Ravi Zacharias on creation, design, morality and the existence of God

by Jason

Dr. Zacharias is one of the premier Christian apologists among academic and intellectual circles today. He has a formidable mind, a quick wit, an engaging personality with the ability to explain difficult subjects in simple, logical ways. He believes, and most feel, convincingly proves there are such notions as universal truths and laws, and, therefore, a Law Giver. For example, Dr. Zacharias was debating logic and truth and their unique relationship to the idea of God and his plan for humanity at a college campus when he was challenged by a professor at that university. The professor accused Zacharias of using the Western logic either-or and reasoning in such away that it ignored other forms of logic. The professor insisted there were other truths and that Zacharias was ignorant when it came to Eastern logic. Humorous when one considers that Ravi Zacharias is from India and a former Hindu.

The professor informed Ravi that there is another kind of logic that speaks to truth such as the Eastern ‘both-and’ logic. In other words, salvation is not either through Christ or nothing else, but both Christ and other ways. And truth can be found in other ways besides the either-or logic. As the professor’s lecture ensued, Ravi listened patiently and in places would say, “No, you don’t mean that.” The professor maintained his position as he tried to prove there were two kinds of logic and Dr. Zacharias was doing an injustice by neglecting the other. Finally, Zacharias told the professor that he could end the discussion with one simple question. Curiously, the professor dropped his pen and insisted that he do.

Ravi looked directly at the professor and said, “Are you saying that when I’m in India, I must use either the ‘both-and logic’ or nothing else?” The professor paused but Ravi repeated his question with even more emphasis, “Are you saying that when I’m in India, I must use either, the ‘both-and logic’ or,” a pause in order to let the point sink in, “nothing else?”

The professor realized that his logic and argument disintegrated with one simple question. The only response he could give was to admit that the ‘either-or’ logic seemed to be present. The professor unwittingly used the ‘either-or’ logic to try and prove the ‘both-and’ logic. Dr. Zacharias concluded by saying, “Yes, even in India we look both ways before we cross the street because it is either me or the bus, not both of us!”

What is self defeating cannot be true.

Ravi proved (and so did the professor) there is only one kind of truth and it is confirmed from the ‘either-or‘ logic — rather that be coined Western or not does not matter. Either you keep the glass on the table or it will fall to the ground because the Law of Gravity says it will. It does not matter if one is ignorant or does not believe in the Law of Gravity; the results are still the same. There can be different kinds of logic but only one kind of logic can be used in truth. Either you remember to carry the 1 or your arithmetic will be wrong in the end.

  • Either there is a God or there is nothing. Since there is something there must be a God.
  • Either there are moral laws or there are no such things as good and evil in the world. Since good and evil exists in the world, there must be moral laws for a standard to differentiate between them. Since there is a moral law there must be a Law Giver.
  • Either God or the universe is eternal. Since the universe had a beginning, it had to have a cause apart from time, space, and matter. Therefore, God is eternal.
  • Either there is a God or none of this matters. Since it does matter, there must be a God.
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About Jason Bradley

Is a former military member with experience in Iraq and time in Europe. He lives in the Washington DC area with his wife and two young children. His background is in national security and has remained in the field since separating from the military. He is a political science major with strong interests in American politics, history, economics, and foreign policy. This blog is a way to express his interests. He also contributes at Breitbart.com -- Big Peace and Big Government. Email him at twe.jason@gmail.com
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22 Responses to Ravi Zacharias on creation, design, morality and the existence of God

  1. Gabrielle says:

    Purely objective reasoning. Zacharias made a name for himself as a great orator, but his logic has always been flawed.

  2. Jason says:

    Can you give an example?

    Regardless if it is Ravi or not, the logic and reasoning is sound. If A, then B. Always.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    That’s linear thinking. you’re obviously more intelligent than that.

