“I’m not sure about God’s existence, and I don’t think anybody could be!”
Several years ago I was speaking on a college campus, presenting the basics of apologetics to a young but eager crowd. Things seemed to be going well when a professor in the audience stood up, announced himself to be an atheist and began challenging me point by point.
“Words are mere sounds,” he said in what seemed to be more of a public announcement than a dialogue with me. “They don’t actually reflect reality. Christians use the word God, but they could just as easily say the word shoe. Words don’t mean things. We merely attach meanings to words. The word God is just a sound.”
I watched the audience as the skeptic’s rejoinder against me went on for nearly 10 minutes. They seemed to hang on his sophistry, with his reasoning appearing scholarly and solid. He continued ...
“In the quest for control of people, Christians—and all theists, really—have for centuries created and invoked images of God, Satan, heaven and hell, manipulating people with threats of punishment and promises of rewards.”
Allow me to pause here and examine his words, just in case you find yourself as impressed with his stance as the crowd was that day. Can you see the numerous implications that this skeptic was smuggling into the discussion?
• The motives of individuals (Christians just want to control people)
• The origin of beliefs (what we believe about God was subjectively “made up” rather than objectively revealed)
• The efficacy of words (language isn’t an adequate vehicle to convey truth)
• The nature of truth (truth is speculative rather than revelatory)
• The accessibility of truth (truth isn’t really knowable; the “rational” position is to suspend judgment)
Now let’s consider the subtle yet egregious flaws in his position. If words don’t mean things, why does he use them? Why should we believe what he is saying if words aren’t an adequate vehicle by which to communicate truth? If truth is not knowable, why should we believe the position he’s setting forth? If we should be skeptical about reality, and if it’s naïve to think you can be sure about “ultimate truth,” why is he so certain about his agnosticism? And what basis does this skeptic have for judging the hearts, minds and motives of others? His objection is—at least in part—a bias that says, “I haven’t experienced God, therefore no one else has either.”
It’s also making an absurd statement about truth in general. Basically, he’s saying “I know that I can’t know.” Put another way, he’s certain that he can’t be certain. Now I trust you (the reader) are a relatively smart person. I’m guessing your brain is fully operational and that you’re comprehending what you’re reading—you’ve reached this far. But tell me ... how in the world is this logical?!? And if words don’t have meaning, why was this skeptic using so many of them?
Actually, my point isn’t to rail on this guy (as much as I wanted to that day—though I did counter his argument with the same truths shared in this chapter). My point is simply this: Truth exists, and you can know it.
Spreading Like a Disease
Obviously, this guy isn’t alone in his warped thinking. Every day on American campuses, Christians are being put to the test and flat-out opposed by equilibrium-loving professors and administrators who champion “respect for diversity.” Under the guise of celebrating differences, they squelch any hint of a Christian slant, treating it like the bastard stepchild. But what is at stake on campuses isn’t just the fair representation of Christianity, it’s the question of whether or not truth exists at all. How many times have we all heard someone like the professor above piously say, “Nothing is absolutely true.”
Like him, university leaders across our nation carefully monitor the pH of the academic waters, lest any absolutist ideas dilute the mix. Under their influence, our culture has become certain that there is nothing to be certain about. And heaven—if there is one—help the backward soul who believes differently.
Several years ago, a prominent North Carolina-based university was in the news over its controversial decision to prohibit a chapter of Campus Crusade to be chartered at the school. Some students apparently objected to having the respected ministry at this particular college, and opposition from the faculty came even from school’s president and campus minister.
Despite this college’s Christian origins (it was organized and funded by the Baptist church), despite a wide variety of other groups welcoming this chapter, and despite a significant portion of the students favored the ministry’s presence at the school, Campus Crusade was denied access because of its distinctively evangelical beliefs. A representative from the school was asked to elaborate on her campus’ policy on tolerance and diversity. She responded by saying that if a certain ideology was offensive to even one person, that viewpoint or attitude should not be allowed on campus. (She failed to see that her cherished political correctness could not even pass its own test, for many students found it to be offensive.)
