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Wednesday, August 16, 2017
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Debate Excerpts With An Atheist

Excerpts from the Debating Chamber between "J.Power" and the Rev. Ivan Foster taken by permission from the Burning Bush Website.
Rev. Ivan Foster

Q.1.You claim you believe in a "God"so have you ever seen,heard,felt or smelt him? Has anybody else you know personally if not,how do you know he exists?

Q.2.Where is the evidence to substantiate such a belief?

Rev. Ivan Foster
2/18/99 9:30:21 AM

Dear Mr. Power,

I am sure that you will readily agree that there are many things that we believe to exist that we do not see, hear, feel or smell. A radio wave is just one such entity .Therefore, because we cannot discover God's presence by our physical senses does not mean that He does not exist.

However, there are various methods by which we may arrive at the conclusion that a divine being, to whom the name of God may be applied, exists. I would turn to the Word of God immediately, but since you most likely do not accept the inspiration of Holy Scripture, I will refer to what are termed rational proofs for the existence of God.

There are quite a variety of such proofs and if you are serious in your quest, I would recommend that you consider the writings of such orthodox reformed theologians as Shedd, AA Hodge and Berkhof. I would also recommend a book, A Dictionary of Theological Terms by Dr. Alan Cairns. Again, is not the WEB an ideal place to seek out sites where such subjects are fully ventilated by very able writers?

Let me first of all refer to the Cosmological Argument. It is based on the accepted principle that every effect must have an adequate cause. The universe cannot be adequately explained by the theory of evolution. The universe is clearly an interacting system and as such requires a Creator and a Governor.

The Teleological Argument is an extension of the argument above in that it says that the world everywhere reveals design, order, harmony and purpose. The stamp of an intelligent and purposeful entity is clearly to be seen.

There is also the Moral Argument. Man's search for a moral ideal (which distinguishes him from the lower creatures) and the general recognition of a "Highest Good" necessitates the existence of a holy and just Being Who is the object of that ideal.

The Historical Argument is based upon the fact that among all the tribes and nations on the earth there is a sense of the divine. Because this phenomenon is universal, it must belong to the very nature of man. If the very nature of man leads to religious views and activities, then this may only be explained by man being constituted so by a higher Being.

If there is a divine Being, Who has made man to be aware of Him, then it follows that He must reveal Himself to those within whom He has placed an awareness of His existence and around whom He has displayed evidence of His intelligence and power.

Our search for that revelation will take us to the Bible. We then enter another field of Christian apologetics.

That is but a very brief summary of some of the arguments that are put forth to prove the existence of God. It must be said that a Christian will not rely upon such arguments. They merely point in the general direction of that truth. Man is a fallen creature and his powers of reasoning are flawed and thus he is rendered an incompetent judge and interpreter of the multitude of facts that is presented to him.

The Christian will turn to the Bible for his evidence. We would seek to show the evident supernatural origin of the Bible from its prophecies, beneficial impact upon mankind and the myriad of undesigned evidences that demonstrate its divine origin. If it is what it claims to be, then the God it reveals is the true God and to Him men owe obedience, allegiance and worship.

It was on 4th April 1964, that I first became convinced of the existence of the God of the Bible. Up until that time, I had a vague assent to the idea of God but it never resulted in any attempts to ascertain His will for me or obey Him. Instead, I lived as a typical teenager in the '60s, with little thought of God or sin or eternity or hell. That came to an end, however, as the result of an encounter with five Christian girls while travelling on a train to Portrush in County Antrim. They did not argue very skilfully or knowledgeably for the cause of Christ but they did speak earnestly and boldly. I was not impressed and mocked and scoffed during the hour-long journey.

One week later, in the home of a friend, one verse that the girls had quoted, came into my mind with great power and conviction. It was Genesis 6:3. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man. I had never been to an evangelistic meeting in my life. My family did not go to an evangelical church but that night, without preacher or evangelist, I was led to faith in Christ. I was then working as a news film editor in Ulster Television. At the end of 1964, I left my employment and began studying for the ministry of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

My own experience of God is such that I am my own best proof that there is a sovereign God Who is able to reveal Himself to sinners and, by His mercy and grace, change their hearts and lives and keep them in peace and joy and faithful to Him in the midst of a wicked and unbelieving world.

