I understand that not all “unbelievers” are the same. There are those who believe in God, but who do not believe that Jesus is the risen Son of God. There are others who believe in God and in Jesus, but who do not believe in the full inspiration of the Bible. Then, of course, there are those who do not believe in the Bible, or Jesus, or God. Even within this category of unbelievers, there are militant atheists, indifferent agnostics, and everything in between.
If you are somewhere in this broad spectrum of unbelief, I might ask you why it is that you are an unbeliever. Have you spurned Christ because of bad experiences with a church in the past? Can the unraveling of your faith be traced back to the theory of Darwinian evolution, or to the belief that naturalistic science, not religion, best explains our existence? Is it simply a lack of evidence? Have you written off religion because of apparent Bible contradictions? Hypocrisy of religious people? Unanswered prayers? Did suffering in your life undo your faith in a loving, present God?
The “why” is a fascinating topic for conversation, and if you’re an unbeliever, I’d love to have that conversation with you. In fact, addressing the “why” might be the key to restoring your faith in the long run.
Instead of asking “why,” however, I’d like to ask you a different question. Are you open-minded to the possibility of God’s existence, and willing to have a conversation about the evidence? I mean, if you’ve already made up your mind that God cannot be real, or that Jesus cannot be the risen Son of God, then there’s no point in discussing either proposition. It would be an argument, not a discussion. Right?
So if you identify yourself as a lifelike unbeliever who will never change no matter what, there’s probably no reason to keep reading. But if you’re an unbeliever who is at least willing to consider the evidence, I encourage you to buckle in and work through the material that I’ve added below. Read what I’ve written. Check out the links. Watch the videos. And do so with an open mind.
Now, because it’s my goal to comprehensively address all unbelievers – not just deists who disbelieve in the deity of Christ, or Muslims, or Wiccans, etc. – I feel it’s important to begin with the most fundamental questions and build from there. However, if I’m so thorough that I fail to be concise, I risk overwhelming you and losing your careful attention. So what I’m going to do is write concise summaries of various evidences below, and along the way, link to other material (articles, videos, other webpages, etc.) that you can consider if you’re interested, and/or if you need more information to bolster the point I’m making in the summary.
The Inevitability of Faith…in Something
The ongoing debate between religious and non-religious people is often framed in terms of “faith vs. facts,” or “science vs. superstition.” Many unbelievers argue that while while their worldview is predicated on facts and science, the religious worldview is predicated on faith and superstition.
One of the “new atheists,” Sam Harris, has said, “Faith is the license religious people give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail.” In his documentary Religulous, Bill Maher said, “Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.” Richard Dawkins is also on record for saying that: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, perhaps even because of, the lack of evidence.”
First of all, religious faith does not stand opposed to science, evidence, facts, or objectivity. I hope to make this clear throughout this material as I present a logical, reasonable, evidentiary case for faith in Jesus.
But more to the point, I want you to understand that faith is an inevitable part of the human condition. In other words, each and every one of us must ultimately resort to faith in something…and that’s okay.
An atheist might make the argument that religious people blindly believe in a God that they cannot see, and for whom there is ZERO physical evidence. Again, I believe that there is ample evidence for God and that a more-than-reasonable case can be made for God’s existence, but I will grant that a degree of faith is required.
But when the atheist preaches the gospel of naturalism and Darwinian evolution, is he appealing to raw, inarguable data? Or is he making an appeal to faith – faith that the data is accurate, and that it’s being interpreted properly? Did anyone actually witness the Big Bang? Was anyone there 4.6 billion years ago when the earth allegedly began to form? Were scientists there hundreds of millions of years ago with their clipboards and beakers to chronicle and test the alleged rise of life from non-living material (known as “abiogenesis”)?
Furthermore, haven’t scientists been wrong before? Plenty! Haven’t they misinterpreted data before? Oh yeah! Haven’t there been consensuses in the scientific community before that turned out to be completely off base? Absolutely! Click here to read a short article I wrote on this very topic.
If/when you argue in favor of naturalism, abiogenesis, or Darwinian evolution, you are appealing to an interpretation of data that you assume is correct. And really, the same could be said of historical events. Was Caesar a real person? Was Abraham Lincoln really assassinated by John Wilkes Booth? Did the Holocaust really occur? Did we really land on the moon? Think about it. You didn’t witness any of these events, or the transference of so-called evidence (e.g. letters, pictures, moon rocks) from generation to generation. What you’re saying is, “I believe that there is ample evidence for me to believe that these events occurred.” You’re trusting that the evidence is accurate, that it hasn’t been forged, that it has been properly analyzed and interpreted, and so on.
Are we living in a Matrix? Will this chair support me if I sit in it? Did the mechanic properly install the brakes in my car, or sufficiently tighten the lug nuts in my tires? Does this doctor have the skill set to perform this operation? You get the point.
