The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Frank Turek. Original audio here. Transcript index here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.
BA: Hello this is Brian Auten of Apologetics 315. Today’s interview is with apologist Frank Turek. Frank is author of a number of books including I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Correct, Not Politically Correct and Legislating Morality. He speaks all over the country at universities and churches. He hosts the Cross Examined radio program on American Family Radio as well as the hour long TV program each week called “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”, available on Direct TV. This is my second interview with Frank and the purpose of today’s interview is to talk about the moral argument, reasons for rejecting evidence for God, being involved in the community, and making an impact in the area of apologetics.
BA: Well thanks for speaking with me today Frank.
FT: Brian it’s always great to be with you. You’ve got one of the best sites on the web for apologetics. I’m so glad you’re doing what you’re doing.
BA: Well thank you very much. Now Frank, I’m glad to talk to you again, because you know – it’s been a whole three years since our first interview so we need to find out what’s been keeping you busy these days.
FT: Well, we’ve been doing a lot of TV, radio and also going to college campuses and churches and high schools – as you know – presenting mostly “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” and we also do something every summer called The Crossed Examined Instructor Academy. I could tell you about that a little bit later. But we’re trying to train others to do apologetics wherever they are and so we’ve got six or seven kind of touch points through our ministry crossexamined.org to try and further apologetics out there in the church and in society in general. So there’s many fronts we’re working on but the big ones are TV, radio, and of course the Internet and going to colleges, high schools, and churches.
BA: Well, great. I know your ministry is just rolling along and you’re creating so many great resources. And of course, I’ve mentioned your books there in the intro and I have to say, I have to credit you for being a real influence on me with your book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. I count it the first real apologetics book I read and basically went through like five highlighters while reading it.
FT: Wow! I didn’t know that. Now you used to study with, or used to study under a little bit with Phil Fernandes right?
BA: Yeah, he was one of my mentors.
FT: Yes, I just had Phil on the other day. I love Phil. He’s such a great guy. We’re both from New Jersey so you know, we kind of hit it off and I love his accent.
BA: Yeah, he is Colombo.
FT: Oh yeah, he’s great. I see you’ve got so much of his stuff up on your site too. I mean he’s just a wonderful guy.
BA: Yeah, well anyway, I appreciate your ministry and what you’re continuing to do and so later I want to ask you a little bit more about how people can get involved with what you’re doing as well as, you know, go to the academies and things. Now today, I want to talk about a few different things, but one of the things that people may be familiar with is your debates with the late Christopher Hitchens. So I wanted to ask you – I’ve talked about this just a bit before with you – but in particular what may be, upon reflection, what you feel like you’ve learned from those debates and from him as a person maybe, when it comes to thinking about people who have rejected Christianity for whatever reason.
FT: Yes, I think Christopher had a rough upbringing. I know his mother committed suicide. He and his brother were both atheists for a while, early on, and of course he continued in his atheism while his brother Peter became a Christian and wrote The Rage Against God. I think much of Christopher’s approach to religion and Christianity is volitional; I don’t think he had very good arguments. A lot of the arguments in his book, or I should say, a lot of the facts in his book are true, (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) but they don’t refute the Christian world view. They don’t say the Christian world view is false. Yes, of course Christians have done evil things but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean Christianity is false. So I characterized his book and his attitude… because as you know Brian, he called himself an anti-theist – he didn’t call himself an atheist, he called himself an anti-theist as if he’s against God… so I characterized his book as summing it up this way, just saying, “There is no God and I hate him.” I think that characterized him. Now let me caveat that by saying I loved the guy personally. We got along marvelously off stage and even on stage. I know he can come across as a bit rude sometimes, or he did sometimes, but that didn’t bother me. I mean he’s so witty, he was so friendly. I liked listening to him. I don’t know if it was just the British accent or what, but he was very witty. But, I think much of his rejection of Christianity was volitional, it was not intellectual. And I think you could see that, and it’s not just in the debates I had with him but you know William Lane Craig had a debate with him, Jay Richards did, Dinesh D’Souza. When you look at his arguments, they weren’t really arguments, they were more like complaints. You know, “I don’t like this about reality. I don’t like this about what Christians do. I don’t like sexual restrictions”, those kinds of things. They didn’t really hit the nail on the head to say, “Here’s why I think atheism is true or here’s why I think Christianity is false.” They were more like just emotional complaints. I don’t know if you found that but that’s what I found with him.
BA: Yeah, I think that people would recognize that and you know he had various arguments but as you say, they’re stemming from you know, “I don’t like this God and I don’t like the control of this dictator” and that kind of a thing.
