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A Review of Stealing from God. By Frank Turek.

Mar 20, 2015

NavPress, 2014.

There are thousands of books on Christian apologetics, philosophy of religion, and the new atheists. One quite new volume certainly deserves to be included in any listing of some of the better books on these topics. In a comprehensive yet easy to read fashion, he covers most of the bases.

His thesis is that “atheists need God to make their case”. As G. K. Chesterton put it many years ago, “If God did not exist there would be no atheists”. Even to rail against God and hate on him requires his existence. And the atheists demonstrate this time and time again.

With meaty chapters on reason, science, morality, evil, and so on, he shows how in most cases the arguments being made by the atheists actually depend on God’s very existence. Using the tools of philosophy, Turek shows the many weaknesses and crippling flaws in the atheist worldview.

As he says, “Atheism is like a house with fatal flaws in its foundation. Most of the atheistic views we’ll be addressing are faulty due to some overlooked mistake in logic or due to the fact that those views could only be supported if theism were true.”

Moreover, “atheists often exempt themselves from their own claims and theories”. They make sweeping claims to explain the world we live in but act as if they themselves are not part of this. Let me speak to this issue first. Atheists will claim that we are all just molecular machines.

But if we are all just clumps of molecules, then the laws of physics determine everything that we think or do. But if that is the case, why should we believe anything that anyone says – including the atheists? If we are all just the stuff of the laws of physics, then we don’t reason, we merely react.

Says Turek, “If everyone is a molecular machine, then why do atheists act as if they can freely and reasonably arrive at atheistic conclusions? We’ll see that this self-defeating problem haunts atheists at every turn.” Indeed, let’s look at reason a bit further.

Properly speaking, atheists reject reason, since they claim that only matter matters. All there is in the world is physical reality – nothing more. So on their own view, all the really important things in life, such as love, beauty, reason, volition, morality, and justice do not or cannot exist.

These are all non-material realities. But the atheists deny there are any meta-physical or super-natural things that exist. But we cannot explain non-material realities if there is only a material world. As atheist evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane once put it: “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”

Here is one honest atheist who is willing to admit to the self-refuting nature of atheistic materialism. Science itself cannot be true if human reasoning is not valid. So all the arguments made by people like Dawkins should just be dismissed out of hand.

Indeed, he presupposes that his reasoning is true, even though his own system has no place for reasoning. Thus he must make exceptions for himself, as do all the atheists who use the mind, the will, and ideas to convince us that the mind, the will, and ideas do not exist.

Says Turek, “The bottom line is that atheism cannot be shown to be true in principle. It has destroyed all the tools necessary to do the job. In order to construct any valid argument for atheism, the atheist has to steal tools from God’s universe because no such tools exist in the world of atheism. Theism has those tools, but atheists have ruled out that possibility in advance through their ideology of materialism.”

Consider too the issue of morality. Where, on the atheist worldview, does the notion of right and wrong even come from? Atheists like Dawkins make moral judgments all the time about how evil, wrong, and immoral Christianity is, but at the same time admit that there is no such thing as moral absolutes. Says Dawkins:

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

As Turek reminds us, “Morality isn’t made of molecules. What does justice weigh? What is the chemical composition of courage? How much hydrogen is in the honesty molecule? Did Hitler just have ‘bad’ molecules? To have a properly functioning ethical system means you need transcendent, objective moral standards.”

Humans cannot provide this. Nor can societies or cultures. They are not absolute and unchanging. So who decides if Mother Teresa’s society is better or worse than Hitler’s? The truth is, morality is not voted on or determined by individuals or societies.

Instead we discover morality. It exists outside of us, and we appeal to it all the time when moral questions arise. We assume that certain things are right or wrong, and we expect others to know this too. Such objective morality is grounded in the nature of a personal, moral God.

Turek quickly dismisses the usual objections here. Theists are not saying that atheists cannot be moral, or know morality. But atheists cannot justify morality given their worldview. They have no objective basis for their moral pronouncements.

As usual, they have to steal this from God. The God they deny exists is the source and grounding of right and wrong. To even speak in these terms means there is something more than a mere materialistic soup. Otherwise angry atheists should stop all their moralising and judging of others.

“Science might be able to tell you if an action may hurt someone – like if giving a man cyanide will kill him – but science can’t tell you whether or not you ought to hurt someone. Who said it is wrong to harm people? Sam Harris? Does he have authority over the rest of humanity? Is his nature the standard of Good?”

