Denominations, Speaking in Tongues, and Atheism

I just read an article posted on Facebook reporting that the Southern Baptist Convention will now permit its missionary members to exercise the Spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. This practice was actually banned by the SBC ten years ago. Click here for the article.

This propelled me to consider the different Christian denominations and the diversity of friends I have who seem to come from all kinds of Christian backgrounds. I’m friends with Baptists, Pentecostalists, Bapticostals, Methodists, Catholics, and others. I even met an Amish guy recently and we had a lengthy conversation about our views of Christianity. That was really fun. He (Clay) was a great guy to talk to. As for me, I consider myself strongly non-denominational for many reasons, but that’s not my point here.

Sometimes an atheist or skeptic will use denominational groups within Christianity as an argument against the truth of Christianity. They will claim that their differences and disagreements are proof that Christianity is some kind of man-made fiction. I think I have a good way to answer this charge by using a sports analogy similar to one used by John Lennox.

I have a four-year-old who is playing his first year in T-ball. I’m an assistant coach on his team. Among the coaches on the team, we all have our own personality and our own ways of teaching the kids. While not changing who we are, we sort of conform to the way the head coach does things and we have been able to really coach these kids to be some really good, young players.

As the season has proceeded we have played several different opponents and each team’s coaches have a different style of coaching and you can see it on the field. Some coaches are very passive and overly nice. Some coaches scream a lot (that wouldn’t be me…or would it?). One team has been coached to pester the other team, distract the batters, be loud, and talk smack. And other teams are absolutely out of control with no order or discipline. I can even detect the early stages of rivalries forming. Some teams just don’t like other teams for some reason or another. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the way humanity and sports works. Differences arise.

But aside from all the glaring differences in the makeup of the various teams, we are all doing one thing and it’s the same thing: playing baseball. The Christian church is a lot like this.

As Tim Keller writes about in his book, “The Reason for God,” Christianity has always been able to cross cultures and cross any kind of human personality and still be a message of truth and good news to humanity. So yeah, there are many denominations. But that in no way disproves the truth of Christianity. At worst it may show that Christians make up a broad spectrum of people with different cultural backgrounds and different worship preferences. But at best, it shows how malleable Christianity can be without compromising its message. Christianity is confronted with a wide diversity of people all over the globe. It reaches the ultra-spiritual African tribal people, to the pantheistic Asian people, to the people influenced by the “Enlightenment” of the western European world and in America, and many other cultures.

So remember this when someone tries to say denominational groups prove Christianity false. That’s simply wishful thinking and the charge proves absolutely nothing.

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They Live Inconsistently

I’ve noticed how many liberal, skeptical-minded nonbelievers tend to have strong convictions as it relates to protecting the environment, liberating the poor, eradicating diseases, and justice for the oppressed. All these things are worthy causes, though we all hold different methods by which we think they should be addressed.

I also notice some glaring contradictions with this kind of thinking among skeptical non-believers. These non-believers create an inconsistent worldview for themselves. They like to say things like, “all senses and convictions can be explained through biological evolution.” They readily admit that since we have evolved via natural selection, we can’t completely trust our own senses. They say our belief in God is simply a belief that has helped us survive, not that there is an actual God. They think beliefs, even our false beliefs, are beneficial to our survival and that is how our false belief in God originated. Maybe so. But here’s the rub with this kind of thinking: If we cannot trust our faculties as it relates to the falsity or truth about God, then why should we trust our faculties as it relates to anything at all, including macro-evolutionary science? To put it another way, if our cognitive faculties tell us only what we need to survive, not about what is actually true, why trust those faculties about anything at all? What a glaring contradiction!! Couldn’t it be then that this idea of macroevolution is simply an imaginary one that has merely assisted our human development? Why trust it?

We know God exists not because we have tangible proof, but because of cumulative clues that point very strongly toward His existence. We have the Cosmological Argument about causation of the universe. We have the teleological argument regarding the undeniable design features of the universe. We have the Anthropic Principle, which describes the delicate fine-tuning of the universe to allow life to survive. We have the regularity of nature. We have the existence of undeniable, objective moral values and duties. All of these things (plus many more) cumulatively form a solid basis for God’s existence.

But there are a few more things to add to the list. Remember what I wrote in the first paragraph. Many people have a very deep conviction to protect the environment, stand up for the oppressed, help the poor, and eradicate disease. As I pointed out, under a macro evolutionary view of the world, we have absolutely no reason to trust our convictions in these areas. After all, under this view, how can we trust anything we think to be true? Why should we carry a strong conviction about environmental issues? A Darwinist, if he is to be consistent, should admit it’s all just an illusion. The point is this, if there is no God, we should not trust any of our cognitive faculties at all.

