Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm
Should Godís existence be proven? /Apologeticshtml/Should the Bible and God Be Proven Fideism vs WCG.htm
Does the Bible teach blind faith? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Gospel of John Theory of Knowledge.htm
Does God Exist?
How do we try to persuade someone who has become an atheist or agnostic to change his or her mind?† One important issue to consider about how to approach your daughter about her atheistic views concerns what her motive is for believing the way that she does.† For example, does she believe in (say) the philosophy of Karl Marx or Ayn Rand?† They were both atheists, but have very different philosophies overall.† To deal with one as opposed to the other requires different tactics and some knowledge of what this or that specific atheist believes.†† (For example, Ayn Rand attacked the morality of self-sacrifice and altruism).†† Is she an atheist because of the problem of evil (i.e., why does a good, all-powerful God allow evil to exist?)† Then itís necessary to study into and to be able to explain the arguments about why a loving God allows pain and death in His universe.† Does she have some kind of obvious emotionally driven motive for denying Godís existence, such as trying to provoke her parents by attacking their values during a youthful rebellion as a teenager or college student?† Then her belief in atheism isnít driven by reason and facts, but feelings and rationalizations.† Is she an atheist because she believes in the theory of evolution?† Then itís necessary to study into the flaws of the theory of evolution if one wants to argue some with her.† But now, we need to turn to why we should believe in Godís existence.
Now this is one of life's ultimate questions: Is there a God? If there isn't, then what's the real basis for morality (i.e., how we treat other people then) and the purpose of life? And if there's a God, did this God inspire the Bible?
Let's consider first one good argument for God's existence, which is a variation on the "cosmological" argument for God's existence, which says the existence of the universe proves that God exists. It's partially reliant on a "design" feature, so it's also overlaps with "the argument from design," i.e., that the universe contain objects that are so complex in their characteristics that they couldn't have happened by chance. (If you want to know why the theory of evolution doesnít refute the argument from design, I can explain that some more to you in a separate email).
Can we prove God to exist by human reason alone, and without faith? Let's consider the following argument, stated first in a short form. Then letís explain it in detail and then cover two standard objections to it.
1. Either the universe has always existed, or God has.
2. But, as shown by the second law of thermodynamics, the universe hasn't always existed.
3. Therefore, God exists.
1. The point here is that something has always existed because self-creation
is impossible. Something can never come from nothing. A vacuum can't spon≠taneously create matter by itself. Why? This is because the law of cause and effect is based on the fact that what a thing DOES is based on what it IS. Causation involves the expression over a period of time of the law of non≠-contradiction in entities. Hence, a basketball when dropped on the floor of necessity must act differently from a bowing ball dropped on the same floor, all other things being equal. Hence, if something doesn't exist (i.e., a vacuum exists), it can't do or be anything on its own, except remain empty because it has no identity or essence. This is why the "steady state" theory of the universe's origin devised by the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle was absurd: It said hydrogen atoms were popping out of nothing! How can a nothing do anything?!':' With self-creation impossible, then something had to always exist. So now:-was it the universe, or was it some other unseen, unsensed Entity?
2. The second law of thermodynamics maintains that-the total amount of useful energy in a closed system must always decline. "Useful energy" is energy that does work while flowing from a place of higher concentration to that of a lower concentration. "A closed system' is a place where no new energy is flowing in or out of it.
The universe, physically, is a closed system because no new matter or energy is being added to it. The first law of thermodynamics confirms this, since it says no matter or energy is being created or destroyed. Hence, eventually all the stars would have burned out if the universe had always existed. A state of "heat death" would have long ago existed, in which the levels of energy throughout each part of the universe would be uniform. A state of maximum entropy (i.e., useless, non-working energy) would have been reached. But since the stars have not burned out, the universe had a beginning.
In this regard, the universe is like a car with a full tank of gas, but which has a stuck gas cap. If the car had always been constantly driven (i.e., had always existed), it would have long ago run out of fuel. But the fact it still has gas (i.e., useful energy) left in it proves the car hasn't been constantly driven from the infinite past. The stuck gas cap makes-the-car in this example a "closed system" because no more energy can be added to make the car move. "Heat-death' occurs when the car runs out of gas, as it inevitably must, since no more can-be added to-it. Likewise, the universe then is like a wind-up toy that has been slowly unwinding down: At some point ďsomethingĒ must have wound it up.
Now, letís consider two possible objections:
1. "Who created God then?" The point of the first premise was to show something had to have always existed. At that point, we didn't know what it wasóor who it was. But if the universe hasn't always existed, then something else--God--has.
