The Intellectual Honesty of Christianity

I began writing a short book to help strengthen the resolve of the men and women in our Church on Apologetics. Both the introduction and first chapter have been previously posted. The following is the first half of the second chapter which covers the idea that Christianity is Intellectually Honest. In this half of chapter 1 I engage with three of the most historic evidences used by Christians to demonstrate the intellectual honesty of the existence of the God of the Bible. As a strong advocate for Presuppositional Apologetics, I do not outline these evidences primarily as tools to be used when defending one’s faith, but rather as powerful evidences to strengthen the resolve and conviction of Christians that the tri-une God of Scripture truly is Lord of all.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

In chapter 1, I attempted to demonstrate as of first priority, that unless we assume Christianity as the starting point of all logic and meaning and purpose in life, and God’s Word as the basis for our knowledge of all that is true, it is impossible to honestly live with a consistent worldview. It is important we keep all of those presuppositions in mind when we evaluate evidences for the Christian faith. The reason we live in a world where evidences can point towards a rational conclusion is because of the existence of the tri-une God who structured a universe with order, logic, and cause and effect. So, in a sense, all that follows in this chapter is a second rung on the ladder only made possible by the preceding reality of Christianity’s foundational necessity.

There is a common false claim made by modern secularists who believe that to hold faith in Christ as a cornerstone of truth and to believe in the whole Bible as the revealed word of God, is choose to leave intelligence at the door. The modern secularist has argued that faith in the God of the Bible is akin to faith in a fairy tale. This is a false notion rooted in a lack of study of the facts. Any serious student of the actual evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible and the actual evidence for the reality of the claims of Scripture will be left in the very position they accuse Christians of. In other words, to study the facts and then to continue to hold to a non-Christian worldview, is to choose to live in such a way that takes an incredible leap of faith in direct contradiction to the simple facts of reality, akin to believing a fairy tale.

The Christian faith is not simply an equation of adding up the evidences. Faith ultimately does go beyond where evidence can take you. Yet critically, faith is not believing in something despite evidence to the contrary, rather faith is believing in line with where the evidence leads but further than where those evidences can take you. The actual evidence points towards the truth of the Christian Scriptures. It supports the Christian faith. However, faith as a relationship with God through Christ is a step that goes beyond where the evidence can take you.

The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument has a number of nuanced forms. The simplest form is known as the kalam cosmological argument and has been well developed by apologist William Lane Craig. The argument follows:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

The Cosmological Argument is one of the clearest and most easily understood logical case for the existence of God. In the preceding chapter we laid the groundwork for understanding laws that govern our universe. One of the simplest and most basic laws of logic is the Law of Causality which states that every event has a proper cause. The existence of the universe we live in is one such event, and therefore the universe must have had a proper cause.

Some have tried to argue over the years that the universe itself is eternal and therefore causeless. After all, if you look carefully at premise one of the kalam cosmological argument we read that “whatever begins to exist has a cause.” By principle, God never began to exist and therefore no cause is necessary to explain God. He is the sole necessary self-referencing being (see chapter 1). But some philosophers have attempted to say that the universe is eternal, having always existed. In a sense they have replaced the eternal self-referencing God with an eternal self-referencing universe. This view is scientifically and philosophically absurd on many levels. Scientists are fairly certain based on their measurements that the universe had a beginning. Tools like measuring the “red shift” of light of objects from far away, the discovery of background radiation, and much more have all confirmed the leading scientific analysis that the Universe not only is expanding now, but once had a fixed beginning. This discovery in the first half of the 20th century shook the scientific community and continues to do so today. William Lane Craig summarizes the current situation well,

“It is the atheist who has to maintain by faith, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, that the universe did not have a beginning a finite time ago, but is in some inexplicable way eternal after all. So the shoe is on the other foot. The Christian can stand confidently within biblical truth, knowing it’s in line with mainstream astrophysics and cosmology. It’s the atheist who feels very uncomfortable and marginalized today.”

William Lane Craig [1]

Another “scientific” approach in support of a non-eternal universe involves the laws of thermo-dynamics which govern how energy functions and disperses within the universe. One implication of the second law of thermo-dynamics is that over enough time all energy will evenly disperse among a closed system. An illustration of this might be if you placed a snowball in a bath of warm water. Given enough time, the snowball would melt and evenly distribute throughout the bath. If the universe has existed, not only for a very long time, but truly for eternity, then necessarily enough time has passed for all the energy to be evenly distributed within that universe. The problem however is that we live in a universe where the energy is not evenly distributed. There are warmer and colder planets and systems and stars which are essentially pockets of energy. Using the snowball example, our universe appears more like a warm bathtub with many snowballs still in the process of melting, which means a true infinity of time could not possibly have passed yet. Philosophically speaking, the “eternal universe” theory does not add up.

