Christianity and Atheism: disconnected conversations

Here’s where I’m headed. I’m a Christian, as you are. I haven’t been engaging with you directly in the last few days since you came back here, but I have been paying some attention to what’s happening. Here is my honest, uncompromising assessment.

You seem very knowledgeable in YEC arguments and you have a reply to almost everything people here throw at you. I can see that you are very honest and uncompromising and you want to stand up for what you think is true. However, I find you overly defensive for your position. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you concede any point, even minor ones. It seems that you want to win every last point. I have also never seen you acknowledge if your opponent made a good point, and I’m not sure if you have even acknowledged that there are some answers you don’t have.

As a result I see a lot of discussion here which just explodes quickly into a lot posts, but I’m not sure how anyone is benefiting from this, you included. Of course, it’s not just your fault. There are lots of people here who also cannot resist the temptation to win every point without compromise. Still, I think you are more combative than the average poster here, though.

Where are you headed with this manner of engagement? I assume you aren’t seeking to convince the non-YEC people here, because I haven’t seen any movement in that direction over the hundreds of posts recently. Do you think this is the only way to be uncompromising and honest?


Well, a while back I acknowledged that I don’t know if the Antarctic Ice Fish is really nephesh or not. :wink:

The truth is, I’ve been engaging with hostile skeptics for many years, and there aren’t many things I haven’t heard them say by this point. Maybe I’m being uncharitable, but I haven’t been hearing all that many good points, either. Maybe you can direct me to one of these places where you’ve seen me interacting, and then explain why you feel the opponent made a good point I should have acknowledged. That would help me know better how to improve, if indeed that is warranted.

Still, I think you are more combative than the average poster here, though.

That’s very possible. I’m also normally having to take on all comers at once.

I’ll tell you the truth: dealing with skeptics in situations like this is stressful, but it does often spur me on with ideas about things to write. Many of the articles I’ve been most proud of have been inspired by interactions with skeptics and scoffers. For one example, came about for exactly that reason.

Yes, I do seek that, but in all the years of dealing with skeptics online, I am not sure I can remember ever seeing one convert as a result of apologetic arguments. People believe what they want to believe. If they are online bashing Christians or the Bible, it’s probably because that’s what makes them happy. I do know there are a few skeptics out there who make the claim they “want to believe”, but their actions usually tell me much louder than words that they are not sincere in that claim.

Debates are a hostile, combative environment. They don’t normally convince the combatants, but they can have the effect of inspiring people with ideas they didn’t have before, and perhaps there are silent onlookers who will be moved one way or another by the evidence.

I don’t know.


Thanks for your honest replies, by the way. I think they’re helpful to understand your motivations and what you’re doing here.

I am not surprised by this, and I don’t think this phenomenon is limited to YEC apologists arguing either. Don’t you think this would be a good indication that if our highest calling is to spread the Gospel, we’re not spending our time wisely by going toe-to-toe with hostile skeptics on the Internet?

I’m sometimes guilty of that myself, by the way. But that’s why lately, I tend to avoid arguing with people here who I know will reject my arguments for the Resurrection, for example. If any bystander wants to read my arguments, they’re already out there for anyone to see.

In contrast, I think it’s better to engage focus in discussions about new, interesting, topics in Christianity and science and also choosing to engage only with people who are good listeners. That’s the “Peaceful” side of this place, and that’s the way we can get productive and God-glorifying, instead of circular and hostile conversations. I don’t think this is mutually exclusive with being honest and uncompromising. Do you?


I think this, again, is a judgment call in each individual’s life. I don’t think going toe-to-toe online is for everybody, or even most people. It has been a special calling I’ve felt for most of my life, but sometimes I really have to just step away from it and stop for a while. It’s draining.

The value of it is, as I said, that it spurs me on to produce content that may be helpful to people. If I find it’s not achieving anything, I try to stop.

That’s wise. One of the most important things about this sort of engagement is to start to see who, if anybody, is really open to listening.

Not at all.


Well, here’s my advice to you based on your stated goals, as a fellow Christian, even though I’m not a YEC: I think you will be more likely find something interesting to write about if you focus your posts on certain interesting threads instead of trying to respond to everyone here. I don’t think I am serving you well if I don’t warn you in the dangers of engaging in pointless debates on this site. People here (certainly not just you) are too happy to sink their time into it, and as a moderator I am trying to curb down on it.

Secondly, I read that you are a presuppositionalist. (Is that right?) Then I would urge you to sometimes try to consider how things look like from other people’s shoes, with their different assumptions and presuppositions. Even if you think other worldviews are ultimately contradictory, it’s interesting to see the implications of adopting certain presuppositions. I believe that this will make you more likely to learn something new that can make your time here worthwhile.