2. "The second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply to every part of the universe, or else won't apply to it in the future." This statement is pure prejudice, be≠cause there is no scientific evidence anywhere that the second law of thermo≠dynamics doesn't apply. And this law won't change in the future because the fundamental essence (nature) of the things that make up the physical universe aren't changing, so nature's laws wouldn't change in the future. That is, unless God intervenes through miracles (i.e., ďviolatesĒ natureís laws). So a skeptic canít turn around and say there are places (or times) in the universe where natureís laws donít apply which no human has ever investigates or been to. And to know whether the second law of thermodynamics is inapplicable somewhere in the universe, the doubter ironically would have to be ďGod,Ē i.e., know everything about everywhere else. So to escape this argument for Godís existence, the skeptic then has to place his faith in an unknown, unseen, unsensed exception to the second law of thermodynamics. Itís better then to place faith in the unseen Almighty God of the Bible instead!
Now, how do we know if the Bible was inspired by the God who created the universe?
Now, it is commonly said Christians who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God are engaging in blind faith, and can't prove God did so. But is this true? By the fact the Bible's prophets have repeatedly predicted the future successfully, we can know beyond reasonable doubt the Bible is not just merely reliable in its history, but is inspired by God. By contrast, compare the reliability of the Bibleís prophets to the supermarket tabloidsí psychics, who are almost always wrong even about events in the near future.
The prophet Isaiah gave his prophecies in the general period c. 740-700 b.c., long before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king, Nebuchnezzar, in 586 b.c. He predicted the destruction of the city of Babylon (Isa. 13:19-20): "And Babylon, the beauty of the kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation." This vast city had (if we can trust the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who was probably exaggerating) a 56-mile circumference, 14-mile sides, walls 311 feet high and 87 feet wide, and occupied 196 square miles (including protected farmland within the outer walls). In modern terms, it would be equivalent to predicting the complete destruction and permanent desolation of New York, London, or Tokyo. Additionally, to predict the site wouldn't be rebuilt upon was particularly bold, since this was a common occurrence after a city was destroyed in the ancient Middle East. Yet this prediction was fulfilled! After the ancient Greek geographer and historian Strabo visited the site of the city during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus (27 b.c.-14 A.D.), he commented: "The great city has become a desert."
The prophet Zephaniah predicted the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the ancient empire of Assyria (Zeph. 2:13): "And He (God) will stretch out His hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and He will make Nineveh a desolation." Similarly, the prophet Nahum predicted Nineveh's destruction (Nahum 2:10; 3:19), with the help of a flood (Nahum 2:6), during which many of its people would be drunk (Nahum 1:10), and would be burned as well (Nahum 3:13). Zephaniah was written about 627 b.c., and Nahum somewhere between 661 and 612 b.c. Nineveh, like Babylon, was one of the world's greatest cities, for its inner wall was 100 feet tall and 50 feet thick, complete with a 150-foot-wide moat, and a 7-mile cir≠cumference. But these protective features didnít save it. As predicted (Nahum 3:12), the huge city fell easily, after a mere three-month siege, to the forces of the Medes, Scythians, and Babylonians under Nabopolassar in 612 b.c. All of Nahum's specific predictions about how Nineveh would fall were fulfilled, which canít sensibly be seen as mere coin≠cidences.
The prophet Daniel, who wrote during the period 605-536 b.c., predicted the destruction of the Persian empire by Greece. "While I was observing (in a prophetic vision), behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. And he came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. . . . So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. . . . The ram which you saw with two horns represented the kings of Media and Persia. And the shaggy goat represented the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king" (Daniel 8:5-7, 20-21). More than two hundred years after Daniel's death, Alexander the Great's invasion and conquest of Persia (334-330 b.c.) fulfilled this prophecy.
Likewise, Daniel foresaw the division of Alexander's empire into four parts after his death. "Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspi≠cuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. (The large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. And the broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power" (Dan. 8:8, 21-22). This was fulfilled, as Alexander's empire was divided up among four of his generals: 1. Ptolemy (Soter), 2. Seleucus (Nicator), 3. Lysimachus, and 4. Cassander.
Arguments that Daniel was written in the second century b.c. after these events, thus making it only history in disguise, ignore how the style of its vocabulary, syntax, and morphology doesn't fit the second century b.c. As the Old Testament scholar Gleason L. Archer comments (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 283): "Hence these chapters could not have been composed as late as the second century or the third century, but rather--based on purely philological grounds--they have to be dated in the fifth or late sixth century." To insist otherwise is to be guilty of circular reasoning: An anti-theistic a priori (ahead of experience) bias rules out the possibility of Godís inspiring the Bible ahead of considering the facts, which then is assumed to ďproveĒ that God didnít inspire the Bible!
