Is Belief In God Reasonable?

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Is belief in God reasonable?  This week on The Roys Report, we’re going to debate this question with Stephen Hicks, a leading critic of postmodernism. Stephen believes reason can save society from postmodern absurdity, but he argues that belief in God is not reasonable. Challenging his view will be my husband, Neal Roys, who argues that belief in God is both reasonable and necessary.

Show Transcript

Segment 1:

ANNOUNCER: In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys –an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here is your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, is belief in God reasonable or is faith anti-reason, anti-science and part of the problem of society rather than the solution? Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys and today we’re going to be debating this important issue with two men who see things very differently. Joining me today is Stephen Hicks, a Professor of Philosophy at Rockford University in Rockford, Illinois. Hicks is also the director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship and a senior scholar at the Atlas Society. But pertinent to our conversation today, Stephen does not believe that Christianity is reasonable. He sees traditional Western religions as the enemy of science and feels they’ve been rendered irrelevant by scientific discovery. So, Stephen, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you join us.

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: Yeah, thanks for the invitation.

JULIE ROYS:  And challenging Steven’s position today is a math instructor who, for 20 years, ran a philosophy discussion group in the public schools, called the Truth Seekers club. He’s also publicly debated Intelligent Design versus evolution and taught comparative worldviews to high school students. And he’s someone very near and dear to me, because he’s my husband, Neal Roys. So, Neal, this is kind of fun. We’ve never been on radio before together.

NEAL ROYS:  Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for inviting me to join you.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, well, I think this is going to be a great discussion. But before we actually dive into our debate, I’d like to take a minute just to set the stage a little bit because Stephen has written really a brilliant book called Explaining Postmodernism. And Neal, you’re the one who brought this to my attention. You’ve read it like, what, three times?

NEAL ROYS:  And it’s going on four now.

JULIE ROYS:  It’s going on four. So, and it’s not that often my husband devours a book like this. But what this book does, really, really well, is expose the problem with the reigning worldview in our society, which is postmodernism. And I’m guessing most of you listening have at least some knowledge of what postmodernism is. But this is a problem. And I think, just understanding postmodernism, as problematic, is something that I think Neal and Stephen would agree on. But where you differ would be on sort of the solution to that problem. And that’s where our debate today is going to focus—on reason and Christianity—whether reason is just the solution to it, or whether Christianity is reasonable and Christianity can offer the solution. But Stephen, why don’t you set the stage of understanding kind of our postmodern culture, in the milieu in which we’re living, and why you think it’s problematic?

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Right. Well, it’s problematic. Postmodernism is a very vigorous, intellectual and cultural movement. Whether it’s the dominant movement of our time, I think that is an open question. It could just be that it’s a noisy minority or a significant number of people who are well entrenched in important institutions. But it is vigorous. And I do think it is threatening. So, if we take modern Western civilization, which is actually increasingly becoming Global civilization, as valuable. And the Enlightenment is an important capstone contribution to that. The Postmoderns want to argue that either the entire modern world is a mistake, or it was disingenuous from the beginning and is now reaching its pathology. But the characteristic traits of post modernism are very strong—

• skepticism, 

• often kinds of subjectivism that are not an individualistic subjectivism but rather group subjectivism, 

• that groups have their own identities and their own different ways of knowing and values. Typically, those groups are in conflict with each other fundamentally. 

• And then ultimately, the only way we’re going to be able to resolve differences is through compulsive, forceful violent methods, perhaps. 

So all of that is an attack on the modern idea that we’re rational beings—that ultimately our interests are harmonious, that we should focus on individuals, and give them and respect their rights. And then all individuals of any sex, gender, or race, ethnicity, and so forth, have the same general rights. And that rather than forceful, conflictual resolutions of debates, we can sort things out as civil human beings—where we can take things to courts that have rational, universal procedural principles and work things out, hopefully, peacefully there. So, that’s what we’re up against.