But the problem for the Darwinist is that he does trust his cognitive faculties in areas he is most passionate about! He goes on about his every day life using his cognitive faculties and trusting them probably more than he trusts anything else. He has no real basis to say nature will go on regularly but he goes right on benefiting from nature’s regularity. He has no ultimate purpose for his social causes but he goes right on crusading for them.

However, if we believe God exists, we have every right to trust our cognitive faculties. We have every right to know the list of evidences for God is actually real. We can ground all the questions about the regularity of nature, moral obligations, helping the poor, or caring about God’s creation. Believers can crusade for justice and environmental stewardship because we have ultimate purpose in doing so.

Just like the bible states in Romans 1:19-20, everyone knows God is there. But isn’t it funny that those who deny him cannot actually live that way consistently?

How to Respond to Doubt

It’s probably safe to say that everyone has experienced thoughts of doubt concerning God and if he is really there.  I have had my own doubts from time to time.  Unfortunately, my doubting was sometimes labeled “sin.”

“How could a committed Christian ever doubt God?” they would ask.  I guess they thought that if I had some shred of doubt that I had backslidden or I wasn’t really a Christian.  That kind of response to a doubter can have devastating effects.  

One of my favorite biographies is Walter Isaacson’s account of the life of Steve Jobs.  Early in the book, Isaacson recounts that Jobs’ parents wanted him to be raised with a religious upbringing, so they took him to church. When Jobs was thirteen years old he came across a copy of Life magazine that had on its cover a picture of two starving children is Biafra. Jobs had been taught in church that God is all-knowing. He took the magazine to his pastor and asked if God knew about these starving children and what would happen to them. The pastor responded by saying that God knew about those children and that it was beyond Jobs’ understanding. This was not a sufficient answer for young Jobs. His pastor didn’t acknowledge Jobs’ doubts about God head-on. As a result, Jobs walked away from Christianity as a thirteen year old boy and the rest is history.

We can learn at least two things from this story. One, how not to deal with the doubts of young people and two, always being prepared to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15). Jobs’ pastor had a golden opportunity to tell young Steve how we may not have all the answers to why bad things happen to innocent people, but Christianity does offer the best explanation to the origin and nature of the universe, the human condition, sin and evil in the world, and the redemptive power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Timothy Keller makes this remark about doubt: “People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.” We have good reasons to probe our doubts. After doing this we may learn to respond to tough questions. Perhaps Jobs’ pastor didn’t know how to respond to Jobs’ doubts because he never investigated the matter for himself. It’s hard to say. But one things remains, Steve Jobs was not in error to question why bad things happen under the watchful eye of our Creator God.

I want to focus on a couple of questions. Should we trust our doubts and can doubts actually help our faith to grow instead of hindering it? To address the first question we must understand that all doubts are a set of alternate beliefs. For example, a person may doubt Christianity is true because he has an alternate belief that there can’t be just one true religion. But notice that the person’s doubt rests on an assumption that there cannot be only one true religion. How does the person know for sure there cannot be only one true religion? In other words, the person’s doubt is really a leap of faith. So, the point is this:  if you have doubts about Christianity, put your doubts through the same rigorous tests as you do Christianity and you may find that your doubts aren’t very solid after all.

The question about our doubts helping us to grow our faith is found in the Bible. John the Baptist was a friend of Jesus and a mighty man of God. He was a prophet, a preacher, and the one who boldly announced Jesus’ arrival as the messiah. He saw the Spirit of God rest on Jesus, marking him as the Savior. John the Baptist had tremendous evidence for belief in Jesus as God incarnate. In fact, he was thrown into prison for his convictions.

Matthew chapter 11 reveals the doubting side of John the Baptist. He is sitting in prison with lots of time to think about things. After all the experiences he had since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he had the audacity to send his friends to ask Jesus if he was really the Messiah. Jesus’ response to John’s doubting is very important. Jesus didn’t condemn him or make fun of John. He told John’s friends to report to him the things they had just heard and seen–the blind seeing, the lame walking, the lepers cured, the deaf hearing, and the Gospel being preached. Jesus gave John good evidence to keep his faith. He didn’t call him a sinner or tell him he didn’t understand. John kept his faith for the rest of his life and was later beheaded.

Another famous Biblical doubter is Thomas. I think Thomas gets an undeserved negative reputation in the Bible. I happen to like Thomas. Him and I think a lot alike. In John chapter 20, after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Jesus begins to appear alive again among his disciples. The disciples told Thomas about this encounter of seeing the resurrected Jesus and Thomas didn’t believe them. Thomas said, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers in them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” Wow! Those are some heavy demands. Not only does he want to see Jesus and his wounds, but he wants to actually put his fingers into Jesus’ nail holes! Eight days later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and his friends. Jesus did not condemn Thomas or tell him he was in sin. Rather, Jesus’ first words to Thomas were, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” Incredible! Jesus provided Thomas with evidence to help him with his doubt. Thomas then proclaimed Jesus his “Lord and his God” and his faith was strengthened through his doubt.