Aristotle, often called the “father of logic,” taught that there are certain things that all rational people can grasp intuitively. Indeed, God hard-wired us to instinctively recognize basic truths, things our Founding Fathers called “self-evident.” So if you sensed a red flag rising in the back of your mind as you read through both this woman’s comments and those of the professor mentioned earlier, it’s because God gave you the ability to recognize a contradiction.
As Christians, we should cultivate this ability to spot the contradictions that pervade much of the conventional wisdom of our day. Since it seems no one else will, we must be the ones to point out that the Emperor is actually naked; that in the act of arguing against truth, skeptics are inherently assuming that something can be true (namely, their statements against truth). Whether it’s on college campuses, at work or in church (God forbid), we must contend that truth not only exists, it is also knowable (both undeniable propositions). Beyond that, college leaders like those at the Baptist school in North Carolina need to be reminded that once you define what is or is not “acceptable” diversity, you have ceased to be diverse.
The truth-obstructing fallacies that underlie popular notions of tolerance must be exposed. Of course, explaining the gospel message and leading a person to trust Christ is another matter in itself. But at least by helping people see the undeniable existence of truth, we can help point the way to a relationship with the One who is truth.
Life Without God
That’s an especially difficult task when speaking with an atheist, since they often give off an air of intellectual superiority. But as smart and innovative as they can seem at times, the truth is, atheism has been around since the beginning of human history. Humans have always tried, starting in the Garden of Eden, to push God out of the picture and establish life apart from Him. In all our arrogance, we’ve spent thousands of years trying to rationalize the Creator out of Creation’s existence.
Every atheist carries with him a spiritual and emotional laundry bag full of reasons not to believe in God. Tragically, few of those reasons solely deal with God Himself. Instead, they’re based on the perception of God, which is usually determined by extraneous factors. Many atheists have been spiritually abused. After one too many hypocritical Christians did them wrong and judged before loving, they decided if following God looks like that, why be a part of it? Others have fatherhood issues based on being raised by a dead-beat or abusive dad. Whatever the issue, it’s common for atheists to project those problems onto their concept of God (or lack thereof), which simply reinforces their belief that He doesn’t exist.
Before we move on, let’s clear something up. It’s important to understand that disbelief in God can take one of two forms: atheism or agnosticism. Atheism says there is no God, while agnosticism believes you can’t know for sure if there’s a God or not. An atheist completely rules God out; an agnostic, perhaps intent on being more “open-minded,” only rules out the possibility of certain knowledge of God.
Both are wrong.
I know, I know. That’s not very PC of me. But in this day and age, it seems the ultimate truth is no longer politically correct. Let’s examine some of the fatal flaws found in both atheism and agnosticism.
Quote: “There are no infidels [atheists] anywhere but on earth. There are none in heaven, and there are none in hell. Atheism is a strange thing. Even the devils never fell into that vice, for ‘the devils also believe, and tremble’ (James 2:19). And there are some of the devil’s children that have gone beyond their father in sin. But when God’s foot crushes them, they will not be able to doubt His existence. When He tears them in pieces and there is none to deliver, then their empty logic and their bravados will be of no avail.”
—Charles H. Spurgeon
Mr. Know-It-All ... I Think Not!
Chief and foremost, atheism requires omniscience (complete knowledge of everything). Last time I checked, Guinness still hadn’t discovered a human with the world record for knowing it all. Obviously, it’s not possible. Yet the atheist says that nothing exists outside of the material world, placing them in a God-like position. I’m sure Columbus, Magellan, Descartes and any other explorer would chuckle at the arrogance of this notion. Even people during their time who thought the world was flat still believed there was something else out there.
Of course, atheists love to disguise this arrogance with intellectualism. In his best-selling book Cosmos, renowned evolutionist/atheist Carl Sagan proclaimed, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever will be.” Sagan believed humans should move beyond the age-old belief that life had been the special creation of a personal God. He spoke for multitudes of evolutionists in asserting that humans were simply an evolutionary accident, “a mote of dust in the morning sky.” Such admissions, Sagan wrote, were “not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble whatever gods may be.” In other words, we’re just a speck of accidental evolutionary dust, but we’re free to put off the shackles of ancient superstition.