JULIE ROYS:  So, sort of modernism, there was this embrace of truth and reason. Postmodernism’s kind of throwing that out. And maybe in its place, establishing power in its absence. And, whoever, you know, might is right. And we do see that, you know, with even the identity politics that’s happening. And are we moving more towards a totalitarian type society? And can we even debate things rationally? Because if you offend one group or another, you can’t even have the discussion. It makes it very, very difficult to have the discussion. But we’re going to have the discussion today about the reasonableness of faith. And is there anything you want to add to that, Neal?

NEAL ROYS:  Yeah. Just one thing I’d like to just express appreciation for, Stephen, in your book, is that you really helped me understand and learn how to explain the core problem with postmodernism. You do an excellent job of tracing back the origin of the ideas to some early Enlightenment thinkers, like Immanuel Kant and John-Jacques Rousseau, helping understand how they decided that the only way to access truth, or the only truth that’s reliable, is in their own minds. And so that helped me understand why there’s no hope offered by postmodernism. Because even though Postmoderns say that, “Yeah, we’re going to have a great community and we’re going to rely on our groups, instead of external authority figures.” If Postmoderns have no reasonable account for why it is that we can have hope to resolve disputes, there’s no hope for reasonable debate because there’s no reason to believe that anyone is in touch with reality. How are people going to come to an agreement about what reality is unless they’re in touch with reality? 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Yeah. Thank you for that. Nicely stated. Sorry to just have one more preamble remark.


DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  It really is a three-way debate. So there’s the Moderns, and the Premoderns. And it’s a multi-dimensional or philosophical debate. Obviously, it has cultural applications. So, the Postmoderns, you know, try to put a positive spin on them, what they will say is that for thousands of years, we human beings have been arguing about what is the nature of reality. And essentially, the premodern position would be to say that there is a higher reality, a supernatural reality—their gods or a God. And we only understand anything first by acknowledging the existence of this higher reality. But moderns come along and say, “Well, you can’t prove the existence of a god. So, we go with what we know. And what we know is that there’s a natural physical world.” And so, you have that two-way debate over what is the nature of reality. And the postmodern position then is what we call an anti-realist position. Which is to say, you know, we’ve been having these debates, nobody’s convincing anybody else, so that shows that we just can’t really know what the nature of reality is. So, there are three distinct divisions there. And another dimension of it is going to be to say, “Well, we’re going to come to know this higher reality. How do we do so?” And in the premodern position is to say, “First, we have to accept the legitimacy of revelations or prophets or mystics—various non- rational people who have direct access to the gods, or God.” And the rest of us, we don’t have those special revelatory insights, we have to accept their authority, or just take it on faith, what these authorities are saying? But the Premoderns will argue, “You can know the truth, but we have to use these non-rational, mystical, revelatory methods.” The moderns come along and say, “We don’t think any of those methods are legitimate,” and said, “You should use your senses, we should use logic, we should use these and that, and so forth, if you really want to know.” But what both of those agree upon is that there is such a thing as truth and knowledge. But they will disagree fundamentally about the methods. The Postmoderns come along and say, “We don’t think any of those methods are actually legitimate, like mystical insight, faith, reason, empiricism, and so forth.” All of those have been, from their perspective, shown to be illegitimate. So, what we need to do is dispense with the idea that we can actually know anything. Hence the skepticism.

JULIE ROYS:  So, we are going to assume today and it’s true. If I’m having this conversation with a postmodern, debating whether something is reasonable, just the fundamental premise is, it’s kind of thrown out. We can’t even use the tools to have that debate. 


