Napoleon’s Waterloo

From Creation Evolution Headlines’ Can Unbelievers Really Be Happy? – Commentary

(This is a follow-up to a previous article, Can Unbelievers Really Be Happy?)

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Psychologist: Congratulations. You’re cured!

Patient: Some cure. I used to be Napoleon. Now I’m nobody.

What was the most caring thing to do for the patient? It was to tell him the truth. People can get very comfortable in their delusions. They can feel satisfied, contented, and happy by believing wrong things, like thinking that they are Napoleon. Letting someone continue in a delusion is actually the most uncaring thing to do. Sometimes the bad news must come first. Better for the doctor to say “You have cancer” than hide it from the patient, if it can be followed by, “but we can remove it.” The Bible gives bad news first, “We are lost in sin” before the good news, “We can be saved.” Our challenge is to help the unbeliever to understand that the worldview of ‘uncreatedness’ is a delusion. Then, and only then, can we have a conversation about how to cope with what appears to be a cold, uncaring world.

It won’t take long, because the delusion can be unmasked quickly. So let’s think. Notice that all 13 of the coping mechanisms in the list use language. Language is supernatural. How’s that? It is not made of particles and forces. It is the product of a mind. Every unbeliever who appeals to any of the 13 coping statements is creating concepts (or repeating concepts of other persons) from his or her mind. The concepts did not evolve by unguided natural processes, nor did they arise from natural laws: if they had, they would be meaningless, as inevitable products of impersonal forces. No; the statements are all created ideas from persons with minds. They convey concepts with semantic meanings, arising from thoughts. Thoughts are beyond nature, or above nature – they are, therefore, super-natural (above or beyond nature). C.S. Lewis emphasized this point.

The Naturalists have been engaged in thinking about Nature. They have not attended to the fact that they were thinking. The moment one attends to this it is obvious that one’s own thinking cannot be merely a natural event, and that therefore something other than Nature exists. The Supernatural is not remote and abstruse: it is a matter of daily and hourly experience, as intimate as breathing. — C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Language may utilize physical things, like keyboards, the voice, or paper and ink, but language itself is conceptual, not physical. Think of a TV screen. The message of the movie or documentary or news program is not derived from the physical pixels and electronics; it is orthogonal to it. It comes out perpendicular to the screen from the mind of the producer to the mind of the receiver. Technology uses physical media to represent in symbols the concepts the minds intentionally want to convey. In this way, intelligent design drives the physical, not the other way around.

In a similar way, the laws of logic are supernatural. Anyone using logic in their arguments is inherently appealing to supernatural concepts to make a point. That applies to anyone seeking to amass evidence in order to prove a conclusion of science as well. One cannot “believe in science” or “trust the scientific method” without affirming the supernatural.

Implications

One consequence of this argument is that unbelievers don’t exist. Everybody believes in the supernatural and miracles. They prove it by using language. And what more preposterous miracle can anyone come up with than to think that ‘nothing’ exploded a long time ago, and became ‘everything’ — including their own mind? So let us all disabuse ourselves of the myth of the unbeliever. We are all believers. The question becomes, which among us has the most coherent set of beliefs? Some believers may prefer not to fellowship with other believers in church, but to think that anyone is really an atheist or agnostic or a ‘none’ (no matter what they may call themselves) is mistaken. Here we are, trying to figure out whether unbelievers or believers have the best answers to the ultimate questions, all the while deceiving ourselves with the irrational premise that unbelievers exist! That’s kind of funny. It’s like falling for the idea that the patient really was Napoleon all along.

The well-equipped defender of the faith must understand the fallacy of self-refutation, to avoid being tripped up by logical-sounding arguments. In his lectures and in his recent book Scientism and Secularism (Crossway, 2018), philosopher of science Dr J.P. Moreland has elaborated on the fallacy, warning that any self-refuting statement is necessarily false. Examples he uses include, “I cannot speak a word of English” (spoken in English), or, “This sentence is false.” Such a statement is obviously irrational, because it refutes itself. It was never true. it will never be true. No amount of further research will make it true. It will never evolve to be true. It is irrational on its face, and must be rejected. Anyone making such an assertion, furthermore, proves himself to be irrational. The statement is self-refuting.

