The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Matt Slick. 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 Matthew Slick of the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry, more popularly known as CARM, found at www.carm.org.
Matt started CARM in October of 1995 to respond to many of the false teachings of the cults on the internet, when it first began. Now it has grown to be one of the largest apologetics resources online. Matt hosts Faith and Reason Radio, week nights in the Boise area and on the internet and that is also podcasted as the CARM Radio Program.
The purpose of our interview today is to get to know a little bit more about Matt, his ministry with CARM, and gain some insights into his experience in apologetics on the internet. So thanks for speaking with me today, Matt.
MS: No problem Brian.
BA: Now would you mind telling our listeners a little bit more about yourself and how you got into apologetics.
MS: Well, let’s see. I’m 53 years old and I went to a Lutheran college and a Presbyterian seminary and I was a Pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America, Assistant Pastor in the CRC (the Christian Reformed Church). I’m a Five Point Calvinist, if that matters; it doesn’t really to me. Let’s see – I have a wife and kids and live in Idaho. I can tell you how tall I am but I don’t think that is going to be relevant.
BA: Now what got you started into doing apologetics and how did you get started with CARM and starting that ministry online.
MS: Well, let’s just say that what got me started in apologetics was a two-step thing. When I was younger … I’ll give you the short version … I got tricked into walking up the front of a church and receiving Jesus and I figured that since I was up there, I might as well give it a try – sincerely – and so I did and let’s just say it was an extremely charismatic kind of, very strong, experience of the presence of God. Extremely so! And it just changed my life and basically a couple of years later I was at a Bible Study and someone read me this, “God is in the still, small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil, all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any mad had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet”. That is Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Volume 6, Pages 408-409.
MS: It upset me so much that I started studying Mormonism because who would be such an idiot to say that they did more than Jesus to keep a church together. So it really infuriated me, so I started studying and lo and behold, here I am basically 30 years later.
BA: Wow, from that experience forward, you just started studying apologetics. What led you to start your own sort of ministry?
MS: Well, you know, I started studying it. There was no internet back in that day and so what I was doing I was just teaching studies here and there, answering questions, going door to door. I’d dress up like a ‘punk-er’ go to the beach and witness to the ‘punk-ers’. I would go door to door – literally – in neighbourhoods. I would do what I called, “Dub Hunting” – Jehovah’s Witnesses, JW-Dub Hunting. I would go on Saturdays to their Kingdom Halls, park out the front of the Kingdom Halls and follow a car into a neighbourhood where they would go door to door and I would follow them door to door and undo the damage they were doing.
I would pass out tracts at mall parking lots; I would go to the beach and witness. I did six years of prison ministry. You know, just all kinds of stuff I would do. I was always evangelising because – hey – I didn’t want people to go to Hell. I wanted them to go to Heaven!
And so what I did was … one day the internet is there … and I learned what it was. I remember talking to my wife and I remember where I was standing. We were living in San Diego and I remember where the room was, you know the door jamb was next to me … “Hey Hon? How do I get on to the internet? I want to check it out?” You know we were low on cash and she gives me that look that only wives give their husbands. “Just a couple of months, maybe, OK?” And she is looking at me … she knows I am kind of a computer geek and she says “OK”, because we always agreed what we would spend on stuff. So, she says “OK, a couple of months”.
So I am there, looking at the ‘net, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, this is wrong, that’s not right, who put this up?” So I thought I could do better than this. So I developed this website – I didn’t know what to call it – and it was pretty awful looking in the beginning, not that it is all that great now. But it was really horrendously bad. And I thought about calling it different things, you know, different acronyms, like Christian Research Apologetic People, but I didn’t think that would go over too well as an acronym. Different things and I came up with CARM – Christian Apologetics Research Ministry. Didn’t know what else to call it, just called it that … didn’t think it would come to be anything … I just threw some names out.
And then people started emailing me, what about this? What about that? So I started answering more questions, putting them up as articles. What about that? What about this? And I remember when I would get 72 page views a day. I’m like, “Yeah, Whoa! 72 page views!! Moonwalk time!” And now I get about 30,000. So, you know, it has grown and that’s how it got started.
BA: Well, excellent. Now as you were starting out, were there any sort of particular influences for you? Particular formative thinkers or authors? What was your main area of interest?