FT: Yeah, the North Korean dictator was his favorite sort of metaphor for God. That God’s some sort of cosmic North Korean dictator looking down on us. And he says, “Emancipate yourself from this God! Get away from him!” Well that had nothing to do with whether that God existed or if he’s even characterizing God properly. It wasn’t an argument against God it was a complaint. Now keep in mind, right after his death I wrote a column called “Christopher Hitchens: Evidence of a Divine Being”, which is on townhall.com and I think it’s on our web site crossexamined.org too. I mean I liked him personally and I think he was a very provocative speaker, a very interesting speaker but I thought his arguments failed. I think his wit and humor and intelligence are evidence of a divine being. A divine being who was so secure in himself and grants us free will, that he would actually allow his creatures to use the gifts that he has given us against him. That God would actually allow us to use our wit and our humor and our intelligence against him, because God is a God of love and in order to have love you’ve got to have free will and God gives us free will to either love him or reject him and Christopher tragically rejected him. At least as far as we know, I don’t know if he had conversion on his deathbed or any of that. I did email him about two weeks before he died just to check in on him and he emailed me back and he said, “Oh, I’d love to renew our debates.” And I said, “Great!” I mean that gave me hope that he was recovering. And so I said, “You want me to set something up?” And he said, “No, I don’t think I’m ready quite yet.” Two weeks later I hear he had died. So I don’t know what happened in his last two weeks, but we can only hope.
BA: He is someone in my mind who when I think of those people who have volitional reasons for rejecting God, he comes to my mind. But you talked about volitional reasons and you also talked about arguments; So first let’s talk a bit about arguments and in particular one of the things I wanted to ask you about in this interview was during your debates you use a number of different arguments for the existence of God and for Christianity. And one of the arguments you use is the moral argument for God’s existence which I’d like to unpack a bit here. So could you just unpack what that argument is in short?
FT: Sure. We state it in our book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist this way, “Every law has a law giver, that’s the first premise. The second premise is there is an objective moral law. The third premise is, therefore there’s an objective moral law giver. And of course the best explanation for that is God.” That’s the way we state it. There are other ways of stating the argument, as you know. Let me point out one other thing Brian, with regard to this argument, I probably get more pushback on the moral argument than the cosmological argument or the teleological argument, because the moral argument is more existentially relevant to people. It hits them right in their heart. They intuitively understand there are some things that are really right and other things that are really wrong. So it’s not a scientific argument, it’s an argument that people recognize actually from very early age. They immediately know there’s something right and something wrong. I mean, the first thing a kid will say to you when he can speak is “Mine!” or “That’s not fair!” They have this sense of justice immediately and so they know there’s something out there called this moral law. So, I get more questions on the moral argument when I’m on a college campus more often than I get questions on the cosmological or teleological arguments.
BA: Yeah and that’s one of the things that I wanted to ask you about and it is in regard to, as we were saying, people who have volitional reasons. It’s almost as if, as we were mentioning about Christopher Hitchens, it’s like, “Hey I don’t want to be controlled. And as soon as you bring up morality you’re talking about my business. Don’t touch my business.”
FT: Exactly. And in fact, let me suggest a couple of questions that people can ask unbelievers because I do this on college campuses all the time. In fact, I was at Eastern Michigan just a few months ago and I could tell that the questioner wasn’t really interested in my responses he just wanted to bring up objection after objection to the Christian world view. I finally said, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question and if I do will you give a brutally honest answer?” He said, “Sure, go ahead.” I said, “If Christianity were true would you become a Christian?” He said, “No!” I said, “No? No? Wait, wait. You claim to be an atheist, a beacon of reason – never mind if atheism is true reason doesn’t exist, if we’re just molecules in motion, we’re not really thinking, we’re just reacting, we’re not reasoning, we’re just reacting – but let’s leave that aside. You claim to be an atheist, a beacon of reason and I ask you if something were true would you believe it and you say no? How is that rational? How is that reasonable?” Well it’s not. Why? Because reason isn’t in their way – morality is in their way, accountability is in their way. See…the elephant in the room virtually everywhere I go is morality and accountability. That’s what people are upset about. They don’t like this God that puts moral restrictions on us. Except they try to use this God to justify their own morality, whether it’s same sex marriage or abortion or whatever. They’re coming up with some sort of moral absolute, but if there is no God there’s no such thing as a moral absolute. It’s just your opinion against somebody else’s opinion. So they borrow from God in order to argue against him. And they say that there are these moral absolutes, just not your moral absolutes. And so then I ask them, “What’s your standard?” Where do they get this standard from? With Christopher Hitchens it’s the same thing. You know he had these moral absolutes: that it’s wrong to commit atrocities in the Crusades; it’s wrong to prevent abortion (even though Hitchens was sliding toward pro-life toward the end of his life); it’s wrong to put sexual restrictions on people. Well, where is he getting these moral absolutes from if there’s no God? It’s just his opinion. So, I find the moral law at the heart of disbelief -right here – because people don’t want it to be true. So I recommend to people who have unbelievers in their family or know unbelievers as friends, just ask them the question, “If I ask you a serious question will you give me a brutally honest answer?” Almost everyone says yes, and the second question is, “If Christianity were true would you become a Christian?” If they hesitate at all, it’s not just an intellectual problem, it’s a volitional, a moral problem.
