Frank Turek on the faith of atheists
Q&A | The Christian apologist talks about the reasons people reject God in today’s culture
by Warren Cole Smith
Posted 2/24/15, 02:58 pm
Frank Turek is one the nation’s leading Christian apologists. He has engaged in public debates with famous atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, and his books include Legislating Morality and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. He hosts a radio program on the American Family Radio Network, and a television program on the National Religious Broadcasters Network. Turek also is a former Naval aviator and a business consultant. Several years ago while serving as a consultant with the tech giant Cisco Systems, a homosexual activist took issue with Turek’s stance on traditional marriage and had him banned from working there. The episode became a national story.
Early in your book Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case, you say that there is one core question every human being needs to ask and answer. What’s that question? “Does God exist?” is the primary question because if God exists, then there is a real purpose to life and we live a certain way. If God doesn’t exist, there is no real objective purpose to life and you can do whatever you want. “Does God exist?” is literally the most important question every human being should answer. Unfortunately, most of our education system, particularly our public education system, assumes the answer to that question is no without even examining the evidence.
I want to talk about a question that seems to be a particular stumbling block for people. Does evil prove that God doesn’t exist? No, it can’t. If evil exists, God exists, not because God’s doing evil, but because evil wouldn’t exist unless good existed. And good wouldn’t exist unless God existed. Evil is actually a backhanded argument for God, not an argument against God. We might ask the question, as I do in the book, if God does exist, why does He allow so much evil? That’s another question, but the existence of evil itself can’t disprove God because God is necessary for good, which is necessary to know if evil actually does exist.
A second question, though, logically follows from that first question, which is that if there is a God, then why does He allow so much evil in the world? The reason evil is allowed is because God gives us free will. He gives us free will because free will is necessary to love. It also opens up the possibility for evil. Free will is one reason there’s evil. The other reason God doesn’t stop it immediately is because He can use evil to bring ultimate good about. We talk about that at length in the book.
It seems what you’re saying is that it requires just as much faith to believe in an alternative explanation for the universe as it does to believe in the biblical, Christian explanation. It requires more faith, and we’re using faith not in the biblical sense here, but in the faith in the sense Richard Dawkins used it. He said, “Faith is believing something without evidence,” or believing what you know ain’t so. It’s been said that way. That’s not biblical faith. Biblical faith is believing that something is true because you have evidence and then trusting in the implications of that evidence. In other words, faith is trusting what you have good evidence to believe.The better word in the Bible is “trust” rather than “faith.” “Faith” in our culture means believing without evidence. I think atheists believe without evidence. I think atheists are the ones who are coming up with speculative theories that have no evidence behind them, and they’re putting their trust in that theory even though it has no evidence. While they’re doing that, they’re borrowing aspects of immaterial reality, which are better explained by God than atheism. They’re stealing from God in order to argue against Him. That’s why I called the book, Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case
Some atheists, agnostics, and others argue there is an inherent conflict between religion, Christianity in particular, and science. Can you respond to that argument? Yeah, that’s nonsense. To say that science can disprove God is like saying a mechanic can disprove Henry Ford, right? What do scientists do? They find cause and effect inside the universe. A mechanic can find cause and effect inside an engine, but that doesn’t disprove that Henry Ford created the engine. … All he can do is look at the existence of the car and learn something about the creator, because we know something about the creator by His effects. We look at a car, and we say there must be a carmaker. We look at a creation, and we say there must be a creator. What aspects of this being or this creator can we get from just looking at the natural world? If the natural world had a beginning, and space, time, and matter had a beginning, then we can point out that the cause of space, time, and matter can’t be made of space, time, and matter. It must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial.
We can also see that this being’s intelligent because He put this universe together in a fine-tuned way with great precision. We can see that this being is moral because of the moral law written on our hearts. We can see that this being is a being that transcends the space-time continuum. We can see he’s personal because He chose to create. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Christian God is true. It means a theistic god is true. We get more characteristics of this God by looking at Scripture, and we can provide evidence to show that Scripture’s true. We get some of the attributes of God from the natural world, but not all of them.