The atheist writer and thinker Alan Lightman has summarized the atheist’s perspective on the question of the origin of the universe,

“Evidently, science can find reasons and causes for everything in the physical universe but not for the universe itself. What caused the universe to come into being? Why is there something rather than nothing? We don’t know and will almost certainly never know. And so this most profound question, although in tightest embrace with the physical world, will likely remain in the domain of philosophy and religion.”

Alan Lightman [2]

As Alan Lightman demonstrates, if one begins with the assumption that God does not exist, then the best one is able to do with the question of the reason for the universe is to throw up their hands and simply say, “I have no explanation consistent with my worldview.

If the universe had a beginning, then necessarily it must have had a cause big enough to account for its existence. That cause must be outside the universe, and therefore must be timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful. But further that cause must be Personal, for whatever caused the universe to come into being made a decision to do so. The necessary being we are describing has all the qualities of the God of the Bible. No other explanation could possibly satisfy the requirements for the cause of the universe.

The Teliological Argument

The Teliological Argument is an argument from design to designer. Imagine for a moment that you were walking through the desert and suddenly stumbled upon a perfectly functioning gold watch. It would be absurd to believe that the sand somehow spontaneously created the watch over time. Because of the intricate details and many moving pieces that constitute the watch, it is obvious the watch was designed and created by a personal force, not by nature.

In the same way, when we examine the world we live in honestly, what we find is a startling display of beauty and design perfectly suited for life. Nature has all the preconditions for life, fine tuned to remarkably precise levels in order to support our existence. The universe does not need to be this way. In fact, logically thinking, a random unguided, undesigned universe ought not be fine tuned in any particular order. Physicist Paul Davies describes the phenomena of design in the universe this way,

It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in numbers, has been rather carefully thought out… The seemingly miraculous concurrence of these numerical values must remain the most compelling evidence for cosmic design.

Physicist Paul Davies [3]

The list of finely tuned elements of the universe that permit life include nuances of the subatomic world such as the decay rate of protons and the size of neutrons compared to protons, that if only slightly different would not support life and would cause stars to collapse. Galactic elements like supernovas must take place far enough away that radiation does not kill us, but frequent enough to provide matter for rocky planets like ours. The location of our solar system in reference to our galaxy as a whole must be just right. Earth’s distance from the sun provides just the right fluctuations of heat to support life. The size and color of the sun are finely tuned to allow life on Earth to exist. The ratio of oceans to continents, our distance from Jupiter, the existence of tectonic plates in the Earth’s crust (unique to our planet), the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, all our finely tuned to support life.

Looking at the complexity of the human body we might consider the fascinating construction of obviously complex systems in nature such as the reproductive system or the eyeball. At the cellular level we might consider the irreducible complexity found in cells where the loss of even one part causes the entire system to fail. The list of fine tunings is extensive, well beyond the scope of this short treatise. Biochemist Michael Behe says it this way:

“The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself – not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs. Inferring that biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent is a humdrum process that requires no new principles of logic or science. . . [Thus,] the result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell – to investigate life at the molecular level – is a loud, clear, piercing cry of “design!” The result is so unambiguous and so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. The discovery rivals those of Newton and Einstein.”

Michael Behe [4]

This argument for God is quite compelling when all the data is taken into account. The statistical chance of a universe existing where every dial is perfectly tuned to create life, where even if one dial were to be shifted just one click from its current setting all life to cease, is what statisticians refer to as an impossibility. It would be a bit like playing poker with a friend and seeing him play one hundred royal flushes in a row. Statistically, it’s not impossible per se, it’s just so unlikely that it would take far more faith to believe it happened accidentally than purposefully. If you multiply that example by a few hundred trillion, you begin to get close to the statistical impossibility of the Earth’s perfect design for life.

It takes an incredible stretch of faith for a non-believer to consider the data on the fine tuning of the universe and continue to deny a designer. Some highly exalted atheist thinkers having weighed the evidence have gone so far as to explain the universe’s fine tuning and the design of our planet by placing their faith in alien colonies who are responsible for creating the design of our planet and placing us here to live in it. I consider statements like those to be a ‘stubbornly absurd hypothesis,’ created simply out of a stubbornness to accept the most obvious conclusion. On the other hand, the Christian worldview fully satisfies the question of design. The universe in all its beauty and design is exactly what we would expect from an infinitely wise God who created humanity for a purpose.

The Moral Argument

“With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”

Psalm 119:13-16

We have come across a nod to the Moral Argument already when considering the foundational necessity of God (see chapter 1). The Moral Argument simply states that unless we presuppose God as the source of all truth, humanity is left without the existence of Objective Morality. Objective Morality simply defined is the idea that there does exist a universally true and fixed set of moral principles that all people everywhere are held accountable to. Those who deny God, or who are agnostic towards God and believe that God has not communicated in any clear way to humanity, are left in the uncomfortable position of having no basis for objective morality.

