My Response to the Atheist’s Challenge
Thank you. Once again, I’m very grateful for this opportunity that you’ve opened up to me. I also appreciate your generous offer to “take all the space you need.” It looks like I’ve more than taken advantage your offer with my long-winded essay, which I’ve broken down into ten separate points below.
- First of all, you mentioned my “conviction that science ought to be more accepting of supernatural explanations for events.” Actually, my contention is that in order to truly be called science, it needs to be a genuine search for truth. This demands the freedom to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
There are a number of artificial restrictions that can impede this important ingredient called freedom. Restriction #1 is a worldview that says “everything is supernatural.” This mindset discourages a person from even looking for a natural explanation, and instead simply puts everything into the category of the supernatural. You yourself pointed out the foolishness of this sort of thinking. Restriction #2 is a worldview that says “nothing is supernatural.” This worldview is called naturalism, and it basically prohibits the consideration of the possibility that anything exists outside of nature.
My contention is that either of these restrictions will work against a genuine search for truth, since they both take away the freedom to consider all possible explanations. True scientific freedom, on the other hand, allows us to put all options on the table, both the natural and the supernatural, and then to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
In your essay above, you indicate that it is dangerous to allow scientists to operate in the realm of freedom, since such an environment will make them lazy, and they will automatically gravitate toward the error of restriction #1. You believe scientists will be more productive when under the confines of restriction #2 (naturalism) and threatened with some sort of repercussion if they violate that restriction. I, on the other hand, believe that most scientists are mature enough to operate in the realm of freedom without abusing it. Most of them have a reasonable respect for truth, and they don’t have to be told “you’re only allowed to look into this box to find it.”
However, if you still feel there is a need for such a restriction, then I guess that is your choice; but shouldn’t you at least acknowledge that you are advocating scientific restriction rather than scientific freedom? Shouldn’t you have the humility to admit that your definition of “science” is not so much a search for truth as it is a search for an explanation that fits into your unproven worldview of naturalism?
You gave many examples of scientific discoveries and implied repeatedly that these discoveries prove that science is on your side and not mine. Yet the opposite is actually true. These discoveries were made in an environment of freedom, not restriction. Or, perhaps, these scientists were willing to challenge the scientific restrictions of their day, whatever they were. Our scientists need to be willing to do the same with the prevailing ideology of our day, whether it is naturalism, evolutionism, or any other “ism”.
- Before I can convince you to take an honest look at my worldview, I must first somehow shake your faith in your own. So let’s discuss naturalism some more.
Naturalism affirms the non-existence of supernatural beings, on the basis that they cannot be detected using naturalistic testing procedures. But let’s ask ourselves, is this reasonable?
Let me illustrate it this way. Suppose you would build a weighing scale that is able to give the weight of any object with pinpoint accuracy. Then you observe that even small objects have at least some weight to them, and you therefore conclude that if something doesn’t have weight, then it really doesn’t exist. Since everyone around you is talking about this thing called “love”, you decide to test it with your scale to see whether or not there is such a thing. After running a series of super-accurate tests with your scale, you find no evidence whatsoever that love exists, and therefore you conclude that it doesn’t. You try to explain your conclusions to a woman engaged to be married, but she just laughs at you, no matter how many charts you can produce to support your theory. She knows for sure that love exists, and that it certainly is not just a figment of her imagination. And even though she cannot give a coherent argument to defend her “faith,” she would still be absolutely right and you would be wrong. The problem does not lie with her illogical mind, but in your choice of the wrong tool to detect existence.
The same thing is true of trying to detect supernatural beings through naturalistic testing. Supernatural beings, if they exist, by definition would not be under any obligation to subject themselves to your naturalistic testing procedures. And this applies both to God and to evil spirits. When you walk up to the witch doctor in Africa and offer to “prove” by your naturalistic testing that his powers don’t exist, he’s going to laugh in your face. He’s seen far too much evidence for those powers to believe otherwise, and the fact that the powers stop working while he’s in your science lab doesn’t shake his faith a bit. The demons he serves have never promised to respond to your laboratory experiments, and he doesn’t expect them to. This doesn’t mean scientific experiments are worthless; they are just the wrong “machine” to use to try to detect the supernatural.
