Dear Apologist: Can You Demonstrate that You’re the Real McCoy?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. - I John 4:1Christian apologists are always looking for ways to turn the tables on the non-believer. They resent the very idea that they might have any burden of proof when they’re out campaigning for their god-belief, and they only seem willing to engage a non-believer apologetically if they are confident that they have some advantage over him right from the start. Of course, many apologists would prefer that the non-believer simply surrender his mind upon their arrival and soak up everything they have to say on their mere say so. If this does not happen, the apologists resort to tactics borrowed from one of their closest cousins, the skeptics. Examples of presuppositionalist strategy infused with attacks inspired by skepticism can be found here and here.
One of the things that Christian apologists resent the most about non-believers is their certainty. Granted, many secularists are uncomfortable with the concept of certainty, and oftentimes that is because they themselves have accepted premises endorsed by the skeptical school of philosophy. This is not to say that Christian apologists are disturbed by a non-believer’s acceptance of skepticist premises; presuppositionalists are eagerly hoping for this. On the contrary, it is the fact that, as someone whose mind is not trapped in the labyrinth of holy terror like themselves, the non-believer may be enjoying what the believers fear most: a full and wonderful life lived without their approval. And the non-believer’s non-belief itself, which is a precondition to enjoying life without Christianity’s approval, is viewed as the highest form of arrogance possible to man. And the only way to bring this perceived arrogance into check, is to undermine the non-believer’s sense of certainty – beginning with any certainty he may have, such as the certainty that the earth revolves around the sun. Christian apologists realize, at least implicitly, that if their campaign to spread their religious program is to be successful, they must undermine the human mind at its roots, at the level of “presuppositions.” And the mere potential that the non-believer holds any truth with certainty is enough to heap hot coals on the Christian’s unquenchable envy (for, like the jealous god they worship, Christians are endemically vulnerable to the vice of coveting another person’s liberty to enjoy pleasures). It sure must be tough being a fisher of men these days.
Now here’s an idea on how we can make things even more difficult for apologists.
Suppose the next time we encounter a Christian snake oil salesman like D.A.N. of Debunking Atheists or Sye Ten Bruggencate of the refuted website ”proof that God exists”, we announce the following policy as our T&C for engaging believers on their apologetic:
Before I consider your apologetic arguments and your worldview questions, you will first need to demonstrate to me that you are a genuine Christian. This means that you need to prove that you are saved and therefore that you are a “new creature,” that you have “the mind of Christ,” and that you are filled with the “Holy Spirit.” You have the floor. Have at it.
If, for instance, the apologist says he needs to prove that his god exists before he can meet the requirements stated in the policy statement, tell him that’s his problem. Of course, apologists say that everyone already knows that their god exists. However, this is obviously an attempt to evade the onus of proof, and as a truth claim itself, it simply multiplies the apologists’ burden of proof, which of course they have a terrible habit of failing to meet. Presuppositionalists also admit the futility of their apologetic program by announcing that their arguments are incapable of convincing non-believers of the truth of the Christian worldview. This, they say, must come from the irresistible use of force administered by the “Holy Spirit.” This, too, is an evasion, one intended particularly to excuse the inescapable flimsiness of their arguments. Sadly for them, there is no question that the apologists are without excuse.
Apologists should be reminded that none of these points of protest which they are likely to spew, do anything to meet the requirements stated by the above policy. It is no secret that within all of Christendom, there are hundreds if not thousands of schisms, sects, denominations, rival interpretations, disputes, and other kinds of division, all of which raises the ultimately unanswerable questions, namely:
Which version of Christianity is true? and How can one be sure that someone who claims to be a Christian is the real McCoy?
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
But this means that we do in fact have something measurable to look for here: is there anything about the believer’s former life as a human being that has not “passed away”? Is there anything in his life that has not “become new”? For example, was he bad at math before he became a “new creature,” and now he’s a whiz at even the most complex calculus problems? Was he right-handed before his conversion, but now he’s left-handed? Did he have 20/80 vision before his “renewing,” but now he can read the tiny print on a phone bill from 200 yards away? Was he balding and freckled before Christ entered his life, but now he has a full head of hair and a clear complexion? Did he speak only one language while he was yet in his sins, but now, as a result of “letting go and letting God” he is fluent in 17 languages? In what way is our apologist a “new creature,” and how can he demonstrate his new self as opposed to his old self? This is up to him. We just sit back and judge.