Once the fallacy of self-refutation is understood, and interlocutors know it must be avoided, the case can be made that unbelief is self-refuting. Did the irrational give rise to rationality? Did the impersonal give rise to personhood? Did meaninglessness give rise to semantics? Evolutionists respond that these are all emergent properties from the mutations and natural selection. But that is self-refuting; if that were the case, one could never know that anything he says is true. Natural selection (if it did anything other than say “Stuff Happens“) would only work toward survival, not rationality.

Lost in Irrationality

This means that anything an atheist says to argue for evolution is self-refuting, because his body and brain, being products of unguided physical forces, are merely acting out strategies that natural selection hit upon for survival. He cannot mean that evolution is true, because according to his own beliefs, he is a marionette of his selfish genes that want to use him to propagate themselves. Any vocalizations he makes to confirm evolution are no different in quality than monkey screeches trying to chase off a rival. In my interactions with atheists and evolutionists, I have never found one who understands this problem. It’s a sad commentary on how evolution generates delusional thinking, like the patient who thinks he’s Napoleon. Consider what he is saying: “I am the product of irrational, impersonal physical causes, but what I am telling you is really true!” This is sad to watch.

I’ve had atheists blow me off with the retort, “That’s just presuppositionalist nonsense.” But even that response is inconsistent, because their own worldview claims to praise logic and rationality, and yet they run away from those things when confronted with it. They make our point, playing tricks with sidestepping, name-calling and bluffing, as if they are acting out evolutionary strategies to defeat a rival. Let them explain how they derive rationality from the first principles of evolution. If they say that consistency is unimportant, then that is irrational, too, because without consistent arguments, you can prove anything, therefore nothing. These are not “presuppositionalist” arguments, whatever is meant by the term, but principles of logic.

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If you always remember that the fundamental core of humanism isn’t Reason, but Power, then you won’t get easily fooled by Our Betters.

Reason is just a useful tool, to use in opposition to Christian supernaturalism. But the problem is, reason (like language, described in the article above) is a supernatural phenomenon.

As the enemies of God grow more consistent — “The Will of (certain) Men Define Reality!” — their control of the high ground of Reason slips away, forcing them back to their one sure fortress, Power.

It seems ironic to advocate “belief in science” when science is about demonstration, not belief. Does Livio mean to imply that belief in science means acquiescence to the scientific consensus at a given time? If the evidence of empirical research contradicts the consensus, would he advocate for denying the evidence to keep the consensus secure? Or alternatively, if he were to exercise the “intellectual freedom” he praises in Galileo, by critiquing a flawed consensus, would that not make him a science denier himself?

Zombie History — Using Galileo to Whack Intelligent Design

“Believe Science!” is just a claim from authority, “Submit to the Consensus. Or Else.”

  • I will submit to the Consensus when the Consensus is factually correct.
  • When the Consensus if factually incorrect, I will not.

If I have no serious interest in the Priesthood of the Black Cossack, why should I kneel to the politically-vetted, consensus-submissive, establishment-certified Scientist of the White Smock?

Or maybe I should trust the Consensus to determine when the Consensus is true? Like the very best of the Progressively-minded, race-driven, top-tier Ivy League researchers of the pre-1970s Scientific Guild?

No. The Masters don’t get to decide when we should trust the Masters.

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Atheists hate it when we quote Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God,” or refer to Romans 1:22, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” . Well, let them extricate themselves from a self-refuting position first. Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” All other positions are inherently foolish, because they are self-refuting.

Notice that believing evidence is good, logic is good, and the scientific method is good also affirm prior allegiance to a non-evolving, universal morality. “Should” we use the scientific method? Says who, if it is not previously affirmed that it is good to pursue truth? Atheists are sometimes inconsistent, on the one hand asserting that morality is subjective and culturally based, but on the other hand condemning certain beliefs or practices that they think “everybody” knows are immoral. By acting as if universal rights and wrongs exist in all cultures at all times, they reject subjective morality. But if they affirm subjective morality, agreeing that what they think is immoral now could be moral in another culture or time, they refute their own claims that certain things are immoral. It’s a dilemma they cannot get out of without affirming that morality must be universal; it cannot evolve. Morality, then, is supernatural and absolute. We may not always understand the absolutes or follow them consistently, but that is another question.