MS: Well, you know, when I started studying … I don’t know if you know who, or knew who Walter Martin was? He was the founder of the Christian Research Institute and he had some people who were helping him – Jerry and Marian Bodine. And so I started studying with them and they were major influences on me, just huge. Good people, good godly people and I studied with them for years and then started doing my own stuff.
And then it was just ‘hit and miss’. I would study whatever I could, wherever I could, whatever book I could find, whatever information – that was it. I think one of the biggest influences basically was just a systematic theology. Because it doesn’t really matter about what individual you are going to study. It is, What is the truth! I always knew this. You’ve got to know what the truth is! Just study the truth.
I’d get systematic theologies and I would read them. Systematic Theology for those who don’t know what it is, is just a theological book that systematically arranges theological topics and discusses them. It just does it, very orderly, very succinctly and I would just read systematic theologies.
If I had a particular interest, maybe on the Trinity, I would read 20 or 30 pages of something and then I would learn how to debate it. Before the internet was there, we had something called BBS. I would go and discuss it on BBS – a Bulletin Board System. And you know I would just do this and of course …. oh, I forgot to mention something I used to do. Back in 1980, 1981, 1982, those three years, I had a swap-meet ministry in Santa Ana, which is next door to the Disneyland area, and for two and a half years, I set up a booth at a swap-meet on Saturdays.
I’d get up at Zero Dark Thirty and go out there, set it up and be out there for six to eight hours witnessing to people. It was just an evangelism booth – we’d have tracts that we would pass out, start a discussion.
So I learned how to get my theology down very quickly and how to articulate it and how to relate it to the real world because as I like to say, I learned my theology on the streets by doing it, instead of sitting, so to speak, in an armchair and looking down my nose at a book and theorising for five years and then maybe writing an email.
So I was out there doing it, making mistakes left and right! But you know, hey, that is an advantage I have – when you have a thick skull like me and you put your nose where it doesn’t belong. You’ve just got to lean forward and go, and that’s what I did, so I started learning.
BA: You went from doing apologetics on the street to doing apologetics on the internet and so the world has certainly changed since Al Gore invented the Internet. So, do you think there are any particular lessons that you have learned from internet apologetics? What is the difference between ‘the man on the street’ and ‘the man online’, how you relate to people, specific challenges, stuff like that?
MS: Well, the internet strips people of decency. When you are facing someone one-on-one, they will be more polite, generally speaking. I will encounter people on the internet who will email me in chat rooms and on bulletin boards (excuse me, discussion forums) and they will say things that you would not say to somebody’s face. And people are emboldened by the anonymity of the internet. And one of the ways to verify this is to go into any chat room and see how many people are using their real names. I use my real name. Matt Slick really is my real name. It is my birth name, on my Driver’s Licence. That is my name and I use it. But it is rare that anybody uses their real name for internet stuff. And so it emboldens them to be rude and to say dumb things, whereas if you are talking to somebody one-on-one the dynamics are a lot different. You can watch body language, tone of voice, the whole bit and it is just a different dynamic.
BA: Do you think that Christians run into the same danger of getting online, getting into the comments or a chat room and just being crazy and not representing Christ well? How can Christians be more Christlike when they are interacting on the internet do you think?
MS: Well, it is a serious problem and I’ve been guilty of it as well, because sometimes it is just a lot easier to say something really quickly and then you regret it later and we all do that. And the internet does strip us in a real sense. It is like being a bomber at 30,000 feet. It is easier to pull the lever if you don’t see anybody face to face. It is the same kind of thing but we just need to do it as it says in Colossians 4: 5-6, which says, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders making the most of the opportunities. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone”.
Now that is not easy to do, it is just not but that is our goal. Now I have a reputation on the internet as being very, very difficult to work with, particularly from atheists. I just don’t put up with what I call, “trolls”. If you are going to talk to me, just talk to me. Be straight in chat rooms and discussion boards. Don’t play any games – I’m just not! Because there are too many people out there who hide behind nick names, who can attack you and get away with it. They can commit libel, they can commit slander. And they hide behind a nick name and it is easy for them.
So I have had so much experience with this over the internet. I mean, CARM will be 15 years old on October 25, 2010, and I have spent literally thousands upon thousands of hours working on the site and discussing things on the internet and other internet sites that I just won’t put up with it for more than half a minute.
And so this is part of the dangers of walking into the minefields of apologetics on the internet. You are going to be meeting people who can be very, very difficult and you tend to get jaded by it. When you meet so many people who are sceptical, who will say dumb things and then misrepresent what you have said, over and over and over.
