The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

The moral argument for the existence of God refers to the claim that God is needed to provide a coherent ontological foundation for the existence of objective moral values and duties. The argument can be summarised in the following syllogism:

Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

Since this is a logically valid syllogism, the atheist, in order to maintain his non-belief in God, must reject at least one of the two Premises. By “objective” morality we mean a system of ethics which universally pertains irrespective of the opinions or tastes of human persons: for example, the holocaust was morally wrong irrespective of what Hitler and the Nazis believed about it, and it would have remained morally wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and compelled everyone into compliance with their values. This view, known in philosophy as “moral realism,” contrasts with “moral relativism” which maintains that no-one is objectively correct or incorrect with respect to their moral values and judgements.

Most people want to uphold premise 2 of the moral argument. After all, if there are no objective ethics, then who is to say that Hitler was objectively morally wrong? Humans have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. The moral argument requires only that at least some actions are objectively right or wrong (e.g. torturing children for pleasure is objectively morally wrong). Premise 1 relates to the perfect standard against which everything else is measured. God, being the only morally perfect being, is the standard against which all other things are judged. Moreover, in the absence of theism, nobody has been able to conceive of a defensible grounding for moral values.

Moral Argument – An Important Distinction

It is important to bear in mind that the moral argument pertains to the ultimate source of objective moral values and duties (moral ontology) and not how we know what is moral or immoral (moral epistemology) and not ‘what we mean’ by good/bad or right/wrong (moral semantics). The theistic ethicist maintains that moral values are grounded in the character and nature of God.

Those who are divine command theorists maintain that moral duties are based on what God commands. Philosopher William Lane Craig puts it this way:

    “Duty arises in response to an imperative from a competent authority. For example, if some random person were to tell me to pull my car over, I would have absolutely no legal obligation to do so. But if a policeman were to issue such a command, I’d have a legal obligation to obey. The difference in the two cases lies in the persons who issued the commands: one is qualified to do so, while the other is not.”

Moral Argument – Euthyphro’s Dilemma

Plato, in his dialogue Euthyphro, presents a fictional dialogue between his philosophical mentor, Socrates, and a character by the name of Euthyphro. Euthyphro explains to Socrates that he has come to lay manslaughter charges against his father, because of his involvement in the death of a worker. This worker himself had killed a slave who had belonged to the family estate. This worker was found dead, gagged, and bound in a ditch. This gives rise to a lengthy dialogue between Euthyphro and Socrates, which eventually leads to the famous “Euthyphro’s Dilemma.” Socrates says, “But I will amend the definition so far as to say that what all the gods hate is impious, and what they love pious or holy; and what some of them love and others hate is both or neither. Shall this be our definition of piety and impiety?” Euthyphro goes on to say “Yes, I should say that what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious.” Socrates subsequently inquires of him, “The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.”

The question is posed this way: Is x the right thing to do because God commands it, or does God command it because it is already the right thing to do? I take the former option. Normally, the problem with accepting the horn is that there is a presumption that the commands in question from God are arbitrary (i.e. God could have commanded that we ought to lie). But that’s just false. The theist wants to say that God is essentially loving, honest etc., and therefore, in all worlds at which God exists, his commands are going to be consistent with his nature. And therefore, in all worlds, he will disapprove of lying.

Moral Argument – The Shortcomings of Utilitarianism

There are various nontheistic systems of ethics, none of which succeed in providing a robust ontological foundation or objective moral values and duties. One of these systems, popularised recently by Sam Harris in his book The Moral Landscape, is called utilitarianism, and (in its most common formulation) refers to the view that ethics are determined by what constitutes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. One difficulty lies in the fact that it attempts to balance two different scales employed to assess the moral virtue of an action (i.e. the amount of utility produced and the number of people affected). This can often lead to conflicting answers—in some cases an activity might be considered better for a greater number of individuals whereas a different activity might create a greater overall utility. Utilitarians try to maximize with their actions the utility of the long-term consequences of those actions. However, short of possession of omniscience, it is impossible to evaluate the respective long-term results of different activities. Utilitarianism also does not take into account the individual’s intent—Activity X could be done sincerely by an individual who believes that what he is doing will create the maximum utility. But if activity X turns out in the long-term not to produce the desired utility, then his action, under the philosophy of utilitarianism, would be considered less moral than an activity that created more utility.


In conclusion, the moral argument is a robust argument for the existence of God. It is important to distinguish between moral ontology and epistemology when engaging in this debate since these categories are frequently conflated by atheist critics. Humans, being shaped in the image of God, have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. It is not at all clear how the atheist, except at the expense of moral realism, can maintain an objective standard of ethics without such a being as God as his ontological foundation.

This article was originally published on

The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

The ontological argument is widely thought to have been first clearly articulated by St. Anselm of Canterbury, who defined God as the greatest conceivable being. Anselm’s reasoning was that, if a being existed only in the mind but not in reality, then a greater being was conceivable (a being which exists both in the mind and in reality). The famed seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes utilised the ontological argument. The ontological argument was revived by Norman Malcolm in 1960. Variants of the ontological argument have been supported and defended by contemporary philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga (who bases his argument on modal logic) and William Lane Craig.

The ontological argument was first criticised by Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, a contemporary of Anselm of Canterbury. He argued that the ontological argument could be used to demonstrate the existence of anything, utilising an analogy of a perfect island. The argument was also criticised by the famed Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas and also by David Hume and Immanuel Kant.

The Ontological Argument: Possible Worlds

To properly understand the ontological argument, it is necessary to specify what philosophers mean when they talk about “possible worlds.” A “possible world” refers to a counterfactual – a state of affairs that could have been true. For something to exist in a “possible world” simply means that its existence is logically possible.

The ontological argument for the existence of God refers to the claim that the very logical possibility of God’s existence entails his actuality. The ontological argument begins with the claim that God, by definition, is infinitely great. Thus, no entity can surpass God’s greatness. God, in other words, is the greatest conceivable being (if one could conceive of a greater being, then that would be God). Being infinitely great entails existence in every possible world since a being that existed in merely some possible worlds would be superseded in greatness by a being that existed in every possible world. Moreover, a maximally great being is one that possesses the property of necessary existence. Thus, if a being of maximal greatness exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. If an infinitely great being exists in every possible world then that being must exist in the actual world. Since God is an infinitely great being, therefore, God must exist.

The Ontological Argument: The Premises

The conclusion of the ontological argument, as formulated by Alvin Plantinga and others, depends on a form of modal axiom S5 (which contends that if the truth of a proposition is possible, then it is possible in all worlds). This axiom also contends that, if it is possible that a proposition is necessarily true (that is to say, it is necessarily true in some possible world), then it is necessarily true in all possible worlds.

The logic of the ontological argument is formally summarised by philosopher Alvin Plantinga as follows:

1. A being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and

2. A being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.

3. It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)

4. Therefore, possibly, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being exists.

5. Therefore, (by axiom S5) it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

The Ontological Argument: Is It Sound?

While the ontological argument has been the subject of fierce criticism by many contemporary philosophers, many of the criticisms of it result from a failure to properly understand the argument.

The ontological argument is clearly logically valid – that is to say, the conclusion necessarily follows provided that Premises 1 to 5 are true. The crucial Premise, therefore, is Premise 3, namely, that it is possible that a maximally great being exists. To refute this Premise, one would need to show that the very concept of an infinitely great being is somehow logically incoherent – like a “married bachelor”. Since no argument to that effect has been forthcoming, however, it follows necessarily and inescapably that “Therefore, a maximally great being exists.”

This article was cross-posted from

The Argument From Cosmic Fine Tuning

The concept of cosmic fine tuning relates to a unique property of our universe whereby the physical constants and laws are observed to be balanced on a ‘razor’s edge’ for permitting the emergence of complex life. The degree to which the constants of physics must match precise criteria is such that a number of agnostic scientists have concluded that indeed there is some sort of transcendent purpose behind the cosmic arena. British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle writes: “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Fundamental Constants

The ripples in the universe left over from the original ‘Big Bang’ singularity (often referred to as CMB, or cosmic background radiation) are detectable at one part in 10^5 (100,000). If this factor were even slightly smaller, the cosmos would exist exclusively as a collection of gas — stars, planets and galaxies would not exist. Conversely, if this factor were increased slightly, the universe would consist only of large black holes. Either way, the universe would be uninhabitable.

Another finely tuned value is the strong nuclear force that holds atoms — and therefore matter — together. The sun derives its ‘fuel’ from fusing hydrogen atoms together. When two hydrogen atoms fuse, 0.7% of the mass of the hydrogen atoms is converted into energy. If the amount of matter converted were slightly smaller — say, 0.6% instead of 0.7% — a proton would not be able to bond to a neutron and the universe would consist only of hydrogen. Without the presence of heavy elements, planets would not form and hence no life would be possible. Conversely, if the amount of matter converted were increased to 0.8% instead of 0.7%, fusion would occur so rapidly that no hydrogen would remain. Again, the result would be no planets, no solar systems and hence no life.

The ratio of electrons to protons must be finely balanced to a degree of one part in 10^37. If this fundamental constant were to be any larger or smaller than this, the electromagnetism would dominate gravity — preventing the formation of galaxies, stars and planets. Again, life would not be possible.

The ratio of the electromagnetic force to gravity must be finely balanced to a degree of one part in 10^40. If this value were to be increased slightly, all stars would be at least 40% more massive than our Sun. This would mean that stellar burning would be too brief and too uneven to support complex life. If this value were to be decreased slightly, all stars would be at least 20% less massive than the sun. This would render them incapable of producing heavy elements.

The rate at which the universe expands must be finely tuned to one part in 10^55. If the universe expanded too fast, matter would expand too quickly for the formation of stars, planets and galaxies. If the universe expanded too slowly, the universe would quickly collapse — before the formation of stars.

The mass density of the universe is finely balanced to permit life to a degree of one part in 10^59. If the universe were slightly more massive, an overabundance of deuterium from the big bang would cause stars to burn too rapidly for the formation of complex life. If the universe were slightly less massive, an insufficiency of helium would result in a shortage of the heavy elements — again, resulting in no life.

Mass of the Cosmos

The density of protons and neutrons in the cosmos relates to the cosmic mass density. That density determines just how much hydrogen fuses into heavier elements during the first few moments after the origin of the universe. In turn, the amount of heavier elements determines how much additional heavy-element production occurs later in the nuclear furnaces or stars.

What would be the consequence if the respective density of neutrons and protons were significantly lower? Firstly, nuclear fusion would occur with less efficiency. Consequently, the heavier elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, sodium and potassium — all of which are essential for the emergence of physical life — would not be formed. Moreover, assuming no additional cosmic density factors such as dark energy, a cosmos which possesses less mass density would prohibit the formation of stars and planets. Why? The expansion rate would be so big that matter would expand too quickly for gravity to pull together the gas and dust to allow their formation. If that were not enough, with only a little extra mass, the cosmos would expand so slowly that all stars in the cosmos would quickly turn into black holes and neutron stars. The density near the surface of such bodies would be so enormous that molecules would be impossible. Therefore, life would not be possible. The radiation from the formed black holes and neutron stars would also render physical life an impossibility at any point in a universe with such a high density.

