The Faith of Atheism Lacks the Ability to Account for the Laws of Logic
By Mike Robinson
Many atheists and skeptics declare that Christianity is opposed to reason. They tell us that faith is unreasonable—simply an illusionary, subjective experience. Freud asserted that people of faith are fearful of reason when it scrutinizes religion. He said, “Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible kind of insincerity and intellectual misdemeanor.” I do not doubt that some believers in every generation have been insecure and dishonest about the claims of their religion. But when I have spoken with skeptics, scoffers, atheists, and agnostics, I have found some of them (as well as some Christians too) dissembling and guilty of epistemic felonies, high crimes, and principal offenses. These intellectual outlaws not only despise the scrutiny of reason and revelation, but generally throw mere bombast and then take off as they run when the heat of truth is brought to bear on their worldview. In hundreds of conversations with anti-theists, some would not discuss the truth of worldviews for longer than two minutes. They become quite uncomfortable and want to flee as quickly as possible. Not only do some atheists despise reasoning, they cannot even make reason reasonable. They evidently can be reasonable, but they cannot tell us where reason comes from or why one should be reasonable.
Selected atheists, when asked why reason is useful, will say, “It just is—it helps with our evolutionary survival.” Accordingly, this sort of atheist rests on sightless faith. In like manner, the atheist can count, but he “cannot account for his counting.” He cannot tell you where mathematical verities come from; in his view, they just are. There are a great many other things in life that the skeptic takes for granted and cannot justify. He cannot account for his enduring personhood (see post Here), motion, mathematical absolutes, objective morality, or the laws of logic (also known as the laws of truth or the laws of reason). Non-theists are short of ultimate answers for actuality. Unbelievers live in a world that they cannot explain.
Jesus: The Logos and Source of Logic
In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God (John 1:1).
Christians are not to be fearful of reason or the laws of logic. The apologist R. C. Sproul correctly asserted that “The Christian faith affirms logic not as a law above God but as an aspect built into the Creation which flows from His own character.” Jesus is the great logos, and logic is an element of His being and nature. Christians are ones who can account for reason; reason comes from the nature of God. The true and living God is the God of reason. Reason cannot be held over His head, but is a reflection of His nature, and we must embrace it in submission to His revelation. Christians should base their worldview on God’s word and His character. The laws of reason have no physical content. The abstract application of reason also has no material content. The laws of reason are essential and a truth condition for any intelligent communication; besides they were not invented by philosophers, but discovered. The laws of reason are the foundational instrument necessary for all discourse, debate, science, mathematics, and learning. Without using logic, one could not deny that logic is mandatory for communication. The antecedent truth condition for the laws of logic is God. Without the sovereign, immaterial, transcendent, logical, and universal God, one could not justify or account for transcendent, immaterial, universal, and abstract laws of truth. God is the precondition for the laws of truth. These laws are an unchanging necessity for knowledge, discourse, and argument.
In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
One cannot trip over the laws of truth or pick them up on sale at Wal-Mart. The exacting materialistic atheist cannot give an ultimate grounding or an absolute foundation for the absolute laws of truth (LOI: A=A & LNC: A~~A). These norms are universal and they transcend the material world. Yet there can be nothing transcendent or universal in the strict materialistic atheist worldview; this form of atheism is rationally untenable on its own grounds. An atheist cannot argue against Christianity without assuming Christian truth since he depends on the LNC to assert his claims. Christianity provides the necessary a priori truth conditions for rational thought and the LNC.
O’Connor asserts, within his rational pre-assumptions, there is the strong possibility that “The core metaphysical feature of freedom is being the ultimate source, or originator, of one’s choices, and that being able to do otherwise is for us closely connected to this feature . . . . Only by there being less than deterministic connections between external influences and choices . . . is it possible for me to be an ultimate source of my activity, concerning which I may truly say ‘The buck stops here’” (p. 121). Moreover he adds: If God is not a necessary being, if He might not have existed, then it is possible that there is a being which neither owes its existence to Him nor derives power from Him. From this it follows that, possibly, there is a being over which God has no causal control. But if this last is so, then whether our world, the actual world, contains such a being (or indeed, an arbitrary plurality of such beings) is an entirely contingent fact, and more particularly, one whose obtaining God has not controlled. And this would seem to call into question God’s sovereignty on even a hazy, untheoretical grasp of this notion, let alone strict omnipotence.”
