Posted in Apologetics, Doctrine, Logic/Philosophy, Nature of Man

God’s Fairness and Man’s Free Will

Historically, controversy has raged with regard to the nature of man and his relationship to God. In Christian Apologetics, one would have to find a way to defend both God and man as to (1) God’s justice or fairness in making man in the first place (2) with a human will put to a purpose that would evoke divine justice in the form of punishment in the second place. This short piece cannot survey the total scene of all relevant aspects of the complete picture (even if we were capable of such a survey). However, we can identify and explore briefly some elements involved in this complex matter.

First, God knowingly and lovingly made man in His image, having in mind an eternal purpose to save him from sin, even before the first sin by Adam had been committed (Gen. 1:26-27; 1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Eph. 3:10-11). God desired to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). Giving man existence and giving him nature in the image of God made heaven a possible destiny.

Second, man was free from the beginning to choose obedience or disobedience. This is the significance of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). This provided man an opportunity for definite pure positive law choice in the expression of his free will. The punishment for the violation of the prohibition regarding the tree shows us that God considered man responsible enough to understand the prohibition and accountable for the violation of it. The initial punishment for the man and the woman (Gen. 3:16-19) enacted for the violation was based on the fact that the violation of the prohibition entailed a will that was (1) independent, (2) free to exert itself, and (3) accountable before God for the consequences that would follow.

Third, there was nothing wrong or imperfect about the nature of man as God made him. He was innocent and mature from the beginning. Solomon tells us, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29). Adam and Eve when made were certainly inexperienced, but they were not imperfect creatures. It is something essential to the creation of man. Of necessity a created man could have no past (experience). But he had to be mature by nature in order to be responsible from his initial moments of existence, and he had to come without experience if he was to come at all. While Adam was not deceived into sin, Eve was (1 Tim. 2:13-14), but neither one of them could sin without a good will that was his/hers to be expressed in the selection made.

Fourth, after sin entered the human domain, several things changed, one of which was that the human heart in every human being born (remember, Adam and Eve were not born) would be a heart that would choose evil early on in its personal history. This is what we learn in Genesis 9:21. After the flood, God said to Himself that He would never again curse the earth (cf. 3:17 and 4:12) or kill almost everything off as He had just done, because “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” The exception, historically speaking, consisted of Adam and Eve who never had a youth. But beginning with Cain and Abel, this truth that God later has Moses record in Genesis 9 represented the things that were in place regarding all who came after Adam and Eve. The flood became necessary because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). The “evil from youth” fact was cultivated by Noah’s contemporaries to the degree that they were no longer fit to live.

Now, while many people have over the years opted for the view that man is evil from his conception or birth, the Scriptures never declare that. They do say, however, that sin enters the heart of any given person during his youth. This was my experience and yours, too.

Fifth, this means that the universality of human sin following Adam was inevitable. Even now, none of us is waiting for an individual to arise who will never commit sin. One of the ways in which Jesus was and is so different from the rest of us is that by His divinity He kept His humanity under complete control. His sinlessness is a characteristic that proves His deity. When Paul wrote Romans around 57 or 58 A.D., the fact was then as it stands now: “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Furthermore, he later affirmed that after Adam “all sinned” (5:12).

Sixth, given the point just discussed, there must be an inherent “weakness” involved when Holy Spirit is joined to flesh so as to produce a mere human being. God is the Father of our spirits (Heb. 12:9), so there is nothing inherently weak about our human spirit. Our spirit comes from Holy Spirit (Mal. 2:14-15). After all, we are in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). However, when combined with flesh, there is essentially a weakness that obtains because of the connection now initiated because spirit is now made vulnerable. The lust of the flesh is the spirit’s expressing desire via the flesh. So, the weakness of the flesh is because of the power of the flesh to weaken spirit. This sets up our freedom of will (Gal. 5:17). Consider: God cannot be tempted, but Jesus could be (Jas. 1:13; Heb. 4:15). We are not born in sin. But we are born with a nature that is now weak! This helps us to understand the “why” of Romans 3:23. Remember the Lord’s admonition to three apostles that they needed to watch and pray to avoid temptation, for “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Every person born from Cain and Abel forward has been born with this weakness. That’s how it could be truthfully declared that Jesus tasted death for every one of us (Heb. 2:9).

Seventh, since God knew that all men would sin, there had to be a plan whereby all could be saved. That is, the solution had to be as large as the problem. In fact, in the language of Scripture, the solution was much larger than the problem, and so we read of such things as grace abounding “more exceedingly” than sin did (Rom. 5:20-21) or of “the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). There has always been an “over supply” of divine blessing to deal with the sin of mankind.

Eighth, in Scripture we read of many sinners lost in sin and some who found salvation. The two categories rest on the free will of the men involved. Since God was always prepared to save any man from his sin, the finally lost condition of any individual bespoke what that man had decided in life to be on his own, and the salvation of any man bespoke the fact that he had decided to become what God would bless him to be. Man has never been finally lost because of his weakness; he has been finally lost because he has chosen weakness over strength. In other words, he chose flesh over spirit! And the spiritual law of kinds informs us that our crop can be no better than our seed (Gal. 6:7-8).

Ninth, this means that when Jesus spoke of the impossibility of people coming to Him unless the Father drew them to Him (John 6:44-45), He was referring to the two categories of people whom Paul later identified as (1) “vessels of honor” or “vessels of mercy” and (2) “vessels of dishonor” or “vessels of wrath” (Rom. 9:21-23). Furthermore, when Jesus referred to people who could not believe Him because they “were not of his sheep” and because of such could not hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:16-29), He was referring to those whom John would later identify as people who were characterized by the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (1 John 4:5-6). That is, the two classifications of people (regarding salvation and damnation) are: (1) those who are of the world, and (2) those who are of God. Christians and all those bound to become such today are in Scripture language “of God” (cf. 1 John 4:4; 5:19). They have an “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15). Notice the possibilities and impossibilities just here:

T F 1. One can have an honest and good heart.
T F 2. One can have an honest and non-good heart.
T F 3. One can have a dishonest and good heart.
T F 4. One can have a dishonest and non-good heart.

The first statement is TRUE. In fact, this is the only class that can be saved or ever could be saved! The second statement might at first be considered “true” if picturing a man before he is willing to come to repentance and would seem to show the possibility of a man squarely facing sad facts about himself but yet unwilling to do the right thing about his sin (cf. Luke 15:17; 2 Cor. 7:10). But, on the other hand, if he is unwilling to do the “right” thing about his sin, he is not being honest about his sin. So, it would appear that this statement is itself FALSE. The third statement is FALSE. No one can be both dishonest and good at the same time. The fourth statement is TRUE. A person can have a non-good heart (evil heart) partly composed of his dishonesty.

Now regarding the third statement in the above list of True-False statements, consider again what Jesus said in John 6:44-45. No one can come to Jesus unless drawn by the Father, and he cannot be drawn by the Father unless he has an honest and good heart (Luke 8:15). Verse 45 shows that the “drawing” is done by Scripture. And those who are “drawn” are those who are taught of God, have heard from the Father, and have learned. These are the only ones that can come and do come to Jesus! The Father draws and the Father teaches, but all these students who are taught, who hear, who learn, are the ones who then come to Jesus.

So, all whom the Father draws to Jesus are those who are taught, who hear, who learn and who come. They all come! There is no class of those who learn, in this context, but who still do not come. My father used to refer to the word “learned” in verse 45 as a learning “in the sense of this passage.” What John said in 1 John 4:6 helps us with some clarification here. “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” Those who are “of God,” those characterized by “the spirit of truth,” those characterized by “an honest and good heart” upon hearing the truth are drawn by the truth. And they are the only ones drawn by it!

Tenth, if God wants all men to be saved, and He does (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9), then whatever are the full complexities of features that contribute to a man’s damnation, they all rest on the rock bottom foundation of a man’s own free will which (1) was given as a blessing and which (2) turned out to be a curse because (3) the man himself failed to use it as it was designed to be used (Acts 17:27; Eccl. 12:13-14). He used his own will against himself! Jesus once said it like this: “If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself” (John 7:17). So, God can never be rightly criticized for the damnation of anyone or of everyone who is lost, but He can be and should be praised for the salvation that He has made possible (1 Tim. 4:10). And it is a wonderful thing that God is able and willing to use the evil purposed free will of men to His own glory and to the ultimate salvation of all those who love truth (Acts 2:23; 2 Thess. 2:10-12).

Posted in Apologetics, Evolution

You can’t believe both Jesus and evolution

By Weylan Deaver

Much can be said in falsifying the theory of humans evolving from non-humans. The field of study in defense of the existence of God, the deity of Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible is called apologetics. This paragraph is not to delve into that overwhelming evidence, but, rather, to address the all-too-frequent tendency of people who say they believe the Bible, but also believe things that contradict the Bible, such as evolutionary theory. You cannot believe both Jesus and evolution. Why? Because Jesus explicitly contradicts evolution. Hear his words in Matthew 19:4-5, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (ESV). According to Jesus, from the very “beginning” there were male and female. In fact, from the beginning it was a man joined by God in marriage to his wife. If evolution is true, then Jesus is wrong. If Jesus is right, then evolution is a lie. Those who claim to accept the Bible need to be honest enough to accept what it teaches. Trying to twist biblical miracles into something that fits modern skepticism is a fool’s errand. If God created the universe, as Genesis 1 teaches, there is no reason in the world to doubt any miracle as described in the Bible. Jesus himself endorsed the Genesis creation account. Shame on us if we feel the need to compromise God’s facts to harmonize with Satan’s fiction. In the end, we will be judged neither by Charles Darwin’s theory, nor the invective of a Richard Dawkins or Bill Nye. Jesus claimed in John 12:48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

Posted in Apologetics, Reviews

An “Intelligent Design” debate review

By Weylan Deaver

On November 7, 2008 I attended a debate with my father and oldest son. It was held from 7:00-10:00 p.m. at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, Texas. The discussion was billed as “The Great Debate: Intelligent Design and the Existence of God.” There were probably 600-700 in attendance.

The debate was sponsored by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Fort Worth. I assume this church wanted to spark interest in the community and spur people toward what they consider to be Christianity. If that were their goal, then the selection of speakers was quite curious, since there was not a single Bible believer on the panel. Of the four panelists, the only one who claimed to be a Christian was an ardent evolutionist who actually sided with the atheist against the concept that intelligent design (ID) theory has any usefulness for science.

Unlike a typical debate with each speaker behind a podium, this was more a round table discussion, with all speakers seated. Each was given twelve minutes to make an opening speech, then each speaker was allowed to ask another speaker a question. After a break, questions collected from the audience were asked of the speakers, during which there was give-and-take among the panelists. The four panelists were Dr. David Berlinski, Dr. Bradley Monton, Dr. Denis Alexander, and Dr. Lawrence Krauss, all of whom have impressive academic credentials and achievements unnecessary to document here.

Berlinski is a secular Jew and an agnostic. Ironically, he was there to represent the “Pro-ID Theist Position.” In the course of discussion, he made cogent observations and served to counterbalance the strident atheist sitting across from him. But the best he could do was poke holes in the anti-ID position, since he, himself, is not yet convinced that God really exists and/or that intelligent design has been proven. That the man closest to the truth (i.e. Berlinski) was a Jewish agnostic, we wonder why the Episcopal Church could not field a man to debate who was convicted of God’s existence, intelligent design, and even the inspiration of the Bible.

Monton was a curiosity. He was there to represent the “Pro-ID Atheist Position.” He began by describing himself as an atheist who believed there was evidence of intelligent design in the universe, that this evidence deserved to be taken seriously, and that this evidence should not — a priori — be ruled out as unscientific. He said the evidence was not enough to convince him that design exists, but that it was enough to make him less confident in his atheism. So, though he was there to represent an atheistic viewpoint, he seemed more agnostic than atheistic from the get-go. Monton, along with Berlinski, believes that ID ought to at least be considered by the scientific world. Furthermore, and most ironic, Monton actually argued that science should not dismiss the possibility of the supernatural as a legitimate explanation for certain phenomena!

Alexander was a disappointment. Of the four, he alone claimed to be a Christian. Yet, he fought tooth and nail (with soft-spoken British reserve) against the concept that ID has anything to do with science. To his way of thinking, if ID does not lead to experiments and doctoral dissertations, then ID is useless. Berlinski (the theistic-leaning agnostic) tried to convince Alexander (the theistic evolutionist) that a truth can have inherent value even if it does not lead to scientific experiments, but Alexander would have none of it. He has drunk deeply at the Darwinian well and, in his mind, has somehow wedded Christianity to evolution so that he thinks both can be true. Monton (the agnostic-leaning atheist) was taken aback that a “Christian” would argue against ID, since it would seem to be only natural that a Christian would be in favor of the concept.

