We’ve been studying discipleship on Sunday mornings lately. And one of the characteristics of a disciple is that he makes more disciples. And making disciples involves witnessing.
It used to be that most people believed there was a God, that the Bible was God’s word. They believed in heaven and hell and unfortunately, most believed that good people went to heaven and bad people went to hell. If you showed them something in the Bible, they tended to believe it was true because the Bible was “the good book” and thought to be true. And so, you could walk them down the Romans Road or tell them of the Four Spiritual Laws. The usual hurdles to someone believing the gospel were apathy or ignorance.
I was listening to a really good lecture on postmodern evangelism by Tim Keller from the John Piper website. He said the main issue with evangelism in the past was that people knew something about Christianity but it wasn’t personal. They believed in sin, but they had to be shown that “ they” were sinners. So, we came up with programs like Evangelism Explosion, and gospel presentations like the Four Spiritual Laws or the Romans’ Road. The purpose was to encourage people to “do what you know.” They had a Christian intellect, a Christian conscience, but not a Christian heart.1
That has all changed. Now, most don’t believe in God. They don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God. There is little agreement on issues of morality and sin. Now, if you try to present the gospel to someone, you’re more likely to have them say, “That’s just your opinion.” Or “That may be true for you but not for me.”
If you don’t know how to answer statements like these, engaging your neighbor, co-workers, and strangers in a conversation about God, Jesus, life after death, etc. can be frustrating – to say the least – and maybe so scary that you just don’t do it. I certainly don’t have the gift of evangelism. But every once in a while I get up enough courage to try. Several years ago, after one such attempt on an airplane, the person used a similar line on me – something like, “I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you….” and that ended the conversation. I was stumped and didn’t know how to respond.
J.P. Moreland tells the story of how he dealt with that situation. He was witnessing to a student in a dorm room and when the student said, “That may be true for you, but not for me. You can’t force your morality on other people.” JP Moreland thanked the student for his time and when he left the room, he picked up the guys’ stereo and headed out the door. The student said, “Hey, what are you doing? You can’t do that!” Moreland pointed out that the student was trying to force his morality of not stealing on him, … to make a long story short… the student admitted his inconsistency. A few weeks later, the student became a Christian.
What has happened to our culture? The predominant world view is changing. That’s what this series is about. We’re going to study the major world views and how they answer the big questions of life. We are going to examine the different answers and evaluate if they make sense. Hopefully, at the end of this series, you will be better prepared when someone says, “Well, that may be true for you, but not for me.”
We have the strategic advantage because we have the truth. We are going to win the war in the end. But we need some tactical plans for winning battles along the way. We are not going to be learning techniques for arguing. We are going to try to understand the root differences between the world views. Then the inconsistencies will be apparent and easily brought up in conversations with those who hold them.
Some of you may be thinking that we just need to present the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. While it is true that salvation is a work of the Spirit in the heart of an individual and no amount of logic can convince a person to believe in Jesus, the Bible does actually speak to this issue. 1 Pet 3:15 says we need to be ready to give a defense for what we believe. Paul argued logically with the philosophers in Acts. If we can show someone that they are being illogical or living inconsistent with their belief system, then sometimes that is the first step in them searching for the truth.
In 1978, when I was a junior in high school. I had a friend named Tim who was a Christian Scientist. He approached me one day and tried to convert me to Christian Science. I’d just finished writing a paper about cults in America. (Imagine doing that in an American History class these days.) So, I knew something about what he believed. My response to him was, “Tim, you wear glasses and braces and your mom is in a wheel chair.” If everything in life is just a product of our imaginations, why would you imagine crooked teeth, bad eyes and you mom imagine not being able to walk? It seems that you don’t even believe your own religion….” He didn’t have an answer for that.
Then in about 1993 or 1994, I was walking across the Dallas Theological Seminary campus and a tall blond headed guy came up to me and said, “Hampton Keathley, do you remember me?” I recognized him and said, “Tim, what are you doing here?” I was remembering that the last time I saw him, he was a Christian Scientist. He said, “You remember that conversation we had in high school? It got me to questioning my beliefs and here I am…”
So, the bottom line of why we need this study is so that we can understand the various world views and can interact with our culture and be an effective witness for Christ. We need to be able to answer honest intellectual questions, but at the same time realize that no amount of logic will convert someone if they are not intellectually honest and seeking the truth.
Your world view is your concept of reality. It is your assumptions or presuppositions about what makes the world go around. Everyone has a world view even if they cannot explain what it is. But a world view is not just some academic, abstract, philosophical construct. It describes our search for answers to life’s most important questions.
Your world view affects the way you look at everything…life, death, politics, religion, parenting, education, etc. Some have likened a world view to a set of glasses through which you see life. Your world view glasses affect how you view certain events and how you respond to them. If your glasses have the correct prescription, then you will see the world accurately. If they are the wrong prescription, your view of the world will be distorted.
I’m reminded of an old country and western song by John Conlee called “Rose Colored Glasses.” The chorus went like this:
“These rose colored glasses, that I’m looking through,
Show only the beauty, cause they hide all the truth,”
His glasses were distorted. As in most country and western songs, the lady didn’t love him any more and he couldn’t see it.
Ronald Nash says, “A world view is a set if beliefs about the most important issues in life.”2 So that leads us to ask what are the most important issues or questions in life? After looking at a dozen books on the subject, it seems that there are several standard world view questions that are asked:
Does anything really exist? Is it all a figment of our imagination? If it does exist, did it always exist? Is everything that exists just result of time + chance? Or is there a supernatural being out there who created the universe?
Is there a supernatural being that is above time and space? Is that supernatural being just a force, like in Star Wars, or Mother Nature? Or is there a personal God? If so, what is he like?
Is man just an animal that has evolved differently? Or is he something special? Another part of the question is this: Is man basically good but society makes him do bad things? Or is man’s badness built in?
We can’t really talk about man being good or bad without having some sort of personal opinion about what is good and what is bad. Where do we get our ideas of good and evil? From ourselves? From nature (survival of the fittest)? From society? From God?
The occurrence of evil in the world causes some to conclude that there is no God. The argument is that, if there is a God, then he must not be good or he must not be all-powerful, or he would not let all these bad things happen.
Do we just cease to exist? Do we get reincarnated and come back to earth as a cow or another person? Do we get absorbed into the cosmic consciousness? Or do we face God and judgment?
This is a hard one to “prove” to someone since we are talking about the future. So
Is history a meaningless series of events that just happen? Or is there some purpose to history? Why are we here?
We have a truth problem in our society. Anyone who claims to know the truth is criticized as trying to impose “his view” on others. Our society preaches that there is no “truth.”
Is there such a thing as truth? How do you know what is true? Do you know stuff because of reason, experience, supernatural revelation, etc.?
Theism is the belief that there is a personal God outside of time and space who created the universe out of nothing and is involved in events (supernaturally). He reveals himself to man through nature and through the Bible (Christians) or the Torah (Jews) or the Koran (Muslims). He sets the rules for mankind. And there will be eternal consequences for breaking the rules.
Deism is similar to theism. God created everything, but is no longer involved in creation. There is nothing supernatural going on. Praying is a waste of time. Famous people who believed this were Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. It’s not real popular these days because folks who would normally be deists have substituted evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe.
Everything is god. Everything material is an illusion. Humans are gods. Knowledge is getting in touch with the cosmic consciousness. One of the favorite terms you’ll hear from pantheists is “enlightenment.” History is cyclical and men are reincarnated until they realize their own divinity. This world view is the basis for Hinduism, Buddhism, Christian Science, and New Age teaching.
There is no God. The world and mankind just evolved. Men are just the product of their environment. Morality is decided by man. There is no purpose to history; it just happens. When you die, you cease to exist.
Naturalism has undergone a major change in the past 50 years. Enough of a change that it deserves its own category—Pluralism. Pluralism is very similar to Naturalism, but it’s sort of a cafeteria style world view. People mix and match various aspects of the other world views. It is extremely inconsistent, but that doesn’t seem to matter in a postmodern world.
The shift from Naturalism to Pluralism corresponds to the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism.
I’ve used the terms modernism and postmodernism a couple times already and some of you may be wondering what in the world I’m talking about. So, let’s define them.
Modernism: Prior to the Renaissance everyone believed in God and the supernatural. But around 1500 several things happened. Gutenberg developed the printing press which made books available to the masses and learning grew exponentially. Martin Luther began the Reformation, the Renaissance began with the whole new emphasis on art, science, humanism, etc. Reality was what you could see and measure. The myth of progress captivated the world. Man came to believe that science would solve all the problems of mankind. Science would discover the cure for all diseases, control the weather, end poverty, bring about world peace, etc. There were World Fairs touting the marvels of the modern age. This period, called “Modernism,” lasted from the 1500’s to 1960’s. Incidentally, lots of folks believed in post-millennialism as a direct result of this. They thought we were in the millennium and Christ was coming back at the end of it. But that’s another lesson.
Postmodernism: But after the Second World War, people were disillusioned. (Including the post-millennialists) The war to end all wars (WWI) didn’t. WWII and the holocaust happened. It was obvious we weren’t going to bring about world peace. Science wasn’t curing very many diseases. In fact, cancer was becoming more and more prevalent. People recognized that science wasn’t solving man’s problems. Science hadn’t brought about a utopia of progress uniting the human race like it promised. In fact, modernism was rather weak on relationships. People were just cogs in the machine. So, society began rejecting modernism (science) and moving toward something we call “postmodernism.” The name “post”-modernism means “after”-modernism. People are now looking for something else to explain reality. Since naturalism has rejected the existence of God, we have moved from science (with its truth/facts) to existentialism which is basically experience, spirituality, and pragmatism (whatever works).
This shift from modernism to postmodernism is a process, and our generation is right in the middle of it and as such, we are all a little of both.
I think one of the best ways to illustrate this is by comparing older commercials with new ones. Old commercials had guys in white lab coats touting the virtues of various products. Why were they in white lab coats? Because it made them look like scientists and led you to believe that what they were claiming was a scientific fact. Postmodern commercials, on the other hand, consist of beautiful and or rugged looking individuals having a good time in exotic locations. Compare the old Coke/Pepsi “taste test” commercials with the more recent ones. The “taste test” was supposedly a scientific measurement. More people preferred Pepsi. Now you are inundated with multiple images of folks having a great time drinking Coke. Or you’re encouraged to just “Be a Pepper,” etc.
Let’s get back to our discussion of the major world views.
The following Chart gives a basic overview of how each world view answers the world view questions.3
I mentioned at the beginning that your world view affects how you look at everything and gave some examples:
How would one’s world view affect your view of education?
How would it affect your political views on subjects like separation of church and state, abortion, gay marriages? When you hear these issues discussed on TV or radio and you ask yourself, “How can someone believe that?” The reason is because of their world view.
We are inundated with advertising messages, news stories, TV programs, etc. which often reveal something of the speaker’s or author’s world view. Most people don’t even notice. Here are a some examples:
We live in a pluralistic society which says that everyone’s opinion is valid. It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere. But is it really possible for one world view to teach that man is basically good and another one to teach that man is basically bad and both be correct? Or for one to teach there is no life after death and another to teach that there is? That is logically not possible. So, one’s world view may be accurate or inaccurate.
But how do we decide which is correct? How do we know what the truth is? That is one of the questions we will try to answer in our study. In fact, it is foundational to the whole process of choosing which world view is correct, so we will tackle that question first – next week.
We haven’t even opened our Bibles yet. The reason is I felt like we needed to lay out the problem first and define some of the terms we will be using for the rest of the series. In subsequent lessons, we’ll spend more time because we’ll be examining how the Bible answers each of the questions.
But the Bible does have something to say about why there are so many world views. Let’s read Romans 1:18-32.
Our culture is thoroughly secular. It has totally bought into naturalism and pluralism. Through public education, the nightly news, movies, radio and TV, we are constantly taught evolution, that man is no better than animals, that criminals aren’t responsible for their actions, that there is no absolute truth, etc. The Bible is certainly not viewed as authoritative. It is seen as just a collection of myths or fables.
Our goal over the next few weeks is to take each of the world view questions and see how each world view answers the questions and see what the Bible says is the answer. We will see if the Bible’s answers are more reasonable than those of the competing world views. We will also spend a week studying the reasons we believe the bible is inspired.
