Has science buried God? John Lennox on apologetics Parts 1, 2, & 3

Part 1

Non-scientists tend to be unduly impressed by the declarations of celebrity scientists, even when what they opine has nothing to do with their expertise. Albert Einstein developed equations describing relationships among time, space, matter, and radiation which have been validated countless times in experiments. He also had much to say about international politics and gained an audience because of his success in theoretical physics. But special and general relativity have nothing to do with politics. Why listen to him?

Albert Einstein

I suppose the simple answer is that most people struggle with math and science at the high school level, with only a small percentage going on to careers in engineering and science. If someone is ‘really smart’ at math, therefore (surely) he must be smart on politics, child rearing, betting on horse races, fixing a car, love and marriage, and the purpose of life, the existence of God, the origin of the universe, life after death, etc. But of course NONE of the items in that list have anything to do with math skills. In fact, Einstein was dysfunctional in love, marriage, and child rearing. (I don’t know whether he bet on horses.)

Everyone understands that advances in science have fueled technology throughout history and, most spectacularly, in the last several centuries, witnessed today at an ever-accelerating pace. Nevertheless, science does not explain everything. It is not an all-encompassing worldview or religion. To make it so is to be guilty of scientism.

A fundamental approach to doing science is methodological reductionism, splitting a problem into separate parts, reducing the complexity by solving one little piece at a time. John Lennox, in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, points out that “the language of mathematics is used to reduce or compress the description of often very complex phenomena into short and elegant equations.” It is indeed a language which can be translated into English. For example, Newton’s Second Law, F = ma, can be translated, ‘We can find the force on an object because the force is the same as the object’s mass multiplied by the acceleration it experiences.’ The ‘equals’ sign means ‘is’, multiplication has a well-established meaning, and the ‘culture’ of physics informs us that we should use proper units of measurement, as in Newtons for the force, kilograms for the mass, and meters per second squared for the acceleration.

Orbits can be calculated to a high degree of precision, using Newton’s laws without having to invoke Einstein’s corrections, but simplifications – reductions – must be invoked often. In calculating the orbits of the planets and moons in the solar system, we don’t account for the position of every atom in every planet, but account for the Earth, for example, as if it were one big massive particle located at its center. This generally works and you can use math to see why! It also explains why orbits can be predicted with precision while weather cannot be. In weather there are too many independently moving parts!

Yet such equations don’t tell us how the solar system came into existence or why it is so wonderfully ordered, with lots of planets, moons, and asteroids in well-established orbits. Technically, the equations must be augmented by initial conditions and by boundary conditions. You have to specify or assume a starting point, especially if you don’t know the history. And you have to specify boundary conditions, namely whether something on the edge of the system or outside of it may interfere with the dynamics as time goes on.

John Lennox

A marvelous example (to me) is the application of Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism. These equations are what you use to explain how a single electron moves within a cathode ray tube, what happens when you flip your electric light switch, and what goes on in the nation’s electric power grid and wireless communication networks. Yet Maxwell’s equations can tell you nothing about who designed the nuclear power plant up the road or why you use your cell phone to call your wife while driving home from work. Yes, guys and gals who use Maxwell’s equations to design power transformers and cell networks must be ‘smart’ to make things work in the reality of this present universe. But those ‘smarts’ say nothing about whether your phone call will encourage your wife or, for that matter, how this present reality, this universe, originated. Similarly, the laws of mechanics and combustion describe the operation of an automobile, but ‘science’ does not tell you that engineers at General Motors built the vehicle, or why they chose aesthetic properties like particular colors and contours – design choices not dictated by the laws of mechanics.

Lennox tells the story of the brilliant mathematician, David Hilbert, whose reductionist quest was to package all of mathematics into a finite set of axioms and symbols. He was sure that this was possible. Alas. In 1931 the Austrian genius Kurt Godel published a paper proving that Hilbert’s dream was doomed, that (as Lennox summarizes) “in any system that has a finite set of axioms and rules of inference and which is large enough to contain ordinary arithmetic, there are always true statements that cannot be proven on the basis of that set.” This became known as Godel’s First Incompleteness Theorem. In short, math can’t stand on its own foundation. It can’t pull itself up to a higher altitude by pulling on its own bootstraps.

Godel’s Second Theorem goes further. Colloquially speaking, “You cannot even do mathematics without faith in its consistency.” I’ll add that you can’t do science without math. Math rests on deeper foundations and Science is even more dependent on foundations outside its scope. Physicist Freeman Dyson put it, “Godel proved that in mathematics the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.” Reductionism has hard limits. Evolutionist Peter Atkins, who would establish scientism as the law of every land, is either clueless or dishonest when he insists, “the only grounds for supposing that reductionism will fail are pessimism in the minds of scientists and fear in the minds of the religious.”

Lennox offers that, “Studying all the parts of a watch separately will not necessarily enable you to grasp how the complete watch works as an integrated whole.” There are many systems for which understanding must proceed top-down rather than bottom-up (reductionism). The living cell is an extraordinary example of such a system, with complexity far beyond that of any human technological design.

Lennox defines epistemological reductionism as the view that higher level phenemona can invariably be explained by processes at a lower level. Thus, chemistry can be completely explained by physics, biochemistry by chemistry, biology by biochemistry, psychology by biology, sociology by brain science, and theology by sociology. Francis Crick (Nobel prize winner for co-discovering DNA) wrote, “The ultimate aim of the modern development in biology is, in fact, to explain all biology in terms of physics and chemistry.”

Richard Dawkins chimes in: “My task is to explain elephants, and the world of complex things, in terms of the simple things that physicists either understand, or are working on.” I would point out that universities are saturated with this philosophy. Any hint from a student that she believes that there is more to her, her life, her existence, than mere molecules in motion, that she is a mind, a soul that thinks rational thoughts independent of the constraints of brain chemistry, will result in ridicule and intimidation from most of the faculty.

Yet epistemological reductionism is not embraced by everyone in the academy. Philosopher Karl Popper: “There is almost always an unresolved residue left by even the most successful attempts at reduction.” Michael Polanyi (scientist and philosopher) asks us to consider the process of building a building. Raw materials don’t fashion themselves into bricks and brick-laying is performed by an agent – bricks don’t self-assemble and they don’t self-stack. The building design comes from an external intelligent agent. The laws of physics and chemistry govern the raw materials, but technology dictates the art of brick-making. Brick layers are directed by builders who are directed by architects who are taught by teachers; and architects are constrained by town planners. ”Each level is controlled by the level above.” The reverse is not true. The laws or rules of the higher levels cannot be derived from the lower levels, although there is influence. The strength of the bricks limits the safe height of a building, for example.

Similarly, Lennox points out, the intellectual – informational – content of a book you read today is not dictated by the physics and chemistry of paper and ink. Chemistry does not dictate the shapes of letters, the symbolic representation of words, and the meaning of sentences and paragraphs. No matter how many trillions of dollars and centuries of research you put into the exploration of the physics and chemistry of paper and ink, you won’t find laws that explain the information . . . which obviously comes from an intelligent agent . . . or quasi-intelligent in the case of fellows like Dawkins.

“Furthermore,” Lennox observes, “when it comes to language itself, there is again a sequence of levels. You cannot derive a vocabulary from phonetics, or the grammar of a language from its vocabulary, etc.” The obvious application to life is the information contained in DNA. The order of the ‘letters’ (adenine, quanine, cytosine, thymine) is not constrained by chemistry. It can’t be!! Like any language it must be flexible. DNA must have the ability to code for thousands of different proteins (100,000 in human DNA) and thousands of different control and regulatory components to enable an organism to survive moment by moment.

One of the rhetorical tricks used by committed materialists is that higher level phenomena emerge from the lower level, as if this is some kind of automatic event, achievable without any input of information or organization. They may use an analogy, for example, that the fluidic properties of water emerge from combining oxygen and hydrogen, that ultimately rainfall and the properties of ocean waves are derivable from the properties of the elements. The analogy is false. It is clear that physics does indeed link the properties of these elements with the fluid compound, even if our brainpower is strained to figure it all out. But physics does not link brick materials directly to a finished building, nor blank paper and a bottle of ink to a book of poems or to a textbook on organic chemistry.

Yet the evolutionist, the die-hard materialist, will not give up his blind faith, that the complexities of life, that even human consciousness must ultimately be explained by blind, random chemical processes. And consequentially, that all the aspects of conscious human life including justice, integrity, hope, meaning, beauty, and even rational thought itself(!) are just manifestations of particles bouncing around. And so he defeats his own argument, an argument that is just brain chemistry and so why should we listen?

Lennox then defines ontological reductionism by a quote from Richard Dawkins: “The universe is nothing but a collection of atoms in motion, human beings are simply machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object’s sole reason for living.”

Maxwell\’s equations

The issue is with the use of the words “nothing but” and “sole.” Science can speak to whether atoms exist and how they move. But adding these key words goes beyond science. I would ask Dawkins whether his passion for the atheist cause and his apparent compulsion to write books and make speeches to denigrate Christians is “nothing but” the results of his brain chemistry and that he has no other purpose than to propagate DNA. But then why is he wasting his time writing and not seducing undergraduates to multiply Dawkins’ DNA?

It seems ridiculous that the atheist position even exists! How can anyone possibly buy into it? As soon as an atheist attempts an argument that he claims is rational, something based on logic (which is also not a property of atoms), just remind him what Francis Crick said: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” Well, then you, too, Francis, and why should I listen to you? Lennox comments, “The very assertions of the reductionist himself are nothing but blips in the neural network of his brain. The world of rational discourse dissolves into the absurd chatter of firing synapses. Quite frankly, that cannot be right and none of us believes it to be so.”

Lennox asks if a Rembrandt painting is ‘nothing but’ molecules of paint scattered on canvas. So what is beauty? What makes brilliant poetry as opposed to ordinary and dull verse? And whither morality and love and anything that makes human life as we all know it possible and meaningful?

Lennox’s book is a fairly comprehensive treatise against the illogic and unreality of atheism / evolutionism, dealing efficiently with the issues of the origin of life and the origin of life’s information. He notes that evolutionists love to accuse creationists of invoking a “God of the gaps” to explain life, rather than seeking for purely naturalistic causes. That such criticism is, at best, hypocritical may be illustrated by considering that supporters of the SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) . . . if they received an information-rich message from deep space . . . would not tolerate an accusation of “Alien of the Gaps thinking” as a reason to disregard the implications of that message.

Yet the richest concentration of functional information in man’s experience is found in the genetic code and the associated structures found in cellular life, far exceeding the complexity of any data stream that SETI acolytes could dream of. Lennox: “Granting the hypothesis that underlies SETI (a signal transmitted by an intelligent source can be recognized as such scientifically), we can see that there is still an obvious gap in our knowledge. It lies at the level of the recognition of the identity of the intelligence involved. It does not lie at the level of the scientific determination that intelligence is involved.”

If you find a book with the author’s page torn out, you will still have no doubt that an author existed, despite your ignorance of his name. You won’t invoke a “Chemistry of the gaps” hypothesis, that somehow heretofore unknown chemical properties of paper and ink produced the book. Similarly, it is unreasonable to accuse an archeologist of unwarranted “Native American of the gaps” thinking when he unearths a colorful trove of pottery in the New Mexico desert. Or a “Da Vinci of the gaps” to explain some famous paintings. A philosopher by the name of Del Ratzsch uses the term counterflow to describe phenomena that nature alone cannot produce.

Lennox: “It is because that, even in principle, physics and chemistry cannot give an explanation of the counterflow exhibited by the writing, that we reject a purely naturalistic explanation, and we postulate an author.”

Of course what atheists really object to is the identity of the Author of life, the Lord Jesus Christ. Their antagonism, their vitriol, is not due to a mere philosophical disagreement over an interpretation of reality. They abhor the very idea that a holy God exists, who knows everything, to whom they are accountable, and – especially – that their life’s road might end in a certain judgment.

Lennox shares a discovery by musicologist Helga Thorne, who found in Bach’s piece, Violin Partita in D-minor, a remarkable double coding. If you apply a numerical alphabet scheme to the music, an ancient proverb appears: “Ex Deo nascimur, in Christo morimur, per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.” Translated: “In God we are born, in Christ we die, through the Holy Spirit we are made alive.” You can enjoy the sonata without awareness of the hidden text, as many did for hundreds of years before Thorne uncovered it. But once found, the genius of Bach is magnified, isn’t it? Would anyone suggest that the message is mere chance?

The genius of life’s design at the molecular level reveals greater depths of complexity as research continues. Genes (segments of DNA) were once thought to code, 1 for 1, for proteins. But now it’s understood that about 20,000 genes code for about 100,000 proteins in the human genome. How is that possible? The code is written so that different patterns of alternating segments are pieced together for different proteins. Some genes arise by reading the code backwards! Hey, software guru, try to write code like that! The evolutionary hypothesis that 97% of the DNA is ‘junk,’ evolutionary leftovers, has been proven wrong. The non-protein-coding DNA is used for a wide variety of control processes, to determine when to turn genes on and off, for example. Furthermore, the 3-D configuration of the chromosomes is vital to cellular operation, with specified genes necessarily located in spatial locations for optimum use or non-use. And, by the way, DNA is only a fraction of the informational story in a cell. The incredibly complex internal structure of a cell, with its many factories and storage sytems and conveyor belts and a membrane with incredibly complex pumps to control inflow and outflow, must be configured just right to enable life at all. Most of this 3-D information is not encoded in the DNA, but must be pre-existent for the DNA to do its job . . . another factoid that directly refutes Darwinism!

Would any honest, rational person believe that Bach’s hidden text is happenstance? No. And so materialism hinders science. You can restrict yourself to a purely naturalistic science, but then you cannot explain the text. Mysteries will abound, unnecessarily. Worse, life is short and the reality of our universe and of our life’s existence is that an Author wrote the code that operates our bodies. He owns it all. Rebellion is worse than futile. It’s lethally stupid.

Erwin Schrodinger, one of the discoverers / inventors of quantum physics, wrote: “I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.”

Lennox imagines that his Aunt Matilda has baked a cake, which he takes to a group of the world’s top scientists. The nutritionists and biochemists and physicists analyze its caloric and chemical properties, even down to the fundamental particles, which mathematicians then explain via erudite equations. So is the cake completely explained? WHY was the cake made? What was Aunt Matilda’s purpose? We can only know if Aunt Matilda tells us. Science has no technique to determine the truth in this matter.

We can only know WHY we exist and HOW we should live if our Creator tells us. He has. In the Bible, God has revealed “all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

The vital aspects of life are not in the molecules. Find Him and find purpose. Find Him and find forgiveness and salvation and eternal life. Then help someone else to find Him too.

Part 2: God vs. Stephen Hawking

If you’ve resisted all of my previous recommendations to acquire and actually read this or that book on apologetics, but would, nevertheless, like to consider yourself “well-read,” then get yourself a copy of John Lennox’s book, God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? It’s only 87 pages long, including the preface.

John Lennox

Lennox is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. Hawking is a physicist at the University of Cambridge, and so the debate seems appropriate to the long term rivalry between Britain’s two most prestigious academic institutions.

Lennox critiques Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, which is intended to convince you that there is no such thing. In Hawking’s view, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

Hawking’s desire is to understand the nature of reality, where everything came from, whether the universe needs a Creator, and whether humankind can actually answer such questions. Since Stephen is such a smart and famous guy, a world-class physicist, he gets attention when he opines on subjects that are outside the purview of science.

Admitting that such foundational questions belong to the realm of philosophy – not his field of expertise – Hawking asserts, “Philosophy is dead. It has not kept up with modern developments in physics. As a result scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” Lennox notes that at Hawking’s own university (Cambridge), philosophy has a long and prestigious history. My quick scan of the U of C Philosophy Department’s web site shows a substantial list of faculty, research fellows, teaching staff, and graduate students. I wonder whether they didn’t get Hawking’s memo that they’re all walking dead folks.

Stephen Hawking

Lennox is right when he observes that “Hawking’s statement about philosophy is itself a philosophical statement. It is manifestly not a statement of science: it is a metaphysical statement about science. Therefore, his statement that philosophy is dead contradicts itself. It is a classic example of logical incoherence.”

Albert Einstein believed in the value of teaching the history and philosophy of science to physicists, writing: “So many people today, and even professional scientists, seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees, but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is, in my opinion, the mark of distinction between a mere artisan and a real seeker after truth.”

Lennox accuses Hawking of scientism, the view that science is the only way to determine truth, a scam often promoted by the so-called New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. One reason I am writing this blog is that I’ve noticed that even non-scientists, including Christians, although not specifically guilty of scientism, often disparage philosophy. It’s not philosophy that should be trashed, but rather bad philosophy, just like bad science (evolution, global warming) or bad economics (socialism, for example). Should all science be trashed because some fudge their data, because some publish unwarranted conclusions bought and paid for by unscrupulous sponsors, because some serve only a political agenda (global warming comes to mind)?

So what is science? It’s a collection of methods employed to make sense of our environment, from the microscopically local to the cosmological. Science must be grounded in experiment, using sensors (including eyes, ears, photodiodes, galvanometers, etc.) to observe and measure what actually happens in our reality. Specifically, photons impinging on a sensor produce a current; consistent calibration produces confidence that the data are believable; statistical inference produces trends which are correlated with a theoretical prediction; the experiment is repeated under varied conditions to bolster confidence in a hypothesis, hopefully summarized in mathematics, so the results can be extrapolated to related scenarios. If the hypothesis survives much testing, let’s call it a theory.

This is all just a sketch, of course. Science done well leads to engineering of devices or structures or medicines that are useful. The subject is limited to what can be observed within our own environment, not a science fiction universe with arbitrary laws enabling warp drives and hand-held gigawatt death rays that somehow don’t fry the hand holding the ray gun. In addition to a tight grip on reality, science – at every step in the process – assumes rational thought, the elementary laws of logic (If P then Q; P: therefore Q). Implicitly, the practice of science assumes that it contributes to purpose and meaning in life, and depends on honesty and integrity to inhibit bad science. Purpose, meaning, and integrity, along with logic, are not subject to experimental science. Science is built on their foundation, not vice-versa. Furthermore, rational thought itself – as I have written many times and is a jaw-dropping argument that you should use in 121 evangelism with an atheist – cannot, in principle, be determined by brain chemistry. What’s the difference between a rational, logical idea and mere nonsense, if what comes out of your mouth is just the result of brain chemistry? In fact, is there a YOU in there, if the next thing you say is just acoustic noise provoked by brain chemistry?

Rational thought is foundational to science. Science is built ATOP rational thought. It owns science. You don’t start with science to explain rationality. You start with rationality to invent scientific methods. In a discussion on science and religion in 1930, Einstein said that our human sense of beauty and our religious instinct are “tributary forms in helping the reasoning faculty towards its highest achievements. You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn round and speak of the scientific foundations of morality . . . Every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formulae must fail.” Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman got it, too: “The sciences do not directly teach good or bad,” and, “Ethical values lie outside the scientific realm.”

In short, Hawking and other physicists, including lowly ones like myself, are akin to trained auto mechanics. We can analyze and fix the car, but we didn’t create the car. Furthermore, any auto mechanic who declared that the car came into existence without design, that it arose from literally nothing, would be called an idiot. At the very least, he would be speaking about matters beyond his expertise.

Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate in Physiology (1960), in his book Advice to a Young Scientist, wrote: “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare . . . that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or ‘pseudo-questions’ that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer . . . The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things – questions such as: ‘How did everything begin?’ ‘What are we all here for?’ ‘What is the point of living?’”

Peter Medawar

Lennox is a Christian, although not a young-Earth creationist, citing Scripture, particularly Moses and Jeremiah, who warned against worshiping false gods, against deifying the sun, moon, stars, or other bits of the creation. Hawking promotes his atheism by insisting that we should reject God as revealed in the Bible, just like ancients eventually rejected various gods who personified bits of nature, who imagined that the earthquakes, storms, and other events in their experience were merely the act of some local god. Mysteries in the physical world were explained by invoking little gods, gods of the gaps of their understanding of their physical environment. Hawking and others claim they want to de-deify nature, that the Christian God is merely a God of the gaps.

What they misunderstand is that Moses and the prophets (and Paul in Romans Chapter 1) were about the same business, rebuking the idiocy of ascribing events to the petty whims of localized gods, gods who allegedly reside within this present world. In contrast, God, the Creator revealed in Scripture, is separate, beyond, distinct from His creation, the Cause of all of creation and the laws that define the normal physical operation of our world’s existence. Moses and the prophets warned against the introduction of ‘gods’ into a previously monotheistic culture! Polytheism was and is a perversion of the original worldview based on belief in the One Creator God.

Lennox quotes Werner Jaeger, from his book, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers: “If we compare this Greek hypostasis of the world-creative Eros with that of the Logos in the Hebrew account of creation, we may observe a deep-lying difference in the outlook of the two peoples. The Logos is a substantialization of an intellectual property or power of God the creator, who is stationed outside the world and brings the world into existence by his own personal fiat. The Greek gods are stationed inside the world; they are descended from Heaven and Earth.” Hawking therefore confuses God with ‘gods.’ He simply does not understand – or deliberately misunderstands – the Biblical nature of God, who is not a God of the Gaps, not someone who can be displaced simply by scientific advance. As Lennox summarizes, “God is not a God of the Gaps but the author of the whole show . . . Without him, nothing would be there for physicists like Stephen Hawking to study.”

One of Hawking’s main conclusions is: Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing. Wow. Lennox suggests that Hawking should have studied a bit of philosophy, which includes training in the art of definition, logical analysis, and argument. Specifically, does Hawking really mean ‘nothing’? But apparently a law of gravity exists in this ‘nothing.’ More so, he must assume that gravity itself exists, because an abstract mathematical law has ‘nothing’ to do. And so Hawking simultaneously asserts that the universe came from ‘nothing’ and from ‘something.’

F100 jet engine

But when physicists talk about ‘nothing,’ they often mean a quantum vacuum, which is not nothing at all! Hawking also writes: “We are a product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe.” But a quantum vacuum presumes an already existing universe with laws already in operation, laws which describe ‘stuff’ that also exists.

When Hawking says “the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he has made a self-contradictory assertion. If ‘X creates Y,’ X must exist first. But if ‘X creates X,’ we presuppose the existence of X to account for the existence of X. Nonsense! This isn’t science. It’s bad philosophy. And so in one brief statement, Hawking contradicts himself twice. The nothing turns out to be something and then something creates itself. Yet there is a third bit of nonsense here. A law of nature, by definition, is merely a description of a process that already exists, a process involving stuff that already exists. Laws, whether legal or scientific, are human constructs. Without planets (or stars or elementary particles) there are no Kepler’s laws of planetary motion or Newton’s laws to calculate the orbits. There may be a property of an existing universe that will prescribe such orbits once matter exists, but that property must be part of an existing ‘something,’ an existing universe.

Hawking ascribes creative power to physical law, but laws are not agents. God is an agent – a personal agent – and, therefore, a causal explanation for the existence of the universe. Physical laws are descriptions of what goes on within said universe. Laws can be termed ‘explanations’ for what goes on, but cannot, in principle, be thought of as explanations for the existence of what is described.

Lennox: “Suppose we replace the universe by a jet engine and then are asked to explain it. Shall we account for it by mentioning the personal agency of its inventor, Sir Frank Whittle? Or shall we follow Hawking: dismiss personal agency and explain the jet engine by saying that it arose naturally from physical law? It’s not a question of either / or. It is self-evident that we need both levels of explanation in order to give a complete description.” Similarly, the laws of biochemistry explain the moment-by-moment metabolic processes in biological organisms. But such laws do not create poplars and pandas.

Nonsense is nonsense even when expressed by famous scientists. In contrast, Sir Isaac Newton did not say: “Now that I have the law of gravity, I don’t need God.” He wrote Principia Mathematica, the most famous book in the history of science, with the hope that it would “persuade the thinking man” to believe in God. Indeed, the more a thinking (and honest) man explores the wonders of creation, from cellular processes to cosmology, the more awe he should have for the brilliance of the Architect of it all.

More so, what about the Why questions? Why did Frank Whittle invent the jet engine? If you don’t know, should you conclude that Whittle never existed? Atheistic scientists want to define science to exclude all why questions. That way God can be excluded from consideration: no purpose, therefore no God. All these fools have accomplished is to limit science so that TRUTH cannot be found. And yet they claim that science can find all answers. Which is it? It is only their determined atheism that prevents them from finding God.

multiverse

Such debates are not new. In William Paley’s famous treatise, Natural Theology, he writes of a person who has just stumbled upon a watch, who would be dismayed to hear someone try to convince him that “the watch in his hand was nothing more than the result of the laws of metallic nature. It is a perversion of language to assign any law as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode, according to which an agent proceeds: it implies a power; for it is the order, according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing; it is nothing.”

Lennox: “The sun rises in the east every day, but this law does not create the sun; nor the planet earth, with east and west. The law is descriptive and predictive, but it is not creative . . . Newton’s celebrated laws of motion never caused a pool ball to race across the green baize table.”

Paul Davies, another atheistic physicist, reveals that these are heart matters more than head issues when he admits that “it is much more inspiring to believe that a set of mathematical laws can be so clever as to bring all these things into being.”

The laws of arithmetic (1 + 1 = 2) can explain that if I put $1000 in my bank account today and another $1000 in tomorrow, how I will have $2000 in total. But the laws of arithmetic will not, by themselves, put any money in my account. If I wait around for math to make me rich . . . how stupid. Yet this is the logic by which the “brights” – the term the New Atheists use to describe themselves – declare solved the existence of galaxies, stars, planets, petunias, paramecia, and people.

What is Hawking’s answer to the fine-tuning question, the incredible combination of physical constants and initial conditions that must be satisfied in our universe for life to exist? His faith is in the multiverse, which embraces a variety of potential scenarios such that our universe is just one of a zillion cubed, and we live in the one that got lucky. Simple logic intervenes even here, though. Even if this desperate fantasy were true, the multiverse doesn’t exclude God. It just makes the problem more severe for the ‘something out of nothing’ crowd. Who made the multiverse? What are the rules and who invented them to account for the diversity of universe types and when and how they spring into existence? Is the multi-verse fine-tuned? Since all multiverse ideas are purely speculative, what does science have to say about them, since they are not subject to observation and experiment? This goes way beyond science and even way beyond philosophy, into the realm of fantasy. After all, in an infinite multiverse you would expect to find unicorns and fairies, goblins and trolls . . . at least somewhere.

Indeed, some views of the multiverse insist that since it is infinite and infinitely varied, it follows that everything that can happen does happen in one or more or a sub-infinite number of universes. And so, as I’ve written before, in some universe right now(!), Captain Kirk is battling Klingons and in another, Frodo is climbing Mount Doom. Yet Hawking criticizes Christians for believing in miracles!

Frodo and Sam on Mt. Doom

(Christian) philosopher Alvin Plantinga observes that if every possible universe exists, then in one of them God (of the Bible) must exist, since His existence is logically possible. It follows that since God is omnipotent and omnipresent, He must exist in every universe, and so you may as well conclude that there is just one universe, of which God is Creator and Sustainer.

Lennox describes how String Theory and its extension, M-Theory, are purely speculative ways to create mathematics to describe a purely speculative multiverse. Once again, mathematical equations – constructs of the mind (or brain chemistry?) – do not have the power to create material universes. “Allow for” and “describe” are not in the same class as “create.” Lennox laments that such games are “attempts to get rid of the Creator by conferring creatorial powers on something that is not in itself capable of doing any creating – an abstract theory.” Moreover, Paul Davies says of M-Theory: “It is not testable, not even in any foreseeable future.”

The only question to me is whether these most admired advocates for pointlessness are self-deceived or deliberately lying. Such elementary errors in logic! Is it possible that they can be accidentally illogical, even after careful edits while writing their books? Can’t the editors at the publishing companies think straight?

Roger Penrose, a well known mathematician and theoretical physicist, commented on Hawking’s book: “The book is a bit misleading. It gives this impression of a theory that is going to explain everything; it’s nothing of the sort. It’s not even a theory.” Penrose also mentioned that M-theory was “hardly science.”

Why do people buy into bad philosophy? Well, it’s difficult for most of us to think that well-respected, smart guys can get basic ideas so terribly wrong; worse, that they might be dishonest. This is partly why lying politicians can be so successful. Surely, she wouldn’t lie about such issues! She seems so sincere! Ultimately, though, worldviews reside primarily in the heart. The mind generates whatever rationale is required to keep the heart content. If one’s heart despises God, despises accountability and moral limitations, a book like Hawking’s will bolster resolve to deny Truth. Such resolve prevents critical analysis which would reveal Hawking’s bad philosophy as nonsense, and life in the flesh can proceed without the conscience getting in the way.

Scientists are people. Surprised? The ‘best’ ones are more clever in math or in devising instrumentation, or in fund raising, or in communicating winsomely in the publishing marketplace. All humans, including scientists, have well-established worldviews that filter what they observe, in what they spend time thinking about, and whether they even listen to someone with an opposing view. Over 40 years ago, when I first started doing 121 evangelism, knocking doors, talking to folks on the street, I discovered that everyone is a philosopher, whichever end of the Bell Curve they call home . . . everyone has a worldview which they figure is closer to reality than his neighbor’s.

Lennox dispenses quickly with the Hawking retort (also used regularly by Richard Dawkins) that if you declare that God is the Cause, then you must determine who created God. If that argument were valid, it can be reflected promptly. If gravity or quantum fluctuations created the universe, then who created gravity or quantum fluctuations? Or, in everyday life, if you claim that a particular skyscraper had an architect, then you must show who created the architect. No, if it is obvious that a painting was created by a painter, then we are sure of the painter’s existence, even if we know nothing about him.

More significantly, the atheist’s specious objection reveals an utter lack of understanding of the Biblical revelation of God, who is self-existent, independent of and the Creator of time, space, and matter. He had no Creator. He is the ‘I AM’ from eternity past through eternity future. Can we get our heads around that, given our oh-so-finite temporal and spatial existence as tiny little human beings? Of course not, but that’s just an honest admission of our limited scope in understanding and experience. My smallness and finiteness actually gives me an encouraging hope, that God is so big and so indescribably awesome that eternity future will never allow boredom, that I will never see the end of the story.

Since science is limited, how can we find out the rest of TRUTH? Well, everyone knows the answer to that! If I want to know WHY my wife just spent the morning cutting and sawing out in the garage, I can ask her . . . she was fixing a valued chair. Thus, revelation can supply purpose, intent. Historical eyewitness accounts can provide information from before our time, and so we can evaluate the reliability of the Gospel accounts, the history of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Archeology exists because we recognize design in artifacts, in tools, in pottery. We infer design even when we find a penny or a paperclip lying in the road. Forensic science allows justice to be delivered even when there are no eyewitnesses. A bullet-ridden corpse is not explained away by natural physical and chemical processes.

In such forensic or historical matters, which will not be repeated in an ongoing experimental process, the procedure is called “inference to the best explanation,” or “abductive inference.” Every time we watch a detective mystery, we use such thought processes – not random brain chemistry – to infer ‘who done it.’ The existence and present form of the universe, along with the origin and spectacular features of biological life, allow a certain inference to the best explanation, far more reliable than a slam-dunk jury verdict for a mere life vs. death decision, that God exists and He has a purpose for what He fashioned. Revelation and history assuredly indicated that God’s will and purposes are given to us through the Bible. Finally, your personal experience can validate TRUTH beyond all doubt. Simply seek Him, humble yourself, repent from your sins, call out to Him – the Lord Jesus – for mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. He will answer your prayers, transform your heart, and introduce you to – not just a worldview in perfect sync with reality, but – Himself . . . Creator, Savior, Father, Elder Brother, and Friend for this life and for eternity.

Part 3: Faith, Evidence, & Proof

A snarky atheist demands, “You say I should believe in God? Prove it!” But what does he mean by ‘proof’? Are we talking about a mathematical version of proof, whereby well-established axioms are invoked, using watertight logic to deduce an unassailable conclusion? You may vaguely recall such proofs from high school geometry; for example, that in a right triangle, the sum of the squares of the lengths of the short sides must equal the square of the hypotenuse.

In his book Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, John Lennox observes that such rigorous standards of proof are not available in any other academic or practical discipline, including physics, chemistry, and biology. In the hard sciences there are always error bars, always uncertainties in calibration and measurement, always judgment calls in interpreting data. Even in mathematics you must presuppose rational thought and assume that when a fair number of experienced mathematicians actually agree on a ‘proof’, such a social consensus makes it official . . . official enough to warrant publication, at least.

novak-djokovic

The kind of ‘proof’ that real people live by, including scientists, lawyers, seamstresses, and tennis players, can be termed ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt.’ On a clay court, Novak Djokovic drills his backhand past Rafael Nadal, the ball just barely clipping the line. It’s close, though, and the linesman calls it out. Djokovic insists that the umpire – an officially ‘reasonable man’ – get off his perch and inspect the mark . . . which clearly intersects the line. Case closed. Can the margin be so small that a mistake is made? Yes, but not often. Millions of dollars and international fame are determined by such ‘reasonable proofs,’ however.

A jury of 12 convicts an accused murderer, after reviewing evidence of his fingerprints on the murder weapon, the gun validated by forensic analysis of the bullets lodged in the victim’s body. This, coupled with multiple witnesses testifying to ample motive and opportunity, closes the case. Does anyone ‘know for sure’ that the accused is guilty? No, but such life and death decisions are routinely made on a ‘reasonable doubt’ basis. We exercise ‘faith’ in the criminal justice system because it generally works, at least when involved parties are, in ‘good faith,’ working to find truth.

Therefore, a ‘reasonable faith’ is based on experience, along with reason and integrity. Verdicts can be rendered in good confidence, despite lying perpetrators and deceitful defense lawyers. At the more mundane level, we have ‘faith’ to cross a street, given what our eyes see and our historical experience with traffic when the light turns green and the ‘WALK’ sign lights up.

12-angry-men-movie

Do I believe that my wife loves me? Do I have faith in my wife? After all these years, I have evidential and reasonable cause to trust her, to trust her fidelity, to trust that she will take care of me when I’m sick, to trust her to resist going on a wild shopping spree when I’m not looking . . . etc.

We live moment by moment, making choices both consequential and in-, on the basis of limited, yet sufficient information, using experience and reason to make decisions great and small. Deciding and acting upon a belief that God exists, that very God revealed in the Bible, and whether we are accountable to Him, is a matter built on such foundations.

Is it difficult to determine whether a Creator God exists? Not at all, given the awesome evidences of design from the macroscopic (galactic structures, planetary orbits, a habitable Earth) to the microscopic (DNA, cell structure, meiosis) to the submicroscopic (the ‘fitness’ of the elementary particles, carbon compounds, the water molecule). Is such a Creator brilliant and intentional? Yes, given the information content of life, from microbes to ecosystems. Is God moral? Certainly, given the universality of man’s conscience. So which ‘religion’? That’s easy, too, given history, fulfilled prophecy, and the unique conscience affirming qualities of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that salvation for such vile sinners as you and me can only be offered by a holy, yet loving God, and that salvation must logically be mediated through God incarnate, the sinless Lamb of God. Simple stuff, all of it. You simply have to care enough to think it through, and be humble enough to get in touch with the reality of who you are in relation to God.

Lennox comments on an atheistic double standard: they object to any attempt to associate their worldview with death-dealing despots such as Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. Yet they eagerly lump Bible-believing Christians with the worst of the medieval Inquisitors and even with jihadist Islam. Richard Dawkins, for example, speaking of Islam: “If you don’t take it seriously and accord it a proper respect you are physically threatened on a scale that no other religion has aspired to since the Middle Ages.” He also warns about religion in general: “Even mild and moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes.”

walk-sign

The irony, as I see it, is that all false religions / worldviews, including atheism and Islam, can be lumped together as part of the Adversary’s team. Stalin and Mao were not aberrant atheists; they simply had the power to work out the natural consequences of man-in-the-place-of-God, with the despotic power, void of any God-given morality, to fashion society via whim and fiat. A corrupted man will employ horrific policies without pause . . . after all, what is man to an atheist but a moving clump of molecules, mere meat for the grinder. Yet Stalin and Mao were doubly out of touch with reality. Not only did they defy and deny God, but they were non-innocent dupes of Satan’s realm, multiplying death to multitudes of God’s image-bearers and persecuting Bible believers with evil tenacity.

Islam and historic Roman Catholicism (which has persecuted true Christians throughout the ages) represent different divisions within the Devil’s army, offering false hopes of salvation, often at the point of a sword, and actively warring against propagation of the Gospel. In short, these guys and the atheists are all on the same team, but don’t know it!

Atheist Sam Harris breaks ranks with compatriots like Dawkins, observing that “very few of us lie awake at night worrying about the Amish . . . (who) are not likely to hijack aircraft and fly them into buildings.” Harris objects to phony arguments of equivalence, whereby Christian ‘extremism’ is bundled together with Islamic violence. He suggests a metaphor of his perspective, as if surveying “a landscape of human ignorance and bewilderment,” and that too much focus on the evils of theism “is a waste of precious time and energy, and it squanders the trust of people who would otherwise agree with us on specific issues.” Lennox notes that Harris “myopically fails to take into account the possibility that his atheism might just be part of that landscape.”

Mao Tse Tung

Mao Tse Tung

Harris goes so far as to recommend: “We should not call ourselves ‘atheists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘secularists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘humanists,’ or ‘secular humanists,’ or ‘rationalists,’ or ‘freethinkers,’ or ‘brights.’ We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar – for the rest of our lives. And while there we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.”

Lennox calls this “naivete.” There is no “neutral default” worldview. You simply cannot call out bad ideas without identifying good ideas. You have to stand on some ground in order to have a foundation on which to build your own philosophical castle . . . and shoot your witty cannonballs at your adversaries.

Besides, in a mechanistic, atoms-are-everything worldview, what’s the difference between a bad and a good idea? Why is it ‘good’ to choose good ideas over bad ideas? What’s an idea, anyway? An idea isn’t made out of quarks and electrons. Atheism simply cannot be a default position, since atomic physics does not explain rational thought. Amazingly, Harris ‘thinks’ his atheism has nothing to fear from reason, but reason destroys materialism.

Lennox reports on research results in opposition to Dawkins’ claims that religion causes more stress through guilt than it relieves. Sloan Wilson summarizes some findings: “On average, religious believers are more pro-social than non-believers; feel better about themselves; use their time more constructively; and engage in long-term planning rather than gratifying their impulsive desires. On a moment-by-moment basis, they report being more happy, active, sociable, involved and excited.”

Sam Harris

Sam Harris

Duh. Such trends apply even for false religions; yet Roman Catholics, Mormons, and lost church-goers within Protestantism do believe they are accountable to God, and tend to recognize the value of their God-given conscience.

Would Dawkins do away with guilt? Back we go to Stalin, Mao, and the wacky Kim family despots of North Korea. Less notably, studies have shown that prisons are filled with individuals of high self-esteem, who have seared their consciences, acted out accordingly, and must be separated from those they would harm. That’s what Hell is all about, of course.

Lennox, quite rightly, scoffs at the atheist’s claim that belief in God is harmful for the human race from an evolutionary point of view. It’s ironic, but well known, that Christians (and Muslims and Catholics, among others) have more children than do atheists. It’s well-documented within Christendom that belief in God correlates well with mental and physicial health, with happiness, hope and optimism, with purpose and meaning in life, with lower rates of depression and suicide, with less substance abuse, and with greater marital stability and satisfaction. Modern atheist celebrity authors seem completely unaware of the huge volume of research on these matters.

As a counterpoint, though, atheist columnist Matthew Parris wrote that he is convinced that Africa needs God, that missionaries and not aid money are the solution to Africa’s biggest problems. For example: “Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.” I find this especially ironic in that the modern trend in evangelical mission work is overwhelmingly balanced on the side of money, food, infrastructure, and other physical helps. And not just in Africa, but in America, too. Every sizable evangelical church I know of in the Phoenix valley is focused on physical help to the bottom tenth of a percent of the economic bell curve. The Gospel is woefully neglected, even for the destitute few who are the targets of the social gospel. Furthermore, the other 99.9% are ignored, except to hope that they show up at the weekly church show, and pay up to get the cheeseburgers bagged up for the homeless outreach.

How about the practical harm of atheism? Lennox: “Just imagine a world with no Gulag, no Cultural Revolution, no Killing Fields, no removal of children from their parents because the parents were teaching them about their beliefs . . .” In a debate with Lennox, Dawkins asserted that there was no link between atheism and such atrocities. Dawkins suggests that both atheists and Christians don’t believe in Zeus or Wotan, and such unbelief doesn’t provoke harm to others, so how can unbelief in the Christian’s God cause trouble? The reality is – to an honest man – that denial of the existence of God and a consequent affirmation in materialistic philosophy has massive consequences, in morality, in conscience, in acts perpetrated by despots who believe in no accountability. Lennox pointed out to Dawkins during the debate that he has not bothered to write a 400-page book promoting a-Wotanism or a-Zeusism. How come?

Answers in Genesis: Presuppositional Apologetics -- attack the foundations

Answers in Genesis: Presuppositional Apologetics — attack the foundations

In short he and his ilk are anti-theists. They believe that all of life, including mind and morality, arise naturally from stuff – particles. If we are formed from supernova star dust by chemical chance, then rules are the arbitrary products of homo sapien brain chemistry. Those embracing this view who happen to have power over others are truly dangerous.

Lennox has interviewed Russian intellectuals whose message to him is something like this: “We thought we could get rid of God and retain a value for human beings. We were wrong. We destroyed both God and man.” His Polish friends are more blunt: “Dawkins has lost contact with the realities of twentieth-century history. Let him come here and talk to us, if he is really opening to listening to evidence of the link between atheism and atrocity.”

Adolf Hitler and his cronies were into occult practices, but Hitler himself was very much an atheist in that he thought of ‘God’ as the rule of natural law throughout the universe. Hitler expected Christianity to crumble under the advance of science. Sound familiar? Nothing has changed. Hitler: “When understanding of the universe has become widespread . . . then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.” Hitler equated Christianity to smallpox. One of the New Atheists also sees Christianity as a “virus of the mind, similar to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”

As David Berlinski has written, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and the NKVD and the Gestapo did NOT believe that God was watching. They were their own gods, accountable to no one above. “That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.” Dostoyevski penned, “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” Lennox once talked to a 13-year-old girl in what was then East Germany, incredibly bright, who had just been told she could have no more education because she would not swear public allegiance to the atheistic state. Such ‘intellectual murder’ persists in anti-Christian countries today, including America in that an ‘outed’ Biblical creationist will not be allowed to earn a PhD in biology, geology, or astronomy in most secular universities.

The God vs. no-God question can be recast into the issue of is vs. ought. Knowledge is about what is and values are about what ought to be. In atheism there simply is no ought. The same goes for pantheism. Lennox: “For Gaia, human life has no more meaning than the life of slime mould.” I recently shared the Gospel with a college student, a physics major, who leaned toward a pantheistic worldview. Because he was refreshingly honest and open to points of view other than his own, he quickly yielded the point that if ‘God’ is simply the sum of everything, then he might as well be an atheist.

Read the Bible with your kids!

Read the Bible with your kids!

Moral judgments require personal agency. A pantheistic scheme of karma, implemented through reincarnation, cannot be accomplished through ‘laws of the universe’ analogous to gravitation or electromagnetics. Moral judgments require a personal God. The laws of electromagnetics certainly constrain the operation of a cell phone’s microprocessor, transmitter, and receiver. But it takes an agent, an engineer, to design the cell phone, which is simply constrained in its operation by ‘the rules’ of Maxwell’s equations.

Evolutionary biologist and historian William B. Provine opines, “No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life.”

Yet no man or woman can live that way, including a guy like Provine, who conducts research and writes articles and books as if there is a point, as if it matters whether anyone is listening to him. Indeed, ‘the universe’ has written no moral laws, but the Creator of the universe has, which is the only way we, as personal agents, can know right from wrong, by the Creator’s word which tellingly resonates with our God-given conscience. Everyone knows right from wrong, from the tenured academic to the inner city gang-banger. In my experience in 121 encounters, all sinners wallow in the same moral muck. (I include myself.)

Evolutionists like Michael Ruse insist that our “belief in morality . . . our ethics . . . is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate . . . Evolution has filled us full of thoughts about right and wrong, about the need to help our fellows and so forth.” Well then, as Lennox suggests, let’s apply their own logic to themselves and conclude that their theories are a genetically induced illusion. The evolutionary position, once again, admits that even morality is just brain chemistry, that there can be no right or wrong in their world. It just “is.” Since most of humanity would never fall for such garbage, then why fall for evolution at all, whose consequence is utter meaninglessness? By the way, even atheists use the court system when harmed or offended, and would be incensed if the criminal who harmed them got off with the argument, “My genes made me do it.”

Yet Dawkins (outside the courtroom) teaches: “The universe we observe is . . . blind, pitiless, indifferent. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” A judge who believes this couldn’t possibly hold a rapist or a murderer accountable. Unless he admits that his ‘judgment’ is just him dancing to his own DNA. Besides, how can Dawkins even be aware of the concept of ‘pitiless’ or ‘indifference,’ unless he has seen pity and care. Only man – a part of the universe – has the capacity to pity and care. How did the universe do that? Is pity an actual thing?

Food for the homeless -- not good enough!

Food for the homeless — not good enough!

Yes, pity is a real thing, along with care and love and hope and meaning and morality. Evolutionary philosophy, however, is easily tied to the moral decay of the West, including rampant crime, substance abuse, delinquency, broken families, self-worship, and all manner of perverse immorality. No God, no morals.

A telling example of the atheist’s penchant for ridicule instead of reason is Dawkins’ claim that the “Christian focus is overwhelmingly on sin sin sin sin sin sin. What a nasty little preoccupation to have dominating your life.” Little preoccupation? Lennox points out that sin “is the root cause of tyrannies, wars, genocide, murder, exploitation, financial crises, injustice; of international, societal, and family breakdown; of incalculable unhappiness due to lying, cheating, slander, bullying, stealing, domestic violence, and every form of crime, and so on and on and on and on and on and on and on.” Truly, the wages of sin is death. Apparently, the atheistic game plan is to destroy the concept of sin, abolishing any difference between good and evil . . . but, of course, that’s just what materialism does naturally. Admission that sin exists leads too quickly to God. Anything, even anarchy, is better than that!

Consistently inconsistent is Dawkins’ love of moralizing(!) to attack Christianity. In his view, the substitutionary atonement is evil: “. . . executing an innocent to pay for the sins of the guilty.” He calls it “barking mad.” His preferred theology if God were to exist? “If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them, without having himself tortured and executed in payment?”

So why not do away with parking fines? Just ask the judge for forgiveness. What about rape and murder? “Sorry, judge. Can I go now?” Lennox considers the case of a woman who has discovered her husband’s infidelity. She’s hurt, her domestic world shattered. Forgiveness involves two distinct processes. First, she must be able to ‘let it go’ so she can move forward constructively. Second, to forgive her husband would be conditional on his repentance. Just ‘letting it go’ would be equivalent to ‘it doesn’t matter,’ effectively condoning the sin.

Lennox cites the case of Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” The soldiers believed they were doing their duty. They didn’t understand what was really going on. But to forgive an unrepentant man who knows exactly what he’s doing and is determined to stay right on the same path would be condoning, and condoning sin is sin itself. Lennox: “If my sin doesn’t matter, then I don’t matter in the end. If your child is murdered and the law does not bother to arrest, try, and sentence the perpetrator, the law is saying, in effect, that your child doesn’t matter. The courts cannot ‘just let it go.’ Such an attitude would spell the end of all morality and hope of justice.”

The Muslims I have shared the Gospel with believe that Allah abritrarily chooses to forgive some sinners and some sins, while bringing condemnation on others. Calvinists hold an equivalent position, claiming that God arbitrarily visits irresistible grace on some, but unconditional damnation on the vast majority, with no recourse. All works-based religions share a common blasphemous defect, that God will cancel or overlook or forgive crimes if a man has performed enough righteousness or rituals. I regularly explain to Mormons that their doctrine of man-becoming-god via performance is self-righteousness, and self-righteousness condemns, as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees.

Just do it . . . it's not hard.

Just do it . . . it’s not hard.

It’s my sins and your sins that bring unhappiness. It’s your and my selfishness that causes conflict. The world is in trouble because of you and me. Our only hope is mercy, but a world with nothing but mercy at the expense of justice violates my conscience and your conscience. Yearning for justice when we see evil in the world is evidence that we are made in the image of God, God who is merciful and just simultaneously, who loves while being perfectly holy. Mercy and justice meet together at the Cross. The fine must be paid by the Innocent Blood. Only the perfect Son of God is qualified. I can’t pay for you and you can’t pay for me.

The condition on mercy? A humble, repentant heart, a recognition of the evil of your sins in the reality of this world, this universe. A turn from sin toward righteousness and the Author of righteousness, trusting in Him for forgiveness and Life, a Life eternal.

Any honest man, even an atheist, will understand such realities. Mind, heart, and conscience are what make the man, not DNA and metabolism. If you find an atheist to talk to, reach toward his heart. You may need to earn the hearing by speaking to issues of the mind (apologetics) for a minute or two. That’s all it takes. (See my essay on How to Witness to an Atheist, including my “What am I thinking?” tract.)

Don’t know where to find a friendly atheist? Just walk down the sidewalk or knock on your neighbors’ doors and introduce yourself. There are plenty around. Show them a little mercy by giving them something to think about.

  • drdave@truthreallymatters.com

 

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