Someone who claims to be a naturalist might rebut some of what you’re saying by arguing that natural law can explain all of that. It doesn’t require anything supernatural. How would you respond to that? First of all, where do laws come from? They come from lawgivers. … Why is the universe so orderly? Why can we build a rover here on earth, launch it, put it on a planet 60 million miles away, Mars, with absolute precision? Because we can depend on the laws of nature to consistently do what they do consistently and dependably. That’s why we can do that.
Why is there so much order in the world? Because there’s a mind behind the world that is actually creating and sustaining the natural laws. It makes much more sense to believe that than to say that all of this is random. In fact, we wouldn’t even know what random was unless there was order. Atheists are always talking about randomness, but when they’re talking about randomness, they’re implying order because they wouldn’t even know what randomness was unless there was order. The universe is orderly.
A couple of years ago, your beliefs on same-sex marriage got you into some controversy with some of your consulting clients. In addition to doing all this work in Christian apologetics, you also have had a robust business career, as well. You taught leadership and other skills to corporations. I was doing some work for Cisco, which is a big company that does a lot of internet and networking products. They’re out of California, and I was teaching a leadership program out there. [I had] been working for them for many years doing it. Somebody in the class had Googled me and found out I wrote the book Correct, Not Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone. I never brought that up in class of course. That wasn’t the topic we were talking about.
The person, who happened to be a homosexual himself, called the HR director and said, “Oh, Frank can’t work here. He doesn’t obey Cisco values, because he’s against same-sex marriage.” The HR Director fired me within hours. The interesting thing about this, Warren, is that the guy who brought up the complaint loved the course. He said, “That was one of the best courses I’ve ever been in. This is a great course on leadership.”
In the name of inclusion and diversity, I was excluded. Inclusion and diversity doesn’t really mean inclusion and diversity. It means you must obey these values and agree with them and if you don’t, you’re out. Now it’s interesting that I, despite the fact having views that other people might disagree with, was inclusive and diverse with everybody. I worked with everybody regardless of what they thought about same-sex marriage or sexuality. I was the one who was inclusive. It’s the people who didn’t like my worldview and my values that excluded me.
You’ve got a section in the book called “Sleeping With Your Girlfriend.” What’s that all about? There’s a friend of mine here in Charlotte, N.C., who’s a pastor. He was giving a sermon a number of years ago on the new atheists and why they’re wrong. Some kid in his congregation whom he had seen before, came up to him and said, “I used to be a Christian, but I’m an agnostic now. You ought not be doing what you’re doing.”
The kid came up with one objection after another to Christianity, just standing there right after the sermon. [My friend] would answer the point, but then the kid—it was like he wasn’t even listening. He’d go on to the next objection. [My friend] realized it wasn’t an intellectual problem with this kid. He finally looked at him, and he said, “You say you’re an agnostic now because you’re sleeping with your girlfriend. Am I right?”
All the blood drained from the kid’s face. He knew he had been caught. He didn’t really have intellectual objections to Christianity. He had moral objections. I see this on campus all the time. The question I ask atheists during the Q&A is this: If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? Many of them have said, “No.”
You know why? Because evidence isn’t the issue for them. It’s morality and accountability. They don’t want it to be true. They want to keep sleeping with their girlfriend and they think if they become a Christian, then they’re not going to be able to do that. Or they want to keep doing X or Y or Z, and they think Christianity will prevent them from that. You see, people aren’t on a truth quest, they’re on a happiness quest, most people. They want to do whatever’s going to make them happy. If God gets in the way, then so much for God.
You see, people love darkness rather than light. I see this in myself. Half the time I don’t want it to be true, too, right? We want to do our own thing. Many atheists have admitted this. In fact, Christopher Hitchens called God a cosmic North Korean dictator for peering into our sex lives. I had a couple of debates with him. Both debates people can watch on our website crossexamined.org, for free. … Christopher was just mad at God. I loved him. He was so witty and funny, but he was just mad at God, which is why, at the end of both debates, I summed up his position this way. I said, “You can sum up Christopher Hitchens’ book in one sentence. Here it is. ‘There is no God and I hate Him.’” He was just mad at God.
Christopher Hitchens had it when he was alive. He said, it’s not just that I don’t think there’s a God. I don’t want there to be a God. I don’t want the universe to be that way. He said, one of the most troubling things for me is some of the most intelligent people I know are religious believers. He’s admitting that it’s really more a matter of the will than the mind.
Listen to Warren Smith’s full interview with Frank Turek on Listening In.