Anything a self-refuted interlocutor says only makes his case worse. He disputes this argument because he agrees with it! By continuing to argue with reason, he undermines his belief that his mind is a product of unguided natural forces. The late philosopher of science Greg Bahnsen showed that some religious people make the same mistake. He pointed to Hindus who say “All is illusion,” then use rational arguments to defend their religion. Well, if all is illusion, so is the belief that all is illusion! There’s no escape. They say that “You’re using Western concepts that we reject.” Well then, the concept that Western concepts should be rejected is a rational argument which, according to their own premises, is an illusion!

Since skeptics or adherents of non-Biblical religions take advantage of concepts their premises reject, we can even accuse them of plagiarizing the Bible. They cannot derive rationality or morality from their own belief systems; they have to sneak in and steal it from the smorgasbord of Biblical concepts and values. Their hands must be gently slapped, and warned that they are not allowed to use our principles without getting into line and paying the price. It’s like the “Get your own dirt” joke, where God says this to atheists who claim they can make man from the dust of the ground without His help, but then ask Him for some dirt to start with.

Do you see the hopelessness of maintaining unbelief? Only the God of the Bible provides the necessary and sufficient grounds for using rationality at all. A top-down source of rationality, coming from an eternal, transcendent Creator who is personal, rational and good, can satisfy the prerequisites for argumentation or debate about truth. Atheism and pantheism lack those grounds, and are therefore doomed to failure if their adherents wish to use rationality to defend them. To reject rationality is to affirm it. It would be more consistent for an atheist to screech like a monkey than to use reason. It would be more consistent for a Hindu to close his eyes and repeat nonsense mantras than to convince an onlooker that Hinduism is the right path. Unbelievers need to be unmasked, not tolerated in their delusions; that would be most uncompassionate, like leaving the patient in his delusional Napoleonic identity.

From Reason to Compassion

True compassion must be grounded in truth, but truth needs to be a scalpel, not a machete. Not all unbelievers can handle this kind of mental exercise, particularly those who are suffering in a crisis. Hard-hearted skeptics might need a Jesus-vs-the-Pharisees treatment (“Woe to you… hypocrites!”), especially in public confrontations, but most often, in one-on-one interactions, compassionate listening is required to establish empathy and develop a trusting relationship with those lost in their delusions. A preacher said, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” In the majority of cases, therefore, it is sufficient and effective to help bring a person to the knowledge of their true identity: a created person made in the image of God, and then share the good news of the gospel.

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The problem with me is that I am better with a machete than with a scalpel. So, there are certain harvest fields of the Kingdom where I am a liability, not an asset, and should stay out and keep my mouth shut.

Fortunately, there are other work-fields where a machete is useful, where Missionaries of the Ax can get to work.

  • Some of the hard cases are just people who are weary of milk, and are ready for meat. The machete, ax, and chainsaw guys can help them get sharper, stronger, wiser, more effective.
  • Some of the hard cases are people who are just working out their damnation in pride and confidence. Here, we can help prepare the way for the flamethrowers.
    • One way or another, Divine authority will get it’s due. My favourite illustration right now is Exodus 14:16-18, but there are many others, in the Bible and in history.

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Knowing that people really are made in the image of God, we know they have assets within their hearts to which we can appeal. We all come into the world as sinners, but since the Fall, people still deserve respect because of the image of God that remains. It may be corrupted by sin, but we can be assured that there are remnants of rationality and a conscience in every human heart. With that confidence, we can treat one another as having worth due to their createdness. We can speak to their rationality, even if they are irrational, and call it back toward its source. We can speak to their morality, even if they deny Biblical morality, and call it back toward the moral law of the Lawgiver and Judge. We can speak to the conscience, and draw out the sense of guilt from sin. We can fan the flames of their inner sense of human uniqueness and obligation to their Maker.

In the end, it’s all of God, not of us. God can use us as instruments of the Spirit’s work in their hearts. He gets the glory; we get the joy of being used of God. But to a fallen world, we must keep proclaiming what the mighty angel will shout in the midst of judgment,

Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water. (Revelation 14:7)

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