We have all seen the tragedy of the huge fire that destroyed much of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In the days after the fire, we have witnessed theological discussions about why the fire happened, and whether it is a demonstration that there is no God. Should God have protected Notre Dame Cathedral?
We want to point out a few things about the fire, Notre Dame Cathedral, and what the Bible says about the Church and church buildings. Of course, the fire was a tragedy. Anti-Catholic writers and atheists have denied it was a tragedy. Those critics maintain that it was good that this religious symbol was destroyed. We would point out that Notre Dame Cathedral has great historical significance and was a testimony to the artistic expression and skill of ancient human engineers and artisans. The building was a museum and had great tourism value. A destructive event in the Louvre or the Smithsonian would be comparable to what happened at Notre Dame.
From a theological standpoint, the fire is of little or no significance. Nowhere in the New Testament was there a command or instruction to build any kind of building. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady.” Mary was blessed to be a tool of God to bring His Son into the world, but nowhere does the Bible command us to worship her. The Bible does not portray her as an intermediary between God and man.
The word “Church” in the original Greek is “ekklesia,” meaning “that which is called out.”The Bible never uses the term in reference to a building. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:16 tell us what the Church is. From a religious standpoint, church buildings have often been a bane to faith, consuming money that should have gone to provide for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Frequently buildings becoming objects of worship themselves — an idol instead of a tool.
On April 11, 2019, scientists released the first actual image ever taken of a black hole. The black hole picture used wavelengths that are outside of what our eyes can detect. Astronomers used eight radio telescopes to see wavelengths that are beyond human vision. They photographed a black hole that is as large as our entire solar system, so it is a supermassive black hole.
This scientific accomplishment is significant because it allows scientists to test some of the predictions of Albert Einstein even down to the shape of the hole. A black hole is so massive that even light itself cannot escape the gravitational pull. The relationship of gravity and the shape of space is a concept proposed by Einstein that has radically improved our understanding of the nature of the universe.
There are important implications for apologetics in this discovery as well. A significant question that has been debated by atheists and believers for hundreds of years is whether the universe had a beginning or whether it has always existed. The biblical concept is that there was a beginning. Well-known atheists have claimed that matter/energy is eternal and just gets changed from one form to another forever. The nature of a black hole is that it sucks in everything that gets near it, including light. There is no escaping a black hole and attempts to propose a way around this fact such as wormholes and white holes have all been disproven.
If the universe has existed forever, and if black holes are continuously sucking in all matter including electromagnetic radiation, what would be the ultimate result? It seems pretty obvious that everything would have been sucked up by black holes and there would be nothing left but one supermassive black hole. That obviously isn’t the case, so there must have been a beginning to the creation.
If there was a beginning, there had to be a cause to that beginning. Ideas such as string theory and brane theory have attempted to get around this logical point without success. If there was a cause, there has to be a causer. The design, intelligence, and purpose that we see in the cosmos identify some of the properties of that causer, and God fits those criteria uniquely.
Atheists frequently use Galileo as proof that religion is destructive and that good scientists don’t believe in God. In reality, Galileo is a poster child for the view that we try to present in all of our websites, videos, and printed materials.
Atheists have created a classic example of “fake news,” and the facts are undeniable in Galileo’s case. Galileo was a firm believer in God and the Bible, and he remained so all of his life. Among his most famous statements about science and faith were, “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics … The human mind is a work of God and one of the most excellent.”
Galileo argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around. That was in opposition to the way the church leaders interpreted the Bible. The Pope urged Galileo to present both sides of the argument in a book. The Pope insisted that since God is omnipotent, He could create natural phenomenon any way He wanted to. Galileo wrote the book as a dialogue between the two sides. He named the character presenting the argument in favor of an Earth-centered solar system “Simplicio” meaning “buffoon.” Galileo made the Earth-centered case seem dull-witted. That caused the Pope to put Galileo in the permanent isolation of house arrest. Galileo was never tortured, and his house arrest was in the hospitality of luxurious private residences belonging to friends.