The ancient Greek architects held to three standards for building a right building: Firmitas, utilitas, and venustas; namely, firmness, usefulness, and beauty. God is the foundation on which we should build a firm, useful, and beautiful worldview. In the knowledge enterprise, Christianity can give us these three traits and more. It provides the foundation by which to justify and utilize all elements of the physical, the abstract, and the spiritual. We might ask: What are the obligatory preconditions for the intelligibility of mankind’s experience? What has to be true to make sense out of our world, our experience, and all the various dynamics we take for granted in our day-to-day life? What can provide an ultimate explanation for truths men hold as essential? Christianity is the answer; and even more overwhelming: Christianity can account for the ability to ask the questions as well as vindicate and answer them.
In one approach, even the denial of God presupposes that God lives. Without presupposing the God of the Bible, in principle, one cannot rationally explain an assertion concerning anything inasmuch as God alone has the capacity to be the ultimate explanation for the laws of reason which are intrinsically concomitant with everything (omnipresent). Remember Van Til’s illustration mentioned earlier that the atheist is like the little child on her father’s lap who slaps him in the face. In order for her to slap her father, she must sit on his lap. And the atheist, as he attempts to refute the existence of God, rests on the presupposition of theism since theism accounts for the immutable laws of reason; atheism cannot. Sure, often in an unconscious way, God is the atheist’s presupposition inasmuch as he uses the laws of reason to attempt to slap the Lord; yet as an atheist he cannot account for these rational norms. When he attacks God using logical thought and reason, he unwittingly borrows from the Christian worldview, which single-handedly can account for reason. So in a remarkable way anti-theism presupposes theism. The strict materialistic atheist tries to prove that only the material mutable world is there, all the while using non-material immutable logic; he lacks an ultimate criterion that has the necessary explanatory power.
- Reason: Rational capacity, and the ability and proclivity to follow the same in a logical manner. To reason or to use one’s reasons in an orderly manner. The concept of reason is closely related to the concepts of language and logic, as reflected in the multiple meanings of the Greek word “logos”, the root of logic, which translated into Latin became “ratio” and then in French “raison”, from which the English word “reason” was derived. In contrast to reason more generally, language refers not to the thinking as such, but to the communication or potential communication of rational thoughts. Reason: (1) The ability to understand and explain cogently, based on evidence and according to logical principles; (2) the ability to treat others fairly and decently, unless one is harmed by them. A. This is a fundamental human capacity, and based on the capacity to represent things symbolically. A cogent explanation is one that is based on true or probable premises and deductively entails what it explains. Science is based on reason, and the test that something is a real science is that it has produced a real technology that works independent of belief in or understanding of the science that produced it. There are three basic kinds of reasoning, where reasoning involves argumentation of any kind using assumptions and inferences of conclusions:
i. Deductions: To find conclusions that follow from given assumptions
ii. Abductions: To find assumptions from which given conclusions follows
iii. Inductions: To confirm or infirm assumptions by showing their conclusions do (not) conform to the observable facts. Normally in reasoning all three kinds are involved: We explain supposed facts by abductions; we check the abduced assumptions by deductions of the facts they were to explain; and we test the assumptions arrived by deducing consequences and then revising by inductions the probabilities of the assumptions by probabilistic reasoning when these consequences are verified or falsified. B. The term “reason” is used in another sense, that is more related to morals and ethics than to science. In this sense, one is reasonable if one treats others fairly, does not harm them unless attacked, does not deceive them without provocation, and in general behaves towards them according to some schema of values that chart what it is to be virtuous (www.PhilosophicalDicitonary.com).
- Sigmund Freud: The Future of an Illusion.
- R.C. Sproul: Reason to Believe.
- The Laws of Logic: Laws of thought and reason that are immaterial, aspatial, atemporal, universal, obligatory, necessary, immutable, and absolute. Some academics identify them as the laws of thought, the laws of truth, or the laws of reason. Various scholars strongly prefer to name them the laws of logic because they are independent of human minds and are ubiquitous throughout all experience. All rational thinking (and communication) presupposes and uses the laws of logic. The Law of Identity (LOI) is A=A. The most well-known law is the Law of Non-contradiction (LNC): A cannot be A and Non-A at the same time in the same way (A~~A). A man cannot be his own father. The laws of logic “are basic principles of reasoning” (Frame: CVT). The laws of logic reflect the nature and mind of the God of the Bible; thus, they have ontological grounding—that is, they are grounded in the very nature of truth itself and cannot be reduced to human convention, opinion or psychology. Without these laws, knowledge and rational thinking are impossible. To deny the laws of logic, one must use these laws in one’s attempt to deny them. Those who deny the laws of logic are participating in a self-defeating endeavor. The Law of Non-contradiction (LNC), the Principle of Contradiction (or the Law of Contradiction) is perpetually necessary and in the words of Aristotle: “One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.”
- Timothy O’ Connor: Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency.
see my New apologetics eBook Reality and the Folly of Atheism HERE