Answers to Arian’s Agnosticism

Recently, Arian Foster, a running back for the Houston Texans and NFL star, exposed a secret that he had been hiding for quite some time. Foster admitted that he was an atheist. Actually in an interview with Openly Secular which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrLZkwMP8kk, Foster’s belief is far more in line with agnosticism—the confession that one does not know whether God exists—rather than atheism. From the outset, it must be acknowledged that Foster was very cordial and was not aggressively opposed to a person’s belief in God. In addition, Foster was still open to the belief that God could exist. Therefore, it is completely possible that Foster could change his mind. It is with that notion in mind that I would like to present four answers to Foster’s agnosticism.

Strong Scientism

In Foster’s interview, he seems to demonstrate a form of scientism. Scientism is the belief that science holds all the answers for life’s questions. Norman Geisler describes scientism as the “belief that the scientific method is the only method for discovering truth” (Geisler 1999, 702). However, one must inquire if science can truly answer all that scientists suppose that it can.

If one is truly devoted to find the truth of what is and what may exist, one must understand the limitations of science. Geisler notes that “Even empirical scientists recognize the limitations of the scientific method…since it can only deal with observable phenomena. It begs the question in favor of materialism to assume that there is nothing beyond the observable. Other aspects of reality cannot be captured by the scientific method…Some are known intuitively (see First Principles), others inferentially (see Causality, Principle of) or transcendentally (see Transcendental Argument), and some only by special revelation (see Revelation, Special)” (Geisler 1999, 702). Before one criticizes the notion of special revelation, one must understand that science may be able to read the brainwaves of a person thinking, but scientists cannot know the thoughts of a person unless the person reveals such thoughts to the scientist—yet another limitation of science.

 William Lane Craig answers Peter Atkin’s scientism by describing five areas that science cannot prove. The full video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQL2YDY_LiM. Craig notes that science cannot attest to the following: “1) logical and mathematical truths cannot be attested by science. Science presupposes logic and mathematics…2) Metaphysical truths like there are other minds other than my own and that the external world is real cannot be proven by the scientific method…3) Ethical beliefs cannot be proven by the scientific method…4) Aesthetic judgments cannot be proven by the scientific method…5) Science itself cannot be proven by the scientific method…For instance the Theory of Relativity hinges upon the assumption that the state of light is constant in one direction from point A to point B” (Craig, YouTube). Therefore, Foster and other adherents to scientism should understand that their beliefs are severely limited if one’s worldview only allows observable realities limited by the scientific method as the means to their understanding.

For further references on this issue, see William Lane Craig’s book Reasonable Faith and John Lennox’s book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

 wlc reasonable faith Lennox Gods Undertaker book

Victimized by Syncretism

Foster states in his interview that his father was a Muslim and his mother was a Catholic. Foster has read the Quran and the Bible extensively. Yet, Foster claimed that his father was a freethinker. This brings forth some questions. Did Foster’s father profess atheism while practicing Islam? Or was Foster’s father faithful and Foster remained confused? Only Mr. Foster could answer those questions. However, it does seem that Foster may be confused by the ideological and philosophical differences between various world religions. It may have been simpler for Foster to claim neutrality. Nevertheless, if Foster is truly committed to finding the truth, he must examine the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, examine the evidence for the resurrection of Christ, and the impact of the Christian message. If Jesus is who he proclaimed to be, then everything changes.

For further information on this issue, see Ravi Zacharias’ book Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message and Nabeel Qureshi’s autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, as well as Gary Habermas and Michael Licona’s book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, J. Warner Wallace’s book Cold-case Christianity, and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. 

Zacharias Jesus Among other Gods bookqureshi seeking allah finding jesus    the case for the resurrection of jesus book image   cold case christianity  Case for Christ

 

Hypocritical Behavior by Christians

Another issue that seems to have plagued Foster is the unChristlike behavior by those professing to be Christians. Hypocrisy is a classic excuse used by individuals who refuse to come to Christ or who refuse to attend church. However, while Christians can never act perfectly on earth, at times Christians harm their message by becoming “super-spiritual.” Some professing Christians live as if they could never associate with those who are unbelievers or those who live lifestyles outside their acceptable boundaries. Yet, the Christian must remember that Christ associated himself with sinners. The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do…Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners’” (Matthew 9:10-13, NLT).[1] The apostle Paul notes several sins to the Corinthian church. Yet, he ends by saying, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV).[2]

What does this mean? To Mr. Foster and those who have avoided Christianity by the bad actions of those professing Christ, understand that truth is not determined by the actions of those professing truth. It could be that a person could speak the truth and act harshly and still be correct. Also, it could be that someone behaves kindly but professes a lie. The most important issue is to discover the truth.