JULIE ROYS:  But we’re going to assume today that we can have this debate—that our minds actually are reliable. And that we can look at external data and take that in and evaluate it. But I know Stephen, you believe that Christianity isn’t reasonable. My husband believes very passionately that it is reasonable. And he’s studied this for years. And so, I am looking forward to—we have to take a break. But when we come back, we’re going to dive right in. You know, is Christianity anti-science? This is something we hear a lot. And Stephen, I know you’ve proposed this. And I can’t wait to mix it up over that issue. So again, joining me today—Stephen Hicks, a professor of philosophy at Rockford University and my husband, Neal Roys, a math and worldview instructor. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report and we will be right back.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Is faith the foundation of reason or the enemy of reason? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re debating this critical question that determines so much of what we believe, how we live and how we perceive reality. If faith isn’t reasonable, then why would anyone believe in God? Religion, then becomes, as Karl Marx famously said, “merely an opiate of a people,” a way to simply feel better about our current circumstances. But if faith is reasonable, and as some have proposed, is actually the foundation of reason, then why would anyone not believe in God? Would love to hear your thoughts. You can join the online conversation about this show, just by going to Or you can reach us on twitter by using our handle @ReachJulieRoys. Again, joining me today to debate this issue is Stephen Hicks, a philosophy professor at Rockford University, and my husband, Neal Roys, a teacher of both math and worldview. So, let’s talk about science and religion, because I think that is really at the crux of whether or not religion or Christianity is reasonable. Stephen, my understanding is that you do not think that Christianity and science are compatible, or at least that Christianity is helpful to science. Would you explain that?

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  I think very quickly, you have to get nuanced about Christianity, both historically and the figures who adopt it. If you say, “Here are the, say, top one hundred things that Christians should believe,” and you have them in a timeless kind of capsule, then my position is that many or most of those positions are not true. And that is, in fact, most of them are antithetical to a scientific or rational understanding of the world. And that part of the, or some of those official positions of Christianity seem to state fairly explicitly that one should not be rational about some things. I’m opposed on that. At the same time, there are many different subspecies of Christianity. And some of the advocates of Christianity, historically, have tried to argue that Christianity can be made reasonable. So, someone like Thomas Aquinas is in that tradition. Galileo, for all of his conflicts with the Catholic Church, in many respects, thought he was arguing as a good Christian, for reformism. John Locke, a few generations later also thought Christianity could be made reasonable. So, the point isn’t that if you start from saying, “Here’s someone who thinks of himself or herself as a Christian, therefore that person is only believing false things or irrational things.” You would then have to judge each person’s position on its own merit. And then, of course, you also then have to say, “Absent what any given individual is thinking, what are the distinctive core propositions of Christianity? And are those rational, scientific, empirical and so forth?”


DR. STEPHEN HICKS: Let me say, you know, just a couple of historical points. And one is that in the early days of Christianity, if you’re going to say for the first few centuries, Christianity did not see itself as a pro-naturalistic, pro-empirical, pro-scientific worldview. It set itself up as explicitly opposite to that. It did say explicitly that there are revelations that are visited upon a few prophets, that if you are not one of the lucky recipients of those prophecies, you are starting in a position of ignorance and that the only way to heal your ignorance or get past the ignorance is to accept the authority of the prophets, even if doesn’t make sense to you as an individual. And that traditionally, is what faith means—accepting the truth of something, even though you yourself don’t understand it. So, we have the metaphor of the “leap of faith.” And if that is your core position, then that is necessarily a non-rational starting point.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, let me just stop you there to give Neal a chance to chime in. 

DR. STEPHEN HICK:  Absolutely. Go for it.

JULIE ROYS:  But the leap of faith, I mean, it’s interesting. We, I referenced that a couple weeks ago in a show we had answering some of the skeptics’ questions of Christianity. My Grandpa used to say, “It’s not so much a leap of faith, but a small step based on evidence and experience.” But that’s not a popular view in our society. But Neal, how do you respond to what Stephen just said?

NEAL ROYS:  Well, I think if we take a look at the history of the development of science, it can be very revealing in terms of where Christianity actually stands. The early scientists in Western Europe, not referring to the Greeks, but in Western Europe, they are popular people because they were so successful in describing reality, that the Christians want to have them on their side. The naturalists, it’s like, “Wow! Science has connection with reality.” So, what did those early scientists, like Newton, for example, really believe? Well, Newton, according to Morris Klein, in his history of mathematics, called The Loss of Certainty, said that—

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  If I could just interject. Newton, we’re talking 1660’s, 1670’s? 