If you are not a Christian, then hopefully this study will help you evaluate your own world view and compare it to what the Bible says. One of the most prevalent attitudes today is that there is a division between Faith and Reason. One’s religion is a private matter and based on blind faith. Public issues on the other hand are based on science and reason. What this series will show is that Faith versus Reason is a false dichotomy. The question should be, “How reasonable is your faith?” Because you will see that all world view systems are based on certain assumptions that we take on faith. The pantheist assumes that the world is immaterial. He can’t prove that nothing exists. In fact, all his senses cry out that he is wrong. The naturalist assumes that God doesn’t exist and then comes up with explanations for things that don’t include God.
If you are already a Christian, then hopefully this study will help you develop a consistent Christian world view. And hopefully, you will understand why you believe what you believe and be able to defend your beliefs when subjects like morality and ethics come up.
One of the criticisms I’ve heard about studying other world views is that it makes it seem like Christianity is just one of the options. And some have said that their faith was shaken because of studies like the one we are beginning.
Last week I was talking with Matt and he mentioned Peter’s response to Jesus in John 6. After Jesus told everyone that he was the bread of life and that they needed to drink his blood and eat his flesh, many of his disciples left. Jesus turned to the 12 and asked, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Peter’s response was “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”
It seems to me that this applies to our topic. Whenever we encounter something in the Bible that is hard to understand, or our faith is at a low point. That is not a reason to abandon our faith. When we know what the other options are – pantheism, naturalism, etc. We know that the Christian world view doesn’t just have a different set of answers to life’s important questions – it has the “only” answers that make sense.
So, this series shouldn’t jeopardize your faith. It should strengthen it when you realize that the other world views aren’t valid options. Their answers are nonsense.
1 Jim Keller, The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World. Audio message from desiringgod.org.
2 Ronald Nash, World-Views in Conflict. p. 16.
3 A modified version of a chart from Mindgames seminar by Probe Ministries.
Is there such a thing as absolute truth, or is truth relative? How do we choose between all the options?
We mentioned this last time, but it’s worth reviewing so that the terms like modernism and postmodernism become second nature to you.….
During the modern era (1500-1960’s) it was believed that there was an objective, absolute truth that could be known through scientific method. People observed the evidence, used their reason and came up with facts. The scientist (a man in the white lab coat) was very respected. That’s why so many commercials had guys in white lab coats talking about how well a certain detergent cleaned, or extolling the virtues of various products. The underlying message was, this is not just the manufacturer's opinion, it is a scientifically provable fact.
In our postmodern society the predominant view is that truth is relative. What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me. Evidence doesn’t matter any more. We go by our feelings. We are tired of cold, hard facts. If you are frustrated by our political system and news media where it seems that nobody pays any attention to the facts, and they just say whatever they want, welcome to postmodernism. And as we said last week, postmodernists want experience and relationships, so now commercials consist of beautiful and or rugged looking individuals using this or that product and having a good time in exotic locations. Now sponsors pay TV and movie producers to get good shots of the jeep logo the hero is riding in or the Dell laptop that Jack Bauer is using.
It’s not that we don’t believe in scientific facts anymore. It’s that science is bankrupt in its ability to answer the meaningful questions in life. However, since naturalism marginalized religion by dividing the world into a fact/value, science/ethics, public/private dichotomy, and then said that values and ethics are only based on personal opinion, we are left with a society that is searching for meaning in life in this private, relativistic sphere.
So, when someone says, “What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me,” they are not usually speaking of scientific/public things. They are speaking of private/ethics/morality issues.
So, how do we know what is true? One way to try to explain how we know what we know is by looking at the sources of our knowledge.
Question: What are our sources of knowledge? How do you know what you know?
Tradition: things that were taught to you by your parents, school, church. As it relates to our topic, this would mean that, if you were raised in a Christian family, you’ll most likely believe that way. If you are raised in a Hindu family, you’ll most likely be a Hindu. If you are Catholic, it’s the official doctrines of the church.
Reason: We are logical creatures. Things make sense or they don’t. When we hear contradictory statements, we recognize them and should reject them, but we don’t always do that. We are all hypocrites in certain areas.
Experience: If someone tells you that there is no such thing as evil, but in the past, you’ve been the victim of some crime, your experience tells you that there is something wrong with his statement. If someone tells you the gift of tongues is no longer in effect, but when you go to your church, folks all around you are speaking in some ecstatic speech. What are you going to believe?
Emotion: How do you feel about Stalin, Hitler, suicide-bombers? Does it cause you to accept their world view or reject it? How do you feel when you hear that there is no point to life? There is no life after death. I heard a Palestinian interviewed a while back who said that he thought Hitler was a great man. Why would he say that? Because he hated Jews so much and thought Hitler did the world a great service.
General Revelation: what we observe in nature. Psalm 19 and Romans 1 claim that the natural world proclaims the glory of God and should prove to men that God exists. Is that how everyone responds to the wonders of nature? Why not?
Special Revelation: specific information that God has revealed in the Bible. 2 Tim 3:16 says that “All scripture is inspired by God…” God has communicated to us what He thinks we need to know and it is accurate.
Now, go back through the list. Which ones are subjective and which ones are objective? The first five are subjective sources. The last one is objective.
Question: What are your sources of knowledge/truth? Are they all subjective?
If you deny special revelation, then all your sources are subjective. And truth becomes relative.
Question: If truth is relative to you, then what causes you to change your opinions?
You change your opinions because there is in fact an absolute truth that you are adapting to. That doesn’t mean that every time you change your mind you are making a move in the right direction. But if truth is relative, then you wouldn’t need to change your mind at all.
The bottom line is this: If you deny special revelation – the Bible – then truth is relative. When you examine the logical and practical consequences of truth being relative, one has to recognize that it’s not possible for truth to be relative. Therefore, there is an absolute truth. And that brings us back to the only objective source of knowledge – the Word of God. I realize that’s sort of circular logic, but if our list of sources of knowledge is exhaustive and we don’t like relative truth, then we are faced with no other option.
Secularists claim that their views are unbiased and rational, they are scientific and value-free. They claim that they have no religious or philosophical axe to grind and that their views are neutral. Then they turn around and claim that religious views are prejudiced and based on blind faith. These claims have been so widely accepted that a secular/sacred division dominates our culture. We hear the phrase “Separation of Church and State” almost daily on the news. We hear politicians and judges claim that their faith has no bearing on their political decisions.
People usually have the idea that the issue is Faith versus Reason. Either you believe science or you have “blind faith” in some religion. What you must recognize is that even science is not based solely on observation. None of us were there when the universe and life began. So, scientists speculate and come up with theories—like the theory of evolution, or the big bang theory. There are basic assumptions that science rests on. The Naturalist’s basic assumption is that there is no God. There is only matter. That is not a scientific assumption. That is a religious assumption.
So, is the secular person really neutral with no philosophical axe to grind? No. Their philosophical axe is that there is no God, and they try to silence anyone that disagrees. So the real question is not, “Do you believe in faith or reason.” The proper question is, “How reasonable is your faith?”
The Bible mentions in several places the role of reason in trusting in God.
Matt 4:17 says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The word repent means to “change your mind.”
2 Cor 4:4 “…the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe…” So we see that the mind is involved in believing.
2 Cor 10:4-5 We tear down arguments (5) and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.
Act 17:23 – Paul reasoned with the philosophers.
So, since we’ve concluded that reason is involved in the process. How do we evaluate things to see if they are true? There are several tests we can make on the claims of the various world views:4
Is the explanation consistent and coherent? Is it comprehensive in scope? Does it really explain the world around us?
When talking about a world view system, the whole system should hang together logically and not be full of contradictions. The law of non-contradiction is one of the main ways we know things. When we are trying to figure something out, much of the process involves eliminating the options that contradict other things we already know. When we hear a contradiction, our logical minds naturally recognize and reject it.
Let’s take the philosophy of skepticism. The skeptic says that it is impossible to know anything. What is wrong with that statement? What is the contradiction? Somehow, he knows that it is impossible to know anything. His claim that there is no universal truth is based on a universal truth.
The solipsist believes that he is the only one who exists. If that is really true, then why does he bother trying to convince you – someone who doesn’t exist – that you don’t exist? Why is he even imagining that you exist in the first place? Maybe he’s lonely.
I know you think I’m making this up. You don’t think anyone could actually believe that. Here’s a quote from Shirley MacLaine to her guests at a dinner party:
I begin by saying that since I realized I created my own reality in every way, I must therefore admit that, in essence, I was the only person alive in my universe. I could feel the instant shock waves undulate around the table. I went on to express my feeling of total responsibility and power for all events that occur in the world because the world is happening only in my reality. And human beings feeling pain, terror, depression, panic, and so forth, were really only aspects of pain, terror, depression, panic, and so on, in me!. If they were all characters in my reality, my dream, then of course they were only reflections of myself.
I was beginning to understand what the great masters had meant when they said ‘you are the universe.’ If we each create our own reality, then of course we are everything that exists within it.5
Questions: Why would Shirley MacLaine go to the trouble of explaining to her dinner guests that they didn’t exist? Or bother writing a book to explain her enlightenment to a bunch of people that don’t exist? Here’s another thought: She said she realized that the terror, depression, etc. in others was a reflection of her own terror, depression, etc. Why is it that the confusion of all those unenlightened people wasn’t a reflection of her own confusion?
Take our earlier statement, “What’s true for you is true for you , and what’s true for me is true for me.” On a logical level, what is wrong with that statement? The person who says that is trying to push his view on others. He’s making an absolute/universal statement that there are no absolutes.
The above are self-defeating contradictory statements. They are also guilty of the self-excepting fallacy.
So, we see that it is helpful to be reasonable – to have good reasoning capabilities because it can help you recognize error. I’d highly recommend The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. It was written by a couple of high school boys for kids. We read a chapter or two after dinner each night with our kids and not only did they understand it, I learned a great deal.
You need to recognize that the law of non-contradiction is only a negative test. If something is inconsistent, then it must be wrong. However, if something is consistent, then that doesn’t prove that it is right. We’ll come back to this later.
Does the explanation match the facts of our experience? Does it match what we know about our world and ourselves? Ronald Nash says, “No world view deserves respect if it ignores or is inconsistent with human experience.”6 He talks about an outer world and inner world.
Not too many people belong to the flat earth society these days. Why? Maybe it’s because most people have been in an airplane and seen the curvature of the earth, or seen pictures of earth from space. But some people do belong to the flat earth society. What does that tell you?
Christian Scientists believe that the physical world doesn’t exist. If someone is sick, it’s all in their mind. So, they don’t go to doctors. Christian Science doesn’t have a very big following. Why? Because it contradicts our experience. But there are people who believe that. How do you explain that?
Some people misinterpret or ignore their senses. That takes us back to the point that experience is a subjective source of truth.
Our world view also needs to explain why it is that we are beings who think, hope, feel, believe, desire, are conscious of right and wrong, feel guilt, etc. Rather than just responding to stimuli, we can will to do something and do it.7
C.S. Lewis points out that naturalism doesn’t have a good explanation for “ought” – as in you ought to be brave. How do you explain noble acts in a survival of the fittest world view? You can’t because ought is evidence of transcendent moral values.
Think about the guy who goes through college, gets married, gets a job, has kids, is very successful in his job and makes a lot of money. Then somewhere in his 40’s or so, he has a mid-life crisis. He wonders, “Is this all there is to life?” In a naturalists view of the world, where survival of the fittest is the guiding principle, one would think that this guy is one of the fittest. He has survived. He has even excelled. So, why is he dissatisfied with life? Does the naturalists world view explain why? Does Pantheism explain why? He’s obviously got good karma and should be well on the way to becoming god. Does the Christian world view explain why? What does the Christian world say is the problem? Answer: Man was created to worship God. When he worships money, power, prestige, family, or anything other than God, it doesn’t satisfy.
We mentioned earlier that the Bible is God’s special revelation to us. What does it primarily deal with? The outer world or the inner world? What is more important to us as humans?
Does it work? Can the person who professes that world view live it? Or does he have to borrow pieces of other world views in certain situations?