I have been in discussions with atheists – defeated their arguments – and then they will go on to claim victory. Muslims are the same way; Mormons are similar; Roman Catholics – geez! It is amazing to me to encounter so many different people who refuse to believe God’s Word for various reasons and how they will continue to do that, even when the truth is presented to them.
But at any rate, it is hard, and so I pray for a good spirit, a good attitude and a loving attitude to the unbelievers because it is just difficult to do and I need that grace from God. So that is the reality.
BA: Now I am sure that there are some people who may be listening to this interview and they run their own, say, apologetics blogs or they are active on the internet in forums and chat rooms and things like that. What sort of encouragement would you give to them to sort of stay the course and be patient and Christlike.
MS: Keep your eyes on Jesus. Now that sounds so typical to say. But it is true. You have got to be reading the Word and praying, going to Church and things like that. And be open to criticism and dare ask God to reveal to you the issues that you need to study. That is a dangerous kind of a thing to do, because sometimes that means He will want you to study humility. He may want you to experience it as well and when you are asking God to work with you, when you are asking God to develop you, He will take that request seriously and He will and it can be quite difficult sometimes to deal with how God would work with you. So if you want to stay humble, keep your eyes on Jesus, ask God to make you humble. That is not a fun one to ask either, or experience! But that would be my recommendation, to stay the course, keeping your eyes on Christ, read His Word, and ask God to reveal to you where you blow it.
You’re going to blow it – absolutely! Don’t let it stop you but boy are you going to make mistakes! I know! I’ve made more than my fair share, that is for sure.
BA: Now shifting gears just a bit. You hold a reformed theological view, so when it comes to apologetics how does that view affect your methodology?
MS: Only in one thing … since I became reformed, there is only one issue that I’ve altered. Just a single thing and that is, I used to say Jesus died for YOUR sins – talking to an unbeliever. I don’t know. I believe in Limited Atonement, which is that Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. I don’t know who the elect are. I don’t know how God elects; I don’t know the criteria He uses. The Bible doesn’t tell us. He can certainly use our prayers as James 5:16 says, The prayers of a righteous man avail much with God.
I don’t understand the paradox but God hasn’t revealed it to me or anyone else. We’re commanded to pray to realise and accept that God predestines, He elects – and believe me, I can defend it biblically. And so when I became reformed nothing changed, as far as my evangelism goes, except that I don’t say that “Jesus died for your sins”, I simply say, “He died for sinners”. And that’s all! That is the only difference.
I am extremely evangelical. For example, today I had to go into a coffee shop and meet somebody and hand them a signed document and there was another guy sitting there with a Bible and I just started talking to that guy. I don’t know if he is a Christian or not, I don’t know what’s going on and all I did was talk. I meet anybody and everybody I can. Anybody and everybody is a subject for me to share the Gospel with – unless they are already Christians, then to see how they are with the Lord.
And the reason is because God is the One who predestines, Ephesians 1: 1-11. He is the One who appoints people to external life, Acts 13:48. He is the One who grants that we believe, Philippians 1:29. He is the One who makes us born again, not of our own will, John 1:13. He is the One who chooses us for salvation, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. So it is not my job to go out there any convert anybody! My job is to present the Gospel message and God in His great majesty uses that – the message presented by this filthy, vile sinner that I am, saved by grace – he uses that to save people and that is what I believe, and that is what I trust.
The work of salvation is not me. It doesn’t depend on how well I formulate the Gospel message. It doesn’t depend on how my ability is. It is all about God and His Glory and so I reach upward for the Glory of Jesus Christ and then by His grace, speak to anyone and everyone I can about the Lord. That is my position.
BA: Great, good stuff! Now, when it comes to the use of say, presuppositional apologetics, do you think that people have any common misunderstandings that you would want to correct? Is it an either/or – either you’re a presuppositionalist or you’re an evidentialist? What are your views on that and what would you want people to understand in regard to those sorts of discussions?
MS: Presuppositionalism just basically says you must start with the Word of God and everything it says is correct and that everybody else is wrong if they don’t agree with that. I totally agree with that. The Word of God is powerful and Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word will not come back empty without accomplishing what He desires. So we’ve got to use His Word and I do presuppose the validity of God’s Word and that’s it.
