Frank Turek presents at Elon University on the existence of God and truth

Sarah Beth Costello
April 19, 2009

Frank Turek during his presentation, "I Don't Have Enough Faith the be an Atheist."

Frank Turek during his presentation, "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist." Photo by Sarah B. Costello

The room was packed. Attendees sat on the floor and stairs, sitting shoulder to shoulder in the hot and cramped room that easily exceeded fire safety regulations.

Hundreds gathered Thursday night in the LaRose Digital Theater in the Koury Business Center at Elon University to hear guest speaker, Frank Turek, present a case for the existence of morality, truth and God. Campus Outreach and Intervarsity sponsored the event.

The audience consisted of a diverse crowd. Most were members of Campus Outreach and Intervarsity. There were also many locals from the surrounding community and churches as well as Elon faculty and staff. In addition to the large gathering of Christians, there were also students that professed to be atheists. Regardless of religious affiliations, the presentation proved to be rather controversial.

“As a Christian I found it incredibly discouraging,” said Elon sophomore, Robert Wohner. “I hate when religion is used as a political tool. I hate that he used religion to promote conservative ideas. Religion and politics really don’t have to mix.”

Turek is the author and co-author of several books, including “Correct, Not Politically Correct,” “Legislating Morality” and “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist,” which was the premise of his presentation.

Turek received his masters from George Washington University and a doctorate in apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Turek is the founder and president of CrossExamined.org, and uses his skills in debate and knowledge of apologetics to present cases of Christianity, specifically to students on college campuses.

Roughly 75 percent of students walk away from their faith after graduating high school. According to CrossExamined.org, “intellectual skepticism” is one of the dominant reasons so many young people vacate Christianity for atheism or other religions.

Turek said that many college campuses today discount the Bible and regard students as intellectually lacking for acknowledging the Bible as truth. He argued that the believability of the Bible begins with the existence of truth. Either the Bible is true or false, said Turek, “but it cannot be true for you and not true for me.”

Due to limited time, Turek was not able to discuss the 12 points he tackles in his book. He plans to return in the fall to present the second half of the series. Turek discussed two specific questions Thursday night: “Does truth exist?” and “Does God exist?”

Turek said that it is important for Christians to be able to defend their beliefs, especially in today’s post-modern society that regards truth as relative.

“The greatest commandment,” said Turek, “is ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and mind’ – Christians don’t get brownie points for being stupid. We’re supposed to know what we believe and why we believe it.”

WHY WELCOME UNPOPULAR OPINION?

Turek was welcomed by many, viewed with skepticism by some, regarded as harsh, brash, defensive and weak by others.

“I hated his brash style because it was very confrontational,” said Wohner. ”People will ‘caricature’ Christians as being brash, angry white guys who sound like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh when Christians should speak with a loving tone. What he was saying in his argument would completely turn off non-Christians. I think he’s hurting the Christian message by doing what he does.”

Not all Christians in attendence agreed with Wohner’s statement. Some said Turek’s argument was sound and effective.

“I think Frank Turek was very effective, both in his presentation, and in communicating his points to those in ‘opposition,'” said Micah Fox, a seminary student at Southern Evangelical Seminary.

Turek was indeed a unique and different guest compared to previous Elon guests. But Campus Outreach and Intervarsity extended the invitation to Turek because of his ministry to college students, and his potential impact on the Elon audience.

“We were really excited about [Turek’s presentation] because we feel that on a college campus there’s probably lots of ideas going back and forth, and we wanted to present a stance on the existence of God,” said Campus Outreach adjunct chaplain, Michael Lopes.

Chaplain Michael Lopes (Video by Megan Wanner):


DOES TRUTH EXIST?

Turek began his segment on the existence of truth by providing a definition, which he said is “telling it like it is.”

“Truth is what corresponds to reality,” said Turek. “In today’s culture our first duty is to state the obvious. People are denying the obvious, they’re denying there’s truth out there.”

Turek explained the law of non-contradiction, which states that two contradictory ideas cannot both be true. He compared two brilliant Oxford professors, Richard Dawkins and John Lennox, who possess opposing opinions in regard to a higher power.

Dawkins says there is no God, while Lennox says there is a God. Turek argued that either God exists or he doesn’t, but both men cannot be right, therefore, one must be wrong.

Turek argued that all truth is absolute truth and “applies to all persons, at all times, in all places.” He gave six examples of statements people use to discount truth: “There is no truth, you can’t know truth, truth is relative, it’s true for you but not for me, no one has the truth and you ought not judge.” If any of these statements are true then the Bible cannot be true, argued Turek.