BA: Yeah, well I love that question because in my mind it blows the smoke screen out of the air and says, “Okay, wait a minute, let’s rise above this conversation right now and see what is your motive. “Would you be willing…?”, you know, and you’re asking a question about that person’s will and not just their intellectual objection. You mentioned there how it hits home because there’s a moral element to it but would you also say that it’s effective in the aspect where it’s easier to understand because it touches everyone’s life, everybody knows about morality?
FT: Yes, I would say so because it is intuitive. It’s a moral intuition. Can I prove to you that murder is wrong? Only if I prove to you, say, that the bible’s true and can say, “Well look the bible says don’t murder.” But I don’t have to prove it to you, you already know it. As J. Budziszewski says in his book, What We Can’t Not Know, you can’t not know murder is wrong. Once you know what murder is and once you know what wrong is you know that murder is wrong. It’s just part of the furniture of the universe. But I will say Brian there is a big confusion here. When I get questions on the moral argument, and I think William Lane Craig gets these same kinds of questions, and he’ll say, “This is the same misunderstanding with the question.” Whenever you get questions about the moral argument, it’s normally a confusion of what we call epistemology and ontology. In other words, people bring up, “Well I know the moral law because society told me this.” or “My parents told me this.” or “Evolution told me this.” or something like that. And any one of those things could be true, but that’s not the argument. The argument isn’t how you know the moral law. The argument is, does the moral law exist? What explains the moral law? The first is epistemology, that’s how you know something. The second is ontology, that’s something exists. And the atheists have no way of grounding a moral law. They can come up with ways we know the moral law, that’s epistemology, but they can’t ground a moral law. Look, if there is no God, then murdering six millions Jews is just a matter of opinion. It’s just your opinion against Hitler’s opinion. If there’s no standard beyond humanity, no unchanging moral authority beyond humanity, you can’t say that something is objectively right or wrong. It’s just your opinion. So I always try and point out that distinction. We’re not talking about just how you know it, we’re talking about why does it exist and why is this law binding on human beings.
BA: Yeah, well that’s a super distinction because I see that all the time when there’s a misunderstanding. And one of the things that was a real motivator in me wanting to speak to you about the moral argument in particular is, you mentioned your version that, there is a moral law that exists and that all laws have law givers, therefore there’s a moral law giver. And I find that really smooth and easy to convey. But another version, as you know, is William Lane Craig’s and he uses the moral argument that is formulated a little bit different and you’re familiar with it so can you just describe his version and how it’s worded?
FT: Sure, it’s logically sound, it goes like this, if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist, the second premise is objective moral values do exist, the conclusion is therefore God exists. Now that is logically a logically sound argument. For me it’s not as intuitive, however, as the way that we put it but I think it’s still a good argument and you can use it that way if you want. Now, again for those that aren’t familiar with formal logic, the argument only follows if the premises are true. So is it true that if God does not exist objective moral values do not exist? Some atheists will say, “Well I don’t agree with that premise if God does not exist objective moral values do not exist.” Well then you’d ask them, “Well, why don’t you agree with it? If God doesn’t exist, how do you get to an objective morality?” And I guess the only guy I’ve ever seen try and take Craig on on this, is in that book he had written with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the book is called, God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist, and you know what Armstrong’s argument is or his grounding for moral values? He goes, “They’re just there. It’s just a brute fact.” Well how does a brute fact have the authority to tell you what to do? And as Craig has pointed out, I think in his book Reasonable Faith, and I think he’s right about this, he’ll say, “Well suppose there are these platonic values out there like greed and love and selfishness or selflessness, why should I align myself with love and selflessness instead of greed and selfishness? Who says I ought to align myself with what we consider the good virtues rather than the vices?” I mean if there’s no authority out there how can this moral law exist? You need an authority. I mean if you see a speed limit sign, there’s authority behind it. You know, the government has said this is as fast as you can go. But if somebody, if your neighbor just put that up, his own speed limit sign, and it’s on a public road, he doesn’t have the authority to tell you what the speed limit is. You’ve got to have somebody that has authority to tell you right and wrong. Atheists don’t have that, there’s no authority. They are the authority. It’s just them.
BA: Yeah. Well, sometimes I think of Dostoyevsky’s quote where he says if God does not exist then everything is permissible. And I think, well that’s an easier way sometimes to state, in a different way, Craig’s first premise. People might understand it better.