Conversely, what would be the effect if the density of protons and neutrons in the cosmos were to be significantly higher? Nuclear fusion would be too productive, meaning that all the hydrogen in the universe would rapidly fuse into elements heavier than iron. The ultimate result is the same — the life-essential elements would not exist. Moreover, if the cosmic mass density were to be greater, gas and dust would condense so effectively under gravity’s influence that all stars would be much more massive than the Sun. Thus, planets would not be life-permitting because of the intensity of the radiation of their respective star, and additionally because of the rapid changes in the stars’ temperature and radiation.

The mass of the universe exhibits cosmic fine tuning to simultaneously permit two features which are essential for permitting life: (1) the correct diversity and quantity of elements; and (2) the appropriate rate of cosmic expansion required to allow life. Such cosmic fine-tuning bespeaks foresight and planning — indicators of intelligent design.

Our Place in the Universe

There exist many physical factors that must be precisely set for any planet to be hospitable to life. Life must be in the right type of galaxy. There are three types of galaxies (elliptical, irregular and spiral). Elliptical galaxies lack the heavy elements needed to support life. Irregular galaxies have too many supernova explosions. Only spiral galaxies can foster life. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy.

Life must also be in the right location in the galaxy. We are situated in the right place in the Milky Way. If we were too close to the centre of the galaxy (closer to the black hole), harmful radiation would make life impossible. Conversely, if our planet was too far out in the periphery, not enough heavy elements would be available for the construction of habitable planets.

Life must also have the right type of star. Stars act as energy sources for life. Most stars are too large, too bright or too unstable to support life. The size and age of the sun enhances the earth’s hospitality. If the earth were moved 1% closer to the sun, bodies of water would vaporize, and life would not be possible. If the earth were as much as 2% farther from the sun, its waters would freeze. Earth has a nearly circular orbit, which ensures a nearly constant distance from the sun — ensuring that seasonal changes are not too severe.

The other planets in our solar system contribute greatly to earth’s habitability. For example, the massive gas giant Jupiter acts as a cosmic vacuum cleaner, protecting the earth from incoming comets. Likewise, Mars protects the earth from incoming asteroids.

If earth did not have a moon of the right shape and size, our planet would not be able to sustain life. The moon stabilizes the earth’s tilt, in turn preventing extreme temperatures and creating a stable, bio-friendly environment.

There are many other factors which influence the habitability of the earth. The few examples here detailed unequivocally demonstrate that indeed the earth is a privileged planet, another indicator of intelligent design.

Is the Universe Designed for Discovery?

In 2004, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards published their groundbreaking book, “The Privileged Planet”, in which they argued that the conditions most suited for life also provided the best overall setting for making scientific discoveries. In other words, our planet is not merely fine-tuned for life, but it is also finely-tuned for discovery.

One example is the phenomenon known as solar eclipses. People have witnessed solar eclipses for millennia, but only recently have we begun to notice a remarkable correlation: The only place in our solar system where a perfect solar eclipse can be observed happens to be the only place where there are observers. There are hundreds of moons in our solar system, but most moons cannot entirely eclipse the sun. Of all the places in our solar system, only on earth do the sun and moon appear the same size to observers. This is because the sun is both approximately 400 times larger than the moon and roughly 400 times farther away. Solar eclipses have played a significant role in scientific discovery, having helped physicists to confirm Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The Milky Way, as a spiral galaxy — in addition to being the only biofriendly kind of galaxy — is relatively flat. Consequently, it has less gas and dust than others, and fewer stars impede our view of the rest of the universe.

Earth is located not only in the galactic habitable zone, but also in the right place where minimal light pollution and other visual obstructions might impede the view of our surroundings. Moreover, earth’s atmosphere — which is the only one we know of which can support life — is also the only one clear enough to allow us to observe the universe.

Such findings place naturalists (who see us and our place in the cosmos as nothing more than accidents) in an uncomfortable position. But it makes a lot of sense to theists, who see us and our place in the cosmos as fully intended by an intelligent creator.


To believe that the facts and figures here detailed amount to no more than happy coincidence, without doubt constitutes a greater exercise of faith than that of the Christian who affirms the theistic design of the universe. Such scientific insights over the last several decades have led the late Robert Jastrow — a self-proclaimed agnostic — to write: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

This blog post was adapted from a previous article published on

The Universe Had a Beginning

Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin wrote a book in 2006 (Many Worlds in One) in which he refers to a theorem he developed with Alan Guth and Arvind Borde. Although not a believer in God but the mulitverse, Vilenkin says that their theorem proves that even if other universes exist there was an absolute beginning of them all. In other words, one cannot posit a multiverse, as atheists often do, to avoid an absolute beginning.

Vilenkin put it this way: “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).”

In a recent debate, Dr. William Lane Craig points this out forcefully and exposes his opponents attempt to take Vilenkin out of context. He also states that Vilenkin’s theorem shows there was an absolute beginning regardless of the initial physical states of the universe.

The bottom line is this: Since there was an absolute beginning to space, time and matter, it’s reasonable to conclude that the cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial. This cause must also be personal in order to choose to create, intelligent to create such a fine-tuned universe, and powerful to create out of nothing. A spaceless, timeless, immaterial, personal, intelligent, powerful Being is exactly what theists call “God.”

Christopher Hitchens: Evidence of a Divine Being

Christopher Hitchens: Evidence of a Divine Being

Does God Exist? Frank Turek vs. Christopher Hitchens

I am greatly saddened that Christopher Hitchens is gone.  There is no one with whom I disagreed more who I admired so much.

I emailed Christopher several times since his diagnosis with cancer, my last correspondence with him occurring the day after Thanksgiving. I expressed my prayers and concern for him.  He responded immediately and graciously, and even said he would “love to renew our debates.”  That gave me hope he was recovering.  Now all hope is gone.

Although he was an opponent of my Christian worldview, I never felt that he was an opponent of me personally.  I met him for the first time backstage in September 2008 at Virginia Commonwealth University before the first of our two debates.  It was my first debate with anyone (save my wife, who routinely annihilates me), and I had studied mightily to go up against such a brilliant intellect.  Upon meeting him I said, “Christopher, I know we are on different sides of the God issue, but I appreciate you and your work.  In fact, I’m kind of a fan.”  He paused, shot me a mischievous look, and declared, “The night is young!”

That night we had a spirited but rambling exchange.  Hitchens could read technical manuals and keep an audience spell bound, so our audience was entertained.  But as even one of the atheist organizers of the event admitted, he rarely directly engaged my arguments for God during the debate.  He did little better in his book, dismissing over two millennia of rigorous philosophical argumentation for theism from Aristotle to Aquinas to Craig in less than nine pages.

In our second debate I asked him how, as an atheist, he explained the origin of the universe out of nothing—that all space, time and matter had a beginning out of non-being, which would imply that its cause is spaceless, timeless and immaterial.  Indeed, since nature itself was created, the evidence points to an uncaused First Cause that transcends nature.  After a long joke that went nowhere (but did entertain), Hitchens finally rested on the fact that he was not a physicist.  Of course, that wouldn’t mean he could just ignore the evidence from physics.  But he did and many in the audience applauded.  Even my Dad, who was present that night, was impressed with Christopher’s ability to woo an audience while avoiding the question!

Hitchens was also a man of courage. Backstage at our second debate in March 2009, I asked him if he ever got death threats for his outspoken opposition to Islam. “Islamofacism” he called it.

“Of course,” he said.

“Have you gotten security?”

“There’s no use for that,” he informed. “Those who want to kill you won’t warn you anyway.”

Later in the Q&A portion of the debate, a Muslim student urged Hitchens to consider the Qur’an.  Without hesitation, Hitchens blasted, “If you want to know what I think about the Qu’ran, you can read my book.  I have a whole chapter on it.  And when you read it you will see the Qu’ran for the garbage that it is!” The edited-for-TV debate left that question and response out of the video, but Christopher was unafraid of any future retaliation from “the religion of peace.”

Hitchens tended to lump all religions together, showing nearly equal scorn for the Bible.  “Religion poisons everything” was his subtitle, which is a witty way of saying that religion is evil.  But how can there be evil unless there is an objective, unchanging standard of Good?  When pressed to explain the existence of an unchanging standard of Good without God, Hitchens cited the changing biological process of evolution.  But a changing biological process cannot explain the existence an objective, unchanging moral law.  Hence, by complaining that “religion poisons everything,” Hitchens was borrowing from God in order to argue against Him.  (The truth is religion doesn’t poison everything—everything poisons religion.)

But none of that mattered to the causal observer.  Even those who knew that Christopher’s arguments were often emotional and foundationless found him appealing.  Dr. Edward Feser, who dismantles the arguments of the New Atheists in his book The Last Superstition, put it well in his blog last Friday.  He wrote, “Of the four horsemen of the New Atheism, Hitchens was the only one I found likable, and the only one possessed of a modicum of wisdom about the human condition, or at least as much wisdom about the human condition as one can have while remaining essentially a man of the Left. While there was rather too obviously something of the champagne socialist about him, I do not doubt that he had real concern for real human beings — rather than merely for grotesque abstractions like ‘the working class’ or ‘humanity’ — and that he showed real moral and even physical courage in defense of what he sincerely took to be the best interests of real human beings.  But love for one’s fellow man, however genuine, is only the second greatest commandment.”

I don’t see how anyone who knew Christopher Hitchens could think that a man with such admirable qualities and talents was nothing more than a collection of chemicals– the product of unintelligent processes.  Christopher’s intellect, wit, courage, passion, and immense personal charm are evidence to me of a Divine Being– a Divine Being who loves human freedom so much that He would even allow the gifts He bestows to be used against Him.

For those who think that Christopher would be upset that his death furthered the idea of God, please keep in mind that I think his life furthered the idea. If he were still here, he would debate that, but he wouldn’t be upset that a debating opponent thought he was evidence of God.  Christopher Hitchens was too big a champion of free thought to begrudge a man his argument.  I am blessed to have known him.

The Euthyphro Dilemma


    Excerpt from “Jesus Is Involved In Politics! Why aren’t You? Why Isn’t Your Church?” Rational Free Press 2010 (c) Neil MammenAvailable on Amazon and at Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

    Plato, The Euthyphro Dilemma

    Christian morality is based on pleasing or satisfying the whimsical capricious God of the Bible, with only secondary importance for “doing unto others as you would yourself” and “loving your neighbor.”

    Council for Secular Humanism1

    Pointy Headed Boss (to Dilbert): “You are not allowed to have internal phone lists on your wall. There are excellent reasons for this policy, and I hope to someday know what they are.”

    Later – Pointy Headed Boss (to Catbert, Evil Director of Human Resource): “They’re getting suspicious about the Random Policy Generator.”

    Dilbert Cartoon

Why The Law Was Given:Is God Capricious? Is God Good?

Did God arbitrarily make up the laws?

My Hindu friend who always argues with me about religion, had a smirk on his face. Now, you must realize that he was only Hindu by name and by culture, not by conviction. He was a functional agnostic. The fact that we were eating at a vegetarian restaurant was because he’d grown up vegetarian and never developed a taste for meat. “Why is god good?” he asked with that smirk. “Is he good because whatever he does is good? If he said killing infidels was good would that make it good?”

When we try to argue that God’s moral values are applicable to everyone and should be used as a basis for legislation, we have to first prove that God is not capricious. What my Hindu friend had been reading was the atheist claim that God arbitrarily decides what is good and what is bad. That, they say, makes Him capricious and His laws unworthy. Let me provide you with a definition of the word capricious.

    Capricious adj.: determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason; “authoritarian rulers are frequently capricious.”2

The quote at the beginning of this chapter from the Council for Secular Humanism claims God is capricious and whimsical; He randomly decides what is good and what is evil for no good reason. This was Socrates’ question to his student Euthyphro.

