RD Extra: Debate – Does the Christian God Exist? Justin Schieber vs. Steven Kozak

This debate on the existence of the Christian God took place at Ferris State University on October 23rd.

Steven Kozak – Christian Apologist, Author (Stevenkozak.com)
Justin Schieber – Atheist, Podcast Co-host (doubtcast.org)

Download RD Extra

Or subscribe and listen in iTunes or any podcast client:



  1. Tim Bos says

    Justin, are you sure Steven committed Denying the Antecedent, as you said he did in the debate? Doesn’t the argument from objective morality typically go like this?:

    (Premise 1) If God does not exist, then objective morality does not exist.
    (Premise 2) Objective morality does exist.
    (Conclusion) It is not the case that God does not exist.

    That’s a Modus Tollens. So the argument is valid. Of course, it’s not sound, since the first premise is false (or so an atheist moral realist should argue).

    Maybe he messed up somewhere, but I’m sure that’s the argument he had in mind, since that’s how William Lane Craig presents it, and Kozak pretty much just copies WLC’s whole shtick. Fun debate though.

  2. Patrick Gerrard says

    Everytime I hear a xtian apologist claim “god cannot lie” reminds me of the piece of scripture from 1 Kings 22 where he god calls his heavenly spirits to court and asks for advice on how to get the Israelites to vote for one king over another (‘cos he can’t figure it out) and a “lying spirit” steps forward and offers his services to deceive the PRophet guy for one of the kings in order to sway voters towarsd the other guy. god does’t lie, he gets someone to do it for him.

  3. Latverian Diplomat says

    @1 I’m not sure that truly objective morality does exist. (though it’s probably not a good debate tactic to open that can of worms). Certainly most people agree that murder in the abstract is wrong, but disagree about the fine points of self-defense, the death penalty, war, euthanasia, etc.

    It seems to me that if there were a demonstrably objective morality test, these points would not be debatable.

    Of course, the absence of objective morality would not disprove God by the (faulty) premise, as that would be affirming the consequent.

  4. Ed says

    A truly objective morality would actually weaken the all-powerful monotheistic God as it would destroy the Divine Command theory of morals popular among theists. Now I’m NOT saying that it would be impossible to believe in that kind of God or any god, but it would cause problems for religion (especially monotheism).

    The line of reasoning would go something like this.

    Assume for the sake of argument that Objective Morality has been proven to exist and that the Abrahamic God exists.

    So then maybe God created it, just like all other objectively existing entities. But then it’s objectivity on a purely moral level is questionable, as it only exists because a powerful being wanted it to. If he could have made it differently, there would be a different morality which was the objectively demonstrable one. Just as he could have chosen to create different animals, he could have made “stealing is good” a moral truth.

    But on the other hand, he might have known about Objective Morality from the beginning and chose to communicate it to humans, in which case it is the real object of worth, not him. If it is truly demonstrable and comprehensible, God might be one source of knowledge about it, but not the only possible one. Thus, the idea of secular people being bad by definition, or of a universal duty to follow a particular religion would be eliminated.

    If, assuming the existence of this Objective Morality, God wanted worship and wanted to punish people for failing to give him proper respect, he could only do this within the framework of pre-existing moral truth. If not, he would just be another tyrant. If “you must worship God or be severely punished” was part of Objective Morality it would be a lucky break for him, but he would have no power to define what is moral.

  5. One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login says

    I don’t usually listen to debates like this, but for some reason I started listening to this one, and I have to say I’m not impressed by either side. As I patiently sat through Kozak’s reasonably clear and ardent presentation of (1) god as necessary cause of the universe (2) necessity of an “objective” moral standard and god as only possible guarantor of same and (3) historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, I was thinking, oh, this is great, Scheiber can just roll over these eminently refutable points.

    The disappointment came with Scheiber’s beginning, sounding tentative but worse, sounding hyper-intellectual and opening with a highly abstract argument about a truly infinite god having no “motivational cause” to create the universe. It was unemotional and probably, to the person not used to such arguments, both abstruse and confusing. The high intellectual tone was maintained for the rest of the opening, although it got a little more engaging re the problem of evil. Returns to another abstruse point, unknowability of god’s motives. Overall, not an effective or engaging presentation for me.