FT: Right, no I think Craig’s argument’s good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just for me it’s not as intuitive as saying every law has a law giver, there is an objective moral law, therefore there’s an objective moral law giver and that’s best explained by God.
BA: Well I agree, I tend to, if I’m going to present the moral argument, I tend to present both these versions and although maybe me and my friend’s sort of think, well Craig’s version is very philosophically tight, but the version you present, everybody gets it so easily, it’s so easy.
FT: Well another way of saying it too is, sometimes I’ll say it this way, “Every prescription has a prescriber.” So you give an example, you say, “Suppose you go to the pharmacist with a prescription and the pharmacist says, ‘Who prescribed this?’ and you go, ‘Nobody.’ Is he going to fill the prescription? No, he’s going to say, ‘Every prescription has to have a prescriber. There needs to be an authority behind this prescription for me to give you the medicine. If there’s no authority behind it, then I can’t give you the medicine.'” It’s not really a prescription, it’s got to be prescribed and that takes a mind and an authority to do so.
BA: One of the other things that people sometimes get hung up on, and you touched on it a bit there, was maybe the idea of objective, the word objective moral values and duties, so describe how you would try to help someone understand what objective means in that context.
FT: Objective means something that’s in the object, not the subject. So we’re subjects. You may like chocolate, I like vanilla, we have a subjective preference for one type of ice cream and you have a preference for another type, another flavor of ice cream. That’s in the subject. Objective means it’s in an object somewhere. That regardless of what you think about it or what I think about it, it’s still the right thing to do, even if I think it’s wrong and you think it’s right or if we have a difference of opinion. And the object in this case, is God’s nature. That’s one reason God doesn’t change, if he were to change morality would change. See, since he doesn’t change, he is the objective standard beyond human opinion that establishes right from wrong. And this objective nature, as I say, doesn’t change. So it doesn’t matter whether everybody in the world, in fact Craig gives this example, I think it’s a good example, he says suppose the Nazis had won World War II and they brainwash everybody to believe that murdering Jews is right. And if every person in the world believed murdering Jews was right, it would still be wrong to murder Jews. Because it doesn’t matter what the subjects think, it matters what is in the object and that’s God’s nature. So, it’s not based on human opinion, it’s based on the very unchanging moral nature of God.
BA: Yeah, that’s a helpful illustration. Now, when we were talking about moral laws existing, the first premise that you use.
FT: I don’t really get a lot of push back on the idea that every prescription has a prescriber, that seems self-evident, just basically the law of causality. So I don’t get a lot of push back there. Sometimes atheists will say there are no objective moral laws to which I’ll respond, “So you’re saying that murdering Jews is just a matter of opinion?” or, in a politically correct environment, “You think murdering homosexuals is just a matter of opinion?” And they’ll say, “Oh no, no!” Well okay then, if that’s really wrong, then there must be a standard that makes it wrong, or that establishes it’s wrongness, because it’s a deviation from the rightness of God. So, the moral law has to be grounded somewhere and atheists just have no way of grounding it.
BA: Do you get many objections where people will object to the idea that every law needs a law giver, that while these, yes, moral values exist, moral laws exist, but these don’t need to be explained, they just are?
FT: Don’t really get that alot, what I get is, “Oh, well the reason we have these moral laws is because evolution gave it to us.” or “Society gave it to us.” I was at Michigan State a few years ago and during the Q&A I got talking to a couple of atheists and I said, “Well look, you’re an atheist, how do you ground morality?” And one of the atheists said, “Whatever the majority decides is morally right.” and I said to him, “Are you telling me that if you live in Nazi Germany and the majority decides to murder Jews, that murdering Jews is morally right?” and he paused, he blushed, and he finally said, “Yes.” And his atheist buddy sitting right next to him looked at him and yelled, “No!” The first atheist knew in his heart the answer was no, but in order to be consistent with his atheism, he had to say yes. But of course, on atheism Brian, majority doesn’t get to decide anything. There is no right and wrong. Who said the majority gets to decide? Why is that a moral precept that the majority gets to decide what’s right and wrong? Again, that would still be a subjective opinion, even if you had everybody in the world saying murdering Jews is right, that wouldn’t make it right. So, they have no way to ground their moral law. They try and come up with ways they could know it like evolution or society or whatever, but that doesn’t ground it. Of course if evolution is the way we know the moral law, how does a biological process have the authority to tell you what to do? And evolution is a process of change, right, so right now rape is considered immoral on evolution, apparently, because we all think it’s wrong, at least most of us do, so okay, it’s wrong. Well, if evolution changes, which, that’s one of the definitions, that’s what it means, to change, maybe one day rape will be considered right. And by the way, if survival is our goal, why shouldn’t we rape, in order to propagate our DNA? You see on evolution you can’t say that’s wrong. You have to smuggle in a moral law, in order to say it’s wrong, which is exactly the point. We already know there’s a moral law out there, in our country we call it nature’s law, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what Jefferson started the country with. We intuitively know them, that’s epistemology, but where they’re grounded, their grounded in God’s unchanging nature.