Bertrand Russell the avidly avowed atheist formulated the problem this way in his book, Why I Am Not A Christian:

    If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat [decree/command] or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good.

    If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not good independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to[prior to/separate from] God.3

In other words, Russell said that if good is good because God randomly decided what was good, then good is not really good. It is arbitrary. But if good is good because of something separate from God, then God is not sovereign because He’s a slave to this goodness and thus goodness is greater than God. Is Russell right? Of course he is not, and I’ll show you how to refute him completely in the next few pages.

Is whatever we do for God good?

Remember the Gestapo Captain and the liberal Rabbi in the Walter Martin story we described in an earlier chapter. The liberal Rabbi who believes there is no objective right or wrong is asked by the Gestapo Captain, “I’m going to kill you, is there any reason why I shouldn’t?”

The liberal Rabbi can’t say, “Because it’s wrong or because it’s inhumane or because it’s bad.”4

In many ways, the Gestapo Captain was a relativistic thinker just like the liberal Rabbi. The Captain thought that whatever he did for the Nazi party or the German people was automatically good and that morality was something that the Nazis, not the Jews, got to define. In the same way if we were to say blindly that whatever we do for God is automatically good, it could lead to relativistic thinking and the claim of capriciousness. So let’s see how we can refute this claim.

Why God is not capricious

First, we must understand that it’s important that the laws that we are given be non-capricious real laws with real consequences. If God were to give us laws that had no real consequences and merely order us to obey them because it was His whim, then He would indeed be capricious. And those laws would be illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary.5 Sadly many Christians don’t seem to realize this. I personally didn’t either until I had to respond to an atheist about it. (This is one of the reasons for my zeal for apologetics).

Take the first point: All the laws that God gave us must be real laws with real and negative consequences to humans (I will prove this with examples later). But that means when we sin, we are effectively committing a double crime – that is, doing two bad things. We are hurting ourselves and others, and we are rebelling against the Almighty G
od who created us. The latter being the more serious crime, but understandably not one that we wish to legislate.

Second, we have to understand that the secular atheistic humanists have phrased the problem based on their limited understanding of God. It’s not that God is capricious or that He is beholden to a higher value. What will refute them and Russell is simply this:

God is good.

And that is our second point.

Huh? You ask.

Let me explain. It’s not that God has arbitrarily determined what good is. Nor it is that He is beholden to a higher value than Himself. It’s just that His very nature is one of goodness. God is good. God is by nature good. Goodness is who He is. God could no more decide tomorrow that torturing babies for fun was good than he could ever stop being God. Yes, God is enslaved but He is enslaved by His own nature. He is enslaved to God. He is enslaved to Himself. It’s that vicious cycle similar to God having to be the center of His own praises. God could no more stop being good than He could stop being God.6 Good is good, and God is good. Their sources are the same.

“Ah but,” my atheist friends complain, “you’ve not defined good, you’ve just said that God is good, so your definition of good is God and your definition of God is good. That’s circular reasoning, and you can’t prove it.”

But as we have already shown it is actually circular reasoning if you try to create a definition of good without a supreme moral giver. You need a standard and you need a standard giver.

Since my atheist friends cannot come to a definition of good without a standard, they are in a similar dilemma. At least our theory has explanatory power and is self-consistent.7 Do note, however, that I do not use this methodology to prove the existence of God. There are enough other ways to do this (all outside the scope of this book, see “Who is Agent X? Proving that Science and Logic show it is more reasonable to think God exists,” Neil Mammen, Rational Free Press, 2009).

Since the source of the definition of good is self evident, and the character of God is good, then it follows that God and the source of good can be the same. So there is no capriciousness in God.

But is it circular reasoning? It isn’t, if I can show that God has to be good to be God. It’s not circular reasoning then because being good inherently is a necessary condition for any god to be the God.

A bad god won’t last long

Let’s look at this. God could not be anything but good. In other words, there could not exist a god, who was bad, or a god who was irrational, or a god who was not loving. Why? Because it would not work. An irrational god would self-destruct and could not last for all eternity. An evil god would never survive. A deficient god who was in any way not self sufficient, or in any way destructive, or in anyway not ‘just,’ or not loving could not last for infinity as his own shortcomings would destroy him.

How can I prove this? Quite simply: Bad cannot exist except as a privation of good, bad is a corruption of good. What I mean by that is that there is nothing such as “bad,” bad only exists if good is corrupted.8 If good ceases to exist, bad will cease to exist as well. A good example is a shadow (note, I don’t mean darkness9). A shadow cannot exist without light. If a shadow were to destroy all light, it would destroy itself. All that would be left is darkness, which is not a shadow, it’s nothing.

That means infinite bad cannot exist, as it will cease to exist as soon as it becomes infinite. Since by necessity God is infinite10, He can never be infinitely or perfectly bad, as He will self-destruct (of course, the concept of God self-destructing doesn’t make sense, and that’s why we see that a bad god is impossible).

People can argue about it any way they want, but if they adhere to logic they’ll end up coming to the same conclusion.

I would theorize that even Satan realized that if he were able to survive without God (remember Satan was merely a created being),11 he would inevitably destroy himself as he became fully evil. A deficient evil being like Satan could not become or maintain himself as a universal eternal being. This is further exacerbated by the fact that evil has no definition if good does not exist; yet good, while not being fully appreciated, would still exist without evil. In all evil situations some good must exist. Even in Hitler’s Germany, those who were Nazi’s did good things. They loved their children. They cared for their elderly parents, (though who knows how long that would have lasted with their euthanasia programs?) It is impossible to imagine how the Nazis could have continued to exist if every Nazi was absolutely evil.12

So, as we can see, good can exist without evil. However, evil will destroy itself without good. Thus to exist, God must be good. Good must be a core characteristic of God. It’s not separate. Bertrand Russell has been refuted.

Note too that “Good” as we see, is a transcendent value. Good existed long before a universe existed. Similarly 1+1= 2 long before any universe was created and it will still be true after all universes have died a heat death. There are no possible universes where 1+1 is not equal to 2. Mathematics is a transcendent art. So are truth, justice, logic, rationality, love, reason and well, set theory among others.13 They are all part of the very intrinsic nature of God. They are transcendent and eternal.


Do note, this blog is not attempting to prove any of the following: 1. That God is indeed actually good. I’ll leave that argument to others. It only concludes that IF He exists he must be good.2. That God exists (for that evidence please refer to the book “Who is Agent X? Proving Science and Logic show it’s more rational to think God exists.” available at



End notes:


2. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1957), 12. As quoted by Gregory Koukl in Euthyphro’s Dilemma on the Stand to Reason

4. Yes, yes, I know you are thinking that he could say, “I have information that I can us
e to buy my life…” but let’s assume like most of the Jews who were sadly killed, he doesn’t have anything that the Gestapo Captain needed, that the Captain couldn’t have taken anyway.

5. Someone could argue that the command by God in the Garden of Eden, “Don’t eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” was capricious. But that would be presumptuous. Whenever we are dealing with an intelligent agent like God, presuming you know all the parameters as a human is illogical. We can’t argue from the lack of evidence. In addition as mentioned in an earlier footnote, if God did not give Adam the ability and opportunity to reject Him or disobey Him, He would not have truly given Adam freewill.

6. Remember as we’ve said in a previous footnote, one of the things that we need to be clear about is that God cannot do anything. He cannot stop being God, He cannot sin, He cannot cease to exist, and He cannot be irrational or illogical. He cannot learn. He cannot make a round two- dimensional square. He cannot make 1+1 = 3. All of those actually are derived from “He cannot stop being God.” For a full logical response to “Can God create a stone so big that he cannot move it” see and do a search for “Stone so big.”

7. William Lane Craig, one of this century’s best debaters and philosophers, has used this argument quite successfully in many debates against atheists. I.e. if objective moral values exist, then God exists. Objective moral values do exist, thus God exists. See I always describe Dr. Craig this way: He’s the guy who, after he’s done debating an atheist, you actually feel sorry for the atheist. In his winsome manner, Craig destroys every single one of their arguments. Most atheists don’t know what hit them.

8. One could try to argue that bad is a corruption of an amoral thing as well. For instance, a knife is amoral, for one can use it to kill instead of cut an apple. But the very existence of that knife is “good.” It is good that the knife exists because it is useful and has purpose. Non-existence would be the only truly amoral thing, but non-existence is not an option if anything at all exists.

9. Darkness would be nothing or amorality in this example, i.e. neutrality- neither good nor evil.

10. This can be proved in one paragraph; science agrees that whatever caused the Universe to begin at the point of the Big Bang was outside of time and space. This can only be an infinite being, since you cannot create time if you are in time. For more on this go to and search for “proving God exists without using the Bible.”

11. I have a trick question that I use now and then. I ask, “Who is the opposite of Satan?” The answer is not God. Satan is a created being not a creator. He is not omnipresent in time and space and all dimensions. He is not omnipotent or omniscient. The closest opposite to Satan may be one of the archangels. If you ask, “Who is the opposite of God?” The answer is “No one” No one can be the equal and opposite of the Almighty Eternal Creator.This also means that Satan must be of such a mind that either he knowing that he can never destroy God wishes to be a thorn in God’s side till he Satan is destroyed or thinking that he can destroy God is willing to destroy himself to do so.

12. This is similar to the concept of Total Depravity. We humans are totally depraved, but we are not absolutely depraved. This means that while we have a depraved sin nature, not everything we do is sinful or destructive.

13. Note that physical, atomic, and chemical laws are not necessarily transcendent because they did not causally (that’s cause-ally not casually) exist before the universe was created and one could feasibly reason than a universe could be created with different laws.

Richard Dawkins on the Wonder of the World

In this well produced and narrated video, atheist Richard Dawkins marvels at the fine-tuned wonder of the world. What does it all point to? Raw data cannot tell us because all data must be interpreted. In other words, one cannot do science without philosophy. So how one interprets the fine-tuned beginning and existence of this amazing universe may be the result of certain philosophical presuppositions that artificially restrict one’s interpretation. Since Dr. Dawkins philosophically rules out God, intelligence, and the supernatural in advance, he’s left with using a word like “luck” as if it’s some kind of cause.

In his defense, he seems to be using the word “luck” to cover what he thinks is ignorance about the cause (see page 157-159 of “The God Delusion” for more). Fine. But given the available evidence that spacetime and matter–all of the natural world– exploded into being out of nothing with extreme precision, the most reasonable cause appears to be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, intelligent and personal– that is, beyond the natural world, or supernatural. To quote former atheist turned theist, Antony Flew, that’s simply the philosophical principle of “following the evidence where it leads.”

Everyone Believes Something Unbelievable

Virgin birth. Abiogenesis. Resurrection from the dead. Random mutations producing the raw material for new organs. Intelligent creation ex nihilo. Eternal matter. Eternal mind. Heaven. Multiverses. Speciation by unguided, natural selection. Hell. Natural DNA information generation. Adam. Panspermia. Angels. No immaterial soul. Miracles. Space aliens. God. No God.