    Kozack’s rebuttal: well, you suckered him into responding to that highly abstruse “god-world” argument and sounding just as abstruse and confusing himself. I couldn’t say if his rebuttal was effective as I simply couldn’t follow it. Rebuttal re evil: uses Plantinga’s “freedom” argument. (which could only justify willful evil and completely ignores uncaused evil e.g. cancer). Doubles down on claims of NT historicity, “more accurate than any other historic document of its time” WTF?

    Schieber’s rebuttal: Reasonably good on unknowability of universe’s inception but phrasing is weak, “we just don’t know”. Turn it around on them, stress the insane arrogance of claiming to know where knowledge is impossible. Morals: good use of biblical god. Historicity: back into academic verbiage, “one’s epistemic probability about a hypothesis…”? Give. Me. A. Break. I hereby sentence you to read 300 pages of Robert Ingersol and/or Mark Twain before you speak again in public!

    I won’t comment further but them’s my reactions to the first 70 minutes. Please don’t take my negative tone as an attack but as constructive criticism: here are things you should improve on.

  6. Lucy Harris says

    @One Day Soon, I agree about Schieber’s positive arguments against. He needs to retire that whole maximally great thing. It’s just buying into “sophisticated theology” bs as though it means anything. “Great making properties” is a nonsense concept, it’s all just counting angels.

    I do think Schieber did good in rebutting the cosmological argument. And Kozak did flub stating the moral argument. Schieber did get that right. But worse for Kozak was he was also arguing that under atheism, there is no morality, presenting it as an argument from consequences.

    I thought Kozak was horrible overall, really a hack apologist, with all those howlers about Christian history.

  7. says

    This is the sixth time or so that Justin’s debated against William Lane Craig, it feels like.

    Seriously, these debates get somewhat tiresome when you know -exactly- how everyone’s going to respond to everyone’s arguments. I understand they’re important to do, for the people on the ground, but I can’t for the life of me find anything new in this one that hasn’t been said, on either side, hundreds of times before in my hearing.

    Can’t the apologist think up some new tricks?

  8. Michael Darby says

    The cosmological argument seems to be used in almost all the “Does God Exist?” debates I have heard, and this discussion is no exception. Why is it such an enduring argument given obvious internal contradictions?

    + Everything including the universe must have a cause, but God does not have a cause
    + An infinite universe is impossible, but God is infinite
    + We do not experience objects without cause, so everything therefore has a cause. On the other hand, we don’t experience anything that has necessary existence, yet God has necessary existence.

    Why didn’t Justin point out these obvious contradictions? Has this approach been tried and found lacking? I am really curious, as I find the cosmological argument so weak in its primary appeal to personal incredulity based on everyday experience.

  9. Franky Jones says

    I think Justin was too soft on Kozak’s contradictions. For instance, Steven said that someone don’t sacrifice himself for something he thinks is a lie. While it could be true almost all the time it doesn’t give us any information about the inherent truth of the claim. Justin could have said for instance that Steven cannot use this argument if in the same time he thinks that suicide bombers were wrong by killing themselves for God. Kozak was inconsistent most of the time, and like always, apologists cannot defend their position without intellectual dishonesty. I don’t think it was Justin’s best debate.

  10. Ed says

    How I hate the argument from martyrdom. If it’s valid, then nearly all religions are true, as well as Soviet Communism and its offshoots and fascism. I know I’m oversimplifying, but that’s the point. This rhetoric only works on a shallow level.

    No one would WILLINGLY or KNOWINGLY die for a lie. Who says anyone has? But people can be wrong, so we’re back to square one.

  11. Eyeconoclast says

    Justin, you’re doing the (nonexistent) Lord’s work, but the whole maximally great Godworld argument is SO tedious and deserves maybe 2 minutes at most. That whole opening 20 minutes was a total drag. At the same time, Kozak is crapping these stinking turds about how the vast majority of historians consider the gospels to be historically accurate, we must get our morality from the bible, etc. and there’s totally inadequate response. An argument more along the lines of Carrier’s “Why I Am Not a Christian” would be infinitely more compelling and interesting to listen to.