Example: If someone’s stereo or ipod or car is stolen…
What would the pluralist do? Since he believes that truth and morality are relative and up to each individual, he can’t complain that what you did is wrong. If he does, then he is borrowing from the theist world view.
What would the pantheist or New Age person like Shirley MacLaine do? If the pantheist were consistent with his world view, he would just let you have it, and imagine that he had another stereo, car, etc. Actually, if nobody else exists, it seems that having something stolen would be problem all by itself?
What would the naturalist do? The naturalist would recognize that you are obviously more “fit” in a survival of the fittest system and deserve the stereo or car. And he would go out and steal one from someone else.
If any of these folks call the police, then they are borrowing from the Theist’s world view that says stealing is wrong because God says stealing is wrong.
Someone said to me the other day that there are so many different philosophical systems because either there is no absolute truth or at least it is unknowable. How would you answer that?
If relativism is so obviously not possible, why do so many people believe it? One reason is because nobody can agree on anything. But just because people don’t agree, that doesn’t mean there is no right answer. Some folks may not have enough knowledge of the issue. Or they may have different world views/assumptions that cause them to come to different conclusions. Or they just may not like the correct answer and refuse to accept it. But none of these reasons means there is no correct answer or that there is no absolute Truth.
Let’s put it another way… if the truth - the “correct answer” - is that God created the universe, and man is responsible to him in the end – and you don’t like that answer – because you don’t want to be responsible to God, then you have to come up with another explanation. Since your answer isn’t the correct one, although it may contain some truth, it’s going to have some holes. Others are going to spot those inconsistencies (because of their reason or experience) and try to come up with a new answer that fixes the problems with your philosophical system. Their new answer is not THE right answer either, so they will have problems, and so others will come up with new explanations, and on and on we go. And that is why there are “so many” philosophical systems. People suppress the truth, but they can’t live with believing nothing, so they make something up.
I ran across the following quote from Aldus Huxley (the guy who wrote A Brave New World):
I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves… For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.8
What is the attraction to relativism? It removes responsibility. If there is no absolute truth, then you can’t be wrong.
How do we know who is right? Who decides? If right and wrong is decided by the culture, then might makes right. Therefore, slavery is ok and Hitler was right in what he did.
Question: If you believe in evolution and the survival of the fittest, then is it consistent to believe that Hitler was a bad guy? Hitler actually was consistent – he believed that Darwin was right and that Arians were superior, and according to the principle of “survival of the fittest” it was ok to kill Jews, Christians, etc. You can’t say that all truth is relative, and then expect people to live by certain moral guidelines.
Remember when we said, “If a world view is inconsistent, then it cannot be true. However, if a world view is consistent, it may be true or it may not.” Hitler was consistent, but that doesn’t make what he believed true.
Some have tried recently to rewrite history and say that the Holocaust never happened. Why would they do that? Could it be that it is a huge problem for their world view?
Ps 111:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; (NIV)
Prov 1:7; Fearing the Lord is the beginning of moral knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Prov 9:10; The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord,
and acknowledging the Holy One is understanding.
Prov 15:33 The fear of the Lord provides wise instruction,
and before honor comes humility.
These verses say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning or foundation of wisdom. We’ve seen that all world views are based on some underlying faith/belief. There is no god, everything is god, or there is only one God. Or as these passages say, “the fear of God.” Now that you know all knowledge is based on your assumptions, do these passages make a bit more sense? What does it mean to fear the Lord? It means to recognize that God created everything and as his creatures, we are responsible to Him and will answer to Him after we die.
When your philosophical system does not have God as the starting point, then your philosophical system will fail to explain reality.
Well, we’ve had another lesson that’s heavy on the theoretical. But these principles of where we get our knowledge and how we validate whether something is true or not are foundational to the rest of our discussion. As we look at each of the world view questions and how each world view answers them, hopefully we will be better prepared to determine if it meets the test of logic, experience and practice.
I said this before, but since our lesson was heavy on logic principles, I think it’s worth repeating. I don’t think that we can reason someone into believing in God and the Bible. Even if you answer all of their arguments and show their world view to be flawed, and the Christian world view to be more reasonable, it still comes down to the issue of faith. There is a built-in resistance to submitting to God. Rom 3:11 says that “there is no one who seeks God.” John 3:20 says, “everyone who does evil deeds hates the light…” and in Acts 17:17-34 some scoffed, some wanted to hear more, some believed.
So, while reason is extremely important, it is not enough. There is a supernatural and spiritual element to adopting a world view. But let’s not conclude that it is a waste of time to study all this. We need to know what we believe and why we believe because it will strengthen our own faith and it will help us to defend our beliefs to others.
Since one of our conclusions today was that without special revelation from God, truth is relative. I think we need to spend some time on how we know we have special revelation from God. So, next week we’ll talk about how we know the Bible is inspired.
4 Nash, p. 55. Probe “Mind Games” seminar.
5 Shirley MacLaine, It’s All in the Playing (New York, NY: Bantam, 1987) pp. 173-174. Quoted out of The Deadliest Monster, by Jeff Baldwin. P. 51.
6 Nash, p. 59.
7 Nash p. 59-60.
8 Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 11.
Last week we discussed the various sources of knowledge.
Reason, Tradition, Experience, Emotion, General Revelation, Special Revelation.
We concluded that unless there was such a thing as special revelation from a Sovereign God, then all our sources of truth are relative. And if all our sources are relative, then truth is relative. So, the big question is whether or not there is any special revelation from God. This week we are going to discuss whether or not the Bible is in fact true. Is it Inspired? How do we know?
I first want to introduce a couple of concepts that I think are important to understand before we get into the details of how we know the bible is inspired. Usually apologetics systems are divided into two camps:
Also known as total rationalism
This is the view that one can come to the truth without having any prior commitment to a system or world view. Pure reasoning can arrive at the truth. For example: You can prove the existence of God through observation of nature and rational arguments. You can prove the Bible is the Word of God by historical and logical arguments.
Also known as Biblicism
In this methodology the revelation-claims of the Bible are not merely hypothetically assumed and later rationally validated, much less arrived at by independent reasoning. Instead, divine authority is accepted unconditionally and wholeheartedly by supernaturally-endowed faith. This system rejects all attempts to independently verify the Christian truth-claims because sinful, rational man has no legitimate canons by which to test God and His revelation. 9
And as usual, there are those who can’t decide, so we have a third option:
This view recognizes that we have presuppositions, but seeks to verify whether or not those presuppositions are valid through the evidence. It promotes Christianity but subjects it to analytical testing or rational tests.
In our context of doing evangelism, it involves breaking up the soil (by poking holes in the other world views) and preparing it for the seed (i.e. the gospel).
What do you think about these three systems?
Presuppositionalism puts its emphasis on faith which is good. We know that the Bible makes sense because we believe. 1 Cor 2:14 says, “…the unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him…” But there are also those who believe because it makes the most sense. After all, Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you see… blessed are those who believe and do not see.” I think this same verse shows that some, like Thomas, do believe because of the evidence. And we have other examples like Josh McDowell ( Evidence that Demands a Verdict), Lee Stroebel ( A Case for Christ), and Simon Greenleaf who all went to the Bible to examine the evidence to see if it was true before they came to faith.
The more I look at this the more I see a similarity to the whole sovereignty of God / human responsibility mystery. Some how both are true.
Perhaps you grew up with your parents telling you that that the Bible was true. But that’s not a very good reason. Other people tell their children that their religious books are from God. So, how do we know if God is speaking through scripture? And is He only speaking through the Bible?
Why do you believe the Bible is inspired?..........
These are subjective arguments. They are important reasons. If neither of these things ever happened, then it would mean there is a problem somewhere. Either with the Bible itself or your method of study. But recognize that other religions have the same reasons. We need objective reasons.
Does the Bible authenticate itself?
Over and over again, the OT writers/prophets say, “Thus says the Lord,…” Hebrews 1:1, etc. So, the Bible says it is God’s word.
What’s wrong with this argument?
First of all it’s a logical fallacy. It is begging the question, or circular reasoning. It’s no proof – but it is a criteria that is needed. If the scripture never claimed that it was the Word of God, then we wouldn’t be trying to decide if it really was.
Wayne Grudem says that scripture
…“cannot be ‘proved’ to be God’s words by appeal to any higher authority. For if an appeal to some higher authority (say, historical accuracy or logical consistency) were used to prove that the Bible is God’s Word, then the Bible itself would not be our highest or absolute authority: it would be subordinate in authority to the thing to which we appealed to prove it to be God’s Word.10
Grudem says that, “all arguments for an absolute authority must ultimately appeal to that authority for proof.”11 For example, if you say that logic is the ultimate authority, then you can only end up supporting your claim by saying that it is logical to think that way.
What do you think about his claim? Is Grudem an evidentialist or a presuppositionalist?
When I first read this, it really bothered me. I thought… that sure sounds good. It made me wonder if I should be studying reasons why the Bible is inspired. If Grudem is right, then I just need to believe the Bible when it says it is inspired. And we just need to present scripture to people and let the Holy Spirit convict them. It does no use to argue with them. And we might as well end this class right now, because I was going to give you logical and practical reasons for believing the Bible is inspired…
But I was left with the subjectivity problem again. The Mormon’s can believe they have God’s word. The Muslims can believe they have God’s words, etc. The Christians say they have God’s word and all three teach different things. Logic says that they can’t all be right. But if we can’t appeal to logic, then we can’t tell the Mormon or Muslim that he is wrong.
So, while I was in this quandary, I kept reading. It is interesting to me that on the next page, Grudem says,
Ultimately, the truthfulness of the Bible will commend itself as being far more persuasive than other religious books… It will be more persuasive because in the actual experience of life, all of these other candidates for ultimate authority are seen to be inconsistent or to have shortcomings that disqualify them, while the Bible will be seen to be fully in accord with all that we know about the world around us, about ourselves, and about God.12
What do you think about that statement?
It looks to me like he is measuring his ultimate authority (the Bible) against the tests of practice, experience and logic that we discussed last week. So, I guess that would make him fall into our third category above – a semi-rationalist.
So, I guess we can proceed with this class and discuss the logical and practical reasons why the Bible is inspired Word of God.
66 different documents, different genres, different authors, different continents, written over 1500 year period, etc. And all the books fit together to tell a unified story. There is nothing else out there like that. It has been critiqued more than any other document. And it has stood up to all the criticism and continues to be the most read, most translated, best selling book.
It records the successes AND failures of it’s heroes. From the beginning to the end of the Bible we see that man is a failure. We are going through Genesis with our neighbors and just finished studying the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The thing that stands out the most is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had lots of character flaws and made a lot of big mistakes. One of the things we discussed was why didn’t God choose to work through Melchizedek or Job to carry out His plan. They seemed to be much better candidates. The answer is because the truth is that man is unworthy and it is only because of the grace of God that He blesses us. We do not get what we deserve.
One might imagine a couple of the authors telling the bad stuff that happened, but it’s unbelievable that all 40 biblical authors would all have the same theme of human failure.
Josephus, Ancient Near Eastern literature of the Assyrians, Egyptians, etc. leave out the battles that they lost. They are not honest in their historical records. The nations seem to be doing great up until the point where they just disappear. It makes you wonder what happened? When we evaluate the Bible as a historical document, you have to ask why they would make up such a terrible story that makes man look so bad? Because it is true.
The biblical authors wrote these open ended books that tell a piece of the story. It is not until you put all the books together, that you understand the whole story.
Why would you introduce a theme, but never complete it if you were writing a book?
Differences in the Gospel accounts – shows authenticity. If they all had the same exact details, then that would indicate that they collaborated.
Another aspect of it’s uniqueness is all of the prophecy contained in the Bible. No other religious book contains prophecies of specific future events. The Bible not only contains numerous prophecies, many of them have already come true.
God says this is a pretty good argument. Cf. Isa 41:21 (slide)
There are over 5500 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament which we can compare and come up with what the original manuscripts said. There are only a few places where we aren’t certain and none of those are significant theologically.