That is the introduction Roddy Bullock used in his post of the same name:  Everyone Believes Something Unbelievable.  Bullock points out that everyone’s theory of origin for the universe or life itself requires a belief in something seemingly unbelievable.  “Everyone” here includes both atheists and theists. He goes on to cite the faith that some atheists have in abiogenesis.  He writes:

Take abiogenesis, for example. There is no evidence–just a lot of “must-have-happened-because-we’re-here” certainty among the atheistic faithful in need of such belief; and believe they do. Ironically, the atheistic faithful like to think they are free of faith and suppose others to be, well, full of it. But in fact faith abounds on all sides with only two things certain: everybody believes something unbelievable and only certain unbelievable beliefs can actually be true. In fact, certain unbelievable beliefs must be true, and others must be false.

So which is true: abiogenesis (life from non-life without intelligent intervention) or some kind of creation by a preexisting intelligent being?

I think answering the origin of life question must come after one attempts to answer the origin of universe question.  You can’t have life coming from non-living chemicals without those chemicals first existing.  From where did they come?  Are chemicals self-existing or is there something outside of chemicals that is self-existing?

This takes us back to the bedrock truth that there must be an uncaused First Cause (there can’t be an infinite regress of causes). That uncaused First Cause is either the universe or something outside the universe.  (Note:  whichever it is, asking who caused the uncaused First Cause is a logical category mistake and thus a meaningless question).  For reasons we’ve cited earlier on this blog and in the book (the Big Bang, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Kalaam Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Fine-Tuning Argument), the uncaused First Cause is not the universe.  The best evidence points to an extremely intelligent, personal First Cause that is outside of timespace and matter (i.e. is timeless, spaceless and immaterial).

In light of this, when it comes to the question of the origin of life, who is believing something more unbelievable?  Abiogenesis proponents believe that no one created life from non-living matter.  Intelligent design proponents believe that someone created life from non-living matter, most probably the intelligent being that created matter itself.  It seems to me the atheist belief in abiogenesis requires more faith because it lacks explanatory scope and power. It lacks any explanation for the origin of the universe and the four natural forces, and then it lacks the power to explain how those repetitive forces can create the information and engineering found in life.

By the way, these are not a God-of-the-Gaps arguments for the universe or life.  There can be no natural cause for the universe because nature itself was created at the Big Bang.  Thus, the cause must be beyond nature (i.e. supernatural).  With regard to life, it is not just that we lack a natural explanation for life, but that we have positive empirically-verifiable evidence for an intelligent being.  We only know of minds that produce the empirically-detectable characteristics of life (digitally-coded instructions and information, irreducibly complex and engineered components– see Signature in the Cell for more).  We can falsify this by finding natural forces that can create such characteristics.  Given the repetitive nature of natural forces and the fact they tend to bring things to disorder rather than order, that seems highly unlikely.  Thus, the most reasonable conclusion is that intelligence is responsible. (This doesn’t necessarily mean the intelligent cause of life is supernatural, but in light of the evidence for an intelligent supernatural being, I think the cause of life is most probably that same being.)

I’ve covered a lot of ground here from 30,000 feet.  There’s more detail in the book and in other posts, but I’ll summarize.  Most atheists and theists believe in creation– few deny there was a beginning to the universe and life.  What we disagree on is who or what did the creating.  Since the universe requires an intelligent cause cause beyond itself, and life, as Francis Crick put it, appears to be “almost a miracle,” what is the most reasonable conclusion?  Atheists and abiogenesis proponents have faith that “miracles” can occur without a miracle worker.  Theists follow the evidence where it leads.  So while atheists and theists both believe what appears to be unbelievable, someone creating is a far more believable than no one creating.

Caroline Lois' Story: A response to suffering.

by Caroline’s Dad, Neil Mammen

My sweet daughter Caroline Lois died in my arms last week. She was nine days old. We will bury her this week.

This is Caroline’s story, starting with the reflections my wife and I gave at the funeral. Afterwards I’ve included some of the emails sent to our friends and relatives to show the progression of our family’s journey through the darkest hours we’d yet to walk through. We pray that ultimately Caroline’s short earthly life will serve to encourage both Christians and non-Christians to further engage their own beliefs in relation to eternity.


Caroline’s Memorial Service

Venture Christian Church, Los Gatos, CA

Saturday December 5, 2009 


On behalf of our entire family we want to thank you so much for being here today to honor our little girl, Caroline Lois Mammen. We’ve been tremendously strengthened and encouraged by your generosity of spirit and love. We can literally feel the prayers being offered up in this time and again we thank you!

Since most of you didn’t get to meet her, I wanted the chance to tell you a little about Caroline.

Her Story.

Caroline’s due date is actually today, Dec. 5th. She surprised us and was born two weeks early on November 22 at Good Sam. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I fell in love with her. While it was similar with Mary Katherine three years ago, there was something special about Caroline. When I saw her, my heart instantly went out to her and I immediately burst out in tears- which didn’t happen with Mary Katherine. Looking back I think it was because, while we didn’t realize or know anything was wrong at the time, she was a special needs child and these beautiful children have a way of capturing your heart.

Almost immediately, the doctor recognized that Caroline had a cleft palate (a small hole in the roof of her mouth) and she had to be taken to the NICU. They assured me she’d be back soon as it wasn’t serious and they weren’t even admitting her in there. They just needed to monitor her and teach her to eat using a special bottle. I visited her and was so grateful she wasn’t as sick or tiny as the other babies. In fact at 7lb. 3 oz and 20 inches long she looked like she didn’t belong in there.

But things got worse. I don’t consider myself to be a nervous “new mom” but it seemed every few hours that I’d go to visit or get a phone call –the news would be worse than the last time. First, it was the feeding tubes, as she wasn’t eating as much as they hoped. A few hours later, she was on an I.V., as she couldn’t keep her food down. The next day it was the shock of going to visit her and finding her in a complete incubator with tiny purple goggles on her little eyes and lights, as she was jaundice. I couldn’t hold her anymore because she needed the light therapy.

A few hours later, a cardiologist came to visit me in my room. Caroline had two holes in her heart. Even this news I felt I could manage as the condition is relatively common and my best friend’s one year old Ruthie has a hole that is in the process of growing shut. They were fairly sure Caroline wouldn’t need surgery at all. Still I cried as I was exhausted and just really wanted to hold ……and smell…. my baby again. I missed that newborn baby’s breath smell as it’s one of my most favorite things.

After that, while in my hospital room I got another, more serious call. While in the NICU Caroline had “crashed”… There were apparently other heart problems that hadn’t been seen at first – among them a small aorta and as a result her blood supply had failed starving her of oxygen until they were able to restart her blood supply. At two days old, they were transferring her to the Stanford Children’s Hospital in anticipation of giving her heart surgery. I was discharged that night. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I went home with no baby. And Neil followed the ambulance to the hospital.

But the heart surgery was put on hold. While at Stanford, they discovered the lack of oxygen had done damage to her kidneys, liver, and possibly brain. We’d have to wait and pray. And we did. We sent out emails and messages and heard back from so many of you. And we were hopeful and encouraged by them. We believed that God COULD do a miracle. He’d created her (and everything else), He could heal her. But WOULD He? What was the plan for her life? We prayed desperately for her and visited her in the NICU everyday. She was on a morphine drip for the pain, but we sang to her and sat with her and talked to her and touched her as much as we could and took pictures with her. And we loved her. One of her many wonderful nurses said we’d set a record for the number of bows, hats and clips brought in for a little girl in such a short time span.

Throughout the past two weeks there were two moments that were the worst. Obviously one was when Caroline was dying in our arms. The second worst moment was what I call the “Dress Rehearsal” of her death. It was when –one week ago today– we got the phone call telling us she’d likely die.

The call came at 9:00 in the morning. Neil had me leave the room while he talked to the NICU doctor. Then we sat on our bed as he tried to “soften” the most awful news possible. The doctor was “very worried” as her kidneys were putting out mostly blood and the damage seemed severe. She wouldn’t qualify for a kidney transplant, as her heart wasn’t strong enough. Caroline’s death was now a very real possibility. I remember everything turning black and feeling like the bed was going to open up and swallow me. I felt my heart had been ripped from my chest and that I was free falling into the blackest abyss I could imagine. And I didn’t know what to do. I kept asking, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do? How can this happen?” I also remember saying, “How will we go on? How will I raise Mary Katherine?”

Neil held me and we cried and I sobbed. And then my mom came in and she cried with us and I sobbed. And we prayed. And then my mom left us alone and I sobbed some more.

And then Neil started feeding me a life rope. Feeding me lines of truth. He gently said,

“She’s not ours.”

“We don’t deserve her.”

“This happens everyday all over the world.”?“We’re not special.”

“We will go on. We will have more kids. We will not let this harden us.”

And I was comforted.

You may think those are strange things to say and to take comfort in, but let me tell you why it wasn’t for us. You see when I met Neil he had two passions that stood out. One was for something known as apologetics. Apologetics is the logical, rational, scientific study and approach to God and Christianity. It’s the investigation to questions such as, “Is the Bible TRUE? I mean REALLY, capital “T” TRUE? Or is it full of errors?” “Is it a book of fairy tales and wishful thinking?” “How can you trust that it’s accurate? Isn’t it just a copy of a copy of a copy?” “Is there solid evidence that Jesus ever even lived at all much less died and rose again?” “Are the places and people in the Bible real?” “What sources outside of the Bible can back up Biblical accounts of history?” “Is there enough evidence to be convincing? Would it hold up in a court of law?” “How does evidence for the truth of Christianity compare to evidence for other religions?” As many of you know, this is something that Neil writes and speaks on. Why I’m bringing this up is because in that moment -up until that time the worst in my life- I was so thankful that I didn’t have the added burden of questioning my belief and faith in God. And that’s because I hadn’t made the decision based on tradition or emotion. I had a faith that stood
upon reasonable evidence.

Secondly, Neil and I both grew up in homes passionate about theology. For the nine years we’ve been married, we’ve enjoyed discussing the tough questions of life and death and God and reality. Questions like, “Is God good? Uninvolved? Indifferent?” “If God is good, why does He allow suffering in the world?” “Why do BAD things happen to ‘good’ people?” “What about miracles? Who gets them and when and why? Are they only for the REALLY good people? How does my faith play into miracles?” “Does God punish his people?” We read and chew-on and discuss and argue and go to conferences and listen to podcasts on long road trips about these issues because we find them interesting and worthwhile. And they are a part of the diet of our lives. So, when I found myself face to face with that black Abyss, Neil fed me the statements of solid conclusions we’d already thought through …and it stabilized me. I know that for me personally cherubs and clichés of guardian angels and some fuzzy picture of an old man in the sky with a long beard wouldn’t have been enough as my daughter lay dying 30 miles from my house. All of those notions wash away. In fact, even tradition and my religious up-bringing instantly vanished and couldn’t have been less important. But Neil reminded me of these Truths and I grabbed hold of them. They were my lifeline.

“She’s not ours” – He meant that she’s God’s. She, like you and I, were made in His image with a purpose and a set number of days and has a life beyond the 9 months (growing in me) and 9 days on this earth. While we pray she touches your hearts and she changes us– makes us more sensitive, softer and loving– makes this world a better place. Beyond all that, she is a soul eternal. She isn’t a concept or past tense. She’s her own precious person still existing right now.

“We don’t deserve her” – We are fallen, imperfect people who fall short of the glory of God, yet He’s saved us. Every good gift, including the 9 days with Caroline, comes from Him. Throughout our marriage, Neil has made comments whenever blessings have come our way that we are undeserving of them. We’d get a new car and he’d at some point say, “You know we don’t deserve this.” When we bought our house, at some point he’d comment “We’ve been so blessed, you know we don’t deserve any of this” and I’d respond, “I know, I know… you’re right.” When Mary Katherine was born he said the same thing. So when he said we don’t deserve Caroline I knew exactly what he meant. And I agreed. And the blessing of our coming to the conclusion that we don’t “DESERVE” something – that we aren’t owed or entitled anything by God- is that it stops the root of bitterness and anger from taking hold and growing.

“This happens everyday all over the world. We’re not special.” — Again, that’s TRUE. While in one sense we’re all special in that we’re made in the image of God and incredibly valuable to Him, in another sense Neil and I are no more special than any of you. No one escapes suffering or death. When I look out across this room, my heart aches for what I know many of you have gone through and are going through in all kinds of scenarios. And even now- with our daughter right over there- throughout the course of this week we’ve heard from some of you the tragic stories of your lives- and we’ve commented to each other, “How are they surviving that?” “Now that would have been so hard.” I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to lose your mom, to face cancer, to suffer abuse, to manage chronic pain day in and day out.

This is not the last of our suffering. And whatever you’ve been through, it’s not the last of yours either. We aren’t special.

Finally, Neil also said, “We know where she’s going. And we’ll see her again.”

Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been HEALED completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again. 

Caroline’s Memorial Service

Part 2: Neil

Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been HEALED completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again.  

To an analytical, logical, skeptical engineer like me this would seem like just a nice sentiment. A nice myth. But the reality is that it may not be true.

“Ah” we may think, “so what if it’s not true, at least it makes us all feel good, and prevents pain, how can it hurt us, it will comfort us. It’s a comforting myth.”

But it struck me that that’s perhaps the mildest of the scenarios. I realized that there is a worst case scenario. What if it’s a lie and the real truth is something completely different, something that by believing a lie results in a terrible terrible fate. A terrible fate that I could have prevented had I studied the evidence. For if it is a lie, I have not only no hope for Caroline but I may be dooming myself and my entire family by believing this myth. It occurred to me that surely it’s worthwhile to look into this. I likened it to someone telling me the bridge has a huge section broken halfway out. Where I can’t see it. Now I may not care when I’m NOT driving towards the bridge. But say, one day I find that I do indeed need to cross the bridge. Even if I don’t believe the reports of the bridge being out, surely it’s worthwhile to look into it.

With my sweet Caroline’s death I am reminded that one day we all need to cross the bridge. We are staring death in the face today. We are in the middle of the storm. And one day all of us will face it.

So I for one, want to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that what I believe in, is true. That it’s not just a useful myth. But that it is factually TRUE.

Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been HEALED completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again.  

What my wonderful, patient, longsuffering, gorgeous and loving wife said is true. I believe this about Caroline because our Apologetics (the factual evidence for our faith) proves our Theology.

That apologetics allows me to prove using science that God really exists.

That apologetics allows me to prove using historical evidence, facts and logic that Jesus Christ was a real person and that he physically rose from the dead proving that He was God.

If this IS true then it’s also true that Christ is the grave robber.

For as 1 Corinthians 15 says, “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith. If Christ has not been raised then we Christians are fools to be pitied more than all men.

But as we can prove Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first risen fruits of those who have died.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Our mortality will put on immortality; our perishable will put on the imperishable.  Death will be swallowed up in victory. Then we can say:

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

Thanks be to God for He has given us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Can I get an Amen?

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Grave Robber who comes to steal us away.

And thus, now once our Apologetics has proven and verified our Theology, then can our Theology strengthen and direct ou
r Hope. And yes though we are sad and cry and miss our sweet little Caroline, that verified Hope can lead our emotions and give us security, peace, comfort & joy in this wonderful season of Christmas. This season of God’s promise of life.

And that’s why we can truly say: Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been healed completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again. And what’s great, I can prove that to be the most reasonably, most logical TRUTH.

Some have asked how we manage to be so joyous in these circumstances. It is these things that we have proven. It is these things that we stand on. It is these things that give us a solid ground for our faith and our hope.

Our Apologetics verifies our Theology. Our Theology directs our Hope and our Hope guides our Emotions.

That and the love of a wonderful gorgeous woman who believes in me and believes in us. With her and our dear supporting families who are always close, we can take on the world. I am truly blessed and deserve none of it.

Yet still, many of you have asked me what you can do for me. You’ve asked how you can help us. Can I collect today on that request? You can indeed help us make Caroline Lois’ life more meaningful. Here’s my request. You see one of my passions; one of my purposes in life is to explain this to you.

To show you the scientific evidence that I believe conclusively and reasonably proves that God exists,

The manuscript evidence that proves the Bible is accurate and the historical evidence that proves Jesus Christ rose from the dead showing us he was God.

To show you how and why our Apologetics verifies our Theology. Our Theology directs our Hope and our Hope guides our Emotions.

So here’s my request. Here’s what you can do for us: Let’s go out to lunch or coffee or dinner. Let me show you my evidence. I have five major points. I won’t force them on you. Feel free to disagree every step of the way, it will make it more interesting for one. But let me show you those 5 points. Hear me out. That’s what you can do for me. Those conversations with you will make our friendship stronger and my Caroline’s life that much more meaningful to me, because her life is what allowed us to talk about these normally taboo subjects. Will you do that for me? You don’t even need to pay for lunch. I’ll buy.

I want to close with one thought, if I may. For a while as she lay dying, I thought while I know I will see her again, oh what sorrow that Caroline will never get to live her life here on earth. She lost out.

Many times we think our purpose in life is what we do here on earth. What we do for others. These are all important. But I realized that I’d forgotten that we are not created primarily for the earth. We are created primarily for eternity. You see as the Westminster Confessional says: The Chief purpose of Man is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him forever.

Let me say that again.

The Chief purpose of Man is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him forever.

If we think our chief purpose is to Glorify God here on EARTH we have only a minute fraction of the picture. For if my Theology which is proven by my apologetics is true, we will spend more time in Eternity in the presence or the absence of the Almighty God, than we will ever spend here on earth. Amen.

My dear friends, who have so honored us by being here today, our sweet Caroline’s chief purpose is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him FOREVER. She has not lost out. She has not missed out, she is not lost. She is in fact doing precisely that. Enjoying God.

My sweet kind friends, I wish oh so much, for you to enjoy God as well, for I fear that if we don’t we will lose out. We may not lose a mere 80 years on earth that we thought Caroline had lost, but we may lose something far more permanent and eternal.

Something that Caroline has right now and can never lose.

Thank you.

For those interested in a more detailed account of the progression of Caroline’s story and the journey we took through prayer and a bit of the  emotional processing, we’ve included emails and some facebook posts in sequential order. 

November 22 at 6:45am 

Chris Kent: My sister Anna is in labor! Hopefully baby Caroline will make her grand entrance this time!

Anna Mammen: is thankful for my “Sweet Caroline!” who arrived this morning at 10:40am (13 days early! YAY!!). She is 7lb. 3oz and 20 in. long and we are in love . Definitely is resembling her sister at this point. -Pics to come.. but I need a nap !

November 22 at 2:06pm

 Chris Kent: A proud uncle yet again. Caroline Lois was born to Anna Kent Mammen and Neil Mammen today. Congratulations, world!

November 22 at 6:34pm 

Anna Mammen Our early Christmas gift. Caroline Lois Mammen

 November 23 at 8:08pm 

On Tue Nov 24, 2009, at 5:58 PM, Neil Mammen wrote:

Hi family and friends an urgent prayer request.

Our second daughter Caroline Lois Mammen was born this past Sunday, Nov. 22 at 10:40 am. She was 7lbs 3oz and 20 inches. However, she was immediately admitted into the NICU as they found that she had a small hole in the roof of her mouth and two holes in her heart. Normally this is not a problem and can easily be treated. However after 2 days she was not thriving, today she “crashed,” they think she may have an aorta that is too small and is unable to provide enough oxygen for her. They’ve given her some medicine that will alleviate the problem. If it does not work she’ll be taken to Stanford Medical at Stanford University to a cardiologist for immediate surgery. If it does work she’ll still go there but it won’t be as critical.

There’s lots of good news in this. First if this is the actual problem, it can be treated and the operation itself is relatively simple. Second, I’m glad we don’t have socialized healthcare and as a result have some of the worlds most advanced (and expensive) medical services. Third, like my wife reminded me, we’ve always dreamed of having our kids go to Stanford, all expenses paid. J But most of all we are reminded that God is able and He is in control.

Please be praying that the medicine works to remove the urgency and after that she survives the trip there, that she does not catch any infection (hospitals are notorious for that) and that she has no other problems i.e. no development problems. She is also learning to suck/eat with a special bottle to compensate for the hole in the roof of her mouth, which has proven difficult for her. We serve a mighty God and whatever He wills is fine with us at the end of the day of course our heart’s desire is for a full and quick recovery.

Please forward this to family and friends. We will start updating people on facebook shortly.

Neil and Anna Mammen

November 24 at 7:36pm

Anna Mammen is asking for your prayers as baby Caroline is on her way to Stanford hospital for heart surgery tonight. She had trouble breathing all day and was put on a respirator and feeding tube. We are trusting her to God and His perfect will for her precious life. But it’s still hard.

On Tues, Nov 24, 2009, at 7:10 PM, Neil Mammen wrote:

Thank you all, and praise God. Caroline is looking better. She’s pink again (sorry Indian relatives, another very un-Indian looking baby Mammen – but she does have black black hair so far). The medicine they gave her seems to be working. From my limited understanding it seems to confirm the problem is what they suspected. As we speak the EMT’s are
here getting her ready to move to Stanford. It takes quite a while. So she’s out of danger as much as we can tell. PTL. I will go with her to Stanford and will follow with more info at some point.

Meanwhile here’s a website that tells you what I think is happening. I have not talked to the doctor so this is just my own research. It looks very promising but as we all know the problems are the ones that we don’t anticipate like side effects, infections etc. So please do not stop praying. Caroline is a trooper and will give her older sister a run for her money we pray.

Wed, November 25, 2009 1:43:53 AM

Caroline is at Stanford/Packard Children’s Hospital, they are stabilizing her and trying to bring her back to fully normal before any surgery is done. It may be a few days. The doctor confirmed that my research was correct, it’s either an interrupted aortic arch or a “skinny” aorta (I haven’t found any info on the latter yet).  They will confirm after all the tests are run tonight and tomorrow.

The biggest prayer need now is to pray that that there was no long term damage done during the time when her blood was not flowing fully. There are lots of things that could have been damaged. Keep praying please and thank you all so much for all your responses. Keep them coming. While we many not be able to respond individually, each one has been a great encouragement.

Thanks again.


On Thursday Nov 26, 2009, at 11:54 AM, Neil Mammen wrote:

Hi family and friends,

Baby Caroline is getting more stable by the hour. She’s on morphine so she’s out of pain and sleeping steadily. All vital signs have stabilized or seem to be getting there.

They confirmed that there was some liver damage and some kidney damage when she had a short supply of blood/oxygen. But they said these are usually all reversible and that’s what they are working on. We will know more in a few days. All other scans showed there was no genetic issues with her organs or brain. They are doing a few more tests. We are praying that baby Caroline had no brain damage either. Normally the body maintains supply to the brain at the expense of the other organs so please pray that there is no damage there. The nurse said “We see a lot of babies with lack of oxygen here and usually they recover quite well.”

We are praying that they can do the heart surgery next week as that indicates that she’s strong enough and well on her way to recovery.

Do keep praying. We are thankful for you, your prayers, emails of encouragement and all the blessings we have this Thanksgiving. 

Neil and Anna Mammen

Caroline Lois is not improving

November 28, 2009 

Today was a very tough day for us. The doctor called and said that though she has stabilized, our darling Caroline’s kidneys are not improving and he is concerned that there is permanent damage to them. Due to her heart condition he said she may not be a candidate for a kidney transplant. They are increasing her medicine to see if she will respond. He also confirmed that the MRI did show some brain damage that was caused when her blood supply stopped due to her hypoplastic aorta. However, he said that they they don’t know yet if it’s permanent or recoverable. Kidneys can recover naturally; or supernaturally if God wills.

As you can see our optimism suffers compared to the last update (see below). We do know she is the Lord’s and His to take to heaven whenever it is her time, we know that as with Paul and King David, sometimes the Lord chooses not to heal according to his Sovereign will. Yet please pray with us for a miracle of healing. We have seen the Lord act supernaturally before in our life with Mary-Katherine (ask me about this sometime); and pray for Him to do so again if He wills. We have been given so much and don’t deserve Caroline, or anything for that matter, but selfishly would like more time to know and love her and see her grow up to be a powerful force in ministry and apologetics (of course).

As I write this we are here at Stanford Medical at the NICU, she is sedated and sleeps so peacefully. We love her so dearly. It’s tough for me as an engineer as I can’t “FIX” it. But she is first and foremost the Lord’s not mine. Not ours.

Frankly this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to faith, doesn’t it? God exists, I can prove that to be reasonable and logical using science and facts. Christ physically died and rose from the dead, I can prove that to be a reasonable and logical conclusion with a case that could stand up in a court of Law. (If you haven’t heard me talk about this, ask me for my scientific and historical and logical evidence). So if Christ rose from the dead, the accounts of His ability to heal then fall in place naturally. More so His promise of our resurrection. Faith must be based on truth and facts. Our Apologetics (the evidence for the faith) proves our Theology, our Theology strengthens and verifies our Hope and our Hope leads our Emotions. That way when trials come we can be assured and we can say: Sickness has no chance if He wills us to be healed. And if not to be healed, we can truly say: Oh Death where is your victory? O Grave where is your sting? In that glorious day God will dry the tears from our eyes, pain will end and we will never die.

In my discussion with my atheist friends they have looked at pain and said: How can God exist if there is so much pain and suffering? I look at pain and say: Thank You God, that You do exist and provably so. For without a God, pain and suffering would be a cruel heartless cold ending. For how can my atheist friend truly comfort anyone? In his worldview it is all for naught. There is no happy ending.

In the same way, my friends who do not know, or blindly hope, or only guess what maybe beyond our limited physical and natural four dimensions, can only wish that what is out there really exists and “will” themselves to believe that perhaps it is better than what we have here. But what if they are wrong? Where is their assurance? What is their hope based on? Facts or feelings?

Yet, I know emotionally and can prove intellectually that nothing can stop me from spending eternity enjoying Caroline as much as I enjoy Mary-Katherine, her big sister. The only question is if we have to wait a few years to start spending time with Caroline. At this point in her frailness, we pray we don’t.

The battle is not over. Keep praying. God exists and He is able. We now pray that His Sovereign Will is to heal her.


Please forward this to family and friends not on the list. 

Caroline Lois is going home

November 30, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009 about 3 PM

Caroline Lois is going to go home to her Lord and my Lord very soon. Perhaps tonight.

We are selfishly trying to keep her here a bit longer, here in 4D space, perhaps an hour or two. But do not be sad for us or worry about her or us for that matter, as we have full assurance that she is going to far greater place than she has ever been before and we too will meet her there one day. To tie a few famous phrases together:

“It’s a far better thing I do now than I have ever done before, it’s a far better place I go to than I have ever been before. Father into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

While we are sad and distraught at the temporary separation, it is with joy that we can release her soul to the great healer who again physically and factually proved He was able to resurrect from the dead. We are left behind for we have a lot of work to do here before we meet her there.

Do remember that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not ev
en Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. For if Christ did not physically rise from the dead then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. And worse, those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. Yes, if Christ has not been raised then we Christians are to be pitied more than all men.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When this has happened then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”?“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ the Grave Robber.

1 Corr 15.

One of my favorite 80s song was by Petra. Here’s a link to it with the lyrics.

Grave Robber by Petra Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, I Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, I Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17 Words & Music by Bob Hartman

There’s a step that we all have to take alone. An appointment we have with the great unknown. Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass. Like the flowers that fade like the withering grass

But life seems so long and death so complete. And the grave an impossible portion to cheat

But there’s One who has been there and still lived to tell. There is One who has been through both heaven and hell

And the Grave will come up empty handed that day. Jesus will come and steal us away

Where is the sting tell me where is the bite. When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night

Where is the victory where is the prize. When the grave robber comes. And death finally dies

Many still mourn and many still weep. For those that they love who have fallen asleep. But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache. Just one shout from above and they all will awake. And in the reunion of joy we will see. Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is gone, from the dust will come a song. Those asleep will be awakened – not a one will be forsakened. He shall wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears. There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain or sorrow

Where is the sting tell me where is the bite? When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night

Where is the victory where is the prize? When the grave robber comes, And death finally dies.

If you are interested in why I am so confident about the physical, historical and scientific truth about the Ressurection of Christ and the existence of God my I direct you to this web page:

Thanks. Neil and Anna

Caroline Lois Mammen is home

December 1, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009 12:41 PM

Today Caroline is with her Lord and my Lord.

This morning at 1:10 AM, I held her, as she went from our ever so limited four dimensional space, to the multidimensionality* of eternal life where there are more colors, more sounds, more tastes, more senses and everything is so far far more wonderful that this dim world pales in comparison. Tis truly a far better place that she is now. She was 9 months and 9 days old counting from when she became human in the womb. She was born on November 22nd, 2009.

She went from me, her dad’s arms, to her Father’s arms.

We are planning a memorial service on Saturday, most probably at Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos. We will post details as we know them.

We praise God in all He has given us. We do miss her greatly and feel the sorrow of parting, but do not despair for us or for her. Mourn instead for those who do not know our Lord and lead them gently to Him. Use words.

Thanks so much to all of you who have written or called or posted on our facebook. It truly shows us how much we are loved and cared for. Neil

*If you are wondering what all the multidimensional references are about, please see this link:  

Anna and I hope Caroline’s story will be an encouragement and a witness to others.

As of today I have over 20-30 offers to do “lunch” and talk about God and Christ from my friends who do not believe, who were either at the memorial service or have heard about our journey and just as importantly, who were very reluctant to talk about these issues before. 

To some atheists this may seem “different” but think of Amber’s family who when Amber was killed, decided that their daughter should not die in vain and was responsible for creating the Amber Alerts to protect other children. There are many similarities here, if my atheist friends are really going to hell for all eternity and my daughter’s physical and temporal death can be used to save them from that eternal consequence, surely this is a noble legacy to her life. Surely it’s a nobler legacy that something as excellent and as needed as the Amber Alerts. Amber Alerts may save a child from immediate harm, but it cannot save a child from eternal death.

 This is what we are calling Caroline’s Legacy.





Science Doesn’t Say Anything– Scientists Do



             You can’t put honesty in a test tube.

           “Science” doesn’t say anything—scientists do.

            Those are a couple of the illuminating conclusions we can draw from the global warming e-mail scandal.

            “You mean science is not objective?”  No, unless the scientists are, and too often they are not.   I don’t want to impugn all scientists, but it is true that some of them are less than honest.  Sometimes they lie to get or keep their jobs.  Sometimes they lie to get grant money.  Sometimes they lie to further their political beliefs.   Sometimes they don’t intentionally lie, but they draw bad scientific conclusions because they only look for what they hope to find.  

            Misbehavior by scientists is more prevalent than you might think.  A survey conducted by University of Minnesota researchers found that 33% of scientists admitted to engaging in some kind of research misbehavior, including more than 20% of mid-career scientists who admitted to “changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source.”  Think of how many more have done this but refuse to admit it!   (The researchers said as much in their findings.)

            Outright lies and deception certainly seem to be the case with “Climate-gate.”  The exposed e-mails reveal cherry picking; manipulating data; working behind the scenes to censor dissenting views; and doubting what the measurements say because they don’t fit their pre-determined conclusion.   Matt Drudge headlined this yesterday as the “Greatest scandal in modern science.”

            I actually think there is another great scientific scandal, but its misrepresentations are not quite as obvious.  In this scandal, instead of outright lies, scientific conclusions are smuggled in as philosophical presuppositions.  Such is the case with the controversy over the origin of life and new life forms.  Did natural forces working on non-living chemicals cause life, or is life the result of intelligent activity?   Did new life forms evolve from lower life forms by natural forces or was intelligence needed?

            Dr. Stephen Meyer has written a fabulous new best-selling book addressing those questions called Signature in the Cell Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science, Dr. Meyer is at the top of the science food chain.  In our August 8th radio interview, he told me he’s been working on his 600+ page book—which isn’t short of technical detail—for more than a decade.  

            What qualifies a man who has a Ph. D. in the “philosophy of science” to write on the origin of life or macroevolution?  Everything.  What some scientists, and many in the general public fail to understand is that science cannot be done without philosophy.  All data must be interpreted.  And much of the debate between Intelligent Design proponents (like Dr. Meyer) and the Darwinists (like Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins) is not a debate over evidence—everyone is looking at the same evidence.  It’s a debate over philosophy.   It’s a debate over what causes will be considered possible before we look at the evidence.

            Scientists look for causes, and logically, there are only two possible types of causes—intelligent causes or non-intelligent causes (i.e. natural causes).   A natural cause can explain a geologic wonder like the Grand Canyon, but only an intelligent cause can explain a geologic wonder like the faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.  Likewise, natural laws can explain why ink adheres to the paper in Dr. Meyer’s book, but only an intelligent cause can explain the information in that book (i.e. Dr. Meyer!).

            How does this apply to the question of the origin of life?  Long after Darwin, we discovered that “simple” single-celled life is comprised of massive volumes of DNA information called specified complexity—in everyday terms, a complicated software program or a really long message.  Richard Dawkins admits that the information content of the “unjustly called ‘primitive’ amoeba” would fill 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia!  

            What’s the cause of this?  Here’s where the philosophy comes in.  Dr. Meyer is open to both types of causes.  Richard Dawkins is not.  Dr. Meyer’s book explains why natural forces do not appear to have the capacity to do the job, only intelligence does.  However, Dawkins and his Darwinist cohorts philosophically rule out intelligent causes before they look at the evidence.  So no matter how much the evidence they discover points to intelligence (as a long message surely does), they will always conclude it had to be some kind of natural cause.   In other words, their conclusion is the result of their philosophical presupposition.

            While Dawkins has no viable natural explanation for life or the message contained therein, he says he knows it cannot be intelligence.  That philosophical presupposition leads to what appears to be an unbelievable conclusion:  To believe that 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia resulted from blind natural forces is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop.  I don’t have enough faith to believe that.

            “This is a ‘God of the gaps’ argument!”  Dawkins might protest.  No it isn’t.  We don’t just lack a natural explanation for “simple” life—1,000 encyclopedias worth of information is positive empirically verifiable evidence for an intelligence cause.  Consider the cause of the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, for example.  It’s not merely that we lack a natural explanation for the book (of course we know that the laws of ink and paper couldn’t have written the book).  It’s also the fact that we know that messages only come from minds.   Therefore, we rightly posit an intelligent author, not a blind natural process.

