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Three Things Atheists Get Right

Audio only:

Atheists get the big thing wrong, but that doesn’t mean they get everything wrong. Karlo Broussard, author of Prepare the Way, explains why Catholics and atheists can agree on some important insights about God.


Cy Kellett:

Actually, atheists get a lot of stuff right. Karlo Broussard is next.

Cy Kellett:

Hello, and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding, and defending your Catholic faith. I’m Cy Kellett, your host. We’re going to understand our faith by understanding what those who don’t have faith have to say about God. This time, Karlo Broussard is here. He’s got the soul of a philosopher, and if a soul of a philosopher is anything, it’s scrupulously fair about what the other person has to say. So we wanted to look at some things that atheists have to say about God. Are they always wrong in the things they have to say about God? Here’s what Karlo had to say.

Cy Kellett:

Karlo Broussard, author of Prepare the Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel, and the Church, thanks for being here with us.

Karlo Broussard:

Cy Kellett, thank you for having me.

Cy Kellett:

As Catholics, we are obligated to believe that atheists are wrong about everything. Is that correct? No? That’s wrong?

Karlo Broussard:

Wrong.

Cy Kellett:

We can admit that they are right about some things.

Karlo Broussard:

Indeed, we can. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

That’s what we’ll do in this episode-

Karlo Broussard:

Sure thing.

Cy Kellett:

… talk about what atheists get right.

Karlo Broussard:

Yeah. Wherever there is truth, we want to affirm it.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Now, we’re not going to try to be exhaustive about everything that atheists get right. You just picked some that are important ones to talk about. One of the things that you will see again and again and again in the the comments section after a video or on the internet in various places is this God-of-the-gaps thing, “These Christians, these believers, it’s all God of the gaps, and they’re wrong.” The God-of-the-gaps argument doesn’t actually work. Maybe you could just say what the God-of-the-gaps argument is, and are they right about that, that it doesn’t work?

Karlo Broussard:

Yeah. Inasmuch as they reject the God of the gaps, we would agree they are right in that. Now, what is the God of the gaps? What is that referring to? Well, it’s common among Christians within popular talk, within popular arguments for God’s existence, that they will appeal to, say, the complexity of biological organisms and argue as follows. Since there’s no naturalistic explanation that we can find for such complexity, therefore God.

Karlo Broussard:

Now, to be fair, whenever this is… This is known as an intelligent design argument. To be fair, whenever intelligent design arguments are given in more sophisticated arenas, it’s not quite as simple. When you get into the depth of the arguments, they will try to present arguments that show that, say, an evolutionary explanation cannot account for such complexity, and they’ll give their reasons for that. But it is true that you will hear Christians often make this kind of argument, appealing to the complexity of the universe or biological organisms and saying, “Well, we can’t find any naturalistic explanation for this, so let’s just plug the gap with God.” An atheist will say, “Well, that doesn’t work because we may find scientific explanations for such complexity to provide a rationale for it, and that gap closes. So there’s no longer a need for God, right?”

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. For example, maybe in, say, the 18th century, you might have found a common argument for the existence of God to be the complexity and interdependence of life on Earth. Well, there’s no accounting for that, except that God designed it and made it. Then the atheist will say, “And then in 1859, along comes Charles Darwin…”

Karlo Broussard:

Along comes our evolution.

Cy Kellett:

And he says, no, there is another explanation for that. Therefore, all you’re doing when you make the God-of-the-gaps argument is you just keep moving forward to the next thing that we don’t know, and you’re saying, “God. See, that’s God.” That’s the God of the gaps. The complaint is it’s a constantly moving target. You just keep moving it.

Karlo Broussard:

Right. The complaint is that I don’t need to… Even though we might not know what sort of naturalistic explanation, we might have ignorance of what the naturalistic explanation is, it doesn’t follow from that that we can appeal to God to plug in that gap.