The main point here is that Galileo is a poster child for the harmony of science and faith because he was a believer in the biblical worldview who advanced a better scientific understanding of the universe. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Legislator.” Johannes Kepler who gave us the laws of planetary motion wrote: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed upon it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”
As the famous scientist Michael Faraday lay on his deathbed, a visiting friend asked him what his speculations were now that he knew he was dying. His response was “Speculations, man, I have none! I have certainties. I thank God that I do not rest my dying head upon speculations, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”
Since Galileo is a poster child for science and faith, you could also add Kepler and Faraday and several others.
Are most scientists atheists? Many times atheists and the atheistic media have suggested that most scientists reject belief in God and the best scientists have been atheists. That is simply not true. For many years we have published a column in our printed journal titled “Scientists and God.” In that column, we have included statements by leading scientists, many of them Nobel Prize winners, expressing their belief in a Creator.
Baruch Aba Shalev wrote a book titled 100 Years of Nobel Prizes. That book contains a report on the Nobel prizes awarded between 1901 and 2000. It shows that during that period when 423 prizes were awarded, 65.4% of Nobel Prize Laureates identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. Scientists who identified themselves as Christians won 78.3% of all Nobel prizes in Peace, 72.5% in Chemistry, 65.3 % in physics, 62% in medicine, 54% in economics, and 49.5% in literature.
This ministry is designed to reach out to the common man, not the intellectual giants of our time. By “common man” I mean men and women who work every day, raise families, and live from paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have a Nobel prize or a Ph.D., but they pay taxes and vote, and they don’t fall for self-defeating materialism.
One of the intellectual giants of our day is Dr. John Lennox, and he has something important to say. Dr. Lennox is an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has written several books on the compatibility of science and religious belief. A recent quote from Dr. Lennox was a response to atheist writer Peter Atkins. Atkins had claimed that “there is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.”
Lennox referred to this as “a self-defeating materialism.” Here is his explanation:
“The scientist’s confidence in reason ultimately depends on the existence of a rational and purposeful Creator. Otherwise, our thoughts are nothing more than electro-chemical events, the chattering of soul-less synapses. If you take the atheistic, naturalistic, materialistic view, you’re going to invalidate the reasoning process, because, in the end, you’re going to say that the brain is simply the end product of a blind, unguided process. If that’s the case, why should you trust it? The materialist view inevitably gives birth to a form of determinism that appears to mock our essential humanity. Biological determinism robs human beings of any claim to dignity and freedom. Free will, we are told, is an illusion.”
You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand the point Dr. Lennox is making about self-defeating materialism. If you want more wisdom from John Lennox, we recommend that you read his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
Philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) told the story of a king who refused to eat until he knew with certainty that his food had not been poisoned. The more he thought about how little he knew with certainty about his chef and his attendants, the more concerned he became. He finally starved to death. This story makes the point that everyone is operating on faith.
Atheists ridicule Christians for operating on faith not realizing that they depend on faith, and so does science. A classic example was a Greek scholar named Eratosthenes of Cyrene born in 276 BC. Eratosthenes noticed that on a specific day of the year, the Sun was positioned so that it illuminated the bottom of a well where he lived. From that fact, he had faith that the Earth was spherical.
On the day that the Sun shone to the bottom of the well in Syene (modern Aswan, Egypt), Eratosthenes placed a vertical rod in the ground at Alexandria and measured the angle of its shadow. Using the difference in angle of the Sun’s rays and the distance between the two locations, he calculated the circumference and diameter of the Earth with high accuracy. He even established the concept of latitude and longitude from his measurements. Scholars of Eratosthenes’ day ridiculed his idea because everyday experience suggested the Earth was flat and endless. They indicated that he was mistaken or his measurements were wrong. Their criticism did not sway the strong faith of Eratosthenes in what he believed.
A modern-day Eratosthenes would be Albert Einstein. His radical ideas were still not accepted by many in the scientific community some 40 years after he originally proposed them. The critics were silenced only when Einstein’s ideas could finally be tested and proven correct.
For many scientific discoveries in the past, that pattern has been repeated. A scientist operating on faith expressed a hypothesis based on his or her observations. The hypothesis could not be tested when the concept was proposed, but from that faith, something important was eventually discovered.
The definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 fits this scientific concept of how discoveries are made: “Faith forms the solid ground of things hoped for, perceiving as real what is not revealed to the senses.” (Amplified Bible).
Any Christian reading the newspaper or watching TV has to be disturbed by the volume of hate coming from politicians, entertainers and media people, as well as extreme special interest groups of all kinds. There are even groups formed to oppose hate that are spreading their own hatred. What should concern Christians is that some of these groups have turned out to be as extreme as the hate groups they are allegedly opposing. We are even seeing anti-hate groups attack the Bible.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Citizens for Transparency have both posted materials attacking the Bible and those who promote the teachings of the Bible. A primary target of these particular groups has been the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). As we posted before, the ADF defends people like Jack Phillips the Colorado baker who refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. ADF also believes in the biblical concept of marriage between a man and a woman, which the SPLC and Citizens for Transparency label as being “a hate message.”
The SPLC and Citizens for Transparency are well funded and recently placed a huge billboard attacking the ADF on Times Square. Teaching Bible morals and the principles God has established for us to live by is not hate. Concerning their attitude toward those who promote biblical principles, the SPLC has stated that their goal is to “say plainly that they aim to destroy these groups.” If teaching God’s word is accepted as hate then every Church that preaches the moral teachings of the Bible is vulnerable.
Rational human beings cannot read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 and construe what Jesus said as hate. It is true that the way you say things is as important as what you say, but we need to be careful not to stand by as anti-hate groups attack the Bible. We cannot support them as they use the current battle over hate to condemn the Bible and promote atheism.
The lack of a moral compass in America has become apparent. In the first part of 2019, various states have legalized recreational drugs and approved prostitution. Now the New York State legislature has allowed the abortion of a baby up to the time of birth. There was a standing ovation in the legislative chamber when they announced the result of the vote. Two states are now considering the abortion of a baby after birth if the child has “significant health issues,” whatever that means.
I am being bombarded with emails and phone messages from atheists saying that I need to see what significant changes can take place when religion no longer controls America. Religion has not controlled America for a long time, if ever.
This ministry is not about religion – human attempts to find God. This ministry is about education and seeing the evidence to support faith in God and the Bible as His Word. I appreciate the challenges of atheists and skeptics because I can raise questions from a scientific standpoint to show the intellectual bankruptcy of their abortion ideology. When we remove God from the equation, the moral compass is gone. You have no basis of making any law that has moral ramifications. The existence or nonexistence of God plays a major role in issues like these:
When is a fetus a human?
Can medical intervention change the criteria of what is moral?
Is “survival of the fittest” a valid standard to support whether someone should be allowed to live?
I have argued for over 50 years that one of the best evidences for God’s existence is the wisdom and practical value of the teachings of Jesus. I believe we can see God’s hand in the Bible’s writing which gives us answers to the tough questions. Science can provide data, but it cannot answer how its discoveries should be used.
We try to give logical answers that provide a moral compass to a confused world. Our answers are not from one man’s wisdom, but from what God has given us in His Word and in His creation. The moral argument for God’s existence gains strength as the world sinks into a quagmire of doubt and conflict, but the Bible’s fixed value system has worked and continues to work when it is applied.
For more on this subject, click HERE and watch programs 21 and 22 in the Does God Exist? series for free.
For the past two days, we have examined two reasons why atheism makes sense to some people. As we said before, many people genuinely believe that there is no God and there can be many reasons for that. Today we want to examine a third reason why atheism makes sense. It involves a failure to see God working in the lives of people who claim to be Christians.
REASON 3. Christianity does not work. If there is a God, why does He not act when things get rough? Why do even the best Christians find themselves afflicted with disease and loss and even death? Why do so many Christians have nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, hostile children, alcohol and drug problems, and all of the other bad things which are a part of the world today? One man recently wrote to me, “Christianity only works for those who would do okay without it.” Another wrote, “The only thing I can see in prayer is its therapeutic value. Certainly, those who are afflicted and are Christians do not have a better survival rate than those who are afflicted and are atheists.” A third said, “I do not know of any Christian man in my community that does more good, is more generous, or is more successful than my neighbor who is an atheist. If God is real and Christianity is really worth anything, why is that true?”
