Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, March 19, 2007

Apologetics in Action

Visiting with the Secular Humanists Pt. 2

Here is Sye TenBruggencate's, curator of the Proof the God Exists website, third and fourth report about his visit with the secular humanists. The first two can be read here.

The reports have only been slightly edited for format purposes and to protect the "innocent."

Report #3

My 3rd meeting with the humanists was rather uneventful. It was nice for me though, as Johan (the pastor from my church) joined me at that meeting.

The scheduled speaker was sick so instead they showed the video "Can Man Be Good Without God," another CBC documentary. During the question period, most of the responses to the video by the humanists were straw-man arguments about all the bad things that religions and religious people have done. They asked me what I thought about that and I said "It has nothing to do with me, my question is: what IS goodness without God?"

Again there were more straw-man arguments, but no one answered my question. At the end, the head of the humanists did say that their '12 principles' were a foundation for goodness. I said that anyone could come up with 12 principles and that theirs were totally arbitrary. The fellow joked that theirs were the right ones.

Johan also participated in the general discussion and in some side discussions. The girlfriend of the 'agnostic' fellow attended this meeting. She is from a Russian background and commented that being good out of fear of going to hell was not a good reason for being good. I responded to her that that was not why I tried to be good. I said that I was a sinner and that Christ paid for my sins on the cross, so I try to be good out of thankfulness for what was done for me. My statement was met with the usual 'I'm not a sinner' mumblings, but it was nice to be able to say that in front of that group. All in all the meeting was rather mild, so I did not think that I would be writing any more updates as the group seemed to be calming down and getting used to my presence. I was wrong.

Report #4

What a difference a month makes. Wow. This month the topic was "Superstition and Enthusiasm in Hume's Account of Religion." There were about 25 in attendance. The speaker was late so I jokingly offered to take his place. One of the managers of the group, who was sitting beside me, said that he did not bring any tomatoes or eggs. I said that they would also have to rot first. That's about where the joviality stopped though.

The speaker finally did arrive and spent much of his time speaking about how Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), discounted the 'superstitious' (i.e.Roman Catholicsim), and 'enthusiastic' (i.e. Reformed Protestant) religions in favour of a scientific approach to the psychology of religion.

Now, I have not studied a lot of Hume, but I did know that he had difficulty reconciling science and the inductive principle. When it was my turn to ask a question, I pressed the speaker on this. I tried to lay the question out in such a way that the majority of the group could understand it. I said that Hume discounted religion in favour of science, but that all of science is based on induction, or 'the uniformity of nature,' and could not be done if the future were not like the past. I asked how Hume as an empiricist (all of knowledge is based on our sense experiences) could see into an unknown future and make predictions based on the past, or in other words, what did Hume think of the inductive principle. To my surprise the speaker said that Hume thought induction was irrational. I replied: "And therefore the science which he based all his findings on was also irrational', to which he replied (to my amazement): 'Yes.' He tried to ease the impact of that statement by showing that Hume relied on human nature in order to make sense out of inductive reasoning, but the point was already well made.

Next a fellow remarked that his sister always said that he was going to Hell whenever he visited her and wanted to know what he could say to her to shake her of her beliefs. The 'scientist' from the other meetings (who was moderating the questions) said that he believed that these irrational beliefs were hard wired, and that there was no sense trying to reason logically with such a person.

I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing. Needless to say, I was the only one. The scientist said that he felt insulted, so I apologized for laughing and said that it was in response to his claim that one couldn't use logic with Christians, when all of my questions were based in logic. He suggested that I not come to the next meeting. I said that I certainly did not want to be where I was not welcome, and said that if he'd like to take a vote, I'd be glad to adhere to the outcome. At that point one of the other elderly gentleman said "I vote that he stays." They did not take a vote, and there were a few more questions after that, but there was definitely a buzz in the air. Right after the meeting an elderly lady approached me and said that she felt that the 'scientist' was being rude, and she hoped that I would come to the next meeting.

I approached the speaker after the meeting, thanked him for his talk, and gave him the card for my website. I said that many Christian apologists (defenders of the faith) use Hume's difficulty with induction in their arguments for the truth of the Christian faith. He replied that he indeed knew of people throughout history who came to faith after reading Hume. I said : "I hope you're one of them."

On my way out, the head of the humanist group, also an elderly man, asked why I attend their meetings. I said: "I see a room full of lost souls." It certainly was not my intention to get this sort of reaction, but my statement infuriated him. He said that my faith was nothing more than superstition and was not at all logical. I asked him how he accounted for the laws of logic in his worldview.

He replied, "They were part of the human evolutionary process."

I said, "So the sun could have been both the sun and not the sun at the same time and in the same way before humans invented the law of non-contradiction?"

Then he said that there were many things we did not know about the universe and its origins.

I said "So you accept them on faith."

This served only to enrage him further. He said, "I don't know what you are talking about."

I again asked him how he accounted for the laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction, that my car could not both be in the parking lot and not in the parking lot at the same time and in the same way. He said, "That's just how the world is, we don't know why it is like that." Again I said, "you accept it on faith." That was the final straw, he blasphemed (again) and stormed off.

The man who 'voted' that I stay, came up to me and indicated that he was happy I was there and that he hoped I would come again. He said that he felt that I would have won the vote if one was taken. I seriously would not have minded a vote, even if I lost, for that would have been an interesting thing for 'free thinkers' to have to deal with.

I felt so blessed to have been shown the presuppositional form of argumentation, and honoured to be able to use it in such an educated group and have the power of the gospel shine through. I also thank those of you who have been praying for me in these meetings. Trust me, it's working, I'm not that smart :-)



Blogger John R. said...

Thanks for posting these experiences. Very insightful.

John R.

8:01 AM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger Joanna said...

I was thinking about john lennon's song "imagine" where the lyrics talk about imagine there's no heaven, religion, blah blah blah. and i thought, man, if i didn't have heaven to look forward to and this earth was all there is- i would want to quit life.

1:15 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger Joanna said...

one more thing- this kind of stuff should be what we're teaching kids in school, to think reasonably and logically about faith and religion. I couldnt defend crap until i got to college where, by God's grace a Master's seminary student was teaching a bible class who was a student of greg koukl's. he taught me all about apologetics and resoning with humanists. did you read that article in LA times about the professor who voted we should have a class in public schools solely dedicated to Biblical literature? it's way dope. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-prothero14mar14%2C0%2C6805754.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

1:29 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger Hayden said...


Thanks for the great updates. What an uplifting article!! I definately think this is what we ought to be contending for, the faith. I personally have gotten into too many debates about things that are not important in an eternal sense (i.e. the "raging" debate after the MacArthur semon at Shepherd's. Though I was not there, I have read the blogs and have been left scratching my head) This was a blessing! Thank you brother!

By the way, tell your wife mine says hello and she will be due with our second child anytime soon, Lots happening in our lives.

7:25 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Agatha "chotch-key" Lennon said...

Guess what? they are teaching these things to kids in school. christian schools anyway. so maybe that's not the "they" you ment. ...
I Go to Grace community school and boy did I get taught! I've tacken a logic class, world views, and am taking a church history class (not to brag). They tell us how blessed we are to learn things like this in a classroom enviorment. But how would a student know? just another day in the office until reports like this. It's so cool to understand whats going on!
ps. Some people say >they're all dreamers,
but I'm not the only one >saying it.

10:08 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Joanna said...

i vote we get an apologetic sunday school class at grace church for sunday mornings. that would be way cool...

11:23 AM, March 21, 2007  

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