We recently presented a public lectureship in Chester, California. Some preachers who attended all lamented the number of young adults who no longer attended their congregations. We have also received emails from church leaders complaining about the loss of young people and worrying that their congregations are “graying” with most of the members being senior citizens. Fifty years ago DOES GOD EXIST? predicted this crisis with atheism winning the day in the media and on our college campuses. Unfortunately, the Church has done nothing to counteract this trend. We still have congregations where the leaders present no lessons of any kind on how we know God exists, how we know the Bible is His Word, and how we can answer the challenges of secular humanism, evolutionism, modernism, and materialism. The Church needs practical apologetics.
The apostle Peter wrote, “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you…”(1 Peter 3:15). Because we have refused to do what Peter told us to do, our young people assume that we have no answer to the major challenges they face each day. Many of our preacher-training schools teach their students that they should believe, and if God says it that settles it. Neither Jesus, the apostles, nor the early Church practiced that mentality. Romans 1:18-25 explains the progress of modern atheism, and in Acts 17:16-34 Paul addressed the kind of challenges today’s Church faces.
Young people today need to know why we believe what we believe. Many of us are not prepared to answer the questions that kids have. While kids may stay “in church” while they are at home, their reason for staying, in their words which I regularly hear, “It’s a small price to pay for peace at home.” The Church seems to think that entertaining kids will answer their questions, but the truth is that we can not out-entertain Disney. When kids return from a trip to Gatlinburg or Six Flags, they have the same questions they had before. When kids leave home and no longer have to appease their parents, they no longer attend any congregation of the Church. The university or the armed services will not push them to attend. Even kids who attend a Christian college frequently do not attend any congregation of the Lord’s Church.
We urge adults to pray about how to bring practical apologetics into the thinking of their young people. There are many good books and studies out there, but there are also some really bad ones. Ninety-percent of all printed apologetic material in the United States is written by denominational speakers who are supporting their denomination’s doctrine (according to Ronald Numbers in his book The Creationists). This includes all of Ken Ham’s material as well as Henry Morris and the Institute for Creation Research.
This ministry has existed for 50 years with the fundamental purpose of showing those willing to look at the scientific evidence, that God does exist and that the Bible is His Word. Various religious people have frequently told us that what we are doing is useless because everyone really has a belief in God. Data that shows that 40% of Americans say “none” when asked about their religious affiliation. But the critics argue that even people with no church connection still have a belief in God.
One of the more reliable organizations that gathers demographic data on religious issues is the Pew Research Center. The June 2018 issue of Christianity Today published a report from Pew Research in which 4700 adults were asked if they “believe in God as described in the Bible.” Almost half, 44% of the respondents, said they did not. The obvious devil in the details is whether what they think the Bible describes is actually the way the Bible describes God. (If you think the Bible describes God shown in the picture above, you are mistaken. We have a video that deals with that point and you can watch it HERE.) It is evident that a growing population in this country have faith issues with belief in God as the essential starting point.
When talking to unbelievers, we often hear the WHY questions. “Why is there something instead of nothing?” “Why do bad things happen to us?” “Why does God allow …?” Seekers can’t answer the WHY questions by rejecting the existence of God, because atheism offers no answers at all. Even Christians struggle with the WHY questions when God doesn’t answer their prayers the way they think He should.
We can understand virtually all of the WHY if we look at God’s purpose in what He has done and what He is doing today. In Ephesians 3:8-11 we read:
“Unto me, who am less than the least of Christ’s People yet I was chosen for this special joy of telling the Gentiles the Glad News of the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make clear what is God’s way of working out that hidden purpose which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now to the Archangels and to all the Powers on high should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out through the Church in accordance with that purpose that runs through all ages and which He has now accomplished in Jesus Christ, our Master.”
If you believe that evil exists, and atheists like Richard Dawkins deny the existence of evil (see River Out of Eden, page 133), then you can easily understand why there is something instead of nothing. We are in a war between good and evil. It is all around us, and even modern science-fiction writers recognize the struggle and strive to show that good is superior to evil.
The book of Job gives us a picture of the struggle. After facing the challenge of his own suffering and criticism by the wise men of his day, Job finally hears from God. His response to God is, “I have uttered things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know…. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye has seen you, and I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3-6).
We have seen and are seeing how ugly evil can be. Humans treat each other with such malice that it is hard to comprehend. We can see the consequences of the selfish choices we make in everything from the effects of pollution to the destructive force of crime. Even though I don’t like the bad things that have happened in my life, I know there is a purpose in them. Some of those purposes I have already understood, and eventually, we will all understand.
Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most famous scientist in the world today. Hawking is a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist. In 1963, when he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors gave him two years to live. He has far exceeded the life expectancy of an ALS patient, even though the disease has gradually taken away his ability to move.