To the Christian, this should be a reminder that people will not hear your message if your behavior does not back up your message. If you sing “Oh how I love Jesus” and behave like you should be singing “Oh how I love myself,” then do not be surprised if the skeptic does not take your claims seriously.

For further information on this issue, see Josh McDowell’s book The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Craig Groeschel’s book The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist.

Mcdowell New Evidence bookChristian atheist

One-sided Research to Search

Foster noted that he had conducted his own private research. However, he noted that he was inspired by individuals like Bill Maher, Penn and Teller, and Richard Dawkins. One must question how balanced Foster’s search for truth truly was. In Foster’s defense, he may have not known that other resources in defense of Christianity existed. It is for that reason that I have listed resources for further study in this article. A good case can be made for God’s existence. J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist and cold-case investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department and current Christian apologist writes the following,

“I identified and listed four categories of evidence for consideration: 1. Cosmological Evidence, a. Our universe had a beginning, b. Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for human life; 2. Biological Evidence, a. Life in our universe emerged from non-life, b. Biological organisms appear to be designed; 3. Mental Evidence, a. Nonmaterial consciousness emerged from unconscious matter, b. As humans, we are ‘free agents’ in our otherwise ‘cause and effect’ universe; 4. Moral Evidence, a. Transcendent, objective moral truths exist in our universe, b. Evil and injustice continue to persist, in spite of our best efforts” (Wallace 2015, 24).

Good, strong reasons exist for one to believe in God. It is not a mere knowledge of the heart. It is a knowledge of the mind as well.

For more information on this issue, see J. Warner Wallace’s book God’s Crime Scene and Robert J. Spitzer’s book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy.

J Warner Wallace Gods Crime Scene Spitzer

 Failure of Church to Engage in Apologetics

According to Foster’s interview and a report on ESPN, Foster had engaged Christians. However, no one could offer Foster a reason for the hope they held. No one. According to Foster, his mother was not allowed to ask questions as a Christian. No one in college could answer Foster’s objections. Instead of offering a defense for the faith that they held, many Christians would simply avoid engaging Foster on such issues. In this regard, Foster’s quest for truth hit the same kind of snag that I did. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I had asked individuals questions pertaining to the reliability to the Bible. No one could offer a defense. No one. For those of faith, we MUST remember that we are required to be ready “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV).

Conclusion

What if? What if Arian Foster had accessed Christian apologetic resources? What if Arian Foster had the opportunity to engage with Christian apologists? What if the church was prepared to answer such objections? Would Foster still remain a skeptic? Perhaps, but if Foster is open to seek the truth, then one must think that Foster may be willing to rethink the truth claims of Christianity. That is my prayer for Arian Foster. I was in the same position as Arian Foster is today. No, I did not have the notoriety and fame that Foster does. No, I do not possess the physical talent that Foster holds. However, I did hold some of the same questions that Foster has. I did have some of the annoyances towards those who professed Christ and did not live according to their beliefs. By the grace of God, I was led towards the reality that the truth was found in the Christian message. It is my prayer and hope that Foster will find the same. Instead of rebuking Foster for his doubts, I encourage others to pray that Foster will find the answers to life’s most pressing questions.

 Sources Cited:

Craig, William Lane, and Peter Atkins. “What Science Cannot Prove.” Video. YouTube. Accessed August 9, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQL2YDY_LiM.

Foster, Arian. “Arian Foster—Openly Secular.” Video. YouTube. Accessed August 9, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrLZkwMP8kk.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Wallace, J. Warner. God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015.


© August 9, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Scripture noted as NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.