I can join with David the psalmist in his observance of the testimony to God in creation. Scoffing at such evidence may maintain our status amongst our peers but it will not stifle or quench the inner awareness of the existence of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world, Psalm 19:1-10.

2/20/99 10:04:45 AM

Dear Mr.Foster, You state in your reply to me the following comment which is typical of most believers in a "God" "Therefore because we cannot discover God's presence by our physical senses does not mean that he does not exist." Well, I am reminded by this comment of yours of the Hands Christian Anderson story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" the story is as follows: ... [long quote from the Hans Christian Anderson story] ... Again Mr.Foster I am reminded of what you stated "Therefore because we cannot discover God's presence by our physical senses does not mean that he does not exist" You sound like the Emperor in that story if your really honest with yourself.All the best J.Power
Rev. Ivan Foster
2/20/99 5:53:01 PM

Dear Mr. Power,

As we say in Ulster, “Boys, that's a pow'rful answer!” when it is considered anything but.

When I saw your e-mail address was linked to a university, I anticipated at least a thoughtful reponse.

How wrong you have proved me to be!

You appear familiar with Hans Christian Anderson's children's stories but unfamiliar with reading that requires a little more thought. Do you seriously accept the existence of only that which your physical senses can detect? That obliterates the existence of those whose existence depends upon the recorded testimonies and evidences of their existence that remain to us in writings and that which may have been produced by their hands.

I can glean much about the ancients from the writings which purport to be theirs. Since they cannot be seen or heard or sensed in any way by our physical senses, what evidence have we that they ever existed.

I presume you would deduce their existence from the credible testimonies of their contemporaries and the works of whatever kind they left to posterity. That same method of deduction may be applied when seeking to show that God exists even though He cannot be detected by the use of our physical senses.

The record of God's existence is written in His creation. It will take more than a mere reproducing of a Hans Christian (now there's a name for you) Anderson fairytale to dismiss the Almighty.

To use a classroom cliche: Most try harder.