  4. Logically, if you’re going to set up an either-or dynamic, the two propositions must be mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, Jason, the examples you give at the very end of your piece are not well constructed, because it’s not self-evident that they are mutually exclusive – in fact, that’s what you seem to be trying to prove.

    Nevertheless, your larger point is correct. At the most fundamental levels, truth and morality are not culturally relative. Those who say, “Who are you to judge?” are fools, because humans make all kinds of judgments constantly – we couldn’t function if we didn’t. Dr. Zacharias rather elegantly put paid to the notion of “cultural logic”.

    What we can deduce from this is that there is only one concept of the nature of God that is fundamentally true. The problem is, we don’t know which one it is, or even if any of the ones humans have come up with is the right one. It is easy to prove the existence of universal truth; being able to articulate what that truth in fact is is a very different proposition.

  5. Jason says:

    Good points, guys. I will come back to this in a bit. This stuff makes for awesome discussions.

  6. Gabrielle says that his logic is flawed, then she denies modus ponens. Wow.

  7. The Dude says:

    So “either or” proves God? Wow you really don’t have any idea do you.

  8. Phaedrus says:

    This reminded me of a book by Pirsig where he speaks about a word that essentially means “unask the question”. The word is “MU”. It is often applied in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism when a question is asked that canot be answered, i.e. can God make a rock so big he can’t move it? Either a “yes” or “no” answer would indicate that God either can’t make the rock or can’t move it. If your belief is that God can do whatever he wants then the question is flawed (not God). Unfortunately we don’t have a word like “MU” in the English language. So philosophical debates like these are hard to win and often seem parodoxial in nature.

    —Remember you are unique, just like everyone else.

    PHAE

  9. Mike says:

    Very thought provoking article, Jason. I find it very interesting the frame of logical proofs that Ravi uses to prove the existence of God. However, they seem to be simplistic when you think about the basis of logic.

    Classical first-order logic uses three parts: 1) Formal language 2) Deductive Reasoning and 3) Model-Theoretic Semantics or Mom and Dad make a kid, using MTS it is defined as Y (Mom) + X (Dad) = Z (Kid)

    Ravi, on the other hand, uses self-evident reasoning, or a priori. This is a hallmark of the ontological argument for the existence of God.

    What is analogous in Zacharias’ proof he presents in the video is that the first 3 observations he makes. The universe’s lack of explanation as to its origin, reverse engineering information back to its intelligent beginnings, and the beginnings of morality, all require some cognizance to spring from. At least as human beings perceive reality.

    The problem with ontological arguments is that they more than likely not change the minds of non-believers due to the lack of empirical evidence required to prove the supposition.

    This brings me back to classic forms of logic. Many arguments have been offered in the past that God has been defeated by logic. I offer this.

    If it is already accepted that in order to fulfill requirements for logic you need Formal language, Deductive Reasoning, and Model-Theoretic Semantics and God is infinitesimally expounding you cannot use logic to prove or disprove His existence.

    This is because logic, as humans presently understand it, is not equipped scientifically, within its acumen, or philosophically to debate the issue of an infinite God. This would be like trying to hold up the Earth on the shoulders of an ant. Logic didn’t defeat God, it never even showed up for the fight.

    And all of this inadvertently brings me to Phaed, “So philosophical debates like these are hard to win and often seem paradoxical in nature.”

    Whom, I agree with 100%. But this stuff still is fun to talk about! Thanks for bringing it up Jason.

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  11. Jason says:

    “Dude” either-or doesn’t prove God. It lays the ground work for the conclusion, however. It comes from the Law of the Excluded Middle — something either is or is not. For example, either God exists or he does not. There is no alternative.

    When you write a post like this one there is always the high probability people will simply read it instead of reading into it. This was only a swipe on my part at a very big subject. However, it did get the ball rolling I think.

