3. War of the Words
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars…” Mt 24:6 (KJV)
War has been waged since Cain attacked Abel. The weapons, strategies, and tactics have varied, but the greatest prize is the conquest of hearts and minds. When you can make your enemy believe as you do, they cease to be your enemy. If you cannot force agreement your only other choice for eliminating the enemy is to utterly destroy them. Failure means the conquered are merely the oppressed. Oppression is failure because eventually the oppressed will rise up against you.
The greatest epic war for hearts and minds is between God and Satan. Our hearts and minds are the objective. Our souls are at stake. We have free will. We can submit to God or Satan. Even in submission, we are not free of the battle. Whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, even though most of us don’t think in these terms, we are all on the battlefield. What we believe defines which side we take—or are taken by.
In order to understand this war we need to know who God and Satan are. God is Creator. He is holy and righteous, all-knowing, all-powerful, and present everywhere. God loves His creation and all of His creation is good. As Creator, nothing is hidden from him. Our free will, as well as that of Satan, exist because God made it so. Satan is a created being. He is evil, hateful, and a destroyer. Satan can only know what is revealed to him, has only the power allowed by God, and cannot be everywhere at once. Satan hates man because man was created in God’s image.
Through the lure of temptation to be like God, man disobeyed God. This is commonly called original sin. The result was a curse of physical corruption, pain, toil, and death. Corruption is passed down from generation to generation. All of mankind is subject to death. God’s mercy is to atone for and forgive our sin and by this restore our true likeness to Him. With that restoration comes life without end. Suffering and death end. Because God gave us free will, we have an element of choice about all this. God’s love and mercy to grant sinners every chance to repent is why God waits to execute divine wrath and bring the current system to its end. We can choose to repent and submit to Him or we may remain in defiance. Each choice has its consequences.
Some people believe God does not exist. This belief is called Atheism. Some people choose not to believe in the supernatural realm at all. This form of Atheism is called Materialism. The Materialist believes that material reality (space, time, energy and matter) is the only reality. This is an important distinction only because some people who do not believe in that a divine mind created the universe or life, but do accept some sort of non-material reality. Non-Material Atheists generally dislike religion, but do believe in “non-deity” spirits, ghosts, and sometimes angel or demon sorts of beings. Many Atheists who “believe in” science would classify themselves as Materialists.
Atheism in any form and Materialism in particular conveniently disposes of God and Satan as persons. By eliminating God and Satan, good and evil become irrelevant terms. Morality becomes nothing more than a personal code relative to the individual or society. Heaven and hell cease to be consequences. Good, evil, morality, and objective truth at best become quaint ideas left over from the past and at worst obstacles to unrestrained hedonistic (selfish pleasure) behavior. The Christian would typically say that choosing to believe God, Satan, Heaven and Hell do not exist does not mean they don’t. The Atheist would typically say that choosing to believe God, Satan, Heaven and Hell exist does not mean they do. Either way, what we believe is a personal choice.
The point of drawing all these distinctions is to understand there is a war between Christianity and Atheism, why, and what is at stake. Since both sides believe they are right, consider their objectives and the importance to each side to draw converts from the other side.
Christians open the bible and read the commands by Jesus to love and to go and make disciples. These last words of Jesus before ascending are a compelling motivation to Christians to go out and seek to persuade people to believe as they do. The primary and most compelling evidence for Christianity is personal testimony. When a person becomes a “born again” believer, they experience a change that affects them profoundly. They become generally more altruistic and tend to conform to a more objective moral code. In Christian terms this is called “the fruit of the Spirit.”
There can be no doubt that great evil has been done in the name of Christianity. Genesis teaches that selfishness leads to all sorts of immoral choices. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God. Cain wanted to be esteemed by God like Able. Abraham was afraid for his life so he prostituted his wife. Jacob wanted a pretty wife and when he didn’t get his way he stole her and ran. If these men, each who claimed to have spoken directly with God, can carry out such sin motivated by such selfishness, consider what people without belief in objective morality do. Any belief system free of object truth and morality allows and generally encourages individuals to put themselves ahead of others and in particular to put the local group ahead of outsiders.
The primitive church experienced incredible persecution and a great deal of martyrdom as the pagans sought to oppose what they perceived to be a threat. A combination of love demonstrated, personal experience and testimony shared, and rational dialog on sound doctrine—all working under the power of the divine mind of God—changed the world. Unconverted pagans hated the idea of objective absolute standards for morality. The Christian ethic starkly opposed the pagan hedonism. In spite of this and in spite of the power of majority of the population being pagan, the Christians began to win over the hearts and minds of more and more people. Eventually even the ruler of the Roman Empire accepted Christianity. When that happened, masses of people followed the lead of their Emperor.
