Arbitrariness and Inconsistency – the Opposites of Rationality

We live in a world where many people simply do not reason rationally. They are not able to make a good, cogent argument for their position. This is sometimes seen in political or religious arguments. Such debates often have more heat than light. People have very strong opinions, and voice them with fervor. But often their arguments are simply not rational! The conclusions do not follow from the premises. Why is this? And what can we do about it?

Most schools no longer teach logic. Perhaps that is part of the reason why people are often so illogical; they have never learned. But I suggest that the root cause is even deeper. To be logical is to think in a way that is consistent with the nature of God. Logic is a reflection of the way God thinks, and the way He expects us to think. That is why laws of logic are universal and unchanging; they reflect that aspect of God. As our culture has increasingly rejected biblical authority, it stands to reason that people will increasingly reject logic. A rejection of logical reasoning shows up in two ways: arbitrariness and inconsistency.


To be arbitrary means “to not have a reason.” When you decide to wear a red shirt rather than a blue one, and you really don’t have a reason, such a decision is arbitrary. Or when you decide to drink grape juice instead of orange juice, if you have no specific reason in mind, then your choice is arbitrary. We make countless arbitrary and often unconscious choices every day. Did you start walking with your left foot or your right? It really doesn’t matter too much one way or the other.

There is nothing wrong with such a whimsical attitude when it comes to the subjective preferences. However, when consequences matter, we had better have a good reason for our choice. The decision of whether or not to wear a parachute when jumping from a plane will have a profound effect on the outcome. And so this is not a decision that we would want to leave to the flip of a coin. A jumper has a very good reason to wear the parachute: it will save his life. His decision is not arbitrary.

Likewise, when it comes to logic, we are not permitted to be arbitrary. This is the whole point of rational debate. The goal is to show that we have a good reason for our position, and that it is not arbitrary. In a debate, to be arbitrary is to concede defeat. It is to say, “I don’t really have a good reason for my position.”

Whenever a person says something like this, “I believe X and you should too”, there will be a natural question on the part of the hearer: “Why? Why do you believe X and why should I?” Now if the person is not able to give a reason for his belief in X, then there is no reason why the hearer shouldn’t believe the exact opposite.

Beliefs should always have a reason. The more important the belief, the more crucial it is to have a good reason, because the consequences are more devastating if you are wrong. Little children don’t often recognize this. They tend to be very arbitrary. They firmly believe there is a monster in the closet, and they act on their belief by pulling the bed sheets over their head. Do they have a good reason for their belief? Of course not. Children are irrational, and we expect this from them. As people grow up, we are supposed to become rational. We are supposed to learn to have good reasons for our beliefs. And we are supposed to discard beliefs that don’t have good reasons. This is the mark of rationality.

You may think that this is all perfectly obvious. And most of the time, it is. But in debates on origins, politics, and religion, you will find that people are often very arbitrary. And you will actually have to explain to them that this is not rational. They are supposed to be giving a good reason for their beliefs, not just stating them and getting upset when you don’t agree. The whole point of a debate is to see which side has the best reason for their respective position.


The other mark of rationality is consistency. Truth is always self-consistent. Therefore, if a person makes two claims that are inconsistent with each other, we can be certain that at least one of them is false. And it is irrational to believe something that must be false. A rational person’s beliefs and claims therefore will be self-consistent.

The most obvious types of inconsistency are those which are outright contradictions. Clearly, if a person says, “Aliens do exist and it is not the case that aliens exist,” then he is in error. His thinking is inconsistent and thus irrational. Of course, not all apparent contradictions are actually contradictions. The hypothetical individual above might clarify that he is using the term “alien” in two different senses. Perhaps he believes that extra-terrestrial aliens to not exist, but illegal aliens do. There would be no inconsistency there. A contradiction is “A” and “not-A” at the same time and in the same sense.

Outright contradictions are rarely stated as explicitly as above. Nor are they often stated back-to-back as above. If they were, they would be immediately obvious, and the debate would be over. Instead contradictions tend to be separated by time, or obscured in terminology. This can make them difficult to spot. Most forms of inconsistency are not outright contradictions. “I voted for the war before I voted against it” is not an outright contradiction, but it certainly seems inconsistent.

Another form of inconsistency is the behavioral inconsistency. This occurs when a person’s actions do not match his or her words. I often notice this in evolutionists who teach that people are just the accidental result of chemistry working over long periods of time, and really no different than an animal. But then they expect people to act morally, and to be treated respectfully, as if people had fundamental value, and are not just chemical accidents.

Perhaps you have heard someone say, “morality is relative. So you cannot go around telling other people what they can and cannot do.” But simply by making the statement, this person is “telling other people what they can and cannot do.” The statement is self-refuting.

Christians can be very inconsistent as well. If asked how they know that Christ was raised from the dead when it is not known scientifically how that could be possible, many Christians would rightly respond, “God can do as He wishes. He is not bound by laws of nature. And we know Christ was raised from the dead because it is recorded in the pages of Scripture. The text is clear.” But then again, when asked about the age of the Earth, many of those same Christians would respond, “well, the scientists say it’s billions of years old. So, maybe the days in Genesis weren’t really ‘days.’” This is very inconsistent reasoning.

Logical fallacies are marks of inconsistency. Fallacies are arguments that may sound logical on the surface, but in fact are not. Fallacies tend to be persuasive. That is why they are so common. As one example, many evolutionists try to argue their position (that all life is descended from a common ancestor) by showing examples of adaptation or variation within a kind. These are two different concepts. But since the term “evolution” can be applied to either one, evolutionists sometimes think that they have proved the former definition by giving an example of the latter. This is called the fallacy of equivocation, or the “bait-and-switch” fallacy. The meaning of the term (“evolution” in this case) was used in an inconsistent way.


A logical person is rigorously consistent, and always has a good reason for what he or she believes. If a person’s thinking is inconsistent, then we know the person cannot be (completely) right since truth will always be self-consistent. Contradictions and other less severe types of inconsistency are marks of irrationality. These indicate that the person has not been a careful thinker. Internal inconsistency within a claim necessarily means that the position is unreliable at best.

Arbitrariness is at least as bad as inconsistency. The inconsistent person is using bad reasoning. The arbitrary person is not using reasoning at all. To be arbitrary is to not have a reason. It is to have an immature, childlike way of believing in something for no good reason at all. Christians have a moral obligation to be rational: to think and behave in a way that is consistent with the character of God. And we need to challenge unbelievers to be rational as well.

249 Responses to Arbitrariness and Inconsistency – the Opposites of Rationality

  1. Patrick Gernert says:

    I have a curious question I was wondering if anyone could answer. First let me post some quotes from my Aunt:

    “I believe that attempting to separate church and state is the only way to enable each person and family to truly worship (or not worship) as they believe. Although I most certainly have my own beliefs, I do not really know if mine are “right,” any more than I know if anyone else’s are. I think we are all God’s children, and that God speaks to each of us (in different ways). I think the only way to receive the fullness of God’s communication in all its diversity is to enable each person and family to express their understanding of God’s communication openly and privately. So, yes, I want to see our country move more towards separation of church and state. But I’d also like to see the different churches more openly and publically express their beliefs. I do not think this is contradictory, and I think it is only in doing this that we can all learn from each other, and hopefully come closer to God.”

    “you believe the only way to be Christian is to interpret what Jesus says in the same way that you interpret it. In believing that, you are elevating your understanding and your beliefs above all others.”

    “When people think they are somehow better than others, then I am offended. When you express your belief that your way of thinking and believing is the only right way, then I interpret that as you thinking you are better than others… your understanding is better, your faith is better, it makes me not want to engage in discussion with you. Why would I want to talk to someone who doesn’t think I have anything meaningful to add to the conversation, unless I agree with that person?”

    I told her that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and I didn’t agree with her that we should be accepting and encouraging other people to, “be able to live according to their own beliefs” or to clarify I don’t think we should be encouraging the Jewish or Muslim people etc… to practice their faiths because I believe they are false. It would be like me having the decision to either help pull them away from a bus into life or not just letting them get hit by a bus but pushing them into the street. Am I wrong in this? Am I being prideful by considering my interpretation of the Bible stating through Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven the right interpretation? Does this mean I think I am better than everyone else?

    • Josef says:


      No, you’re not being prideful, but you’re just being consistent. I mean, when Jesus says He is the only way to Heaven in John 14:6 in such a straight forward manner, how else are we to take it? Unless we throw out the rules of grammar, then I really don’t know how else to interpret that verse. And in fact, if we can reinterpret such a straight forward verse, then I would venture to say that we really wouldn’t ever be able to communicate at all in any form.

      And it doesn’t mean you think you’re better than everyone else, how would it imply that? Since math is often a good way to illustrate situations that are black or white, let me put it this way: if I said 1+1=2, would that be prideful? Why not all the other numbers? If a math teacher is grading a test and marks a wrong answer, is he being prideful? What makes him think his answer is any better than his student’s answer?

      More specifically to your aunt, it sounds to me like she isn’t living up to her own standards. It sounds to me like she has a mentality of, “Believe like me, i.e. believe that anyone can interpret the Bible how ever they want, and do not take Christ’s words seriously, or I have nothing to say to you.”

      • xerkon says:

        Yeah, but Jesus said that at a specific point in time and space, right? This whole thread is about time and space. Before Jesus said he was the only way to heaven, what was the only way to heaven?

    • Micah says:

      You nailed it Josef.