NEAL ROYS:  Right. He discovered Calculus and in 1666.

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  So, by early, you mean the late 17th century?

NEAL ROYS:  Right. So, the development of science as we know it, in terms of mathematical formulations of reality, did originate in Western Europe, while it was under the influence of Christianity. And scientists, like, for example, Newton, did see that there was order in the universe. He believed that there was order in the universe because God put it there. And he believed that scientists were capable of detecting that order because God had given us minds and sense faculties that enabled us to do that. And I think that’s one of the main points at which I have push-back with your position, Stephen, is that naturalism does not have an understandable and sufficient account of why we should trust our sense faculties—our eyes and our ears—when we’re doing science. Newton believed that we can trust them because our eyes and ears were created by God. Now, you mentioned early Christianity, the first couple of centuries of Christianity. We do see in the book of Romans, that God says that if you study the created order, you will find out truth about God. And also, in Psalm 19, it says that the heavens declare the glory of God. That if you apply your powers of observation, using God-designed eyes and ears, to the cosmos, you’re going to find out reality. That’s what Newton did. He said we’ve got this mathematics of the terrestrial realm, you know, comes to us from Galileo. The mathematics from Kepler of the cosmos. And Newton saw they’re unified. It’s like there must be one Person behind all this. Newton thought that his work was going to lead to widespread belief in God. It’s like the school I teach at where every single student is wearing clothing that has no holes in it. People are looking at it and say, “How can there be this whole group of hundreds of teenagers wearing clothes with no holes in them? And there must be some person who authored a dress code. There’s no other reasonable explanation.”

JULIE ROYS:  So, this is interesting. And I would like to get to– I’d like to hear your answer to this, Stephen. Why is it that the scientific method, if Christianity is so anti-science, why is it that the scientific method and science, as Neal outlined, why did it come, you know, I mean, primarily through a Christian era in Christian Europe as opposed to why didn’t it develop . . .

NEAL ROYS:  . . .during the Greek era when reason was exalted.

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Okay, so there’s a couple of points that are built into Neal’s sketch. First, there is a saying that there is in the world cause and effect. There is a natural order. And that’s your empirical starting point. And then the move is to say, “What is the best explanation for why there is order in the universe?” There’s a natural cause and effect order. And if you make that assumption, then the scientific process gets underway. So, the debate on that particular issue, then is whether we should understand the universe as a self-contained, naturally ordering system. Or, rather the better explanation is to say that the order in the natural world comes from a higher being of God who imposed order or created the world with cause-and-effect built into it. Now, that’s to say you are starting—not with religion—you’re starting with observations of the natural world and making a claim that the natural world has this cause-and-effect process in it. And if that is your starting point, if that’s your axiom, or that’s the basis of your knowledge, then we have no objection. What we’re then going to do is have a follow-up debate over what’s the best explanation for that natural path.

JULIE ROYS:  All right, well, we’re going to need to go to break. But when we come back, that will be our starting point. What were you going to say? There’s one other question?

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Yeah. The other point then was Neal, quite rightly saying, we also have senses that put us in contact with the natural world. And we have the ability to reason and do math about the natural world. And if you believe that, then the scientific process can get underway. Then the debate over science and religion is a second order debate.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, we’re going to need to cut off that right now and go to break. But when we come back, we’ll get to those two suppositions and we’ll discuss them. We’ll be right back.