2/23/99 9:25:06 AM

Dear Mr.Foster, Thank you for your rather "witty wee reply".But it will take more than "Ulster" wit and sarcasm for you to deal with a very simple question,which you were asked:What evidence is there to substaniate the existence of a "God", all you have done in your reply is given me standard "Born again christian waffle." "How do you explain all the universe around you?"Somebody had to make all this" "There has to be a first cause-and this first cause is God." This is a lame assumption and a most unwarranted presumption.We have no evidence whatsoever that this presumption has any basis in fact. We don't know but that the universe has not been here forever and will be here forever in the future. Whereas the scenes of Nature are eternally changing,it is nevertheless always the same and the laws of Nature itself have never changed. In fact as far as "time" is concerned we don't even know what the term itself means except as it is related to the movements of the planets or some other moving object. It can be argued just as effectively that the universe has always been here,as to say that God has always been here. In answer to the argument that somebody had to crerate all this,it can just as validly argued that somebody else had to create God in the first place. It is just as reasonable to assume that the universe,constanly changing as it is,could not suddenly spring into existence out of nothing as the "Almighty" sprang out of nothing. It makes just as much sense to argue that somebody first had to create God as it does to argue that somebody first had to create the universe So we are left with the obvious.The answer is simply we don't know how it all started if there ever was a beginning. The universe,as far as we know,has always been here.About the myster of a God,or Gods,we have no evidence,we know nothing,as far as anyone tell there are thousands of myths and stories and fairy tales about Gods and Goddesses,Spirits and Angels,and Devils and Fairies and Ghosts and Gremlins,but as far as any evidence is concerned,all we know is that they are only a product of man's fertile imagination,just like the Judeo-Christian Myth. Christianty just like the other myths,it thrives on lies.It is built on a whole network of lies,one lie parlayed upon another,one lie designed to seemingly substantiate another,in an endless chain,until the average person is so confused and so overwhelmed by the massiveness of it all that he is psychologically browbeaten into accepting the whole load of lies as being God's unalterable truth.Here is one of the first and most obvious lies-one that even a child can see through-namely that every word in the bible was God's unalterable word,being exactly as he has set it down and not a letter having been changed.It is obvious to even the the most simple minded person that the bible has been changed continuously and repeatedly. Before I go I have a further question for you:Just when did God,"in his great wisdom," create hell and the devil?Was it on the first day when he created heaven and earth?Did christ,one of the Holy Trinity, "who always was," and undoubtedly must have existed at the time hell was created,did he also participate in the designing and creation of hell?Since God knows all, sees all, both forward and backwards, did he not therefore plan sending all these human beings that he was creating into hell sometime in the future so that he could torture them at will? Why did he create the devil and and hell in the first place even before he created people? Isn't it obvious that he planned from the very beginning to create billions of people so that he could send into a fiery torture chamber and torture them endlessly for his own sadistic gratification?Since he is all-pwerful,knows all,he must have known what he wanted,what the end results would be long before he ever started this whole miserable torture programme.Therefore we can come to only one conclusion: He planned it that way.He wanted it that way.He and the devil(his own creation) are playing a sadistic game of cat and mouse with us poor pawns as the victims,99% of which are doomed to eternal torture in hell-fire. How can poor Adam and Eve be blamed for this mess,when they were no more and no less than what their "creator" had made them, with no backlog of experience and little or no understanding of what this whole stupid programme was all about? Didn't the lonesome "almighty" send the serpent there deliberately to con them?Didn't the serpent's suggestion of gainning knowledge,of becoming wise,of knowing the difference between good and evil make a lot more sense than just a straight directive of not eating the fruit? Why did this "God" put a tree out there in the first place,if not to entrap a poor,naive couple,who were only a day old as simple-minded as a new-born baby,who had no possible chance of knowing what it was all about?Didn't the lonesome Almighty plan to drive them out and vindictively punish them in the first place?Didn't he merely use the lame pretext of the tree as an excuse?Why should eating an attractive fruit that supposedly opened their eyes and gave them knowledge be such a heinous crime that would drastically change the course of events from the very first day Adam and Eve were created?Is it not a grotesque miscarriage of justice to punish all succeding generations,billions of people,for a silly,simple act of eating such fruit,especially when you consider they were conned into by a very persuasive collaborator of the God in charge? The obvious conclusion is that it was rigged deal from the very beginning to the end,that the human beings,hell and the devil were all created for the sport of a sadistically watching people (created by a supposedly loving God)suffer in the agonies of eternal torture in hell fire. Why the torture chamber in the first place??? It is you "Bible christians" who must try harder! The Hans Christian Anderson story of the Emperor's New Clothes is very valid as you well know deep down in your thoughts.There is lot of truth in it,as you well know,from your reaction in your comments to me Mr.Foster it will take more than "cliches" the may go down with the Congregation in Kilskeery. All the best.JPower
Rev. Ivan Foster
2/24/99 7:35:57 AM

Dear Mr. Power,

You may well accuse me of standard born-again waffle in your last response but for that I thank you. What you call waffle, millions have called and do call the truth of God. I have endeavoured to give a reply with some structure to it.

When it comes to waffle, you are no mean exponent yourself! You present your waffle in a code that is almost impossible to decipher!

In your responses, you have repeated, in a very garbled fashion, unscientific and unsubstantiated claims of your own making. That you do not substantiate your claims, other than an attempt to argue from the “truth” of a fairy tale, is not surprising for there is no support for what you are saying.

Let us get to the hub of the matter by looking at a statement you make at the beginning of your last reply.

You say that we “don’t know but that the universe has not been here forever.” The double negative makes your sentence say the opposite to what I am sure you intended to say. I understand you to mean that we have no way of telling whether or not the universe has been here forever.

But we do!


The two Laws of Thermodynamics are universally accepted. They basically state that the present observable processes within the universe are, without exception, conservation and disintegration. Basically stated, matter is constantly subject to change but each change entails decay and decline. Such processes could not have produced a universe. The universe is dying. That is an accepted scientific fact. You do not appear to accept that but in that matter you are in a minority of one!!