Karlo Broussard:

This is actually valid reasoning, and this is similar to… This is another topic we’re going to talk about. From the Christian perspective, in response to the problem of evil, we often say, “Just because we don’t know what a greater good might be that God would bring about from a permitted evil, it doesn’t follow that there is no good.” Well, that’s parallel reasoning to what our atheist friends are saying, “Hey, just because you don’t know what a scientific or naturalistic explanation of this complexity might be, it doesn’t follow from that there is no naturalistic explanation.” Therefore, you need to appeal to God.

Karlo Broussard:

So we agree with our atheist friends in reasoning in that way, because from a classical view of theism, we can acknowledge that there may be a naturalistic explanation for such complexity of what we find in our natural world that we are ignorant of, but that does not pose a threat to our belief in God and our knowledge that God exists, because whenever we reason to God’s existence from classical arguments, exemplified in Aquinas’s five ways, God is the ultimate cause or explanation for the whole shebang. When we’re looking for naturalistic explanations for some naturalistic cause for some naturalistic effect, God is the cause of the whole natural system itself because He is the source of being.

Karlo Broussard:

So what our atheist friends and what some Christians in making this argument are looking at is what we call in philosophy secondary causes, things within the natural universe. There may be some secondary cause of some effect that we’re looking at, complexity of a biological organism that we’re not aware of. But even if we were to find a secondary cause of this effect, some naturalistic explanation, the one who knows that God exists from classical reasoning and these classical arguments would say, “Yeah, God is the source of that secondary cause. God is the source of that naturalistic explanation, because whatever exists has its existence because of the primary cause, who is God, the source of existence, the One who gives existence to all things that exists, other than Himself.”

Karlo Broussard:

So our atheist friends are right inasmuch as they reject the God of the gaps. We agree. We would reject that line of argumentation as well, in a sense, and appeal to the stronger line of reasoning and saying God is the ultimate source of whatever exists, whatever those naturalistic explanations may be. This allows for science to flourish. It allows for us to discover how things have come to be within our universe, allows for us to posit naturalistic explanations for some effects that we discover. We just recognize that those naturalistic causes or explanations are not ins in and of themselves. They’re not the ultimate ground of reality. They’re pointing to the ultimate source of reality, who is God.

Karlo Broussard:

Now, I say in a sense, with regard to rejecting the God of the gaps, because for someone who is not trained in philosophy and someone who has not read through the literature, there’s a form of rational belief in looking at the complexity of the world and then inferring from that, “Man, there’s got to be some intelligent creator behind this.” That’s not irrational. We would say it’s not irrational; it’s just not the strongest form of knowledge. It’s a probable knowledge. And for some, that’s acceptable because-

Cy Kellett:

We believe lots of things based on probable knowledge, where we go-

Karlo Broussard:

That’s right. There’s nothing irrational with looking at the complexity and saying, “Oh, wow, there’s probably a creator behind it.” Now, when push comes to shove, is that the best line of thinking we should take to affirm that God exists? No. There are stronger lines of reasoning here. But if we’re rejecting the God of the gaps with our atheist friends, for trying to convince our atheist friends that they ought to be theists and believe in God, then we would agree with them.

Cy Kellett:

They’re right.

Karlo Broussard:

Yeah, so that might not be the most persuasive line of argumentation for them to turn away from their atheism and embrace theism.

Cy Kellett:

Sometimes I think, however, that there might be a misunderstanding among atheists when religious people use language differently than they might. Someone might see the complexity of an ant colony, and the religious person might go, “God is so good. The creator is so amazing.” That person is not asserting a metaphysical argument at that point. They might be, but in general, that’s not what we’re doing as religious people.

Cy Kellett:

It’s also fair to say, I think, don’t just assume that we’re making a God-of-the-gaps argument, that I can’t explain the complexity of that, so I’m attributing that to God. All I’m saying is that the ultimate creator of all of this complexity, all these secondary causes and effects, is God, and I give glory to Him when I see the magnificence of creation.

Karlo Broussard:

Yeah. The affirmation of the beauty, of the complexity and the intelligence behind it, is assumed. It assumes that there is an intelligence, that there is a creator, and so you’re offering gratitude to the creator or praise to the creator for the beauty of the complexity that we find and the intricacy that is present there. So yeah, I think you make a good point that it’s not always a God-of-the-gaps argument. It could very well be simply a Christian assuming that God exists and therefore giving Him praise for such complexity.