      Patrick, when your aunt says, “When people think they are somehow better than others, then I am offended. When you express your belief that your way of thinking and believing is the only right way, then I interpret that as you thinking you are better than others… your understanding is better, your faith is better, it makes me not want to engage in discussion with you. Why would I want to talk to someone who doesn’t think I have anything meaningful to add to the conversation, unless I agree with that person?”
      she is applying a double standard, after all, she wants you to accept her ideas that the interpretation of the Bible is relative or else she wont want to engage in discussion, she thinks her ideas about how to interpret the Bible are better than yours(that is, she thinks everyone can have their own interpretation of the Bible except you, of course, because your interpretation says that there is only one true interpretation) By saying the Bible should be interpreted relatively, she is basically saying that the Bible itself is relative and that the Truth in it is based more on the arbitrary opinions of man rather than on the absolute truthfulness of God. Truth is absolute, not relative.
      Just my 2 sense.
      Good luck!

      • Josef says:

        Well said Micah. You’re right, she is applying the double standard of “Everyone can interpret the Bible any way they want, so long as it isn’t your way” which in itself is a self-refuting view.

        I was trying to say that at the end of my post yesterday, but for some reason, the words just weren’t coming to me and I just couldn’t think of a clear way to say it. 😉

      • Patrick Gernert says:

        Well said indeed! Thank you so much Josef and Micah, you both are a big help to me and I appreciate you answering my questions.

    • Stefan Frello says:

      No – you pobably do not think you are any better than everyone else.
      Everybody with an opinion think he/she is right. Muslims and Jews think they are right, so do atheists. You are just like evereone else in that sense.
      Unfortunatly you are wrong. And I know. I am an atheist. And I am right.

  2. xerkon says:

    Okay. You tell me how many times the word “logic” or “reason” appears in the Bible and I’ll tell you how many times the word “faith” or “belief” occurs and we’ll have a showdown!!! Ready? 1……2……3…..go!

    • Micah says:

      Just because the Bible does not contain many uses of the word ‘logic’ does not mean its not logical. Logic and reason exists independent of their words.
      The point your trying to make doesn’t follow logically, i can be logical without ever using the word ‘logic’, the same applies for the Bible.
      Besides, there wouldn’t be any basis for logic if the Bible were not true.

  3. Robert Ahlquist says:

    Rescuing devices

    Dr. Lisle,

    Hi, I am a former student of Jackson Hole Bible College. You did not teach me, but you taught my wife there in the spring of 06–Talia Ahlquist. I am reading The Ultimate Proof and have a question about rescuing devices if you have a few minutes to help me…

    And so that you know, I am not antagonistic or insincere in my motive–I am genuinely trying to understand this presuppositional apologetics thing. 🙂

    A key concept from chapter 1 is that rescuing devices are used by both sides and that they are ideas proposed in order to provide potential explanations for seemingly contrary evidence. In chapter 6, you assert that the rescuing device employed by evolutionists to explain why there is information in DNA is arbitrary (pg 101). But why would that be arbitrary if it would not be arbitrary for the old-Earther to propose an Oort Cloud? (pg 25, 2nd paragraph). To say that a rescuing device is arbitrary unless it appeals to one’s worldview (you didn’t say it exactly like that, but that is the idea I came away with) seems to confuse the point because it seems that all rescuing devices, by definition, appeal to one’s worldview. That is WHY people employ them–to “rescue” their views. Would it be better to say, “since rescuing devices necessarily appeal to one’s worldview, rescuing devices are only as rational as is the worldview upon which they are based”? If so, wouldn’t it be inconsistent on page 101 to say that the evolutionist’s rescuing device is arbitrary?

    By the way, I have really appreciated many points you have made in this book…thanks for your efforts!

    Robert Ahlquist

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Robert,

      Perhaps I could have stated things better in the book, but I do think you are right. People invoke rescuing devices to protect a worldview. If they are not able to give an objective reason for their rescuing device, then it is arbitrary. The only alternative is for them to appeal to their worldview as the reason for their rescuing device. But then of course I will ask them to defend their worldview. If they cannot do that, then their rescuing device does not have a rational foundation.

      So if the worldview is the reason for the rescuing device, the rescuing device can only be considered rationally justified if the worldview is rationally justified. I hope that helps.

      God bless.

  4. Brian Forbes says:

    I have a new question, and it shouldn’t take as long as my last one.

    I know it’s fallacious to say that simply because something is not repeatable, it’s not science, therefore it’s not true. Many use this faulty logic to deny anecdotes as a reliable source of truth. I know anecdotes can be true, whether people believe them or not. I had chocolate milk this morning, and even though I can’t prove it to you, I know it happened.

    I watched two things on Youtube this morning. 1. A guy in a car with a seat suit (it was a suit that made him look like he was a seat in his car) pulled through a drive through. The people at the window concluded it was a ghost driving. That anecdote happened, but they reasoned upon it unsoundly. 2. I watched NDE’s of (former) atheists, who saw hell, demons, angels, and Jesus. Putting whether they reasoned upon them soundly aside, these people had an experience. Whether or not their experience can be verified by us, we know that anecdotes can be true.

    Is there a name for the fallacies I’ve described? If not, I’m thinking I can coin one. Maybe I can call it the “Not Science, Not Truth” fallacy.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Brian,

      Only a subset of things that are true are provable. And only a subset of things that are provable are provable by the methods of science. So, yes, it is fallacious to argue that something cannot be true because it is not provable by the methods of science. The name of the fallacy depends on the exact way it is phrased. If it’s set up as a propositional syllogism then it’s the fallacy of denying the antecedent:

      1. If X is scientifically provable, then it is true. (If p then q)
      2. X is not scientifically provable. (Not p)
      3. Therefore X is not true. (Therefore not q)

      It could also be phrased as a categorical syllogism, in which case it’s the fallacy of the illicit major.

      1. All scientifically provable things are true. (All S are T)
      2. X is not scientifically provable. (X is not S)
      3. Therefore X is not true. (Therefore, X is not T)

      It’s fallacious because the major term (things that are true) is not distributed in the premise (it doesn’t refer to all its members), but is distributed in the conclusion. Substitute “dogs” for S, “mammals” for T, and “cats” for X to see an example of why this argument doesn’t work.

      The philosophy that all true things are provable by the methods of science (by observation and experimentation) is “strict empiricism.” It is easy to refute because it refutes itself. Namely, strict empiricism cannot itself be proved by the methods of science. It is false by its own standard.

  5. Boopie says:

    Hello Jason, thank you for your book ‘ultimate proof of creation.’ it definitely revolutionized the way I do apologetics online. Since I don’t have a church ministry for now I treat forums and chatrooms as a field for apologetic debating ministry if there’s ever one. I’m treating that as a ministry ^_^ anyway Jason I just have one question. This comes up in a debate I had with an atheist. I probably missed something or you haven’t deal it in your book. It’s about Laws of logic not being a descripton of how the universe behave. I tried pointing out the same way you said it, that ‘ if laws of logic is part of the physical universe then laws of logic wouldn’t be invariant because the universe changes in it’s condition and times.’ So I ask him how can he reconcile a constant changing universe to the invariant laws of logic. The reply was that laws of physics in the universe is constant ever since, like the laws of logic so there is no irreconciliable difference and both are invariant. Honestly that answers left me thinking lol. What he said was true, even though my question was legit. So Jason, what do you think the right answer for this response?

    • Christopher Cutler says:

      Hi Boopie,

      Just because laws of logic and laws of physics are both constant doesn’t mean you can equate them. Laws of physics had a beginning, whereas laws of logic did not. Laws of logic are eternal (necessarily). You can’t say that there was a time when laws of logic didn’t exist. Because if they didn’t exist, then they did exist. Get it? Because without the law of non contradiction you could have A (laws of logic) and not A (no laws of logic) at the same time and in the same sense. Laws of logic are eternal, and that is just one of several reasons they require the God of the Bible to account for them. Hope that helps. I’m looking to seeing what Dr. Lisle has to say about it. Great question!

      • boopie says:

        Thank you. Well I think it’s something to do with false dichotomy? Meaning it’s not necessarily true that laws of logic would change if it is a description of the physical universe, as we would like to pose that dilemma to the atheists. because just like all laws it’s granted that its a non material entity like laws of physics. So while the condition in the universe is changing and its effecting the materials, it has no effect on the laws themselves because they are laws, which includes laws of logic. So they conclude that laws of logic doesn’t change even if it’s a description of the physical universe. Let me know if there’s confusion goin on here. Thank you

        • Micah says:

          Boopie, i would say that the constancy of the laws of logic is not really the issue, everyone knows that laws of logic are invariant and unchanging. The problem the atheist has is that he cannot justify why that is so.
          What is the justification for the constancy of the laws of logic? Why should they remain the same and behave the same in an ever changing universe?
          The atheist could respond, ‘Well, they have always remained the same, so i assume they always will.’
          However the atheist is using circular reasoning here, he is assuming induction to prove induction, that is, he is proving the future will reflect the past by assuming the future will reflect the past.

          The christian has a reason to believe in induction. God is outside time and upholds the universe in an orderly fashion. But apart from God there is no reason to believe the future reflects the past.

          Hope that helps.

        • Christopher Cutler says:

          I get what you’re saying. Their argument is that because there are unchanging natural laws in a changing universe, then there can be unchanging laws of logic in a changing universe. But the problem is, they can’t account for unchanging natural laws either. Why would there be unchanging natural laws in a random chance universe that is constantly changing? Upon what basis would they assume natural laws wouldn’t or couldn’t change? It does the atheist no good to appeal to natural laws to try make sense of laws of logic, because the atheist cannot account for either of them. But even if the atheist could find a way to reconcile unchanging laws with a changing universe, he would still have to deal with the eternality aspect of laws of logic, as well as the universal aspect. Upon what basis would an atheist assume laws of logic are universal, without universal experience?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Boopie,

      Your atheist has tried to solve one problem by introducing a second problem. He didn’t actually explain how laws of logic could possibly have their properties (or how we could know that they have such properties) in an atheistic worldview. (His response was an example of the fallacy of irrelevant thesis). Instead, he merely provided another example of something with properties that don’t make sense in an atheistic worldview. Okay, now he has two problems to answer instead of just one. How can laws of logic AND laws of physics have the properties they do in an evolving universe, and how could we possibly know? How does he know that the laws of logic AND the laws of physics will be the same tomorrow as they are today? He assumes this. But only the consistent Christian can make sense of it.