We all come across doubts from time to time just like these giants in the Bible did. It’s important to stress that doubt and unbelief are not the same thing. Doubt can be described as questioning and looking for answers. You can doubt and still be a believer. Christians need to know how to deal with doubt and maybe more importantly, learn to help others navigate their doubts. Here’s some points on how we should and should not respond to doubt.

Ways to not respond to doubt:

  1. We should never tell a doubter, “don’t think about it.” Our beliefs demand that we have confidence in them. We should cultivate our beliefs and know that they are rational.
  2. We should never tell someone to, “just believe.” Beliefs must be developed with rationality behind them. A lifeguard doesn’t tell a drowning child to “just swim.”
  3. We should never tell someone to, “have blind faith.” Why not have blind faith in Buddha then? Blind faith is not Biblical faith. Biblical faith has behind it great evidence that gives us excellent reasons to live by it.

Good ways to respond to doubt:

  1. Develop a prayer life with God. Conversing with God himself can do wonders to help with your doubts. Just like Jesus helped John the Baptist and Thomas, he wants to help you and he will. Francis Schaeffer said, “God is there, and he is not silent.” Ask him to help you.
  2. Learn to reflect. Go over the great stories in the Bible about how God has always remained true to his Word and promises. Read the Bible and reflect on it.
  3. Whatever area of doubt you’re going through, study the subject. Maybe you’re dealing with the death of a loved one. There are many great resources on pain and suffering. Maybe the friction secular scientists try to lay upon Christianity has you doubting. Read up on it. There are many Christian scientists who address these things head-on.
  4. Develop friendships with people you can trust. Sometimes having a friend to bounce your doubts off of can open up discussion and you may find answers to your doubts.

Douglas Groothuis gave a talk some time ago on his own doubts. He had this to say:

I have found in the toughest times of life I sometimes do not experience the presence of God. God seems to be distant. But what I come back to is that Christianity is true. There are reasons to believe it.

And in my ministry, my career, I have tried to study every major worldview, reading primary sources, writing, debating, and having conversations. That was a process. It didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t attain a high level of certainty the minute I became a Christian. That had to develop through questioning, through investigating, through conversations.

But I am a living example of someone who knows too much to walk away. Especially in the last year I have experienced some rather acute crises and suffering…But as bad as it gets and as angry as I can get at the Lord, I can’t deny that the Gospel is true. The Gospel has a firm and unyielding hold on me and I’m a Christian by the grace of God.

I agree.

Is the Mind the Brain? A Christian Apologetic (Updated)

The subject of this writing is something that comes up fairly often.  The assertion made by the atheist to the Christian is that minds cannot exist without brains.  We must be very concise in how we respond to this assertion.  Christians do not necessarily claim that the mind does not use the brain and the brain does not use the mind.  The claim a Christian should make is that the mind and the brain are two separate things.  Claiming anything more or less than that is unnecessary.  Let me define something before moving forward.  For the purposes of this article, I am going to use the terms mind and soul interchangeably.  The main thing we are looking at here is the differences in the material (the brain) and the immaterial (whether that’s the soul or the mind).

The first thing that must be pointed out when discussing this matter is that science cannot really do much of anything to help us answer the question.  All science can do is show that X causes Y, or that Y depends on X.  To illustrate this think about the self-driving cars being tested by Google.  Let’s say you tell the car GPS where you want to go and sit back in your seat to relax until you arrive.  So this car is required for your transportation.  You are dependent on it.  Likewise, the car is dependent on you to tell it what to do.  You are not the car and the car is not you but you both need each other to reach your ends.  Now let’s say the car breaks down and you are trapped inside.  If you couldn’t escape the car, you would be dead for all intents and purposes.  But, if you can remove yourself from the car, you can get around again.  So, in this case your body is not the same thing as the mechanism that was transporting you.  I want to show that souls (and minds) and physical bodies are like this.  The soul (and mind) uses the body but when the body breaks down, you leave the body and still exist.  Your self-consciousness lives in a body but is not the body.  This is a basic description for how a Christian describes a soul.

Ok, back to showing how this matter cannot be answered by science.  A well-known atheist by the name of Peter Atkins claims, “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.”  This type of thinking is called “scientism,” which I consider a sort of religious viewpoint.  If Atkins claim is actually true then there are many disciplines that we should toss out the window such as literature, poetry, art, music, ethics, and philosophy.  How can science tell us that the Mona Lisa is a work of genius? Science can tell you that adding poison to someone’s drink can kill them but it cannot answer whether the act was right or wrong.

