Challenging Dan Barker’s Brand of Atheism

Episode 119 Summary by Mia Langford

Ex-preacher turned atheist Dan Barker has quipped, “Faith is a cop-out.”

Portraying religious faith as inherently irrational, Barker has traveled the globe spreading the gospel of skepticism.

But are Barker’s objections all bark and no bite?

This week SES Alums Dr. Tricia Scribner and Dr. Kyle Keltz discuss some of the truths to be found in their book Answering the Music Man: Dan Barker’s Arguments Against Christianity, including:

Philosophical Baby-Food Isn’t Going to Cut It

Contemporary atheism is a withered bouquet of bumper-sticker-type assertions, often presented without solid reasoning to substantiate them. If there is little substance to these “arguments,” why do atheists continue to use them?

Because they work.

Why do they work?

During my twenties I read Mein Kampf to understand how an entire nation could succumb to the evil of Nazism, and inside its pages Hitler states, “The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force.”

It is much less work to remember and internalize a four-word sentence such as “Faith is a cop-out” than it is to absorb the annotated logic of a metaphysical argument for the existence of God.

As Scribner puts it,

“We are not accustomed to having to work to think about God.”

The temptation of every generation is the seduction posed by lazy thinking, and as can be demonstrated, the current culture we live in is frequently all-too-happy to be seduced.

The truth is philosophical thinking is hard work. But as Samuel Johnson counseled in his Life of Milton, “What we hope ever to do with ease, we may learn first to do with diligence.”

And the dividends of such initiative are extraordinary.

“You get to the point in some of this reasoning where God cannot not exist,” notes Scribner, “Many of these arguments are virtually unassailable.”

We must reach a point of intellectual hunger and passion for the truth that, as in a good marriage, we will resolve ourselves to work at it.

Purpose is Objective and Has a Cause

Barker imbues the idea of purpose with subjectivity while acknowledging this personal sense of “purpose” would be entirely manufactured under an atheistic worldview. Scribner summarizes Barker’s position as, “You can have purpose in your life even without purpose of your life.”

In Barker’s world, as long as a being exhibits consciousness, personal purpose through intentional doing is possible. To explain the general purpose we see in the universe, Barker punts to evolution and the strive to survive.

But that dog won’t hunt because our directedness toward flourishing can’t be fully explained by evolution considering the examples of flourishing change with the various types of beings.

This argument Aquinas gives from final causality – what he calls his “Fifth Way” – observes that objective purpose goes beyond the fuzzy notion of personal meaning to the realization that the directedness of non-conscious beings can only be explained in terms of an intelligent, ordering force.

And it goes beyond the realization of a Creator.

This idea of causality is the bedrock of natural law theory, which speaks to a plethora of contemporary hot-button issues such as marriage and human sexuality, the human body, racism, government, and more.

When we dignify truth with the diligence due it, we not only have a tool with which to evaluate our ideas and the ideas of others, we see the light of philosophical inquiry turn barking assertions into hush puppies.

Pick up your copy of Answering the Music Man, catch the full interview with Dr. Tricia Scribner and Dr. Kyle Keltz, and if you’re ready to examine your faith intellectually and give reasons for your hope in Christ, consider SES by downloading our free e-book at the link below.

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