Now, I also use evidences. Jesus used evidences when He spoke to Thomas in John 27:28 ‘cause Thomas said he wasn’t going to believe that Jesus had risen unless he could see the wounds in His hands and stuff. And Jesus says to Thomas, put your hand into My side, put your finger into My hands, touch me and see. He says, See, now believe”. Here’s the evidence, make a choice. So I don’t have any problem with presenting evidence just as Jesus did.
I don’t have any problem with presuppositions either, just as Jesus didn’t in John 4:24: when he was talking to the Samaritan woman and you know, he corrected her presuppositions or assumptions about where true worship of God was to be held and He just corrected her missing assumptions, her airing ideas about it.
And then I use logic as well when it is necessary, because that’s what Paul did in Act 17:17, he ‘legitzimide’ with them –‘legitzimide’ to reason, to reckon. So whenever I am evangelising with people, witnessing, doing apologetics – that is, a defence of the Christian faith – what I will do is, I will ask questions. See where they are, ‘What church do you go to?’. If they are Roman Catholic, I know what I have to say. If they are Mormons, I know what I have to say. If they say, “I don’t go to church”, well, OK, then where are you? “Well, I’m an atheist”. Then I know I have to use more presuppositions to get into the issue and that’s what I’ll do.
So I kind of – I guess I can say it. I’ll admit it – I’m a little inconsistent in some areas as some evidentialists would say that’s really what you use only and really lean towards it but they don’t always do that. They don’t always say that either. Whereas some presuppositionalists might really tout the flag of presuppositionalism in the classical way – might do that with that. I’ll just use whatever I can, whatever I think is the best at the time. Maybe I’m wrong sometimes, maybe I’m not but that is what I try and do. I just try and present God’s word in truth the best I can and defend the truth the best I can as well. That’s what I hope to do anyway.
BA: Great. One of the things I like to hear you use is the transcendental argument. For the people who are listening who may not be familiar with that, could you give us an outline of how you would use a transcendental argument for the existence of God.
MS: Sure, transcendentals are issues that philosophers have been dealing with for a long time. And basically, I’ll use the transcendental argument dealing with the necessary preconditions for intelligibility. What that means is, what conditions must exist in order for people to have rational discourse. And what I’ll often do is start out with a statement. I’ll say, “So if there are only two options to account for something, say, God and no God (it’s called an antonymic pair. An antonym is an opposite. Antonyms are opposites, so God/no God). There aren’t any third options with this – God or no God. There either is a God or gods of some sort or there is no God or gods at all. That’s it!
So I’ll say if you only have two worldviews to work from – God/no God – and you have a phenomena that you want to account for, either one or both of those worldviews must be able to account for that phenomena. In this case we’ll just say logical absolutes. Logical absolutes are those things logic is built upon – I’ll get to it in a sec.
And so if one of those two options – the only two options available – and one of them is removed or negated by default the other one is validated. It’s a logical necessity. If one of them is removed by default the other has to be valid because you can’t remove both options. Then you would have nothing, you would have absurdity.
So then I’ll ask an atheist, I’ll say, how do you account for, say, the first three laws of logic. The Law of Identity – something is what it is and is not what it is not. The Law of Non-Contradiction – something cannot be true and false at the same time and in the same sense, the same way. The Law of Excluded Middle – for example a statement is either true or false. And then others throw this in: The fourth law – the Law of Proper Inference – if A = B and B = C then A = C. How do you account for these? I’ll ask an atheist this.
And they’ll say “Well, we make them up – we discover them”. Well, if you discover them you’re saying they have a pre-existence. Where are they? “Well, they’re parts of the universe”. Well, if they are parts of the universe…? “Yeah, like gravity. You know, it’s a property of the universe”. I’ll say gravity can be measured. You can detect it with instruments. Can you detect the Law of Identity? Can you weigh the Law of Non-Contradiction? No, you can’t! You have to pre-suppose the validity of these laws of logic in order to use your experiments by which you learn about the universe. So by pre-supposing them, you are begging the question, you are not answering any question. You are just assuming it to be true.
And so what I’ll do is I’ll slowly go through and ask the atheist to give a rational account for the validity of the use of logical absolutes – the transcendentals of logical absolutes. And they can’t do it. They’ll say the properties, they will say they are conventions which means we agree on them for their validity – well, of course I don’t have problems if everybody is heard saying that the Law of Non-Contradiction was not valid, then I could start talking and saying things like, “Blue sleeps better than Wednesday”. And that’s why I win all my arguments. It wouldn’t make any sense and so we have to have rational discourse.