The physical brain

The great Oxford mathematician, philosopher of science, and bioethicist, John Lennox gives us an example of how science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.  He tells the story of his Aunt Matilda baking a beautiful cake and the cake is submitted to top scientists for analysis.  The nutritionists will calculate the calories and tell us its effect on the body.  The biochemists will tells us about the structure of the fats and proteins in the cake.  The chemists will describe the elements involved in their bonding.  The physicists will analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles.  The mathematicians will offer equations to describe the behavior of those particles.  After all of this can we say the cake is completely explained?  We know the how of everything but suppose someone wanted to know why the cake was made.  Aunt Matilda knows she made the cake for a purpose, but not a single scientist in the world can tell why she made it.  Unless Aunt Matilda tells us, they are powerless.  Science cannot answer questions of ultimate purpose.  Moreover, it’s absurd to say that because Aunt Matilda made the cake for her nephew who just earned his degree, that we must dismiss purpose as an illusion because science cannot deal with it.

There are many things that are far outside of scientific explanation.  Two big ones are laws of logic and laws of nature.  Science could not even happen without the scientist presupposing laws of logic and laws of nature.  C.S. Lewis once said, “Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.”  Science simply cannot explain these things.  The main point is that science deals with the materialistic world but there are clearly immaterial things in the world.  To name a few:  laws of logic, laws of nature, love, guilt, emotions, reason, etc.  If everything can be reduced to materials as atheists insist, then the atheist has a huge problem on his hands.

Darwin knew this.  He even admitted that his ideas on evolution are bunk if a human soul exists, that is to say an immaterial being that exists apart from the physical body.  Macro evolution rests on a foundational presupposition that immaterial minds do not exist.  That is why atheists must cling fervently to the idea that there is no mind, but just a moist brain.  Perhaps Obama would refer to them as “bitter clingers.”  If there is an immaterial mind, their dogma on evolution is false!  It is presuppositional belief.  Remember this!

Now that we know this topic is outside the realm of science we can discuss whether the mind and the brain are the same thing.  One way we can know this is not the case is by showing the mind is not materialistic like the brain.  If it was, then you would be an entirely different being today than you were 15 years ago.  We know the brain changes molecules completely about every 7 to 15 years.  So if your mind was completely material, it would not be the same as it was 15 years ago, but yet, you are the same being with the same personality.

Think about this:  Let’s say scientists are experimenting on your brain and they prod it in different areas.  They may prod one area and it conjures up a memory.  They may prod another area and it may conjure up an image of your sister wearing a pink dress.  Now, if your mind was just as physical as your brain, the scientist should not have to ask you what is in your mind during the experiment.  It seems somehow, somewhere he could dig around in your brain and find the image of your sister in a pink dress.  But he cannot.  That’s silly.  Furthermore, no one is aware of their physical brain.  The subject would never say, “Oh, I just felt a molecule line up when you prodded and it corresponded to my sister in a pink dress.”  So, you are unaware of your physical brain, but you are certainly aware of what’s going on inside you.

Humans can experience two types of sensations.  One type is an awareness detected by the five senses.  The other is awareness not detected by the senses such as fear, love, anger, and thoughts.  These types of sensations can be described using words and can be true or false.  Physical states cannot be true or false but thoughts can.  Mental states in the mind do not have size or shape and are not spatially located.  Everything about the brain runs counter to all of this.  The brain is completely physical.  A scientist may have more knowledge about my brain than I do but he can never have more knowledge about my thoughts, emotions, and mental state than I do.  I know what my thoughts and feelings are but a scientist can never inspect these things.

There is no amount of information in my moist, physical brain that can tell a person who I am, my dispositions, and my personality.  If I am just a brain then others ought to be able to know everything about me by prodding around in my brain.

If I am only a brain and do not have a mind, then all my behaviors, intentions, and decisions, are fixed by my brain, genes, and environmental input.  Physical objects always, always, always obey natural laws and inputs, therefore if I am only a material brain then I am simply reacting to molecular reactions based on natural laws.  If this were the case I would have absolutely ZERO grounds to claim free will.  I would no longer be personally responsible for my actions, whether good or bad.  And on top of that, I wouldn’t be able to freely type this article!!  But, as the empirical evidence shows, free will does exist and it requires that we are more than just a physical brain reacting to the laws of nature.  Therefore, I am a mind and soul that has a physical body.

When we are asked a specific question such as, “What is your middle name?” we can answer that question specifically.  How can blind, repetitive laws of nature explain our ability to answer such a question?  Should we think that molecules magically line up in the proper way by blind, repetitive laws to respond accurately?  That’s the height of absurdity!  We have the intelligence and intentionality to answer correctly.  Mere physical objects cannot do things like this.  A rock is just a rock.  It does nothing but exist as a rock.  If humans are simply materialistic beings, then why should we believe we have any more of an ability to reason than a rock?