Cy Kellett:

First of our affirmations of atheists is, you’re right, the God-of-the-gaps argument is a bad argument.

Karlo Broussard:

Right. Yeah. They reject the God of the gaps. One idea that comes to mind is they’re rejecting what William Blake, a late 18th, 19th-century poet-

Cy Kellett:

“Tyger Tyger, burning bright.”

Karlo Broussard:

Nobodaddy. He has a poem entitled Nobodaddy, where he’s critiquing God’s silence in the face of suffering. It is entitled Nobodaddy. There’s one professor of a lecture that I listened to one time where he’s referring to this God of the gaps as nobody’s daddy. It’s a Nobodaddy. So inasmuch as the atheists reject this understanding of divinity, we reject it as well.

Karlo Broussard:

Even embedded in this rejection of the God of the gaps often is embedded the rejection of a concept of divinity that is tinkering with things within the natural world where there’s really no secondary causality. So inasmuch as that concept of divinity might be embedded in this thinking, we would reject that as well, if the view of divinity is akin to a watchmaker who imposes some sort of ordered design from the outside on some stuff that has no design in it inherently within itself.

Karlo Broussard:

Whereas the classical understanding of God is that, yes, God does give the order for the natural things in the world, but those natural things have that order in and of themselves, given the types of things that they are. The material stuff that’s put together to make my coffee in the morning for the coffee pot, those material things are not ordered in any way to making coffee. That’s an order that intelligent beings impose upon those material things. Often, in the intelligent design community and ways of thinking about the natural world, it’s this imposed order that’s being thought of.

Karlo Broussard:

Insofar as an atheist is rejecting the God of the gaps and that concept of divinity, we reject that as well, because we recognize things within the natural world, they have inherent ordering towards certain goals and towards certain ends, to where it’s not merely imposed from the outside. We would say as classical theists that that order in natural things has its order because of God, but those things have it, really-

Cy Kellett:

In themselves. Yeah.

Karlo Broussard:

Right, in themselves. The technical jargon, for our viewers, if they’re interested, the difference is intrinsic teleology. Teleology, the telos, the end, the goal that inheres within the thing, as opposed to extrinsic teleology, where it’s an order that’s simply imposed from the outside and the thing doesn’t have it in any way inherent within itself.

Cy Kellett:

Be like a puppeteer running the world.

Karlo Broussard:

Correct. Right.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. All right. This one, I think, is more difficult in many ways. As a matter of fact, this might be the most difficult one. The atheist might argue about evil, that evil is evidence against God, who ought to exclude all evil. Therefore, if there’s evil, and God ought to exclude all evil, therefore no God.

Karlo Broussard:

And we would agree. So seeing-

Cy Kellett:

Really?

Karlo Broussard:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, okay. You just kind of surprised me, where you agreed right there. Yeah. Okay.

Karlo Broussard:

Seeing the problem of evil as evidence against a God who ought to preclude all evil, they are right. If-

Cy Kellett:

Oh, I see. But-

Karlo Broussard:

If our concept of divinity or of God is one such that this reality, God, ought to preclude all evil, if that is the case, if that’s the concept of divinity we have in mind, then evil would serve as evidence against the existence of such a God.

Cy Kellett:

Okay, so this is a good argument against a particular type of God.

Karlo Broussard:

That is correct.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, I gotcha. I never thought of it that way. Okay.

Karlo Broussard:

Insofar as they argue evil is evidence against God, understanding God as a God who ought to preclude all evil, they’re correct. But where it goes wrong, our response would be, “Well, that’s nobody’s daddy. That’s a Nobodaddy.” The classical understanding of God is that God is not one such that He ought, or has a duty, or is bound in justice to Himself or to creatures, to preclude all evil, whether it be natural evil or moral evil. Here’s the reasoning behind that, Cy. Here’s the rationale. Let’s take natural evil first, like-

Cy Kellett:

An earthquake or-

Karlo Broussard:

Earthquake, or even us suffering, suffering some sort of physical ailment. That’s part and parcel of the material world. Whenever you have a material world, the good of one thing is going to curtail the good of another. The flourishing of the lion is going to be bad for the gazelle. The good of the virus-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, bad for the whole world.