Letís now turn to the problem of evil, in case this is the issue that drives your daughter to choose to be an atheist.† Why did a good God create a universe in which He allows evil, pain, and death? Why did God give humanity free will? Why did God tell Adam and Eve to not eat of the Tree of But why? Well, here is a basic, bare-bones explanation:† God is in the process of making beings like Himself (Matt. 5:48; Eph. 4:13; John 17:20-24) who willingly choose to be 100% righteous, but have 100% free will. God doesn't want to create a set of robots that automatically obey His law, His will, for they aren't like Him then, for they wouldn't have free will, and the ability to make fully conscious choices. Now, the habits of obedience and righteousness can't be created by fiat or instantaneous order. Rather, the person who is separate from God has to choose to obey what is right and reject what is wrong on his or her own. But every time a person does what is wrong, that will hurt him, others, and/or God. But God has to allow us to have free will, because He wants His created beings to have free will like He does. As part of the process of impressing how seriously He takes violations of His law, He sent His Son to die in terrible pain on the cross for the sins of others. For if his forgiveness was easily granted and given without this terrible cost paid for it, then people might not take violations of His law seriously as a result.
So then, we have the great mystery of God dying for the sins of His creatures despite they were in the wrong, not Him. God allows suffering in His creation, and then chooses voluntarily to suffer greatly Himself as a result of His allowing it into His creation. Therefore, we know that God understands suffering (cf. Hebrews 4:14-15). So although we may not know fully why God allows suffering and pain in His creation, we should trust Him in faith on the matter. God's basic answer to Job was that he didn't know enough to judge Him. Also, many people wouldn't trust God to have our interests at heart when telling us to not do X, just like they didn't trust their parents when they told them (say) doing drugs or getting drunk was bad for them. Therefore, God chooses to prove it to humanity and the angels by hard, practical experience on this earth that shows His way is best, not Satan's. After all, when the evil angels revolted against God, they never had experienced any pain or death, but they still mistrusted God for some reason, that He didn't love them fully. So even though many awful things have happened historically in the world, we should trust God that He knows what He is doing.
Furthermore, God needs to test us, to see how loyal we'll be in advance of gaining eternal life. The greatness of the prize, being in God's Family and living forever happily in union with God, ultimately makes up for the suffering in this life. For what's (say) 70 years of pain relative to trillions of years of happiness in God's kingdom? Unfortunately, our emotions, which normally focus on what's right before us physically, rebel against this insight, but it's true nevertheless.
Perhaps you would need to do some research on these issues before talking to your daughter.† The subject to read into is Christian apologetics, which is the body of knowledge that defends the historical, philosophical, and doctrinal truth of Christianity against attacks by others of different belief systems. What are some of the questions it deals with and attempts to give a Christian answer? Let's give some examples: Does God exist? Is the Bible the word of God? Can miracles happen? Is the theory of evolution true? Why does a good God allow evil to exist? Did the New Testamentís doctrines come from paganism? Generally, Christian Apologetics attempts to respond to questions or attacks on the truth of Christianity using rational and logical arguments, rather than ones based on using faith alone. For example, it routinely makes rational arguments for God's existence, such as the famous five proofs the great Catholic theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas gave near the beginning of "Summa Theologica." Of course, it may attempt to defend faith using logic as well. It may also deal with specific attacks on various doctrines, such as whether Jesus is God (not just the Son of God).
Some of the leading writers of Christian apologetics are (along with books they've written): C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," "The Problem of Pain," "The Screwtape Letters;" Josh McDowell, "Evidence that Demands a Verdict," "More Than a Carpenter;" Henry Morris, "Scientific Creationism," Duane Gish, "The Fossils Say No!," Lee Strobel, "The Case for Christ," Gleason Archer, "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties," F.F. Bruce, "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?;" Norman L. Geisler, "Christian Apologetics;" J.P. Moreland, "Scaling the Secular City." If you're looking for a basic introduction to this category of writing, I would recommend such as book as McDowell's "More Than a Carpenter," Lewis' "The Problem of Pain," or Strobel's "The Case for Christ."
Here are some articles on this Web site that deal with this issue of why to believe in God and why the problem of evil doesnít prove there is no God:
Itís crucial to figure out why someone became an atheist so that a discussion on this subject can be well guided.† Itís would be useless to debate side issues.† We have to use the right tactics in order to persuade someone, much as Paul changed his arguments when working with Jews as opposed to gentiles (I Cor. 9:19-22).
Click here to access essays that defend Christianity: /apologetics.html
Click here to access essays that explain Christian teachings: /doctrinal.html
Click here to access notes for sermonettes: /sermonettes.html
Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm
May Christians work on Saturdays? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Protestant Rhetoric vs Sabbath Refuted.htm
Should Christians obey the Old Testament law? /doctrinalhtml/Does the New Covenant Abolish the OT Law.htm
Do you have an immortal soul? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Here and Hereafter.htm
Does the ministry have authority? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is There an Ordained Ministry vs Edwards.html
Is the United States the Beast? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Are We the Beast vs Collins.htm
Should you give 10% of your income to your church? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the Argument from Silence Abolish the Old Testament Law of Tithing 0205 Mokarow rebuttal.htm
Is Jesus God? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is Jesus God.htm
Will there be a third resurrection? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Will There Be a Third Resurrection.htm