Far from the universe continuing forever, it is decaying. That being so, it could not have an eternal existence. If it clearly is going to have an end, it must equally clearly have had a beginning.

From there we may go on to discuss our views on how it began. Since no one was there to observe its beginning, whatever views we arrive at must be based on an act of faith.

It is likely that the majority of people in this world hold to the theory of evolution in some form or other. The main reason for that is because it is propagated in classrooms and lecture halls as a fact when it is demonstrably not so.

I, and Bible-believers everywhere believe that the Bible’s account of the Creation and the fall of man and its history of earth’s early ages is in every instance supported by the discoveries of science generally and by archaeology and the fossil records in particular.

Your question about the Lord, buried as it is in the midst of what can only be charitably called an unbeliever’s rant against his Creator, is impossible to answer for the simple reason it is impossible to understand! Do you really look upon these productions and take pride in them? Do you really consider yourself an above-average person (to use your terminology), who has seen through the great delusion that Christianity is, the great delusion you say in another place even a child or the most simple-minded person can see through?

I will quote some verses from God’s Word which will enable other visitors to this site to make some sense of your outbursts.

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God, Psalm 14:1.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. Romans 1:20-25.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 2:5-11.

I have more hope of these words making an impression on you than anything of my own construction. I hope that you give serious thought to them.

My very best wishes.

2/26/99 7:08:59 AM

Dear Mr.Foster, I am not really surprised by your replies to me.But they prove one thing to me the closed mind of "Christianity" it is amazing how much you have in common with Roman Catholicism a religion you claim to oppose on biblical grounds. I have asked several Roman Catholic Priests the same questions about creation, and the Fall of man
2/26/99 9:44:30 AM

Dear Mr.Foster, It those not surprice me that you do not bother to answer my questions("rants as you call them")with regards to the Fall.The simple reason you choose to ignore them is because you can not answer them.So you try the high moral ground trick,come on Mr.Foster,I didn't come down in the last shower of rain.I thought you Fundamentalists could do better than that,since you claim you have the truth. I am asking very reasonable questions which you dismiss as "ranting" you a minister in the Free Presbyterian Church call me a ranter.I laughted when I read that.I would imagine that there would be a lot of ranters in that denomination,since you think your right, and every one else is wrong! Then you quote from the bible verous verses from the Old & Testament as if some how this magic words would rebuke me. You can quote from the Dandy or the Beano if you wish but you don't even bother to deal with questions you are asked except to reply with all these attempts to accuse me of being a ranter.It is good to ask questions,and look for answers in life.Why should any one believe in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures,after all,(here I go ranting again)(1)Hundreds of millions of Moslems claim their koran is a "holy" book written by "Allah" through their prophet Mohammed. (a)Do you believe this is true?(b)Do you believe it is a big hoax?(c)If it is a hoax,how do you explain hundreds of millions of Moslems believing such a hoax?(d)Do you believe they could be gullible?(e)Could it be possible that millions of people have been deluded for thousands of years? (2)10 Million Mormons believe their book The book of Mormon is "holy",and that it was written by God through his latter-day prophet named Joseph Smith.(a)Do you believe the Book of Mormon to be true?(b)Do you believe it is "holy"?(c)Do you think it is a great hoax?(d)How do you explain millions of Mormons "believing" in it?(e)Is it possible that millions of Mormons have been deceived and deluded for more than a hundred years? I am sure you are familiar with the evidence that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized by Smith from a fictional novel called Manuscript Found written by the Solomon Spalding. (3)You believe that the Christian bible is true.(a)Do you know who wrote it?(b)How do you know?(c)What do you know about the honesty of the people who are credited with writing it?(d)Is it possible that the Christians have been deceived and deluded about their "holy" book as the Moslems and the Mormons have about theirs? (4)Do you believe the Jews are God's chosen people as the bible says?(a)If so,how do you explain the fact that they don't believe in Christ,or in the New Testament,haven't for centuries,and don't today? (b)How do you explain the contradictory claims of the Old Testament versus the New Testament that(i)the Jews are God's chosen people,and(ii)we are all equal in the eyes of God? Or are we just to "arrive at these views by faith" and keep our mouths shut and ask no questions.The Pope would really love you! With regards to "thermodynamics",how can creation be valid when it violates the very 1st law of thermodynamics where matter can neither be created nor destroyed? Remember: "God did it." is not a valid hypothesis. All the Best JPower
Rev. Ivan Foster
2/26/99 2:33:20 PM

Dear Mr. Power,

I see you have sent me two replies. The second one, some two and a half hours after the first is much more expansive. You must have received some inspiration during the interval!

