I have been talking with an atheist and he brings up an issue that I am not sure how to answer. He asks if I can show that the Easter Bunny is not real. It seems that there are problems with any answer that I could give. If I say that it is not real, then he will ask me how I know this. So how should I reply?
Since I lack the context, it is difficult to guess where he intends to go with this. There are several possibilities. Perhaps if you are unable to prove that the Easter Bunny is not real but nevertheless consider it rational to believe that it is not real, then he will say the same thing about God. That is, he can then take the position that, although he cannot disprove the existence of God, it is still rational to disbelieve in his existence simply because of a lack of empirical evidence. This way, he gets you to commit to the idea that it is irrational to believe in something that one cannot see or has not seen. At this point, it does not matter whether there is indeed a lack of empirical evidence for God’s existence, or whether we can know anything by empiricism, since we are just speculating about the kind of argument that this atheist is setting up, and this might be what he is attempting.
As with many objections against Christianity, this one suffers from irrelevance. Although this lack of relevance is not as obvious as some of the other objections, it is still easy to perceive. Metaphysically, God is in a class by himself. Unlike the Easter Bunny, whose existence would not necessarily affect other things that are equally insignificant to the construction and operation of the universe, God is necessarily related to everything in the universe, for he is the creator and sustainer of them all.
With this in mind, consider classical and evidential apologetics. Forgetting about their fatal deficiencies for now, their proponents claim that they could reason to God from their contact with creation as the starting point. But no such claim is made for the Easter Bunny, since the Bunny does not have such a metaphysical status that I can reason to it from a rock I find on the street or from my self-consciousness. Therefore, it is irrelevant to the debate about the existence of God as to whether the Bunny is real or not, or whether I can prove that the Bunny is real or not.
There is a wrong way to answer the challenge. Many Christians might insist that the Easter Bunny is not real even though they cannot rationally justify this denial. But this is to fall into the trap that, as we speculate above, the atheist is setting up. The worst response that you can offer is to insist that the Bunny is not real even though you cannot prove this, nor do you know that it is not real. In fact, this might be the reason why you have difficulty with the question – you are stuck on thinking that the Bunny is not real, but you cannot provide rational justification for this. So, do not fall into the trap. Instead, you could just tell the truth – say that you do not know if the Bunny is real or not real, and you cannot prove it either way. But this has nothing to do with the debate, since your claim is that, unlike the Bunny, you can argue for God’s existence. And if the Easter Bunny exists, God is also its creator and sustainer.
The power of a biblical approach to apologetics, which I call biblical rationalism, is that as long as you possess a sound and coherent understanding of the Christian worldview, and as long as you have a basic ability to apply logical thinking, you can blast through any trap in debate. Whether or not you realize that the opponent is setting you up, you can jump right into any trap and it will turn against him. Since biblical revelation is infallible and invincible, as long as the contents and the patterns of your thinking remain synchronized with it, you will naturally win any debate. Any trap that the opponent sets up can only expose your soundness and coherence as well as his ignorance and inconsistency. However, this is not true with all other approaches to apologetics, including pseudo-presuppositionalism, which makes empiricism its own epistemological precondition. Regrettably, this is also the predominant school of presuppositional apologetics.
In any case, from the perspective of biblical rationalism, you have him right where you want him. One can hardly expect a more helpful opponent. This is because his question provides a shortcut to the foundational issues of epistemology and metaphysics, and commits him to deal with you on this level. A wide range of options has opened up to you.
In fact, you can seize the Easter Bunny by the throat and throw it right back at him. Make it his problem. Make him deal with it. How can he deny that there is a Easter Bunny if he cannot disprove it? Maybe he can just reserve judgment on the Bunny, but he cannot do the same with God, because he must deal with your positive arguments for the rational necessity of biblical revelation. So God is not in the same position as the Easter Bunny. Further, if he cannot show a clear relevance between knowing about the Easter Bunny and knowing about God, then why does he bring it up in a debate about God’s existence? This undermines his intelligence, and calls into question his assumption that his denial of God’s existence is rational.
And what if, for the sake of argument, you say that you have met the Easter Bunny? Is he going to believe your testimony, or to disbelieve any testimony that he has not directly verified? If he chooses the former, then why does he not believe your testimony about God? If he chooses the latter, then he must also disbelieve everything else that he has not directly verified, including evolution, most if not all other scientific theories, the daily news, and so on.
The above is a negative argument – it would be wrong for the Christian to then say that we do believe human testimony without direct verification. Both options are wrong. Here is where classical, evidential, and pseudo-presuppositional apologetics get dragged back down to the unbeliever’s level. The pseudo-presuppositionalist is especially eager to assert that without the biblical presuppositions, the unbeliever cannot account for the things that he takes for granted. But who says we should take any of these things for granted? Even with the biblical presuppositions, there is still no rational justification for them.
We cannot limit the application of rationality by mere preference or convenience, exempting those things that we would like to retain for ourselves. Many of the things that people take for granted are outright false in the first place, such as the reliability of sensation and the scientific method. Who really needs to believe the scientists and the news, especially in this context where we require certainty? We believe the testimony of God, which is the topic of debate. Contrary to its claim, rather than maintaining an antithesis between biblical and non-biblical thinking, pseudo-presuppositionalism is in fact the great compromise, the grand surrender, to anti-Christian principles.
By now you have answered his question about the Easter Bunny, and now it is his turn. He has not answered it, for indeed he cannot. So press the point again and again, and again and again. Be as gentle as you can, but as harsh as you need. Your aggressiveness should in part depend on his attitude. We know that all unbelievers are sinful and defiant, but some are more blatant in their arrogance.
There are times when a hardened scoffer should be humiliated, even in front of other people, or especially in front of other people. If this is what needs to be done, then give him no rest and show no restraint. Question him about it from every conceivable angle. Bring it up again and again even in future conversations. Make fun of him, as Elijah mocked the false prophets. Send him a chocolate bunny when Easter comes around. Ask him to gather all his non-Christian friends, then challenge them with only this question and defeat all of them with it at the same time. Make that Bunny haunt his dreams. Make him see and admit that he has been the irrational fool all along, and that the Christian faith is the only spiritual light and rational hope for mankind.