We frequently receive the God question from skeptics. Their challenges are something like this: “Since humans created God to explain what they didn’t understand, and since we now can explain everything, there is no need for God.” This relates to the “god of the gaps” argument, which simply says that people invented God to fill in the gaps in human understanding. There is no question that various cultures and religions have used that way of thinking. When people didn’t understand what caused volcanos, they invented a god or goddess to explain them. Even today, some people in Hawaii sincerely believe that volcanos are sacred and have a supernatural origin.
The “god of the gaps” thinking is rooted in ignorance, but so is the question, “Who created God?” The problem with the God question in this form is that the questioner has a concept of God which is physical and, in some cases, human-like in form and function. The biblical concept of God is unique in that it challenges us to think more deeply than any physical or human makeup.
The question also assumes that there was a time when God did not exist. The problem with that thinking is that God created time. In Revelation 22:13, God says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Personified Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:22-23 and says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning before the Earth ever was.” Peter wrote that “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).
God is not a man (Numbers 23:19) nor like any physical being. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and does not possess flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17). Acts 17:28 tells us that “..in Him we live and move and have our being.” We find those descriptions difficult to understand because they are outside the realm of our experience. Modern science tells us that there are dimensions beyond our own three dimensions of X, Y, and Z. Mathematics tells us that there are eleven spatial dimensions, but we cannot even define our fourth dimension of time.
The God question that atheists and skeptics bring up shows that they fail to understand that God is outside of time and space and, therefore, He always existed. Quantum mechanics has shown us a whole new realm of physics where some of the laws of classical physics no longer apply. No well-educated person would deny the studies of quantum mechanics which fill modern scientific journals. The only question remaining is whether the things that lie in the quantum world are without design or purpose and therefore show no intelligence behind them. The quantum world is incomplete because it offers no reason for there being something instead of nothing.
The concept of good and evil offers an answer to the God questions. It tells us why there is something. John 1:1-5 provides a glimpse into that question when it says, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” The word “logos,” from which we get the word “logic,” involves the metaphysical concept of right and wrong. The purpose of human existence is the struggle between good and evil.
Job stretched his mind to understand that he was a major player in the war between good and evil in Job 42:1-6. Understanding God’s nature and that we are beings created in His image opens a new understanding of the God question. It shows us the fallacy of asking, “Who created God?” and expecting a physical answer. God fills the cosmos (Jeremiah 23:23-24), and our studies into the nature of matter have opened a whole new door to better understanding the God question.
Therapist Erica Komisar writing in the Wall Street Journal in 2019 said, “Don’t believe in God? Lie to your children.” The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that belief in Christianity “contributes to a wide range of health and well-being outcomes later in life.” Even a quote from atheist Richard Dawkins said, “the evidence that people who believe in God seem to behave better than those who don’t.”
In my 41 years of teaching in public schools, I dealt with all kinds of kids in all types of situations and saw the effect of Christianity on teens. The young people who were active in their religious beliefs were the best students and acknowledged school community leaders. Kids that were in trouble with the law, or with the school, or who were actively involved in gangs were almost universally kids who did not have a Christian foundation. I found that a vast number of my students did not have a Bible. I kept a Bible on my desk, and it not only precipitated a lot of questions, but it was frequently stolen.
On four different occasions, students went to the school administration requesting that I be allowed to present my lectures on evidence for God’s existence to the student body. This culminated in “minicourses,” where the students could come to my presentations or go to various other activities, including recreational ones in the gymnasium or the swimming pool. We had good attendance at the lectureships, and I usually gave them in the school auditorium.
An old biblical proverb says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Young people need to see the evidence for God’s existence and the validity of the Bible system of how to live. In our present age, that evidence is primarily hidden from young people. That is what the Does God Exist? Ministry is attempting to address. Kids hear the arguments against faith and Christianity from the media and aggressive atheists. For them to make their own decisions, they need to hear the positive evidence for faith. There is a positive effect of Christianity on teens.