If you compare that to, for example, the writings of Shakespeare, in his 37 plays there are probably 100 places where the readings are in dispute. And if you consider the fact that the New Testament existed for 1500 years in manuscript form (handwritten form) before the printing press and Shakespeare existed after the printing press, the preservation of the NT is remarkable.13
The age of the manuscripts is also significant. We have manuscripts of the NT dating as far back as the second century and OT manuscripts from before Christ. When you examine the great classics and Greek and Roman histories, most have been lost and the oldest manuscripts we do have are from the ninth century. The significance of this is that some of our copies of the NT are first, second or third generation copies which means there was less opportunity for errors to creep in. We’ll look at a quote from Josephus a little later where it looks like some things were added to his text, but we don’t have any way of knowing for sure because we don’t have enough copies or old enough copies to compare.
The Bible has been banned, burned and outlawed from the time of Rome to present day Communism. But it is still the most printed, most sold book.
Over the years critics of the Bible have claimed that the Bible was not true because it referred to nations or places that didn’t exist.
For example, they used to say that there was no such nation as the Hittites. But then Archaeologists discovered that they existed for over 1200 years. 14
They used to say that Ninevah didn’t exist, but then they found it.
Nelson Glueck, who is probably the greatest authority on Israeli archaeology said,
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.15
Incidentally, it is because so many significant archaeological discoveries have taken place in the past 100 years that one should be careful when using 100 year old, public domain commentaries like Matthew Henry, Keil and Delitsch, etc.
We must first see the bible as an historical book. Not as a religious book.
We’ve already discussed how the Bible is ruthlessly honest, and that archaeology has verified the facts of the Bible over and over. Another thing that supports the fact that the Bible is an historical book is that it records a lot of irrelevant details. They are irrelevant as far as the theological content is concerned. That is a sign that an historical document is true. If it’s just a theology book, then what is the point of all the irrelevant details?
Christianity would not fall if the bible was not inspired. It would fall if it was not historical.
Look at it another way – If Christ was not really raised from the dead, then Christianity is not true. We can believe in Christ and believe He is God, etc. But if He didn’t raise from the dead, then it’s just a figment of our imagination. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:14 “…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.”
Related to the historicity of the Bible itself is the fact that there are numerous extra-biblical sources attesting to facts about Jesus.
People say you can’t use the testimony of believers – like the New Testament authors, or the church fathers – because they are biased. What’s the problem with that? If someone sees the evidence, and believes because of it, then you can’t trust his testimony?
We don’t do that in any other area? Imagine you are sitting in your high school or college history class and you raise your hand and tell the professor that you can’t believe Hitler killed 6 million Jews because the author of the history book about WWII believed that Hitler killed 6 million Jews. Tell him you’ll only believe it if someone who doesn’t believe that Hitler killed 6 million Jews writes a book saying that Hitler killed 6 million Jews. How do you think that would go over? But that’s exactly what people are doing when they discount the NT authors and church fathers’ writings.
If someone tells you this or that is best, or this or that is true, then you don’t say, “I can’t believe what they are saying because they believe what they are saying.”
Fortunately, for those who believe that way, we do have evidence from those who didn’t believe – like Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tactitus, Thallus.
For example – Julius Africanus refers to something the Roman historian Thallus wrote:
On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. 16
Thallus didn’t believe in Jesus, but he records the darkness at the time of Christ’s death and attributes it to an eclipse.
In the Book of Mormon or the Koran, for example, all the miracles happened in secret so that nobody could disprove it.
But with the events of scripture, 5,000 people witnessed the feeding of the 5,000, etc. The resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 at one time.
When Peter was talking to the people of Jerusalem at Pentecost, notice what he said:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know
Also compare Acts 26:24:
24 As Paul was saying these things in his defense, Festus exclaimed loudly, “You have lost your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane!” 25 But Paul replied, “I have not lost my mind, most excellent Festus, but am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and I am speaking freely to him, because I cannot believe that any of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner.
Peter and Paul were appealing to public knowledge, to what the people had witnessed or had heard from numerous witness.
Even though opponents of the gospel had everything to lose, we have no documents from them that say that the events didn’t happen. Instead, as we saw earlier we have historians verifying the events.
What’s the motivation for the fabrication? When you look at Mohamed, Joseph Smith, Anne Rand, and other religious leaders, it’s easy to see that they all benefited from their new made-up religion and gained prominence and a large following. But that’s not true of Biblical authors. Eleven of the twelve disciples were killed for teaching what they taught.
How is this different than suicide bombers who die for what they believe? They are dying for something they believe to be true. If the resurrection didn’t take place, then the disciples would have known it. They were either in collaboration spreading a lie, or they were telling what really happened. It’s hard to believe that twelve guys would die for something they knew was a lie. The suicide bombers have been taught their whole life that something is true and is promised to them. Although it is a lie, they believe it is true. The disciples died for telling people what they saw.17
The main purpose for today’s lesson was because as we discuss the different world view questions there is going to be an appeal made to “what the bible says” is the answer. If one thinks the bible is just another religious book, then it is easier to dismiss the bible’s answers.
All the evidence points to the fact that the Bible is true. If you don’t believe it, you just need to admit that you either don’t believe in the supernatural or just don’t like what it’s saying.
9 Rolland D. McCune, “The New Evangelicalism and Apologetics,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 6. p. 78.
10 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 78.
11 Grudem, p. 78.
12 Grudem, p. 79.
13 McDowell, New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. P. 10.
14 McDowell, p. 11.
15 Rivers in the Desert; History of Negev (Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1969), 31
16Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VI : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the Third Century: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius The Great, Julius Africanus, Anatolius and Minor Writers, Methodius, Arnobius. (136). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
17 McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, p. 62.
What is the starting point? What is the ultimate reality? There are three major views:
- Theism = God
- Naturalism = Evolution
- Pantheism = There is nothing
Whatever it is, it is above man and cannot be observed. It has to be taken by faith.
Pantheism teaches that nothing is real. It’s all an illusion. The ultimate reality is a spiritual force. It’s very difficult to explain something that doesn’t make any sense (I guess that would mean I’m not enlightened), so I opted for a long quote which explains it better than I can:
The oldest and simplest form is Pantheism, which asserts that God is, and unfolds himself in, everything there is. In other words all that there is God. God is not a Creator from outside, but the sum total of all the reality of which we are a part. That being the case, the ‘way of salvation’ for man is to become one, or feel one, with nature. He must avoid artificiality, ignore man-made rules of right and wrong, and be as true to nature as he can.
At the other extreme from Absolute Pantheism the Hindu philosophers placed a view which might be called Illusionism, but we will stick to the terminology of Vedanta philosophy and call it Absolute Monism or Non-Dualism. It is fully argued by the philosopher Shankara (7th or 8th century AD) though this type of thinking goes back a thousand years before that. Shankara held that the only reality is God, and all this world is imagination (Maya). Indian philosophy professors delight in confusing their students by asking them to prove that they are not dreaming. Since dreams appear so real, it is logically impossible to prove that our own existence is not a dream. The way of salvation in Absolute Monism is to realize the dream nature of all we think we know and get through to perceiving God or the Absolute, which is identical with one’s deepest self. This way is called the way of knowledge, and Yoga meditation is prescribed to attain this realization and unity.
In its strict form Shankara’s philosophy is logically unanswerable, but practically unreal. Man cannot live his daily life happily in the assumption that nothing of what he does or reads or sees, or the friends around him, is real. … Modern man wants to live his life existentially in a real world with his own responsible decisions. The nearest present-day equivalent is Christian Science, whose disciples may not doubt their own existence but are expected to doubt the existence of their pain and disease.
At least 2,000 years before Darwin the Sankhya-Yoga philosophers of India set out their view of the universe in evolutionary terms. They visualized the evolution of our present cosmos as a rope opening out its strands to all the variety of nature and life as we know it. Since they were Monists the rope had to be eternal, and it kept opening out in the process of creation, and then retwisting its strands in the process of dissolution. Thus we are part of an eternal pulsating universe. Just now the universe seems to be in its expanding and creative stage, but it will eventually start folding up again, and so on ad infinitum.18
So, for the pantheist, the answer to the question, “Where does everything come from?” the answer is, “It doesn’t.” It doesn’t exist.
Remember our discussion about tests of reason, experience, practice? Does this fail any of those tests?
This guy says that pantheism is logically unanswerable, but here’s a logic question: Why would the pantheist need to come up with a theory for the evolution of the universe when it doesn’t really exist.
Does it match your Experience?
How does it fail the Practice test? Can you live with the idea that everything is “one”? We’ll get into this in more detail when we discuss good and evil, but for the pantheist, if everything is one, then you can’t have opposites like good and evil. So, what do you do if something evil happens to you? Deny it?
Remember that the New Age Movement is really just Hinduism/Pantheism repackaged in western terminology. Also, remember our quote from Shirley MacLaine? That’s a good example of becoming enlightened and realizing that she was god and the entire universe was just a product of her imagination.
Everything evolved… from goo to the zoo to you.
I think the best way to approach the argument is to emphasize the limitation of science. Science is based on empiricism – what you can observe and measure. If you can’t repeat it, measure it, falsify it, it’s not science. It’s speculation. It’s philosophy. It’s religion.
So, when scientists make statements about the reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs, they are guessing. When they make claims about the origin of the universe, they are guessing. They can’t repeat it, they can’t observe it, etc.
The Naturalist’s assumption is that there is no God. Matter is all there is. For example, in Physics Today, someone wrote, “The first criterion is that any scientific theory must be naturalistic.”19 In other words, if your belief is that God created everything, that’s not “scientific.” But somehow assuming that a supernatural being did not create everything is scientific. Do you see how they’ve stacked the deck and set the rules so that a Christian scientist can’t play in the game because he breaks the first rule. But their first rule is an assumption. It’s not scientific. It is philosophical, it is religious, and taken on faith. But because for years we’ve been beat over the head with the idea that there is a religion-versus-science dichotomy, people believe that if a scientist says it, it must be a scientific fact.
We could say the first rule of science is that God created everything, and created an orderly universe and then use science to figure out how God made it all work. And the more we learn, the more we can marvel at His ingenuity, His greatness, etc. Our first rule would be just as scientific as theirs. In fact, that was the assumption of most scientists for the first 300 years after the Renaissance.
When Darwin came up with evolution as a hypothesis to answer the big question without any need for God, those that wanted to do away with God welcomed his theory with open arms, and they assumed it was true even without proof. They assumed the proof would follow. They wanted it to be true.
Richard Dawkins, author of The Blind Watchmaker, said “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”20
Here are a couple of quotes from scientists/evolutionists that show that evolution really is a religion and not science.
Richard Lewontin, an American evolutionary biologist says,
"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."21
Michael Ruse, professor of history and philosophy and author of The Darwinian Revolution (1979), Darwinism Defended (1982), and Taking Darwin Seriously (1986), acknowledges that evolution is religious:
Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion--a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit in this one complaint. . . the literalists [i.e., creationists] are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.22
So, at least some well known scientists are being honest about the fact that their views on origins are not scientific.
The test of reason is probably the most important one to apply here, especially since “reason” or science is what naturalism holds out as most important.
So, what are some logical problems with evolution?
In Oct 2005 there were some articles on evolution in the religion section of the Dallas Morning News, Jacob Weinberg said:
But the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does. Not a different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more logical and supported by an enormous body of evidence. Post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which can explain the emergence of the first bacteria, doesn't even leave much room for a deist God whose minimal role might have been to flick the first switch.24
How do you deal with statements like this? You must remember that we live in a postmodern society where it doesn’t matter if what you say is true. In fact on Friday (2/9/2007) on the Michael Medved show, Michael was interviewing Dr. Frank Luntz discussing his new book Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear. Their topic was focused on politics, but it applies to our subject as well. It doesn’t matter if what you say is true, it’s just how you say it. And Jacob Weinberg said what he said above with great authority and conviction. Most people read that and assume it must be true since it’s said with such conviction and in print in a major newspaper.
But the truth is that evolution is not supported by an enormous body of evidence. In 1980 at the Macroevolution conference held in Chicago, the paleontologists told the biologists that there was zero support for evolution in the fossil record. Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard called this the “trade secret of paleontology.”25 So, the fossil record doesn’t support evolution — they never found the missing links. So scientists came up with punctuated equilibrium as new model. Since they couldn’t find any transitional forms, the conclusion was that the changes happened all at once. But again, they have no explanation of how that would happen.