      Imagine that I pointed out to an evolutionist how amazingly well-designed the eye is. Its irreducible complexity cannot have come about in a gradual way by step-by-step mistakes. She responds, “Well, sure it can. After all, the ear is also irreducibly complex, and it evolved. So why not the eye?” This begs the question. The ear is another example of something that cannot have evolved. Far be it from solving the problem, this merely makes it worse.

      Laws of logic are not the same as laws of physics. Laws of logic describe the relationships between concepts. They deal with abstractions. Laws of physics describe the relationships and behavior of matter and energy. They deal with physical things. The atheist cannot account for the existence or properties of either laws of logic or laws of physics, or the properties of each, or how we could know about the properties of each.

  6. Christopher Cutler says:

    Dr. Lisle,

    It’s funny the previous question got brought up. I recently just got into a conversation with another Christian that said he didn’t believe in natural laws. But it wasn’t in a “Bifurcation Fallacy” kind of way; he wasn’t suggesting that it had to be either or (natural laws or God’s power). Rather, his point was that it’s unnecessary to invoke natural laws when God’s power is a sufficient explanation. Here are few of his quotes:

    “my position is that the laws of nature do not exist, but they are ontologically the will of God, and not natural laws. God never “intervenes” or “extervenes” because God is always constantly moving the space-time universe, so if we use the term “natural law,” then we by nature exclude God’s constant causation”

    “Since He must uphold all particulars, this would be that in an atomistic view of things, He would hold up every atom, but if He sustains the particulars, this would have to mean that He is the cause of their moving, therefore them not being active in themselves nor God passive, but God being active in moving and creating and re-creating things by His powerful will.”

    I know describe natural laws as “a description of God’s power.” What would you say to someone like that that denies that there is a such thing as natural laws or finds them unnecessary given that God upholding power is a sufficient explanation?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Christopher,

      I suspect your friend is engaging in a verbal dispute – a disagreement over terminology rather than facts. I think we would all agree on the fact that God sovereignly controls every aspect of His universe. I agree that God doesn’t “intervene” because this would imply that He isn’t currently controlling everything. The only disagreement is over terms. Natural laws are not “machines” that God created to replace His power, which would be a deistic view. Rather, they are the name we give to the systematic and predictable way that God controls the universe.

      Natural laws do exist – as descriptions. They don’t exist physically. They are conceptual. But if they didn’t exist at all, then we could not use them to make predictions about the positions of the planets and so on. (It’s impossible to use something that doesn’t exist). So I disagree with your friend’s statement that if we use the term “natural law” then we are excluding God’s constant causation. On the contrary, “natural law” is the term that we use for God’s constant causation.

      Your friend has contradicted himself when he says, “laws of nature do not exist, but they are….” He first denies their existence, and then goes on to tell us what they are – as if they do exist. Perhaps what he means is that laws of nature do not exist physically. But they do exist as useful concepts. Science is proof of this. Science would be impossible without laws of nature.

  7. Jacob Howard says:

    Hi Dr. Lisle,

    The other day I was talking to someone about lying. Since you are so good at describing the laws of logic and how one thing must come from another and so forth, I figured you might be able to give me some insight.

    This fellow claimed that there are certain lies that are justified. He says that some lies are done to protect people from harm, or to protect even the nation. He says the consequences of the sin of the lie are outweighed by the good the lie has done. So, basically, he thinks God should not punish someone who has one of these “justified” lies. What do you think?

    He was also wondering what the definition of a lie was, biblically. Was it any deviation from the truth? Or did it have to be the complete opposite from the truth?

    Your thoughts would be most appreciated. Thanks!

    In Christ Jesus alone,

    Jacob Howard

    • Dan Courtney says:

      Jacob – Maybe I can take a stab. The problem is the idea of absolute moral dictates devoid of the circumstances. Any action (like lying or even killing) can only be determined to be beneficial or detrimental within the context of the circumstances.

      Consider this: A neighbor comes to your door and asks, “Do you know where my wife is?” You know exactly where she is… do you tell him? According to the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness” the answer is yes. But what if the wife had come to your door minutes before, bloody and bruised, begging for help and saying that her husband was trying to kill her? She’s terrified and hiding just behind the door…now do you tell him?

      Clearly the circumstances surrounding the decision whether to ‘bear false witness’ are critical. What we do then, is use reason and experience to predict the likely outcome of the action we take. In this sense we are making a rational assessment of the consequences of our actions, and it is the intent and the consequences that determine whether the action is moral.

      The bottom line is that moral absolutes don’t work because they remove the circumstances, and thus the rational assessment of the consequences, from the picture. The good news is that we don’t have to blindly follow commands (or commandments), but that we have access to reason which allows us to determine whether any given action is the right thing to do.

      I hope this helps.

  8. Chris C says:

    Dr. Lisle,

    When Scripture says in 2 Tim 2:25 that repentance comes before a knowledge of the truth, what kind of repentance is it talking about (saving repentance or just a general changing of the mind) and what kind of truth is it talking about (truth about the gospel or truth about anything)? And what does this mean in terms of what the unbeliever is able to know? Because before I was saved, I still believed in creation. So how does an example like that fit into what it says in 2 Tim 2:25?

    Thanks and God bless!

    • Chris C says:

      Dr. Lisle, when you get a chance, I’m still curious about this. I’ve heard 2 Tim 2:25 quoted many times in apologetic encounters, and I still don’t know exactly what it is referring to. I would also like to add that not only did I believe in creation before I was saved, I also believed in presup. So if repentence comes before a knowledge of the truth then how did I know the truth before I repented?

      • Dr. Lisle says:

        Hi Chris,

        I do think that 2 Timothy 2:25 is referring to repentance in the sense of salvation for two reasons. First, according to this verse it is repentance that God must grant. It involves a miracle of sorts, since only God can resurrect a “dead” sinner to life with Him (Ephesians 2:1-2,5-6). But we are free to change our minds about other things without any supernatural help.

        Second, note that verse 26 refers to the previous state of these people as having been “captive by [the devil] to do his will.” This cannot refer to Christians who have been set free (Galatians 5:1). So this refers to the unbeliever (e.g. Ephesians 2:2) and the ignorance he has about his own spiritual condition and the nature of God and salvation. God must work a miracle in the unbeliever so that his heart will be softened so that he can embrace the Gospel, and thereby begin understanding the fullness of the Gospel.

        Even unbelievers can have some knowledge of the world, and even partial knowledge of spiritual matters; this is because of God’s common grace. But unbelievers will not fully understand or appreciate spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:14), because the aspect of their being that appraises such things (their spirit) is “dead” in trespasses (Ephesians 2:1).

        • Chris C says:

          So the “truth” it is referring to is the truth about the Gospel? Do you think it makes sense then to use 2 Tim 2:25 in an apologetic encounter when discussing, for instance, knowledge? Because I’ve heard apologists say, “the reason you don’t understand this (argument about truth and knowledge) is because you’re not saved.”

          • Josef says:


            I don’t mean to butt-in. But I just wanted to offer my perspective, which may be different than Dr. Lisle’s because I am a Calvinist (and I’m not sure if Dr. Lisle is or not).

            But I believe the context of this is salvation. Unbelievers may have knowledge of creation, partial knowledge of spiritual matters, and such, but they do not “know” God. Verse 26 of that chapter sort of clarifies it, at least it does to me, and it says, “and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

            Obviously if they are captivated by the devil and doing the devil’s will, these are unbelievers/unsaved.

            Remember that eternal life means that we know God (John 17:3).

            So basically, the “truth” here is the truth of God, who he is, which is eternal life. God must grant this because man is totally depraved and unable to save himself. If God did not grant repentance, then no one would be saved. I think the Bible makes that clear throughout.

            John 6:37, 44: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

            “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

            • Chris C says:

              Right, that’s pretty much what Dr. Lisle said. I have no problem with that. I’m a Calvinist too. So, why do apologists use that verse when discussing truth and knowledge? If unbelievers can know partial things like “God is necessary for knowledge,” then why do apologists use that verse to show the unbeliever why he’s not “getting it”? I guess what I’m not understanding at this point is how (if at all) it should be used in an apologetic situation. Maybe you or Dr. Lisle could give me an example of how you would use it.

              • Josef says:

                Quite honestly, I cannot think of a time when an apologist essentially said, “The reason you don’t understand my argument is because you are not saved” and use that verse as support for that view. I’m not saying no one has used it that way, I just can’t think of an example.

                Me, personally, I use that more for myself than I do for my opponent. Like I might remind myself that no matter how good my argument might be, only God can grant an unregenerate sinner repentance. I’m not so sure I’d use it in an apologetic situation, but rather to encourage other Christians (or myself). Like I know some times I’ve had friends who have grown frustrated because of unbelieving family members and I might bring up that verse to remind them that their job is to present the argument, and from that point, only God can grant repentance.

                • Chris C says:

                  I was thinking, maybe the reason it’s used they way I’ve heard it used in apologetic situations has something to do with the fact that unbelievers accept some things to be true and not others. But if God granted them repentance causing them to be saved, it would follow that they would accept those other things as well.

                  • Dr. Lisle says:

                    That’s good discussion. I agree. The 2 Timothy passage is more useful for Christians to see why unbelievers are not able to accept or even understand very basic truths, no matter how clear. See my discussion with Tony for a great example of this verse in action.

                    Unbelievers do have a type of knowledge of God (Romans 1:21), but it’s not a trusting or saving knowledge, and it is suppressed.

  9. Kenny says:

    Dr. Lisle,

    Just checking in to see if you have given a detailed response to the “missing gravitational field” in your ASC theory. If not in a blog, have you responded somewhere else?

  10. Dan Courtney says:

    I think the definition of arbitrary that works better than “to not have a reason”, is “based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity.” There is always a reason (a cause or explanation), even if it is not consciously considered before hand.

    [Dr. Lisle: to clarify, I will add that to be arbitrary is to not have an objective reason – a reason outside the individual that is, in principle, open to inspection by others. I agree with your point that there is always a reason, even though it may be subjective.]

    Interestingly, the selection of the Christian God as foundational to all knowledge may be very well considered, but is still arbitrary because of its lack of necessity.

    [Dr. Lisle: If you study this issue, you will find that in fact the biblical God is absolutely necessary if we are to have knowledge. This is the Christian claim (Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:3), and we see it vindicated every day as unbelievers are unable to justify their presuppositions.]

    God as mere metaphor for existence is necessary and therefore not arbitrary. But the specific Christian conception of an anthropomorphized super being has attributes which are not necessary (omnibenevolent for example), and therefore to assert the existence of such a being, a priori, is itself arbitrary.

    [Dr. Lisle: Not so. You will find that God’s nature as defined in Scripture is indeed necessary for knowledge. Even the specific example you gave of omnibenevolence is necessary for objective morality by which we have knowledge of ethics. I.e. God’s preceptive will defines “right” objectively in the Christian worldview. Apart from this, there is no objective basis for morality.]

    • Stefan Frello says:

      Who promised you that there is an “objective basis for morality”?

      [Dr. Lisle: Yes, that’s the point. You cannot have objective morality apart from the truth of Christianity. And morality that’s relative isn’t really morality is it? If different people could invent different standards for themselves, then you could never say that anything is wrong (or right). You could only say that it would be wrong for you yourself to do something, but if someone else does it, it might be perfectly fine.]

      Even if there is, it could be the result of evolution.

      [Dr. Lisle: I don’t think you can make the leap from what is to what should be in an evolutionary worldview.]

      E.g. murder (the killing of the innocent).
      The sense that (most) people have that murder is wrong, is what you would expect from a social animal. With few exceptions, social animals do not kill their kin. We just call it ‘moral’ in humans and ‘instinct’ in other animals.
      What about killing non-kin. Most of human evolution took place in small communities where most of the people were quite closely related. Therefor non-kin persons in the group would be sparse, and probably the mother or father of children, who’s other parent were kin.
      It has even been shown that in a community where the members recognize each other, cheating of any sort do not pay off.

      [Dr. Lisle: I appreciate the attempt. I see several problems though. First, if this scenario were true, it would still only explain behavior, not morality. That is, it would explain why people think murder is wrong (e.g. because that belief contributes to the survival of the species) but not why murder is actually wrong. Putting it another way, why should I as an individual care about the survival of the species? If I’m on my deathbed, and I could push a button and destroy all humanity, why on your worldview should I refrain from doing so?

      Another problem I see is that you would have to condemn noble sacrifice as wrong on your system. If I sacrifice myself to save my grandmother, this action would reduce the survivability of the species, and yet most people would say that the action is commendable.]

  11. Dr. Lisle,

    It took me a few days to come up with an effective refutation to this “Anisotropic synchrony convention” (ASC)

    [Dr. Lisle: Actually, you are attempting to refute the model, not the convention. A convention really cannot be refuted. It would be like trying to refute the metric system.]

    notion you have to attempt to make a young universe look like an old universe.

    [Dr. Lisle: Not at all. The universe “looks” young. So there is no need to come up with something to make it “look” old. As a few examples, the hottest blue stars cannot last many millions of years, and have never been observed to form. Yet they are abundant in the universe. Magnetic fields naturally decay with time, (e.g. planetary magnetic fields should not last millions of years) yet are virtually everywhere. Spiral galaxies would be wrapped beyond recognition if they were “old.” Comets in our own solar system cannot last more than about 100,000 years; and we have indirect evidence that other stars also have comets. Etc. etc., and many others. The universe certainly “looks” young. No, the ASC model simply proposes one way in which the light from distant galaxies can arrive at Earth on day 4 of the creation week.]

    It comes down to this: Your proposed young universe + ASC will be observationally different than an old universe (since you do not permit artificial light in transit in your universe).

    [Dr. Lisle: I agree. But this is evidence for the ASC model, not against it. The ASC model predicts spiral galaxies at all distances, blue stars at all distances, comets, strong magnetic fields, and other evidences of youth. All of these are observed, and none would be the natural expectation of an old universe.]

    Imagine, if you will, a large mirror in this young ASC universe of yours 5,000 light years from Earth. If one looks in this mirror from Earth in your young ASC universe, they will see nothing (well, OK, they will see whatever you consider “formless and void”) until 10,000 years after the universe’s special creation—4,000 years in the future should said universe be 6,000 years old.

    [Dr. Lisle: Yes. Quite correct.]

    On the other hand, if there is a star 10,000 light years from us and also 5,000 light years from the mirror (I have made the proposed mirror infinite and planar to make the math as simple as possible), this star will be visible from Earth about 2071 years after the creation of your ASC universe—roughly around the time of the Abrahamic covenant. Do the math. It’s a simple back of the envelope calculation.

    [Dr. Lisle: It would depend on where you put the star, and how the mirror is oriented. If you have the starlight hitting the mirror at a 45 degree angle in order to reflect to Earth, then your number isn’t right. It should be around 4200 years. Remember that the speed of the light beam depends on the angle relative to the earth which will change slightly as the beam travels to the mirror. Inhabitants on Earth would see the star immediately, but would not be able to see the reflection of the star until 4200 years later.]

    Since your young ASC universe is observationally different than an old universe as accepted by conventional science,

    [Dr. Lisle: Be careful to avoid the reification fallacy. Science cannot “think” or “accept” anything. I think you meant to say that an old universe is accepted by most scientists. This would certainly be true. However, they do not accept an old universe for scientific or logical reasons.]

    your hypothesis creates an observationally different universe and is therefore a testable one.

    [Dr. Lisle: I agree that the ASC model is testable. Unfortunately, we have no giant mirror at 5000 light years out. Thus, we will have to rely on other differences of predictions between the two models – such as the existence of blue stars at all distances, predicted by ASC, and not by standard thinking.]

    I will continue to accept the conventional very old universe until a scientific observation which should show sunlight from the sun being reflected by the equivalent of a mirror in space 3,500 light years or more away instead shows whatever passes as “formless and void” (or, likewise, we meet intelligent aliens who marvel at how our particular star was shrouded in a contracting sphere of darkness until the Sun, from the point of view of the aliens, magically appeared 6,000 years ago).

    [Dr. Lisle: Well, we are not going to be able to perform that experiment anytime soon. We’ll have to settle for all the other evidence of youth which confirms ASC but challenges secular notions. And of course we have the Word of the Creator regarding how and when He created. Thank you for posting.]

    • Brian Forbes says:

      You’d believe something if an angel from heaven came down and taught it to you? Be careful. (Gal. 1:8)

      Perhaps they would have to look like aliens from Star Trek in order for you to believe them. But if people evolved from goo, why would the aliens look like us or communicate like us? I always liked when the aliens that were encountered on Star Trek were extra-dimensional incorporeal beings or whisps of energy. That is slightly more plausible than them being fish heads with human arms and legs. I bet you’d listen to a fish head man from heaven, though, based on what you said. I’d be cautious.

    • Stefan Frello says:

      Be accurate in your claims, please.

      [Dr. Lisle: Pot, meet Kettle.]

      In Lisle’s second comment he repeats some of the claims heard so often from creationists.
      In essence: Spiral galaxies and Comets disprove an old Universe.
      Both are wrong:
      Measurements of velocities of various parts of Spiral Galaxies show that the outer parts rotate faster than the inner parts.

      [Dr. Lisle: You’re confusing angular velocity with rectilinear velocity. The rotation curve of a typical spiral galaxy is nearly linear, almost flat, beyond a small distance from the core. Hence, the angular velocity drops sharply with distance. And therefore stars near the core have a much smaller orbital period than those near the perimeter. Therefore, spiral galaxies are constantly twisting tighter. In my research, I have run computer simulations to see what galaxies would look like if they really were billions of years old; they become very sharply twisted and they look nothing like any galaxy we observe in the universe.]

      One reason for astronomers to postulate dark matter.

      [Dr. Lisle: Wrong. Dark matter is the cause of the spiral winding problem, not the solution. That is, dark matter is invoked to explain why galaxy rotation curves are linear rather than Keplerian. Given that they are linear (regardless of the cause), they wrap themselves beyond recognition in far less than 1 billion years.]

      Comets with periods of tens of thousands of years are known. They will last much longer than 100,000 years.

      [Dr. Lisle: First, the secular belief about the age of the solar system is 4.5 billion years. So even when we consider Comet West, which has one of the longest periods known, it could not have survived its alleged 18,000 passes near the sun. It barely survived its last pass in 1976, when the nucleus broke into several fragments. Second, what about the vast majority of comets that do not have such a long period? These cannot survive even a million years, yet they are abundant in our solar system. Even the existence of one such comet ought to challenge the secular timescale, yet they are the rule, not the exception. In my doctoral research, I used the SOHO spacecraft which is able to observe comets as they pass close to the sun. I have seen a number of comets totally destroyed in one pass.]

      You might not believe in the existence of the Oort cloud or the Kuiper belt, but your personal disbelieves is no argument in any discussion.

      [Dr. Lisle: You might want to believe in an Oort cloud or a genuine Kuiper belt; but your personal belief is no argument in any discussion. I’m a scientist, so I prefer to have evidence to back my beliefs. I guess you prefer to take things on blind faith. That’s the main difference between our positions.]

      • Stefan Frello says:

        Of course you are free to write whatever you want on your own blog, but it is easier to ask other people not to be vulgar, if you refrain from it yourself. (Pot, meet Kettle)

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          I agree. Did you think that I was using vulgarity or profanity somewhere?

          • Stefan Frello says:

            It might be that vulgar is used in a somewhat more restricted way than its Danish translation: ‘vulgær’, which is used to discripe any kind of primitive offend without argument. Like “Pot, meet Kettle”

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              I don’t think that “the pot calling the kettle black” can really be considered vulgar. The phrase refers to a situation in which a person criticizes another for something of which the first person is himself guilty. To ask someone to be accurate, implying that they haven’t been in the past, and then making a series of inaccurate claims would be an example of the “pot calling the kettle black.” It’s not meant to be offensive.

  12. SG says:

    Hey there Dr. Lisle,

    I am posting my comment on this blog thread due to the heavy traffic on your newest thread, “Are you Epistemologically Self-Conscious?” I have been keeping up with the back and forth comments and you have done a wonderful job of refuting the objections that people bring to the table.

    One objection that I noticed that you haven’t yet refuted is Nadie’s claims that the laws of logic are descriptions of how the universe behaves. For example, we derive the law of non-contradiction from the observation that we never see any exceptions to this law. I have been looking forward to a thorough response from you concerning Nadie’s objections, though I know you are certainly very busy. If you don’t have the time to respond to Nadie’s claims thoroughly, perhaps you may have the time to offer me a quick critique here. I am very interested in this topic due to the fact that it is believed to be irrefutable thus far; hence my interest in seeing these objections of Nadie being refuted.

    Thank you for your persistency in your ministry.

    God bless

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Thanks! Your strategy has worked. 🙂

      I just don’t have time to respond to everyone. I have previously refuted the notion that laws of logic are descriptions of how the universe behaves. But I’ll give a short answer here. Actually there are several ways to refute it. First, laws of logic are not claims about the physical universe at all. So it’s absurd to call them descriptions of the (physical) universe when they aren’t describing the physical universe. They describe the correct relationship between propositions. “(A) and (not A) cannot both be true at the same time in the same way” is not a statement about galaxies or gravity, or quasars or quarks. It is a statement about conceptual truths – not the physical universe.

      Second, we have only observed a very small fraction of the universe. If laws of logic were describing our observations of the universe, there would be no reason to assume that laws of logic will work in unobserved regions. Yet people do assume this. They walk into a room they’ve never been in before, and they assume that laws of logic will work there. But how could they know that if laws of logic are descriptions of our observations of the universe, and we have never observed the room before?

      Third, laws of logic are invariant – they don’t change with time. But the universe does. (It’s bigger today than it was yesterday due to the Hubble Law.) If laws of logic were describing a changing universe, why wouldn’t that change too? And more importantly, how could we possibly know? The secularist might assume that laws of logic will work tomorrow, but he has only observed the universe in the past. No one has observed the future universe. Hence, there would be no reason on the secular worldview to presume that laws of logic will work in the future as they have in the past – if they were descriptions of the universe.

      God bless.

      • Nadie says:

        For as long as there’s people who will respect and buy into whatever Jason says, Jason has no reason to admit that he is wrong. He might see that he is wrong, he might know that he is wrong, but he has no reason to admit it, because he knows that his followers will not blink twice if he just repeats points refuted ad nauseam. They will just swallow them yet again. See SG’s request. SG did not wonder if my claims were correct or incorrect, he just wanted to see them refuted. With that kind of public Jason has nothing to lose by never admitting to being wrong, regardless of how thoroughly, or how clearly you demonstrate him to be wrong.

  13. Stefan Frello says:

    [Dr. Lisle: Although this post violates the feedback rules, I’m allowing it anyway because it is a good object lesson for everyone. People need to read on a topic and actually think about it a bit if they want to make comments that are remotely rational.]

    If God is logical, then what about inconsistences in the Bible:

    [Dr. Lisle: If God were not logical, and if the Bible really did have any inconsistencies, then what would be the basis for saying that inconsistency is wrong? The law of non-contradiction is epistemologically rooted in the self-consistent nature of God. There is no rational basis for it otherwise. Thus, to accuse something of being wrong on the basis of inconsistency is to assume the truth of the Christian worldview.]

    Incest is forbidden, but who should Adam’s and Eve’s children marry if not each other?

    [Dr. Lisle: These are the sorts of silly errors that would not have happened if you had actually read up on this topic. The Bible does not forbid marrying a relative; we’re all relatives anyway. At the time of Moses God gave a new law that forbade marriage between very close relatives. Part of the reason for this involves mutations – the accumulated genetic mistakes that have built up in the genome. But this would not have been an issue for the first several generations; hence there was no law against marriage of close relatives until the time of Moses.]

    Killing is forbidden, but the Israelites did a lot of it when they conquered the Promised Land.

    [Dr. Lisle: No, the Bible does not forbid all forms of killing. It forbids “murder” which is the unlawful killing of a person. However, killing is permitted for defense from lethal force, for a capital crime, and during a just war. But if the Bible were not true, why would any form of killing be wrong? Wouldn’t it just be chemicals interacting with other chemicals?]

    The phrase ‘Creation Science’ has its own inbuilt inconsistency:

    [Dr. Lisle: It’s not inconsistent, though it may be redundant. All science is predicated upon the notion that God upholds the universe in a consistent way that we can count on. If that were not so, how would science be possible? Science is based on biblical creation and would not be logically justified apart from it.]

    In science, we prefer theories that, if wrong, can be disproven, or at least shown to be in conflict with observations.

    [Dr. Lisle: I wish that were so. But when the idea of particles-to-people evolution is shown to be in conflict with observations, do people consider it disproved? We know from observations that organisms always reproduce after their kind, that genetic information does not increase by chance, that irreducibly complex structures cannot come about in a gradualistic fashion, that fossils with carbon have c-14, etc. If evolution were a theory that could be disproved by observations, then any one of these lines of evidence would be sufficient to disprove it.]

    What possible observation could disprove theories that involves miracles? (Like the theory of Noah’s Flood, or of Genesis 1 as an accurate account of Creation).
    To be more exact: Could you point to an observation that theoretically could be done, and which would disprove Creation or the Flood.

    [Dr. Lisle: Yes. According to Genesis 8:22, God will uphold nature in such a way that the basic cycles of nature will be in the future as they have been in the past. So, laws of nature will not arbitrarily and permanently change, and thus science will continue to be a useful tool – that’s the prediction of creation. Evolution has no basis for making such a prediction. Therefore, if the laws of nature arbitrarily change tomorrow or at any point in the future, and consequently science stops working, then this would be a good disproof of biblical creation.]

    • Stefan Frello says:

      1: ‘Although…’
      Which rule was violated?

      [Dr. Lisle: Rules 3, 4, and 5.]

      2: ‘If God …’
      This is the central part of the paper, if I understand it right.
      First: If the universe was created by a God, how can we know that it was the God of the Bible? The real creation story could be completely different. Still the law of non-contradiction would count.

      [Dr. Lisle: Only the biblical God as articulated in Scripture can account for the preconditions of intelligibility necessary for science. I’ve written on this topic many times before, most thoroughly in my book: The Ultimate Proof of Creation. The short answer is that if it were any other god, or if God lies about things such as creation, then we couldn’t know anything at all. We could have no rationally justified confidence in science or logic.]

      Second: We do not have to accept any creation story to explain the law of non-contradiction. Our ability to understand the world around us depend on our sense of pattern. What is the law of non-contradiction more than an extrapolation of this pattern-understanding ability? See 5 and 7.

      [Dr. Lisle: Apart from biblical creation, why would there be patterns in the world to sense? And on what basis would we expect the human mind to be able to discover such patterns? The law of non-contradiction is a universal, unchanging, exception-less abstract rule governing the relationships between concepts. Apart from biblical creation, no one has presented any reason why there should be such a law, why it should have those properties, and how we could possibly know that it has those properties.]

      3: ‘These are…’ Point taken.

      4: ‘No, the …’
      Is killing of infants on purpose not murder, regardless the circumstances? In my secular morality it is.

      [Dr. Lisle: “Secular morality” is a contradiction in terms. In a Godless universe, what happens simply happens. There’s no right or wrong about any of it. You might say that some things displease you – set up chemical reactions in your brain that you interpret as unpleasant. But how can there be any universal moral obligations if people are simply the inevitable and accidental by-product of chemistry?]

      I think you contradict your own argument. If incest is only forbidden because the Law of Moses say so, then what about murder? How could Cain know that killing Abel was wrong, if God had not set up the rules yet?

      [Dr. Lisle: Not quite my argument… The false assumption you’ve made is that if something isn’t written, then it’s not a law. That’s anti-Scriptural. God has also written His moral laws into people’s conscience (Romans 2:15). So, in general, how can you tell if God was adding a new law to deal with new circumstances, or merely inscribing a moral principle that He had already inscribed in people’s conscience? One way is to see if God held people accountable to such a law. God did hold people accountable for murder/adultery, etc. before Sinai. Yet, there was no judgment on close intermarriage before Sinai. Abraham was married to his half-sister. Second, some moral principles can be traced to the unchanging character of God. For example, human beings are made in God’s image, and this has always been true from the beginning. Thus, murder has always been wrong and Cain knew that. That is why he denied knowing where his brother was, rather than answering God honestly.]

      Why is killing wrong if the Bible is not true? You ask.
      If we have two groups of people: in one, killing each other is OK; in the other, it is forbidden. Which would last the longest and contribute the most to the following generations? This kind of cultural evolution could have led to our sense of morality. It could even have started in our ape-like ancestors as a hereditary instinct.