Now if the self-professing Christian objects at this point by citing the bible’s prohibition sagainst testing the Christian god (he may reference Deuteronomy 6:16 or Isaiah 7:12, et al.), we simply remind the believer that our policy is not intended to put the Christian god itself to any test. Indeed, the apologist has yet to prove it is real in the first place! Rather, our policy is intended to test the apologist according to what the New Testament itself indicates about the real McCoy, namely that he would have to be a “newly created creature” possessing “the mind of Christ” and filled with the “Holy Spirit.” We are simply applying what I John 4:1 teaches. In fact, it seems that only a person who confuses himself with the Christian god he says to represent would raise such an objection, which could only mean he is blaspheming the god he claims to worship.
The New Testament also claims that believers have “the mind of Christ.” We find this claim in I Corinthians 2:16, which states:
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.
Having access to an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being certainly could get you to knowledge.
The knowledge which the believer can be challenged to demonstrate does not have to be anything “out of this world.” Rather, it should be verifiable knowledge to which you yourself have access but to which the apologist would not have access by mere human means, given his distance from your life. Thus it should be something mundane and incidental. Simply ask the apologist to tell you, for instance, what you had for breakfast yesterday, the year and make of the car you drive, your parents’ birth dates, the city and hospital where you were born, your weight, your height, your first girlfriend’s name, your seventh grade math teacher’s name, when you first flew in an airplane, etc. Of course, any “omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being” worth its salt should know all of these things, so don’t hold back. If the believer cannot provide answers to all of these questions and any others you might pose to him, then it would seem that he does not actually have the “access” to an omniscient being that he claims to have. Thus he disqualifies himself as being the real McCoy.
Vantillian presuppositionalists famously claim to be “thinking God’s thoughts after Him,” and although this expression is rather vague and noncommittal, it could be interpreted to mean that those who truly do “think God’s thoughts after Him” have some special ‘noetic’ ability as the claim to possess “the mind of Christ” itself implies. Otherwise, what distinguishes “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” from not “thinking God’s thoughts after Him,” even for a believer? Or is “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” just a religiously euphemistic way of saying “repeating whatever the bible says” or “accepting whatever the pastor preaches in his sermons”?
Again it must be stressed to apologists that the Christian god is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient and infallible, so anyone who is capable of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” should be able to distinguish himself from ordinary human thinkers in the area of cognition and knowledge. Plus, the Christian god, by indwelling genuine believers via the “Holy Spirit,” is certainly capable of working in the believer’s life in mysterious ways. Given what Christians claim about their god and the magical transformation they claim it has allegedly affected in their lives, there’s nothing that should prevent the Christian god from imbuing believers with the ability to dazzle us with super-human abilities.
Now the apologist might concede that he cannot demonstrate the supernatural enhancements which the New Testament affirms a hallmarks of numbering among “God’s chosen.” He might tell us that, even if he cannot demonstrate to us that he is a genuine “saved and sanctified” Christian, the Christian god could nonetheless use him to deliver important spiritual messages to needy non-believers. But the answer to this is quite simple: the would-be apologist should return to where he came from with a message of our own: Send someone who is demonstrably the real McCoy. Indeed, “an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being” should have seen that one coming before using a sub-par imposter to do its dirty work. Thus if the apologist makes such self-eliminating concessions, he’s throwing out more than just himself!
At any rate, anything short of the apologist delivering a mind-boggling, dumbfounding and spellbinding demonstration that leaves us utterly speechless, can only mean: we’re dealing with an undocumented faith-adherent who is merely posing as the real McCoy.
So Christians, you tell us. And try not to give answers that are too obviously self-serving here. What should we do if you cannot document yourselves as genuine Christians? And if you cannot demonstrate that you are genuine Christians – genuinely saved, genuinely filled with the “Holy Spirit,” etc. – why should we consider anything you have to say in the first place? Be prepared to demonstrate your credentials as genuine Christians before you attempt to answer.
by Dawson Bethrick