View Additional "Plain Talk" TOPICS:
Plain Talk About
Belief in God
IS BELIEF IN GOD REASONABLE
What is the ultimate reality, that which you can not go beyond?
This is probably the most important question a person can ask, because whatever we think will dramatically influence our perspective on this life and profoundly affect our ideas about death and a future life. If Nature is that ultimate reality, and all that we see, including man himself, has resulted from the chance interaction of atoms and molecules then certainly there can be no purpose or meaning to life. Furthermore there can be no such thing as right or wrong. Imperatives are an illusion. Everything is a gigantic cosmic accident, without rhyme or reason. Laws and mores can be useful but they can never be right. On the other hand, if there is a God, a personal God, then purpose, and meaning are not only probable but also certain. And righteousness and love exist because they are innate aspects of His nature.
Can the question of Gods existence be approached directly and answered absolutely?
This question can not be answered absolutely because it can not be directly approached. But this should not deter us for there are many areas of life without absolutes. Consider historical inquires or our judicial system. Sometimes life and death decisions are made with less than absolute proof. And even if we can not examine the question directly, we can examine that which is here, nature including man himself.
Is atheism reasonable?
One thing that we can agree upon is that no one has absolute knowledge. Atheism states categorically that there is no God. In order to make such a statement; one would have to have all possible knowledge. No, atheism is not logical; the most we can logically claim is to be an agnostic because an agnostic simply claims not to have sufficient knowledge to know if God exists. The theist holds that there is sufficient evidence, of an indirect nature, to believe in God. Faith then, is not a blind leap, but a calculated decision based on the evidence available.
Is agnosticism a worldview?
Agnosticism is the "doctrine that neither the existence nor the nature of God, nor the ultimate origin of
the universe is known or knowable." To my way of thinking agnosticism is not a world view unless you
are willing to state that not having insufficient knowledge to have a worldview is a worldview. A
legitimate world view attempts to address such questions as being, reason, values, and knowledge
Is skepticism basically flawed?
Certainly not. We are all well advised not to accept any proposition or statement without reasonable evidence. We should test and try that which is presented to us. Christianity, contrary to the opinion of some, does not suggest that we surrender our intellect and accept all we hear rather we are admonished to try the spirits (those that present information to us) and to contend for the faith (rationally discuss and support). If however the skeptic tells us the standard upon which we might come to a conclusion is absolute proof we must respond that that is unreasonable because it is not the standard we use in daily affairs or legal or historical matters. If we adhered to that standard, life would stop.
Some might ask, "Why bother, cant we live our lives without asking these kinds of question"?
Of course the answer is, we can. We have all known people who do. But I think Socrates was right
when he said thousands of years ago, "The unexamined life is not worth living." So for me, and I hope
for you, beer commercials dont provide our philosophy of life and we dont want to live as the brute.
So, where do we turn, where do we look for evidence to make a reasonable decision?
We must turn to that which exists, nature including man. Both the Old and the New Testament
Proclaim that the universe and man speak to the majesty and the power of God.
The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the works of Hid hands.
Day to day pours forth speech
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And there utterances to the end of the world.
Because that which is known about God is evident within them.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes,
His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen,
Being understood through what has been made,
So they are without excuse.
Has nature always existed?
There are only two possibilities, either nature is infinite in reference to time or there was a
Beginning. Throughout the nineteenth century the scientific and intellectual community generally held
that the universe is infinite both in time and space. But it remained for the work of a young engineer,
working in a Swiss patent office, who studied physics in his spare time, to throw open the door with his
theories of special and general relativity. General relativity implies an exploding expanding universe,
from a point of no size, called a singularity. But not only that, astrophysicist demonstrate that time has
a beginning. The universe is not infinite. There was a beginning! This is generally called the big
What are the implications of a beginning?
The implications are staggering! So much so that many have great difficulty some of them.
"uncaused". If the universe was "uncaused" then it just popped into existence from nothing. For me
the latter choice is unreasonable. Experience says that things just dont pop into existence. If they do
then both science and philosophy are undermined. If the universe is contingent, as the "hot big bang"
model implies then it is reasonable to believe in a Cause. We admit that we can not prove that God is
Cause but it seems highly likely. Neither does it tell us about the nature of the Cause but the
evidence would suggest there is a "Cause".
What is the nature of the Cause, is it intelligent or is the formation of the universe without direction? Even though the universe has been shown to be finite, the immensity and complexity are mind boggling. We may have expected to find disorder and chaos but instead we find it is intelligible even to the farthermost recesses of space. Dimensions that have not even been imagined. What kind of a being could cause this universe? Many have noted, particularly in reference to biological systems, that there appears to be purposeful, meaningful relations among the parts; i.e., there is evidence of design. If so this would indicate intelligence, pointing to a personal cause.
What else is indicated about the nature of the Cause? Is it personal or impersonal?
We must look at man himself. Is the created less than the creator is? Is God less than man is? Does a river flow above its source? Surely not! Man has a moral sense, the ability to reason, the ability to verbally communicate, and an esthetic appreciation that differentiates him from the animals. Surely these are but a dim reflection of the glory of the Creator. If we assign and amoral and irrational cause, everything that distinguishes man is undermined. We believe that there is sufficient evidence to believe that God is personal.
Do you have knowledge of life originating from the non-living?
From what I can see and experience life comes from life. This leads me to infer that the Cause is living.
What does the creation tell us about the power of the Cause?
Even though universe is finite the dimensions and complexity are staggering. The Cause must be enormously powerful and intelligent, truly awesome.
What is the practical myth of the skeptic?
Many who are skeptics believe that they live and make decisions on a purely rational, empirical basis. Not a few seem to have a particular pride in not living by faith at all. A little consideration will show that it is impossible to live without faith unless you are completely catatonic. Every time you act, you make decisions that are based upon some value whether expressed or not. When you get in your car and drive away, you are acting on faith that your car will continue to operate and that other drivers will obey the law. When you open a can of green beans, you do so with faith that Clostridium botulinum is not within. When you take your medication you are putting your faith in the physician and pharmacist. Life cannot go on without faith.
What is the philosophical myth of the skeptic?
The skeptic believes that reason is the antithesis of faith. The fact is that reason or rationalism is the antithesis of fideism (faith based upon no evidence). Faith is somewhere on the continuum between the two. Many skeptic believe that faith is totally unreasonable and without foundation in reality. The theist believes that faith is the acceptance of a statement or proposition based on sufficient and adequate evidence but not complete or absolute proof. The theist recognizes that no one is completely objective in viewing the facts and it is a myth to so believe.
Can "natural theology" prove the existence of God?
No these kind of considerations can lead us to infer that there is a God but they do not prove. Their strengths are that they offer evidence from several different perspectives. They present a cumulative effect rather than one inescapable proof.
Does the Bible, the Scriptures, present a formal proof of God for the existence of God?
No it does not, the existence of God is assumed. It does state that the man who does not believe is without excuse because the evidence in the creation is available to all men everywhere.
With what finding of present day science does the Bible agree?
Both the Bible and science agree that there was a beginning to the physical universe and to time and that there was an order, all did not come into existence simultaneously.
What according to the Scriptures have always existed?
According to the Scriptures, God has always existed, is eternal.
What is the cause of the physical universe?
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
What is the nature of God?
God is Spirit, not physical.
Is God living or inanimate?
The Scriptures tell us that God alone has live in Himself.
Is God a moral being?
Again the Scriptures tell us that "God is love" and that "God is light." God is completely righteous there is no darkness about Him at all? The character of God is the source of law.
Is God personal?
Jesus reveals God to be "Father". God is presented to us as a personal being. Jesus said that He and the Father have existed in a relationship of love from eternity.
Is it reasonable to believe in the Bible?
The Scriptures claim to be Gods communication to mankind. Some reject that claim out of hand because if you disbelieve in God there can, of course, be no communication. But before we reject the Scriptures we need to look at the other dimension, the fact that in addition to claiming to be the word of God they are historical documents.
What are the criteria by which historical documents are judged?
1. Was the document written by eyewitnesses or by those who claimed to use eyewitnesses as their source? Or is the document based on hearsay?
2. Does the document contain specific but also irrelevant information?
3. Does the document contain information the might be used to undermine its authenticity?
4. Is the document reasonably coherent?
5. Is there evidence of legendary accretion (exaggeration of the story line over time)?
1. Did the authors have an outside motive?
2. Are there other sources, which confirm the document?
3. Does archeology support or undermine the document?
4. Did contemporaries have the ability and motive to discredit the document?
How do the Scriptures fare when using these criteria?
They do quite well. You would need to consult other works, such as "Letters to a Skeptic" by Gregory Boyd for examples that illustrate each of these points.
But are the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John full of contradictions?
We are aware that there are those who are supposed experts who make these assertions. All to often TV documentaries will present these experts without presenting material that rebuts these claims. This is not to claim there are no problems at all. We find problems, for example, in the order of event but when we remember that the gospels were not written to be a chronological record of Christs life but rather to bring people to salvation most of these problems simply become irrelevant. If you enter any arena to find fault you surely will but if your approach is good and positive you will surely be blessed by the perspective that each of the writers of the gospels brings.
But what about Jesus, dont the Scriptures stand or fall with Him?
Certainly they do, and rightly so because He is the focus of not only the New but also the Old Testament. We can only mention a few of the many events that demonstrate that Jesus was who He claimed, the Son of God.
1. He was born of a virgin?
2. He fulfilled many prophecies made hundreds of years before His birth.
3. He is the substance of the Old Testament religious economy.
4. He has the power to do miracles.
5. He brings the most ethical teaching known to man.
6. He is entirely righteous.
7. He died for our sins, was buried, and arose on the third day to never taste death again.
Is it reasonable to believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
I concur with C. S. Lewis who said He is either who He said, or He is a lunatic or a liar. He does not leave us other choices.
Please contact us if we can be of assistance:
PO Box 1182
Oakdale, CA 95361
Last Update 09/26/12