Let’s look at some of the evidence that has been used over the past 100 years:
Finches — during the dry season, the finches’ beaks grew longer to enable them to dig deeper into the seeds to get at the food. This was heralded as proof of evolution. What’s not usually reported in biology textbooks is that the change in beak was only thickness of fingernail, and the beaks changed back when it started raining again. When it was all over, they were still finches.
Moths — It’s probably true that the light colored moths got eaten by birds and so the dark ones had dark offspring. When the pollution went away, the light colored ones came back. But when it was all over, they were still moths. Both of these are illustrations of micro-evolution – which no one denies. But there are no examples of macro-evolution, so they keep using these examples.
Haeckel’s Embryo chart — One of the early theories was that the embryo goes through the steps of evolution as it develops. In 1876 a German scientist named Haeckel drew a chart that showed how a fish, salamander, tortoise, chick, hog, calf, rabbit and man all looked the same in the early stages of development. His drawing showed how they all had gills and other similarities. A couple years later it was discovered that he made it all up. But even though it was known to be a fraud, it was still used in high school and college biology textbooks for the next hundred years.
And in 1990 Carl Sagan wrote an article for Parade magazine justifying abortion based on this false information that a human fetus was not human until the very last stages of development. I seriously doubt that Sagan was unaware of the Haeckel Hoax and that the whole theory of “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny,” (literally: Development is a replay of Ancestry) had been discarded long ago.26
All the examples we’ve grown up with in high school text books are either of micro-evolution or have been proven to be fakes, but they continue to use them. Why? Because they don’t have anything else. Because they really aren’t concerned with the truth. They have their agenda and will do anything to promote it.
If they don’t have any proof, and they still believe it, then one needs to recognize that their belief in evolution is really just faith. And it takes just as much faith, and one could argue that it takes more faith, to believe in evolution with all of its problems than to believe in the supernatural.
Scientists have discovered that the universe/galaxy hasn’t always just been there. It is expanding – like the ripples in a pond when you throw a rock in it. This means it started at one point. What caused it to start?
When you press a scientist about where Z came from, they say it was from Y. When you ask where Y came from it was X. Where did X come from? From W. Eventually you get back to a point where there was nothing. And you can’t have something come from nothing.
Charles Hodge said,
A cause is something. It has real existence. It is not merely a name for a certain relation. It is a real entity, a substance. This is plain because a non entity cannot act. If that which does not exist can be a cause, then nothing can produce something, which is a contradiction.27
Now, if there is a God who is eternal, above space and time, and was the first cause – who created everything out of nothing. Then that would explain it.
As science advances technologically and is able to see smaller and smaller cells, it discovers that even the smallest cells are extremely complex. This doesn’t fit with the theory that things evolve from simple to complex because they haven’t found anything that is simple. Even when you get down to single cell organism you find that they have a flagellum for moving about that is more complex than the motor on my bass boat. They have DNA that contains millions of pieces of information. Darwin had no idea how complex a single cell was. If he had, he would never have come up with the theory of evolution.
Intelligent Design is a phrase coined by creationists to argue against evolution. It states that since even the supposedly simple organisms are still complex, or that since organs like the eyeball have to have all their pieces working together before you have sight, these things indicate that they were designed by some intelligent being. It is an argument from empirical observation and logic that says design means there has to be a designer. If you had a million tornadoes blow through a million forests, you wouldn’t end up with a house.
There are numerous examples from nature that can’t be explained by evolution. Take the bombardier beetle. It produces two chemicals inside its body in separate chambers. For defense it shoots those two chemicals out at the same time. When those chemicals are combined upon exit, they react with each other and create an explosion. One must wonder how something like that could evolve. If the beetle ever mixed the two before the two chambers were formed in its body, it would explode. And how would it know to evolve two separate chambers for the production of some “future” chemicals it would manufacture? It would seem that some being with a great imagination created the beetle like that from the beginning.
There were a series of articles in the Dallas Morning News (Oct 2005) about intelligent design. One of the evolution supporters made the statement that Intelligent Design as a system fails to answer the questions of origins and had no scientific validity. That is kind of a silly accusation. This guy was either very confused or more likely is just trying to misdirect people. Intelligent Design is not a system with the answer, it is really the question which points us to the only logical conclusion. It is a scientific inference based on empirical evidence – complex molecular structures in a single celled organism are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process like natural selection. Of course the scientist is going to say ID has no answers since it points us to God as the answer.
We’ll take a whole class to discuss this, but in short, man’s conscience, intelligence, and love separate him from the animals. In every culture there is a belief in some higher being. Naturalism can’t explain the that. It can’t explain the inner world because it can’t see it, can’t measure it, etc.
I find it interesting that the scientific assumption is that there is no supernatural creator because there is no supernatural. But at the same time, if you look at our society it seems that there is an infatuation with the supernatural. If you look at the TV lineup – there are shows like Heroes, Supernatural, The Dresden Files, Charmed, etc. I believe most of the shows are about demons and not about God which is probably significant. But it’s sort of amazing to me that everyone goes with the non-supernatural explanation for the origin of the universe, but is obsessed with supernatural phenomenon.
The logical answer leads us to the existence of a Supernatural being who created everything. That is why there have been several books released lately by scientists who were taught the “system,” bought into the system, but once they started studying biology, astronomy, etc. they realized that the system didn’t explain things. Some of those books are Reason in Balance, Darwin on Trial, Darwin’s Black Box, The Evolution of a Creationist.
Brian Jones says in a review article on Darwin’s Black Box:
As a recent creationist committed to presuppositional apologetics, I can recommend Darwin’s Black Box as a potentially powerful agent for disequilibrium. That is, if one is convinced that Darwinian evolution is a proven fact, Behe’s work can be used to show the fallacious nature of a materialistic worldview. What one cannot do is prove the existence of God using Behe. This book fits into a presuppositional approach in that it may be able to move the debate from Darwinism to the philosophical worldview behind it, namely a chance universe. If the believer is able to show the unbelieving Darwinist that his worldview cannot account for reality in the realm of science (or logic, morality, human freedom, or human dignity) but that the Christian-theistic worldview can account for such reality, then the believer can silence objections of unbelief and demonstrate biblically to the unbeliever the truth of the gospel and his need to repent.28
Gen 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Rev 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created!
Col 1:16 for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him - all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers - all things were created through him and for him.
Ps 33:8-9 8 Let the whole earth fear the Lord! Let all who live in the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came into existence, he issued the decree, and it stood firm.
Acts 17:24-34 Paul’s discussion with the Greek philosophers…
John 1:1-3, 14-15 – Jesus was in the beginning with God. He is fully God. He created all things.
Why does evolution continue to be promoted when it has been disproven? Why do high school and college textbooks still use finches, moths, embryo chart to teach evolution when scientists have known for years that they are fakes?
Answer: Because the only alternative is to recognize that God created everything. And if there is a God, then man is accountable to Him. Rom 1:18f
Once people have made the philosophical commitment that there is no God, they can be persuaded by relatively minor evidence to believe in evolution.
18 Religion: Origins and Ideas. Robert Brow. http://www.brow.on.ca/Books/Religion/Religion9.html
19 Total Truth, p. 169.
20 Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 6.
21 Richard Lewontin, Professor. "The New York Review", January 9, 1997, p. 31 (Emphasis in original.)
22 Michael Ruse, "Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians," National Post (May 13, 2000), B3. Taken from http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive/religion_of_evolution.asp
23 This section is a summary of Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth pp 158ff.
24 Jacob Weinberg, Dallas Morning News, Oct 2005.
25 Pearcey, Total Truth, p. 166.
26 Excellent explanation of Haeckel hoax at http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2049
27 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 95, p. 269).
28 Brian Jones. “A Review Article: Darwin’s Black Box.” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 5 p. 134.
Do we just have to accept the existence of God by faith, or is our belief in God based on evidence too? It’s that old presuppositionalism and evidentialism thing again.
The Bible assumes the existence of God and mostly focuses on proving that Yahweh is the true God. God gave Moses signs to prove to Israel that God had sent him and to prove to pharaoh that the God of Israel was the one true God (Ex 4:1-9). Thomas needed proof (Jn 20:25). Also compare Isa 40-48. But I think Rom 1:18-23 makes it pretty clear that God has given mankind evidence that He exists.
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 1:19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 1:20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.
So, we see that the Bible assumes that evidence is sometimes required for belief.
In light of Romans 1, I think we see that we are really combining experience (such as the observation of nature) with logic when we conclude that there must be a God. Today I want to focus on the logical arguments:
The argument is that the vast majority of people through the ages have believed in God or gods. There is a god-shaped void in man that causes him to search for God or to replace him with something.
However, even though it is true, I suspect you aren’t going to win any arguments with this one. And I might mention that “Everybody is doing it” is a logical fallacy.
If you say there is no God, and there is, then you are in big trouble when you die.
Not a very good argument. It doesn't seem to me to cause true belief. It seems to me to cause intellectual assent and legalism.
The Greek word “ontos” means being.
This argument states that since we can conceive of God, he must exist because we can’t conceive of things that don’t exist.
For example, you might say that you can imagine a giant octopus or King Kong and they don’t exist. But octopuses and gorillas exist and big things exist and you’ve simply combined two things that exist.
This comes from the Greek word “cosmos” which means an apt and harmonious arrangement. The word was used of the universe because of its orderly arrangement.
The basic cosmological argument is that everything has a cause, and since the universe exists, it must have a cause. We discussed this last week under our topic of “Where did everything come from?” I don’t want to repeat our discussion from last time, but I would like to add a couple points:
We often hear that the universe was caused by “Chance,” but there are two problems with this:
1. Chance can’t cause something. Chance is not a being. It is just a mathematical probability.
2. When you look at the odds (what the chances are), it becomes evident that it is not a probability – it is an impossibility.
To try to get around this, some say that the universe is eternal. Carl Sagan said, “The universe is all there is, and was and ever will be.” That is not possible.
There are two problems with the view that the universe is eternal:
1. Scientists have discovered that the universe is expanding and if you go back far enough, the expansion had to have started some time in the past.
2. There is a logical problem with this. One variation of the cosmological argument is called the Kalam cosmological argument.
The Kalam argument stresses that the universe had to begin to exist a finite time ago. You can’t get to “now” if you start from infinity because “now” never arrives. Only if you have a finite beginning can you arrive at “now.” You can have infinity going on into the future forever, but you can’t have infinity going into the past forever.
To get around these arguments, you do have some people, like atheist scholar Quentin Smith, claiming that "the universe...both caused itself to exist and caused the later states of the universe to exist."29
The universe couldn’t have “caused itself.” In order for the universe to cause itself, it would have had to exist before itself to cause itself. And that is logically impossible. Therefore, that first cause must be something outside of time and space – i.e. God.
This argument fits with Gen 1:1 which says, “In the beginning…” God, who was outside of time and space created the universe out of nothing and time began.
Comes from the greek word teleos which means end, goal or purpose. The argument is that since the world is so complex and so ordered, it had to have been designed/created by some intelligent being. This the foundation of the Intelligent design argument. Since we’ve already dealt with that, I’ll just summarize the argument:
Although there are variations, the basic argument can be stated as follows:30
1. X is too (complex, orderly, adaptive, apparently purposeful, and/or beautiful) to have occurred randomly or accidentally.
2. Therefore, X must have been created by a (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being.
3. God is that (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being.
4. Therefore, God exists.
According to Carl Sagan, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was based on the thought that if they could find a transmission with information in it, that would prove intelligent life existed in the universe. Well, scientists discovered DNA. That has as much information in it as a library. It seems to me that what would have been proof for the astronomer would be enough proof for the biologist. It is obvious that there is intelligence behind DNA and that it was not the result of random chance.
Since everyone has a conscience and a concept of right and wrong, this must reflect some higher conscience or higher moral absolute.
Rom 2:14 says,…
2:14 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 2:15 They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them,
C.S. Lewis points out that when someone quarrels, they are not just saying that something the other person did displeases only them. They are appealing to some standard of behavior that says what that other person did was wrong. Where does this sense of fairness come from?
Good and Evil are illusions. Morality is an illusion.