In his book The Blind Watchmaker biologist and militant atheist Richard Dawkins wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He then argues that we must ignore appearance and realize that those complicated things were not designed. Can we recognize what design looks like?
Francis Crick, also an atheist, was one of the scientists who solved the mystery of the DNA molecule’s structural design. In his book What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, he wrote that “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
Even Charles Darwin admitted in a paragraph near the end of his bookOn the Origin of Species that many scientists rejected his theory, and he concluded that it was because they had closed minds. It seems that scientists in Darwin’s day and most people in our day see design in living things, and design calls for a Designer.
It is counter-intuitive to think that the rich tapestry of life is merely a chance accident with no design and no Designer. In our everyday experience, we know what design looks like. We never see anything complex and functional come into being without intelligent operatives designing it. That is true of buildings, automobiles, computers, books, and websites. Those and many other things around us show design, and they don’t happen without a designer. To believe that dead molecules came together on their own, came to life, and began to reproduce and breathe and think and write books and ask questions requires a great “leap of faith.”
Atheist Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy at New York University, wrote a book titled Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. In that book, he wrote, “It is prima facie implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.” On the other hand, in his book “The Last Word,” Nagel wrote, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers…I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God…”
For years, Antony Flew was a renowned philosopher described as “the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world.” He had a successful career of disputing God’s existence until he examined the design in living cells. His last book published in 2004 was titled There Is a God.
There is something within us that tells us we see design when we look at living things. We know what design looks like, and we have to go against our intuition to accept the idea that everything, including ourselves and our thinking, is an accident. As you look around at the many things that appear to be designed, ask yourself, “Do I know what design looks like?” And then ask, “Could there be a Designer?” How you answer that second question will make a world of difference in your life.
One thing that impacts an apologetic program like ours is the attitude that evidence doesn’t count. We have seen that with COVID-19 during the past year. Some people are selective in whether they will accept the evidence or if they will ignore the evidence.
Nearly everybody in this country has, for many years, trusted the medical establishment. When we break a bone or have cancer, we go to a doctor or hospital. Most of us go to the medical establishment for problems such as arthritis, gastrointestinal issues, tetanus shots, and any number of pain issues. When the coronavirus pandemic began, many people chose to ignore the evidence presented by the medical establishment. As people started to die from the virus and hospitals were overrun, some people believed the whole pandemic was a hoax. Now that there are vaccines, people choose not to trust them.
This attitude of choosing to ignore the evidence if it inconveniences us has caused many people to reject God. I remember vividly when a young man came up to me after a lectureship at Purdue University. He said, “I can’t argue with anything you presented in your lecture, and I know the evidence for the existence of God is huge, but I’m not about to quit sleeping with my girlfriend.” That attitude has produced a society that promotes “survival of the fittest” and refuses to consider any possibility they should follow the Christian lifestyle.
The sad thing is the result of all this. I have friends who have lost a child, a parent, or a close friend and who stand there weeping as they say, “Why did this have to happen?” It didn’t have to happen!! How many of us are going to say as we stand in judgment before God and say, “Why do I have to spend eternity separated from God and everything good?” It doesn’t have to happen!! In Matthew 25:41-46, Jesus paints a picture of that very situation, and He simply reminds those who are lost that they refused to accept the evidence for God in the things they saw around them during their life.
Atheists and skeptics like to point out numerical difficulties in the Bible to prove that it is full of mistakes. For example, in 2 Samuel 15:7, the King James translation says that after 40 years, Absalom asked the king to allow him to go and pay a vow. Most modern translations say it was four years. The King James follows the Hebrew Masoretic text, while the other translations use different manuscripts. The number four in Hebrew is “arba” and the number 40 is “arbaim.” It is easy to see how a copyist could confuse these two words, but we also need to understand how the Bible uses numbers.