A recent example is this thread: Does Science Work by Falsifiability?. Based on the replies there, some scientists (including @swamidass and I) hold a different view of falsifiability in science than you do. Maybe you think our view of falsifiability and how science works is wrong. But still, wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the implications a different view of how science works? Perhaps you can learn something about why we hold these views as working scientists. I think this could be a more promising route of engagement.


Can you explain a bit more. I don’t follow why you see it as false dichotomy.

Agreed, that many people don’t understand, or at least haven’t thought through the differences.

I think this is challenging area for Christians. We live in an era and society where reason and fact are held as the best (or even only) way of having knowledge. This often pushes us (Christians) to want to think we can defend everything using those tools, so we push, as @Jordan said, the role of the Holy Spirit into the background, and are unwilling to at times to admit we do believe things by “faith”.

This to me is where methodological naturalism is helpful. It gives us all a common way to discovery of the “what”, and “how” in the world of science, without requiring any agreement on whether or not God is behind all of what we see.


I agree.

It is, but that’s a tricky word, much like “evolutionist” can be. I do believe that certain knowledge is only possible from within a presuppositionalist biblical framework. Outside of that all we have is hopeful conjectures.

Practically speaking, I have no problem with evidentialist-style argumentation. I like the approach that Francis Schaeffer took called “taking the roof off”.

I’ll check it out.


I agree with methodological naturalism insofar as I don’t think anybody should resort to a supernatural explanation unless there is no other possible explanation. That has a basis in the Bible. Miracles are special precisely because they don’t happen often. If they did, then they wouldn’t serve their purpose at all. However, if you rule out supernatural explanations a priori then you are really operating under the philosophical assumption of materialism.

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I think I agree.

Practically the way I look at it this is. In the context of scientific discovery. when there is a “gap” that we currently don’t have an answer for, as a Christian there are two possible answers. The first, which we share with atheists is that we simply haven’t discovered the “natural” answer yet, and we should keep seeking to learn.

The second possible answer is that this “gap” actually represents a miracle. However I think we overextend, when we identify any specific gap in our knowledge as definitively representing a miracle. The fact that we believe it could be a miracle should not ever stop us from seeking a natural explanation.

I believe it is possible via abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation) to come to the conclusion that a miracle did occur. You seem to be saying it’s impossible to ever reach that conclusion.

I’d state it this way. While I might believe that the best explanation is a miracle, I would never hold that I am certain (other where the Bible explicitly describes a miracle), and would never suggest we stop looking for other explanations.



I loved your post! Not so much for chastening @PDPrice, but for taking the longer view of what exactly can and can’t be accomplished in a Christian v. Christian discussion of Creationism.

@swamidass has sought out sympathetic minds - - not necessarily AGREEING minds… but minds that can see how the G.A.E. scenarios can reduce conflict regarding the central call of Evangelicalism: salvation.

And sometimes Joshua and like-minded folks are going to bump into rock-hard Creationism that will accept no substitute ideas! Theoretically we all agree that this happens… but when we splash down into a gator filled swamp… we forget all that philosophical indifference and - - once again - - start fighting for Existential survival!

I suppose it is perfectly normal … but if we had a boxing ring, the bell to end the round should sometimes be heard a lot sooner than the average match.

On the international stage, diplomacy almost always starts with the countries most interested in diplomacy… not with the countries most inclined to see their side being completely victorious.

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Perhaps I chose the wrong words? I mean that even if the atheists are right (no God) there can still be value in faith. It’s pretty easy to see that people may benefit in a materials sense from establishing a faith community. (I know that’s not the value people of faith would put first, but it’s one I wish some atheists would stop ignoring.) The other way around, there is value in science despite any faith aspect.

More, I think you can have both faith/revelation and evidence/science; it is not an either/or problem. It’s a matter of understanding why we believe the things we do.

I hope it is clear what just wrote is not intended as criticism. I would describe it as an appeal for greater understanding.

This is part of what drives me to better understand theology as well. Go figure! :wink:

A minor quibble: I think a lot of people don’t necessarily rule out the supernatural, they simply do not pursue that as a line of inquiry. For some it can be an inspiration to discover.



Perhaps the most problematic area for this is the I.D. reflex to interpret any discussion of God’s designing of the Universe to be equal to EVIDENCE that Design can be proven.

The epistemological difference is clear: a Christian can rightly believe that God designs all creation. But nobody can insist that this belief translates into scientific evidence of such an idea.

Science is not theology; theology is not science.

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