Concerning the placebo effect, it’s always funny to see the atheists squirm with this one.  To put it in basic terms, it’s mind over matter.  A person in severe pain can be told he will be administered pain medicine.  He believes this to be that case when the doctor actually gives him a sugar pill to swallow.  Studies show that in up to 45% of patients, the mere thoughts in their mind of getting what they think is actual medicine will cause their pain to subside.  Likewise, the mind can cause the body to deteriorate quickly when consumed by depressive thinking and mental stress.  This makes no sense if the mind is physical.  The publication New Scientist magazine listed the placebo effect as number ONE on its list of “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense.”  Well of course it doesn’t make sense if you approach the matter from presuppositional Darwinian evolution dogma!

When Christians claim to have a soul separate from the body the atheists get very, very militant.  And earlier I showed why.  They think this is superstition when in fact they are the superstitious ones!  They are the ones who believe their creator magically popped into existence out of nothing by nothing by chance.  And by the way, chance is not a cause.  It’s a way to describe mathematical possibilities or to gloss over ignorance on a particular matter that can’t be answered on atheism, a sort of “God of the gaps” for the atheists.  Speaking of nothing, atheistic evangelist Daniel Dennett claims consciousness is an illusion.  Now think about that for a minute.  In order to detect an illusion you would have to see and know what is actually real!  LOLOLOLOL.  So apparently he exempts himself from his own theory.  I wonder when he wrote that nonsense if he sat there and thought, “You know, every truth claim I believe and am writing is an illusion.”  Let’s hear him talk about that on his book tour!

Daniel Dennett

It’s important to point out that the notion of the mind being the same as the brain is not a mainstream scientific idea.  This notion is popular in atheistic circles but there are plenty of scientists who don’t buy it, rightly so.  Nobel Prize winning neuroscience professor John Eccles supported the theory that the mind is a separate entity from the brain and cannot be “reduced down to the brain cell processes.”  That’s just one Nobel Prize winner.  There are hundreds if not thousands of search engine results with some great peer-reviewed resources showing how science is baffled by this subject.  And it will stay baffled for reasons we discussed.  It’s really not a scientific issue, but I digress.

So this notion of mind and brain is very easy to discern.  Sometimes it just takes a little bit of thought (pun intended).  Remember, to be a consistent atheist, materialism must be true.  To be a consistent atheist, the mind cannot be immaterial.  Former world-famous atheist Antony Flew had something to say on the matter.  He said, “Science cannot discover the self; the self discovers science.”  Perhaps, that is partly why he became a former atheist.

Can Atheists Be Moral?

The question is in the title, “Can Atheists Be Moral?”  The answer to that question is rather is easy to determine.  We have no reason to suspect that atheists cannot be moral individuals.  I personally know atheists who seem to act morally in their daily lives, despite their cursing at something they think does not exist.  So the short answer would be YES!  But, I’m interested in questions that goes deeper than that.

  1. Is morality relative?
  2. On what basis do humans place morality?

I am going to make the case for objective morality and that objective morality is based on God.  The most common objection that comes up in this argument is a misunderstanding of terms.  So first allow me to define the term objective morality.  To define the term, it must be broken down into its two parts.  To say that something is objective is to say that it is independent of what people think or perceive.  By contrast, to say that something is subjective is just to say that it is not objective; that is to say, it is dependent on what human persons think or perceive.[1]  To say that there is objective morality is to say that something is good or evil independently of whether any human being believes them to be so.[2]  An example of objective morality would be that torturing little babies for fun is wrong no matter what anyone believes about it.  Raping and beating women for sport is always wrong no matter what anyone believes about it.

To discover a basis of objective morality I want to show that this entire subject matter is completely outside the realm of science.  Science deals with only the physical world.  Science cannot tell us what ought to happen, it can only tell us what will probably happen under certain circumstances.  Objective morality on the other hand tells us how we ought to act.  To attempt to explain morality on a scientific, evolutionary basis is a fatal category error.  Morality is not physical.  You cannot weigh it or see what color it is.  If morality has its basis in Darwinian evolution, then morality cannot be objective.  If there is no God and we evolved from slime, then we have no higher moral status than slime because there is nothing beyond us to instill us with a sense of objective morality or dignity.[3]  If morality had its basis in the Darwinian evolutionary process, then raping women to propagate the DNA of men should be considered right.  Murder of the weak, invalid, and elderly should be the norm.  This is just nonsense that does not deserve any further treatment here.

Something further needs to be addressed before moving forward.  What I am not claiming is that belief in God is required to know and recognize objective morality.  Rather, I am making the claim that God’s existence is necessary for objective morality itself to exist.