Segment 3:

JULIE ROYS: Welcome back to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I am Julie Roys. And today we’re debating whether or not Christianity is reasonable. For ages scholars and intellectuals have debated this issue. The famous physicist Stephen Hawking once said, “There’s a fundamental difference between religion—which is based on authority—and science—which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.” However, Isaac Newton once astutely said, “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the council and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.” Well joining me today to help us discern this incredibly important and fundamental issue is Stephen Hicks, a philosophy professor at Rockford University and my husband Neal Roys, who’s a math and worldview instructor. And by the way, if you’re just joining us and you missed the first part of this show, the entire audio will be posted soon after this broadcast to my website, So, there’s a lot of things on the table right now. Before the break, Stephen, you kind of outlined two issues. One, there’s a natural world that has cause and effect in it and what is the best explanation for that natural world. Two, human beings have reason. Where did that faculty come from? The ability to reason. And Three is sort of the historical points, science originating from early modern Europe—why did it originate from early modern Europe if Christianity is not reasonable? I would like to start with that last question. Just because I know that’s where Neal kind of led off in his argument that Christianity originated. A lot of people think Christianity is against science and is anti-science. I know Neal argues, I think based a lot on reading Nancy Pearcey and some of the things she’s written, that Christianity is actually a science-starter, not a science-stopper. But, Stephen, how do you respond to that?

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: Right. So, if you go to the early modern world here—1400, 1500, 1600—Isaac Newton is at the tail end of that. Galileo’s a little bit earlier. And you do have a religious tradition that is developing in the early modern world that is trying to make a compatibility between science and religion. So, you have people who start off saying that I think this religious worldview is essentially correct, but I’m also attracted to this early scientific worldview, and I want to make them compatible. And so, my disagreement with those people will be much less. But you also have to remember there’s another Christian tradition. A strong one that goes back to Augustine, carries on through Savonarola, Martin Luther, John Calvin and the others that will say that that attempts to make Christianity and science compatible is a blasphemy and that original Christianity must necessarily be anti-naturalism, anti-science. And if we start to say that the world is cause and effect in its own right and that human beings should be rational, Christianity is going to lose that debate. And those are the kinds of Christians and other religions that have had the same approach that I’m going to have much stronger debates with. But on a historical point, I think it is important to note that Christianity became a force in Europe in the 300s. Prior to that it was a grassroots movement, largely an oral tradition. Once Constantine converted, then Christianity also becomes the dominant political religion of the time. And the question then is going to be, “If Christianity historically is indeed the major philosophical worldview in the Europe for 1000 years, why does science not develop in Europe during that unimaginably almost long stretch of time?” It is true that science starts to develop in the 1300, maybe seeing glimmers of it more so in the 1400s 1500s, and so forth. But what’s going on at that point is the rediscovery of Greek and Roman texts that have been either lost to Europe for 1000 years, or explicitly neglected or destroyed, in many cases by people who consider themselves good Christian . . .

JULIE ROYS: Okay, let me just . . .

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: for that amount of time. So, the point there was that all of the truths that we need are in the Bible. And so either we don’t even need to pay attention to these other texts, or, those other texts, if they contain things that contradict the Bible, they should be destroyed.

JULIE ROYS: Okay, let me throw it to Neal.

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: It’s not until . . .

JULIE ROYS: Just because we have a short amount of time. 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: Yes, I understand. Fair enough.

JULIE ROYS: Let me throw it to Neal. Why don’t you respond to that? It seemed like there’s two things there. One, if Christianity is a major movement, why does the scientific method—why does it develop so late? Why didn’t it develop earlier?

NEAL ROYS: Now, I am indebted to an article that Nancy Pearcey wrote that addresses the question, “Is Christianity a Science-Starter or a Science-Stopper?” And she responds to that question. She says that the Greek influence was a science stopper. And it wasn’t until later in the, in modern year, March 16 17th century that Christianity was finally able to get past it. What was it that the Greeks did to stop science, their view of reality, their ontology, if you will, was that there is there was matter which was eternal, it had always been there. And forms have always been there. So, the Greek view of reality That stopped science was that reality, the cosmos was necessary it could not be any way other than it was. And so, for the Greeks, science amounted to like a two-column geometry proof where you take your Givens and then you don’t go to a laboratory, you go into your mind and perform logical operations on the givens. The Christians finally realized that in in Europe, they realize, well wait a second reality, matter hasn’t always been here, metal was created by God, a God who makes choices and is contingent, and we don’t know what choices God made when he was creating reality. So, we should actually go out and investigate, use our powers of observation, form hypotheses, and test them. The Greeks did not do experimental science. It was characterized by randomization, replication and control. It wasn’t until the Christian worldview really settled into the minds of the European scientists. They realize Wait, we should do this differently. That’s why it’s a recent development, we were finally able as Christians to get past the Greek influence and their worldview flaws.

JULIE ROYS: Well, and if we’re going to look at and you mentioned this, Dr. Hicks, the progression of Christianity, I mean, and how different areas and different leaders have thought differently about this issue. But I think the question always for Christians, because we have a book that we rely on, what does the Bible actually say is, is there anything in the Bible that encourages observation and using our senses, or does the Bible generally discourage it? I mean, clearly, scripture is full of the supernatural, which would be and I wouldn’t say anti science, but that’s outside of the science. It wouldn’t be called supernatural if it weren’t. But we also as Christians realize that supernatural happens rarely. That’s why it’s supernatural. You know that it’s, it’s something that doesn’t normally happen in the natural realm. This is fascinating. I’m loving this discussion. We need to go a break. But when we come back, let’s, I want you to address that Neal about Is there anything in Scripture that either encourages or discourages this, but then I want to move on to the other discussion that we wanted to do about the world, the natural order that has so much order. What’s the best explanation for that? We could spend all year on that puffing pod exhausted, but we’re going to try to hit that in our last segment. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. We’ll be right back.

Segment 4: 

ANNOUNCER:  This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, is belief in God reasonable? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re debating this foundational issue with two men with very different perspectives. Stephen Hicks, a philosophy professor at Rockford University, does not believe belief in God is reasonable. However, challenging his perspective is my husband, Neal Roys, who not only believes that belief in God is reasonable, but that it’s actually the foundation of reason. By the way, if you’re just joining our program and want to listen to the entire broadcast, or you just want to share it with friends, the entire audio will be available shortly after this broadcast. Just go to and then you click on the podcast tab. So, gentlemen, before the break, Neal, you had addressed this issue about why the scientific method hadn’t developed earlier in Europe—why did it take so long. You’re saying, “Well, that was because of the Greek influence that it didn’t develop earlier.” Whereas Stephen, you were kind of arguing it’s because they finally discovered the Greeks and some of that learning during the Renaissance that spurred it along. But then, Neal, I wanted you to address Steve’s pushback that Christianity over the ages, that there have been some, like Galileo or John Locke, that were Christians and pro-science. But has Christianity always been pro science? Not necessarily. So, my whole argument was, “What does the Bible say?” Is there anything in Scripture that would move us toward embracing empirical observation or would discourage it?

NEAL ROYS:  Well, I think the core claim that Christianity makes is that the entire Christian worldview is based on something that we can look at with our powers of observation. And that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul said, in Scripture that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then there’s no point in having any faith whatsoever in Christianity. You may as well just eat, drink and be merry. So, it’s amazing how, you know, after the O.J. Simpson trial, you know, we saw that people who were there, they weren’t sure what was going on. But after time had passed, you could find out, “Okay, here’s the evidence. Here’s what actually happened.” In the same way, even though we’re 2000 years later, we can actually go back and look at—not the eyewitness testimony, but—the written testimony and the artifacts to find out whether or not there is a historical basis for faith in Christianity.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, and that’s actually I mean, I don’t know if we’re going to get into debating the resurrection in our last segment. That might be a little bit much. Although I know that was Lee Strobel—investigative reporter for Chicago Tribune—that was his journey when he went to investigate Christianity. [He] said, “I’m going to disprove it.” And he ended up becoming a Christian. A lot of other people have done that—C.S. Lewis, similarly—by looking at the resurrection. But let me throw it to you, Stephen. Anything in that you’d like to challenge?

