Blogging inspiration hasn’t struck me that often over the last few months, so I’ve been sticking to blog discussions here and there. Lately, however, I’ve been coming across a theistic error so glaring, it cries for comment. The curious thing about this error is that it’s being committed by some of the more prominent religious apologists, highly educated theologians you’d least expect to make such an elementary logical blunder – apologists like Oxford University professor John Lennox
and Timothy Keller, author of the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God.
In a nutshell, the error these theists make is to take general philosophical god arguments (e.g., the cosmological argument or the argument from design) and cite them as grounds for the existence of their particular god. Finely-tuned universe, ergo Jesus. But whether through myopia or intentional smoke-and-mirrors sophistry, what these apologists fail to acknowledge is that the philosophical god arguments apply just as well to other gods that people both believe and don’t believe in. Apologists for Islam make the same arguments for why you should believe in Allah. So do Hindus. As well as the believers of thousands of other religions. What’s more, the arguments are wholly compatible not just with theism, but with deism and polytheism! One god, for example, may have been responsible for creating the universe, while another for life on our little spec in it.
So, even if the arguments are persuasive, they don’t get you to Jesus, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Thor, or Brahman, or Mazda, or Zeus. At best, they get you only to…something. You may call it Aristotle’s “prime mover”, and it could be any one of the aforementioned gods, or none of them. Until it (or they) actually shows up and demonstrates its existence conclusively and exclusively (meaning, there can be no mistaking it with the billion other imagined deities out there people have worshipped), these arguments are for all intents and purposes useless to the believer. They need to succeed not just on the merits of the god arguments, which I don’t believe they do, but also prove those arguments apply only to their god(s), and no others, which is something they don’t even attempt.