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.
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.”
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Those words were written by C. S. Lewis, a professor of English literature at Oxford University and later at Cambridge University.
He wrote more than 40 books which are still in print even though he died in 1963. His writings have been translated into more than 30 languages. Some of them from the “Chronicles of Narnia” series have been made into movies by Disney.
The quote about being made for another world comes from Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis experienced times when he longed for something that was just beyond his grasp. Haven’t we all had that experience? We look for beauty, but everything has its imperfections. We long for justice, but we find injustice all around us. We long for love, but people disappoint us. We desire peace, but turmoil surrounds us.
This world has many things that seem attractive to us. Food, travel, sex, pleasures of all kinds beckon us. They appeal to our senses and our inner longings, but again and again, when we obtain them, they fall short of our expectations. We say, “There must be something better.”
By the end of 2020, the annual total of Bibles printed will be 95-million. That is nearly double the number printed 20 years earlier. Most of us living in North America take Bible availability for granted. Almost every day, I get a catalog offering a variety of Bibles in all kinds and sizes, and with a growing variety of translations.
In 1900, five-million Bibles were printed, and you could find them in motel rooms everywhere. As an atheist, I stole my first Bible from a hotel room. In high school in 1955, Bibles were distributed to every student at the start of the school year. In 60 years, we have moved to the point where schools are sued for allowing Bible distribution, and schools take disciplinary actions against a child or teacher for bringing a Bible to school.
More to the point is the fact that in many countries, Bibles are hard to find. In 1900 there were 2300 people for every one Bible printed. Now that figure is 82 people per Bible. What that tells us is that even today, God’s Word is not available to a vast number of people. There are ministries attempting to change that. It is easy to understand why morals are very different in various parts of the world when people don’t have access to God’s instructions for conduct.
As secularism, atheism, and paganism continue to attack the Bible, we can expect to see more conflict and power struggles. Conflict is rising in America and continues in much of Africa and Asia. The situation highlights the mission of this ministry. The total of Bibles printed means little if people don’t bother to read them because they don’t believe in God. A presentation of the evidence for God, the Bible, and the teachings of Jesus, along with the living example of real Christians, can change the world.
Military chaplains were disciplined for mentioning that the Bible had some messages that would be useful in counseling soldiers. A chaplain was relieved of duty and threatened with a dishonorable discharge for counseling a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. A commander reprimanded another chaplain for giving suicide prevention training that included passages of scripture. Lt. General William Boykin has reported these incidents and others.
General Boykin achieved an outstanding record during his 36 years of service in the United States Army. He was the commander of the Army’s Green Berets and one of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force. General Boykin spent four years as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. There is no question of his dedication to America or the enormous service he has given to keep us free.
General Boykin sent a letter to believers around the country, saying that what is happening to Christians in the United States military should shock and alarm every person of faith. The main culprit is a group misnamed The Military Religious Freedom Foundation. They succeeded in having the Walter Reed Army Medical Center ban Bible distribution to wounded soldiers in the hospital. Franklin Graham was banned from speaking at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer. A display of the honor oath was removed from the U.S. Air Force Academy because it included “So help me God.”
The Family Research Council reports on incidents when the rights of Christians have been trampled on by atheists and skeptics. Perhaps you have received a copy of the letter from Lt. General William Boykin. Please take the time to read it. You can also find out more about anti-Christian persecution incidents from the Family Research Council at frc.org.
On this website, we often talk about design in living things. Everyone sees design in the world around us. It’s impossible not to see design. Even the leading atheist biologist Richard Dawkins said that biology is the study of things that appear to be designed for a purpose. However, he believes they only appear to be designed because he knows that design requires a designer. The trick is to pretend that it is not design but merely a pattern produced by natural selection acting on random chance mutations.
Our study of design is not the ancient god-of-the-gaps concept where we say, “I don’t know how this happened, so there must be a god who did it.” Instead, we consider the evidence for the possibility of these “designs” happening by pure chance. Is chance or intelligence a better explanation for what we see in living things? Can the features we observe be explained more effectively by natural selection acting on random mutations; or by intelligent design? Which alternative has greater explanatory power and is, therefore, more plausible? Can you say with confidence that living things were not designed for a purpose?
Every day, we see machines and devices created by human intelligence. We marvel at the complexity of such things as computers, automobiles, or vehicles for space travel. The intricate design of living things, including humans, is far greater than any of those human-designed devices. Do we ever question whether the human inventions came together by accident? But some would say, “Those things are not alive, and therefore they can’t design themselves. Living things can change on their own through natural selection.”
That brings up the question of where did the first living thing come from? It came from non-living matter. How did that lifeless material assemble itself into something as complex as a living cell that could take in nourishment and reproduce? Where did the information in the DNA come from? Random text can’t assemble itself into intelligent language, and the DNA contains a language so complex that it took modern computers to decipher it. What intelligence wrote the code within the DNA of each plant and animal, giving them the ability to change and adapt to stay alive?
We see random patterns in clouds, or sand, or waves blown by the wind. We see patterns of sunlight on the forest floor as it shines through the tree leaves. Those things are random. Though they may be beautiful, they are not examples of design. When we see the biological systems working within a living animal or plant or study biomes and ecosystems working in harmony to make life possible, we observe more than a chance pattern. We are beholding something that was designed for a purpose by an intelligent Designer.
Bringing it closer to home—that means an intelligent Designer designed YOU for a purpose.
One of the difficulties of atheism is that when you deny God’s existence, you leave yourself with no real basis for making moral decisions. Norman Geisler, in the book The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, tells a wonderful story about a philosophy student and his professor that illustrates the moral dilemma of atheism.
