The Great Debate | Greg Bahnsen vs. Gordon Stein: Does God Exist?
Play • 2 hr 11 min

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  1. Introductory Remarks About the Nature of the Debate


  1. Defining Terms


  • The Argument is for Christian Theism


It is necessary at the outset of our debate to define our terms; that is always the case. And in particular here, I shouldmake it clear what I mean when I use the term “God”.


I want to specify that I’m arguing particularly in favor of Christian theism, and for it as a unit or system of thought andnot for anything like theism in general, and there are reasons for that. The various conceptions of deity found in worldreligions are in most cases logically incompatible, leaving no unambiguous sense to general theism – whatever that mightbe.


I have not found the non-Christian religions to be philosophically defensible, each of them being internally incoherentor undermining human reason and experience.


Since I am by the grace of God a Christian, I cannot, from the heart, adequately defend those religious faiths withwhich I disagree. My commitment is to the Triune God and the Christian world view based on God’s revelation in the Oldand New Testaments. So, first I am defending Christian theism.


2.         What the Debate is About


  • We are debating about philosophical systems, not the people who adhere to or profess them


Our concern is with the objective merits of the case which can be made for atheism or Christian theism, not related subjective or personal matters.


The personalities of those individuals who adhere to different systems of thought are not really relevant to the truth or falsity of the claims made by those systems. Atheists and Christians can equally be found emotional, unlearned, intolerantor rude in their approaches.


Subjective claims made about the experience of inner satisfaction or peace – claims that are made in earnest by both Christians and atheists in their literature – and promotional claims made about the superiority of Christianity oratheism.


For instance, some atheist literature suggests that greater mental health comes through the independence of the atheist outlook. These sorts of things are always subject to conflicting interpretations and explanations, being, I think, moreautobiographical, rather than telling us anything for sure about the truth of the system under consideration.


The issue is not whether atheists or professing Christians have ever done anything undesirable or morallyunacceptable.


One need only think respectively of the atheist involvement in the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution, and theprofessing Christian involvement in the Spanish Inquisition.


The question is not whether the adherents to these systems have lived spotless lives, but whether atheism or Christiantheism as philosophical systems are objectively true. And so I’ll be defending Christian theism, and I’ll be defending it as aphilosophical system.


B.       A Concession to Stein’s Area of Expertise


My last introductory remark is something to the effect that I want to concede to my opponent all issues pertaining to The Control of Ovarian Maturation in Japanese Whales, the subject of his doctoral dissertation in 1974 atOhio State.

Dr. Stein is a man of intelligence, and that’s not a question in this debate. I would not pretend to hold my own in a discussion with him in the empirical details of his narrow domain of specialized natural science.


However, our subject tonight is really much different, calling for intelligent reflection upon issues which arephilosophical or theological in character. For some reason, Dr. Stein has, over the last decade, left his field of expertise and given his life to a campaign for atheism. Whatever his perception of the reason for that, I do not believe that it isbecause of any genuinely cogent philosophical case which might be made for atheism as a world view. And it is to this subject that I now turn for tonight’s debate.

C.       Opening Case for the Existence of God


My opening case for the existence of God will cover three areas of thought: the nature of evidence, thepresuppositional conflict of world views, and the transcendental argument for God’s existence


1.         The nature of the evidence


How should the difference of opinion between the theist and the atheist be rationally resolved? What Dr. Stein haswritten indicates that he, like many atheists, has not reflected adequately on this question. He writes, and I quote, “Thequestion of the existence of God is a factual question, and should be answered in the same way as any other factualquestions.”


The assumption that all existence claims are questions about matters of fact, the assumption that all of these areanswered in the very same way is not only over simplified and misleading, it is simply mistaken. The existence, factualityor reality of different kinds of things is not established or disconfirmed in the same way in every case.


We might ask , “Is there a box of crackers in the pantry?” And we know how we would go about answering that question. But that is a far, far cry from the way we go about answering questions determining the reality of say, barometric pressure, quasars, gravitational attraction, elasticity, radio activity, natural laws, names, grammar, numbers, theuniversity itself that you’re now at, past events, categories, future contingencies, laws of thought, political obligations,individual identity over time, causation, memories, dreams, or even love or beauty. In such cases, one does not do anythinglike walk to the pantry and look inside for the crackers. There are thousands of existence or factual questions, and they are not at all answered in the same way in each case.