And basically the argument goes that the atheist is not able to rationally defend from his worldview of ‘no god’s existence’, he is not able to defend the idea that or the … he is not able to give a rational account for the conditions that must exist for logic itself to exist and the principles that logic is based on – these Laws of Logic. And so when they fail to do this, therefore, God is demonstrated to be true. You don’t even have to prove that God is there. It is just a necessary conclusion from the argument that God is there because we have God or no God options. If no God is negated, well then, God exists.
Of course, I don’t stop there and atheists don’t like that. We’ll get into major transcendentals and I’ll say, “If you were to get into a spaceship and if you were to go a billion light years in any direction and get out of the spaceship is the Law of Identity still true?” Of course it is! Well, it doesn’t matter where you are, or when you are, the Laws of Logic are still true. They transcend space and time, hence their transcendent nature.
And then I’ll say, well … and this is where most of the atheists don’t like it because they see this as really the crux of the argument … I’ll say are these transcendentals, these logical absolutes, are they conceptual? Now what’s happened to me more lately, the atheists are saying, “No they are not conceptual”. They are saying, “We don’t know what they are. They are just not conceptual”. And it is actually an admission by them that they are cornered and so they have to deny the very nature of what logic is … logic is a process of the mind, it is a process of proper inference.
And so what they will do is they will say it is not even a process of the mind. OK – you get into absurdity which is what the argument will ultimately force an atheist into is absurdity when they will say things like, “It is not conceptual”. So then I’ll ask “Well, what is it?” “I don’t know but it is not conceptual”.
So a logical absolute like “something is what it is and is not what it is not” is an axiomatic truth which is not cognitively based? And you know, you’ll ask them and they’ll just get into some ridiculous defences of absurdity. So what they are doing without admitting it is they are admitting that their worldview cannot account for the necessary preconditions for intelligibility.
And what I’ll do is I’ll say, “Look, basically the transcendental nature of these things … they are conceptual. I mean, logic is a process of the mind. If I say, A = B and B = C and A = C, we have a process which has occurred in my mind and you can understand it in your mind as well. Logical processes do not occur in rocks. They don’t occur in carpet! People say, well they occur in computers. No, they don’t! The On/Off switch is reacting mechanically, that’s all really that is going on. And they had to have a designer. Then we get into the issue of design, intelligent design, and then we get into another issue to talk about with them.
And so I’ll say conceptuality and rationality require minds and this is where they really start to get philosophical, they have more problems, they don’t want to admit it but they are in a corner. And I’ll say, “Look, it really comes down to this. A Christian worldview can account for this existence of logical absolutes by simply saying, ‘we are thinking God’s thoughts after Him’. He is transcendental in His nature. He is not restricted by space and time and His thoughts basically are what we are discovering, what His nature, His essence … they exist because God’s transcendent nature exists. That’s how we account for them. They are reflections of God’s essence and nature, His mind. So therefore, we have an explanation for the necessary preconditions that allow logic to exist and the atheist doesn’t. Therefore, God exists!
BA: Well, I like the argument but let me throw in a possible objection out there and see how you would respond to it. What would you say to someone who would counter with, for instance, the Laws of Logic are simply axioms and therefore you don’t need to account for them? They are the starting point.
MS: An axiom is a truth statement. Right?
BA: Well, I would say it would be your starting point. Something that you don’t have a particular justification for – they are sort of the foundation.
MS: Then what they are doing is admitting they can’t give a set of necessary pre-conditions for the axioms. They are saying axioms exist and I’ll just simply say, “Alright – where did they come from?” “What are the conditions that are necessary for their validity?” It is the same thing. Because all they are doing when they are saying logic is an axiom is they are saying, “Well, it just exists because it exists”. And I’ll say, “That’s your answer? They just exist because they exist?” And they’ll say, “Yeah”. “OK, God exists because God exists!” Wow! I’m glad I proved God exists now using your logic!
BA: Are you familiar with Gordon Clark’s sort of take on the Logos and logic being identified with God Himself? What are your thoughts on that?
MS: I don’t know his argument but I’ve always believed – since I really thought through this – logic is identified with God and I believe that logical absolutes and the transcendental nature of these exist because God exists. That’s what I believe.
BA: Alright. What other arguments would you typically use in dealing with atheists?
