the unpleasantness of the idea of death as final. But

1) Traditional Judaism did not have such a belief. God was to be obeyed not from fear or from hope of 'eternal reward' but from respect and gratitude for what he had done. It wasn't until the second century B.C. that a belief in an afterlife entered Judaism (probably, but not certainly this was something else they got from the Persians) and it was one of the main divisions between the Pharisees -- who accepted it -- and the Saducees -- who didn't.

2. Your 'argument from tradition' is always a weak one. It reminds me of the arguments by the political conservatives -- mostly from your country -- who argued against democracy on the grounds that every country needed a 'class of rulers' and a 'class of ruled' and that the first class, according to human nature, constituted a hereditary aristocracy.
The answer to this sort of argument -- and it is made in so many ways about so many things, from slavery, to the submission of women to men, belief in magic as a way of controlling nature etc., is that "humanity 'always' believed this way... until they didn't." (In fact, it is likely the same argument was made against monotheism. Humanity 'always' believed in many gods .. until they didn't.) Humanity changes and grows, and many ideas which were seen as part of 'human nature' are now seen as abandoned stumbling blocks.

3) Finally, to me what matters in not 'is this pleasant to believe?' (because of course believing in an eternal life is pleasant, and I'd be very glad to find out I was wrong in refusing to believe it) but 'is this true?' or 'is there the slightest bit of evidence other than wishful thinking that shows it might be true?'

There isn't.

As for your last question, I think we would have a better life if all were non-believers, but only if we realized that an ethical sense is important to man. That's one baby we don't dare throw out with the bathwater.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Before I get to Kyle's comments, I have to deal with a weak argument from someone on my side, exapologist. (I do this simply because if I don't, a believer will use it against you and use it to weaken your other, good arguments.)
Your 'separation from loved ones' argument does not hold up. For people like us, eternity does not exist, our life is all there was. Yet you would not criticize a judge -- in the way you do 'god' -- if, tragically, a loved one committed an offense that merited life in prison and the judge gave him that sentence. You would regret it, you might try and see if there were grounds for appeal, but you would not criticize the legal system as being unethical for separating you from your loved one.

Now to Kyle. Boy does your first argument 'beg the question.' Our cause is not 'rebellion against God.' (How can we rebel against something that does not exist?) If you like, our cause is 'rebellion against superstition, ignorance, and ways of thinking that hinder humanity.' (In fact, though both you and I are fighting for the same goals, to help humanity move towards truth and happiness, we just disagree on what those terms mean.)

We are both in our bi-planes scattering leaflets -- I love the image. Both sides' leaflets argue for the inevitability of victory -- only my side has much stronger evidence for our claim (the fact that Western Europe is already 'post-Christian,' and that for the past five hundred years there has been a demonstrable retreat by your sides so that ground you once saw as yours has been conceded to my side) and my leaflets also point out that your continued fight robs your side of the weapons needed to fight the two growing armies of the ugly Medievalism of Islam and the total fraud of Mormonism.

And finally, in an eerie echo of WWII that you might think more about, your side demands surrender or you will bomb and praqises your own restraint in not bombing when you could have. My side says to surrender and promises rewards -- and no retribution -- to those who surrender.

Your second analogy will take another comment.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Kyle: But I have committed no crime, the judge does not exist, nor does the penalty. It is you who, by arguing for the essentially 'sinful' nature of humanity, and who attempts, by defining sin in ways that are sure to catch any human, that is committing the true crime. But it is a crime that brings with it its own punishment, on you, and on those you -- in all sincerity and with all good intentions, true -- deceive.

But there's no need for an amnesty. As soon as you stop sinning against yourself and against humanity by accepting the error of your beliefs, all the punishments they bring on you automatically cease.

I deny the biblical misunderstanding of man -- and would also argue that it is not very biblical. Certainly it has little relation to the Old Testament. While I deny the idea behind the question, I still argue that the catechismal answer to the question "Why did God make us?" is far closer to the ideas in the bible than your dour pessimism. (If you don't remember where I quoted it, it reads "God made us to know, love, and serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next.")

live-n-grace said...