Just think of the differences in argumentation and the types of evidences used by biologists, grammarians, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, magicians, mechanics, merchants, and artists. It should be obvious from this thatthe types of evidence one looks for in existence or factual claims will be determined by the field of discussion andespecially by the metaphysical nature of the entity mentioned in the claim under question.


Dr. Stein’s remark that the question of the existence of God is answered in the same way as any other factual question,mistakenly reduces the theistic question to the same level as the box of crackers in the pantry, which we will hereafter callthe crackers in the pantry fallacy.


2.         The presuppositional conflict of world views


Dr. Stein has written about the nature of evidence in the theistic debate, and what he has said points to a secondphilosophical error of significant proportions. In passing, we would note how unclear he is, by the way, in speaking of the evidence which must be used, describing it variously as logic, facts, or reason. Each of these terms is susceptible to awhole host of differing senses, not only in philosophy, but especially in ordinary usage, depending on who is using theterms.


I take it he wishes to judge hypotheses in the common sense – by tests of logical coherence and empiricalobservation. The problem arises when Dr. Stein elsewhere insists that every claim that someone makes must be treated as ahypothesis which must be tested by such evidence before accepting it. “There is to be nothing,” he says, “which smacks of begging the question or circular reasoning.”


This, I think, is oversimplified thinking and again misleading, what we might call the Pretended Neutrality fallacy.One can see this by considering the following quotation from Dr. Stein: “The use of logic or reason is the only valid way toexamine the truth or falsity of any statement which claims to be factual.”


One must eventually ask Dr. Stein, then, how he proves this statement itself. That is, how does he prove that logic orreason is the only way to prove factual statements?


He is now on the horns of a real epistemological dilemma. If he says that the statement is true by logic or reason, then he is engaging in circular reasoning; and he’s begging the question which he [supposedly] forbids. If he says that thestatement is proven in some other fashion, then he refutes the statement itself, that logic or reason is the only way to prove things.


Now my point is not to fault Dr. Stein’s commitment to logic or reason, but to observe that it actually has the nature ofa pre commitment or a presupposition. It is not something that he has proven by empirical experience or logic, but it is rather that by which he proceeds to prove everything else. He is not presuppositionally neutral in his approach to factual questions and disputes. He does not avoid begging crucial questions, rather than proving them in what we might callthe garden variety, ordinary way.


Now this tendency to beg crucial questions is openly exposed by Dr. Stein when the issue becomes the existence ofGod; because he demands that the theist present him with the evidence for the existence of God. Well, theists like myselfwould gladly and readily do so. There is the evidence of the created order itself testifying to the wisdom. power, plan, andglory of God. One should not miss the testimony of the solar system, the persuasion of the sea, the amazing intricacies of the human body.


There’s the evidence of history: God’s deliverance of His people, the miracles on Passover night and [at] the RedSea, the visions in Isaiah, the Shekinah Glory that filled the Temple, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, His mighty miracles, Hisresurrection from the dead.


There’s the evidence of Special Revelation, the wonder of the Bible as God’s Word, unsurpassed in its coherenceover time, in its historical accuracy and its life-renewing power.


In short, there is no shortage of empirical indicators or evidences of God’s existence – from the thousand stars of theheavens to the 500 witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. But, Dr. Stein precludes the very possibility of any of this empiricalevidence counting as proof for God’s existence. He writes, ” Supernatural explanations are not allowed in science. The theist is hard put to document his claims for the existence of the supernatural if he is in effect forbidden from evoking the supernatural as a part of his explanation. Of course, this is entirely fair; as it would be begging the question to usewhat has to be proved as a part of the explanation.”