MS: One of the things I will use is called the cosmological argument and there are variations of that but basically you can’t have an infinite regression of uncaused causes. It is logically impossible – you just can’t do that. I illustrate it by saying, what if you had an infinitely long line of dominos and they were falling and you’re standing there just watching them pass you by? So what you do is you want to find the first one and so you get into a super-fast spaceship and you just go along that line of dominos and you can see the further back in time you go, you know, the longer the line is, they are all fallen. Could you ever find the first one? And the answer is no. Because it is infinitely long you could never find the first one and the question is, “Is there a first one?” And the answer is no because it is infinitely long. Well, here’s the question then, “If there is no first one, then how can there be a second one?” There can’t be, it is logically impossible – if you don’t have a first cause, to have a second. You can’t have an infinite regression of uncaused causes.
Also, if you have something that has to be the initial cause, it has to be ‘aware’, it can’t be ‘not aware’. The reason is if it is not aware, if there was this pre-existent ‘stuff’ that caused the universe ultimately to come into existence, then it would have to have within its nature the necessary sufficient cause to bring the universe into existence. But if it is inanimate, and it has the necessary sufficient cause to bring the universe into existence, then it would have happened an infinitely long time ago. If it happened an infinitely long time ago in the past then the universe would have run down by now. The universe has not run down by now. Therefore it is not infinitely old in the past. Therefore it could not have been an inanimate form of ‘stuff’ that would have had the necessary sufficient causes by which the universe could have spontaneously formed because if it had the necessary sufficient cause to form the universe it would have occurred spontaneously because the necessary sufficient causes were extant – it would have happened right away. Which is problematic because how can something that pre-exists the universe and exists ontologically prior to time have the necessary sufficient cause within itself to do it and yet not do it – it would have to do it spontaneously. Hence the problem of an infinitely old universe – if I didn’t go too fast and too deep.
The only rational explanation to say that the necessary sufficient cause occurred was that it was decided to occur. Or that a decision was made to actually create and bring the universe into existence because the necessary sufficient cause within a mind would be potential and could be acted upon at a decisional point in time. And so this kind of argument is a good argument for the existence of God in the cosmological sense and atheists basically don’t do well with that either. If that wasn’t too deep.
BA: Let’s transition and let me ask you what your advice would be for up and coming Christian apologists.
MS: Well, first of all, know what you are getting into. Luke 11:28, Jesus says count the cost. You better count the cost. Whenever anybody wants to work with CARM, I say, great, what are your qualifications? Let me test you. If they pass that, I warn them. You want to do this ministry where you attack the enemy, Satan, his demonic hordes and his servants? You want to do this seriously … “Yeah, that’s right. I’m totally into that”. OK, let me tell you what can happen to you. And I give them stories. I give them things about personal injuries, bankruptcy, churches turning against you, people turning against you, sicknesses out of nowhere, problems like you wouldn’t believe that you go, Oh my goodness, what is next on the plate?
Things that will happen because you are attacked for the Gospel. And it does happen and I try and warn people and in a sense, I try and convince them not to do it. If this is for those who are very serious about really getting into this, I warn them. And if they are not dissuaded then, good.
Then I’m going to point them ahead – you keep your eyes on Jesus and you be praying. You need to do these things and you also need to do this – learn your theology. Learn it well. Learn it very well, so that you can articulate such things as the Communicatio Idiomatum, the Hypostatic Union, Monophysitism, Eutychianism, Justification, Propitiation, etc. Then if you didn’t know these things, (know) what they are theologically, be able to articulate them and defend them from scripture. Because the new apologetics means you need to know your own word before you can know that he words of somebody else are false. Most Christians I have encountered don’t know their theology very well, don’t know the Bible very well. You’ve got to know it.
Second, you have to know logic. You have to be able to discover in someone’s argument a fallacious approach, for example, ‘begging the question’. As I pointed out, when someone would say logical absolutes are simply axioms. An axiom is an unproven, assumed truth. Well, that is begging the question. You are just assuming it to be true because it is true. And so when you call people out on it and say no, that is just begging the question, or that is a category mistake, or no, that is a genetic fallacy, etc. When you are able to do that, and identify those errors, then you are able to articulate that much more efficiently.