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Yes, absolutely. If you want to say that Christianity, for example, is reasonable, then I would be open to the following: to say, “Alright, Christianity’s core text is the scripture—Old Testament, New Testament and so forth.” Then the question is going to be, “If you can find in Scripture passages that are saying explicitly, ‘Be individuals. Trust your own judgment. Use your eyes, use your ears, and look for the evidence. Come up with the best rational explanations you can have. If you find things that don’t make sense to you in Scripture in what you’re hearing from religious leaders, don’t believe them. Trust your own judgment. Use your own senses. Do your own experiments and so forth.’” Then to that extent, it’s fair to say that Christianity is offering a reasonable epistemology. What that would then mean in the case of the resurrection is to say, “So there are claims about resurrection. So here we have a human being who died but came back to life three days later. How am I supposed to process that as an individual say 2000 years later? Well, I can’t use my senses. So, I don’t have any empirical evidence here. And there’s no way I can run an experiment right on that. It doesn’t seem to make sense given that all of the other billions of human beings I know who have existed have all died—none of them has come back to life. So, what I have here is a story that doesn’t make sense to me empirically, logically, rationally or experimentally.” So if the Christian position then is, “You should take that as likely just a fanciful story that got written down, passed by some people who wanted to elevate their religious leader to the status of a Prophet.” If Christian position is to say, “That’s what you should do with respect to the resurrection story,” then it’s a reasonable position. But if the Christian position is, “No, no, no, you should believe the resurrection. So even if it doesn’t make sense to you, that is a faith position,” that is non-rational. And my understanding is Christianity, in all of its various forms, without exception says, “No, you have to take that as a bedrock faith commitment. Otherwise, you can’t be a Christian.” And that’s not rational.

JULIE ROYS:  I love that you brought that up, because I think that’s not how I understand Christianity, or you Neal. Yeah?

NEAL ROYS:  Well, if you take a look at say, Romans 1, in verse 19 it says, “What may be known about God,” so this is a statement about how we acquire knowledge, “What may be known about God is plain to them.” He’s referring to people who are, have not made the commitment to be Christians, “it’s plain to them because,” how is it? It’s because, “God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: Now we’re switching away from the resurrection. Make the resurrection plain. That’s the issue here. Can you do that?

NEAL ROYS: Okay. So, let’s take a look at the resurrection. We can’t run an experiment on it. But in the historical sciences . . .

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Running experiments, as you have said, is part of being reasonable. You’re committed to experimentalism. But now you’re saying you’re ~not~ basing your belief on experiments in this case, because based on the senses, if being reasonable is going on the basis of sensory evidence. But in this case, you’re saying, “No, no, there is no sensory evidence.”

NEAL ROYS:  Well we do. What we do have, in history, the inputs for a historical investigation are a little bit different. A reasonable historian is going to take a look at eyewitness evidence, written testimony and artifacts. We do have written testimony and artifacts about, for example, we have Josephus, for example, who writes about how Jesus’ disciples died. Of the 11 remaining disciples 10 of the 11

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  What are Josephus’s dates?

NEAL ROYS:  Yeah, Josephus was, he was writing about the fall of Jerusalem. So he’s there, you know, a witness in 70 A.D. So he’s 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  So this is 30-something years after Jesus’s death. So he’s not an eyewitness. He’s reporting on other people who claim to have been eyewitnesses. 

NEAL ROYS:  Well, he did write 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  So that status of his, fair enough

NEAL ROYS:  So, he did write about how, so this is basically an extra biblical source. So, you don’t have to believe the Bible on this. But it’s an extra biblical source about

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Notice that the framing of our discussion here is that you’re appealing to Scripture, not what commentators who weren’t there wrote about other people.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, what we’re doing—let’s give Neal a chance to talk because what we’re doing—is he’s appealing to Josephus, who was a historian that I don’t believe was even a believer. writing at 70 AD. So, although he wasn’t an eyewitness, he interviewed eyewitnesses. And I’m a reporter. So, I mean, to me, that’s how you determine truth with the weren’t there as you go, and you interview eyewitnesses. And if you publishe something and the people like, for example, I was never there when JFK was shot. But if I publish something that was contrary to what people who are alive who are here, you know, when that happened, they’re going to push back on that. So go ahead.