BA: As we mentioned this idea of moral laws does strike a chord with people and it hits home if you will. And for that reason it affects people more than say the cosmological argument. Do you find that this is a good opening? If you only had to choose one argument, was this what you would go with? Is that a good way to maybe approach people?
FT: I think it depends on the audience of course. If it’s more a science minded audience, then I always, when I go on a college campus I give all three. I give cosmological, teleological and moral. But for the average person this might be it. I mean look, if there is no God then Nazis weren’t really wrong. Love is no better than rape; it’s just a matter of opinion. Freedom is no better than slavery. Religious crusades aren’t wrong. I always hear the atheists complaining about religious crusades, they’re not really wrong.
Who said? Tolerance is no better than intolerance. I mean why be tolerant if there’s no God? And the most interesting thing about it, you can’t complain about the problem of evil if there’s no God. Why? Because if there is no God, no standard of good, then there’s no standard of evil. So when someone like Christopher Hitchens comes out and says, “Well, these Christians have done all these evil things…” “What do you mean by evil?” is the question I want to ask him. What is evil? I asked him that in the first debate and he made a joke out of it. He said, “Religion!” Now that’s just a funny line, yeah religion’s evil. But I was asking him a metaphysical question, “What is it, evil?” He wouldn’t answer of course because there is no answer from an atheistic world view. It’s just a preference for him. He’s got nothing to complain about if there’s no God because if there’s no God there’s no good, if there’s no good, there’s no evil. In fact, it’s been put this way, “The shadows prove the sunshine.” In order to have shadows you have to have sunshine. In order to have evil you have to have good. Oh you can have sunshine without shadows, you can have good without evil, but you can’t have evil without good because evil is a privation in good. You can’t have shadows without sunshine. Evil is like rust in a car. If you take all the rust out of the car you’ve got a better car. If you take all the car out of the rust you’ve got nothing. So evil is a privation, it’s a parasite. It doesn’t exist on its own. It has to have good existing before it makes any sense at all.
BA: One other thing that comes to mind here is how sometimes people will object to Christianity by saying, “Well, okay you talking about morality here but let’s look at the Old Testament which is full of God doing all sorts of evil wicked atrocities and how can you say God is moral?”
FT: Right, okay well my first question to people who bring that up, and I get this question all the time on college campuses, is “What do you mean by atrocity? What do you mean by immorality?” I mean if there is no God, nothing in the Old Testament is really wrong or right. It’s all a matter of opinion. Now they might rightfully say, “Well, let’s assume for the sake of argument that inside of your world view it’s a problem.” they might say to me. “Because you’re claiming this God is good yet he seems to order say, genocide or he seems to order these Canaanites being killed.” Now that’s a fair question. But I always back out of that initially and ask them, “What do you mean by evil? Are you granting me that there’s real evil out there? Because if you’re going to grant me there’s real evil out there then you have to grant me there’s really good out there. And in your world view, materialism, you can’t establish why there’s good. I can. So if you’re going to grant me that fine, I’ll answer the question. They’ll go, “Okay, answer the question.” Well, obviously you can talk for a semester on this question but when you get two minutes you’ve got to keep things very quick and pithy. And I basically arrive at the question that I’ll ask the audience. I’ll ask a couple of questions, I’ll say, “Is God arbitrary in the Old Testament when he says, say kill the Canaanites or does he give reasons why the Canaanites ought to be wiped out?” And most people will say, “Okay, he gives reasons.” Yeah, of course he does. He gives 400 years of reasons. He gives 400 years of waiting. These people were doing extremely evil things like sacrificing their children to Molek. And putting infants all the way up to four years of age on this molten hot idol and in fact when they did this, according to Plutarch and according to Rashi, who is a, Plutarch wrote in the first century, Rashi wrote in the middle ages sometime, that when they would put this baby on this molten hot idol, the religious leaders would beat drums so loudly that they would drown out the screams of the child so the parents wouldn’t hear their babies screaming. Now when we hear about a culture that does this, what we want to do is say, “God why don’t you stop that?” And in fact God does stop it. It amazes me Brian, I hear atheists all the time saying, “Why doesn’t God stop all the evil in the world?” Now here’s an instance where he does and the atheists are complaining about it. You notice that?