That superstition, obviously, includes the belief in a biblical God. But in following Sagan’s line of thought, consider what would be required for someone to know for certain that the natural world is all there is. To rule out even the possibility that God exists would require omniscience on the part of the person making that claim. If we ever discovered a person who knew everything and who, in that knowledge, could declare that God was nowhere to be found, then maybe the atheist’s claims against God’s existence might carry a little more weight. But that hasn’t happened in all of human history, and my hunch is that it will never occur.
Yet still atheists will argue till they’re blue in the face, staking their claim on the notion that blind faith is simply naivety, a more primitive system of thought, if you will. Their logical blind spots remind me of a line from the Will Smith movie I, Robot. The actor plays a cynical cop in the future who seems to be the only person on earth open to the slight possibility that a robot could develop beyond the scope of its creator’s design. Teamed up with a theory-driven, numbers-based scientist, Smith becomes exasperated by the woman’s refusal to accept anything outside her system of belief. After hitting an impasse one too many times, he yells at her, “You are the dumbest smart person I know!” With their adamant denial of a supreme being, truly many atheists are the dumbest smart people I know.
Can’t You See the Contradiction?!
Agnostics aren’t that different, as their beliefs are built on contradictory assertions. As we’ve just discussed, an atheist can’t truthfully say that God doesn’t exist since he doesn’t have all knowledge. An agnostic, on the other hand, claims that you can’t know for sure whether God exists or not. But think about it: By claiming that you can’t really know anything for sure about God, you’ve done the very thing! In making such a statement, you therefore know something—namely that He can’t be known. In other words, it’s a contradiction to say, “One thing I know about God: You can’t know anything about Him.” Yet that’s exactly what an agnostic says. Talk about being double-minded!
I’ve spoken on many college campuses throughout the years. And without a doubt, when presenting this side of the argument against agnosticism, I’ve had a couple of fervent students fire back, “OK, I’ll buy into the notion that God exists. But that’s all we can know about Him. It’s impossible to know anything specific beyond that.”
My usual response goes something like this: “Wait a minute! Listen to what you’re saying, because in your own words you’ve already established a couple of things here: one—He exists; and two—you know something about Him. In saying that you can’t know anything about God, you’re claiming to know at least one thing about Him.”
Quote: “One walking with me observed, with some emphasis, ‘I do not believe as you do, I am an agnostic.’ ‘Oh,’ I said to him, ‘that is a Greek word, is it not? The Latin word is ignoramus.’ He did not like it at all. Yet I only translated his language from Greek to Latin.” —Charles H. Spurgeon
Not Up for Debate
Don’t you find it interesting that the Bible never addresses the question of whether God exists? From the first words of Genesis through the last letters of Revelation, the existence of God is a given. “Well, sure—that’s a given,” some would argue. “It’s the Bible. Of course it wouldn’t argue against this since it’s the foundational document for those who believe God indeed exists.” That’s true. But those same believers also understand that God’s big enough to handle any question. He’s fully capable of dealing with the most extreme doubters who claim He’s nothing more than a human-concocted fairy tale.
So what does Scripture have to say about those doubters, the atheists and agnostics who claim God doesn’t exist and can’t be known? “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’“ (Ps. 14:1). Could it be any clearer? The Bible doesn’t even address the atheist’s flawed ideas, except to call them foolish!
God’s existence is both undeniable and necessary—and not just for Christians. In the following sections, we’ll deal with some of the “proofs” that demonstrate this truth. No, they’re not passionate, emotional appeals to believe in this unseen God; they’re simply logic-based reasons that appeal to our common sense. Because strangely enough, God created us with common sense. Though often we may be fooled by lies and delusions, as I stated earlier, humans are hard-wired with the ability to recognize contradictions. We’re prone to spot things that just don’t make sense.
Remember the story of Alice in Wonderland? One of the reasons people love the tale is because of its nonsensical nature. It’s full of contradictions that border on the absurd—yet that’s the very reason we enjoy this fanciful whirlwind of an adventure. We chuckle when the Mad Hatter makes such statements as, “Have some tea, there isn’t any” because we know this makes absolutely no sense. Throughout the book, author Lewis Carroll (who was an ordained minister and whose real name was Charles Lutwidge) is simply playing with the English language—and with our sense of reasoning—to make a point. He turns things upside down and backward to show the foolishness of illogical reasoning. No matter how passionate or “intellectual” we get in our arguments, some things just don’t add up.