      [Dr. Lisle: I appreciate the attempt. But you’ve tried to explain behavior, not morality. Big difference. I am asking why murder would actually be wrong; but you have instead speculated on why it is that most people think that it is wrong – namely, that aversion to murder has survival value for the species. At best, that could explain what is, but it cannot explain what should be – morality. A society with a law that you cannot kill rodents will probably end up with more rodents than a society in which such killing is permitted. But that is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether or not killing rodents is moral.]

      5: ‘It’s not …’
      If there were no laws of nature (= inconsistency), life would be impossible and we would not be around to do the science.

      {Dr. Lisle: That’s the fallacy of irrelevant thesis. What you have stated is certainly true. But it is irrelevant to the question I asked. Namely, apart from the Christian worldview, upon what basis should we expect there to be underlying patterns, laws of nature? No one disputes that such laws exist. But how would they make sense in a chance universe?]

      6: ‘I wish …’
      All your ‘lines of evidence’ has be refuted.
      See CB900, CB100, CI100.

      [Dr. Lisle: Hardly. Talkorigins itself has been refuted and is notoriously unreliable and not peer-reviewed. And thus it would be a violation of rule #6. If you have a genuine counter-argument based on peer-reviewed, factual information, feel free to make it.]

      7: ‘Yes, according …’
      If there is no God, life (and planets, solar systems etc.) would be impossible in a universe without permanent laws. Therefor evolution has a basis for predicting permanent laws.

      {Dr. Lisle: That doesn’t make sense – the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. On what basis could you predict anything whatsoever in a chance universe? How could evolution, in any sense of chance-based change over time, predict anything permanent (unchanging)?]

      It is strange how different people can think. In my view: If the laws of nature changed, it would be a miracle, proving God’s existence. An omnipotent God could change the laws of nature and uphold “… seedtime and harvest …”. If you do not have anything less drastic, I am not impressed.

      {Dr. Lisle: 1. God has done miracles. Yet some people still didn’t believe in Him (Matthew 28:17). 2. Ironically, it’s not miracles that prove (in a logically conclusive sense) the existence of God, but rather the uniformity in nature. People take for granted the uniformity in nature, but it cannot be accounted for in a secular worldview. David Hume was reduced to utter skepticism on that very issue. Namely, apart from the Christian worldview, there can be no way to argue, without begging the question, that past experience is a good indicator of future success. Yet all science is based on such uniformity.]

      • Stefan Frello says:

        I’ll keep it short: Rule # 2, no novels.
        On Moral and Behavior.
        You claim to be able to distinguish between what should be wrong, Moral, and what people think is wrong, Behavior. How do you know that what you claim should be wrong and therefor moral, is not just your personal view on what you think is wrong, and therefor behavior? How would you distinguish between the two? If evolution (and culture) lay down a sense of right and wrong in your mind, it would feel exactly the same as if God had done it. You wouldn’t know the difference!

        [Dr. Lisle: Revelation. God has revealed Himself to all people, not only by writing His law on the conscience, but also objectively in His Word. So if someone felt that murder is acceptable, and if I disagree, we can settle the issue by going to the Bible and checking.]

        And remember: In your opinion, Cain should have known that murder was wrong, even if nobody had told him.

        [Dr. Lisle: Cain had some revelation from God too. He knew that human beings are made in God’s image and are precious to Him, and thus that murder is wrong. But apart from the Christian worldview, how could murder possibly be morally wrong? I can understand that it might be emotionally unpleasant, or undesirable. But if you knew you could get away with it, why would murder be fundamentally wrong apart from the Christian worldview?]

        • Stefan Frello says:

          You end up in a circular argument. Presuming the existence of God cannot be used as an argument for his existence.
          You ask how would murder be ‘wrong’ instead of ’emotionally unpleasant’? However, my point is that you have no way of knowing the difference, except if you presume God’s existence.
          What you call ‘Revelation’ I call ‘Myth’! You have to show how to know the difference, without presuming the existence of God.
          I am trying to make this as short as possible, so please stop cutting up my text in small bits.
          (I hope I got the difference between ‘assume’ and ‘presume’ right, though I find it difficult to explain it)

          • Dr. Lisle says:

            (1) Regarding circular arguments… It’s actually a transcendental argument, not a circular one. A transcendental argument asks what are the necessary preconditions for an observation to be intelligible. We have seen that, given the characteristics of God as described in the Bible, and given His promises, there will necessarily be uniformity in nature, objective morality, and so on – all those things necessary for knowledge. And apart from Christianity, none of those things can be rationally justified. And knowledge requires rational justification. So the argument is:
            1. Apart from Christianity, knowledge would be impossible.
            2. Knowledge is possible.
            3. Therefore Christianity.
            This is a valid argument (it is modus tollens) and neither premise arbitrarily presumes God.

            (2) Unless God exists, there can be no “right” or “wrong.” We could only say that something is emotionally pleasant, or emotionally unpleasant. So, if morality is meaningful at all beyond mere personal preferences, then God exists. As to how we can distinguish a difference between personal preference and morality, I’ve already answered that: The Bible. In the Christian worldview, God has revealed His moral standards in His Word, and thus we can distinguish between personal preferences and genuine morality. God’s Word demonstrates that it is God’s Word by making knowledge possible. But in the atheistic worldview, there can be no such thing as morality – only emotional preferences.

            (3) You can call revelation “myth” if you like, but that won’t make it so. Even educated critics know that so much of the Bible has been confirmed archeologically; its people and places were real, and so it would be ridiculous to call it myth. You presuppose the non-existence of God and interpret evidence in that light. Okay. But we have seen that this leaves you unable to justify regularity in nature upon which science depends. And so your presupposition reduces to the absurd conclusion that we wouldn’t be able to know anything. But we do know things. On the other hand, if we presuppose the biblical God, then science, morality, logic, and so on are all rationally justified. So your two choices are (1) Christianity or (2) Irrationality.

            • Havok says:

              1. Apart from Christianity, knowledge would be impossible.
              2. Knowledge is possible.
              3. Therefore Christianity.
              This is a valid argument (it is modus tollens) and neither premise arbitrarily presumes God.

              It’s valid, but it’s not sound. The first premise is quite obviously unsubstantiated (though you say you do substantiate it in your book) and something very few people would be willing to accept.

              • Dr. Lisle says:

                If the first premise is false, then it should be trivial for you to provide some other worldview that makes knowledge possible. I’ll make it easy and just ask you to provide a basis for uniformity/regularity in nature – apart from Christianity.

                Again, whether people are “willing to accept” an argument has no bearing whatsoever on the correctness of the argument.

  14. michael3ov says:

    Ahhhhh, a presuppositionalist!

    Assume a god as the basis for everything all you want, that does not support your arguments. Actually it makes them rather weak to be honest.

    You haven’t even come close to providing evidence or a convincing argument that your god exists in the first place. Therefore, you certainly cannot logically use its existence as a basis for an argument.

    Presupposing fairies or trolls can be replaced in every one of your arguments with equal effect.

  15. Morris Key says:

    Dr. Lisle, I’m unsure whether or not this is the proper place to post this message relative to your comment on Psalm 19:3 in your discussion with Dr. Ross, “Thousands or Billions” so please redirect me if need be. However, since the title here seems to relate….

    In your discussion, you only quoted the first part of Psalm 19:3, which seems deceptive to me because this partial quotation completely subverts the meaning of the entire passage, while the entire passage seems to militate against your point. I wonder whether you did this intentionally? I also wonder why Dr. Ross failed to point this out, rather than refer to the next verse.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Psalm 19:3 teaches that the creation’s “message” is not a literal message of words or speech that can be heard. Many people misunderstand the passage because of the way it is worded in certain English translations, such as the KJV. Although the King James Version inserts the word “where” into Psalm 19:3 (that is why that word is in italics), which seems to reverse the meaning, that word is not in the original Hebrew. See the New American Standard translation which renders the passage most literally from the Hebrew: “There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.” The ASV, RSV, NRSV, NLT, HCSB, and Young’s Literal Translation also correctly render the passage. Dr. Ross had apparently not done his homework on this issue.

      • Morris Key says:

        Thank you, Dr. Lisle, for your quick reply!

        So, is there a translation of the Old Testament that is true to the original Hebrew throughout, so that one is not required to search out various translations for inerrancy? And the same question for the New Testament?

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          There are several translations that are very good, but none correspond exactly to the original Hebrew/Greek. The New American Standard is one of the best, and so is the American Standard Version, the King James Version, and the New King James Version. These are good both in the Old Testament and in the New. When you compare a verse in all these versions and the meaning is identical, you can be confident that the verse has been well-translated. Some people like “parallel Bibles” for just this reason – it allows for quick comparison between translations.

  16. Stefan Frello says:

    To avoid the very thin columns, I will start over. This a continuation of the discussion started Sept. 17. 2014
    (1) The only ‘Knowledge’ (With a capitol K – certain and indisputable) we have about the natural world, is about what theories work better than others (sometimes so much better, that all alternatives are ridiculous: The earth no doubt orbits the sun).

    [Dr. Lisle: Hi Stefan. Generally, it is the deductive form of reasoning that people take to be certain/indisputable. Mathematical or logical proofs follow certainly and indisputably if the chain of reasoning is correct. Science on the other hand is inductive in nature. We draw general inferences from specific instances in nature. But there is always the chance that we have observed too few instances to discover the true underlying pattern. And therefore, scientific knowledge is usually considered probabalistic in nature, and not certain or indisputable.]

    And such knowledge is possible without Christianity.

    [Dr. Lisle: It’s not, but let me explain so that there is no confusion. Certainly scientific knowledge is possible without professing a belief in Christianity. But scientific knowledge would not be possible apart from the truth of Christianity – regardless of whether people profess it. The reason is this: knowledge requires justification of beliefs. And apart from Christianity, there can be no justification of the inductive principle upon which all science is based. Scientists presuppose that there is an underlying unity/orderliness in nature, and that we can make inferences about this orderliness by observing specific instances. That assumption would be logically unjustified apart from the Christian worldview.]