Today Hawking speaks using a computerized voice that he controls with his cheek muscles using a slow process of selecting words and letters. In spite of his disability which he does not talk about, he has given lectures and written best-selling books. Although he had previously written that God was not needed to explain the creation, in 2014 he openly declared himself to be an atheist.
Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965. Over the years his illness and his celebrity put a strain on the marriage. Also, Jane Hawking was a Christian and Stephen was an unbeliever, which added to their differences. In 1990 Stephen left Jane for one of his caregivers. In 1995 he divorced Jane and married the caregiver, Elaine Mason. In 2006 Stephen and Elaine divorced. Hawking then resumed a closer relationship with his first wife and his children and grandchildren. Jane wrote a book about their renewed relationship, and it was made into a movie The Theory of Everything in 2014. Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in the film, and the role won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Speaking of the Theory of Everything, that is what Stephen Hawking and other scientists have spent years trying to find. On January 8, 2018, a new episode of the series Favorite Places premiered on CuriosityStream.com. In the show, Stephen Hawking is shown traveling through space to visit some of his favorite places including Venus, the Sun, and the star Proxima Centauri. Narrating the adventure with his computer-generated voice, he tells about his search for the Theory of Everything:
“I have been searching for something my whole life. Something to explain the world that is by turns kind and cruel, beautiful and confusing. A single all-encompassing idea that can explain the nature of reality—where it all came from and why we exist at all—the Theory of Everything.”
Perhaps Hawking has been overlooking the answer. Perhaps he has left out the key to that answer—God. Perhaps his ex-wife Jane had the answer all along in her Christian faith. Stephen acknowledges that the universe is amazingly fine-tuned for life. He attempts to explain that by the idea that this is only one of an almost infinite number of universes with different parameters and we just happen to live in the one universe with the right parameters and laws to allow life to exist.
Instead of an accidentally fine-tuned universe, what if God created a perfect universe. What if God is love and He created us so that He could love us and so that we would love and serve Him. What if our failure to do so explains why the world is “by turns kind and cruel.” That would explain “where we came from and why we exist at all.” It would also explain “the nature of reality.” That is what Stephen Hawking has been searching for his “whole life.”
Everyone knows that if you add the three angles of a triangle, the total equals 180 degrees. So how can you have a 270-degree triangle? This question can be applied to the much tougher challenge of understanding what God is.
Many of the struggles people have in understanding God are rooted in our inability to understand how God functions and what is the nature of God. Questions we hear are like: “What race is God?” “What sex is God?” “How can God hear the prayers of many different people in many different places all at once?” “Who created God?” “Why does God allow awful things to happen?” These questions are a reflection of our inability to understand God’s nature.
The Bible gives us many pictures of God’s nature. So what does the Bible say God is like? All of the biblical descriptions portray God as a being who exists outside of time and space. Since God is not limited by the dimensions that restrict us, then the rules that are inviolable in our dimensions create no barriers for God.
To illustrate, I suggest that you take a flat sheet of paper and draw a triangle that has three right angles of 90 degrees for a 270-degree triangle. You may reply, “It is not possible. Triangles have 180 degrees. Don’t you know the rules of Euclidian geometry?” I then suggest that you visualize this. On a globe of the Earth, start at the North Pole and draw a line down the Prime Meridian to the Equator. Then to make the first 90° angle, go west along the Equator to 90° west longitude. From that point make a second 90° angle by going straight north to the North Pole. That line will be perpendicular to the first line creating a third 90° angle. By changing from the two-dimensional paper to the three-dimensional globe, the impossible becomes possible.
Let’s apply that to our understanding of God. How do we, stuck here in our limited dimensions, have the power to comprehend God who is not limited to our dimensions? The answer is, of course, that we cannot! To answer the most profound questions about God, we have to be willing to enlarge our understanding of the nature of God. We must accept the fact that God is not limited to our dimensions. When we do that, we realize that the questions we asked earlier are meaningless. They come from the fact that we cannot see all of the dimensions of God’s existence. A 270-degree triangle is possible when it is not limited to two dimensions. For a dimensionless God, all limitations are gone.
We now have 3700 students taking our Christian apologetics course. We began that ministry in 1960 working with prisoners in Indiana. We wrote a three-lesson apologetics course because a large percentage of the incarcerated people we talked to had lost or were struggling with their faith.
That basic correspondence course kept growing, being updated and revised to the point where we now have 13 lessons. John Clayton grades all of the courses, but we prepared a teacher’s guide for use in Bible school classes and youth programs. We quickly found that the course was too basic for many of our prisoner students, so we began a 13 lesson college-level course. We have offered that course for 20 years, and it is also on our website (doesgodexist.org).
We offer students who complete either one or both of our apologetics courses nine other courses that are Bible-study programs taught by other teachers. There are also contact opportunities with congregations geographically close to the students. All of these courses are free and postage-paid both ways.
