Riposte to Justin Matyr: Closing up the Gaps

Riposte to Justin Matyr: Closing up the Gaps July 3, 2010

This post is part of a debate with Justin of The Faith Heuristic. The topic is: The Evidence Supports the Existence of a God. The debate is structured as follows:

  1. Justin – Opening Statement
  2. Leah – Rebuttal
    –part 1
    –part 2
  3. Justin – Rejoinder
    –part 1
    –part 2
  4. Leah – Opening Statement
  5. Justin – Rebuttal
  6. Leah – Rejoinder


In his last post, Justin has accused me of relying blindly on a “Naturalism of the Gaps.”  In his view, my belief that there is likely to be a non-theistic explanation for the unresolved question of the cause of the Big Bang is unwarranted.  I’m not going to write out my response to this criticism in full because it has already been beautifully written in a post by Common Sense Atheism.  In short,

BELIEVER: There’s still something mysterious about consciousness, and you shouldn’t accept a “Naturalism of the gaps,” either.

LUKE: But when I say I’m a Naturalist I’m not saying I’ve searched the whole universe and I know everything in it is natural. I’m just saying everything I know to exist is natural. I don’t know how consciousness works, but I have no reason yet to think it’s supernatural, and that’s why I’m a Naturalist. Besides, I do have good reason to suspect consciousness will turn out to be natural after all. The entire history of human inquiry gives me every reason to suspect that, even though I can’t know it for sure until we get much further along in our study of consciousness.

I don’t understand the precise workings of the Big Bang any more than I understand all the facets of the complicated problem of consciousness.  I’m still not going to bet that this is the one problem that’s solved by throwing up my hands and shouting “Magic!” (which is essentially what Prime Mover Theism amounts to) until I see more evidence.

Pushing the argument beyond deism into a defense of Justin’s own Christianity would have involved building up an alternate framework, that makes claims of its own.  Attempting to disprove the status quo by setting up a false dichotomy that maintains the only possibilities are atheism and prime mover theism and then claiming a weak point in atheism requires the alternative be true is flawed argumentation.

Frankly, I’m still a little baffled as to why Justin has basically taken the position that only the power of the Holy Spirit, as channeled through my boyfriend, could be expected to bring into a relationship with God.  He found this point important enough to make it the opening and closing paragraphs of this debate.  It seems odd to me that a benevolent, omnipotent being’s desire to bring grace into my life could be utterly stymied by any of the factors that could cause two college students to break up (though I suppose I now have an excellent weapon in my arsenal the next time my boyfriend and I have a dispute: “You know, I’m pretty sure someone who shines with the light that comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and has been partially conformed into the likeness of Jesus would love to take me to the Elm City Waltz.”)

On a more serious note, Justin placing the responsibility  for proving the existence of the Christian God onto my boyfriend suggests a strange theology of salvation.  It suggests that individual Christians are the primary proof and means of salvation for their fallen friends in a way that goes beyond even what I’ve put forward in some of my posts on evangelism.

One of the frequent atheist arguments against the existence of God involves proving the characteristics attributed to God are fundamentally in conflict.  Some atheistic objections are pedantic (i.e. If God is all powerful, can he microwave a burrito so hot that he himself cannot eat it?) while others have been provoking thought for millennia.  One frequently discussed problem is how to reconcile God’s infinite justice with the problem of salvation.  The only satisfactory defense I have seen remains C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.

Justin’s position that there is no way (with the possible exception of the presumed superpowers of my boyfriend) to convince me of the truth of Christianity, rather than a deist Prime Mover makes me dubious.  If a god is going to make belief in Jesus Christ a prerequisite for salvation, there should be some reasonable way for me to acquire that belief.  At the end of the day, I have no more reason to make a leap of faith and commit myself to Christ than I do to devote my life to Islam.

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