The first answer indicates just where it is you are coming from. Whatever your quarrel with Rome, don’t take it out on those who believe and seek to practise the Bible. So many have turned from the errors of Romanism, and foolishly have embraced as great an error in the form of agnosticism or atheism. I hope that you are not one of them.

It is well that the full record of this discussion is available to those who look in on the site, otherwise they might believe your high opinion of your own powers of reasoning and debate.

Perhaps it would help you, were you to recall that I gave you a clear answer in response to your initial questions. You in turn, virtually ignored what I said and instead repeated a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale after dismissing the very valid point that our senses may not be relied upon to decide what does and what does not exist. You cannot detect the existence of a radio wave by the use of your senses. Is that not true? Why ignore that truth?

In response to your second epistle, I confess I did poke some fun at you but you will forgive our Ulster humour, I’m sure. I also asked for a proper response to my first reply and added a further few observations.

In reply to this you again made no attempt to address what I had initially said or the additional points made in my second reply. Instead, you set down a barely recognisable parody of the Genesis account of creation and the fall of Adam. This I accurately called a rant. Surely you meant to offend and wound by the way you referred to the Lord.

It is clear you have an axe to grind with regards the Roman Catholic Church. That I can understand. But do not blame God for the treatment that you received at the hands of those who wickedly usurp the name of Christians. It would be an injustice indeed if the victims of a confidence trick sought to punish the innocent individual whose identity was assumed by the trickster!

Let me state now for the record that the questions you raise about Moslems and Mormons and the Jews I will gladly answer, but I will not let you off the hook by chasing after the constant stream of distractions. Stick to the issue you raised, after all you asked for this discussion and set its terms.

I will repond now to your comment on Thermodynamics since I raised it in my last reponse. Creation would indeed violate the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. What I said was “the present observable processes within the universe are, without exception, conservation and disintegration.

The emphasis is on the present processes. These processes can not account for the existence of the universe. There must [it is a matter of simple logic] have been processes at work at one time which do account for the existence of the universe. Those processes of creation, innovation and integration were suspended. The Bible accounts for the change in its account of man’s fall. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned, Romans 5:12.

It is you who has the problem here, not me. The denier of Creation seeks to explain how a dying universe can have had an origin from within the processes which are bringing about its death. The Bible-believer points to the Bible’s account of Creation and the fall of man and the subsequent judgment and says that it concurs entirely with those scientific facts known to men.

In the light of the two laws of Thermodynamics, what is your explanation for the universe, JP?

Regarding the account of man’s trial with the implied promise of eternal life as the reward for obedience; it was not unjust for the Creator to test man. Man was provided with an abundance of all he required with only one item denied him — the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The terms were simple, the penalty clear. There was not, as you very wrongly claim, any thing malicious about the matter.

I dare say that if you do not shape up in your College and pass a few tests, you will be required to ship out. Likely, if that happens, you will go amidst many complaints of unfairness but few will agree with you. The scene in the Garden of Eden is not really so ridiculous as you make out but is, on a much lower level, re-enacted continually.

Nor is it strange for a man to act as a federal head of a people and what he is and does to have an impact upon those he represents. Who we are we take from our parents and they, in turn, ultimately take from Adam.

No JP, the Bible is not a ridiculous book as you state. Rather, it is foolish in the extreme to deny it and shout, “No God.”

We have sparred around long enough, JP, please answer the points I have made without listing another tedious catalogue of your complaints about religion which, in truth, really refers to your complaints about Romanism.

Sincere best wishes.

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