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Have you ever been in a debate with someone who asks for evidence for this or that particular issue, and after giving the evidence it is dismissed as not being relevant? Facts do not speak for themselves. “Facts do not come with interpretation tags, telling us how to view them. . . . Both sides haggle over the facts. Both sides search for new facts to add to their arsenals. Both sides raise accusations, yet it’s a rare day indeed when both sides acknowledge that their differences stem from something much more basic than facts. Their differences are rooted in opposing worldviews, which in turn are permeated with philosophical assumptions and commitments.” Facts are always interpreted by an array of presuppositions. For example, when the NT is shown to offer eye-witness evidence of the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus, the skeptic will claim that a resurrection of the dead is impossible, therefore, the evidence is suspect. Essentially, this comes to, “What my net doesn’t catch ain’t fish.”
I’ve been answering some objections from a man who has rejected his Roman Catholic upbringing and is now questioning the existence of God. There is nothing new in his arguments, but I don’t want to dismiss him out of hand. I do, however, want to set the parameters of what constitutes a good debate. The proper use of evidence is important. When someone says, “There is no evidence for the existence of God,” my first response is, “What constitutes evidence, and who gets to decide?” After my initial answer to some of his historical comments relating to the founding of America, I wrote the following in response:
Like you, I was raised Roman Catholic, and like you received no real theological or historical training other than, “the church says it, and you are to believe it.” So it’s not surprising to me that you are questioning the authority behind religious claims. In reality, you have rejected one faith and adopted another. You seem to be repeating the arguments of others: Robert Ingersoll, Karen Armstrong, and Bart Ehrman. (American Vision and Alpha and Omega Ministries will be conducting a debate between James White and Ehrman on January 21, 2009 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I’ve dealt with a few of Bart Ehrman’s arguments. For a NT scholar, he is not very well informed.) Your approach to this subject is not much different from the way you followed Roman Catholicism. Ingersoll, Armstrong, and Ehrman have become your new religious authorities. So why are they any better informed on issues of ultimate importance than Roman Catholic priests, bishops, and Popes? Why do you trust their evolved brains and the electrical impulses they displace that makes their lips move to say things?
I sent you my brief evaluation of some of your arguments in an earlier article to see how you would respond. You answered just the way I thought you would. I needed to know how you would deal with evidence. I gave you evidence contrary to Ingersoll, and you dismissed it wanting to move on to the Bible. Until you respond to the evidence I supplied to you contrary to Ingersoll’s historical assertions, there is no sense in me attempting to answer your biblical objections. So let me repeat them for you with some additions:
You misunderstand the purpose of the Federal Constitution. At the time the Constitution was drafted, there were 13 individual colonies with 13 different constitutions. Each of them mentions God or providence. North Carolina required belief in the authority of the Old and New Testaments as a qualification for holding political office in the state. The First Amendment protected North Carolina’s right to do this. Notice the wording: “Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” This prohibition was directed to Congress, the only national law-making body we have. The states were permitted to do what they regarded as proper regarding religion and politics. The Federal Constitution did not nullify the state constitutions. Even today, all 50 state constitutions mention God or providence. For you to say that our Founders separated religion and government is false. You dismissed the National Fast Days that were specifically Christian. I recommend that you actually take a look at original source documents rather than second-hand commentary on the period. A good place to start is with Benjamin F. Morris’ The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States who uses original source documents to make his case. Until you and everyone else answers (not dismisses) the content of this thousand-page volume, there is no debate.
Remember, it was you who cited Ingersoll who claimed that the Founders eliminated God and attempted to make this case by an appeal to the Declaration. This is not the case as the Declaration of Independence shows. Rights are an endowment from the Creator. If atheists had drafted the Declaration and Constitution, upon what would our rights be grounded so that they would always be fixed? The individual? The result would be anarchy. The State? Then we would have tyranny. God-ordained rights keep individuals and governments in check. The history of the 20th century has been described by Loren Eiseley as Darwin’s Century. Darwinism, as Charles Hodge made clear, is “atheism.” Have you calculated the carnage of the 20th century that can be laid at the feet of Darwin and his atheistic worldview? The Black Book of Communism puts the number of dead around 95,000,000.
The Constitution’s use of “Done in the Year of our Lord” is very important, especially when someone says God is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. In fact, the use of this dating marker a more direct reference to God since it singles out the Christian religion. To say that the use of “In the Year of Our Lord” was very common back then, only goes to prove my point. If it was the objective of the Founders to separate “religion and government,” then adding “In the Year of our Lord” makes absolutely no sense. Also, setting Sunday aside as a day of rest for the President doesn’t make any sense either (Art. 1, sec. 7) if the purpose of the Constitution was to create a government completely separated from religion. You would have to find something similar to what the French did during their late-18th century revolution. The revolutionaries eliminated the seven-day week and implemented a ten-day week. This eliminated the biblical creation model. The fact that Sunday is set aside as a day of rest is a funny way of separating religion and government. In addition, the French implemented a revolutionary calendar beginning with a new “Year One.” The French example is what Ingersoll and you would have to demonstrate from our nation’s Federal Constitution and subsequent official documents. So then, you can’t on one hand claim that the Founders wanted to separate religion and government and then on the other hand claim that they left two conventions of the Christian religion in the Constitution, the very document that you and others claim was specifically designed to secularize government.
The result of the French rejection of Christianity resulted in a bloody political regime. Women knitted as they watched heads literally roll as Madame Guillotine did its secular religious work.
So then, when you answer these specific arguments in answer to your initial response to me, I will be happy to answer your other queries.