The war against Christianity did not end with Constantine’s conversion. Even though much of the population of Europe was at least marginally Christian, there were still wars, famines, and other tragedies through all the long centuries since. Islam arose a few centuries after Constantine and eventually war broke out between Islam and Christianity. Eventually Islam was beaten back from Europe, yet it held together as a religion with ferocious intensity through the centuries since the crusades. After driving back the Muslims, the Roman Catholic church eventually came under attack from within its own ranks. Men like William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and others in their footsteps set about the task God gave them to reach out to the hearts and minds of average people with the good news of the gospel. It may sound odd, but the reformers believed the Roman church had lost its way, replacing the rule of Christ with the rule of Church. Even within the ranks of Christianity there was war for the hearts and minds of men and women.
Even as the Christian reformers were fighting to replace the authority of the Pope with the authority of Christ, a reformation of a different sort was emerging. The pantheism and mystery cults of ancient paganism were being reformed by the powerful influence of new philosophical rhetoric. The age of reason, age of enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it, began around the same time. Learning was coveted. With the church no longer being the sole proprietor of higher education, people began looking more to science and materialism for the answers to life’s problems. Even though most of the great scientists of this period were Christians, there were also many philosophers who used science as a means to repackage pagan ideas.
A new war began. The war was started by pagan philosophers using the name of science to gain legitimacy. Some such philosophers gave the public impression of Christian faith in order to avoid alienating their audiences, but others were openly atheistic. Science by definition can only be applied to the material universe, but it is the philosopher who makes the leap from limiting the scope of science to limiting the scope of reality.
In the early 19th century two philosophers emerged who made great contributions to the cause of paganism. First, Charles Lyell. He articulated a philosophy called “Uniformitarianism.” Lyell applied his beliefs to geology to draw the conclusion that the age of the earth is very great. Uniformitarianism is the belief that the earth is essentially unchanged over vast time periods. The idea allows for only localized catastrophes, but no major planetary changes in climate, geology, and so forth. Uniformitarianism refuses to believe in the planetary flood of the bible, instead seeking to explain geological columns, layers of sediment, and other geological phenomena in purely materialistic terms. The fossil record is as integral to Lyell’s geological theory as it is to Darwin’s vision of Evolution.
Charles Darwin was the other philosopher who gave paganism its greatest boost. Building on the work of Lyell just a few years earlier, Darwin spent years observing geology as well as biology. Starting from the premise that the earth is very old and that the fossil record proves the antiquity of the earth (compared to the biblical record), Darwin used the principle of natural selection as the centerpiece of what is today simply called “the theory of evolution.” Starting with the belief that great ages are available in which natural selection can work, Darwin suggests that through the process of natural selection new species would develop and over time become distinct. Given enough time, the process would allow development of all the many various forms of life we have today.
Even though particulars of Darwin’s theory have been shown to be substantively wrong, the foundational belief underlying the theory—that life can be explained by purely natural mechanisms—is alive and well. Likewise, even though many of the particulars of Lyell’s Uniformitarianism have been demonstrated false, the underlying premise that the earth is indeed extremely old remains solidly in place in the minds of many, even among the scientific community who reject many particulars of Lyell’s theory.
Beyond the surface of the earth, the work of Einstein and Hubble have been used against the Genesis record in support of Lyell and Darwin. Einstein showed the universe is expanding. Hubble built on Einstein’s theory to show that the distance to other stars requires the universe to be vastly older than the biblical account allows. The field of astronomy is relatively new and fertile ground for Atheism’s war against Christianity.
In the modern era many perceive the war to lie between religion and science. This is true in only a superficial sense. To understand the true nature of the war, we need to understand that Christianity and Evolution are both religions. The Atheist position is that Christianity is the religion and Evolution is science. They have been highly successful promoting this concept because religion is perceived as superstitious and science is perceived as rational and reasonable. Genuine science is rational and reasonable, but neither Evolution nor Creation is science. They are both belief systems.
Science is a technique for testing theories of causality. By using each belief system as the basis for a theoretical model, elements of each model can be put to the test. While neither Evolution nor Creation can be tested directly, the predictions of each model can compared with the evidence observed. It is to this purpose I am now set and to this purpose we embark together in our journey to explore the realms of numerous sciences to test which belief system’s model best predicts what we observe.