Without the existence of God we have no objective moral rights. Yet atheists make moral pronouncements all the time. This is simply impossible given their own materialistic system. Thus they again have to steal from God. Yet they live in the real world, so they have to act inconsistently with their own presuppositions. “Instead of abandoning atheism, they abandon belief in objective morality. This is the height of unreasonableness.”

Turek rounds out his book with a four-point case for Christianity. He bases this on four questions:
-Does truth exist?
-Does God exist?
-Are miracles possible?
-Is the New Testament historically reliable?

He then closes by noting the double standards and internal contradictions of atheism. We have seen some of these already. “Atheists can’t make a positive case for their materialistic worldview without stealing immaterial realities from the theistic God in the process.”

As mentioned, all the great goods of life are non-material. Atheists may deny their existence, but they live every day as if they existed. “Atheists deny these obvious aspects of human experience. They cling to a materialistic worldview that is not only self-defeating intellectually, it’s far too restrictive to explain ultimate reality. It lacks the power and scope to explain what we know is true.” Thus atheists “exempt themselves from their own theories. They assert atheism is true, but often live as if it isn’t true. Some call that hypocrisy.”

This is a very helpful work indeed, not only for those theists seeking some intellectual bolstering of their own position, but for the genuine enquirer, be he atheist or agnostic, who is willing to look at the evidence and truth, and follow it where it leads.

[1339 words]

6 Responses to A Review of Stealing from God. By Frank Turek.

  • Thanks, Bill. Quite disturbing to think that terms such as “Love”, “Hate”, “True”, “False”, “Right”, Wrong”, “Beauty”, “Ugliness”, and so forth, have no real absolute meaning within the atheists’ worldview. This is indeed breathtakingly profound.

    Repeatedly the atheist needs to commit intellectual suicide and at the same time lie to him or her self, merely in order to simply keep on living. As apostle Paul noted though, in Romans 1, they (and not only the materialists/atheists, but all who reject God) “suppress the truth .. and exchange the truth of God for a lie.”

  • I’m part way through this wonderful volume on my Kindle, but I’m still waiting patiently for another of his works in traditional book format – ‘I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist’ – written in conjunction with Norman Geisler.
    I can also highly recommend Frank Turek’s website, Cross Examined. There are many wonderful video clips of Frank making ‘short work’ of atheistic arguments in an easy to understand, engaging manner.

  • Loved reading this. Had to read most of it three times, and my head is still spinning. Love it.

  • Thank you for recommending this new book ‘Stealing from God’ by Frank Turek. A few years ago, I read “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist’ by Frank and Turek & Norman L. Geisler and I was inspired and prepared me to have a conversation assisting people who are searching for God.

    Thanks God and praise the Lord for raising up ‘God-fearing evangelistic apologists’ to speak and lead many intellectuals, university students, and seekers from all walks of life to Christ. To God be the glory!

  • A wonderful article by the late agnostic professor Arthur Leff from Yale University is something all atheists should read. It is called ‘Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law’. He presented it at Duke University in 1979. Leff sought to consider the possibility of discovering the right and the good and at the same time creating it. That is, he wanted a universal ethic that everyone could accept because having found and created it. He couldn’t, because he could find no place for an appropriate transcendent authority. His last few paragraphs (after c.20 pages of cogent argument) make riveting reading in support of what Bill says here: “All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves and each other, this is an extraordinarily appetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us ‘good’, and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us, could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless: Napalming babies is bad! Starving the poor is wicked! Buying and selling each other is depraved! Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin and Pol Pot – and General Custer too – have earned salvation. Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned. There is in the world such a thing as evil! (All together now:) SEZ WHO? God help us!”

  • Isn’t exactly this logical conclusion of the athiist position that they replace the impartial, unbiased just and yet loving dealings of a personal God who is separate from us and therefore not in competition with us for those corrupt values of a man, human who happens to have power, guns, popularity, money whatever it takes to make him or her impose his or her morality over others? Isn’t that truth of that prospect enough to scare us into becoming Christians so to speak for, once we accept the necessity of there having to be a God, it’ll better be the God of the bible or else we would only be left with various human idols, projections of human imagination from which we would all naturally recoil rather than be inclined to worship.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

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