    It is my belief that God can be proven with the either-or logic and among other things such as observation and induction. In a proper term, The Law of Causality. We observe effects around us. We can’t observe gravity directly; we can only observe its effects. We can’t observe the human mind directly; we can only observe its effects. We use the effects as a rational inference to establish a cause.

    Most conclusions based on induction cannot be considered certain; only highly probable. In the range of 99%, which in natural human terms is dead on accurate. For example, no one can honestly be certain that every object dropped will hit the ground because you have not seen every object on earth dropped. But, with almost absolute certainty you can conclude it will hit the ground.

    So I agree with Sanity, logic only gets us so far. It can tell us if an argument is false (like Ravi did), but it cannot tell us which premises are true. However, I disagree (at least if I read his response right) provided that enough information is gathered, truth can indeed be discovered and when it does it transcends all cultures and time.

    Einstein’s theory of General Relativity proved that when he observed (through information and has since been greatly expanded from even more information) that the universe had a beginning. That theory proves better than anything the idea of a theistic God. It entered on the side of one of the oldest arguments for the existence of God — the Cosmological Argument.

    So to tie this back into my earlier point. All this points to a logically valid premise applying the first principles such as the Law of Causality. This kind of goes with Mike’s Model-Theoretic Semantics point: Everything that had a beginning had a cause; and the Universe had a beginning; therefore it had a cause.

    Without these principles science cannot exist. Science is a search for causes. And we know nothing happens in our observable world without a cause.

    Either no one created something out of nothing, or else someone created something out of nothing. You be the judge on that logic.

  12. @The Dude

    The laws of logic are considered the first test of a filter designed for testing propositions for truth. Test #1: logical consistency, Test #2: Empirical confirmation.

    Perhaps you would care to look over some actual arguments used in a recent debate on God’s existence at Cambridge University?

    Here:

    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/vote-on-who-had-the-best-opening-speech-in-the-craig-ahmed-debate/

    The full MP3 is linked in the post, as well as links to summaries of both opening speeches.

  13. Jason says:

    And the Knight arrives with perfect timing!

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  16. Retha says:

    Sanityinjection said: “Those who say, “Who are you to judge?” are fools”

    I say: If someone says: “Who are you to judge?” the correct answer is probably: “Who are you to judge my alleged judgementalness?”

  17. merkur says:

    >>>Ravi looked directly at the professor and said, “Are you saying that when I’m in India, I must use either the ‘both-and logic’ or nothing else?” The professor paused but Ravi repeated his question with even more emphasis, “Are you saying that when I’m in India, I must use either, the ‘both-and logic’ or,” a pause in order to let the point sink in, “nothing else?”<<<

    Surely the professor could have simply answered that one can use both "either-or logic" and "both-and logic", depending on a) what sort of question is being asked and b) what sort of answer you're looking for?

    I fail to see how this would stump anybody with the most basic philosophical understanding. You might want to disagree with that answer, but it's hardly a show-stopper for the (mysteriously unnamed) Indian professor.

  18. Bobmo says:

    merkur, you have committed the same fallacy as the Indian professor!

    Your argument goes like this:

    1) There are cases where “both-and” logic should be used and “either-or” should not.
    2) The Professor’s case is one such example.
    3) Therefore, he should use “both-and” logic and not “either-or” logic.

    You have used “either-or” logic in an attempt to show that “either-or” logic is invalid!

    Can you provide an example of the proper use of “both-and” logic? And, can you show why, in your example, “either-or” logic does not apply?

  19. Humorous when one considers that Ravi Zacharias is from India and a former Hindu
    —> This is incorrect, U should listen to his audiobook walking from east to the west, Ravi was a born-Catholic raised up until he receive Jesus personally.

  20. Pingback: Uncommon Descent | Q: Is Logic simply a matter of axioms at play in an abstract logical world unconnected to external reality? A: Nope

  21. Another example of YouTube’s “thought police” targeting christian and conservative posts, I wanted to view this video, but it’s been removed.

  22. very sorry to hear that.

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