There may be varying degrees of faith, but the fact is, each of us relies on faith in every aspect of our lives. Faith – which I’m defining here as trust, or belief – is not an ugly word, nor is it relegated to religious communities and people who are opposed to science and reason. I cannot overstate how important this is for you to understand this as you begin to sift through this material, especially if you will only embrace a religious proposition (e.g. the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ) if it can be conclusively proven to you. The question is not whether I can conclusively prove God’s existence to you – no one can – but whether I can lead you so far along with evidence of God that the connection between the end of the evidence and the conclusion that God exists is made in your mind. Can I prove to you that Jesus rose from the dead? No. But can I build a strong case for the resurrection of Christ so that faith in the resurrection is reasonable and even warranted? I believe so, yes. My goal here is not to get you to the point of blind faith, but to the point where the abundance of evidence compels you to accept the conclusion that there is a God who loves you and sent His Son to die for your sins.
If you’re NOT open to the idea of religious faith on the basis that you only accept things that can be conclusively proven by science and raw data and such, then not only do you misunderstand the full scope of religious faith, you have set up an impossible standard for religious faith that you unwittingly fail to consistently apply in every other aspect of your life. What you’re saying, in other words, is, “I’m willing to have faith here, here, and here, but not when it comes to religion.”
Are you open to religious faith? Are you willing to approach this discussion with reasonable expectations?
The Most Fundamental Dichotomy:
Naturalism vs. Supernaturalism
Naturalism is defined as “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”
Supernaturalism, while often defined in the context of theism (belief in a higher power), has a broader definition that encompasses any belief in spiritual reality.
“Supernatural comes from the Latin word supernaturalis, meaning beyond nature. The adjective form of supernatural describes anything that pertains to or is caused by something that can’t be explained by the laws of nature…not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws; not physical or material.” (Ref.)
We don’t need evidence for the natural world because we live in it and experience it all the time. But is there evidence for a supernatural (or spiritual) reality? In the absence of any evidence for the supernatural, we cannot logically or reasonably affirm the reality of the supernatural, much less make a case for God, or Christianity.
Christians often challenge atheists to “prove that God doesn’t exist.” It’s not reasonable, however, to expect someone to prove a negative. That would be akin to someone arguing that they will continue to believe that the Tooth Fairy is real until YOU prove to them that the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist. Really, if we’re affirming the existence of the supernatural, and of God, the burden of proof is on us to build a positive case for His existence. That’s what I’m trying to do here.
Below, I will set forth a few basic evidences of the supernatural world and of a supernatural Creator.
The Argument From Design
Perhaps you’ve heard it said before that, “Design demands a Designer.” In other words, when we see something that has all the markings of design and craftsmanship, it is only logical to believe that someone designed that thing.
If you’re hiking in the mountains and you stumble upon a machine (like a computer), you’re going to intuitively understand that the machine didn’t assemble itself via evolutionary processes over hundreds of thousands of years. You’re going to assume that it was designed and constructed by some intelligent source – perhaps an engineer or computer technician – and somehow left in the middle of the forest.
The same is true of a car engine, a skyscraper, an elaborate painting, or a book. Is it possible for random letters to randomly assemble themselves on pre-bound pages to form words and cohesive sentences, paragraphs, and chapters? If you threw a handful of scrabble pieces onto the floor, a few of them might accidentally form simple words like “to” and maybe even “dog.” The chances that you’ll see a word like “telescope” are infinitely lower. And it’s near impossible that you’ll get a complete sentence, much less a book. So when you see a book, or even something like a short poem, you intuitively know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the literary work can be traced to the intelligent mind of a creative writer.
This is one of the most powerful and compelling arguments for a Supernatural Creator. Why? Because we live in a world that is infinitely more complex and more intricate than anything that man has manufactured over the millennia. The human brain is more complex than any supercomputer. The human eye is more complex than any camera. We see ecosystems all over this planet (which is fine-tuned for the existence of life) that are perfectly bound together like threads in a larger tapestry. From a beautiful sunset to a mountain vista to a star-strewn sky, this world appears designed…and even the most hardened atheists will admit this.
A long time ago, King David wrote in Psalm 19:1 that, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” If an artist paints a beautiful picture of an eagle soaring over a high mountain lake, we admire the painting and praise the artist. And yet many people will look at the majestic eagle, the sculpted mountain peaks, and the pristine, life-giving lake, and ascribe it all to random, purposeless processes rather than praise the Master Artist. Sad.
To further delve into this argument, consider this transcript of a speech I gave on the scientific evidence for Creation – CLICK HERE.
Most people recognize the fact that humans (especially throughout history) tend to be religious. You’d be hard-pressed to find a culture or a civilization that did not worship some kind of god or gods, that did not believe in an afterlife, and that did not have religious customs. The Aztecs, the Mayans, the ancient Chinese, the Native Americans, the old Germanic tribes, the Jews, the Egyptians, the Arabians, etc. – were all religious.