RESPONSE. This challenge gets to where most Christians live. Can our friends tell any difference between us as Christians and our neighbors who are not? There are two major problems here. The first is that erroneous claims by some religionists have fouled the air. There are those who wear the name Christian who convey to the world the idea that Christians have diplomatic immunity from all problems. They preach what some call a “health and wealth gospel.” They teach that no person who is a real Christian will ever be sick or fail.
The truth is that God never gave Christians diplomatic immunity from problems. The emphasis on present-day miracles and the use of television to promote the claims of “faith healers” have given atheists much to criticize. Atheists, and even many believers, do not understand the advantages a Christian enjoys. When the Word of God says things like, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given to you,” it is not speaking of physical and material things. God has not promised that Christians will have health, wealth, and freedom from problems. What He has promised is that He will bless those things we do to serve Him. There is no greater joy, greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction, or greater thrill than to see God work through us to accomplish something we could not possibly do alone.
The difference between an atheist and a Christian in dealing with infidelity in a mate is that the Christian can rebuild that marriage. The difference between the two in dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem is that the Christian can overcome it with God’s help. In dealing with death or tragedy, the Christian can cope and go on and continue to have a fulfilling life. In dealing with failure, the Christian can be secure and confident that it does not affect our eternal destiny.
ADVICE. It is vital that we convey to the world around us that when Christ lives in us, and we are spirit-filled people, we are not walking around two feet off the ground behaving as mystics. We Christians need to let the world know how much of a positive change God has made in our lives. Too often non-Christians view the Church as a group of somber, unhappy, irrational, mystical, illogical, unintelligent, hypocritical people who are out of touch with reality. This third reason why atheism makes sense is one that we can easily disprove as we can laugh, love, enjoy life, and logically and rationally defend our faith.
Yesterday, we looked at one reason why some people choose atheism. Today we want to examine another reason why atheism makes sense. As I said yesterday, some people seem to think that there are no real atheists. Since I was an atheist for many years, I know that isn’t true. Many people genuinely believe that there is no God and they have various reasons. Here is a second reason:
REASON 2. Some argue that religion causes nothing but trouble, hostility, suffering, and discord. History is full of religious wars. We could point out the Crusades, more recent conflicts in Northern Ireland, and in much of the Middle East spilling over into terrorism in the United States and western countries. Examine the internal problems of religious groups including hypocrisy, bickering, hostility, and abuse. Look at the prominent religious leaders who are guilty of immoral actions. Look at the money raked in by glib, fast-talking con-artists who build religious empires for their own pocket. They exploit the very people they pretend to help. In simple terms, religion does not seem to work.
RESPONSE. Who among those of us who wear the name “Christian” would want to deny all of those charges? We can cry out that these are human errors and not God’s. However, if faith in God does not work for us, how can atheists rationally believe it is going to work for them? Today the body of Christ is afflicted with people who claim to be Christians while they single out other Christians to attack as they display anything but a Christian attitude.
What the atheist is missing in this argument is that hypocrisy is not solely a function of religion. You find hypocrisy at work and on the golf course. There has only been one person who ever lived who was entirely free of hypocrisy, and He was the Son of God. Because one atheist was a murderer, can we legitimately say that all atheists are murderers? Every human falls short of what he should be. The most fundamental difference between atheism and Christianity is that Christianity recognizes that fact and functions in spite of it. Atheism relies on humanism which tries to deny the existence of sin while pointing out the sins of religion.
ADVICE. Those of us who wear the name “Christian” need to do a better job of pointing people to Christ and the Bible rather than to preachers and buildings. As long as we are “preacher-oriented” and “building bound” we will continue to reinforce the arguments of the atheists. When we convince people about Christ and the truth of the Bible, the errors of humans will not be relevant. We must live out the faith we claim to have so that others see Christ in us. Only then can we can show them following Christ brings real peace.