  12. says

    Justin Schieber,

    Lately I cringe whenever I listen to these debates. You keep debating people that don’t know how to argue/discuss these topics. As a result there is very little progress in understanding for either side. Would you be willing to have a debate with me instead?

  13. says

    I find such debates obnoxious (no offense, that’s just my personal preference) and couldn’t even make it all the way through Kozak’s opening statement. So, instead I’ll just ask here: Did he ever get around to defining “the Christian God”?

    Seems to me that this is no small matter. After all, Christians can’t even agree on what qualities their god supposedly has. Without a clear definition, it isn’t even possible to have a discussion of the topic, so I was a bit surprised that the debate didn’t start out with some kind of definition. I kept waiting for him to go “By ‘Christian God’, I mean…”

    The closest thing was the implicit definition given as part of the cosmological argument; eternal, powerful and personal. However, this is clearly not a sufficient definition for the Christian god. Did this point ever get addressed during the debate?

  14. David Leisure says

    Big fan of Reasonable Doubts podcast, have been listening since its beginnings, and this is my first response. I unfortunately have to concur with just about everything “Funny Login” said. I’d have thought the opening statement would need to be the most concise part of any debate and one’s best chance to engage the audience with a first impression. The esoteric verbal floundering of Mr. Schieber, whom I normally enjoy and appreciate, lost me pretty quickly as I was listening and driving cross country (Antelope Freeway 1/4 mile). Hoping that he’d get to a point (Antelope Freeway 1/8 mile), I tried to re-engage myself (Antelope Freeway 1/16 mile) but kept thinking about another debate (Antelope Freeway 1/32 mile) I had attended (Antelope Freeway 1/64 mile) between Sam Harris (Antelope Freeway 1/128 mile) and Christopher Hitchens (Antelope Freeway 1/256 mile) where Hitchens would have won the debate if he’d had ever gotten to the point (Antelope Freeway 1/512 mile). Apologies to The Firesign Theater’s, Zeno’s Evil.

  15. parasiteboy says

    I Have been listening to old RD’s in between new episodes that have come out, but this was the first time that I have listened to a Schieber debate. I was surprised at how poorly Justin came across at times (seemingly unprepared) since RD seems to announce another Schieber debate every new episode (at the beginning of this episode Justin announced that he was debating on the same subject 2-3 more times in the near future).

    I think I was even more surprised that quite a few of the rebuttals that Schieber could have used against Kozak, Justin could have found the information in previous RD episodes. Topics like, did Jesus really rise from the dead and did anyone really witness his resurrection, has god ever lied in the bible, did any of the apostles really die martyrs or why would anyone die for something they new was false. These are just a few that I remember from the debate that were talked about at length on RD and Justin could have given the cliff notes summary of them and referred interested people to those RD episodes.

    I also agree with christophercheck@7 that Kozak brought nothing new to the debate and thus Justin should have had ready responses to them. If I were Justin I would have a page or two with bullet point rebuttals to these common arguments so that you can look at one when you respond and not have to have everything completely memorized.

    After listening to several debates I realized that it a bit constraining to have the opening comments longer than the rebuttals. How can you properly criticize your opponents statements and defend your own when you have less time for the rebuttals than the opening statements. I know that this is how debates like this usually occur, but it always turns out to be two people talking past each other in these athiest/apologist debates.

    Finally for the love of freaking god can these debates start off with an agreed upon definition of god so everyone (debaters and the audience) start off on the same page.

  16. Math Teacher says

    For years I have enjoyed the Reasonable Doubts podcast, and you have been a
    valuable and interesting part of the show. I applaud your efforts, both on the show,
    and in venues such as the debate, to “get the message out”. Having said that, I hope
    to offer some helpful advice regarding debates.
    1) Take a debate class. Truth and Reason should alone be supreme arbiters, but in
    reality Rhetoric trumps all.
    2) Know your audience. In this debate, your audience was in fact all people listening
    in, especially the fence sitters. Make the arguments meaningful to your audience:
    a) With regard to the “problem of evil”, instead of talking about chimpanzees…
    how about a case (about a year ago?) in the news of a woman who put her
    infant in a microwave oven to kill it because it was crying too much. According
    to Steven (your opponent), the woman is given the free will to commit this
    evil, while the baby’s free will was apparently ignored by an omniscient god. If
    this fictional god wanted the baby to die, was the horrific suffering really
    b) As regards Premise 1, Premise 2, … save that for a written presentation.
    Be creative, open up, and watch some Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.
    Best wishes to a young man with a bright future,
    from an old fart.
    A. Math Teacher