            Why is it so hard for Dawkins and other Darwinists to see this?  Maybe they refuse to see it.  Maybe, like global warming “scientists,” they have their own political or moral reasons for denying the obvious.  Or maybe they’ve never realized that you cannot do science without philosophy.  As Einstein said, “The man of science is a poor philosopher.”   And poor philosophers of science may often arrive at false scientific conclusions.  That’s because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do.

This column appeared on on November 25.

Atheist vs. Theist Debates Online

I think that atheists and theists can agree on at least one thing– this site, assembled by atheists, is a valuable resource for those interested in atheist vs. theist debates.  Over 400 debates are listed there!  Many of them can be viewed or heard on line.

For those who are serious about investigating atheism vs. theism further, I have one word of caution:  don’t rely on debates to give you the whole truth.  Most debates provide only 20 minutes for each debater to make his/her case, and rhetorical skills can sometimes obscure the truth.  If you are seriously looking for truth, watch the debates and then read the books of the debaters.  You’ll learn a lot more.

Turek vs. Hitchens II, Debate Video

Thanks to Christopher for a second opportunity to debate.   The question of this debate is “What Best Explains Reality:  Atheism or Theism?”   Recorded at the College of New Jersey!  (Also available to view on line here.  If you’d like to order a DVD of this debate, click here).

Frank Turek vs. Christopher Hitchens: What Best Explains Reality? from Andrew Ketchum on Vimeo.

Defining Atheism: “No belief in God” or “Belief in no God?”

“Atheist” is a translation of the Greek: atheos using the alpha privative “a” and the term for God “theos.” It does not merge the alpha private with the ENGLISH TERM “theist.” Rather “atheist” as a whole word is a translation of “atheos,” the whole word. Were the original meaning drawn entirely from etymology it would mean simply “godless,” “ungodly,” or “without God.” And this indeed is one of the definitions we find for the term in its Ancient sources. In that time, it also had the definition of “denying God/gods” which followed by implication from the notion of “godless;” if a person truly believed in a grand judge over all the universe he would not live/teach/think as if no such being existed. However the idea of withholding/refraining belief about some God, though present in ancient Greece and Rome, tended to be subsumed under terms like “skepticism” (gk: skepticos) or “materialism” or “atomism” (a form of materialism). “Atheos” however was used to describe a different phenomenon. Thus the effective meaning of “atheos” is something like, “godless” or “disbelief in God.”Were someone to translate ancient and classical uses of “atheos” into “no belief in God” they would do an injustice to the text since that is simply not how Greeks and Romans were using the term when they first coined it, nor when they continued using it over the years. Etymology (study of word origins, and composite meaning from word parts) is only one way that words take on meaning.When we apply etymology to the English word “atheism,” we have “athe” (from atheos “no God/Godless”) + “-ism” (belief). Belief then characterizes the “no God” hence we have, “Belief in no God.” And the alpha privative, as always, characterizes the word to which its affixed. So the belief is positive, the object of belief in negative. It is “belief in no God” or “belief in Godless[ness].” For etymology to achieve the negative definition of atheism, a popular definition today, from the term would have to be something like, “theos-a-ism” or, “No belief [in a] God.” The etymology argument then is not a friend but a foe of the negative definition of atheism.In ancient Rome we find the positive form of atheism exercised when Christians were being persecuted and martyred for being “atheists.” They did not simply lack belief in the Roman Gods, rather they consciously rejected all God’s but one. Compared to the plethora of Gods in the Roman Pantheon, rejecting all but one is practically equivalent to atheism. Hence Christians were accused of atheism. Even ambivalence could have been tolerated among the Romans as they did with many agnostic philosophers (though the term “agnostic” had not be invented yet). But conscious rejection of the Roman Gods was seen as an intolerable affront to the State.As we can expect from ideas that are deeply rooted in human nature and the human psyche, the idea of “atheism” survived for centuries with both connotations intact: “godless” and “disbelief in God.” However in recent times the definition has come under question by atheist themselves. Three motivating factors can be identified. First, in debates it is generally the better strategy to rebut the opponent’s case rather than to have to defend one’s one case. A softened definition of atheism allows for this. With negative atheism, the atheist doesn’t carry any burden of proof since that burden is on the participant/s making a positive case of some sort: “God exists” or “God does not exists.” But to claim, “I have no belief about God” is not a positive case, and therefore requires no defense in contemporary debate formats. Second, Antony Flew’s important article “The Presumption of Atheism” argues that the default or neutral position for humanity is atheism. Building on the point just made, Flew argues that the burden of proof is on the theism to demonstrate that “belief in God” is reasonable. Essentially, Flew is arguing that negative/soft/weak atheism is man’s natural disposition, or if it is not, it is the intellectually justified default position. It is up to the theist to make a positive case for theism. A third factor which might have played a part in this redefinition is the onset of British positivism, like that of A.J. Ayer. Ayer, among others, suggested that claims must be empirically verifiable or analytically (by-definition) true if they are to be linguistically meaningful. Theology, for Ayer, is not true, but nor is it even false. It is without meaning since its reference to God lacks analytic veracity and empirical testibility the notion cannot even be entertained as a proposition. It is like trying to argue “I believe in ‘ouch'” or “I don’t believe in ‘um’.” These terms “ouch” and “um” are emotive/gibberish terms that defy cognitive belief or disbelief. “Truth” and “falsity” do not apply to them, and, according to Ayer, nor does it apply to any God-talk. Ayer’s positivism was all the rage for a while, but today, few people are conscious advocates of this “logical positivism,” even though its scope and influence is incredibly widespread.Understanding these three possible influences together: 1) The strategic advantage of donning a negative definition of atheism (“no belief in a God”), 2) combined with the argument of “The Presumption of Atheism,” and 3) a positivistic disposition–it makes complete sense why many contemporary atheists want to define their own camp in negative terms as “without theism, no belief in a God” instead of the historic and traditional usage of atheism as the positive position of “disbelief in God.” Addressing the complexity of the issue we find in the modern era, the term “agnostic” was coined by Thomas Huxley in 1889 with reference to his own conviction that knowledge about God’s existence or non-existence is impossible. He did not consider himself an atheist, but found himself being called one. Not surprisingly, the borders between “atheism” and “agnosticism” are often blurry or invisible. So for atheism to be distinct, defensible, and publically viable, it needs the help of some categorical distinctions since atheists are widely diverse and do not necessarily hold a party line when they don the moniker “atheist.” Somewhere in the Modern era there seems to have been a division then in both Agnosticism and Atheism, rendering four categories from the previous two.

  • Negative/Weak/Soft Atheism–“no belief in God”
  • Positive/Strong/Hard Atheism–“belief in no God”
  • Weak Agnosticism–“knowledge of God does not exist”
  • Strong Agnosticism–“knowledge of God is impossible.”


These categories are used by Michael Martin, Antony Flew, and William Rowe. I use these categories myself and find them quite helpful in clarifying some of the subtleties that arise in these debates. However, these are not standardized, and do not necessarily reflect the long history or widescale contemporary usage of “agnostic” and “atheist.” I recommend these categories for clarity of usage, but we should be careful not to follow, unthinking, the contemporary popular usage of “atheist” and “atheism” as being weak agnosticism. Etymology, history, and much contemporary standard sources defy that definition. Don’t believe me? Check some of the sources listed below. The latest entry is by atheist Kai Nielsen. William Rowe is also atheist. And I think Paul Edwards is too.

  • (historic usage)
  • (1942) Ferm, Vergilius. “Atheism” in Dictionary of Philosophy. Edited by Dagobert D. Runes. New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams & Co. Philosophical Library.
  • (1951) julius/meaning_of_atheism.html
  • (1967) Edwards, Paul “Atheism” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 1. Collier-MacMillan, 1967. p. 175.
  • (1973) Edwards, Paul, ed., “Atheism” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 1973
  • (1998) Rowe, William L. “Atheism” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig. Routledge, 1998.(2009) Nielsen, Kai. “Atheism”. Encyclopædia Britannica.


Sleeping With Your GirlFriend

This column by Frank Turek appeared on Today: 

My friend David has a knack for cutting through the smokescreens people throw up when they’re trying to avoid making commitments, be they commitments to God or to other people.  Last week, with one comment, he blew away all the smoke that a young agnostic was hiding behind.  It was a demonstration of tremendous insight, and it required some courage to say.

For several weeks David was teaching through a series on Christian apologetics, which involves providing evidence for the truth of Christianity.   In addition to the biblical mandate to provide such evidence, David thought it would be wise to do so because 75 percent of Christian youth stop attending church after age 18.  Many of them abandon the church because they’re bombarded by secularism in college and they’ve never been taught any of the sound evidence that supports Christianity.

Last week, after David finished a presentation refuting the “new atheists”—Dawkins, Hitchens and the like—a young man approached him and said, “I once was a Christian, but now I’m an agnostic, and I don’t think you should be doing what you’re doing.”

“What do you mean?” David asked.

“I don’t think you should be giving arguments against atheists,” the young man said. “Jesus told us to love, and it’s not loving what you’re doing.”

David said, “No, that’s not right.  Jesus came with both love and tuth.  Love without truth is a swampy, borderless mess.  Truth is necessary.  In fact, it’s unloving to keep truth from people, especially if that truth has eternal consequences.”

David was absolutely right.  In fact, if you look at Matthew chapter 23, Jesus was more like a drill sergeant than he was like Mister Rogers.

But the young man would have none of it. Without acknowledging David’s point, he immediately brought up another objection to Christianity.  David succinctly answered that one too, but again the kid seemed uninterested.  He fired a couple of more objections at David, who began to suspect something else was up—something I’ve noticed as well.

I’ve found that the machine-gun-objection approach is common among many skeptics and liberals. They throw objection after objection at believers and conservatives but never pause long enough to listen to the answers.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve just answered their question with an undeniable fact—they’ve already left that topic and are rattling off another objection on another topic as if you hadn’t said a word.  They don’t really seem interested in finding answers but in finding reasons to make themselves feel better about what they want to believe.  After all, a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs.

David recognized that’s exactly what was happening in his conversation. So after the kid fired off another objection, David decided to end the charade and cut right to the heart.  He said, “You’re raising all of these objections because you’re sleeping with your girlfriend.  Am I right?”

All the blood drained from the kid’s face. He was caught. He just stood there speechless. He was rejecting God because he didn’t like God’s morality, and he was disguising it with alleged intellectual objections.
This young man wasn’t the first atheist or agnostic to admit that his desire to follow his own agenda was keeping him out of the Kingdom.  In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul revealed this tendency we humans have to “suppress the truth” about God in order to follow our own desires.  In other words, unbelief is more motivated by the heart than the head. Some prominent atheists have admitted this.

Atheist Julian Huxley, grandson of “Darwin’s Bulldog” Thomas Huxley, famously said many years ago that the reason he and many of his contemporaries “accepted Darwinism even without proof, is because we didn‘t want God to interfere with our sexual mores.”

Professor Thomas Nagel of NYU more recently wrote, “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief.  It’s that I hope there is no God!  I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.  My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.”

Certainly the new atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have problems with cosmic authority.  Hitchens refuses to live under the “tyranny of a divine dictatorship.”  Dawkins calls the God of the Bible a “malevolent bully” (among other things) and admits that he is “hostile to religion.”