In advance, you see, Dr. Stein is committed to disallowing any theistic interpretation of nature, history or experience.What he seems to overlook is that this is just as much begging the question on his own part as it is on the part of the theist. who appeal to such evidence. He has not at all proven by empirical observation and logic his pre commitment to Naturalism. He has assumed it in advance, accepting and rejecting all further factual claims in terms of that controlling and unproved assumption.


Now the theist does the very same thing, don’t get me wrong. When certain empirical evidences are put forth as likely disproving the existence of God, the theist regiments his commitments in terms of his presuppositions, as well. Justas the Naturalist would insist that Christ could not have risen from the dead, or that there is a natural explanation yet to be found of how he did rise from the dead, so the supernaturalist will insist that the alleged discrepancies in the Biblehave an explanation – some yet to be found, perhaps – and that the


evil of this world has a sufficient reason behind it, known at least to God. They both have their governing presuppositionsby which the facts of experience are interpreted, even as all philosophical systems, all world views do.


At the most fundamental level of everyone’s thinking and beliefs there are primary convictions about reality, man, the world, knowledge, truth, behavior, and such things. Convictions about which all other experience is organized,interpreted, and applied. Dr. Stein has such presuppositions, so do I, and so do all of you. And it is these presuppositions which determine what we accept by ordinary reasoning and evidence, for they are assumed in all of our reasoning – even about reasoning itself.

3.         The Transcendental Proof of God’s Existence


How should the difference of opinion between the atheist and the theist be rationally resolved? That was my openingquestion. We’ve seen two of Dr. Stein’s errors regarding it: the crackers in the pantry fallacy and the pretended neutrality fallacy. In the process of discussing them we’ve observed that belief in the existence of God is not tested in any ordinary way like other factual claims. And the reason for that is metaphysically because of the non-natural character ofGod, and epistemologically, because of the presuppositional character of commitment for or against His existence.


Arguments over conflicting presuppositions between world views, therefore, must be resolved somewhat differently,and yet still rationally, from conflicts over factual existence claims within a world view or system of thought.


When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that withoutHim it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist world view cannot account for our debate tonight.





  1. Introductory Remarks

I will grant Dr. Bahnsen his expertise on A Conditional Resolution of the Apparent Paradox of Self-Deception, which was his dissertation. I don’t know how much more relevant that is to our discussion tonight than mine is, probablynot any more. But I would also like to thank Dr. Bahnsen for showing us that he really doesn’t understand too much about atheism. I will try to straighten him out.


This is an important question we’re discussing. Perhaps it is the most important question in the field of religion,because if God doesn’t exist, then the Bible is not the word of God,


Jesus can’t be the Messiah, and Christianity can’t be true, as well as any other religion. So, we’re dealing with an important issue here.


Now, Dr. Bahnsen repeated for me that the existence of God is a factual question. I don’t think he would disputethat. I think he misinterpreted what I said, when I said we resolve factual questions in the same way. I didn’t meanexactly in the same way; I meant with the use of reason, logic, and evidence. And that is what I am holding.


B.       Definitions


  1. Atheism


Now, first of all, let me make clear what atheism is and is not. I think this has been a very commonlymisunderstood subject. Atheists do not say that they can prove there is no God. Also, an atheist is not someone whodenies there is a God. Rather, an atheist says that he has examined the proofs that are offered by the theists, and findsthem inadequate.


Now, if I were to say that this gentleman sitting in the front steps could fly by flapping his arms, I’d be making a kind of unusual statement. And it would be up to me or him to demonstrate that he can fly. If he can’t demonstrate it, then wedon’t believe that he can fly. Now, if he doesn’t demonstrate it right now, it doesn’t mean that he can’t fly; it just means that he can’t fly right now. So, we do not deny that he can fly because he can’t demonstrate it right now; but you see, he hasnot proven his case. And therefore, we do not believe that he can fly until he proves so.


And this is what the atheist says about the existence of God: He says the case is unproved not disproved. So, anatheist is really someone who is without a belief in God, or he does not believe in a God. It is not someone who denies theexistence of God, or who says that one does not exist, or that he can prove that one does not exist.