FT: I mean they would agree that it’s evil to sacrifice your children to idols, burn them alive, and God steps in and he stops it and the atheists are complaining about it. But my next question for them is, “When God kills you, if God exists and he is in control of all life, does he murder you?” Can God murder people? The answer of course is no. God can’t murder people. God’s the author of life so he can take it. He can take life at any time he wants. And in reality, obviously if Christianity is true, people don’t really die, they die physically, but they don’t die eternally, they just change location. They go from this location to the eternal state. God just transports them from one state to another state. And since God is the author of life, he can do that whether their two years old or eighty-two years old. It’s up to him as to when people are taken from this life into the next life. So what may be immoral for you or me to do, murder somebody, it’s not immoral for God to take somebody’s life. He is the author of life, and so he can decide when it’s transitioned from one point to another, and indeed he does. Now, as you know, there has been a lot written on this, Paul Copan has a book on it called Is God A Moral Monster?, and he has some insights in there that may be helpful to people. But even if Copan is wrong about his thesis which is, his thesis is that these were exaggerated commands that were never meant to be taken literally, they were more military commands to go out and beat the opponent dramatically, not to wipe out every woman and child. They were exhortations to win. Much like we might say before a football game, “Let’s go out and annihilate them!” It doesn’t mean kill every man, woman and child, even though that’s what the text said. Now he makes some, I think, relatively good arguments if that thesis is true, but even if he’s wrong, even if God said kill everybody, women and children and everything, God has the authority to do that because he is God. And he’s transporting these people into the next life.
BA: You know you were mentioning there how people object based upon their own moral reasons, for judging God’s morality so to speak, or misunderstanding it and judging it. But, another thing we run into, and you did allude to this a little while ago, and that’s the idea of relativism and for instance, where you might be speaking with a friend about God and you bring up the moral argument and you find out that, hey, this guy’s a relativist. And I wonder what sort of things you’ve run into on college campuses where you might encounter relativism, how do you snap someone out of that? What illustrations do you find effective for showing that that’s not a good view?
FT: Okay moral relativists, it’s not self-defeating to say there are no moral absolutes because that statement is not itself a moral absolute. It is self-defeating to say there are no absolutes, there are no truth absolutes, or all truth is relative, because that would be an absolute truth. So if somebody says there are no moral absolutes, I don’t try and talk them into moral absolutes, I just ask them, “Do you really think that murdering children is not morally wrong?” I mean, I can’t teach them that, they already know it, as Budziszewski says, “I’m just trying to dredge that up.” They already know it’s wrong. So I’m not going to teach them that murder is wrong, they already know it’s wrong. And you might suggest this too, you might say to them, “So you’re saying if nothing’s morally wrong, then if I take your car or girlfriend or iPod or I murder you to get those things, are you just saying that’s just a matter of opinion?” Because, or if suppose they stand up and say, “I have an objection!” and you say to them, “Hey, sit down and shut up! You have no right to have an objection.” What do you think he’s going to say? “Well I absolutely do have a right.” Well, where do you get this right from? You just said there are no moral absolutes. If I treat you so unkindly to tell you to sit down and shut up after you say I have an objection, that would be immoral for me to do so and you would agree, that’s why your objecting to how I’m treating you.” In other words, when somebody says there are no moral absolutes, it’s not logically self-defeating, it’s just practically self-defeating. Because as soon as you start treating somebody immorally they recognize the moral law. I could put it this way, I may not think stealing is wrong but I steal from you. But what do I say the second you steal from me? “Hey, there’s something wrong here.” In other words, we understand the moral law better by our reactions rather than our actions.
BA: Hmm, yeah.
FT: So when you treat me immorally I go, “Man, that’s wrong!” I may treat you immorally and I can rationalize it away, but you treat me wrong and I’m going to say that’s absolutely morally wrong. In fact, we have a story in our book about that. About the grading situation where this atheist writes this paper on moral relativism and he says there is no right and wrong, it’s all a matter of opinion, you like chocolate, I like vanilla. He had his paper handed in on time, it was the right length, it was properly footnoted and everything, he handed it in in a handsome blue folder, he gave it to the professor, the professor read it; I don’t like chocolate, I don’t like vanilla, it’s all a matter of opinion, you like chocolate, I like vanilla, there is no justice, there is no rightness, there is no wrongness, it’s all a matter of opinion. The professor closed the paper up, he wrote on the cover of it, “F, I don’t like blue folders.” Well the student was enraged when he got the paper back. He said, “F, I don’t like blue folders? That is not fair. That is not right. That is not just.” The professor said, “Whoa, I read a lot of papers, let me make sure I got your paper right. Aren’t you the one that said there is no right and wrong, it’s all a matter of opinion? You like chocolate, I like vanilla.” He said, “Yeah, that’s my view.” The professor said, “I don’t like blue, you get an F.” Well suddenly the light bulb went off in the student’s head. He realized he did believe in an objective moral law. And that objective moral law says it’s wrong to grade the paper merely on the color of the folder. And he was incensed about it. You see, his reaction told him what the truth really was. The elephant in the room is morality and accountability. That’s why people are not Christians. That’s why I ask them that question all the time, “If Christianity were true would you become a Christian?” Now they can turn it back on me and say, “If atheism were true would you become an atheist?” I’d say, “Well yeah, but how would I know atheism was true?” I mean if we’re just molecules in motion, I shouldn’t believe anything I think. I’m just reacting, I’m not reasoning. But leave that aside, if it were really true why would I waste my time on Christianity?