Kyle, your analogies were much better than my frugal attempt. :)

God has no reason to save us. Prup, the reason you don't believe in a judge is because that he hasn't judged yet. By the way that is a good thing or else we would all be gone. You must understand that since God is completely righteous, sin cannot be in his prescence, or in otherwords, unrighteousness. Since he is just, he can't let you get a free ride for denying him or else he would be unjust. However, Jesus Christ died for us so that we might be as white as snow, and seen as righteous in God's eyes. Bad characteristics covered in Christs blood (from Grits: Ooh Ahh).

I really wonder what some of your views of heaven are, since you have no hope or reason to want to go their. God says that it will be so great that the ways of the old will not even be remembered or come to mind.

Anyways, doesn't the man who murdered 5 people say he has commited no crime and is innocent?

I can't see myself without Christ. No forgiveness, no hope, not knowing right and wrong, and a lot of unsurity and instability.

JumpingFromConclusions said...

**You must understand that since God is completely righteous, sin cannot be in his prescence, or in otherwords, unrighteousness. Since he is just, he can't let you get a free ride for denying him or else he would be unjust. However, Jesus Christ died for us so that we might be as white as snow, and seen as righteous in God's eyes.**

This argument gets used a lot. There is a gaping hole in it though. Christians still sin. Even the best of 'em still sin. So why will they be in God's presence? They aren't made "white as snow," which is evidenced by the fact that they still sin. So to allow them into heaven means God must make exceptions to his "no sin in heaven" deal or he must make some people sinless after death but not others. Either way, that is unjust.

live-n-grace said...

JumpingFromConclusions:

Of course christians still sin. But because of accepting Jesus Christ in our life, and believing in what he did on the cross, his death took away ALL of our sins, and those to come. This in that BY Christs blood we are made as white as snow. But does this mean we keep on sinning? By no means! Sin seperates us from God, and this becomes apparent when you have the spirit. Plus by having the spirit, you can tell what is sin and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. That's why if I lie, I fell terrible afterwards, because I know that it is wrong.

But that is where Christianity is different then other religions. In that in order to be saved, the only thing you have to do is accept Christ in your life. No certain ceremonies, no places to visit, no certain amount of money to give, no missions or "works that need to be done, but only faith in Jesus Christ.

JumpingFromConclusions said...

**Of course christians still sin. . . . But does this mean we keep on sinning? By no means!**

I really don't understand this. You say Christians still sin, but then later say that you don't keep on sinning.

Either sin cannot be in the presence of God, or it can be. If you say it cannot be, then Christians should prepare for a much less comforting post-death presence than the heaven they envision. If sin can be in God's presence and sin is a black-and-white issue, then why do some sinners get total happiness while others get total pain?

**Plus by having the spirit, you can tell what is sin and what is not, what is right and what is wrong.**

We have consciences that can tell us what we believe to be right and wrong. For instance, I think killing babies for the sins of their ancestors is wrong. Period. In isolated (biblical) incidents, many Christians disagree with me on this. I really don't think it is a spirit telling Christians that. I think they trust their idea of God so much that they will defend anything they think he did, commanded, or endorsed. I think Christian's judgment of man's sin is just as human. I think it is more that Christians use their interpretation of their sacred text and their consciences to determine what is right and what is wrong. Also, it's not as if nonbelievers don't know when they have done something wrong or hurtful. In fact, I've seen many nonbelievers give sincere apologies for different things online. Feeling guilty is a human thing.

**That's why if I lie, I fell terrible afterwards, because I know that it is wrong.**

Well, I think Revelation 21:8 probably also has a lot to do with you feeling bad when you lie. Trust me, even nine months ago, I was terrified to lie because there's a bible verse that says all liars go to hell (and remember, it says all liars, not all unrepentant liars; there's a whole other clause in that verse for nonbelievers). I really feared lying, even little white lies. So I think fear of hell and normal guilt work together to make you feel bad about lying.

**But that is where Christianity is different then other religions.**

Since it's different, does that make it true? Every religion has unique traits, including pretty much every Christians' personal version of Christianity. Truth does not necessarily follow from uniqueness.

**In that in order to be saved, the only thing you have to do is accept Christ in your life.**

Which Christ? Do you mean the peaceful interpretation of Jesus, the nonpeaceful interpretation of Jesus, the pro-family Jesus, the anti-family Jesus, the works-salvation Jesus, or the faith-salvation Jesus? How do you accept Jesus into your heart, even biblically? Also, Christ's disciples are supposed to stand out by their love. But nonbelievers also can do great things out of love, so does that make some of them the true followers of Jesus? Have they unknowingly accepted Christ into their hearts while others who believe have unknowingly rejected him?