  17. says

    Justin, since everyone seems to be chiming in with criticisms and advice, I’ll throw in a couple thoughts that made me think “if I was there, I would say this…”. Although, I applaud your efforts and your great work, and don’t assume I could ever do a better job. I’m not offering this as criticism, only as a couple short answers to what the apologists seem to think are air-tight zingers.

    First, my introduction, since this if my first contact with you. I discovered Reasonable Doubts podcast a few months ago, and have only listened to a couple dozen podcasts. I live in Allegan Michigan, just 40 miles south of Calvin College, and have attended a few great concerts at Calvin. Most recently, the Milk Carton Kids, and a few years ago, Nickel Creek with the Ditty Bops opening. I’m an ex-Catholic ex-seminarian. I attended the Grand Rapids Catholic diocese minor seminary for my high school years, graduating in 1971 from St. Joseph’s Seminary at 600 Burton St., SE. I might not “feel your pain”, but I have a hint or two. I was certain that I needed to be a priest when I was in 5th grade. By the end of senior year, rock and roll and girls had stolen my soul. I was an agnostic by the time I turned twenty. And, by the time I was 25, I was a full-blown Atheist, subscribed to American Atheist magazine, and I think I was a charter subscriber to FFRF’s Freethought Today.

    Hi, nice to meet you. I really enjoy your podcasts. And it’s cool that you are right there in GR. I smile at the thought, knowing how saturated SW Michigan is with radical evangelicals and such.

    My two little thoughts about the debate are these:

    1. The argument about the universe needing a creative intelligence is an argument for any ol’ god; Odin, Brahma, Kukulkan, Zeus, … It would have been worth mentioning. But, I know you are following a train of thought, and can’t throw every argument in the mix. I just like that particular rebuttal. A good debater can take many paths, so these are not criticisms.

    2. [I finished listening to the debate before posting this, and it turns out that you bring this one up. But I’ll still post my blather about the topic.] Xtians love to use the “free will” argument as god’s reason for creating something to disturb his infinite and eternal “God World”, as you call it. They think that free will nails it, and I’ve never heard my suggested rebuttal. I suggest that we say, “Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s agree that God would have wanted us to accept him freely, because he didn’t want automatons to love and worship him. But, after you go to heaven for choosing to love God, will you still have the free will to keep loving god? Will anyone be able to choose to NOT love God once they are in heaven?” I suggest that a few dozen years spent having free will in this earthy realm is NOTHING compared to the infinite amount of time that we’ll spend in heaven without any choice or free will to speak of. We will be automatons.
    Kozak imagines that he is nailing it with this quote, “to create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, he must create creatures capable of moral evil. And he can’t give these creatures freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so”.
    Fine argument for evil existing for the hundred or so years of each human’s life, but it contradicts what the bible says about heaven and hell. In heaven, no one has the free will to choose not to love God or not to be moral. The supposed “free choice” is made during this short lifetime, and we are stuck with it forever. (Although, I like your point “why would god need to create people with free will but with limited knowledge?” And, I like the argument that no matter what a perfect god creates, he is spoiling his perfect God World.)

    3 – Come on, if people dying for a cause is any proof that the cause is true, dot, dot, dot – fill in the blanks with any suicide bombing done in the name of religion.

    I’d love to hear how you would put these into less sloppy sound-bites, especially that second one, which I think is an excellent point in rebuttal to what some Jeezers think is an air-tight argument. [I still think this is the first time I’ve heard anyone bring up the “free will in heaven” rebuttal. Perhaps it’s been too long since I found it necessary to read a lot of atheist writing, so I may have read this before and I’m mistakenly thinking that it’s my own original thought. But, I’d still like to hear you and the guys talk about more concise ways of putting it. Kozak sure had to squirm to avoid that excellent point, “do you think there is free will in heaven?”]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *