Recently, I encountered an atheist (whom I shall call "A") who stated the following in response to the question, "Why do you think God does/doesn't exist?" : "() <--- See? Nothing... just like God." Recognizing this as a "straw-man" analogy (setting up a straw man in order to tear it down), I responded, "You use the parenthesis to say that there is no God, but you deliberately CHOSE to not include Him inside the parenthesis. (GOD). See? God exists, you just have to look for Him."
This started a discussion on God's existence. We didn't get very far before the atheist chose to no longer respond (I'm afraid I may have tired him out!); but I think the conversation is worth mentioning here, since there are some great things to be learned. God is not so easy to dismiss as some atheists think. Therefore, the following is an extended version of the conversation between myself and the atheist; it is extended because I have included some points which were not discussed, but that I feel are worth mentioning...
My opening remarks: “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us. The whole history of the universe can be said to be the work of God.” ~ Stephen Hawking
[Note: I am aware that Hawking has changed his stance recently; he now claims that the universe did not need God in order to come into being. This conversation took place before Hawking's "change of mind." However, there are many others - many of them scientists -- who, like Hawking, do not believe in God; yet they still see God as the explanation for life.]
I decided to start with the Cosmological Argument. I began,
"'Everything that had a beginning had a cause.' This is called the Law of Causality. It is THE fundamental principle of science. I don't think I need to explain that... you exist, I exist; something caused us to exist."
The argument is as follows:
1) Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
2) The Universe had a beginning.
3) Therefore the universe had a cause.
And, of course, Christians believe that this cause is God.
A: "Yes, I agree that we both exist, but who created God? Has he always been around? Why don't we believe in multiple Gods, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, will the belief in one God fade away eventually as well?"
Me: "The Law of Causality doesn't say that 'everything' needs a cause; it says that everything 'that has come to be' needs a cause. God did not come to be; no one made God - He is eternal, so He did not need a beginning. He is transcendent. Your argument assumes that the universe is eternal (did not come to be by outside sources). There are only two options: either the universe is eternal, or something outside the universe is eternal: something had to exist first."
This atheist had told me initially that he didn't believe in God because he believed in science; so to prove my point, I further told him, "Scientific evidence proves that the universe is not eternal. One such law is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Everything leads to disorder and the universe still has some order (it is still running)- where did the original order originate? Since the universe is not eternal, the only other option is that something eternal outside the universe created it." It is interesting to note that A did not address this issue in response. Why? I believe it is because those who wish to exclude God as the Creator of the universe do not know where the order came from; there answer is the Big Bang. But how could such complete order come from such utter chaos?
As a side-note, I have an alternative idea when it comes to the Big Bang: Einstein's General Relativity scientifically proves that the universe is expanding. This means that if we could travel back in time, there would be something from which that universe is expanding. I do not believe in the Big Bang as it is taught by evolutionists -- that everything either exploded from nothing or from a dot/point "smaller than the period on this page." (I realize that evolutionists teach this, but I have also seen some Christians teach this as a plausible idea.) The fact is, something does not come from nothing. As The Law of Causality states, everything that exists had a cause. The solution? "In the beginning God..." God is the source from which the universe sprang into being. In fact, those Christians whom I have seen teaching that the universe came into being through the Big Bang also state -- and I think we can all agree -- that before the universe existed there was no time, space, or matter; and afterward, it all came into existence. So here is my proposal: "In the beginning [time], God created [power/energy] the heavens [space] and the earth [matter]." I do not believe that there was a Big Bang, or explosion, that brought about the universe; however, I do find the parallels to be interesting -- Maybe God ACTUALLY created the universe and all it contains! :D But there is one more point I would like to make about the Big Bang before continuing: At the end of time there will be a Big Bang; 2 Peter 3:10 states, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a GREAT NOISE, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." Be prepared for that Day! :D
But to continue with our conversation...
Me: "In reference to your other question, there has always been the question of why other gods are so much like the Christian God. this is because these religions actually distorted the truth of God as found in the Bible. Our God requires us to be perfect (Law of Moses), but gods of other religions require that which is attainable. We get so many similar religions because people have taken the simple message and twisted it to fit their own ideologies. God only requires perfection so that we see that we could never attain perfection on our own- that we need Him. And no, God will never fade away. While the Greek and Roman gods were fading Christianity was spreading to the whole world. God's Word tells us that He watches over His Word to perform it. Many have tried to stop it, but to no avail."
A: "So is it ok for Buddhists to believe what they do, Muslims as well etc, or are they wrong because they aren't Christian?"
Me: "People can believe whatever they want, but that doesn't make them right. Most religions claim to be the only way, but there is only one way -- there is only one, objective truth. Every other religion is contradictory to Christianity, because Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through Me.' Buddhists claim that Buddha is the way, Muslims claim that Allah is the way; Christians claim that Jesus is the way. Only one can be true. (There are major differences between these three.) It should also be mentioned, that Buddha doubted his own teachings, and Mohammad (on his death bed) said when referring to Allah's punishment, "I know not what shall be done with me or with you." They spent their whole lives teaching people their "truth" only to doubt it later! Jesus on the other hand, never doubted His teaching (or recanted), and He died for it. People will never die for what they know is a lie. So why do I believe that Christianity is true as opposed to other religions? One of the biggest proofs to me, and one of the most historical events of ancient history -- some say, of all time -- is the Resurrection of Jesus. It is the central event of Christianity. People often claim that other gods have resurrected, so what was so special about Jesus? Most of these "resurrections" are clearly nothing more than embellished myths; most of them cannot even be classified as resurrections (there are three that I am aware of). In fact, the Greeks believed in reincarnation into a different mortal body, but Christianity teaches that Jesus' resurrection was the same physical body made immortal."
Recently, I saw an article that I think brings out the differences in religion quite well when we are referring to resurrections:
About the supposed resurrection of Krishna, apologist Mike Licona wrote the following:Before going into the Resurrection (which I believe, is the strongest evidence for Christianity), I decided it would be best to establish that Jesus was God, lest a skeptic claim -- as they do -- that Jesus was not capable of resurrecting. Therefore, I continued: "I could quote myriads of secular and historical evidences for the Resurrection, but it is first necessary to establish that Jesus was God; we are, after all, talking about God's existence. Jesus claimed to be THE Way, the only way. So how can we be so sure that He was? If we can establish that Jesus was God, we can establish these other facts.
What about Ms. Murdock’s [AKA, Acharya S], claim that Krishna is so similar to Jesus that Christianity must have borrowed from Hinduism? Dr. Edwin Bryant, Professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University is a scholar on Hinduism. As of the writing of this paper, he has just translated the Bhagavata-Purana (life of Krishna) for Penguin World Classics and is currently writing a book to be titled, In Quest of Historical Krishna.
When I informed him that Ms. Murdock wrote an article claiming that Krishna had been crucified, he replied, “That is absolute and complete non-sense. There is absolutely no mention anywhere which alludes to a crucifixion.” He also added that Krishna was killed by an arrow from a hunter who accidentally shot him in the heel. He died and ascended. It was not a resurrection. The sages who came there for him could not really see it.
Regarding Mithras dying and being raised, Günter Wagner wrote: “Mithras does not belong to the dying and rising gods, and no death and resurrection ritual has ever been associated with this cult. Moreover, on account of the lateness of its spread, there is no question of the Mithras cult influencing primitive Christianity.”
Also, consider the words of Gerd Ludemann:
It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ…. The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus death.
Thus the non-Christian, yet New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman wrote:
Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.
There are numerous Prophecies concerning the Messiah- signs that the Jews could look for in order to know who the Messiah was. These are known historically to have been written hundreds of years before Jesus' time. There are well over 300 of them. Now most would argue that anyone could fit into these prophecies, but that is not the case. No one in their right mind would fulfill this one: "...they pierced my hands and my feet." (Ps 22:16). Furthermore, crucifixion wasn't even invented until the time of the Roman Empire! Also, the Messiah's bones were not broken (Ps 34:20); When Jesus was hanging on the cross, He could not control that, yet John 19:33 says that they did not break His bones when they saw that He was already dead. And during His lifetime, Jesus could not have made people respond to Him in the ways necessary to fulfill the prophecies. He could not have controlled who would betray Him, and the list goes on and on. But Jesus didn't just fulfill one or two; He fulfilled them all, as is evidenced by a careful inquiry into the prophecies! In fact, it has been estimated that the probability of one man fulfilling just 8 prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power! If we raised the stakes a little, the chance of one man fulfilling even 48 of these prophecies is 10 to the 157th power! It is generally accepted that anything over the 50th power is impossible! In fact, if the prophets had just made up the prophecies, it would be a "miracle" if one man could fulfill them all; yet they all came true in Jesus.
So how does this prove that Jesus is God? For one, one of the Messianic prophecies says that the Messiah would be "Mighty God, the everlasting Father." Numerous times throughout Scripture, Jesus claimed to be God. He said, "I and my Father are One," and, "before Abraham was, I AM," statements which the Jews understood because God calls Himself, "I AM" in the Old Testament. Sure other gods have claimed to be "THE One," but none has fulfilled prophecy like Jesus has; this is another way in which these other gods are different from the Christian God. It is also important to remember that the Jews studied the Law carefully; they would have known who the Messiah was; he had to fit certain criteria.
So we are left with three possibilities: Jesus is either - liar, lunatic, or Lord. If He was a liar when he claimed to be God, that would question His integrity. However, no one disputes that Jesus is at least a good Man (even Muslims believe this) if He is not God, and many of His teachings are used as a basis for other religions (even if they do distort them). Who would invent such a pure, noble character for absolutely no personal gain whatsoever and the desertion of His friends? And why would He die for the lie that He created, if He were a liar? Second, could Jesus have been a lunatic? No; for He possessed wisdom, love, compassion, and creativity among other things, which speak in His favor as a sane individual. So was He Lord? You judge for yourself: It doesn't make sense for Him to be a liar or a lunatic. He fulfilled the impossible feat of 300 prophecies. He was sinless, and it wasn't just on His own claim; others -- both friends and enemies -- testified to this fact. He performed many miracles (which cannot be attributed to mere magic, and many of them are historically and medically verified). He also predicted and accomplished His own resurrection; that is something that He couldn't purposefully fulfill if He were some mere man. That leaves us with only one alternative; He is Lord. Napoleon Bonaparte wrote, "I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founder of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity..."
At this point, I was about to go on to Jesus' Resurrection when I decided to ask what A thought about Jesus; Did He believe that He existed? (I realize that this probably should have been an introductory question, since I just went on and on about Jesus' Divinity. However, I figured that if I talked about the Resurrection and He didn't even believe in Jesus, we wouldn't get anywhere....) Some skeptics believe that Jesus existed but was not God and others believe that He did not exist; I needed to know where this atheist stood on this before continuing. He answered, "I believe he existed, just that the things he did shouldn't have been 'miracles'... He was an ordinary man who used science." There's that word again: "science." I was planning on asking him what he meant by "science" (I believe he was referring to evolution, but I'm not sure) but the conversation never got that far... And I would like to briefly point out that science does not rule out faith in God; in fact, it supports it. I realize that not all that is mentioned in this post is scientific evidence, but my point is to show that there is sufficient evidence for God. Over the years, I have heard this same argument, "I believe in science," or "I believe in what I can see" as their excuses for not believing in God. (In fact, you should read "Scientific Facts in the Bible" by Ray Comfort if you have this issue.) Throughout this post, you will see that I try to address this issue, while sticking to the point at hand...
I responded, "Okay, that's good. So let's continue by looking at a quote by Jewish historian Josephus:
Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. For he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.
Josephus mentions the many "wonderful works" performed by Jesus. Josephus was born approximately seven years after Jesus' death and resurrection. This means that this report was still circulating seven years later; even Eusebius (A.D. 325) cited Josephus on this matter. So it is clear that Jesus did "wonderful works," regardless of what we interpret that to mean.
Pliny wrote (A.D. 112), "They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny their trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food - but food of an ordinary and innocent kind."
From this passage, we can see that Jesus was worshiped as God from an early date. If God exists, then miracles are possible. Therefore, if Jesus was God, he performed miracles - special acts of God in the world.
True, Jesus could have used science (in a few instances, Jesus used the known medical knowledge whilst performing His miracles but that was not the reason for the healing), but that doesn't mean that every miracle has a natural explanation -- or that it HAS to. However, miracles do not have to violate the laws of nature either; to assume that miracles do not occur because they violate the laws of nature is to say that natural law is a closed system (can't be acted on from the outside). But it is important to remember that within a theistic framework, natural law is not a closed system; remember God is transcendent. Therefore, miracles are not necessarily a violation of nature. C.S. Lewis pointed out, "If events ever come from beyond nature altogether she will (not) be incommoded by them. Be sure that she will rush to the point where she is invaded as the defensive forces rush to a cut on our finger, and there hasten to accommodate the newcomer. The moment it enters her realm it will obey all her laws." Lewis applies this to miracles, particularly the virgin birth by stating that even if God had performed a miracle with the sperm seed, nature eventually takes over, and the natural stages of pregnancy are carried out until the baby is born.
Jesus was not a magician. Magicians usually seduce people with their "tricks," and these tricks are not usually long-lasting. In the case of Jesus' miracles, the blind, lame, crippled, and all others with diseases were healed instantaneously (which in itself is characteristic of God - "I am the Lord who heals you," God said.). And not once do we have a report of someone coming back to him still sick or partially healed -- everyone was completely healed. None of these people were seduced or tricked; they were desperate people, some were even weak in faith -- but they were still healed. [And it should be noted that there was a doctor present for many of the healings performed by Jesus; Luke could verify that these people were indeed healed.] Magicians can't heal people; in fact, most magicians only employ spells and other such "potions"; but every miracle performed by God is good and condones good, not evil -- This is also what Jesus did. In addition, all miracles point directly to God; they are not merely for entertainment. Many times, Jesus said that He did the works of God -- magic tricks employ entertainment, miracles do not.
In fact, even scientists have to refer to miracles in their studies. E.J. Carnell argues, "If the scientist rejects miracles to keep his mechanical order, he loses his right to that mechanical order, for, without miracles to guarantee revelation, he can claim no external reference point; and without an external reference point to serve as a fulcrum, the scientist is closed up to the shifting sand of history."
Furthermore, another reason for miracles is to confirm God's messengers. Jesus performed the signs and wonders which the Prophets wrote about, and even some Jews recognized this (Nicodemus was one of them; John 3:2). But the people who were around Jesus didn't see some magician; they saw something different -- the Bible says that they followed him because they SAW the SIGNS that He was performing on the sick. They saw the sick get up and do things that they could not do before; there is no way that, with so many people around to witness these miracles, Jesus would "pretend" to heal the people or work magic. Some Romans believed it was magic, but just because someone believes something doesn't make it right. There were too many eyewitnesses, too many lives at stake here for this to be staged. We already established that Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic; really, if you examine all of the possibilities of Him being a liar or a lunatic (many of which I did not mention for lack of space and time), you cannot reason the miracles into either of these categories. But if Jesus was Lord, these miracles can be easily explained."
That was the end of our conversation... no response from atheist A (This is not the first time this has happened, either!). But at least I got that far! :D I even had the last word! ;) All jokes aside, this article by no means scratches the surface of the many areas in science (and history) that speak in favor of God's existence. I plan to divulge on this topic in future posts. However, I do hope that this will at least provide a springboard for some reflections for those who are skeptical.
"Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God." ~James Tour, Nanoscientist
(Sources: "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek; "Evidence That Demands a Verdict 1 and 2" by Josh McDowell)
Stay tuned for more on God's existence on the DCF blog!