    Occam’s razor is a statement about how to do science, not about expecting the truth about the world to be simple ( See also my remark from Oct. 11 2014 or shortly thereafter) in ‘Research Update’ of Aug 20.

    [Dr. Lisle: If Occam’s razor is merely a statement about how to do science, then how is it justified? That is, if someone disagrees and says, “No, that’s not how you do science. The correct way is to make a model much more complicated than essentially necessary,” how could you argue that your approach to science is correct and his or hers is incorrect? Putting it another way, why should we adhere to Occam’s Razor when we do science?]

    Armed with an enormous amount of observations and with Occam’s razor to guide their theory-building, scientist have built the secular worldview, which is anything but simple.

    [Dr. Lisle: The secular worldview existed long before modern science. I happen to agree that Occam’s Razor is the right way to do science. But I can justify that position from my Christian worldview. How would you justify it?]

    (2) This is what I meant by circular argument. You have to refer to God to see the difference between Moral and Behavior. Therefor you cannot use Moral as an argument for God’s existence.
    Without the ‘Knowledge’ argument, this one falls apart.

    [Dr. Lisle: It’s not really circular; it’s transcendental. That is, we are reasoning from a principle to discover its necessary foundation. The argument could be stated as a modus tollens:
    (1) If God does not exist, then there can be no distinction between morality and behavior.
    (2) There is a distinction between morality and behavior.
    (3) Thus, God exists.
    Since this is valid, the only way to disprove it is to show that either premise 1 or premise 2 is wrong. Premise 1 could be refuted by coming up with some other system that justifies objective moral obligation. But no one has been able to do that. Premise 2 could simply be denied. But that is tantamount to admitting that apart from God, there is no such thing as right or wrong. Anything goes. And most people are unwilling to live by that standard.]

    (3) This all comes down to whether you accept my or your point no. 1.

    [Dr. Lisle: Knowledge is possible apart from a profession of Christianity, but not possible apart from the truth of Christianity. I hope that clarifies.]

  17. Stefan Frello says:

    We had most the same discussion under ‘Research Update August 2014.’
    Se my post of 23/11.
    In short: Knowledge about which theories work better than others is possible apart from Christianity.

    [Dr. Lisle: It is not possible because you’d have to use your mind and your senses to evaluate which one “works” better. And the rationality of your mind cannot be justified if it is merely a chemical accident, nor can the reliability of your senses be justified if they are too. There is no reason to trust a chemical accident to be truthful about anything.]

    That is what science is all about. It is not about stating that we know the truth. Not even about stating that we know the truth is simple.

    [Dr. Lisle: That just isn’t true to the nature of science. Scientists don’t go around saying things like “it works better to presume that Saturn has rings though we have no idea if such is true” or “it is more convenient to think of the sun being made of hydrogen regardless of its true composition.” Rather, we say “Saturn has rings” and “the sun is made of hydrogen.” We have confidence that such things are actually true, and not merely a pragmatic tool that has no connection with reality. We recognize that there are some things we don’t know, and that some theories are more provisional than others. But in my years of research and working with other scientists, we did science to learn what is true of the universe, not merely what works best.]

    [Dr. Lisle: I recognize that, in the secular worldview, science as a tool for knowledge can never be justified. That’s my point. Science would indeed be reduced to merely a subjective preference as to what is a convenient way to think or act, with no correspondence to reality whatsoever. In which case, the secular worldview cannot account for the success of science – why it is that scientific methods can make successful predictions that correspond to our observations of the actual universe. Only the Christian worldview can make sense of this.]

    The distinction between behavior and morality is purely theoretical. In practice you have no way of knowing.

    [Dr. Lisle: On your professed worldview, that’s exactly right. You cannot know what is “right” in a chance universe because there can be no objective morality at all in a chance universe. How could chemical accidents possibly have moral obligation? On the Christian worldview, behavior and morality are distinct and we can very easily know the difference. Morality is what God approves of, and is expressed as His commandments in Scripture: e.g. you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery. Behavior is what people do: people often murder, steal, and commit adultery. So the distinction between morality and behavior is abundantly obvious in the Christian worldview. And we can easily know the difference – that Bible explains what it is the people do (behavior) and what it is the people should do to evoke God’s approval (morality).]

    • Stefan Frello says:

      You state that I cannot justify trusting my senses. Which organism would survive and replicate better? One whose senses give a more accurate picture of the world or one whose senses give a less accurate picture of the world?

      [Dr. Lisle: Grass, as far as we know, does not have senses that give a more accurate picture of the world than the senses that humans have. Yet, grass survives and reproduces very well. It far outnumbers people. Bacteria, as far as we know, do not have senses that give an accurate picture of the world. Yet, bacteria survive and replicate far better than people. So evolution – even if it were true – would not justify the reliability of sensory experience. Many organisms do just fine with no sensory experience at all.]

      [Let me anticipate an objection: “But those don’t have sensory organs – and we do.” But how do you know that you have sensory organs? How do you know that your thoughts and perceptions about the external world are truthful, and not merely a byproduct of photosynthesis? How do you know that you are not a plant, and that all your memories and thoughts aren’t just plant chemistry? “Well, we know how photosynthesis works – I learned that in school.” But if your memories of what you learned in school are just a byproduct of photosynthesis, then you really can’t assume that they are remotely truthful. So you see, the evolutionist is in a dire epistemological pickle. He cannot justify the reliability of his senses without begging the question.]

      You keep trying to rule out evolution from the equation and therefor end up with nonsense.

      [Dr. Lisle: So you see now, hopefully, that evolution can never justify reliability of sensory experience. Natural selection – which is a true principle – merely refers to the fact that survivors survive. But survival does not equate to truth or require reliable senses.]

      Apparently, you have greater confidence in science leading to truth than I have. Here is a few examples to remind you to be more cautious:
      Lord Kelvin (and everybody else at the time) was convinced that he knew how the sun got its energy: gravitational collapse, but he was completely wrong.
      Until recently astronomers ’knew’ that they could calculate the fate of the universe if they could just work out how much matter it contained and how fast it expanded. In came dark energy and changed the name of the game.
      Science can make successful predictions because it is self-correcting. Not because the world is simple. We do not know if the world is simple. What is the smallest unit of matter? Once it was thought to protons, neutrons and electrons, in came Quarks, then superstrings (still theoretical). What if it is something even smaller? The only truth in this case is that we do not know what the smallest unit of matter is!

      [Dr. Lisle: All true. And it confirms what I wrote earlier about the inductive, probabilistic nature of the scientific method. Most scientific conclusions are only probably true at best. But in your view, science would be totally disconnected from truth. On your worldview, we could never learn anything about the actual universe because science has nothing to do with truth. On your worldview, science is just something you do because you emotionally prefer the convenience of it. But only Christianity can account for the success of science and its ability to give us actual knowledge of the external world.]

      On moral: You are absolutely right.

      [Dr. Lisle: Great! We’re making progress.]

      What you do not see, however, is that you have to assume that the Bible is God’s word. You cannot use your sense of right and wrong to show that the Bible is true. You cannot know that God and not natural selection and culture have given you that sense.

      [Dr. Lisle: You seem to be confusing morality with feelings of morality. Morality deals with what is actually right. Feelings of morality are what people believe to be right, which may or may not agree with what is actually right. For example, murder – the unlawful killing of a human – is (actually) morally wrong. But a criminal may not feel/accept/believe that it is wrong; his feeling or sense of morality is that murder is right. Big difference. Now, my argument has nothing to do with feelings of morality, but rather with actual morality. If actual morality exists, then the biblical God exists, because the biblical God is the necessary precondition for morality. This is a transcendental argument. It doesn’t so much “assume that the Bible is God’s Word” as it in fact demonstrates that the Bible is God’s Word by the impossibility of the contrary.]

      [I certainly agree with you that culture can produce feelings or a “sense” of morality or beliefs about morality. But it cannot account for actual morality. And thus, if there really is such a thing as morality, then the Christian worldview is true. This is because no alternative can justify actual morality.]

      (Perhaps the ancient Greeks had it wright: Etymologically ’moral’ and ’ethics’ comes from words meaning ’prober behavior’ and ’habit’!).

      [Dr. Lisle: So is “right” simply what people normally do – their regular habit? Human sacrifice was a regular habit of the Aztecs, so wouldn’t that make it morally right in your view? In our own culture, racism was once the norm – did that make it morally right?]

      Frankly, I am not impressed with the moral of the Old Testament.

      [Dr. Lisle: And I don’t like anchovies. But how is that in any way relevant to the truth of the matter? Does my dislike of anchovies make them wrong, or does it cause them to cease to exist? Of course not. Do you think God cares about your opinions of His decrees or actions?]

      Do you really honestly agree that adultery and male homosexual behavior should be punished with death?

      [Dr. Lisle: This is again the fallacy of irrelevant thesis. Your emotional like or dislike of what God decrees has no effect whatsoever on the reality of the situation. Reality is what God decrees, not what Stefan emotionally prefers.]

      I do not think we get any further in this discussion. If you choose to respond, you will have the last word.

      [Dr. Lisle: That’s up to you of course. But I have enjoyed our dialog. Thanks for posting.]

  18. Stefan Frello says:

    Sorry, I could not keep my promise not to react.
    Evolution acts on actually competing organisms. Animals do not compete with bacteria or plants.
    I think we have exhausted the arguments concerning science.
    You avoid the last question so let me reframe it: If you were in a legislative assembly, would you vote for a law that punished adultery and male homosexual behavior with death?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Setting aside the reification of evolution, and the question-begging nature of whether evolution is true… This still doesn’t answer the challenge that the evolutionist cannot justify the reliability of his own senses. For all you know, you might be a plant, and your thoughts, perceptions, and memories are merely the byproduct of photosynthesis, which helps you survive.