[2] Scripture noted as ESV comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

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10 thoughts on “Answers to Arian’s Agnosticism”

  1. //Good, strong reasons exist for one to believe in God.//

    No. There are actually none. A named “God” is to “gods” as “Superman” is to “aliens”. While you might be able to make some arguments about why you think it’s likely that “aliens” or “gods” exist, there are absolutely zero good reasons to believe “God” or “Superman” are anything but some people’s interpretation of a vague concept. There are no strong reasons to believe that one of the religions or mythologies got the god concept correct. There are no strong reasons to believe a named god is watching, listening to, and answering prayers. There are no strong reasons to believe there’s anyone judging us, or that there’s a Heaven and Hell. Nothing. The best you’ve got is some kind of argument for deism.

    1. Actually yes there are. I have written about some of those reasons here on the website in other articles. It seems that you make a categorical mistake, if not appealing to a strawman fallacy in your comment. An aliens existence or that of “Superman” is not necessitated. God’s existence is necessitated by the existence of anything. Information and the ability to do mathematics point to Eternal Conscious Intelligence. Now, you concede that Deism is possible. Yet, one must inquire why an Eternally Conscious Being would instill consciousness if that Being never desired to relate to such created conscious beings. For theism–with all its possibilities–are opened the moment that the Eternal Conscious Being (known as God) seeks to relate to a human conscious being. The skeptic and/or deist bears an incredible burden of proof as such a one would need to prove that the Eternal Conscious Being had never related to any human conscious being. If the Eternal ever once related to humanity, theism is validated.

      Blessings on your journey for truth,

      Pastor Brian

      1. //Yet, one must inquire why an Eternally Conscious Being would instill consciousness if that Being never desired to relate to such created conscious beings.//

        If we were to create a universe in a lab, the theory goes that said universe would almost immediately disconnect from this universe and we’d have no interaction with it. That basically falls in line with a deistic-like “god”. There’s no evidence it happened, but it’s apparently compatible with science. We would end up with a universe, possibly filled with trillions upon trillions of beings, all speculating as to whether, or not, their universe was created with many arriving at the conclusion that yes it was created by “gods”. They would have all kinds of different ideas of what “gods” were like, looked like, and what abilities they possessed. The irony would be that, since we couldn’t interact with our creation, we’d also be speculating as to what kind of beings, if any, evolved in our created universe. That nothing might evolve for billions of years, could mean we’d be quite dead by the time anything started speculating about our existence.

        //The skeptic and/or deist bears an incredible burden of proof as such a one would need to prove that the Eternal Conscious Being had never related to any human conscious being.//

        I’m an agnostic, of the Huxley variety. I don’t have a burden of proof. I’ve simply been presented no objective evidence supporting your assertion. That’s the claimants job, not mine.

        “Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe.” ~ Thomas Huxley

        Huxley’s agnosticism amounted to a form of demarcation. No testable/falsifiable evidence = unobjective/unscientific. Results: inconclusive…no belief as to the truth of the proposition. Karl Popper was also an agnostic.

        //God’s existence is necessitated by the existence of anything.//

        That, on the other hand, would be a claim that carries a burden of proof beyond just saying so.

      2. Response #1: Okay, to respond to your first point: your illustration pertaining to a universe built in a lab is built upon the premise of intelligence. The individual(s) in the lab created the universe. I would argue that the universe could not be said to be completely detached from the creator as the creation would have the imprint of the creator strewn throughout the creation. You are right to assume that the beings within such a universe may have varying interpretations about the creator of this universe. However, if the creator of this universe desired to make him/herself known to the beings, then the beings would have clear knowledge of their creator. Even the process of the beings evolution in such a paradigm would be carefully designed by the creator of such an experiment. Thus, the illustration while very intriguing, actually argues for intelligent design.

        Response #2: This is an interesting point pertaining to Huxley. Honestly, I am not knowledgeable to Huxley’s work. However, I would like to respond to your point pertaining to the “burden of proof.” It is first important to note that science cannot account for every form of evidence. Science cannot even account for the need of science. Such a need is presupposed by logic and philosophy. For instance, in the courtroom jurors compile evidence using science, eyewitness accounts, and various other means to evaluate what is “beyond reasonable doubt.” For one to claim that God has never interacted with humanity (which I do not think you have claimed such), one would have to dismiss countless miraculous encounters throughout history. Such a claim does place the burden of proof on the anti-theist.