Let’s answer some objections to objective morality before we make our case for God.

Moral relativism says that societies or individuals decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  There are three types of moral relativism: cultural relativism, conventionalism, and individual subjectivism.  Since this is a blog and not a book, I will not break these down.  Instead, I will try to cover them wholly with two examples.  First, for one to say, “all truth (including moral truth) is relative” is a self-refuting statement.  You should reply, “is that truth relative?”  You can see it is self-refuting.  Furthermore, if he is claiming all truth is relative, then why is he pushing his supposed “truth” on me?  I’m amazed there are people who believe this way but I see it nearly every single day.

A second way to dispel moral relativism is to use the Nazis as an example.  When they went to trial, their defense was that they were following the rule of law in their country.  They said they were simply following orders based on the views of their country’s government.  As we know, justice was served by appealing to a higher, objective moral standard.  This is important to remember when you hear an atheist make the claim that each society dictates the moral standard.  So which society is correct?  Hitler’s or Mother Teresa’s?  If it’s all based on the opinion of that particular society then it should have been right for the Nazis to murder millions of innocent people and wrong for the rest of the world to condemn them.  After all, it’s all based on subjective opinion.

So let’s cut to the chase.  If there is no God and no Heaven or Hell, then no ultimate justice will ever be served.  The baby torturer and the serial rapist will simply become worm food when they die.  The most well-known atheistic evangelist, Richard Dawkins, says, “Too bad.  Just because we wish there was ultimate justice doesn’t mean there is.”  Well, I don’t doubt that.  I don’t do much “wishful” thinking either.  But the point is this:  if there is no justice, then it follows that there is no injustice.  Something cannot be deemed wrong if there is no ultimate right.  C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”[4]  We strive to perfect our society, to reach for some unattainable utopia while presupposing that we somehow know we still need to progress.  How do we know this?  How do we know we still have room to improve ourselves?  Louis Markos put it nicely when he wrote that a supposed materialistic society can strive to be progressive, but without any fixed, transcendent standard of good and evil, right and wrong, how can we know that we have progressed?[5]

Speaking of Richard Dawkins, he made a remarkable admission about objective morality during an interview with Justin Brierley after he maintained that our sense of morality is an outcome of evolution.  The audio can be found here.  You may fast forward to the 5:29 mark.  Ill reproduce part of the statement here.

Brierley:  When you make a value judgment, don’t you immediately step yourself outside  of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it’s good?  And you don’t have any way to stand on that statement.
DawkinsMy value judgment itself could come from my evolutionary past.
BrierleySo therefore it’s just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.
Dawkins:  You could say that….nothing about it makes it more probable than there is anything supernatural.
BrierleyUltimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.
DawkinsYou could say that, yeah.[6]

Wow!  So according to the atheistic evangelist, Dawkins believes that rape is simply socially unfashionable.  At least he is being a consistent atheist.  After all, without God, there are no objective moral standards.  Dawkins thinks all of our thoughts and behaviors are simply the blind results of molecules bouncing around in our brains.  In River out of Eden, Dawkins says,

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt,
and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.  Nothing but blind pitiless indifference….DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is, and we dance to its music.[7]

So it’s very clear, the new atheists can not only determine a basis for objective morality, many of them deny its very existence!  In order for atheists to live with themselves in a purposeless universe they must steal from God.  That is to say, they borrow things from a theistic worldview such as peace, justice, ethics, etc. because they have no basis for these things on a purely physical, materialistic worldview.[8]

Another atheistic evangelist, Sam Harris, says he actually believes in objective morality.  He bases his position of morality on learning about the well-being of conscious creatures.  The problem with this position is that it merely shows us what method to use to discover what is moral, not what actually makes something moral.  If you didn’t get that last sentence, please re-read it.  It is very important to understand that I am not arguing an epistemological position about morality but rather an ontological position.  In other words, we aren’t talking about how we know morality.  We are talking about why it objectively exists.  Toddlers can know morality by how it makes them feel.  If a child steals a toy from another child then feelings are hurt.  What I am getting at is the deeper question:  why does having something stolen from us bring about a sense of injustice?  You can know morality exists while denying God.  I can know a book exists and at the same time deny its author.  But there would be no book unless an author existed.  Atheists pull this same nonsense with God and objective morality.  Many of them claim to know objective morality while denying God exists, but there would be no objective morality unless God exists.[9]

Another common objection to objective morality is the Euthyphro dilemma.  Euthyphro (a character of Plato) asks, “Does God do something because it is good or is it good because God does it?  The problem here is that Plato offers only two options when there is a third option that he left out.  The whole question assumes good exists wholly apart from God.  This is a solid misunderstanding of God (at least the Christian God).  For God does not look to a standard beyond himself.  If he were required to look to a standard beyond himself then he wouldn’t be God.  God is also not arbitrary.  So the third option left out is God’s very nature is the standard of an unchanging moral nature.  This so called “dilemma” was answered hundreds of years ago but for some reason the new atheists bring it up from time to time.