2.         God


Well, I think would like to define a god, as well . I’m not so sure I like his definition. I’m not going to stick to just theChristian God, I’m going to stick to all kinds of gods. I’m going to use the definition which Father Coppleston andBertrand Russell both agreed on in their debate. Now this is a definition that both sides agreed to, so I think it must be anadequate one, if not a great one. And this is the definition: “A supreme personal being, distinct from the world, and creator of the world.”


Now before asking for proof of God’s existence we need a satisfactory definition, and I think I’ve given one which Iwill find at least satisfactory. If Dr. Bahnsen doesn’t agree, we can hear from him. Nothing can qualify as evidence of theexistence of a god unless we have some idea of what we’re searching for. That’s why we need the definition.

3.         The Burden of Proof


Throughout history there are eleven major kinds of evidence or proof have been offered for God’s existence. In my campus visits all kinds of other things have been offered as proof, but they all can fit under these eleven categories withsome juggling. Now if these


eleven proofs do not work out logically, or lead to logical self-contradictions, then we can only say that God’s existenceis not proven; it is unproved, not disproved, as I mentioned before.


Now if I assert that this gentleman can fly by flapping his arms, as I said, the burden of proof is on him. Suppose Imake a more complicated statement. Suppose I say that my dog can talk in complete sentences. Well, again, I’m making akind of unusual statement, and it’s up to me to offer the evidence. So. I’d better be prepared to do that, or I’d better be prepared to have people not believe what I say.


I’d like a demonstration either of this gentleman flying or of my dog talking, if I were the person being asked to make adecision before I admitted that such things were possible or existed. How easy would it be to show that this gentlemancannot fly or that my dog cannot talk in complete sentences? As I mentioned before, you get into a real problem trying to show that something cannot happen or that something does not exist.


For example, if I wanted to prove that unicorns do not exist, I could examine this room and conclude that there are no unicorns in this room, which is a small area. To prove the general nonexistence of something like unicorns, you would have to search the entire universe simultaneously. And then you could only say that no unicorns existed at the moment we searched the universe. But maybe they were there five minutes before, or if maybe we only searched the whole earth,they were on another planet at the time. There are all kinds of possibilities. So, you cannot prove that something does notexist. That’s why, as I mentioned before, the definition of an atheist is not someone who thinks he has proven that God does not exist, because he cannot.

C.       The Theistic Proofs


I want to quickly go over some of the eleven major proofs. They have been 900 years in the formulation, and duringthis 900 years, this is what people have basically come up with.


1.         The First Cause (Cosmological) Argument


Everything must have a cause, therefore the universe must have a cause, and that cause was God. God was the first or uncaused cause.


Response: This leads to a real logical bind for the theist, because, if everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If God had a cause, he cannot be the first or uncaused cause. If God did not have a cause, then noteverything must have a cause. If not everything needs a cause, then perhaps the universe doesn’t need a cause. Thus, thereis a logical bind and the proof fails.

2.         The Design (Teleological) Argument


The universe is wonderful and exhibits evidence of design and order. These things must have had a designer that waseven more wonderful, and that designer was God.


Response:       Surely if the world is wonderfully designed, and God, the designer, is more wonderfully designed,then God must have a designer even more wonderful than He


  1. If God didn’t need a designer, than neither should the relatively less wonderful thing such as the universe have neededone. Again, there is a logical self-contradiction.


3.         The Argument from Life


Life cannot originate from the random movement of atoms, and yet life exists. Therefore the existence of a God was necessary to create life.


Response:       Basically, life didn’t originate from the random movement of atoms, and no scientists would say so.Because there are limits of a chemical composition and physics of atoms, and they do not move in any possible way,chemicals do not combine in any possible way. That’s why when you see these one billion to one kind of odds that peoplehave set for life originating. They’re all wet. They haven’t considered the possibility that not every reaction can occur.So, it’s possible to explain the origins of life without a god and using the principle of parsimony or Occam’s Razor, I thinkwe are left with the simpler explanation. [which is] the one without the God. I’ll go into more detail on that later.

4.         The Argument from Revealed Theology


The Bible says that God exists, and the Bible is the inspired word of God, therefore what it says must be true. Therefore God exists.