Karlo Broussard:

… bad for the whole world, bad for our body. That’s part and parcel of the material world, where the good of one thing is going to curtail the good of another. You’re also going to have defects within the material world. Things are going to fall short of how they ought to function and flourish as material things. You’re going to have things breaking apart, because all of material things are made up of parts, and as much as they’re made up of parts-

Cy Kellett:

Parts break up.

Karlo Broussard:

… they’re going to break apart. That’s called death. So it’s part and parcel of the material world that you’re going to have these natural evils. In light of that, to preclude such natural evils, to prevent such natural evils, would be something over and above the nature of the material things. That’s called grace. That’s called a miracle. For God to perpetually prevent natural evil would require a miracle.

Karlo Broussard:

The same is true even for the prevention of moral evil. Inasmuch as we are not our own end goal, we’re not God… God alone is His ultimate end Himself. He’s the ultimate goal. He Himself is His own perfection. But for us as creatures, our perfection is in something other than ourselves, namely God. Given that reality, Cy, we by nature are subject to missing the mark with regard to our perfection and our happiness as rational beings.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, because it’s outside of ourselves.

Karlo Broussard:

We’re going to have to direct ourselves to achieve this ultimate goal of perfection and possessing the ultimate good, who is God. In order for us as rational creatures to be preserved from moral evil or moral defect, that would require something over and above our nature as finite rational beings, as creaturely rational beings. In order for God to preserve us, not only from natural evil, that would require something over and above our nature, and thus a miracle, something that is not due to us, for God to preserve us from moral evil is something over and above our nature, i.e., a miracle, and thus something not due to us.

Karlo Broussard:

The bottom line is this. If God’s preservation of us from all natural evil and God’s preservation from all moral evil requires a miracle, miraculous activity, well, then that means that sort of action on the part of God, it’s not due to us. He’s not bound in justice-

Cy Kellett:

He doesn’t owe it to us.

Karlo Broussard:

That is right. He is not bound in justice to Himself, nor to us as creatures, whether we’re talking about natural evil or moral evil, to prevent all natural evil and all moral evil.

Cy Kellett:

Can I make an analogy and see if this works for you? Part of my nature is that I have to eat, so I have to go in search of food. If I’m one of the Hebrews wandering in the desert, God can give me manna from heaven, but God is not under an obligation to give me manna-

Karlo Broussard:

That is correct.

Cy Kellett:

… from heaven, and He hasn’t violated my nature by making me go find my own food.

Karlo Broussard:

Correct. To permit the defect, to permit the hunger, to permit the thirst is something that is not inconsistent with God’s goodness because God-

Cy Kellett:

Oh, now this is a further step here.

Karlo Broussard:

No, this is to permit whatever hunger you’re experiencing-

Cy Kellett:

Oh yeah, to permit the hunger. Right. Yes.

Karlo Broussard:

To permit even the hunger itself, to go out and find the food, and even for you to permit not to find the food, or to permit the thirst itself, the lack of satisfaction, and even to permit you to not find the satisfaction of the thirst, that permission is not inconsistent with God’s goodness because God is not bound in justice to Himself to give that which is over and above what is required for us as human beings. He’s not bound to give us a miracle, basically. And if he’s not bound to give us a miracle, to permit the evil, whatever that may be, natural or moral, it’s not inconsistent with His goodness. Therefore, He ought not… To say that God ought-

Cy Kellett:

There’s no ought involved.

Karlo Broussard:

… to preclude the evil or should preclude the evil, that would imply that God is bound in justice to Himself or to the creature to give us those miracles, but He’s not.