      Your question about the right punishment for a crime is a moral question. But so far, you have not been able to provide an objective basis for morality. That is, on your worldview, on what basis can you say that anything at all is objectively morally wrong? Not merely inconvenient, or personally distasteful, or subjectively repelling – but objectively wrong? Once you answer that question, I’ll be happy to answer yours.

  19. Adnel Pena says:

    Hi, Dr. Lisle First I want to commend you for such a wonderful job you are doing on behalf of Christianity. I have seen some of your YouTube expositions and debates and I loved them. I have purchased a couple of your books: Discerning Truth and Understanding Genesis; amazing! My name is Adnel Pena. I’ve been a quadriplegic for 30 years since an accident. I love to study the Bible, books of hermeneutic, and books of logic. Talking about logic and violation of hermeneutic principles, I want your professional opinion on a theological concern I have with respect to an aspect of the reform theology. In the reform theology there is a doctrine known as Limited Atonement. It teaches that Jesus died to save only the elect, not all people. Now, the Gospel, which means good news, according to Paul is that Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). And Jesus said, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17) Not qualifying the terms sinners and world yet, the gospel then is the good news that Jesus came to save people who are sinners, living in this world. If that definition of the gospel is correct, and the Limited Atonement doctrine is true, then the gospel is only for the elect. It is great news for the elect! But, on the other hand, there is no gospel, good news, for the non-elect. Jesus didn’t die for them, according to the reform theology. Now, reformers agree that when Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15); that every creature means all human beings. Now, I see a dilemma here, because Jesus did command to preach the gospel to all people. But, if there is no gospel for the non-elect according to the reform theology, then either (1) Jesus is commanding us to preach a lie to the non-elect, or (2) the gospel really is for all people, or (3) every creature does not mean all human beings (which would be an oxymoron). Is this a valid and logical argument? I look forward for your answer. God bless you, and keep up the good work!

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hello Adnel,

      Thank you for your gracious message of encouragement. Conservative Christians would not all agree on the answer to your question. But I will give my take on it and perhaps that will be helpful to you. Let’s first consider John 3:17. From this verse alone it is not obvious whether the “world” represents each and every individual in the world, or the world (of mankind) in a general sense, or a large subset of that world. If I say “I sure love the planet earth” it doesn’t follow logically that I love each and every part of the earth. I can hate spiders, which are part of the earth, and still love the earth in a general sense with no contradiction. John 3:17 does not not say “each and every person in the world should be saved through Him.” Likewise, the previous verse John 3:16 does not say “For God so loved each and every person in the world that…”, and so we cannot logically deduce that God means every individual in the world from these verses. In fact, the latter part of verse 16 restricts actual salvation to only some people – namely those who believe in Him. So verse 17 is not saying that God’s intention is to save every person on earth and judge no one. Verse 18 confirms this. God gives salvation to all who believe in the name of the Son, but gives condemnation (justice) to those who do not believe.

      In my understanding of biblical doctrine, Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient to pay for the sins of each and every person on earth because Christ’s life is of infinite value. But it only actually pays for the sins of those who receive Him as Lord. If I went into a MacDonald’s with 10,000 dollars in my pocket, I have the capacity to pay for each and every thing on the menu. But (hopefully) I wouldn’t actually pay for everything on the menu. If Christ actually paid for the sins of all people (believers and unbelievers), then it would be immoral for God to send anyone to hell because their sins have already been paid. God would be extracting payment from those who owe nothing, which isn’t right at all. Yet, we know that unbelievers do spend eternity in hell. Christ was willing and able to pay for their sins, but they refused Him.

      Furthermore, the offer of salvation is genuinely universal, even though actual salvation is not universal. That is, God freely offers salvation to all people if only they will repent and trust in Christ (e.g. Isaiah 55:6-7). The problem is that most people don’t repent. In our sinful state, we hate God and everything about Him, and do not want to repent (John 3:19-20). So it is no lie to tell the non-elect that if they will repent and trust in Christ He will save them. It is simply that they stubbornly refuse to repent and trust in Christ. Left to our own sinful heart, no one would repent. It takes an act of God to change our heart (Ezekiel 36:26), to repent (Acts 5:31, 2 Timothy 2:25), and have faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8, Hebrews 12:2, 1 Corinthians 12:3).

      So why preach the Gospel to everyone, both elect and non-elect? One answer might be that we don’t know in advance who the elect are; only God does. God uses our preaching as part of the means to bring sinners to repentance. But there is another important reason. Many Christians tacitly assume that the sole purpose of the Gospel message is to save people. Some people even say that God intends for everyone to be saved, but is unable to override their free will, and therefore cannot accomplish His plan. I find that dreadfully unbiblical since God accomplishes everything He plans (Isaiah 46:9-10). Therefore, it seems to me that the Gospel is a message of life to those who receive it, and a message of condemnation to those who reject it (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). So the Gospel is for everyone. It simply has a different purpose for the elect than the non-elect. God knows who will reject his offers of mercy. But He still makes the offer to them, that way they cannot rightly complain that they had no opportunity to repent.

      God bless.

      • Cambridge Hathaway says:

        Dr. Lisle –

        I always appreciate your thoughts and the awesome apologetics you make for Christianity.

        I wanted to clarify one thing you said in this comment though. You said:

        “Some people even say God intends for everyone to be saved, but is unable to override their free will, and therefore cannot accomplish His plan. I find that dreadfully unbiblical since God accomplishes everything He plans.”

        While I agree that God will ultimately accomplish everything He has planned, the idea that God intends for (or rather, wishes for) everyone to be saved and come to repentance is a very biblical idea: 2 Peter 3:9 says as much. Also, I do not believe anyone would say that God is unable to override humans’ free will, but rather that He is unwilling to override humans’ free will. Free will is a necessary and integral part of God’s plan for humans. The way I see it, if humans are responsible for choosing to reject the gospel, then God is just in sending them to hell for their choice; but if they choose to accept the gospel, then God is still the one responsible for their salvation. However, if God is willing to override our free will to see to it that some accept and some reject the gospel, then He is responsible for both of those choices, and is therefore contradictory when He sends the rejector to hell, as 2 Peter 3:9 states that He is not willing that any should perish.

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Well, as I mentioned previously, not all Christians would agree with my answer on this issue. And some of these issues are very nuanced. My understanding of Scripture is that God accomplishes absolutely everything that He plans (e.g. Isaiah 46:10). And so, if something happens, it is necessarily part of God’s plan. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens is good or right, but it is under God’s control and He will use it for good.

          It might help to distinguish between what God plans and what God approves of. These are two different things. What God approves of are those things affirmed in His Law. Faithful obedience to Scripture is always approved by God, and disobedience is always disapproved. What God plans is what actually comes to pass, because God accomplishes all His plans (Isaiah 46:10). And while it may be hard for us to accept, it is nonetheless very biblical that God sometimes plans things that He does not approve of. One spectacular example is the crucifixion of Christ. God did not approve of the wicked actions of those who crucified the Messiah – it was murder and contrary to His law. Yet, God did plan it. Acts 2:23 directly affirms this. Indeed, God used the free (and wicked) choices of sinful men to accomplish something wonderful – the salvation of all His people. God’s plan encompasses human freedom.

          So, I do believe that we have free will in the sense of volition, and that God uses our free will to accomplish His plan in a way that is a bit mysterious to us. God would indeed approve if everyone on earth repented and trusted in Christ, and He has commanded such (Acts 17:30). And God would be pleased to save every one of them. The problem is people don’t want to repent. Sinners freely choose to sin: to rebel against God. Nonetheless, God has planned to save some of them. So, He turns their heart around and grants them repentance (2 Timothy 2:25; Acts 5:31). God can and does change our will by giving us a new heart that we may love Him. If He didn’t, no one would be saved because none seek after Him (Psalm 14:2-3). But apparently, He hasn’t planned to save all of them; we know this because not everyone is saved.

          I don’t think any conservative Christian would deny that those people who end up in hell do so because of their own perverse choice. God did not force them – contrary to their desires – to reject Him. They did that all on their own. They were offered salvation and they spat in God’s face. So, their sentence in hell is just. The question is: what about those of us who are saved? Did we choose God freely without any help from Him? I don’t think that would be biblical because the Bible says that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

          But many Christians think they can at least take credit for their choice: “Unlike those hell-bound sinners, I at least had the good sense to repent and trust in Christ. I chose to have faith in Him. That’s why I’m saved and so-and-so is not – my choice.” But the problem is that both our repentance and our faith are gifts from God (2 Timothy 2:25, Ephesians 2:8-9) and thus we cannot take credit for them. Left to out own fallen nature, we would not choice God. Therefore, Jesus – not us – is the author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The reason I am saved and another person is not has nothing to do with me or anything I have done, but is entirely by God’s grace, and thus I have no basis for boasting (Ephesians 2:8-9). When I read Romans 9:14-24, this seems to be what the Bible teaches.

          Regarding 2 Peter 3:9, in isolation it might seem like God really intends to save everyone and apparently was not able to accomplish His plan. But context discounts this possibility. The previous verses are dealing with God’s promise to return (verse 4) and judge the world (verse 7), and why this has not yet happened. The reason is that God is patient and plans to save people who are not yet saved (verse 9). In other words, if God were to return right now, then some people that He plans to save (who are not yet saved) would not be saved. And God is not willing to lose any of those that He intends to save. So the “all” in context refers to all of the elect – all who are or will be saved. It cannot mean “every person on earth” because then 2 Peter 3:9 would imply that God will save everyone on earth before judgment day, since He is “not willing that any should perish.” But that would contradict Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43, which indicates that unbelievers and believers will both exist on Earth until the end of the age. I hope this help. God bless.

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