A Few Really Bad Defenses of Theism

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"A flabby mind is no badge of spiritual honor." ~David Hazard

Many circles in Christianity have been accused of anti-intellectualism. In many cases, rightly so. There is often an intellectual laziness that affects the minds of some Christians. In terms of defending the faith, it most often shows itself as an underlying assumption that any argument that concludes God exists or that Christianity is true must be sound. This results in nothing but embarrassment for those genuinely seeking to carefully evaluate or defend their faith.

In this post I hope to cover a few truly terrible defenses of theism, in the hopes that readers will both see the errors in the arguments and avoid such arguments. Like terrible objections to theism, they only serve to obstruct meaningful dialogue. In a later post I hope to outline why it is so important for Christians to think carefully and defend the faith in an intellectually responsible and gentle way.

Defense #1: The Bible says x is true.  Therefore, x is true.

Now, in a discussion where everyone believes the Bible is in fact inerrant, there is no problem in using this line of reasoning. But as used in an argument with a skeptic, it is a travesty of an argument. Whether the Bible is or is not true is one of the very things that's on the table.

The skeptic does not believe the Bible is true. If the skeptic is right, there are innumerable inconsistencies, moral travesties, and historical inaccuracies throughout the Bible. To use the Bible as the baseline of an argument with a skeptic is to fail to understand the skeptic's position.

Clearly, one must first defend that the Bible is true.1

Defense #2: The dubious Anecdote

This deserves a post in itself. There have been numerous stories over the years purporting to somehow give evidence or argument for God's existence, the truth of the Bible, etc. They are, at best, unconfirmed, and most have definitely been proven false. Here are just two out of many.

1. Einstein in boarding school. The story goes that a teacher at a German boarding school states to the class that God cannot exist because of the existence of evil. A student explains to the teacher that evil does not exist, per se - it is simply a lack of Good (i.e., God's presence), in the same way that cold is simply a lack of heat (and dark is a lack of light). The student was, of course, Einstein. Except for the fact that there isn't the slightest shred of evidence this story is actually true. Firstly, the story began circulating before Einstein's name was inserted. Secondly, Einstein's views on religion were clearly agnostic. Thirdly, the actual defense given in the story is at best a simplistic version of Augustine's theodicy2 on this issue. "Einstein believed in God" would not be a good argument for the existence of God, even if it was true.

2. The Missing Day of Joshua. I heard this one when I was a child. The story goes that some scientists at NASA were running "tests" with their computers, and found that there was a "missing" day in the past. Turns out it was the day God halted the sun and moon in Joshua 10.

This story has been circulating for decades. It really gained traction when Harold Hill, who claimed to be a consultant for NASA (and wasn't), began telling the story and even included it in a book.3

If you'd like to read more about these painful anecdotes, check out snopes.com.

Defense #3:God of the Gaps

This is normally associated with issues of Intelligent Design and Creationism, where this is some shortcoming in current evolutionary or cosmological theory, and God is inserted as the explanation.  Similar arguments have been extended to other areas as well, not simply the debate of origins.

The arguments all boil down to, "We don't know how x, therefore the explanation must be God." However, in many cases a scientific or logical explanation for x has been found some time later. In this sense God was filling in a gap, and the gap was then closed. These arguments suffer from an appeal to ignorance.

The difference between God of the Gaps arguments and the classical arguments for the existence of God is that the classical arguments show a logical necessity for God's existence; they set out to prove God must exist. In the case of the God of the Gaps arguments, there is only some limit in our current understanding that is used to point towards God's existence. There is no definite proof, as there is with the classical arguments.


1. This is something that really grates me about many evangelistic tools today. They begin with the assumption that the person who is being evangelized believes the Bible is, on the whole, trustworthy. Such a strategy may have worked most of the time back in the 60's, but it does not fly today
2. A theodicy is a counterargument used to resolve an alleged discrepancy or contradiction in our idea of God's character. In this context, the fictional boy is defending God against the charge that a good God is not compatible with the existence of evil.
3. Hill, Harold. How to Live Like a King's Kid. Bridge Publishing, 1974.
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1 comment :

  1. Good post Steve. I think argument #1 is a circular argument/circular reasoning that sometimes people develop:

    "Why do you believe in God?"
    "Because the Bible says He exists"
    "Okay...so why do you believe what the Bible says?"
    "Because God says the Bible is true."

    And you get the point. It is better to outline the evidences for God first, then outline the evidence for the God of the Bible...keeping in mind that the ultimately the Holy Spirit is the one that moves the hearts of men.