Matt Slick’s Transcendentally Slick Logic

Of all the arguments used to try to persuade an atheist that a god exists the transcendental argument is one of the least persuasive. In fact, it really is an attempt to just shut down an argument. A form of “proof by verbosity,” this argument inundates the audience with a string of premises that superficially seem plausible in an attempt to get the audience to either concede the conclusion or admit ignorance. So I was glad to discover this gem of a debate between Matt Slick from the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry and Matt Dillahunty from the Atheist Experience.

Matt Slick’s version of the argument is full of logical fallacies. (Read it here).  Any one of which is sufficient to discredit the argument.  Dillahunty does a good job in this debate addressing many of them. For the most part this is a good debate.  But there was a key moment where Dillahunty had really demonstrated all that he needed to demonstrate in order to reveal a huge fallacy in Slick’s transcendental argument.

When Dillahunty gets Slick to admit that a god cannot make “A” into “not A” because it would be a logic contradiction he demonstrates that Slick’s god is subject to the laws of logic and, therefore, cannot be the author of them. Slick attempts to argue that this is because these absolutes are a part of his god’s nature and his god must operate in a manner consistent with his own nature. Therefore, this god cannot bring things into existence that are logically inconsistent…a square circle, for example. In the process of making this statement, Slick mentions that his god also cannot lie because it is part of his nature. The problem with this is that, if this god exists, while he cannot make something inconsistent with his nature, he can make humans who can lie. These humans that can lie, therefore, are inconsistent with this god’s nature. If this were to be logically consistent, it would mean that Slick’s god could also make a square circle. This line of reasoning is self-refuting.

Dillahunty could have dismantled the conversation right there. But, not having the benefit of hindsight, and being subject to the pressures of live argumentation, I can’t blame him. It was a well fought debate and Dillahunty did a splendid job.


Copyright © 2011 JP Laughlin


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About JP Laughlin

Originally intent on Christian ministry, I attended the College of Charleston where I earned a BA in Religious Studies (and where I also nearly completed a BA in Biology) and where I met my wife in our New Testament class. I attended graduate school at the University of Washington and earned a MA in International Studies – Comparative Religion. My areas of focus were Religion-and-Culture and American Religion. Somewhere along the way, I escaped from the prison of religious belief and found a new joy in living.

3 responses to “Matt Slick’s Transcendentally Slick Logic”

  1. Rhology says :


    So, question on this. Do you believe concepts can indeed exist without a mind?

  2. JP Laughlin says :

    First, thank you very much for reading my blog!

    The short (and unsatisfying) answer to your question is…it depends. It depends on what you mean by both “concept” and “mind.”

    Here is my conditional response that assumes your question is in reference to Matt Slick’s assertion that the “logical absolutes” are conceptual in nature. To this I say that he is incorrect. In brief, if there were no minds in the universe, for example, and the only thing existing was one thing we now signify “asteroid,” then the “logical absolutes” apply to it even in the absence of any minds to conceive the absolutes or perceive the “asteroid.” In other words, the “asteroid” cannot be both itself and not itself, etc. The presence (or absence) of a mind, or any number of minds, is not relevant. Where I believe Slick errs is in referring to the absolutes as conceptual in nature…they are not, they *are* “nature” (if you get my meaning).

    If, however, this is not what you meant by the question, disregard it.

    That said, this is an interesting topic that deserves its own post rather than a debate relegated to the comment section. If you’d like, I’d be pleased to have you write a more thorough statement of your position of the issue. If you send it to me I’ll make it a blog post in it’s own right as a rebuttal of sorts.

    If this is an attractive idea to you, let me know.

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