Response:       Well this is obviously a circular argument. It begs the question. We are trying to show whether God exists; therefore, calling the Bible the word of God is not permitted, because it assumes the existence of the very thingwe are trying to prove. So, if the Bible is not the Word of God, then we cannot give any real weight to the fact that it mentions that God exists. Thus, it does not become a proof. In fact, to prove God from the Bible is standing things on itshead. First you must prove God, then you may say whether God dictated it or inspired it. But you can’t really use the Bible as Dr. Bahnsen seems to want to do as evidence for existence of God, per se.

5.         The Argument from Miracles

The existence of miracles requires the presence of a supernatural force, or a God.

Miracles do occur, and therefore there is a supernatural force or God.


Response:       Again, this is begging the question; it requires that you must believe in a God first, beforehand. Thenyou say there are such things as miracles, which are acting of a God who creates violations of his own laws. So, it is notevidence, per se, it can serve as supplementary evidence, once you have good evidence in another kind of way for the existence of a God – you can use miracles as a additional argument, but in and of itself it doesn’t show the existence of aGod, because it assumes that which needs to be proven.


A quote from Thomas Paine about miracles: “When you see an account is given about such a miracle, by a person whosays he saw it, it raises a question in the mind that is very easily decided. Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man could tell a lie? We have never seen in our time Nature go out of her course, but we have goodreason to believe that millions of lies have been told in this same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that thereporter of a miracle tells a lie” I think those are good odds.


6.         The Ontological Argument


God is, by definition, perfect. A necessary quality of any perfect object is that it exists. If it did not exist it would not beperfect. If perfection requires existence, then God exists.


Response:       There is a problem with the word exists. In order for something to be perfect, it must first exist. Ifsomething didn’t exist, the word perfect wouldn’t mean anything. First you must have existence, then possibly you mayhave perfection. So, this again is going backwards; you must first have an existing God, and then you can decide whether He’s perfect, if perfection is a quality of a God, then He may be perfect, but He first must exist.

7.         The Moral Argument


All people have moral values. The existence of these values cannot be explained unless they were implanted inpeople by a God. Therefore, God exists.


An atheist’s problem: There are simpler ways to explain the origin of moral values without requiring the existence of a God to implant them into people. Besides, if moral values did come from a God, then all people should have thesame moral values. They don’t. People’s moral values are a result of an accommodation they have made with theirparticular environment and have taught to their children as a survival mechanism.

8.         The Wish Argument


Without the existence of a God people wouldn’t have any reason to live or be good, therefore there has to be a God.Most people believe in a God, therefore there is a God.


Response: This really isn’t a proof, it is just a wish. It’s like saying that it would be nice to have a God (which itwould), but that doesn’t have anything to do with whether there is one or not.


9.         The Argument from Faith


The existence of God cannot be proven by the use of reason, but only by the use of faith. The use of faith shows thatthere is a God, therefore God exists.


Response: Reason is a proven way to obtain factual information about the universe. Faith has not been shown toproduce true information about the universe because faith is believing something is so because you want it to be so,without adequate evidence.

Therefore, faith cannot be used to prove the existence of anything.


In addition, there is the fact that faith often gives you the opposite answer to what is given by reason to the sameproblem. This also shows that faith does not provide valid answers.


10.    The Argument from Religious Experience


Many people have claimed to have a personal experience or encounter with God, therefore God must exist.


Response:       This is a difficult one to handle, because, first of all, I’ve never had such an experience, but I’m surethat people have absolutely honestly thought they’ve had such experiences. But, the feeling of having met God cannot beconfused with the fact of having met God. There is a semantic confusion; and also, we cannot use our own feelings as ifthey were valid ways to obtain information about the world. They are feelings that we have inside of us, but we cannot demonstrate them to another person. They cannot be used as an evidence. If everyone had that same experience; like ifwe all looked around the room and we all agreed that there is a clock over there, then we might say that the vision of aclock is a consensual one, if everyone agreed on it. Other than that, if you saw a clock and no one else did, or if only twoor three people did in the room, then you have a bit of a problem.