A lot of Christians will do this when making a mistake – they will take the bait, the red herring, which is if I am talking to an atheist about morality, which I love to talk about atheists and morality. That is entertainment – trust me it is entertaining. But they might feel threatened and if their arguments are not going to be sufficient and so what they will do is offer a red herring, change the topic and go into some other area, maybe they will offer something about logic, maybe they will offer something about evolution and what will happen very often is the Christian will simply take the bait – well, let’s talk about that for a while then. Don’t do that! Stay focussed! One hammer, one nail, keep pounding on it, drive it home, get it right, make sure that the person you are talking to is squirming. Now, I don’t mean squirming in a sense that they are begging for mercy and you’ve got them crying like a two year old. You have to be careful not to overdo it but at the same time be focussed, try and be polite, listen to what is being said and see if you can dissect and dismantle their arguments.
Here’s a common one. Somebody will say, well, you know, God can do anything right? And I will say, no! What do you mean God can’t do everything – that is your view, of Christianity. No, it is not. God can’t do everything – He can’t sin, He can’t not be God and be God. He can’t violate the commands of His own nature. You know the question had a problem in it.
What about can God make a rock so big that He can’t pick it up? I’ll say the question isn’t valid. “Oh yes it is valid”. They’ll give me all these excuses. I’ll say define for me what a rock is and a rock is a smaller segment of a larger body, so if it is a big as a universe then the universe is a rock, then something else is bigger than the universe, which is a non sequitur, it is logically impossible. It violates the second law of logic.
So the question doesn’t have any validity to it, and I’ll point it out. And a lot of times the atheists in particular will try and use logical paradigms, logical syllogisms which are invalid. They will try and use arguments to trip up a Christian. What I teach Christians to do or try and urge them to do is simply listen to what is being said and dismantle the argument from inside.
And you’ll find that most of the arguments will disintegrate really quickly. For example, an atheist might argue that the God of the Old Testament was evil for having people killed and I’ll say, what’s evil? They made an assertion and I’m going to have that atheist develop a defence to account for his assertion. I’m going to ask him to validate his assertion. What is evil? By what standard do you have that He is evil? He doesn’t have anything other than his own opinion. And so you gradually work through these things, undermining their foundations, their presuppositions as I said, using logic to do it. And then what they often do is – if you listen carefully at that point, you can often hear them crying like little babies – and then they call you names like bleep.
BA: Alright, well we are coming to the end of our time now so where do you see your ministry going in the future with CARM and do you have any plans for, or projects on the horizon.
MS: Plans – world domination! That is the long term plan. Now whether God grants that to me in CARM, I don’t know. But what I want to do is expand. We’re trying to get financing to get a real office with a real staff. This thing started in the spare bedroom and I have a large room in my house that I run the ministry out of. I have a lot of computers up here and stuff but it is just growing and we need a place to have full time video editors, researchers, writers, phone people, things like that, because it’s at that place but we don’t have the funds, so we are trying to find a way to get that funded to be able to do that because there’s a great deal that we want to do.
Some of the projects we have is to produce hour long teaching videos, video series on the defence of the faith, how to do apologetics, what the basics of the Christian faith are. When I go to do seminars, I like to teach a class called, Theology in Sneakers, where I just take theological things and weave them together in a nice tapestry so you can see the broad picture of what God is doing, how He works.
And I’ve got a project called the FTC, the Family Teaching Course. That is something I have been working on for a year but because I’m so busy with administrative stuff that I can’t finish it. But the idea is to develop a coursework for home, where Mum and Dad can teach their children so that they won’t fall victim to the secular false lies that are out there that are cleverly disguised in logic and tolerance but really are nothing more than deceptions.
I’m trying to work on a project to develop that ability because 80% of the kids who are raised in a Christian home and go to a Christian church lose their faith within two years of going to a secular college and I know how to stop it. I know what needs to be done. I know what they need to be taught from infancy on up, so that by the time they are released into college they will be terrors for the Lord Jesus Christ, in a polite way! Raising those hands, asking the right questions, and talking. And that’s what I want to do. That is one of the projects.
I’ve got a novel. I just signed a contract today to have an evangelism novel printed up and it’s going to be released in a couple or three months. It’s part of CARM but we’re redoing it in a different way. There are all kinds … I could go on. Just pretend that I went on for 20 minutes and you went “Wow that’s really good – you’ve got a lot of stuff going”.
BA: Well, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, Matt.
MS: Hey, no problem man. Love what you do out there also on Apologetics 315. Good stuff. I point people to do it and you keep up the good work as well, OK.