S. Radhakrishnan states:
The moral world, which assumes the isolation and independence of its members, belongs to the world of appearances. <...> So long as we occupy the standpoint of individualistic moralism, we are in the world of samsara, [reincarnation based on past actions] with its hazards and hardships. <...> The end of morality is to lift oneself up above one’s individuality and become one with the impersonal spirit of the universe (Indian Philosophy, vol. II, p. 625-26). 31
Translation: since everything is one thing, you can’t have opposite things like good and evil. They just appear to be different. It is an illusion. However, you must live in that illusion for your accumulation of good or bad karma and your status in your next life. So, although good and evil don’t exist, your good and bad deeds affect your karma. But eventually, you rise above individualism and morality and achieve the ultimate goal of non-existence.
In a Dallas Morning News interview with Deepak Chopra:
Question: Is there any one religion that's primarily the basis of your thinking for this book?
Answer: No. I'm influenced a lot in recent times by the more metaphysical aspects of Buddhist thought, because by and large, I think Buddhist thought, nonviolent -- you never heard of a Buddhist terrorist or a Buddhist going to war -- so it's kind of interesting to me to watch Buddhist behavior and metaphysics. The reason is that Buddhist philosophy is based a lot on the idea that there's no such thing as a separate self, that love and kindness, which are, of course, the precepts of every religion, do not come out of a sense of moral obligation but from the experience of inseparability, that we're part of a web of being and that the whole ecosystem is in a sense a living organism, and if we destroy it, we destroy ourselves.32
He’s basically saying the same thing. We are all one big spiritual being, and when we recognize that, we will treat others as we would treat ourselves, because they are us.
The pantheist basically has to deny the existence of good and evil. Does this match your experience? Can you live it? We go back to the example of what do you do when someone steals your car?
According to the naturalist, survival of the fittest is what guides morality.
Nancy Pearcey sums it up well,
“Since evolutionary forces produced the human mind, then things like religion and morality are not transcendent truths. They are merely ideas that appear in the human mind when it has evolved to a certain level of complexity—products of human subjectivity. We create our own morality and meaning through our choices. Of course we can recreate them whenever we choose. There is no normative definition of, say, marriage as a lifetime union between a husband and wife. That social pattern is not inherent and original in human nature—because nothing is inherent in human nature. Cultural patterns emerge gradually over the course of human evolution, arising by naturalistic causes and lasting as long as they are expedient for survival.33
Michael Ruse, philosopher of science, says,
“Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, and has no being beyond this.”34
Let’s ask some logical questions:
How does survival of the fittest lead to homosexuality? Since that never produces offspring, a society would never go that direction. And yet, our society promotes it.
What about rape? It could be argued that rape produces offspring and therefore would be an aid to survival and reproduction.
Survival of the fittest promotes selfishness, but as C.S. Lewis, says, “Selfishness has never been admired.”35 Why not?
Survival of the fittest would seem to justify murder and genocide. The strong kill and take from the weak. But we as a society condemn that.
One might argue that the most powerful or the fittest aren’t always bad, and that is true. But the problem is that we can’t be judgmental and condemn the powerful for being bad when we do get a bad one if our world view is naturalism.
If we are just more evolved animals, then why do we assume humans are more valuable than animals? Why don’t we prosecute people who kill rats or insects?
Moreland points out that it is anthropocentric to think that “morality” evolved at the same point in time as humans. Why not at the same time as monkeys? And what about when the next higher life form evolves?36
Kai Nielson says, “I can get to the good of self-respect on a purely secular basis, though it has come into our culture, of course, through a religious tradition. But validity is independent of origin.”37
Nielson would accuse us of the genetic fallacy that says you don’t judge an argument by its source. For example, I don’t say that 2 + 3 = 4 is wrong because my evil step-mother said it. I say it is wrong because mathematical principles say it is wrong.
But in this case, origin is everything! If you start with a naturalist philosophy, you never get any morality. According to the Naturalist, humans are nothing special. We are the result of chance plus survival of the fittest. There is nothing more valuable about humans than earthworms. And when something better than us evolves, they will be justified in enslaving us, killing us, eating us, or whatever.
There are intellectually honest atheists like J. L. Mackie who said, “Moral properties … are unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them. Mackie goes on to say that universal moral properties don’t exist. They are just subjective values.38 That creates another set of problems for Mackie, but at least he realizes that you can’t have universal morals without a god.
If you press a naturalist with some examples that show the “survival of the fittest” explanation does not work, they will usually say that morality is determined by the culture. That leads us to the next view.
Morality is decided by the culture, by the group.
The U.S. Declaration of Independence says that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. The United Nations declaration simply states that humans are born free and equal in dignity without making any reference to where that dignity comes from. This is basically the social contract theory of morality. Morality is decided by the culture. It’s not very binding. If you don’t want to be a part of the social contract, you don’t have to play by the rules. And we’ve seen plenty of examples of that in recent history.
What’s to say that something is “really wrong” just because a bunch of people got together and said it was wrong. If a certain denomination gets together and says dancing is immoral, does that make it immoral?
Let’s say we all agree that morality is relative, but we all decide that we can come up with a list of standards which will be good for society. How could we impose our rules on others who don’t want to abide by them? We are being inconsistent.
If morality is just a social contract, then what about a gang which says you have to murder someone to be a member? Or take the Indian practice of burning the widow with the dead husband? Or China’s policy of killing all babies after the first one? If the Chinese mother and father don’t want to go along with that “contract” is it wrong then?
One popular view of good and evil is dualism. Dualism is the belief that there is a good power and an evil power that battle for control. We see this in movies like Star Wars. The question is, how do you decide which is the good power and which is bad? There has to be some law or standard above them that decides which is good and bad.39 So dualism doesn’t satisfactorily answer the question.
The predominant view of the postmodern is that morality is relative. It’s up to the individual. The way to deal with this is to ask them some question like, “Is it ok to murder someone or torture babies.” Probably no one will agree to that. Since that is a universally agreed upon bad thing, then we can agree that there must be some moral absolutes. There is no middle ground. Morality is relative or it is absolute.
And the next question is where does the absolute come from? You can’t say culture, because if all cultures agree, then there is something above culture.
Greg Koukl says,
when you say that some absolute moral laws exist, you're saying that immaterial things -- like moral laws which aren't made out of moral stuff -- certainly do exist. Therefore, materialism as a world view is false. Instead, it is reasonable to believe in things you don't see and can't test with the five senses. Strict empiricism would be false, then.40
And thus the discussion of where morality comes from ends up being a good argument against the naturalist worldview and should allow a person who claims he doesn’t believe in God because he doesn’t believe in anything he can’t see .
All the theories of how we come up with a moral standard fail the tests of logic, experience and practice.
God created man, God made the rules, He revealed them in scripture and He placed them inside us. Our conscience tells us that we do bad things. It causes feelings of guilt. We can either rationalize away those feelings, or cry out to God to save us. Once we are saved, we want to live a life pleasing to God by loving Him and loving people.
The reason theism makes more sense is because moral values are rooted in personhood. If we are just animals (naturalism) then there is no such thing as personhood. If we are created in the image of a personal God, then that would explain why we have personhood.
I think the bottom line is this: It is only because we live in a society with God-given morality that the pantheist, naturalist or pluralist can believe what he believes. He really can’t explain how we as a society operate on moral principles.
Different types of people will respond more to different arguments. I think the Cosmological, Teleological and Moral arguments are the best. But all of these put together make a strong case for the existence of God.
When people deny the existence of God, whatever reason they give is just an excuse under the real reason, which is “I don’t want to be responsible to God. I want to do whatever I want.” Remember our Aldus Huxley quote from lesson two? His philosophy was a means of liberation from God so that he could do what he wanted. At least he was honest.
30 Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument
32 Dallas Morning News, September 9, 2005.
33 Pearcey, p. 106-107.
34 Michael Ruse, The Darwinian Paradigm, p. 282.
35 Lewis, Mere Christianity. p. 19.
36 Does God Exist, p. 114.
37 J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist, p. 106.
38 Moreland and Nielsen. Does God Exist, p. 114.
39 Lewis, Mere Christianity. p. 49.
40 Greg Koukl, Stand to Reason, http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5457
Non-Christians almost always raise the question: If God is good and God is great (all-powerful) then how can there be evil in the world? Since there is evil, there must be no God. Or if there is a God, he must not be good or he must not be all-powerful.
I think we need to deal with a couple of issues:
Is this a good argument against the existence of God?
How do the other world views deal with the problem of evil?
What is the answer to the problem?
For many years, the problem of evil was seen as a way to show that Christianity was logically inconsistent. If Christianity could be seen to be logically contradictory, then it had to be false. The atheist is using the same approach that we’ve been using as we discuss the answers the various world views have to our world views questions.
There is no logical fallacy in that statement of the problem of evil…
Where is the contradiction? What they really mean is this:
There is only an assumption on our part that there shouldn’t be any evil in the world. People assume that God must want to eliminate all evil. One would have to be omniscient (i.e. God) to know that there was actually evil that occurred that had no ultimate good purpose.
Christianity doesn’t teach that there shouldn’t be evil. So there really is no logical problem. All we can really conclude from the argument is that God must have had a good reason for allowing evil and suffering.
If everything is God and God is everything, then you can’t have opposites like good and evil. Therefore evil is an illusion.
So, when pantheists try to use the “problem of evil” argument against Christians, they are being inconsistent with their world view.
Since a naturalist doesn’t believe that there is anything that transcends the natural world. They really can’t believe in an objective “Good.” And therefore in a naturalist’s world view there really is no “good and evil.” Evil is relative and just a matter of subjective preference.
The naturalist/atheist is also being inconsistent when he uses the problem of evil as an argument against the existence of God. But few, if any, recognize that they are disqualified from asking the question.
This is a very important point. We’ve talked about how one’s world view must be logical, practical, etc. At every turn in the discussion we need to be able to recognize and point out where they are bailing out of their system and appealing to the Christian system to make their arguments. This the same thing we talked about when we said that if a pantheist calls the police when their car is stolen, they are borrowing from the Christian world view.
However, once we’ve pointed out that they don’t have the right to ask that question, it is a valid question for a someone to ask because everyone has a built in conscience and a concept of good and evil, even if they deny it. So, what are some possible answers/reasons for the existence of evil and natural disasters?
If it was impossible to disobey God, then we’d never have to choose to obey. We would be like robots and that wouldn’t bring glory to God.
And related to this …
If there are no dangers, difficulties or disappointments in life, how can we gain character traits such as patience? If everyone is nice to you, then you never have to display selfless love. If life is easy, you don’t have to learn patience, or endurance. Being honest wouldn’t be a virtue if it was impossible to steal.
Could God allow a tidal wave or earthquake to kill thousands of people because the disaster will give Christians an opportunity to minister to the victims and as a result many come to faith in Christ? If spending eternity in hell is the “ultimate evil,” then allowing a lesser evil to occur to reduce the ultimate evil is in fact a good thing. But it might appear to some as senseless evil.
Even if we can see some possible purpose in some evil/suffering, there are events which we can’t understand and we just have to recognize we are finite creatures who can’t know God’s purpose in allowing those things. As we said before, one would have to be omniscient to know for certain that an “evil” event was so evil that no good could come from it.
Satan was created as a good being but with free will to follow God or not. He chose not to. Angels and people were not created as robots. They were created with free will because if they chose to worship and obey God, that would bring Him glory.
John 14:30; 1Thes 3:5 and the story of Job all teach that Satan is the ruler of this world. He causes pain and suffering and tempts man to sin. In Job’s case, Satan caused physical illness, natural disaster, financial ruin, etc.
But we can’t blame all natural disasters on Satan. Our biblical example is of Satan causing disasters on a godly man (Job). I don’t think Satan would cause natural disasters on ungodly people. Why would Satan destroy an group of people who are totally opposed to Jesus Christ?
Man’s corrupted nature is the cause of much evil.
James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. 1:15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.
Gen 3:17-18 shows that there was a curse placed on creation because of the fall. God removed man from the protective garden of Eden and forced him to live in the world where animals now ate people.
Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now.”
How do we deal with passages like this: Isa 45:7?