11.    Pascal’s Wager


We have no way of knowing if a God exists or not, and we have no way of finding out, but you have nothing to lose bybelieving in a God, but on the other hand, you do have a lot to lose by not believing in a God, and it turns out later on thatthere is one after we’re dead,


Response:       This is only true if 1) You are right about a God, and 2) you have picked the right religion, because you might wind up on the Judgment Day and be right about a God, but He says, “What religion were you?” and you say,”I was a believer in Islam.” And He says, “Sorry, Catholicism is the right religion. Down you go.” So, in addition, youmight have a God Who punishes people who have lived virtuous lives, say an atheist who has lived a virtuous life, didwonderful deeds in the world, but just does not believe in a God, if the God punishes him, you have an irrational God whois just as likely to punish the believer as the unbeliever.





  1. Bahnsen Examines Stein


Bahnsen: Dr. Stein, do you have any sources that you can give to us, very briefly, that defines atheism as one who findsthe theistic proofs inadequate rather than one who denies the existence of God?


Stein:        Yes, sir. George Smith’s book, which you will find for sale at the back of the room, upstairs, later, called Atheism: The Case Against God, makes what I think is the finest book ever written on the subject whichwas quite explicit. I have a copy right here. I can quote you, in exact words if you like….


Bahnsen: Oh , I don’t think that will be necessary. Do you have any other sources?


Stein:        Do I have any other sources?


Bahnsen: Do You have anyother sources?


Stein:                  Sure.


Bahnsen: What will they be?


Stein:        Charles Bradlaugh, who, I will give you right now. 100 years ago Charles Bradlaugh made the commentin one of his pleas for atheism. he said….


Bahnsen: That will be fine. Dr. Stein, did you hear Dr. Bahnsen use the following argument: “The Bible says that Godexists; the Bible is the inspired word of God; therefore what it says must be true; therefore God exists?”


Stein:        You did not use that; you just assume that was so because you were quoting from the Bible as if it were….


Bahnsen: I didn’t ask you what I assumed, I asked you if I used that argument.


Stein:        No, you did not use the argument; but you used the results of the argument.


Bahnsen: Dr. Stein, you mentioned eleven basic proofs for the existence of God. Did you mention Transcendental Proof for the existence of God?


Stein:        No, I didn’t mention it by name. I think its not a proof. I wouldn’t call it a proof.

As I understand it, the way you said it…


Bahnsen: There’s no time for rebuttal on that point. Otherwise you didn’t deal with that particular one. All right, are allrational questions answered in the very same way?


Stein:        No, they’re not. They are answered by logical methods, though, that are the same: reason, logic, andpresenting evidence and facts.


Bahnsen: I heard you use “logical binds” and “logical self-contradiction” in your speech .

You did say that?


Stein:        I used that phrase, yes.


Bahnsen: Do you believe there are laws of logic then?


Stein:        Absolutely.


Bahnsen: Are they universal?


Stein:        They are agreed upon by human beings not realizing it is just out in nature.


Bahnsen: Are they simply conventions then?


Stein:        They are conventions that are self-verifying.


Bahnsen: Are they sociological laws or laws of thought?


Stein:        They are laws of thought which are interpreted by man.


Bahnsen: Are they material in nature?


Stein:        How could a law be material?


Bahnsen: That’s the question I’m going to ask you.


Stein:        I would say no.



B.        Stein Examines Bahnsen


Stein:        Dr. Bahnsen, would you call God material or immaterial?


Bahnsen: Immaterial.


Stein:        What is something that’s immaterial?


Bahnsen: Something not extended in space.


Stein:        Can you give me any other example, other than God, that’s immaterial?


Bahnsen: The laws of logic.


Stein:        Are we putting God as an equivalent thing to the laws of logic?


Bahnsen: No, only if you think all factual questions are answered in the very same way would you even assume that bythinking that there are two immaterial things that they must be identical….


Stein:        I not assuming that. I’m just assuming that because the laws of logic are conventions among men. Are yousaying that God is a convention among men.


Bahnsen: I don’t accept the claim that the laws of logic – that Christ’s laws of logic – are conventional.


