The Gospel & Atheism

What are the Differences Between Atheism & Theism

Problem of Evil

Atheism is a worldview that affirms that God does not exist. It further claims that nothing exists except the material world. God has never existed and never will exist. Everything that we see came from natural causes which removes the necessity for God.

Theism is the opposing view that affirms that God does exist and that He is the eternal, transcendent, all-powerful and intelligent, uncaused Cause which has brought all of the material world into existence. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message that not only affirms that God exists, but also declares that God became a man in the Person of Jesus Christ. This serves as the foundation of the Christian Faith.

There are a number of philosophical questions that Atheism cannot adequately answer. Here are (4) important ones:

1. How do we account for our existence?

2. How do we account for the apparent design and complex beauty of the universe?

3. How do we account for the existence of good and evil?

4. How do we account for logic, truth, reason, intelligence, meaning and purpose?

 

How does Atheism answer these (4) questions:

1. How do we account for our existence?

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that the amount of actual energy in the universe remains constant and based on this observation, the eternality of the material world is affirmed. The need for an eternal Creator- God to account for the natural Universe is therefore eliminated. According to atheism, the Universe was not caused but rather it has “always been here”. The great astronomer Carl Sagan’s famous statement affirms this – “The Cosmos is all there is, all there was and all there will ever be”. Cosmos, Sagan page 4. This is the basis for the existence of the Universe and life itself according to many atheists.

Another view held by some atheists is one in which they acknowledge the finite nature of the universe and affirm that the universe or multiverse came into existence by some mechanism that we do not understand. Some day we may have this explanation, but whatever this cause is, it is a natural one not supernatural.

2. How do we account for the apparent design and complex beauty of the universe?

The mechanism of evolution is the force behind all of the apparent design and complexity that exists. The Universe is not necessarily beautiful or complex but rather is vast and chaotic. Atheists affirm that the Universe and the life forms here on earth have many deficiencies and problems that a designer would not have included. Secondly, the “design and complexity” of the Universe and life forms may appear to be so, but this really only exists inside of our brains. What one person may see as design, another sees as “un-designed”.

3. How do we account for the existence of good and evil?

The fact of evil disproves any description of a good, all-powerful and purposeful God. If God is good He would not want evil and if He is all-powerful He would not allow evil.

4. How do we account for objective morals, logic, truth, reason, intelligence, meaning and purpose?

Naturalistic and evolutionary causes have given rise to complex human intelligence, reason and to the laws of logic employed by the human mind. There is no ultimate meaning for our existence and our lives have no purpose beyond this life.

 

How does the Biblical Theism answer these (4) questions?

1. How do we account for our existence?

The current scientific theory on the origin of the Universe is called the “Big Bang Theory”. This view, which is held by the majority of scientists, affirms that the Universe began with an enormous explosion of energy from which all of time, matter and space began.

The renowned agnostic Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow has stated regarding this event – “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion. It was literally the moment of Creation…. The Universe flashed into being and we cannot find out what caused that to happen” – Message from Professor Robert Jastrow: LeaderU.com 2002

From this singular beginning of the Universe, the fundamental law of scientific causality must be applied – “Everything that has a beginning must have a cause”. If the Universe had a beginning, it must have a cause and this cause cannot be a part of the Universe itself because self-creation is logically impossible.

The Universe is not eternal, it has not always existed. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the usable energy in the Universe is limited and not eternal in nature. As time passes, the total amount of energy that can be utilized is decreasing and one day will be depleted – the Universe will die. The fact that the Universe has not run out of usable energy is because the Universe had a beginning. The atheistic premise that the Universe is eternal is not consistent with current scientific observations.

The cause however, must be eternal (never had a beginning, therefore it does not need a cause), personal (the cause chose to create), intelligent (the cause created intelligence, reason, logic, math, complexity of all life forms…) and massively powerful (the vast Universe and sources of energy were the direct result of this causation).
Biblical Theism affirms that this description of an eternal, personal, intelligent and powerful Cause meets the description of the Creator God – the Source of all things as revealed in the Scriptures (the Bible). According to the Bible human beings were created by God and for God. We were created in His image. Each of us is unique and loved by God.