BA: Well, I want to switch gears now Frank so can you talk a bit about what’s going on with your Cross Examined Academy? What is it and how can we get as many people as possible involved?
FT: Yeah, we call it the Cross Examined Instructor Academy, we’ve done it five times so far. What we do is we put out an application process online. It’s not a rigorous application process but we don’t want anybody just showing up. What we want is to get people who have an interest in apologetics, somewhat of a background in apologetics, to come to Charlotte, North Carolina in August and hone their content and presentation skills, basically presenting the main arguments in the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Now, I lead it along with Greg Koukl from Stand To Reason and several other professionals in this area, and our goal is to get people to go back to wherever they are and bloom where they’re planted. In other words if they’re in a church somewhere, well then teach this in their church. If they’re in a school somewhere, teach it in their school. If they have a homestudy group somewhere, then teach it in their… wherever they are, teach it! You don’t have to go on the road and teach it everywhere, like many of us do, you can just bloom where you’re planted. Because in our country anyway, about 75% of young people who are brought up in the church walk away from the church once they leave the home. And one of the reasons is intellectually they don’t know why it’s true.
So if we can get more and more churches to teach the truth, and to teach these young people why
Christianity is true, then they’re going to be inoculated before they even go off to college. And this Cross Examined Instructor Academy is a three day program where we spend pretty much dawn to dusk together, we give them some content, but a lot of the times it’s the students presenting back to us and we critiquing their presentations to help them present better because you can have the content down, if you can’t present it, you’re not going to be very effective, so it’s more tilted toward presentation skills than it is content but obviously there’s a lot of content in the program as well. It’s also about how to answer questions and that kind of thing, so if they go to our web site crossexamined.org, we’re about to update the website completely, but it will be this August again, August 2013, and the application process will begin here shortly once we get the new website up.
BA: Well very good. Well I want to promote it because I like what you’re doing with getting local apologists mobilized, to get people out there in their churches or in their communities or on their campus, out there and defending the faith. Now in your mind Frank, what do you think is the perfect picture of what you’d like to see as far as apologetics in local churches?
FT: Well I would just like to see everybody taught it at some level whether that’s from the pulpit or through a small group or in Sunday School or however, it just needs to be taught, it needs to be woven into sermons as well. Look Brian, you know this because you’re one of the leaders in this, the way you put together Apologetics 315 and everything, you know how important apologetics is, especially when you look at say the book of Acts. What is Paul doing just about everywhere he goes? He’s doing apologetics. Whether it’s reasoning from the scriptures with folks who already believe the scriptures or whether he’s going to the Athenians on Mars Hill and presenting to a pagan audience, he’s doing apologetics with them. And of course there’s many commands to do this as you know as well. In fact, for the first time I got the opportunity to go to Mars Hill just this past July, we’re going to do it again this summer 2013, we’re going to go to Mars Hill, we’re going to go to Athens, we’re going to go to Ephesus and Corinth and all these places, we’re also going to go to Israel this summer, and when you go to these places and you actually stand where Paul stood and you stand where Jesus stood, I think it totally changes your perspective on the Bible, it completely enlightens it, but you also see that these men were involved in actual hands on ministry with unbelievers wherever they went and quite often it was apologetically related.
BA: I’m glad you mentioned that. Pretend you’re speaking to a group of people who are interested in apologetics. What would you want to say to them to inspire them or encourage them to actually get out there, get in the game, whether it’s through getting equipped or actually leading something or putting something into practice?