The Jewish culture gave special significance to numbers, including 40. Some writings used numbers, perhaps not intending that they should be mathematically exact but symbolic. My friend Richard Hoyt has researched this, and he points out many times when the Bible tells us that something occurred over a period of 40 days, nights, or years:
Genesis 7:12 – It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Genesis 8:6 – Noah waited 40 days before opening the window of the ark. Exodus 16:35, Numbers 14:33-34 – The Israelites wandered for 40 years. Exodus 24:18 & 34:28, Deuteronomy 10:10 – Moses was with God 40 days on the mountain. Numbers 13:25 – The spies returned from searching the land after 40 days. 2 Samuel 5:4 – David reigned for 40 years. 1 Kings 11:42 – Solomon reigned for 40 years. 2 Kings 12:1 – Jehoash of Judah reigned for 40 years. 1 Kings 19:8 – Elijah journeyed to Mount Horeb for 40 days and 40 nights. Jonah 3:4 – God gave Nineveh 40 days to repent. Matthew 4:2 – Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Acts 1:3 – Jesus appeared to people for 40 days after His crucifixion.
To understand how the Bible uses numbers, we must consider how a Jewish person at the time would have understood it. Numerical references frequently involve symbolic importance. One indicates unity or singleness of purpose. (See Acts 17:26 or Romans 5:12,15.) Ten indicates completeness – the ten plagues, the ten commandments, the tithe. (See Genesis 14:20 and 28:22 or Luke 15:8 and 19:11-27.) When biblical writers used 40 to indicate a period of time, they may not have meant an exact mathematical number. We do the same thing in English. You might say, “I’ve told you a thousand times” when we mean a large number but not literally a thousand.
Any time we read something, we have to ask, “How did people understand this statement at the time it was written?” It is critical that we consider not only who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, and why, but also how the receiver would have understood it. In the 2 Samuel 15:7 passage, there is also a question of the meaning of “after.” After what? Anointing a king was an important event and a significant time marker. If it means “after” the anointing of David to be king, then 40 years makes sense.
Bible numbers always have a message which is more important than the number itself. If we understand how the Bible uses numbers, we can resolve many of the challenges from atheists and skeptics.
The persecution of Christians inChina continues to be severe. It is estimated that there are 60 million Christians in China, but half of them are in unregistered churches. Our Chinese materials are mostly in the hands of unregistered Christians, and a vast percentage of those are in university settings. A new tactic against the gospel is a Bible revision by the Communist Chinese Government.
American missionaries were able to take large numbers of Chinese Bibles into the country before the government’s crackdown. The Chinese government has answered that by producing a state version of the Bible. A high school textbook published by the Chinese government quotes their version of John 8:3-11. This passage is the account of a woman taken in adultery and brought before Jesus by the religious leaders. The leaders cite the Old Testament law saying that she should be stoned. In verse 7, Jesus says, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” The Chinese government quote of this passage is quite different. In the Communist version, Jesus says that the law has to be enforced, and he stones the woman to death.
This has been called “the Communist Christ,” and it is a very different Christ from the one we read about in the Bible. It is also a vivid demonstration of what happens when Christianity gets mixed up with politics. The atheistic Communist government twists the biblical teaching to fit their agenda.
We emphasize Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount) and Matthew 22:21 (about rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s). We do that keep biblical teaching pure and not tainted by the political agenda of the day. Bible revision by the Communist Chinese Government is nothing new. People who claimed to be Christians distorted Christ’s teaching to justify slavery in America. Others today use the Bible to justify abortion and immorality.
Like many other religions, there is a movement toward Atheism as a business enterprise. The magazine known as Skeptical Inquirer is a four-color, flashy periodical that devotes a large percentage of its material to attacking various Christian groups. There is no shortage of targets for this magazine. Between young earth groups, TV evangelists, and miracle-claiming churches, there is always something to which the magazine can apply destructive scientific research. Many of their articles and the research they point to are well done.
The problem is that the Center for Inquiry paints everyone with the same brush. Much of their material condemns all religious faith and all biblical interpretations with the same condemnation. In a recent letter to the membership, their executive director announced that the board of directors authorized hiring a marketing director for the Center for Inquiry. The goal is “to expand and broaden their legal challenges, educational offerings, community building and creating and sharing evidenced resources.” They are appealing for donations to accomplish their goals.