We no longer offer the basic course online because of hacking issues, but we will mail it to anyone requesting to be enrolled. You can take the course online by simply opening the question sheet for each lesson, copying and pasting the answers, and emailing them to John Clayton. Details are on the website. Whether online or by mail, our courses are always free of charge.
DOES GOD EXIST? maintains a Facebook page with daily postings. We often get challenges and questions from atheists and skeptics or those who are seeking for answers. We want to share the following conversation from Facebook. The article we posted was about animals that are ruminants (cud chewers) The article ended like this:
DGE?- …This system of digestion allows animals who are grazers to survive in the hostile world of the wilderness. The balance in nature between predators and those animals that eat plant material is critical. If there are too many herbivores (plant eaters), they will eat all of the vegetation. If there are too many successful carnivores (meat eating predators), they can wipe out all of the plant eaters. The Master Designer has given us a balanced system with many features to allow animals and plants to avoid extinction. Cud chewing is one of those features. Ever since Adam and Eve, human actions have often thrown the system out of balance.
SEEKER- I would call that adaptation or evolution and the fact that you mention Adam and Eve says this was penned by someone who believes in creation. If Adam was the first man on Earth shortly after the creation by God, then where did the dinosaurs come from? Still not had a decent answer on that yet.
DGE?- Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It does not say when the beginning was or how long God took to create the heavens and the Earth. The verse is undated and not timed. Then in verse 2, we are told that Earth was in place and it was formless and empty. Beginning in verse 3 we see a description of the stages of creation that God used to transform the formless and empty Earth into a planet that was full of life. Finally, on the last “day” of that creation, God brings human beings on the scene. The word translated “day” is the Hebrew “yom” which has four literal meanings in the Bible. It can mean a 24-hour day. It can mean the daylight portion of a 24-hour day. It can mean any portion of a 24-hour day. It can also mean an indefinite, but finite period of time. If you want to say that in Genesis chapter 1 it has to mean a 24-hour day, then you have a problem with dinosaurs and many other things. If you understand it as being an indefinite period of time, then any conflict between the Bible and science disappears. At DOES GOD EXIST? we believe that science and the Bible are friends, not enemies.
SEEKER- That still doesn’t answer the original question on dinosaurs. I have heard some say that the fossils we have were placed by “God” to test man’s faith, but I find this extremely hard to believe. Darwin is still winning. If there is an all-powerful God then why does he allow doubt? Why does he not simply show himself and remove all doubt? I guess a possibility is that if man was made in his image then like the man God too has died.
DGE?- When the Bible says that God made male and female in his image (Genesis 1:27) it doesn’t mean physical image. God is not physical. Jesus said, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). God is eternal and not subject to physical death. If the days of Genesis 1 are long but finite periods of time (as mentioned before), then dinosaurs would have been created on one of the earlier “days” before humans were created. (Probably day 5) Or perhaps dinosaurs roamed the Earth in that untimed period after God created the Earth in verse 1 and the time when it was empty and dark. Perhaps after a mass extinction. Many other creatures are not mentioned in the Genesis account–some extinct and some still in existence. The creatures mentioned are the ones familiar to humans. There was no Hebrew word for dinosaurs or other creatures that people did not know existed.
SEEKER- Definitely getting there now, but all based on “If.” Surely a day was twenty-four hours then as it is now and not millions of years. Also, it seems then that the Bible was written by man if the writer had no word for dinosaurs and never knew they existed. God surely would have had a name for them. I don’t understand if God does exist then why are we not born with this knowledge, why is it not a natural instinct like feeding from a mother’s breast at birth. Why would he want to give us doubt? Darwin still winning but I would so love God to win.
DGE?- There are other Bible passages where the Hebrew word “yom” translated “day” in Genesis 1 is used to mean an indefinite period of time longer than a day. (e.g. Hosea 6:2) If there were no word for the dinosaur in Hebrew and God made one up, how would anyone know what it meant? Hebrew is a language for human communication. If the people did not know what the word meant and had never seen a dinosaur, the word would be nonsense. We can know there is a God by the things he has made (Romans 1:20). I think we are born believing in God, and unbelief is learned. People in every primitive tribe in the history of the world have believed in “gods.” There is something deep in our soul that tells us there is something more—something beyond this life and higher than ourselves. It’s a vestige of an ancient memory of the Garden of Eden that we all long to find again.
SEEKER- Out of all conversations I have ever had on this subject I have to say you have been the one with answers that make any sort of sense. A vicar I once tried to discuss with simply said I must have faith and believe without doubting or questioning the Bible. My problem with that is the fact we mainly read from the King James version which I think Henry VIII doctored a bit. Darwin still holds a very strong argument though, and school did not help as one class was RE (Religious Education ) then the next class had a big poster of Darwin’s ape-to-man illustration. I so wish I could be an absolute believer without doubt as it really does give me one big headache. If there is a God, then can I be forgiven for having doubt or do those with doubt not enter into eternal life?