Twice during the debate between Matt and Sye, audience members asked Sye a good question that is reminiscent of John Loftus’s “outsider test.” The first questioner comes up at 1:18:30 in the video and asks if Sye agrees with “God’s word” as represented by a passage in the Quran. Sye says no, because the Quran is not God’s word, and then he goes on to give a “proof” that Islam cannot be true.
In a nutshell: The Quran says that the Bible is handed down by God; the Quran also says that God’s word cannot be corrupted; but later the Quran also says — as most Muslims argue — that the Bible is corrupted. If you want a more detailed version of this argument, including verse citations, you can visit this Matt Slick post at Carm.org.
It is, actually, a pretty good sounding argument. Here’s the logic boiled down: The Quran cannot be the true word of God, because the true word of God cannot be corrupted. If the Quran is true, then the Bible is the word of God, and the word of God cannot be corrupted, and the Bible is corrupted, therefore the Bible is not the word of God. This is a contradiction, hence the Quran cannot be true.
While this is superficially sound reasoning, the flaw is that not all Muslims are Quran fundamentalists, just as not all Christians are Bible fundamentalists. Therefore, a Muslim could say: “I believe that Allah is the one true God, and I believe that the Quran is generally and mostly correct about most things, but there are flaws and corruptions. I believe that the Bible isn’t true, and I also believe that the parts of the Quran that would imply the Bible is reliable, are themselves not true either.” There is absolutely nothing inconsistent about taking this position.
Sye assumes throughout the debate that once he has made the case that God must exist (which he doesn’t successfully do anyway), it must follow that there is at least one uncorrupted text that accurately and truly represents the word of God in all aspects. This does not follow at all. There are lots of Christians who believe that God exists, and God doesn’t lie, and the Bible is a good reference book, but it is not reliable in every single aspect. Sye is not only saying that his personal revelation trumps the reasoning of atheists or the claimed revelation of Muslims; he is stating that every self-identified Christian who doesn’t subscribe to Sye’s particular theology is not receiving true insight into God.
Which means, of course, that Sye knows that people can sincerely believe in God and still be mistaken about many aspects of God’s nature. Which means that as far as the rest of us are concerned, there is no reason whatsoever to accept Sye’s claims that he has any clue of what he is talking about (and obviously, most people don’t accept it).
When trying to verify whether God exists, we aren’t just pitting atheism against one or more fundamentalist religions. We need to compare every possible perspective of God and revelation, and ask ourselves whether it’s reasonable to believe any of those things. Believing in a perfect Bible is just one of many overall outlooks that I feel free to reject. And while Sye says over and over again that he’s right and it’s true, there’s no need to take Sye seriously for a moment.