“The student wrote a research paper arguing that there is no God; consequently, he went on to argue, there can be no objective or absolute moral principles. Judged by the paper’s research, scholarship, and argumentation, most would have agreed it was easily an A paper. The professor, however, wrote these words on the paper: F – I do not like this blue folder.
The student stormed into the professor’s office, waving his paper, protesting, ‘This is not fair! This is totally unjust! Why should I be graded on the color of the folder? It should have been graded on its contents, not its color!’
Once the student had settled down, the professor asked quietly, ‘Was this the paper which argued that on the basis of the godless universe in which we live, there are no objective moral principles such as fairness and justice? Did you not also argue that everything is a matter of one’s subjective likes and dislikes?’
‘Yes … yes …’ the student replied hesitantly. ‘Well then,’ said the professor, ‘I do not like blue folders. The grade will remain an F.’ Abruptly, the face of the young man changed. It struck him that he really did believe in objective moral principles such as fairness and justice. As the professor changed the grade to an A, the student left with a new understanding of the objective nature of morality. It is easy to proclaim that there is no God, but it is impossible to live consistently and honestly within the resulting atheistic framework.”
The moral dilemma of atheism is only one of the issues discussed in the book, which is a collection of essays by leading philosophers and scientists. It was published by Gateway in 1984 but is still available on Amazon.
One of the challenges atheists frequently raise to belief in God is the question of evil. The argument is that if God exists and if God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? If there is evil, according to the atheist view, then that God does not exist. The truth is that the existence of evil challenges atheism.
The presence of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than it is for Christians. From a Christian perspective, evil is a product of the rejection of God. The Bible portrays human existence is as a battleground between good and evil, between God and the forces of Satan. The book of Job is the clearest example, but the Bible covers this theme again and again.
The existence of evil challenges atheism as the famous philosopher Alan Plantinga describes:
“Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness if there were no God and we just evolved? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live… A secular way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort … and thus no way there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness and not just an illusion of some sort, then you have a powerful argument for the reality of God.” (From Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God pages 26-27)
Atheism has no way of giving a purpose for human existence. That leads atheists like Richard Dawkins to maintain that there is no such thing as good or evil (see Dawkin’s book River Out of Eden, page 133). If an atheist rationally believes that evil does not exist, they negate their challenge to belief in God. Therefore, the existence of evil challenges atheism.
There are many things about Christianity that are unique. One of the most important of these is the Christian concept of forgiveness. No other religious or philosophical system emphasizes the power to forgive that we see in Jesus.
As an atheist living in an atheist home, I saw the emphasis on survival and “getting even.” One of our favorite sayings was, “Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me.” In opposition to that view, Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. Thinking he was being generous, Peter asked, “Up to 7 times?” Jesus responded with, “…seventy times seven.” In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:12-15, Jesus taught that our forgiveness by God was dependent on our forgiving of others. The various forms of the word “forgive” occur 143 times in the Bible.
All of us have known people who carry a grudge for years and years. Long ago, I was working with two older men on a project in a basement. I had been told that these two men had not spoken to each other for 30 years because of a conflict they had with each other. One of them fell off a ladder and was hanging from a pipe. The other man was standing there looking at him when I got there and helped him down. The guy hanging wasn’t going to ask for help, and the other guy wasn’t going to help unless asked. When I asked them what had caused the problem neither of them could tell me. They hadn’t spoken to each other for 30 years, but neither of them knew why.
Grudges, bad memories, conflict, and unkind words and thoughts can eat you alive. Mental illness is sometimes rooted in problems with forgiveness. Sometimes it’s because we are unable to forgive ourselves. We need to understand that Christ died to give us the power to forgive. Even if we struggle to forgive ourselves, we need to realize that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work in us..” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
We sometimes read of a Christian forgiving a person who killed their loved one, and we think, “How could they do that?” Don’t underestimate what Jesus can do. Unlike other religious leaders, Jesus demonstrated the power to forgive, and He expects to do the same. Remember that as Jesus was being crucified, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
One of the least publicized aspects of atheism is the question of what has happened when atheist beliefs are incorporated on a practical level. In short, does atheism work when applied to the real world and real people? Some atheist experiments have tested that idea.
A good example is the story of Liberal, Missouri, which was founded in 1880 by an atheist named George Walser. Walser was a lawyer, and he bought 2000 acres of land in southwest Missouri to start an experimental community. He advertised across the country for atheists to come and live in a town without a church “where unbelievers could bring up their children without religious training.” He said in Liberal there would be “neither God, Hell, Church, nor Saloon.” Supporters of Walser published a boast that Liberal “is the only town of its size in the United States without a priest, preacher, church, saloon, God, Jesus, hell, or devil.”
Similar atheist experiments have been tried elsewhere, such as in France in the late 18th century. The government issued a declaration that God did not exist and condemned any public worship, including observance of any Sabbath. Atheist-based political systems exist today, including several communist states such as North Korea, and China.
In the case of Liberal, Missouri, the crime level, violence, and abuse became so bad that people left the town. They made written statements such as, “I’ll never live in another town that does not have a church.” Today Liberal has a population of less than 800, and there are five churches in town. Walser became a believer and wrote a book titled The Life and Teachings of Jesus. He called himself “a converted infidel who had searched for hope through materialism, atheism, agnosticism, and spiritualism, but found none.” Atheism fails all tests of practical application. Atheist experiments such as Liberal, Missouri are testimonies to what happens when God is excluded from human activities.
The Psalmist said it best “The fool has said in his heart ‘there is no God.’ Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that does good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that does good, no, not one.” Psalms 53:1-3.
As an atheist in my earlier days, I would have vociferously argued against that statement. Looking back at my life as an atheist and at the atheists who shared my belief system, I have to say the Psalmist was correct.