The Rhetoric of Philisophical Naturalism
It is no secret that rhetoric can be very powerful when used the right way. It can be a very effective tool to persuade people to your point of view without ever offering any sort of argument or evidence to back them up.
There have been so many times that I have heard this tactic used to make Christianity, or even theism in general, seem ridiculous. However, when it is used in the way I’ve heard it so many times, there is a hidden assumption being made. I want to take a look at one of the most common uses of such rhetoric and the assumptions that I have yet to hear anyone address.
The way this often works is like this. They will take some Christian claim from the Bible. Usually pertaining to a miracle. Let’s take the virgin birth of Jesus as an example. When a non-believer wants to argue against Christianity, they might say something to the effect of “How much sillier can one be than to believe that a woman who was a virgin became pregnant and delivered a baby who was God, Himself?” And that’s being overly nice about it. Usually, they use far stronger language than that.
The problem with this logic is, as I said, the hidden assumption behind it. The claim presupposes philosophical naturalism. In the natural world, virgins do not get pregnant and have babies and babies are not gods. Therefore, under such a materialistic world-view this concept truly would be completely absurd.
Now, given that the claims of such miracles automatically assume exactly the opposite of philosophical naturalism, this rhetoric is essentially a straw man. If one is positing miraculous events brought about by an omnipotent and omniscient supernatural being, things like virgins getting pregnant should not be considered absurd. For a God who can create an entire universe, raising the dead to life or making a virgin pregnant is pretty much a walk in the park.
So, when someone says, “The very idea that a virgin would become pregnant is preposterous. Virgins can’t get pregnant without sexual intercourse…” the rest of the thought is “…if the material world is all that there is.” If they were to state it completely like that, I would be compelled to agree. If the natural world is all there is and God (or the supernatural in general), then it’s true that a virgin can not become pregnant without a naturalistic explanation.
However, if God does exist and is accurately described in the Bible, none of the miracles described in the Bible should be difficult to believe. Parting the Red Sea, raising the dead, healing the sick, allowing people to prophecy the future, virgins getting pregnant or what have you. These things are not only easy to believe if God is real, I would think that it would almost be expected. After all, the way God is described, He is creative, powerful, loving and wants us to know Him while not impeding on Free Will.
What other straw man rhetoric have you heard used to criticize Christianity?
Grace, love and peace.