It would seem, then, that humans possess “intuitive spirituality,” meaning that religion has always been a natural part of the human experience.
Furthermore, do we not all ponder the same basic questions:
- Where did we come from?
- What is our purpose?
- What is right and wrong – and how do we know?
- What happens to us after we die?
Even if you have come to the conclusion that there are naturalistic answers to all four of these questions, you have to admit that these ARE questions that all humans ponder, and that a LOT of humans (the majority, in fact) have reached spiritual conclusions. So now, the question is: why do we have these spiritual and/or religious intuitions?
Does Darwinian evolution address this conundrum? Does materialism explain why nearly every culture from every slice of history has pondered these seemingly instinctive questions and developed religion as a result? Why the nearly universal belief in a soul, in an afterlife, in deities, in worship, in sacrifice, in deeper purpose, in morality?
The Bible says that we’re made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and that God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 1:11). The Bible explains in a number of places how and why we as humans (and we really are unique in this) ask these tough, philosophical, spiritual questions. And the Bible explains how the created world points us to a Creator – and how it is normal and natural for us to recognize the reality and truth of God (Romans 1:20).
This is what I call “intuitive spirituality,” and it is powerful evidence of the supernatural.
The Moral Argument
According to Wikipedia, “Secular morality is the aspect of philosophy that deals with morality outside of religious traditions.” This concept is most notably summed up in the oft-repeated admonition, “be good for goodness’ sake.”
For ages, religious people had a monopoly on morality and moral truth. It was understood that morality exists because of God and is therefore defined by Him. And if this is true, then not only does morality become totally subjective without God, but those who reject God have smashed their moral compass into a million pieces. This conveys the image of a world populated by secularists (non-religious people) where morality is lost and a brute, anarchist mindset prevails.
But atheists now are laying claim to moral truth. Atheist Jerry Coyne wrote in a USA Today article, “So where does morality come from, if not from God? Two places: evolution and secular reasoning.” 1
Among atheists, there are, not surprisingly, a number of different answers to the question of morality. Of course, there are those who argue that morality is completely and totally subjective and determined by culture. They will argue that rape and theft are only immoral in a culture that regards such acts as immoral…a claim that is disturbing, albeit consistent.
But then there are those who argue for a kind of absolute moral standard based on evolutionary instincts and nature. They will argue, for example, that because pleasure is preferred over suffering, any act that causes suffering is immoral.
It might be fine for an individual to use this as an impetus for his/her moral decisions, but in no way does this or any other secular argument prove the universal immorality of rape, theft or murder.
While one secularist might develop a moral compass based on what causes pleasure and joy, what’s to stop another secularist from asking, “Why should I care what causes you pleasure and joy?” And what’s to stop the second secularist from running roughshod over others in order to achieve his/her own personal pleasure?
If there is no God, then we all are autonomous beings who cannot logically impose our own moral reasoning on others lest we be considered high-minded (and rightfully so!). This makes morality completely subjective, not only in regards to personal moral choices we want to make for ourselves (i.e. drinking, homosexuality, abortion, etc.), but also in regards to the “most heinous” of moral crimes. To put it another way, the same moral subjectivity that allows two men to be in a romantic relationship also allows a man to rape a woman. There’s no way around this.
In Romans 1, Paul teaches us that morality loses meaning the further we drift from God. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting, being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder strife, deceit, evil-mindedness…” and so on (vs. 28-30).
It is only by acknowledging our Creator and the universal bond we share through Him that we retain the moral compass He has instilled in us (Rom. 2:12-16). This might mean that our moral behavior is sometimes restricted to the disappointment and neglect of our flesh. This might also mean that others are resentful of our own personal, moral choices. But in the end, it brings us into harmony with our Creator and, believe it or not, with each other.
Justice, Love, and the Value of Life
MORE TO COME ON THIS…
Preliminary Expectations and Observations in Light of Supernaturalism
I believe I’ve made a reasonable case for supernaturalism, but I’ll be the first to admit that this doesn’t automatically validate faith in the resurrection of Christ or Christianity at large. All it means is that there is sufficient reason to believe in some greater, spiritual reality – whether that be monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, or even some kind of uncertain spiritualism (“I don’t know what’s out there, but I believe there’s something”).
I think it would be a bit premature to go straight from “Here is the evidence of a non-material reality” to “Here is the evidence for Christianity.”
What might be the thought process of a person who has come to believe in “something more,” but doesn’t yet know what that “something” might be.
Observations – order, purpose, human nature, the soul, etc.
The God of the Bible
The Bible answers these basic questions, and the God of the Bible satisfies the aforementioned observations and expectations.
The Case for Christ
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