Cy Kellett:

It’s almost more convincing as a cry than it is as an argument. I don’t believe in God, because why would He allow this? It’s-

Karlo Broussard:

That’s the different question. If the question is why God permits this evil or that evil, we’re in the darkness of mystery. Thomas Aquinas would ultimately say it’s the divine will, and we do not know the reason why this permitted evil or why that permitted evil. Perhaps God will reveal that to us when we enter into heaven in the beatific vision. But that He permits this evil or that evil is not contrary to His goodness, because He’s not bound in justice to Himself or to the creature to permit this evil or that evil, whether we’re talking about natural evil or moral evil.

Karlo Broussard:

The bottom line is He’s basically relating to us according to the natures that He gave us, that he created us with, which means we’re defectible creatures. We’re subject to experiencing natural evils, and we’re subject to moral defect, moral evils. For God to permit such evils, it’s not contrary to His goodness because He’s not bound to give us that which is over and above our natures.

Cy Kellett:

So the existence of evil is not an argument against God; it is an argument against a certain type of God.

Karlo Broussard:

It’s an argument against a God who ought to preclude all evil. But once we understand who God really is, we understand that God is not one such that He ought or should or bound in justice to prevent all evil.

Cy Kellett:

It would be akin to arguing God owes me a better world than this; if there were a God, he would owe me a better world than this. The response to that is He actually doesn’t owe you a better world.

Karlo Broussard:

That’s correct.

Cy Kellett:

He may even want for you a better world, we don’t know what His reasoning is, but He doesn’t owe it to you.

Karlo Broussard:

That is correct.

Cy Kellett:

It’s not an argument against His existence to say He didn’t give you the world that you like the best.

Karlo Broussard:

Right. What is over and above our natures as human beings is a grace, is a miracle. To preserve us from suffering, that would be a miracle. To preserve us from sin, that would be a miracle. But God is not bound to give us a miracle. He does not owe us a miracle, preservation from natural evil, preservation from moral evil. For him to permit such evils, natural evil, moral evil, it’s not contrary to His goodness or His justice.

Cy Kellett:

It seems like the atheists and the believer can just totally agree on one thing. We don’t understand why God allows this.

Karlo Broussard:

Amen.

Cy Kellett:

We’re not saying to the unbeliever, “Well, we get it. We understand it. That’s why we have faith in God.” We’re saying, “We have faith in God, and we don’t know the answer to this.”

Karlo Broussard:

What we can say is that, given what we know about God being pure goodness, and even in light of Christian revelation, that there will be a greater good, for which God permits the evil. There might be some greater good for the individual. There might be a greater good of the whole of the created order that this permitted evil has a role to play in.

Karlo Broussard:

That there will be a greater good, we can know; but what that is precisely, we simply don’t know. We bow in humility there, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because we would expect not to know the greater goods or the reasons for the infinite creator, or for some permitted evil. What we can know is that this permitted evil or that permitted evil is not contrary to His justice or His goodness, and therefore such evils, whether natural or moral, are not evidence against God’s existence.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Now, I have a very good friend, one of the kindest people I’ve ever known, and he’s an atheist. I’m wondering, because I think that he might be an actual argument against the existence of God. We do actually hear the argument people can be good without God. In this man’s case, he seems really good and he doesn’t believe in God. Is that a good argument against God?

Karlo Broussard:

Well, it all depends on what you mean to be good and moral without God. If you mean that your atheist friend can be a good human being without belief in God, then that would be correct. We would agree. There is an order of good inscribed within our human natures that our intellects, our minds are able to discover and to know.

Karlo Broussard:

When we come to discover that order of good inscribed in our nature, and we behave and act and live in a way that’s consistent with what is good for us as human beings, that’s called a good moral life. This is what we call the natural moral law. St. Paul says even the Gentiles are able to know the law written on their hearts, even though they don’t have the law revealed to them in the 10 Commandments.

Karlo Broussard:

To some extent, your atheist friend can recognize certain goods for us insofar as we’re human beings, and for him as a human being, pursue those goods and live in a way that’s consistent with those goods, and he be constituted as a good human being living a good moral life, even though he’s not acknowledging God’s existence.

