Eric V. Snow, sermonette, September 8, 2007, Ann Arbor, MI, UCG
Is going to the Feast a few weeks from now mostly a waste of time and money? Is giving offerings on the upcoming Holy Days financially foolish? Is praying to God useless? Is hoping for Jesus’ return to fix the world’s problems a delusion? Is the Bible just a man-made collection of myths and fairy tales about an ancient Middle Eastern tribe’s strange god?
Atheists claim that all religious teachings and rituals are either a waste of time or even downright harmful. Atheists have become much more aggressive in the past few years in promoting their God-hating beliefs. In such recent best-selling books as Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, and Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great, atheists have gone on the offensive against Christians of any church. Christians need to be ready to reply to people influenced by these books, or similar, older ones, such as Why I Am Not a Christian by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell.
S.P.S. Christians need to be ready to defend their belief in God’s existence by using rational arguments.
I Peter 3:15
How ready are we to do this? For example, the UCG’s own writer, John Ross Schroeder, went traveling in the British isles. He ended up discussing Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, with a businessman who had been intently reading it. Notice that he followed what this text’s advice: “It turned out to be a friendly discussion in which I (hopefully tactfully and diplomatically) pointed out some of the laws in the author’s rationale” (Good News, July-August 2007, p. 5). When dealing with unconverted friends, family, co-workers, etc., we generally should avoid harsh, insulting, sledgehammer personal attacks. We should logically examine ideas critically using “I language” rather than using insulting personal attacks using “you language.” For example, say, “I believe blind materialistic forces could never have created the first single cell organism by chance.” Don’t say, “You’re a fool to deny that God exists.” That statement is true, but putting the truth harshly rarely persuades anyone. Honey, rather than vinegar, will attract more “flies,” that is, open-minded listeners.
The best overall proof for God’s existence is the argument from design. It’s more technically known by philosophers as the teleological argument. In any argument with an agnostic or atheist, we should be ready if necessary to present a basic version of this argument. Although he didn’t even have a high school diploma, Mr. Armstrong, when confronted by an atheistic Communist, successfully cornered him into admitting God’s existence by going on the offensive by asking probing questions. So there’s no need for someone to have a college degree to be able to do this, but just some reading of the right books. For example, Mr. Armstrong used in his booklet, “Does God Exist?”, the most famous version of the argument from design, which was devised by William Paley That is, can you have something as complex as a watch made by random chance? Can you have a watch without a watch maker?
Be ready for the main rebuttal:
The theory of evolution attempts to explain creation without a Creator. One of its key errors is to arbitrarily define “science” as requiring non-supernatural explanations of all events and things. If someone assumes in advance God had nothing to do with the existence of the universe, it’s no wonder all the explanations he comes up with afterwards exclude God as their possible cause! The basic reply of a creationist should be that “nature cannot always explain nature.” That is, the natural world is so complex that there’s no way blind, dumb, random forces of nature could create it by chance.
In order to be more persuasive against the stories atheists make up about evolution happening in the past, it’s necessary to quantify. That is, we must apply specific numbers in analyzing something in nature in order to show there isn’t enough time and matter in the universe to create randomly the natural structure in question. For example, using the largest earth-based telescopes, there are about 1087 electrons in the observable universe. Chandra Wickramasinghe and Sir Fred Hoyle, the influential astronomer who devised the steady state theory of the universe, calculated specifically the chances of getting the 2000 organic catalysts (enzymes) needed for the first cell to operate: 10 raised to the 40,000 power! That is, one followed by 40,000 zeros. That would take about 10 letter-sized pages to print. These enzymes speed up chemical reactions needed for life to even exist. Even with billions of years, even assuming all the evolutionary dating methods are correct, there isn’t enough time in the universe for the first cell to happen by chance.
Let’s take a simpler argument, based on the second law of thermodynamics. This law states that in a closed system, the total amount of useful energy always declines. Look now up into the sky at night. Have all those billions of stars been burning forever? Nope. Energy naturally flows from places of greater concentration to lesser concentration in order to do work. Once the energy of stars goes into outer space, it can’t be gathered back together again. The universe is naturally heading towards a condition known as heat death, in which all energy is evenly dispersed. Time’s arrow points straight down, towards increasing disorder and decay, never up. Hence, the universe is like a car with a stuck gas cap. It’s using up the gas in the tank, but the mere fact it’s using up useful energy proves at one point the “car” had a manufacturer . . . or Creator. It had to have had a beginning, and therefore, the universe didn’t always exist, but something . . . or Someone, not seen, started what is seen.
Dr. Michael Behe’s mousetrap analogy (Darwin’s Black Box): The theory of gradual evolution is refuted by irreducible complexity. That is, partially constructed organs or biological processes, such as the eye or the clotting of blood, are useless unless all their parts work. You must have all its parts working else nothing works. Much like a standard spring-loaded mousetrap, like the ones I saw so often in old TV cartoons, all the parts must work, or else it’s useless: It won’t catch any mice. Likewise, to have half an eye, or half a wing, doesn’t help any species to become more fit and to be more likely to survive to reproduce.
Conclusion: In recent years, atheists have become much more aggressive in attacking belief in God using seemingly logical arguments. We Christians have to prepare to battle back against their assaults on our faith using rational arguments ourselves. We should aim generally to avoid harsh, personally insulting counter-attacks. But it’s still true, as David said in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”