Episode 4 of my Why Christianity is False podcast was a reply to Wes Widner’s Christian apologetics essay “Coherent, Consistent, Livable.” Wes has now replied to my podcast episode with a rebuttal in five parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
The quickest way for me to do this is point-by-point, so here goes…
Miracles and magic
Wes says I confuse miracles for magic. He gives the following definitions:
- Biblically, miracles are performed by God for the specific purpose of making Him known.
- Magic is mysterious, meaning the observer is not privy as to the origin or purpose, if any, of the event in question.
I have never seen those definitions in any dictionary.
But more importantly, one does not win an argument by moving definitions around. So let’s go back to the context:
- Wes said that naturalism is incoherent because it “[fails] to explain how something can come from nothing.”
- I replied that many things are unexplained, but this isn’t evidence for God, nor evidence against naturalism. The Greeks’ ignorance of lightning was not evidence for Zeus. As I put it: “When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.’”
- Wes said that I confused was confusing “magic” with “miracle.”
You’ll notice that point 3 says nothing about the debate happening in points 1 and 2. But let’s consider it as an aside.
The way I use the term magic is not its only use, of course, but it is a very common one: the control of natural events by supernatural means, supernatural power over natural forces, the use of special powers to do what would normally be impossible, special power that can make supposedly impossible things happen, the power to make things happen by supernatural means, supernatural control of physical forces, any art that invokes supernatural powers, that which produce effects through supernatural beings.
Assuming we aren’t talking about a stage magician, I suspect this is what most people mean by “magic.” And on this usage, Wes’ concept of miracle is merely a subtype of magic.
B Theory of Time
Next, Wes writes:
I know Luke has an affinity for the B theory of time which is the view that past, present, and future are merely illusions, but it seems to me that condemning a worldview for being incoherent based on premises that it does not ascribe to is intellectually dishonest.
Huh? Wes seems to be saying that I claimed Christianity was incoherent because it is incompatible with the B Theory of Time, which (his version of) Christianity does not adhere to. But I said no such thing. Nothing in the arguments against Christianity in my article mention or assume the truth of the B Theory of time. Who is being intellectually dishonest, now?
Christianity and Science
Next, Wes writes:
It was also the uniquely Christian belief in a logical and consistent creator which gave the founders of the modern science, like Newton and Bacon the idea that they could observe natural phenomenon and discover how the world works. If they had held to a view of magic, that contingent entities could spontaneously pop into existence uncaused out of nothing, then it is doubtful they, or anyone with a similar view, would have ever thought it wise to examine the world around them for regular and repeatable patterns.
Naturalism and the Cause of the Universe
Next, Wes writes:
Per naturalism, the universe, which we know is contingent and therefore had a cause, came into existence without any cause and from nothing.
What? The universe is contingent and therefore came into being from nothing per naturalism??? “Per” means “according to.” The above statement is just false.
Methinks somebody has been getting most of their education about naturalism from William Lane Craig rather than from, uh, naturalists.
Wes’ response to me is so confused and amateurish that I have no motivation to continue replying to it. Let me conclude by juxtaposing a quote from my article with the conclusion of Wes’ “rebuttal”:
When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.’
…here is specifically what I’ll need to have in order to seriously question my beliefs
- I need a good explanation of how the world came to exist
- I need to know how I, a cognitive being, came to exist in this world
- I need to know why I should trust my epistemic faculties, including my mind, to provide me with true information
- I need a good accounting of things I hold to be intrinsically to be true, like altruism and self-sacrifice
- I need to know why I or anything I do matters, especially in view of our universe’s impending heat-death
Talk about missing the point!