Consider those who adhere to the postmodern worldview. Postmodernists by definition reject metanarratives, sweeping explanations of fixed right and wrong. According to the foundations of the postmodern worldview, there is no basis to say that murder, rape, human sacrifice, stealing, lying, or cheating are wrong any in real way. We might feel they are wrong personally, but our opinion is only one of many different opinions which according to their own worldview, must all be taken equally.

Greg Bahnsen illustrates the postmodern dilemma well when describing his previous evangelistic encounters with hippies during the Civil Rights Movement. During these encounters he would speak to them about God’s design for sexuality. The hippies would respond how wrong it was for Greg Bahnsen to assume his sexual moral code was true for everyone. The old saying, “different strokes for different folks” sums up their rebuttal to Greg Bahnsen. Bahnsen goes on to say that those same hippies would leave the conversation, walk down the street and join an anti-Vietnam War protest. The irony is quite simple to see. The hippies were unable to consistently apply their worldview of “different strokes for different folks,” for as soon as they joined the protest and stood for a set of moral principles they believed should be universally accepted, they were taking a position of moral superiority over and against other who felt differently.[5]

Or consider the implications of the worldview arising from the godless Darwinian evolutionary hypothesis. According to this view, what is truly “good” is survival of the fittest for the cause of reproduction. A true Darwinian worldview ought to celebrate actions that elevate one person or family or group over another no matter the cost. A consistent Darwinianist could not say it is truly wrong for a stronger man to plunder the home of a weaker man, or a stronger nation to plunder the goods of a weaker nation. The Darwinian must reject the notion of true selflessness. Honest Darwinians recognize this and often counter this claim by saying that among the human species, like other species, there is great benefit in protecting the herd. Therefore what is best for you personally, very well may be to look out for the well being of others around you. But even this response by Darwinists fails on at least two levels. First, herd mentality ethical systems have been attempted many times throughout history. But all this view does is pass the idea of ‘strong-eat-weak’ on from the individual to the herd. Second, it provides no grounds for true selflessness, actions that provide no benefit to the recipient but flow strictly out of love for others.

Christianity on the other hand offers something radically different. Jesus taught his followers:

I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.”

Luke 6:27-30

The stakes are raised quite high on the Moral Argument. Was the global practice of human chattel slavery fundamentally wrong? From a biblical worldview, the answer is yes. The Bible explicitly condemns stealing another human being as objectively wrong (Exodus 21:16). When the postmodernist or the modern secularist or the agnostic who believes that God has not explicitly stated what is objectively right and wrong, agree that human chattel slavery must be wrong, they agree not speaking according to their own worldview, but according to the Christian’s worldview which provides grounds for objective morality.

Let’s take another example. According to Unicef there are 200 million women alive today who have undergone female genitil mutilation. This is a horrifically painful, and often deadly practice. Its purpose is to deprive women of pleasure in sex. The practice is deeply rooted in the religious traditions, beliefs, and overall ethical worldview of the people in these nations. As a Westerner hearing about this practice we might immediately say, “Of course that is objectively wrong.” But who is to say our opinion of what is right or wrong is more true than the hundreds of millions of others around the world who believe female genitil mutilation is objectively morally good? Without a fixed unchanging universal standard to appeal to, we are left with no ability to determine who is objectively right and who is wrong.

The atheist Richard Dawkins has summarized the secular view well,

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

Richard Dawkins [6]

The irony is that Richard Dawkins then goes on to write books sharing his views on why religious teachings are morally repugnant. Dawkins cannot live up to his own worldview, for as soon as he assumes that his position on morality is better than anyone else’s and ought to be believed above and beyond other people’s personal views, no matter what the issue is, he has abandoned his own worldview of pitiless indifference, and has borrowed from the Christian worldview of objective morality.

The Christian can stand confidently on the word of God as the basis for all morality. Not only is it true, but no higher ethic for human relations has ever been written. The ethics of scripture reflect the heart of God himself. To read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is to be overwhelmed by the high ethic he taught that looked not only to our outward actions as Islam’s ethics tend to prioritize, but rather focus in on the condition of the heart that causes the outward actions in the first place. Jesus raised the bar of ethics so high that without a divine work of Christ radically transforming one’s heart, no human could ever live up to His standard. “Blessed are the meek (Matthew 5:5)”, “Blessed are the merciful (Matthew 5:7)”, “Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)”, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment (Matthew 5:22)”, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28)”, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil (Matthew 5:37)”, “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)”, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret (Matthew 6:3-4)”, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1).” Against such a standard, no human can dare stand in judgment on their own merit. We have all fallen short.

Objective morality assumes a sovereign God who has communicated His morality to humanity with clarity. Any other worldview has no justification for moral claims.

[1] (Strobel, The Case For Christ, 120)

[2] (Lightman, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, 176)

[3] (Davis, God and the New Physics, 189)

[4] (Behe, Darwins Black Box, 193)

[5] (Bahnsen, Lord Over Reasoning)

[6] (Dawkins, River Out of Eden, 133)

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