Let’s make the case for an objective moral law giver.

Again, this is a blog, not a book, so I cannot spell out every single piece of evidence.  There are so many subjects (such as altruism) I just don’t have time to touch at least at this moment.  But along with answering the objections above, I think I can give a quick summary to show that God is the most reasonable basis for objective morality.

Objective morality contains a sense of obligation and oughtness that is universal, authoritative, and outweighs considerations of culture, time, and place.  Objective morality is always discovered and not invented. Objective morals are prescriptive to how we should act, not descriptive of the world.  But where did these objective morals originate?  Because morals cannot be scientifically tested, because they deal with purpose and will, because they are universal and transcend societies and time, their origination cannot be rooted in anything physical.  Because they universally and transcendently prescribe how we ought to act then we can conclude that something prescribed must have a prescriber.  This prescriber must also transcend societies, cultures, people, and time itself.  We can employ two simple syllogisms to help us think about God as the grounds for objective morals.  One of them goes like this:

  1. If a personal God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore, a personal God exists.

Most of this article has been devoted to proving the first two premises correct.  I have briefly shown that objective morals do exist, and I’ve shown that it would be more reasonable to ground them in a transcendent being (God) as opposed to grounding them in materialistic objects or processes.  Therefore, the conclusion follows.  Here is a simpler syllogism:

  1. Every law has a lawgiver.
  2. There is an objective moral law.
  3. Therefore, there is an objective moral law giver.

Let me summarize what we have briefly covered in this article:

  1. There exists objective morality.
  2. Objective morality holds that something is good or evil independently of human beliefs about it.
  3. Science is not the proper category for discussing morality.
  4. Belief in God is not required to know and recognize objective morals.
  5. Moral relativism is false.
  6. In a world based on materialism, we cannot justify good and evil, right and wrong, justice or injustice.
  7. Richard Dawkins thinks morality is arbitrary.
  8. God is a reasonable explanation for objective morality.

[1] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith 3rd Edition (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2008) p. 173.

[2] Craig, p. 173.

[3] Norman Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2004) p. 189.

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (New York: HarperCollins, 2007) p. 41.

[5] Louis Markos, Apologetics for the 21st Century (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2010) p. 76

[6] This interview was pointed out to me in the book by Frank Turek, Stealing from God, Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014) p. 90.

[7] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Basic Books, 1996) p. 133.

[8] I owe this idea to Frank Turek’s book, Stealing from God.

[9] Turek, p. 100.

Who Made God?

Sometimes in defending the existence of God the question arises, “who made God?” The short answer is no one did. That question assumes he was created in the manner Zues or Thor were created. Not true. He is the uncaused first cause. He is necessary because all things as we know them arise from the law of cause and effect. Without getting too deep here, it’s important to know that it’s impossible to have an infinite regression of causes. In the words of President Harry Truman, at some point someone must say, “the buck stops here.”

Some people have difficulty understanding how God can just “be” there without a beginning. First of all, the only way for anything to “begin” is for it to operate within time itself. The words “begin” and “end” are dependent on time. But since God is not bound by time he must then transcend it altogether.

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We know from Big Bang cosmology that time, space, energy, motion, etc., had a beginning at the instant the Big Bang occurred. Since time had a beginning it had to be created. Moreover, it had to be created by something that is separate from it. Time can’t create time. Nature cannot create nature. Those notions are examples of illogical circular reasoning.

To illustrate how time and God are separate think of a farmer building a pond for the benefit of his cattle. The farmer creates the pond but he is separate from it. He transcends it. In our world of time, sometimes God enters time through miracles, providential acts, incarnation of himself through Jesus, etc. The same can be illustrated with the farmer and his pond. The farmer created the pond, but he can also enter the pond to swim if he chooses, and he can remove himself from the pond at his will and pleasure. Furthermore, the farmer is not contingent on the pond for his existence, but the pond is contingent on the farmer for its own existence.

Moreover, the farmer has good reason to maintain the pond but sometimes mere men can let things get in the way. My wife has an elderly aunt who is the caretaker of their family farm. There is a farm pond on the property where we would go fishing as youngsters. Because of her age and health (among other things) the pond has fallen into near disrepair. Because it was not maintained, the dam is nearly completely washed away and now all that remains is a very large mud hole with a creek running through it. Eventually, my father-in-law hopes to repair the dam. The point here is that the Bible tells us God upholds his creation. He maintains it always (Col. 1:17). We can count on him even though we fail.