        Response #3: When we use action verbs to determine a flow of events (i.e. “created, chose, acted, designed”), we are using terms that express something that only intelligence can do. We would not say that a rock moved, thought, created, and the like. It may be that a rock moved if something acted upon the rock. However, a rock by itself does nothing. Likewise, that anything exists demands that there was an intelligence that brought it about. One has one of two options: A) an eternal Intelligence brought everything into being, or B) an eternal nothingness brought everything into being. Option B cannot be the case seeing as how inanimate things do nothing. Nothing plus nothing equals nothing. Nothing minus nothing equals nothing. However, Option A is extremely viable. For example, my being is necessitated by the existence of my two parents. Ultimately, if one were to take the events that brought things into being as they are now, then one would find the necessity of God’s existence. That does not prove Christianity. Rather, it demonstrates the necessity of God’s existence.

        Again, great post.

        Blessings,

        Pastor Brian

  2. “Scientism is the belief that science holds all the answers for life’s questions.”

    “Scientism” is largely a strawman created by Christian chauvinists (“Christianists”?).

    “What if Arian Foster had accessed Christian apologetic resources?”

    This reminds me of a joke from ‘The West Wing’: “Two politicians are having an argument. One of them stands up and says, ‘You’re lying!’ The other one answers, ‘Yes, I am, but hear me out.'”

    Christian Apologists are notorious in the Atheist, Agnostic and Sceptical communities for their willingness to misrepresent, cherry-pick and employ spurious logic to ‘prove’ their cases.

    Cases in point from your list:

    William Lane Craig: notorious for grossly misrepresenting Theoretical Physics and Cosmology.

    J. Warner Wallace: notorious for overstating the relevance of his expertise in investigating cold cases. Police investigation, even of cold cases requires physical evidence and eye witness accounts. It is not even remotely relevant to two thousand year old hearsay.

    Ravi Zacharias is notorious for quote-mining, cherry-picking anecdotal evidence, and repeating the scientifically illiterate claim that evolution is incompatible with the Second Law of Thermodynamics (if it ruled out evolution, it must also rule out all life).

    Lee Strobel’s schtick appears to be to pose as a ‘neutral’ investigator, whilst in actuality providing completely one-sided testimony and failing to ask searching questions to test the strength of their claims.

    These apologists may completely wow the true believers, but they are largely useless for anything ‘beyond preaching to the choir.’ Atheists, agnostics, and even Christians-starting-to-question tend to find them considerably less than credible.

    1. Hrafn, you are committing a straw man fallacy in your accusation of so-called Christian straw man fallacies. Having checked him on his resources, William Lane Craig is solid in his research. J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist turned Christian, is an expert at cold-case investigations. He has even been featured on Dateline NBC. I would need evidence for Zacharias’ supposed “quote-mining.” Thus far, Zacharias has been solid on all the research he has purported. Strobel did research the evidence for Christianity which led him to faith. Individuals are coming to faith due to the power of evidence. I was one who teetered on the level of agnosticism and came to a strong acknowledgement of the evidence for the faith.

      Pertaining to “preaching to the choir,” you must admit that in debates there are those who are on either side cheering on their debater without listening to the other side. Everyone should be challenged to evaluate the evidence. I strongly believe that it will lead to faith.

      Nevertheless, thank you for your comment.

      -Pastor Brian

  3. “Hrafn, you are committing a straw man fallacy in your accusation of so-called Christian straw man fallacies.”

    Ah, the Bart Simpson defense: “I know you are, but what am I.” Very compelling. You have presented NO evidence that “science holds all the answers for life’s questions” is an accurate representation of widespread atheist belief, so the accusation of a strawman argument STANDS UNREBUTTED.

    “Having checked him on his resources, William Lane Craig is solid in his research.”

    Pastor Brian, you appear to have no substantive background in Theoretical Physics or Comsology (nor does Craig), so are in no position to state whether he is “grossly misrepresenting Theoretical Physics and Cosmology” or not. Several Theoretical Physicists and/or Cosmologists are on record as stating he does in fact misrepresent their fields, and I trust their expert iopinion far more than your or his inexpert ones.