Commercial Atheism is a religion. It is based on faith in a selected group of writers whose material is produced without peer review in most cases and is frequently highly prejudiced. They are appealing to those who wish to deny spiritual matters, and they ignore the work of experts who have religious faith.
As the world blindly moves toward the rejection of God, and especially Christianity, we can expect Atheism as a business enterprise to become a high dollar operation. Hiring a marketing director is just one more indication of the direction atheism is headed. We need to avoid the shysters, hypocrites, and false teachers in religion while responding to the atheists’ challenges. The need for that has never been greater.
Remember 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
For the past three days, we have looked at the role of faith in our lives. We have seen that the biblical definition of faith is the “foundation” – that on which we build our lives. We have seen that faith has a role in science, religion, and the practical day-to-day living of our lives. I have shared my journey with you, leaving my family’s atheistic faith and growing a faith in God from the scientific evidence and the Bible. I hope that you will examine your faith. Look at your foundation and how it affects the building of your life. Here are some suggestions:
As I learned about the laws of thermodynamics, it became increasingly apparent that matter/energy could not be eternal. Now quantum mechanics and relativity have added new evidence that there was a beginning. If there was a beginning, it had to be caused. We can say that we don’t know enough to understand the cause. However, the deeper we go onto the quantum world, the more obvious it is that the creation started from a cause outside of space and time. God is a causer outside of space and time, which He created. The fact that there are purpose and design in the cosmos eliminates chance as a causer. We have a large volume of material on this subject and can make it available to you without cost.
#2. DEAL WITH WHERE YOUR FOUNDATION (YOUR FAITH) TAKES YOU. Where did my father’s faith in education take him? Did it make him happy, secure, and fulfilled? Examine your faith. Does it give you a reason to live, a purpose in existing? Does your faith allow you to deal with the problems that life brings to us all?
All of us know people who have tried to base their lives on the alternatives to faith in God. Does making a lot of money lead to a meaningful life? Does becoming a political leader bring joy, contentment, and peace? Do recreational drugs fulfill us as humans? I have had a lot of adversity in my life. My history includes having a multiply handicapped child, losing my wife to death, never having much money, and having physical problems and pain. I have struggled and wept and wondered why, but I have had a good life and have enjoyed my life. Do other foundations enable a person to deal with life’s problems?*
#3. LOOK TO THE FUTURE. Now I am at the end of my life, but that is only the end of my physical existence. My faith allows me to be confident that something better lies ahead. I have hope and peace with the fact that I will die. I see that I have had a purpose in living and my feeble existence turned out to leave the world a better place than I found it. That is because I have been able to share my faith with others and enable them to find joy in living.
Jesus makes a promise to those who choose to build their lives on faith in God. “Come unto me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and LEARN of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Don’t listen to religion or philosophy or the pleasure peddlers of our world who will give you an unproven faith that doesn’t work. Examine your faith and build it by learning and growing in your understanding of God.
In the past two days, we have looked at a basic understanding of what faith is and how faith works in our lives. We saw that the Bible defines faith as the foundation on which we build our lives. We pointed out that faith is involved in science. I have been very personal in discussing my family and the destructive faith that has destructively influenced all of us. My faith is very different, and it came about differently.
One facet of faith is that we frequently share it within families. When a family member rejects the faith of the rest of the family, that creates conflict. My parents strongly emphasized education as the foundation on which to build your life. They viewed religion as irrational nonsense that enslaved and restricted humans. At every opportunity, my parents ridiculed religious faith. Hypocrisy, racism, violence, war, and waste provided a constant barrage of good reasons for them to reject faith in God. By the time I was eight years old, I regurgitated my parent’s faith and took a lead role in atheism. That is how faith works in our lives.
In junior high, I had a science teacher named Wayne Gross, who made it clear that he believed that there was academic evidence that God exists, and the Bible is true. In high school, I had a great interest and some aptitude in science. In addition to that, I became infatuated with an attractive young lady who was one of the top students in my high school class.