Since the beginning of time God has upheld time and the universe and He never fails. He is maintaining things and keeping order for us. How awesome! So remember, God doesn’t need a “beginning” because he is not bound by time. He transcends time altogether.

I hope this brings some insight to you and gives you some thinking points when it comes to defending our awesome God.

Bill Nye and His Cute Little Emoji Video

The last four days has produced some moderate internet traffic to a YouTube video created by Bill Nye.  In the video, Mr. Nye uses emoji’s found on iPhones to supposedly illustrate how macro-evolutionary processes work.  Some people are finding this approach so fashionable that they’re describing it as “probably the best explanation of evolution ever.” Really?

I’ve watched the video a few times and could not resist posting about it.  Let’s break it down, but first, watch the two minute video:

WOW!  There are so many things that are wrong within just the first twenty five seconds but before I get to that let me say something about this little production.  When one watches the video the first time they are probably listening to some of what he has to say.  But the thing that really grabs one’s attention is the emoji figures.  I suggest watching the video several times and then play it with your eyes shut.  That’s funny, but it seems the emoji figures are there to disguise some serious misleading statements.  Let’s look at them.

The first statement that should raise high the eyebrows of any person with a brain is when he says, “molecules just happen.”  Is that so?  Amazing!  Let’s not be silly Mr. Nye.  That premise right there does not provide sufficient evidence for me to base any kind theory or idea. Based on these first words by Mr. Nye, thinking people should immediately be skeptical. This notion of things “just happening” is simply an insufficient foundation for any kind of true science.

He goes on to say that, “somehow, probably with energy from the sun, these molecules hooked together and accidentally found ways to reproduce themselves.”  Whoa!!  There are three key words here that raise red flags when attempting to pass off facts:  somehow, probably, and accidentally.  To assert that something “somehow” did something implies an insufficient explanation to anything that follows.  “Probably” implies uncertainty.  “Accidentally” implies chance.  To be sure, these words need not negatively apply to any and all ideas.  The problem with using these words in this context is that Mr. Nye is attempting to pass off macro-evolution as a proven fact and using these kinds of words hardly helps his case.

Toward the conclusion of the video, Mr. Nye presents the most holy tenant of his religion:  time.  Theists are often accused of the “God of the Gaps” theory which says that we simply plug in God for things we cannot answer.  That is not true.  Theists, at least those of the Christian bend, base their belief in God on some very good evidence.  On the other hand, Darwinism must use time in place of God as it’s own “God of the Gaps.”  You see it often; if it can’t be explained away rationally let’s just throw in a few billion more years.  All this does is beg the question.  Time has never been shown to create anything.  Sure Mr. Nye, lots of things can happen in 4.5 billion years.  Maybe over the next 4.5 billion years it will be shown how ridiculous macro-evolution really is.

The underlying problem here for the Darwinist is the problem of abiogenesis, that is to say the idea of life arising from non-life. There is absolutely no evidence for naturalistic abiogenesis and saying that it “just happens” is absurd.  This is the first tenant of faith for the worldview of Darwinism, which is unfortunate since Darwinism itself shouldn’t necessarily deal with abiogenesis, but the Naturalists insist.  Empirical science tells us that nothing “accidentally” reproduces.  We have always known reproduction to be a means to a specified end.

Moreover, while abiogenesis precedes supposed macro-evolution, the Anthropic Principle necessarily precedes abiogenesis.  The Anthropic Principle is the term used to define the fine tuning of the universe in order for the possibility of life to occur.  There are dozens and dozens of these cosmic characteristics that are required for life and more and more are being discovered all the time.  For example, the tilt of Earth, the distance of Earth from our sun, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, etc.  These constants are so finely tuned that if they were altered by minuscule amounts, life as we know it would not exist.

Let’s be clear here.  Bill Nye is talking about macro-evolution and NOT micro-evolution.  The macro form says that fish can eventually develop wings and fly.  The micro form says that changes can indeed occur within species such as the wide variety of dogs we see.

Theism and good science are not at odds.  Let me repeat, theism and good science are not at odds.  The problem is bad science.  And when words and phrases like those used by Bill Nye are used to pass off supposed fact, we see bad science rearing its ugly head.  By the way, the sexy argument I’m hearing these days against those who oppose macro-evolution are that those opposed “just don’t understand it.”  This is an ad hominem attack.  An ad hominem attack is when a person attacks his opposition rather than his opposition’s arguments.  This type of argumentation should not be dignified with a response.

I know I’ve rambled a bit but these things need to be pointed out.  In conclusion, I think theism offers a far more plausible foundation for abiogenesis and the propagation of life.  There are many evidences such as the Cosmological and Teleological arguments, just to name two.  Look into these things and maybe I’ll write about them soon.  Thanks for reading.