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