God has given us plenty of evidence for His existence, including the testimony of nature (Acts 14:17) and the testimony of our own consciences (Romans 2:15) so that we are without excuse. If, however, you are demanding evidence for God’s existence which can be detected with the instrument of your choice, and which is of such a nature that it will force you to believe, then I’ll be the first to tell you that you’re probably not going to find it. God usually is not found by those who do not want to find Him, but says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You shall seek for Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart.”
In order to preserve our free will, God will not force us to believe; He is willing for now to stay somewhat hidden from those who want nothing to do with Him. God did not create us to be robots who are compelled into a relationship with Him, but rather to be creatures who freely choose to love and obey their Creator. Yes, God is still honored when we put faith in Him, and just because an atheist says that “faith” is a bad word does not make it a bad word.
- There is a popular myth that says that because we can learn a lot about how nature works by looking inside of nature, we should then also be able to discover the origin of the universe by looking inside the universe. This is a little like saying that since I can learn how a computer works by looking inside it, I should therefore also be able to find the origin of the computer by looking inside it. The truth, however, is that even though I can learn a lot about the computer by looking inside it, I will most likely have to look outside the computer to find its builder. A logical mind would reject as nonsense the idea that the computer simply created itself out of nothing, or that the manufacturer must be somewhere inside the computer or else he doesn’t exist.
In the same way, although we can learn a lot about nature through scientific study of things inside the universe, it’s simply bad logic to say that the Creator of the universe must live inside it or else he doesn’t exist. If it’s reasonable to believe that the computer was made by someone outside the computer, isn’t it likewise reasonable to open ourselves to the possibility that the universe was created by someone outside the universe? Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that if the computer did not make itself, then the universe likely did not make itself, either?
The thing that keeps people from doing that, however, is the unbending assumption that “this universe is all there is.” That assumption, however, needs itself to be tested before it can be relied upon as a solid foundation for finding truth. But since this assumption is both unproven and unprovable, it ought to be left in the category of superstition or religion.
I am willing to admit that my belief in the existence of God is a religious worldview. Atheist friend, are you willing to admit the same about your belief in the non-existence of God? That also is a position of faith, you know.
We might as well face the facts: something exists. We exist. And the universe exists around us. As we work our way backward from this unbending fact called existence, we are faced with only two options: either something came from nothing, or something had no beginning. We can squirm and philosophize all we want, but we are still stuck with these two possibilities, and no others. Whatever worldview we hold, it needs to answer which of these options is correct, or it’s not much of a worldview.
- The big weakness in naturalism lies not only in the wrong answers that is gives, but also in the questions that it doesn’t even try to answer. Two examples are the questions, “Where did the matter and energy come from?” and “How did the first life begin?” It’s become popular lately for atheists to answer these questions a little like this: “We don’t know. Ha! See, we are more honest and humble than ‘religious’ people are, because we are willing to admit that we don’t know.”
The problem with this approach is that you are saying “I don’t know” to some of the most significant questions known to man. These are not tiny little peripheral questions that we can shrug off as inconsequential; rather, they are some of the most meaningful questions of our existence. It’s a little like a prosecuting attorney in a murder case saying, “I’m ready to go to trial now, since I have good evidence for 90% of the facts. Oh, yes, there is still one small issue, in that we don’t yet have a suspect. But we should be able to have a successful trial anyway, because we have answers to nearly all the other questions.”
We’d all agree that this is silly. In a murder trial, the lack of a suspect is a not a “little issue” that can simply be overlooked. And in the human experience, the original cause of the universe is not a little issue either. We all seem to know intuitively that this is one question that we need to get right, and knowing 90% of all the other facts is simply not going to cut it.
Does this mean, then, that we should just grab an answer and go with it simply because any answer is better than no answer? No, of course not. Although giving no answer to these questions is unsatisfactory, giving a wrong answer would be worse. So do we have any possible way to get a good answer to these questions? I believe we do. Keep reading to find out why.