Stein:        OK, Is your God omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent?


Bahnsen: He is.


Stein:        You don’t find this to be a contradiction at all?

Bahnsen: I do not.


Stein:        Well, we’ll show, a little later, that it is. If your argument that favors the existence of God is shown to beincorrect, will you relinquish your belief in God?


Bahnsen: If my arguments are disproved?

Stein:        Yes.


Bahnsen: Will I relinquish my belief in God? If there were no arguments for the existence of God, I wouldn’t believe inGod.


Stein: That’s not quite answering the question. If someone could show you that there are no arguments, would yourelinquish your belief? I’m trying to see what’s the basis of your belief.


Bahnsen: You’re the one who said that it’s impossible to show a universal negative;no one could show that there are no arguments for the existence of God. So you can only deal with the ones I know of.


Stein:       OK. If some one showed that all the ones you produced were invalid, what would be your position?.


Bahnsen: Rationally speaking, if there is no basis for believing in the existence of God, I would relinquish that belief.


Stein:        Is God good?


Bahnsen: Yes, He is.


Stein:        How do you know that?


Bahnsen: He saved me. He created me. He made the world and made it good.


He sent His Son into the world to die for my sins. Many of these evidences are quite convincing to me, but Idon’t use them outside of a world view in which they make sense, in which they are taken as true. If you meanif God is good in such a way – or can I give you evidence that you would accept – that would depend on what your presuppositions are.


Stein: Well, I’m asking if God says something, anything, is it right because…anything God does is good because God isgood, or does it become good just because God said it. I don’t know if I said that right. I guess I did.


Bahnsen: No, I understand the problem. What God says to be good is good, because it reflects his own character. Godis good and is the standard of goodness. That’s one of the presuppositions to the Christian world view.


Stein:        But isn’t it indeed a presupposition which is presupposed before there is any actual data from God.


Bahnsen: Is this a question about my first opening statement?


Stein:        In a sense it is, because it has to do with the whole idea of whether there are absolutes outside of God whichis an important issue in this debate may come up later.


Bahnsen: I still think were straining at the limits of debate rules here; but I will answer your question. There are no absolutes outside of God.


Stein: So, in other words, the fact that God is good is something that God told you; and that’s why you accepted itrather than moving ahead and assuming it as a presupposition which is what you said a minute ago.


Bahnsen: That’s extremely simplistic. God told me and provided evidence of it.


Stein:        But you also said it was a presupposition.


Bahnsen: That’s right.


Stein:        Isn’t that a contradiction?


Bahnsen: Not at all. There many things which are presupposed as well as evidenced in this world. For instance: The laws of logic.


Stein:        I would disagree with that. When we talk about immaterial things are you also saying that there is such a thing, let’s say, as a ghost or the soul, which are examples of immaterial things? Would you put themunder immaterial?


Bahnsen: I would say that man is a living soul and has an immaterial aspect to his being, yes.


Stein:        And how would you prove this?


Bahnsen: Does this have to do with the existence of God then?


Stein:        Well it has to do with the existence of immaterial things.


Bahnsen: Well, if there is an immaterial Being, God, and if the Bible is His Word, then I would say that his revealing ofthe human nature of man in the Bible is sufficient proof. And that takes us back logically to what you’re boundto say to whether God Himself does exist. That’s what we’re supposed to be debating.


Stein:        So, you’re giving me a circular argument.


Bahnsen: No, I’m telling you what the debate is about.


Stein:        I know what the debate is about. I’m asking for an answer to the question. I didn’t get one.


Bahnsen: I’m not debating the nature of the soul tonight, but the existence of God. Yes, I believe man has a soul.


Stein: The only reason I asked about the soul is because this is a simpler immaterial object that most will hold to.


Bahnsen: I don’t believe it is similar. I mean that’s your point.


Stein:        Simpler, not similar, I said.





We are debating the existence of God. I specified I would be speaking in order to avoid logical contradictions on one particular view of God, the Christian view of God, which I personally hold. Dr. Stein said he will not restrict himself to the Christian conception of God. That’s fine, he may not. But all the time he uses anything outside the Christian conception of God will be irrelevant. In fact I would join him in refuting those other conceptions of God. Theexistence of God that I’m arguing tonight is the Christian one.