    “J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist turned Christian …”

    Do you know how common this claim is among Christian apologists? It is made even less credible by the fact that most display a startling lack of insight into atheists’ views and reasoning.

    “…is an expert at cold-case investigations.”

    A background that, AS I HAVE ALREADY STATED, is utterly and completely irrelevant to the claims he makes.

    “He has even been featured on Dateline NBC.”

    “As seen on TV” — along with a host of charlatans, quacks and snake-oil salesman. Blatant argumentum ad populum.

    “I would need evidence for Zacharias’ supposed ‘quote-mining.'”

    Given the popularity of this activity among Christian apologists (I have likewise seen this accusation made against Dinesh D’Souza, William Lane Craig, and Peter Kreeft), and particularly Creationist apologists (TalkOrigins Archive has a whole database of their quotemines), I find your self-serving pseudoskepticism (“supposed”) amusing.

    An example of the accusations against Zacharias can be found here: https://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/23dcs5/ravi_zacharias_is_a_liar_and_a_fool/

    “Thus far, Zacharias has been solid on all the research he has purported.”

    In the video that the above link was discussing, Zacharias was apparently using David Berlinski as a source on Theoretical Physics. Berlinski in not only not a physicist, he has no substantive background in science. He is a notorious dilettante, contrarian and a self-admitted “crank”. This renders Zacharias’ “research” about as “solid” as a blancmange.

    “Strobel did research the evidence for Christianity which led him to faith.”

    Strobel’s conversion followed that of his wife, so that it can easily be argued that his reasons were emotional rather than evidentiary. The sources he cites for his “research” certainly look far more the sort of people a committed Christian apologist would go to, rather than those an atheist would seek out, leading to the strong suspicion that this is a post hoc justification and revisionary history of his conversion.

    “Individuals are coming to faith due to the power of evidence.”

    That is not what the evidence suggests. Those who find a need to believe, believe, and find post hoc rationalisations afterwards.

    You have simply provided evidence that these apologists “completely wow the true believers”, NOT any evidence that they have any credibility whatsoever among atheists, skeptics, or questioners, let alone that they should have any credibility.

    1. Hrafn, honestly, you are using ad hominem attacks which are not permitted on this website. I have allowed you this one final opportunity so that I can respond out of fairness. Concerning your snide remark pertaining to a Bart Simpson defense, so far as I can tell you have offered no sufficient rebuttal outside of a juvenile character attack upon Christian apologists. Pertaining to your notion of training, do you have a background in theoretical physics or cosmology? Theoretical physics often enters the realm of philosophy, a field in which Dr. Craig is immensely trained and a field in which I possess some training also. Thus, in philosophical matters many a Christian apologist is aptly trained and well able to comment. Unfortunately, many a secular cosmologist such as Lawrence Krauss and even the great Stephen Hawking have made tremendous philosophical blunders (i.e. Hawking’s philosophical anti-philosphical comment saying “philosophy is dead” and Krauss’ nothing is really something blunder). Pertaining to atheists turning to Christian theists, you really need to check the facts. Neither Wallace nor Craig grew up in a Christian home. Strobel was anti-theist before coming to faith. All three individuals were challenged to investigate the evidence and all three were led to faith. While I grew up in a Christian home, I had turned from the faith and turned from the church. I was led back by the evidence. Look, we could volley back and forth claiming that this one person said one thing and that person said another, but what all of us must stand upon is the truth. If I am wrong, then at death I will experience nothing. But what if I am right? What then? It’s something that one should consider.

      While I disagree with your conclusions, I again thank you for your comment,

      PBC

  4. Philosophy is the study of logic, argumentation, and knowledge. Philosophy literally means the “lover of wisdom.” Philosophy is necessary to develop a proper epistemology and ontology. One also needs to acknowledge that there are scientists and mathematicians who are also Christian apologists such as, but not limited to, John Lennox, Hugh Ross, and Jeff Zweerink. Scientism is the belief that truth is only knowable through science, something that uses philosophy to deduce such a presupposition. Thus, if a scientist only makes scientific claims, then one is in the realm of science, but when one leaves the data to make higher claims, then one has entered the realm of philosophy.

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