FT: Well I might say to them I got an email not long ago from a United States Marine. So I knew this guy was no sissy. But he was not writing me as a tough guy, he was writing to me as a distraught father. He said, “My daughter was the top Christian student in her high school. She helped lead the youth group. She won several scholarships from Christian organizations to go off to college. She wanted to go the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to win the campus for Christ.” And trust me, it needs to be won for Christ. So she goes there, about six weeks into the semester the dad said, “I got a phone call from her. Her words devastated me. She said, ‘Dad, I don’t believe in God anymore.’ You don’t believe in God anymore?! What…” He said, “I drove four hours from Hickory, North Carolina all the way to Chapel Hill, I sat down with her and I got nowhere with her. What do you mean you don’t believe in God anymore? What happened?” She said, “Well you know I’ve got this professor who went to an Ivy League school.” It wasn’t Bart Ehrman by the way, but somebody else. “A New Testament professor who cast a lot of doubt on the New Testament; we don’t know who wrote it, there are errors in it, we can’t trust it. So dad I’m an atheist now.” He said to me, “Is there anything I can do about this Frank?” I said, “Ask her the two questions.” You know, “The first question is, ‘Will you give me a brutally honest answer if I ask you a direct question?’, ‘Sure, go ahead.’, ‘If Christianity were true would you become a Christian.'” I said, “Tom, if she hesitates at all, it’s not just in her mind, it’s also in her heart. She doesn’t want it to be true.” I also said, “Have you gotten her any apologetics training?” He said, “I wanted to but we never got around to it before she went to college.” Now, will apologetics training completely guarantee your child won’t walk away? Of course not. But it will lessen the probability. You see it’s easy to walk away from something you’ve doubted your whole life. It’s more difficult to walk away from something you know beyond a reasonable doubt is true. And so, in fact I had a lady come up to me today, I just taught at Charlie Christian which is a high school here in Charlotte, I had a lady come up to me. She said, “I sent my daughter off to a college and now she’s an atheist.” It’s the same thing. So now she’s absolutely passionate about training her son in apologetics before her son goes off to college. I mean just from a pragmatic viewpoint here Brian, we have to teach this. Say nothing of the commands. To love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. To always be ready to give an answer, to demolish arguments, to be set in defense of the gospel. To say nothing of the commands, just pragmatically, you need to teach this. Wherever you are, it’s important. There’s eternal consequences here.
BA: Well, I want to encourage those who are listening to go to Frank’s web site, you can go to crossexamined.org and they can find more information about Cross Examined’s Instructor’s Academy as well as the other resources that Frank has. But, as we wrap up Frank, do you have any projects on the horizon and where would you want to point people where they can find out more?
FT: Well, if they go to crossexamined.org, that’s crossexamined with a ‘d’ on the end of it, dot org, they can access all that we’re doing up there. We have some videos up there obviously, we have a radio podcast that’s on every Saturday, of course it’s live every Saturday on about 140 or so stations around the United States but it’s also podcasted. And we have TV which is on every Wednesday night here in America at 9 p.m and 1 a.m. Eastern time. And that is streamed live on the Internet so you can watch it live on the Internet if you happen to be in front of your computer at the time. We also have another TV show which is going to air the Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Athiest video set. In fact it starts this Saturday, January 11th, and that’s going to be, I think at 10 p.m Eastern time on that same station, the NRB network, National Religious Broadcasters network. And again, that’s going to be streamed live on the Internet so even if you don’t have Direct TV, you can watch it. And all of our resources are available at impactapologetics.com, including all those TV shows and Powerpoints and books and all sorts of resources are at impactapologetics.com. But impactapologetics.com and crossexamined.org are linked so if you go to either one you’ll find them. Of course we’re linked at Apologetics 315 from crossexamined.org so there’s a lot of resources out there, as I say we do TV, we probably do about two or three TV shows a month and we have over 100 episodes now they’re all at impactapologetics.com so there’s a lot to dive into if you really want to dive in.
BA: Well, I want to point people to your book of course, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, and you sent me something really great awhile back and I want to commend it to people and that’s the curriculum that goes along with it which is like a spiral-bound, one inch book just filled with all kinds of study questions and chapter by chapter notes. If you go through this curriculum along with the I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist book it will go along way to equipping you with a wide array of apologetics arguments.
FT: Yeah, thanks for reminding me of that because we just did put that curriculum together, it’s been out about six or eight months now and there’s a lot of new material in that curriculum that wasn’t in the original I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist book and in order to go through the curriculum and answer all the questions you need the book but there’s a lot of new material in the curriculum as well, that was designed for home-schoolers and high schoolers to go through the material step by step and that DVD set, Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, can go with that as well so you’ve got the book, you’ve got the written curriculum and the DVD set that can all go together so you can really get a lot of information in one place and by the way, the guy who designed the layout of the curriculum is Doug Powell, our own Doug Powell, you know Doug?
FT: He’s the same guy that did several of the books that you recommend. He’s got some brand new books, those big kind of picture books that have come out, Jesus iWitness, Resurrection iWitness, he’s got an Archaeology iWitness coming out, and Doug also did the Holman Guide to Christian Apologetics, very brilliant apologetically and also graphically, so he put the layout together for the curriculum which makes it visually pleasing as well. So I’d highly recommend people avail themselves to that and that’s at impactapologetics.com as well.
BA: Well, we’ll link to that but Frank, our time is up, but I really want to thank you for taking the time to do the interview today.
FT: Hey Brian, I appreciate what you’re doing. Keep doing it. I keep recommending your website, it’s the place to get the latest and best apologetic material, all in one place, so don’t stop doing what you’re doing.