45:7 I am the one who forms light
and creates darkness;
the one who brings about peace
and creates calamity.
3:6 If an alarm sounds in a city, do people not fear?
If disaster overtakes a city, is the Lord not responsible?
Does this mean God causes it? Or just uses it. The word “creates” and “responsible” in those two verses is a generic word for do, make, act, create, fashion or shape. I think it means that God uses the evil in this world to work out His purposes. God is in control, but He is not controlling. He is in control of events and shapes them to His purpose. We have to reconcile statements like these with the rest of scripture. For example, if God was the cause of evil, then He could not be the judge (Rom 3:5-6).
Hardening of Pharaoh’s heart
God predicted that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3). Then during the first five plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7). Then God hardens Pharaoh’s heart (9:12), then Pharaoh and his officials harden their hearts (9:34-35), then God does the rest.
I think the principle here is that just like in Rom 1:18-32, which we’ve read several times in this series. God gives people over to what they want.
Gen 50:20 – God used the evil act of Joseph’s brothers to preserve the family and nation of Israel. He used the Egyptians’ disgust towards shepherds to keep Egyptians from inter-marrying with Israelites to keep the Jewish nation pure.
Rom 8:28-29 – God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. It doesn’t say that causes all things to work together for good for everyone. So, those people killed in the earthquake that never got around to believing in Jesus don’t qualify. But it would include those that came to faith as a result of the disaster.
So, the Biblical explanation of evil is this:
God created everything good but man rebelled. Nature, Satan, Men were cursed. There was no death before the fall – even in the animal kingdom. God does not cause the evil, but He does control the outcome when evil happens. How He can do this is beyond our understanding, but that doesn’t make it untrue.
All other philosophies can’t explain the problem of evil in the world. If you don’t have a good creator, and a fall – then what’s running the universe is random chance or an evil being. People in rebellion against a good God explains the evil acts of men. And a fallen creation explains disasters.
I read a really good book called The Deadliest Monster, by Jeff Baldwin, in which he compared the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with that of Frankenstein.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about those books with your worldview glasses on. I know I never had. Do you remember the stories well enough to answer the question: What are the authors’ views of human nature?
1. Frankenstein was created innocent and good, but turned evil after he was mistreated.
The monster Frankenstein is quoted as saying, “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”
2. Jekyll was a privileged, rich, upper class, doctor with an evil nature that he couldn’t control and which eventually totally took over. Jekyll said,
“It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous personalities—the good and the bad were thus bound together—that in the agonized womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling.”
Baldwin says that we all identify with one of those main characters. We either think we are like Frankenstein or like Jekyll/Hyde. “Which monster are you? The way you answer this question forms the foundation for your beliefs about all of reality—your religion, your worldview.”41
The root issue in the discussion of the nature of man, is whether or not man is basically good or basically bad. Every non-Christian world view believes that man is basically good, and that he can save himself. I’m not sure why they think he needs saving, if he’s basically good, but every world view has some salvation mechanism like enlightenment, social reform, etc. But basically, they are all part of the Frankenstein crowd.
I was listening to the Dennis Prager show a few weeks ago and he asked the question, "Why do people do good things?" He said that nobody ever asked that question. Why is that?
The reason nobody asks that question is that our society believes that man is basically good and they expect him to do good. They are surprised when someone does bad things and so, the question is always, "Why did he do it?"
Not only is man good, man is god. We just need to recognize the fact.
Like naturalism, pantheism doesn't allow for a personal God inside or outside the physical universe. Traditional pantheism sees god as an infinite impersonal force that encompasses all of reality. All is one, all is god. Americanized pantheism, or the New Age Movement, adds an evolutionary element. It sees men and women becoming one with the universal mind as a continuation of material evolution through the animal kingdom.
Unlike naturalism, pantheism sees man's problem as a spiritual one. Somehow, mankind has collectively forgotten its oneness with the universe. This separates man from understanding the true nature of things and, according to New Age teaching, visits upon him all the suffering of our current world and leaves him without the power to make reality conform to his bidding.
So, man is basically good. We’ve just forgotten our oneness. The solution is education. We need to be enlightened. We need to have our spiritual eyes opened so we can visualize world peace.
As the product of evolution, man is just a more highly evolved animal. He is the product of his environment. This was the underlying assumption of behavioral psychologists like Pavlov, Maslow and Skinner. When it comes to the nature of man, they were the most consistent naturalists. Skinner said that the mind was a myth—that thoughts were simply chemical processes responding to physical stimuli. Man simply responds to his environment. As such, man does not have free will. Therefore, if you find yourself committing a crime, it’s not your fault. It’s because of the way you were raised or because of your present circumstances. Therefore, you shouldn’t be punished.
Does this sound familiar? We hear that a lot in our culture.
Remember my example from the first lesson? I heard a news story where some school children had defaced or destroyed some school property. The teacher being interviewed said, “They are basically good kids, but they …come from under-privileged homes…” That statement reveals what that teacher’s view of human nature is. Man is basically good, but society makes them do bad things.
There are a couple of logical problems with this view:
1. Would it not also be true, that if you dive in front of a car to save someone, it’s not your fault either. So, you wouldn’t want to accept any praise or reward for saving that person.
Very few naturalists are intellectually honest and consistent with their world view when it comes to human nature. They pick and choose what they want and borrow from the Christian world view. They want to take credit for their good deeds, and they want to believe that they are in control of their own destiny. But they are quick to say that man is basically good, and things like poverty, ignorance, abuse, etc. make him do bad things. If this is true, then creating the perfect society will end crime, abuse, etc.
2. A big problem with this view is this: If man is basically good, how did we get a bad society to start with? It would seem the first society would have been made by good people, been perfect from the start, and stayed perfect. There is obviously a logical problem with this, but that doesn’t deter anyone.
We’ve already seen there is a logical problem with the idea that society causes evil, but does this match up with reality or your experience? Did you abuse your two year old or was he naturally selfish, disobedient, etc.? Do smart, rich people commit crimes?
I think it is very enlightening to lay our world view grid over the realm of politics. It will help you understand why certain political systems believe certain things and why people buy into them.
Marxism, Communism and Socialism are prime examples of the naturalist world view. Evil is defined as capitalism where the wealthy oppress the poor. If everyone in society is equal, then everyone will choose to act properly. They will work to the best of their ability and take only what they need from the community.
Does Marxism, Communism or socialism work? We’ve already seen the Soviet Union abandon it. China is abandoning it. In practice, a few rule and oppress the masses – keeping them in poverty. Taxes go way up, and productivity goes way down, etc. People are basically selfish and don’t work for the good of society. It’s only those in leadership, with all the privileges, who tell everyone else how wonderful Marxism, Communism or Socialism is.
A French political philosopher recently said that nowadays when he wants to debate a Marxist, he has to import one from an American university.42 So why are there so many socialists in America? They are just being consistent with their world view—at least in theory. Since they live in a society based on capitalism and the morals of Christianity, they can push their philosophy and not have to live it.
So, naturalism relieves man of guilt. He is just the product of his environment.
Let’s look at another aspect of evolution…
Naturalism and evolution teach us that there is in Nature an inherent tendency towards improvement. People don’t just apply this principle to the physical world. How do they apply this premise to their view of human nature?
Answer: We should be good and getting better.
What do the Bible, the principle of entropy, and history teach?
Answer: To put it simply—Things tend to fall apart without an external force maintaining it. In the moral and spiritual realm, that external force (really an internal force) is the Holy Spirit. Despite what the rationalists say, you can’t just teach morality and expect men to follow the rules. People don’t usually do what they know is right. They do what they love to do. They do what makes them feel good, what gives them power, etc. Education doesn’t make people be good. It just makes smarter sinners.
Anyone who studies history knows that nations may start good and grow for a while, but then immorality sets in, everyone does what is right in their own eyes and the society fails. We see it over and over again in the Bible, especially in the book of Judges. And in secular history --Babylon, Assyria, Greece, Rome. And we are repeating this cycle in America.
The first part of the gospel is that man is a sinner and needs a savior. If you take away the gospel, then you don’t have people getting saved. Jesus becomes just an example to follow. You don’t have the Holy Spirit indwelling/controlling people and making them “want” to do good. There is no fruit of the Spirit, because there is no Spirit. They are selfish, and they do what is good for themselves. So, for example, instead of a politician doing what is good for the country (others), they do what is good for them, what will get them re-elected, what will give them more power, what will give them more money (pleasure), etc. So, we might be angry, but we shouldn’t be surprised with what’s going on in Washington.
Of course there are altruistic people. Since we are created in the image of God, we are capable of doing good. Being depraved doesn’t mean we are always as bad as we can be. Altruism was coined by Auguste Comte, the French founder of positivism, in order to describe the ethical doctrine he supported. He believed that individuals had a moral obligation to serve the interest of others or the "greater good" of humanity. Nietzsche supported egoism and pointed out that such a position is degrading and demeaning to the individual. He also pointed out that altruism was very rare until the advent of Christianity.43
So, again it seems that we have people with non-Christian world views borrowing from Christianity and trying to be moral without the proper foundation. And it doesn’t work.
Gen 1:26 – God created man in His own image. This does not mean physical likeness. God is Spirit. Although the Bible speaks of the “hand” of God, it also speaks of being “sheltered under his wing.” These are just word pictures to help us understand concepts about God. Being in the image of God refers to our personality, intelligence, conscience, awareness of right and wrong, etc. We are individual and moral creatures. Because we are in the image of God we are capable of loving, doing good deeds, sacrifice, etc.
So, creation explains why we are capable of great good.
We’ve seen what the three major world views say about man’s basic nature as it relates to being good or bad. But let’s look at another aspect of the nature of man. Man is unique from animals in his ability to think logically, reason, etc. Although an animal might learn how to navigate a maze and do so faster and faster each time he is put into the maze, animals don’t engage in abstract thinking. They don’t form different types of governments. They don’t develop advance technologically. A beaver house looks the same now as it has for thousands of years. A bird’s nest looks the same now as it always has. If man is just a more highly evolved animal, how does naturalism explain this huge leap in intelligence? But if we were created in the image of God, then his vast difference from the animals makes sense.
Gen 2:8, 16, 17 – God put them in a perfect environment with everything they needed. (Remember that naturalism says, if we just had a perfect environment, everyone would be good.) He gave them a command to obey. God didn’t want robots. He wanted creatures who chose to have fellowship with Him.
Gen 3:1-24 – Man disobeyed. We see their guilt (vs 7). We see that the world was affected (vs 17-18). The result was immediate spiritual death and eventual physical death.
Because of the fall, the image of God was corrupted. And the Bible teaches that Adam’s sin was passed on to the whole human race. Rom 5:12 says, “So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.” In Ps 51:5, David says, “Look, I was prone to do wrong from birth; I was a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.”
So, the fall also explains why man is capable of great evil.
Rom 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, the penalty for sin is death (Rom 6:23) So, man sinned, but God provided a way to make things right by sending His Son to die and pay the penalty for sin.
Pantheism says there is no guilt because you are god and just need to recognize it. Through the process of karma and reincarnation you’ll eventually figure it out.
Naturalism says there is no guilt because you are just responding to external stimuli and your environment made you do it.
Those religions that teach that there is guilt all have a system by which you can earn God’s approval.
Christianity is unique because it recognizes the guilt and it recognizes we can’t do anything about it on our own. Guilt is good because it drives one outside of himself to seek a solution. That solution is Jesus Christ. God has provided a way to take care of our guilt by accepting Christ’s payment for the guilt on our behalf.
We discussed that a world view needs to have a comprehensive explanation of how the world works that matches our experience. Which has a better explanation of disobedience in a two year old? Naturalism or the Creation/Fall account?
How would the naturalist’s idea that “man is just an animal and not more important than animals” affect his views on abortion, euthanasia, etc?
I know our primary focus in this series has been on understanding world views so that we can interact with our culture—basically as an apologetic tool for witnessing. But I think we need to recognize the fact that the dominant world view of our culture often affects our church doctrine. How has the idea that “man is basically good” permeated our church doctrine?
I can’t help but think that the wide acceptance of universalism is the product of living in a culture where man is not responsible for the crimes he commits.