Karlo Broussard:

Our atheist friends would be right insofar as they can say they can be a good moral person without belief in God. You don’t need to have explicit belief in God in order to live in a way that’s consistent with what is good for us as human beings, and that’s basically morality. Do good, avoid evil. How do we know what’s good for us? How do we know what’s evil for us? We look at our nature as human beings. We look at the goals for which our powers are directed.

Karlo Broussard:

To use one example, an atheist can recognize that contraceptive sex or same-sex sexual activity is immoral activity because these are activities that are inconsistent with what’s good for us as human beings. An atheist can recognize that lying is immoral, and a human being ought to never lie. Why? Because such activity, such behavior is inconsistent with what’s good for us as human beings, namely, using our powers and our faculties in accord with what they’re naturally ordered to or ordained for. Our atheist friends can recognize all of this, and so inasmuch as they live in accord with that order of goodness, this natural moral law, they would be living a good moral life, even though they don’t have the explicit belief in God.

Karlo Broussard:

Now, if I can be a good moral person without God means that God is entirely irrelevant to morality, well, then that is where we would have some qualms with. That’s what we would have some qualms with. That’s where we would want to offer a response and say, “Well, even though you can live according to the order of good, discoverable by reason and the natural moral law, without explicit belief in God, that doesn’t mean God is not relevant to morality.”

Cy Kellett:

Not least of which because the first step in being a good human being is to exist, and you had nothing to do with that.

Karlo Broussard:

That is correct. Yeah. Think about this. The primary reason why God cannot be irrelevant to morality is because the very nature, namely, our human nature, in which there’s an order of goodness that we can discover what’s good for me as a human being, what’s not good for me as a human being, and I need to behave in a way that’s consistent with what’s good for me and avoid behaviors that’s not consistent with what’s good for me, that nature itself has an ultimate explanation, has a cause of it. Its very existence, that I exist with this nature, has its ultimate explanation in the primary cause, who is God. God is the one who is responsible for that which determines what is good for me, namely, the nature that I have as a human being. He’s ultimately the source of morality. Now, I do not need explicit knowledge of God to discover that code or that standard of morality, but God is necessary for its very existence. Does that make sense?

Cy Kellett:

Yes. Right.

Karlo Broussard:

We could even argue for the obligation that we experience objectively in pursuing what we know to be good and avoiding what we know to be bad. We call that conscience, that driving force within our consciousness, within our very cells, within our heart, like, “I recognize this to be good. Yeah, I need to pursue it” or “I recognize this to be bad. I need to avoid it,” whether I’m right or wrong about my recognition and the judgment.

Cy Kellett:

Sure. You could make a mistake.

Karlo Broussard:

That’s correct. But the obligation itself, “Man, that’s a bad thing. I shouldn’t do it,” that obligation, we could argue, finds its source in God Himself. These are two ways in which God would be ultimately relevant to morality, even though explicit belief in God would not be an absolute requirement for living a good moral life.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. There’s a couple more here, but I think we’ll save them. Maybe we’ll do an episode that says what atheists get right about Christian people or about Christianity.

Karlo Broussard:

About Christianity. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. We’ll save those, because I think that’s enough for this time.

Cy Kellett:

We can affirm that the atheist who says the God-of-the-gaps argument is not a proof of God, and you should avoid making it a proof of God, we’re down with that.

Karlo Broussard:

Correct.

Cy Kellett:

We agree with that. You’ve got to remind me of the second one. The second one was-

Karlo Broussard:

Seeing-

Cy Kellett:

Oh, evil.

Karlo Broussard:

… evil as evidence against a God who ought to preclude all evil. We would agree with them on that. Where we disagree is God is not a God such that He ought to preclude all evil, because He’s not bound in justice to Himself or to creation to preclude all evil, whether natural or moral.