2. How do we account for the apparent design and complex beauty of the universe?

When we examine the complexity of the Universe and the systems of the various life forms, the design implications are self-apparent. For instance:
This complexity of process is found in the natural laws that govern our Universe. When scientists examine the Universe and the conditions necessary for its existence, the incredible precision and nature of many finely tuned constants points to design. These environmental conditions called anthropic constants are physical laws and conditions that are very finely tuned and are absolutely required in order for the Universe and life to exist. They point to a complexity that cannot be accounted for by evolutionary processes or mere chance. The Discover Magazine stated regarding this complexity – “The universe is unlikely. Very unlikely. Deeply, shockingly unlikely”. Why is there Life? Nov. 2002.

There are numerous (over 300) conditions and prerequisites that are necessary in order for life to exist on the earth. Here are (10) of the well-known ones.

Water – must have liquid H2O

Exact distance from the Sun

Correct type of soil conditions of the earth

Earth’s magnetic fields

Nitrogen/Oxygen based atmosphere

The correct sized moon

A Sun of the correct size and distance from the earth

The Earth’s atmospheric transparency

The Earth’s Carbon Dioxide levels

The Earth’s rotation rate and axil tilt

These are only (10) constants with over (300) that could be listed here. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has calculated that the probability of just (122) of these constants existing for any one planet in the Universe by chance is 1 in 10 (138). See Hugh Ross – Why I Believe in Divine Creation , 2011, pages 138-141.

Statisticians have calculated that when the odds of something happening reach 1 in 10 (50) there is effectively a zero percent chance of this to take place. Based on the statistical probability of these universal life constants, the earth should not exist. If natural causes are the only explanation available to account for these constants there would be essentially a zero percent chance of the earth’s existence. The only way to explain the earth and its very existence is to look beyond a natural explanation to a supernatural one. We cannot give time enough time or chance enough chances to account for the complexities that we observe in our Universe.

Astronomer George Greenstein stated – “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or rather, Agency – must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?” See George Greenstein – The Symbiotic Universe – page, 27.

Biblical Theism affirms that this apparent design actually is design and this design requires a designer. We are not on this earth by some random chance possibility, rather, we are here by God’s design to fulfill His purposes.

3. How do we account for the existence of good and evil?

To deny the existence of God based on the reality of evil is not a valid argument. If there is no God, then there cannot be evil. In order to be able to distinguish evil, it must be compared to a standard of good and this standard of good must presuppose a moral law and a moral law Giver. If human beings are simply the by-product of materialistic evolution, how can there be a “right or wrong” way to live. All there would be in a “material-only world“ is the evolutionary process. This process is based on natural selection, death, destruction and the strong over-coming the weak, not some moral code. Apart from God there is no standard of goodness and therefore no basis to even refer to something as evil. There would only be personal preferences and non-binding opinions as to what is right or wrong.

C.S. Lewis, a former atheist philosopher pondered these questions and came to the conclusion that the evil in the world actually points to God. He later became a great Christian leader. He states:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’? … What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies…. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.”

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, Macmillan, 1960, page 31.
There is no simple easy answer that will “satisfy” or make us feel okay with evil. However, the Bible does explain and provide a foundation that can help us understand the “how and why” of evil and gives us a hope for a future where evil will be judged and destroyed by God.

4. How do we account for logic, truth, reason, intelligence, meaning and purpose?

Atheism affirms that there is only materialistic and naturalistic processes in the Universe. Human beings are strictly made up of matter and our thinking process is nothing more than electrochemical reactions occurring inside of our brains.
Atheism affirms that the Universe has no ultimate meaning. We will simply one day die and cease to exist. Years from now we all will be totally forgotten. How we lived, what we did and the relationships we formed will eventually have no ultimate meaning.
Atheism affirms that our reason, logic, intelligence, morality and personal uniqueness is simply a by-product of evolution.

The question is: Does human intelligence, reason, logic… find its source in mindless matter or is there an intelligent Creator who has endowed us with these gifts.
John Lennox, a Christian and professor of Mathematics and the philosophy of Science at Oxford University has written regarding this. He states:
“Although science with all of its power cannot address some of the fundamental questions that we ask, nevertheless the universe contains certain clues as to our relationship to it, clues that are scientifically accessible. The rational intelligibility on the universe, for instance, points to the existence of a Mind that was responsible both for the universe and for our minds. It is for this reason that we are able to do science and to discover the beautiful mathematical structures that underlie the phenomena we can observe. Not only that, but our increasing insight into the fine-tuning of the universe in general and of planet earth in particular, is consistent with the widespread awareness that we are meant to be here. This earth is our home…. I have spent much time over the years arguing that there is evidence of a Mind behind the universe, a Mind that intended us to be here. We too have minds. It is, therefore, not illogical that one of the major reasons why we have been given minds is not only that we should be able to explore our fascinating universe home but also that we should be able to understand the Mind that has given us the home…. For what lies behind the universe is much more than a rational principle. It is God, the Creator Himself. It is no abstraction, or even impersonal force, that lies behind the universe. God, the Creator, is a person, and He is not part of the stuff of His universe.” – John Lennox Beyond Reason Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier, Tabletalk magazine, page1.