It’s not that Hitchens and Dawkins offer any serious examination and rebuttal of the evidence for God.  They misunderstand and dismiss hundreds of pages of metaphysical argumentation from Aristotle, Aquinas and others and fail to answer the modern arguments from the beginning and design of the universe.  (Dawkins explanation for the extreme design of the universe is “luck.”)

Instead, as any honest reader of their books will see, Hitchens and Dawkins are outraged at the very thought of God.  Even their titles scream out contempt (god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The God Delusion). They don’t seem to realize that their moral outrage presupposes an objective moral standard that exists only if God exists.  Objective morality—as well as the immaterial laws of reason and science—cannot exist in the materialist universe they attempt to defend.  In effect, they have to borrow from a theistic worldview in order to argue against it.  They have to sit in God’s lap to slap his face.

While both men are very good writers, Hitchens and Dawkins are short on evidence and long on attitude.  As I mentioned in our debate, you can sum up Christopher’s attitude in one sentence:  “There is no God, and I hate him.”

Despite this, God’s attitude as evidenced by the sacrifice of Christ is: There are atheists, and I love them.

Big Bang Evidence for God

Big Bang Evidence for God
By Frank Turek

When I debated atheist Christopher Hitchens, one of the eight arguments I offered for God’s existence was the creation of this supremely fine-tuned universe out of nothing.  I spoke of the five main lines of scientific evidence—denoted by the acronym SURGE—that point to the definite beginning of the space-time continuum. They are: The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Expanding Universe, the Radiation Afterglow from the Big Bang Explosion, the Great galaxy seeds in the Radiation Afterglow, and Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

While I don’t have space to unpack this evidence here (see I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist), it all points to the fact that the universe began from literally nothing physical or temporal.  Once there was no time, no space, and no matter and then it all banged into existence out of nothing with great precision.

The evidence led astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow—who until his recent death was the director of the Mount Wilson observatory once led by Edwin Hubble—to author a book called God and the Astronomers. Despite revealing in the first line of chapter 1 that he was personally agnostic about ‘religious matters,” Jastrow reviewed some of the SURGE evidence and concluded,  “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

In an interview, Jastrow went even further, admitting that “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. . . . That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
Jastrow was not alone in evoking the supernatural to explain the beginning. Athough he found it personally “repugnant,” General Relativity expert Arthur Eddington admitted the same when he said, “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”

Now why would scientists such as Jastrow and Eddington admit, despite their personal misgivings, that there are “supernatural” forces at work? Why couldn’t natural forces have produced the universe? Because there was no nature and there were no natural forces ontologically prior to the Big Bang—nature itself was created at the Big Bang. That means the cause of the universe must be something beyond nature—something we would call supernatural.  It also means that the supernatural cause of the universe must at least be:

·         spaceless because it created space
·         timeless because it created time
·         immaterial because it created matter
·         powerful because it created out of nothing
·         intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed
·         personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).

Those are the same attributes of the God of the Bible (which is one reason I believe in a the God of the Bible and not a god of mythology like Zeus).

I mentioned in the debate that other scientists who made Big-Bang-related discoveries also conclude that the evidence is consistent with the Biblical account. Robert Wilson—co-discoverer of the Radiation Afterglow, which won him a Noble Prize in Physics— observed, “Certainly there was something that set it off. Certainly, if you’re religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.”  George Smoot—co-discoverer of the Great Galaxy Seeds which won him a Nobel Prize as well—echoed Wilson’s assessment by saying, “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the Big Bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”

How did Hitchens respond to this evidence?  Predictably, he said that I was “speculating”—that no one can get behind the Big Bang event.  I say “predictably” because that’s exactly the response Dr. Jastrow said is common for atheists who have their own religion—the religion of science.  Jastrow wrote, “There is a kind of religion in science . . . every effect must have its cause; there is no First Cause. . . . This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implications—in science this is known as ‘refusing to speculate.’”

Hitchens admits the evidence but ignores its implications in order to blindly maintain his own religious faith (watch the entire debate at  How is it speculation to say that since all space, time, and matter were created that the cause must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial?  That’s not speculation, but following the evidence where it leads.

Dr. Jastrow, despite his agnosticism, told us where the evidence leads.  He ended his book this way:  “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Hitchens-Turek Debate

On Tuesday night, I debated atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything, at Virginia Commonwealth University. The topic was, “Does God Exist?” 

Thanks be to God (and to you for your prayers) because I don’t think the debate could have gone much better.  There were several atheists who approached me afterwards to say that I had won.  One young lady actually apologized for being an atheist!  Her position was not well represented, and she said that the arguments for God were. 

Hitchens was his usual charming and witty self (I really like him and said as much), but he did not answer any of the eight arguments that I presented for the existence of God.  And as many in the audience acknowledged, he dodged nearly all of my questions.  

Here is the introduction of a long e-mail sent to me two hours after the debate by a VCU Philosophy professor who attended (this professor told me that he is completely “non-religious”):

Dear Dr. Turek,  I wanted to say once again that I greatly enjoyed your talk and that, in my judgment, you clearly and unequivocally prevailed against Hitchens. Your two mind-body arguments were, I thought, very good, as were your modernizations of the cosmological argument and the teleological argument. I was also moved by your argument that, given how vanishingly close to zero are the chances of there being any sort of life, let alone intelligent life, it is more reasonable to infer that there is a God than it is to infer that there isn’t — the first an inference, but not the latter, being an ‘inference to the best explanation’, as philosophers of science would say. 

This is from a Christian student who has doubts:

My name is Jeremy and I was at your debate tonight. I will tell you what, you opened up a new can of worms at the VCU campus.  You have opened the eyes of many of the “atheists” that go to VCU and well, you did an amazing job.  You have really opened my eyes up a little bit more to the fact that God exists.  As a Christian, I still have my doubts sometimes.  I am not going to lie.  But by faith I believe.  Something that Mr. God himself Chris does not comprehend. (That was a great closing statement that you made)  But thank you so much for coming to Richmond and actually answering questions and having a reliable debate unlike Chris who beat around the bush and really bashed you when he did not have an answer.  People on the group said you did a good job and you made up some minds. 

Here is an account of the debate from an atheist and a Hitchens fan who was very disappointed:  This gentlemen erroneously thinks I do this for money.  My honorarium for the debate goes to He also dismisses my arguments without answering them and mischaracterizes a few things, but he tells the truth about Hitchens.)


We video recorded the entire debate, and interviewed many who attended.  As soon as we produce the final version, I’ll let you know where you can see it (we intend to post it on You Tube and put it on our TV show).

Thank you again for your prayers and support.  Our next college event is September 23 at UNC Charlotte. 

God is Not Dead Yet

The following is from Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig’s recent article “God is not Dead Yet” in Christianity Today.   I encourage you to read the entire article.  I include this section on the moral argument because of our recent discussion here about how the existence of objective morality requires God– a claim that atheists have yet to refute. 

The moral argument. A number of ethicists, such as Robert Adams, William Alston, Mark Linville, Paul Copan, John Hare, Stephen Evans, and others have defended “divine command” theories of ethics, which support various moral arguments for God’s existence.

One such argument:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

By objective values and duties, one means values and duties that are valid and binding independent of human opinion. A good many atheists and theists alike concur with premise (1). For given a naturalistic worldview, human beings are just animals, and activity that we count as murder, torture, and rape is natural and morally neutral in the animal kingdom. Moreover, if there is no one to command or prohibit certain actions, how can we have moral obligations or prohibitions?

Premise (2) might seem more disputable, but it will probably come as a surprise to most laypeople to learn that (2) is widely accepted among philosophers. For any argument against objective morals will tend to be based on premises that are less evident than the reality of moral values themselves, as apprehended in our moral experience. Most philosophers therefore do recognize objective moral distinctions.

Nontheists will typically counter the moral argument with a dilemma: Is something good because God wills it, or does God will something because it is good? The first alternative makes good and evil arbitrary, whereas the second makes the good independent of God. Fortunately, the dilemma is a false one. Theists have traditionally taken a third alternative: God wills something because he is good. That is to say, what Plato called “the Good” is the moral nature of God himself. God is by nature loving, kind, impartial, and so on. He is the paradigm of goodness. Therefore, the good is not independent of God.

Moreover, God’s commandments are a necessary expression of his nature. His commands to us are therefore not arbitrary but are necessary reflections of his character. This gives us an adequate foundation for the affirmation of objective moral values and duties.

Evolution Cannot Explain Morality

Some atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, insist that morality is simply the product of evolution.  Common moral sensibilities (Don’t murder, rape, steal, etc.) help ensure our evolutionary survival.  There are number of problems with this view:

  1. Rape may enhance the survival of the species, but does that make rape good?  Should we rape? 

  2. Killing the weak and handicapped may help improve the species and its survival (Hitler’s plan).  Does that mean the Holocaust was a good thing?

  3. Evolution provides no stable foundation for morality.  If evolution is the source of morality, then what’s to stop morals from evolving (changing) to the point that one day rape, theft and murder are considered moral? 

  4. Dawkins and Hitchens confuse epistemology with ontology (how we know something exists with that and what exists).  So even if natural selection or some other chemical process is responsible for us knowing right from wrong, that would not explain why something is right or wrong.  How does a chemical process (natural selection) yield an immaterial moral law?  And why does anyone have a moral obligation to obey a chemical process?  You only have a moral obligation to obey an ultimate personal being (God) who has the authority to put moral obligations on you.  You don’t have a moral obligation to chemistry.

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Atheists Have No Basis for Morality), several atheists at a recent I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist event at UNC Wilmington struggled greatly when I asked them to offer some objective basis for morality from their atheistic worldview.  They kept trying to give tests for how we know something is moral rather than why something is moral.  One atheist said “not harming people” is the standard.  But why is harming people wrong if there is no God?  And what if harming people enhances your survival and that of most others?

Another said, “happiness” is the basis for morality.  After I asked him, “Happiness according to who, Mother Teresa or Hitler?,”  he said, “I need to think about this more,” and then sat down.  This says nothing about the intelligence of these people– there just is no good answer to the question.   Without God there is no basis for objective morals.  It’s just Mother Teresa’s opinion against Hitler’s. 

See also Neil’s post: Does our Morality come from our DNA?

The Religion in Science

If current Big Bang cosmology is correct (and the evidence is very good that it is) then the entire space-time universe exploded into being out of nothing (see previous posts God and the Astronomers and Who Made God? ).   Therefore, the Cause of the universe would seem to have these attributes:   

·         spaceless because it created space

 ·         timeless because it created time

·         immaterial because it created matter

·         powerful because it created out of nothing

·         intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed

 ·         personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).

These are the same attributes of the God of the Bible (which is one reason I believe in a the God of the Bible and not a god of mythology like Zeus). 

When I’ve posed this conclusion to atheists, many of them responded by claiming that I was speculating—that we really don’t know what caused the universe (see comments on the posts above). This is exactly the kind of response that Agnostic Astronomer Robert Jastrow said is common for atheists who have their own religion—the religion of science. Jastrow, who once sat in Edwin Hubble’s chair at the Mount Wilson Observatory, wrote this:

There is a kind of religion in science . . . every effect must have its cause; there is no First Cause. . . . This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implicationsCin science this is known as Arefusing to speculate@Cor trivializing the origin of the world by calling it the Big Bang, as if the Universe were a firecracker.

The implication of the creation of the universe out of nothing is that there is a Cause outside the universe with the attributes listed above.  That’s not speculation, but following the evidence where it leads.