I did not have any moral values because my parents taught me that educated people realize that life is “survival of the fittest.” The moral guidance I received was to make sure you come out number one. I found that this attractive young lady was morally uncompromising, and she based her morality on the Bible. To get her to compromise her morality, I wanted to show her that faith in God and the Bible was educationally absurd.
I set out to prove to this girl, and to Mr. Gross, that educated people who read the Bible would not believe anything in it. Mr. Gross encouraged me to start with Genesis 1. I had stolen a Bible from a motel (there were no Bibles in my parent’s library), and I started reading it and researching the words in the original manuscripts to prove it wrong.
As I read the Bible and understood its message, looking at the scientific evidence, I started rejecting everything my parents, my peers, and the religious experts of the day told me. In doing that, I began to understand that everything I had ever been told about God and the Bible was wrong. Education was leading me to a new faith, and my parents did not handle my efforts well. They denigrated the faith of Mr. Gross, my girlfriend, and myself.
How faith works in our lives determines the direction we take. Several years later, I was faced with what to do with a child who was born blind, mentally challenged, and with both cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. This polarized my faith and my parent’s faith. My father used a parallel example of buying a car and finding it was defective. “What do you do?” he asked. “You take it back and demand a refund.”
How we handle evidence, and what we do with it becomes the foundation that impacts our lives. Tomorrow we’ll look at that a little deeper.
Yesterday we looked at the definition of the word “faith.” The Bible defines faith as the foundation (Greek “hupostasis”) of our lives (Hebrews 11:1). We mentioned that we all have faith in gravity. We also saw how the scientific faith that light is a wave and not a particle had to change as new evidence became available. All of us have foundations that rule our lives, and faith or lack of faith in God is one of them.
Even our understanding of what God is affects us in a variety of ways.* In the distant past, people thought of gods as physical beings that looked like humans. Roman and Greek gods were humans with superpowers of one kind or another. Some people today still view God as a human with human emotions and desires. Experiences in life can weaken or destroy that kind of faith. When someone rejects faith in God because of a tragedy in life, the root cause of that rejection is a flawed concept of what God is.
Faith or lack of faith in God can determine the foundation of our lives. The question that we must ask is, “What is the foundation (faith) on which I base my life?” For my father, who was an atheist, the foundation of his life was education. His father was a minister, and that faith did not appeal to him as a way to build his life. Instead, he pursued the highest level of education possible, achieving a Ph.D. in philosophy at Columbia University under one of the leading educators in his field. Then he became a full professor at Indiana University and was recognized as one of the top experts in his field.
After a long career with numerous awards and recognitions, my father retired. Did all of these achievements and recognitions provide a foundation for him? A regular activity for my father was to engage in a cocktail hour. He dealt with the stress and frustration of his work by drinking. My father was not socially active. He went to social affairs only because he had to, and alcohol was the foundation, the lubricant which enabled him to function socially.
Shortly after his retirement, my father developed leukemia. Going through the brutal treatments available at that time was tragic and agonizing to watch. The end of his life was a constant battle to survive, and the treatments eventually killed him. Death was the ultimate tragedy because he died without hope of anything better.
The other problem with my father’s faith was what his foundation did to and for my mother and my two brothers. My mother was forced to become the social director of the family. Social events were her life, and achieving recognition from her peers was her foundation. After my father died, she became the leader of the retirement center where she lived. She commanded the respect of everyone there, including the management and staff. This became her foundation, and her faith was that it would continue. When she suffered a stroke and was moved to the care center, she was not even allowed to eat with her peers, much less play a role in the retirement center’s social events. She was so mortified and miserable in her new situation that I had to move her 200 miles from the retirement center to a facility near me. She was miserable there as well.
My parents had a dependence on alcohol as a foundation for life and a faith that it would make everything else function normally. This rubbed off on the rest of the family. Like many people in today’s world, the negative destroyed not only my father’s faith but my mother and brother’s faith as well. Faith or lack of faith in God will determine the course of your life. In tomorrow’s discussion, we will look at how we can build a workable faith.