Cy Kellett:

The person who says, “I just couldn’t believe in a God who would allow all of this,” we might say, “Well, that’s pretty reasonable up to a point, but there’s a way in which you…” And certainly lacking any experience of God’s love, then we might not trust that God is good and exists, given all of this. But that’s not actually an argument. It’s more of a-

Karlo Broussard:

An emotional response. Philosophers will often distinguish between the intellectual problem, that’s what we’ve been dealing with here, and the emotional problem, where-

Cy Kellett:

But we certainly understand the person who says, “I just couldn’t believe in a God…” But there’s a step beyond that that you might go. That’s where, as a Christian, I personally go to the cross of Jesus Christ, to say that a God who would do that-

Karlo Broussard:

We would appeal to divine revelation and see what divine revelation has to offer us, to at least infuse purpose and meaning within our suffering, so that we’re not gripped by that death grip of despair.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Then, finally, the person who says, “I don’t need to believe in God because people can be good without God,” we affirm, yes, many people are-

Karlo Broussard:

Without explicit belief in God, you can be good. But that does not mean… Qualification there. That does not mean that God is irrelevant to my morality.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Sometimes it’s put this way. “Well, if you need God to tell you what to do, I don’t know, you’re immature or something.” I feel like I don’t really have an argument against that one because I am one of those people who does need God to tell him what to do. I need that help.

Karlo Broussard:

Well, this actually gets to something that’s worth considering. Although it is possible for us to come to know what is good for us as human beings, by looking at our nature as human beings, what’s going to perfect us, the natural moral law, it is difficult to come to that knowledge. There is difficulty involved.

Cy Kellett:

That’s right. Right.

Karlo Broussard:

And it is mixed up with error. Hence, as St. Thomas Aquinas would say, the reason why God even divinely reveals such truths that we can know about human behavior and what we ought to do and what ought not to do.

Cy Kellett:

For example, God reveals to us that we are not to commit murder. That’s a revealed truth, that God commands us not to commit murder. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t figure that out on our own, but He makes it easier on us by also commanding it.

Karlo Broussard:

Amen. Yes. Wherever there is a need for a crutch, you use the crutch. There’s a sense in which a crutch can be good if you’re broken. Well, given the Fall, our intellects are darkened. We know that from Christian revelation. Although the intellect is still functioning in a way that it can come to know these things, there’s some difficulty involved, and we mess things up every once in a while. So God gives us some help through that supernatural revelation, the 10 Commandments, which is basically an expression, in a supernatural way, of what we can already come to know by examining our human nature, and a confirmation of what we might have arrived at by reason alone in looking at the order of good inscribed in nature, of the natural moral law.

Cy Kellett:

Also, in the case of certain things that are temptations to us, like, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” a little reinforcement not bad for us.

Karlo Broussard:

Amen.

Cy Kellett:

We might argue ourselves out of that.

Karlo Broussard:

Try to rationalize it. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

“Maybe I was wrong about that. I’m going to just commit a little adultery.” Whereas if it’s given to us in addition to our reason-

Karlo Broussard:

By God.

Cy Kellett:

… it’s given to us by God, we go-

Karlo Broussard:

It helps us see that by violating the natural order, the natural moral law, it’s not merely a sin or a violation of reason, but it’s actually a sin against the One who is the source of our reason, the ultimate standard, namely God Himself. This is what we call sin. It’s an offense against God. It’s not just an offense against nature. It’s an offense against the One who created the nature, and that’s God Himself.

Cy Kellett:

Karlo, thanks. Let’s do things atheists get right about Christianity next time.

Karlo Broussard:

I’ll get on it, Cy.

Cy Kellett:

Okay, good. Very good. Thanks, Karlo.

Karlo Broussard:

God bless you.

Cy Kellett:

You too.

Cy Kellett:

One of the things that all honest people have in common is the frequent use of the phrase “I don’t know,” and that’s why we rely on dialogue with one another to find out, to go deeper, to be challenged in those things that we think or maybe assume are true. There are lots of us Christians, lots of believers who use bad arguments in defense of God’s existence. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. It means that we need to work on better arguments. If you are an atheist person and you’ve engaged with this video, we’d love to have dialogue with you.

Cy Kellett:

Send us an email, [email protected] We’re always open to ideas for new episodes, maybe people that you would like to see covered on this program. [email protected]

Cy Kellett:

If you’d like to support us financially, you can do so by going to givecatholic.com.

Cy Kellett:

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Cy Kellett:

I’m Cy Kellett, your host. We’ll see you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

 

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