“If you apply the claims to themselves,” said Turek, “you can see why they’re self-defeating, and when it’s logically self-defeating it can’t be true.”

Turek Explains the Law of Non-Contradictions (Video by Megan Wanner):

DOES GOD EXIST?

“Does God exist? Whenever you talk about this question you have to define what you mean by god. And the god I’m talking about is a theistic god; a god who’s beyond the world, created the world and sustains the world,” said Turek.

Though many regard the term “religious” as being a follower or practitioner of a religion, Turek argues “if you define religion as someone’s explanation for ultimate reality – how we got here and where we’re going – everybody is religious to some extent.”

Photo by Sarah B. Costello

Photo by Sarah B. Costello

Turek said that there are only three major religious worldviews: theism, pantheism and atheism. Theism includes Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which teach “God made all.” Pantheistic religions include Zen Buddhism, Hinduism and New Age, which teach that “God is all.” And atheists say there is “no God at all.”

Turek spent the second half of his presentation arguing for the existence of God by providing scientific and logical evidence. He introduced the acronym “SURGE”, which stands for the Second law of thermodynamics, Universe is expanding, Radiation afterglow, Great galaxy seeds and Einstein’s general relativity.

He spent several minutes discussing each letter in surge, explaining why this was evidence in favor of a beginning of the universe and the existence of God.

CONFLICTING OPINIONS

After Turek’s nearly two-hour presentation, he opened the floor for a question-and-answer session that lasted for another hour. Eight individuals took turns at the mic. Most welcomed the opportunity for a chance to talk, rather than ask questions.

Turek comprised his argument for the purpose of presenting what he believes to be the best logical answer for the earth’s existence. He uses science, logic and contextual examples to support his arguments. While his case is well researched, some have problems with Turek’s lack of Biblical references.

“By trying to make his argument purely scientific, he really undermined Christian ideals. He argued that God created the big bang which is not consistent with the Bible,” said Wohner.

The question-and answer-session was a very heated battle of wits as some individuals attempted to engage Turek in a debate. Ironically, the “answer” part of the question-and-answer session was overlooked by most at the microphone.

“How is it appropriate to have a question-and-answer session where the questioner is a lot less educated than you?” asked one student. “I really appreciate the fact that you said ‘I am a fallible human being,’ but the way that you present arguments, you do present as facts, and you don’t make the point that you also could be wrong throughout your presentation.”

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3 comments
  1. Janna said:

    The comprehensiveness and inclusion of specific details from this presentation are extremely impressive! I don’t have time right now to give more input, but I hope to return to this. Tip: when question and answer is placed in front of the noun “session” you have a compound modifier – it should be hyphenated.

  2. Janna said:

    You provide excellent links. It was smart to get the video from Megan. Your reporting is good; there are some places in which I detect the possibility of a lack of objectivity. One is in the segment about the volatile question-and-answer session.

    This section here…
    But not everyone agreed with Turek, and it was apparent that there were several atheists in the room. Some attended the event for the sole purpose of “blowing Turek out of the water.”

    …is poorly constructed. Who are you quoting? The people with an opposing view in the room had just listened for an extended period to Turek’s point of view and they were – yes – trying to provide their counterpoints instead of asking him questions. So report that and include some direct quotes from them. This is not always easy to do because you have to get the people’s names and since they don’t always give them at the mike you have to try to chase at least one or two of them down in the hallway afterward. But that’s what good reporting is all about. Did anyone at the event get video of the people who contested Turek’s points and can you get some quotes from them and include them – and possibly get some names? Or maybe one of the other reporters from our class knew some of the speakers – perhaps they were faculty members. Be very careful not to assume that all were atheists; there truly are some people who are agnostics. Do not paint with a broad brush those you do not know.

    You have some great writing here. You could improve it by foreshadowing the evening’s end conflict in your lead. The Lopes quote is pretty predictable. It’s OK, but it would have been more dynamic to present the conflict at the top – note specifically how many people stepped to the microphone at the end of Turek’s talk to contest his views as he calmly took it all in.

    Your lead sentence makes an assumption, “The absence of god eradicates a need for faith” – don’t assume. Reporters try to deal in facts. You can quote a source saying that line if there was one there that night, but you should not write it in your own voice in the story. Many atheists may still have what they consider to be a form of faith without a god in mind.

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