Secondly, when Dr. Stein defines an atheist as one who finds the theistic proofs inadequate, that is unproved but notdisproved, he’s engaging in some linguistic revision. He does quote for us, of course, (he said that he could and I trust thathe can) two atheists who likewise define atheism in that way. But you see, that strikes me as similar to a Christian who defines his position as being true at the outset; and therefore it must be true, because it is true by definition.


He has minimized the task that is before him by simply saying “I’m here to show the theistic proofs areinadequate.” Well, you see even at that point he didn’t do his job, even though that was less than he really should be doing.Because he gave us eleven basic proofs for God, attributing one to me which I didn’t use, do not use, and do not assume. He mentioned eleven basic proofs, but did not deal with the ones I gave in my opening presentation. So hehas not dealt yet with the argument that is before us this evening.


Dr. Stein has mentioned logical binds and logical self-contradictions. He says that he finds that the laws of logic areuniversal; however, they are conventional in nature. That is not at all acceptable philosophically. If the laws of logic areconventional in nature, then you might have different societies that use different laws of logic.


It might be appropriate in some societies to say, “Well, my car is in the parking lot, and it’s not the case that my car is inthe parking lot.” There are laws in certain societies that have a convention that says, “go ahead and contradict yourself”. But then there are in a sense, some groups in our own society that might think that way. Thieves have a tendency to say, “this is not my wallet, but it is not the case that it’s not my wallet.” They may engage in contradictions like that, but Idon’t think any of us would want to accept this.


The laws of logic are not conventional or sociological. I would say the laws of logic have a transcendental necessityabout them. They are universal; they are invariant, and they are not material in nature. And if they are not that, then I’d liketo know, in an atheist universe, how it is possible to have laws in the first place. And secondly, how it is possible to justify those laws?


The laws of logic, you see, are abstract. As abstract entities, which is the appropriate philosophical term, not spiritual- entities that Dr. Stein is speaking of – abstract entities – that is to say, not individual (or universal in character). They are not materialistic. As universal, they are not experienced to be true. There may be experiences where the laws of


logic are used, but no one has universal experience. No one has tried every possible instance of the laws of logic.


As invariant, they don’t fit into what most materialists would tell us about the constantly changing nature of the world.And so, you see, we have a real problem on our hands. Dr.

Stein wants to use the laws of logic tonight. I maintain that by so doing he’s borrowing my world view. For you see, in thetheistic world view the laws of logic makes sense, because in the theistic world view there can be abstract, universal,invariant entities such as the laws of logic. Within the theistic world view you cannot contradict yourself, because to do soyou’re engaging in the nature of lying, and that’s contrary to the character of God as we perceive it. And so, the laws oflogic are something Dr. Stein is going to have to explain as an atheist or else relinquish using them.


The transcendental argument for the existence of God, then, which Dr. Stein has yet to touch, and which I don’tbelieve he can surmount, is that without the existence of God it is impossible to prove anything. And that’s because in the atheistic world you cannot justify, you cannot account for, laws in general: the laws of thought in particular, laws of nature, cannot account for human life, from the fact that it’s more than electrochemical complexes in depth, and the factthat it’s more than an accident. That is to say, in the atheist conception of the world, there’s really no reason to debate;because in the end, as Dr. Stein has said, all these laws are conventional. All these laws are not really law-like in their nature,they’re just, well, if you’re an atheist and materialist, you’d have to say they’re just something that happens inside the brain.

But you see, what happens inside your brain is not what happens inside my brain.

Therefore, what happens inside your brain is not a law. It doesn’t necessarily correspond to what happens in mine. In fact, it can’t be identical with what is inside my mind or brain, because we don’t have the same brain.


As the laws of logic come down to being materialistic entities, then they no longer have their law-like character. If theyare only social conventions, then, of course, what we might do to limit debate is just define a new set of laws. and ask forall who want the convention that says, “Atheism must be true or theism must be tru…

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