NEAL ROYS:  One thing that we see that’s been documented is that the people who followed Jesus, they were willing to die for their faith. Now we can take a look at a couple of ways of understanding this. If they were just making up this story that Jesus rose from the dead, if they were lying about it, then we now know that it’s a psychological law that people do not die for things that they know to be false. Now there are people like for example, in Islam, sometimes you’ll see people saying, “I’m going to die for something, you know, in a Jihad because I know I’m going to go to Paradise. I’m going to die for something I believe is true.” People do that. But no one has ever died for something that they knew was false. So, when the disciples of Jesus were told, “Look, stop saying that Jesus rose from the dead, otherwise, you know, we’re going to kill you.” At that point, a reasonable person would say, “Well, okay, you know, we were just trying to make up a world religion.” But the fact that they were willing to die for something—that’s not reasonable to believe that they were willing to give their lives for something that they knew was false. 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Or believed.

NEAL ROYS:  Well, they were in a position to observe. They knew whether they were lying or not.

JULIE ROYS:  The point is that they claim to have seen Jesus after he raised from the dead. So, if they were lying about seeing him, I mean, they would know whether or not they’re telling the truth about that,

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  So the only options aren’t lying or not. But people can believe, in theory, all sorts of things that are not true, right? Lot’s of people are willing to die for their beliefs. So Marxists and French revolutionaries and American revolutionaries and members of Islam and Christians and Jews

JULIE ROYS:  Right, but the point here, go ahead, Neal.

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  What you’re saying is there are some people who made claims to have seen Jesus. And then the question is, “What’s the status of their eyewitness testimony?”

JULIE ROYS:  Well, I think the point is that they were in a position to know if what they were saying was true or false. So, is it reasonable to presume that 12 men who are saying something that they know is false would have given their lives for it? I think that’s the question.

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  No, that’s not the question. It’s not that they know that it’s false. People can know things, but they can also believe things. And belief and knowledge are not the same thing. 

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, so they could have 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  As you know, it can be wishful thinking. The difference between belief and knowledge comes in degrees. 


DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  The question is, “How are we, 2000 years later, to assess the eyewitness claims of the people of the time? And your position is to say, “Well, they were willing to die for their beliefs.” And I’m not contesting that. 

NEAL ROYS:  Sure. 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: But then the question is, “Is the fact that someone is willing to die for their beliefs prove that their belief is true?” I think obviously not. So why would you say, “Obviously that does show . . . (inaudible).”

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, we have about a minute left.

NEAL ROYS:  My response to that is there is an important distinction between an individual who says, “I’m going to die for something that I believe is true.” And there’s another individual who says, “I’m going to die for something that I know is false.” And so, my contention is that if the disciples were just making up this claim about what they observed, namely Jesus rising from the dead, they were in a position to know. It wasn’t a belief issue. They knew whether that was true or false. 

DR. STEPHEN HICKS: And how did they know? And how do we know that they knew?

JULIE ROYS:  Well, what we know is that they claimed have seen him. So, and this is the question, “Did all 12 of them have a hallucination that they saw Jesus raised from the dead and they were all just deceived?” Did they want to believe it so badly? I mean, these are the questions. Then you have to come up with a reasonable explanation for why these 12 men believed, or died for something that that they knew, or at least believed was false. Why did they believe it was false? Or why did they believe it was true? Difficult, difficult issues. And again, this is the case always when we have a debate show that we scratch the surface, and we just don’t have time to go into all the realms we’d like to. But I would love to continue this discussion. Stephen, would you be up for that?

DR. STEPHEN HICKS:  Sure. Let’s plan on it. If we could do it, possibly in January.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. Well, we’ll see what we could get these two men back together. But again, thanks so much to Stephen Hicks, a philosophy professor at Rockford University, my husband Neal Roys. Thanks for joining me today. Again, if you missed any part of the show, just go to We’ll have the podcast post posted within the hour. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.

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