JumpingFromConclusions said...

Sorry I've gone a little wayward here, but I guess "debate on the existence of the Christian God" is a pretty wide topic.

Anyway John, I thought you had a very good and concise post about why you don't think the Christian God exists.

live-n-grace said...

Jumpingfromconclusions:

Jesus died for all of our sins so that we could be seen as clean before God. People would see this as: "If I except Christ, then I can sin all I want." That is why I said that you should not continue to sin. We are human so we still do sin, but once you except Jesus, the last thing you want to do is sin.

"Feeling guilty is a human thing." Yes as long as you still have a conscience. I think you've forgotten of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

I ask you once again to read my post after I wrote that Christianity is different then other religions. Try and see which one is man-made.

Um, where are you getting your views of Christ? It most certainly isn't from the bible, unless you are just picking and choosing without actually reading.

How do you unknowingly accept Jesus into your heart? What are you talking about? The Christian faith is SO simple.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him will not perish but have eternal life." You either accept Jesus or you don't, it's that simple.

exapologist said...

Hi Prup!

Just caught your comment. Thanks for pointing out my blunder. That was a really sloppy piece of reasoning on my part! (Note to self: don't comment when having a bad day).

I do think a decent argument is lurking in the neihgborhood, though, one involving premises about the nature of love, human flourishing, and a plausible construal of justice as fundamentally *restorative* -- and not retributive -- in character. But the details for such an argument are for another occassion...

Thanks again!

EA

JumpingFromConclusions said...

**We are human so we still do sin, but once you except Jesus, the last thing you want to do is sin.**

People don't (or shouldn't) want to harm others, regardless of religion. Sometimes, religion adds some extra incentive, guilt, and fear which can make people not want to sin. But do you really think all nonbelievers want to do harm?

**I think you've forgotten of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.**

I have not forgotten the story about the Garden of Eden and its consequences. I was still a Christian less than six months ago; it's not as if I do not understand Christian concepts.

**I ask you once again to read my post after I wrote that Christianity is different then other religions. Try and see which one is man-made.**

I went back and re-read it. One quote from it is "in order to be saved, the only thing you have to do is accept Christ in your life." I think this points more to Christianity being manmade than anything else. All you have to do is have faith-- how convenient! I don't understand why a god would pick "faith" as the one attribute of a person that separates the "saved" from the "damned." Especially when there is so much evidence against what we are supposed to have faith in.

**Um, where are you getting your views of Christ? It most certainly isn't from the bible, unless you are just picking and choosing without actually reading.**

1) If the Bible is inerrant (as I believe you have claimed it is), then all those picking-and-choosing parts are true in and of themselves.

2) These aren't my views of Jesus-- they are differing Christian views of Jesus. Where do they get their views? The Bible. I didn't even give my main view of Jesus in my post (apocalyptic prophet).

3) As far as picking and choosing, you have to pick and choose out of the Bible or you will not come out with a clear-cut theology. Different people pick different "trump" verses, and that is why there are so many denominations of Christianity.

**How do you unknowingly accept Jesus into your heart? What are you talking about? The Christian faith is SO simple.**

How do you accept Jesus into your heart at all? Please provide biblical references. And again, the Christian faith is obviously not simple, or all Christians would be in agreement as to what it is, and nonbelievers would at least understand how it makes sense.

**You either accept Jesus or you don't, it's that simple.**

Again, how do you accept Jesus? Will this get the same answer I've gotten whenever I've asked Chrisitians what a personal relationship with Jesus is? I've never gotten a straight answer to that one, either. I have tried to accept Jesus, and I have even tried to have a personal relationship with him. Apparently it didn't work.

Michael Ejercito said...


Similarly, any god that would eternally separate me from my loved ones -- even if he were to save me -- isn't a god that any ethical or reasonable person would follow. A heaven like that is a hell for ethical people. It's only a heaven for people who are capable of chucking their ethics to save their own asses.

The believers are welcome to their life of eternally praising their celestial mob boss; I'll side with the ethical people.

And then you will burn in Hell forever .

Not a smart choice.