The field of Science is something that both atheists and Christians appreciate and encourage. However, science only deals with physical and natural phenomena. It is therefore limited on the information that it can provide us. We must look elsewhere to find answers to questions of who we are, why we are here and where we are going.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ answers these questions for us.

1. We were made by God our Creator. – Genesis 1:26,27

2. We were made for a relationship with God whereby we can come to know Him.- John 17:3

3. We are of great value to God.- Matthew 10:29-31, John 3:16, Roman 5:8

4. We are more than physical beings. We are also spiritual creatures, made in God’s image. – Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:13-16

5. We will live beyond this world – the grave is not the end.- Ecclesiastes 12:7, 3:11, John 5:28,29.

6. God has an ultimate, everlasting purpose for each of us. -Jeremiah 29:11, 1 Corinthians 6:20.

7. We will all stand before God and give an account of our lives. -Matthew 7:21-23, Daniel 12:2, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Hebrews 9:27, Romans 14:128.)

8. We (atheists and theists) are loved by God – Jeremiah 31:3

9. We can have eternal life and have our sins forgiven. We can enter into an everlasting relationship with God through Christ Jesus the Savior – John 14:6, Acts 4:12

10. We must respond to God in faith and obedience – Hebrews 11:6

 

Conclusion:

The real important questions are not the ones directed only to our heads but also to our hearts.

1. If God does exist, do we want Him to?

2. If one could provide sufficient evidence of God’s existence and the truth of the Gospel, would we be willing to turn from our own self-centered ways and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior?

Pascal’s Wager

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a seventeenth century French mathematician, scientist, philosopher and Christian. In his writing Pensees (Thoughts), he made his case that either God exists or He does not exist. There is no neutral third option. According to Pascal, we can neither prove nor disprove His existence. Pascal begins his argument with the premise that the existence or the non-existence of God is not provable by human reason because the nature and essence of God is infinite and beyond human comprehension.

Because human reasoning ability is not able to decide this grand question of God’s existence, he encouraged people to “wager” that God did exist and live to know and serve Him rather than to “bet against Him”. His point was that we do not have the option of not wagering. If we simply ignore the “God” issue then by default we are wagering against Him. So we either automatically by default wager against God or we wager by faith based in evidence for God. No one finds an escape from the wagering process. If we wager “bet” that God does exist and we are right we win not only now in this life but also in eternity.

If we are wrong and God does not exist we really lose nothing. Living a purposeful and meaningful life has great benefits even if it turns out to be a lie.
If on the other hand, we wager “bet” against God and He does exist then we lose big not only in this life but especially in eternity. The wise position according to Pascal is to wager your life on the belief that God exists and pursue Him by faith. There is everything to gain if you do and everything to lose if you don’t.

Pascal goes on to make the point that the primary problem is not an intellectual problem but rather a heart issue. He states that our heads (intellect) tell us to believe but our hearts (faith) are not willing to follow. He suggests that we relinquish our heart and its desires rather than attempt to look for further intellectual evidences to bring us to this place of faith. Start living like a believer and as we do our faith will grow.

“Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? …. If you gain you gain all; if you lose you lose nothing” – Pascal. 21

In this life we are betting on whether or not God exists. It is the great gamble of life. When we believe in God, this is not just a simple intellectual acknowledgement that He exists but rather it is a commitment to follow and learn to know Him.

There is a tension that God has instituted in life regarding the revelation of Himself to man. He has given us enough information as to His Person and Nature so that by faith we can have moral certainty regarding Him. However, He has not chosen to provide anywhere near 100% certainty or revelation of Himself so as to not require faith on our part. This tension between too little and too much is what pushes us to pursue Him. Things that are easy are things that we do not value or appreciate. God desires us to pursue Him and by pursuing Him we learn to know Him and demonstrate that we love Him. This is life – to know God, love God and make Him known.