Pelagius categorically denied the doctrine of original sin, arguing that Adam's sin affected Adam alone and that infants at birth are in the same state as Adam was before the Fall. As such, he insisted that the constituent nature of humanity is not convertible; it is indestructively good.
As all his ideas were chiefly rooted in the old, pagan philosophy, especially in the popular system of the Stoics, rather than in Christianity, he regarded the moral strength of man's will, when steeled by asceticism, as sufficient in itself to desire and to attain the loftiest ideal of virtue. The value of Christ's redemption was, in his opinion, limited mainly to instruction and example, which the Saviour threw into the balance as a counterweight against Adam's wicked example, so that nature retains the ability to conquer sin and to gain eternal life even without the aid of grace.44
Pelagianism started in 400 and has plagued the church in various forms ever since.
A person has to recognize he is a sinner before he sees the need for a savior. I think main thing we need to recognize is that the idea that man is basically good strikes at the very heart of the gospel message. It keeps a lot of folks outside the church from coming to Christ. And it even keeps a lot of folks who go to church and think they are Christians from recognizing their sin and need for Jesus.
I was watching a Mark Driscoll video the other night with some friends. He told the story of going to another church there in Seattle to talk to the pastor who was concerned that their church wasn’t growing. Driscoll asked him something about whether or not he preached Jesus. That pastor told them they were post-Jesus. Post-Jesus? How can a church be post-Jesus? He said it was like a swimming pool being post-water. That church was just a social club where people were encouraged to be moral. And that church was dying.
41 Baldwin, The Deadliest Monster, p. 20.
42 Total Truth, p. 135.
Most people probably get their view of the after-life from Hollywood and movies like Heaven Can Wait, The Ghost, Six Sense, Gladiator, etc. In the movie Flatliners, the people were causing heart attacks or something and letting the person die for a minute and then bringing them back to life to find out what the person saw on the other side. The question of what happens after death is a big question. People are afraid to die if they don’t know what happens after death.
By now, you ought to know what the Pantheist says. The Pantheist believes that we are reincarnated and our status in the next life is based on our karma. This is a popular view, even among non-pantheists. Remember we live in a Postmodern world and people mix and match various answers from various world views even though they aren’t consistent.
But when you realize what the whole world view is behind reincarnation, you have to recognize that nothing has made any logical or practical sense yet, so why would one believe just this one thing from that world view.
Naturalism teaches that we just cease to exist after we die. The appeal of this view is that one can live like he wants and not have to worry about facing a God who will judge him.
What are the problems with this view?
- it destroys any hope for the future
- it makes death something dreadful.
- It also goes very much against the nature of man which deep down can’t stand the thought that this life is all there is.
I was listening to a Michael Savage show the other night on the way to Home Depot and the whole topic of conversation was about what happens after we die. People’s views were all over the map, but even those who believed in annihilation said it was awful to think that all they had worked for meant nothing.
We must recognize that none of these “problems” prove annihilation is untrue. They just leave us with a depressing view of death. And certainly the unpleasantness of annihilation is not a reason to believe in another view.
We also must recognize that this view rests on the religious assumption that there is no supernatural world, and miracles are impossible. If you can’t touch it and measure it, it doesn’t exist.
The Bible teaches that man will be resurrected and face the judgment of God. Those who believed in Jesus for salvation will spend eternity with God. Those who rejected Jesus will spend eternity in hell with Satan.
There are a number of Bible scholars who say that hell is not forever. They call their view annihilation. They say that the fire may burn forever, but what is thrown in the fire is burned up and ceases to exist. I don’t want to get into the discussion about whether hell is eternal or not, but I do want you to recognize that the naturalist’s view of annihilation is not the same as the theist’s view of annihilation. These theists believe in resurrection, judgment, temporary punishment and then annihilation
How do we know which one of these three views is the correct one? They are all talking about something that we certainly can’t prove. I think we have to remember our second class where we talked about our sources of knowledge. What is the basis for our belief?
Don’t laugh! I think a lot of people base their beliefs on TV and movies. A few years ago I was at an Alpha meeting and after watching the video, the leader asked, “Do you think it’s prideful for someone to say they know for sure that they are going to heaven.?
One lady said, “No, I know I’m going to heaven. I’ve never committed adultery or murdered anyone.”
Another lady said, “But that’s not what the Bible says is how you get to heaven.”
The first lady said, “Well, last Tuesday, I was watching Crossing Over. And they had a séance and contacted their Grandma. They asked her where she was. She said she was in heaven. They asked her how to get there. Grandma said to just be good and they would get to heaven.”
That lady held up a Tuesday night TV show against the Bible as her authority.
Is Hollywood a reliable source?
Past-lives therapy, or hypnosis is often used as proof of reincarnation. People under hypnosis supposedly reveal past lives that they lived. But hypnosis is not reliable. There is something hypnotists call cueing which affects what a person experiences during hypnosis: - explicit or implicit suggestion by the hypnotist; - something said long before the session; - something that the witness just happened to be thinking about; - a fantasy of the witness. During hypnosis these can become fixed as facts in the mind of the subject. There is no reliable means of guarding against this happening.45
Is hypnosis a reliable source?
What do you do with the testimonies of those who died, and tell how they went to some place with a bright light or saw the streets of gold in heaven?
It occurred to me that in near death experiences people often claim to see a bright light… is it because we think the devil has a red suit, horns and pitchfork that we think the bright light means heaven is at the end of the tunnel? What does 2 Corinthians 11:14 say? Satan is an angel of light. He is also the Deceiver. What better way to deceive people into thinking they are destined for heaven than by greeting them with a bright light until he knows they are going to stick around and not be rejuvenated.
I read 90 Minutes in Heaven a few weeks ago. Don Piper was killed in a car wreck, left for dead by the paramedics for 90 minutes. A pastor happened on the scene, went to pray for him and he came back to life. He says that while he was dead, he went to heaven and saw lots of family and friends who were Christians who had died already. It was like a welcoming committee. He also says he saw the pearly gates and the streets of gold.
I don’t know what to think about it. It’s a very believable book. I know Don Piper truly believes he went to heaven. I think it’s possible that he did. I think it’s also possible that he imagined it all. Believe it or not, I think it’s his report that he saw the pearly gates and streets of gold that makes me doubt his story the most. So much of the language of Revelation is symbolic it’s hard to tell which is a literal description and which is symbolic. It’s possible that just like the cueing in hypnosis he had Rev 21:18ff in his mind and that’s what he imagined. We can’t know for sure. Don Piper says, “I don’t have to defend my experience… I know what I experienced.”46
I think my point is that we can’t base our belief on resurrection and heaven on the stories of people like Don Piper. In his book he gave examples of people who heard his story and said that while they had believed in heaven, it helped them believe more. We’ve already discussed how experience is a subjective source of truth.
And don’t forget the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers. Abraham’s response? Luke 16:29 They have Moses and the prophets.
That leads us to the next point… What is an objective source for believing in heaven?
We’ve already talked about the reliability of the Bible and how it is our only objective source of truth. With all of the prophecies that came true, why would one not believe the ones about the resurrection and heaven and hell?
There are plenty of verses in the Bible that tell us what happens after death.
John 6:39 (bread of life); 11:25-26 (raising Lazarus)
Phil 3:20-21 – “that power” is the resurrection
1 Cor 15:12-23, 50-58 – good summary of the hope of the resurrection.
The classic argument for the incarnation was the one put forth by C.S. Lewis. When discussing who Jesus was as the most important person in history. You must say that Jesus was either a Liar, Lunatic or Lord. But you cannot say that he was a good man.47 And what do all those who deny that Jesus is God say about him? They say he was a good man.
You may be wondering why I would include the incarnation. Ronald Nash points out that once we settle the question that Jesus is God and that His words are God’s words. Then we have the answers to the most important questions in life. One of those being, “What happens after we die?”48
Our 1 Cor 15 passage points out that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then all of Christianity is a sham. The belief in a future resurrection is not some pie-in-the-sky theological construct. It is based on the historically verifiable event of Jesus’ resurrection. If Jesus was really raised from the dead, that proves He was who He said He was. And it means that we can be resurrected too.
How do we know that it really happened?
Bottom line – if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, then we’re wasting our time. 1 Cor 15:12-19.
45 Crown Prosecution Service http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/section13/chapter_p.html
46 Don Piper. 90 Minutes in Heaven, p. 205.
47 Lewis, Mere Christianity. p. 55-56.
48 Nash, Worldviews in Conflict, p. 154.
By “the meaning of history” I don’t mean, that we study history to keep us from making the same mistakes. The question is whether or not there is any purpose to the actual events themselves. Actually, we could ask if there is an “end” in both senses of the word. Is history ever going to end? And is there a point to it all?
History is cyclical – since we are reincarnated, we get multiple chances to get it right. And “getting it right” means becoming one with the cosmic consciousness. So, there is no end – it just keeps going around and around. And there is no overall purpose. History is just the context in which the person evolves to a higher (or lower) state.
History is linear – just a series of natural events. There is no over-arching purpose. It just happens. And I suppose in the naturalist’s view, history will end. At least human history. Humans will eventually become extinct.
The Postmodernist is going to also believe that history is just the study of one culture’s power over another. And since truth is relative, the postmodernist will be willing to revise history to manipulate people to believing what he wants them to believe.
For example, if you take all the stuff out of the history books about the founding fathers being Christians – and only promote the two that weren’t (Franklin and Jefferson) – then after you’ve educated an entire generation with that curriculum, you can make the claim that we need a separation of church and state and can keep Christianity out of the classroom, courthouse, government, etc.
If we examine the great social movements throughout history we see that they have never achieved the goals men had set for themselves. In the Middle Ages the compulsory Catholic theocracy was a failure – both because it was compulsory and because it was based on human works. Modernism, with its extreme individualism and industrial revolution, ends with the loss of individuality as men become just workers in an assembly line. Humanism denied man as being in the image of God and lead to the dehumanization of man. Socialism is a poor substitute for real community because instead of being based upon the religious transfiguration of man and sacrificial love, it is based upon the compulsory service of the individual to society for the sake of satisfying its material needs.49
The naturalist’s view of history is a hopeless one. Every social construct has failed – and it has failed because it left God out of the equation.
The meaning of history is: Creation, Fall, and Redemption.
God is sovereign and in total control of the world. He has a plan and He’s carrying it out. He created man to have fellowship with him. Man sinned, and God will judge him for his sins. But God has a plan by which man can be reconciled to God.
God is totally in control shaping world events (Dan 2:21, Habakkuk 1:5-6) but at the same time allows men to make decisions/sin (as in 1 Sam 8:5-9) which shape their own future. In the case of the 1 Sam passage, this was actually a fulfillment of Gen 17:6 and 35:11. The people sinned, but God’s plan was executed.
2 Peter 3:3-16 – we don’t know when it will happen. And it’s been a long time, since Christ left, but Peter explains that God is being patient.
I think the real issue is… Is it all about God, or is it all about me? Either I’m the most important person in my world, or God is. It’s either My story or it’s His story of which I only play a part. If it’s my story and things don’t go my way, I’m angry or depressed. If it’s just part of God’s plan, I can go through it knowing that God is in control and it’s necessary.
The Biblical view of history is the only one with any meaning. If you believe one of the others, you have no purpose in this life except to live it up and get all you can out of life. Sort of like where we started with our gusto beer commercial.
And I think it would be safe to say the other world views put “me” at the center. The pantheist says, “I am god.” Nothing else exists but me. The naturalist is all about being the most fit – surviving and excelling and rising to the top of the ladder. The postmodernist wants to be a big wig in the dominant culture. Only the theist recognizes that he is just a part of God’s plan.
In all our questions, we’ve contrasted what Pantheism says, what Naturalism says and what the Bible says. I think the over-arching question one must ask himself is: Which world view has answers that make the most sense. All the world views are based on assumptions that require faith. As we said in the first lesson. The choice is not between Faith and Reason. The choice is which is the most reasonable faith.
One could write a whole book on each one of the questions we covered. We just touched the surface. But hopefully it has raised some interest and now you will have a framework to build on. And hopefully you have seen how you can interact with your neighbors and co-workers and deal with some of their objections.
49 N.O. Lossky, http://www.vehi.net/berdyaev/lossky.html