Krauss was the staunch atheist, there to argue in favor of the “Anti-ID Atheist Position.” Unlike the two agnostic-leaning panelists (Berlinski and Monton), Krauss was completely secure in his convictions. Unlike the theistic evolutionist (Alexander), Krauss had absolutely no use for God or the Bible. Krauss was the bombastic, no-holds-barred, in your face atheist who was not embarrassed to say the most blasphemous things in an effort to make a mockery of Scripture. He was witty, obnoxious, and dominated more than his share of the conversation. Krauss bows at the altar of science, believing that science must inform religion, and never vice versa. Thus, if the Bible and current scientific theory ever clash, science should never be the one to reevaluate its conclusions to accommodate Scripture (rather, the Bible should be considered to be wrong). Krauss argued that God is not falsifiable; thus the concept of God has no bearing on science. Krauss argued from both sides of his mouth, on the one hand that scientific laws (e.g. gravity) are immutable, while on the other hand criticizing the suggestion that there is constancy in the universe (which, if it existed, would lend credence to ID theory). Though the subject of miracles was not explored to any depth, one can imagine Krauss (or any thoroughgoing atheist) using the perceived constancy of scientific laws as an argument against the supernatural. The fact that he argues against constancy when someone suggests that the observed regularity of the planets is evidence in favor of design only shows that this atheist wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Krauss was upset at the idea of ID being taught in schools because, to his thinking, evolution is a settled fact and to suggest that evolution is controversial would be lying to students. What Krauss fails to realize is that, if atheism is true, then he has no reason to value truth at all, and there is no more good in telling truth than there is harm in telling lies. Again, he wants it both ways: to kick God out of the picture while still trying to value truth — an unjustifiable position.

To Krauss, evolution is a proven, uncontested fact of science. He said there was much evidence proving this to be the case; yet, given opportunity, he refused to comment on the “origin of man.” Berlinski pointed out the arrogance of modern science, and Krauss came across (to me, at least) as exhibit #1 for science’s complete lack of humility as a discipline. Dr. Krauss would do well to back away from his idolizing of modern science. After all, it is very limited in what it can do. For example:

  • Science alone cannot give us a reason to value science.
  • Science alone cannot give us a reason to value truth.
  • Science alone cannot explain the nature of a “fact.”
  • Science alone cannot demonstrate an obligation regarding any fact.
  • Science alone cannot explain purpose.
  • Science alone cannot prove that we should reject lies.

Science must eventually defer to philosophy (and, dare we say, to revelation?), whether it likes it or not. Those who bow to the god of science fail to grasp where the more important truths lie, including truths about why science should even exist, how it could be useful, and the nature of the knowledge it seeks.

Overall, the debate was an intellectually stimulating disappointment, at least compared to what might have been. In 1976, Thomas B. Warren debated renowned British atheist, Antony Flew, on the existence of God (in Denton, Texas). Flew’s atheism suffered a relentless and withering attack from Warren, who deftly wielded religious, philosophic, and scientific truth in such a way as to leave Flew with the newfound notion that he was not going to say as much about God in the future as he had in the past. Amazingly, thirty-one years later (in 2007), Flew published a book making the case for why he changed to belief in God. Why couldn’t those who arranged this Fort Worth debate have found somebody willing to defend ID who was neither an agnostic nor evolutionist? The truth deserved a better defense than it got.

There is obvious design in the universe, and this design does point directly to a Creator. Moreover, we would even argue that the capacity and tendency to recognize design are — like the laws of thought — inherent in man’s mind. God made us to perceive design and expects us to use our design-perceiving nature when we analyze the universe. Consider two passages. “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Heb. 3:4, ESV). A man who looks at a house and concludes that it was not designed is being false to the way God made him to think. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

I left the debate that night thinking of two passages, in particular. “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). Here was a panel of men of erudition and the highest attainment of academia; yet, they all rejected the facts as stated in Genesis 1. Truly, some are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).

[Note: Earlier published on my personal blog, this review appears here for the first time.]

Posted in Apologetics, Existence of God

We Can Know That God Exists

By Roy C. Deaver (1922-2007)

[Note: This piece by my grandfather was published in the July 1977 issue of Spiritual Sword (Thomas B. Warren, editor); at the time, he was serving as director of the Brown Trail Preacher Training School. —Weylan Deaver]

It is not unusual at all in our day to hear someone say, “Yes, but we cannot know that God exists. There is no way to prove that God exists. We are compelled to accept the idea of the existence of God by faith.” In response to special invitation I had taken the men of Brown Trail Preacher Training School to Abilene Christian College for the “Preachers’ Workshop.” One of the “buzz sessions” was on “Christian Apologetics.” Of the twenty-five men present in that session twenty-two of them were students at Brown Trail. I had the opportunity of making a few remarks about the meaning and nature of faith, the meaning and nature of knowledge, and the importance of being able to prove that God is, and that the Bible is the word of God. A member of the ACC faculty responded by saying, “There is no way we can prove the existence of God.”

Then again, just this past year, I went with our students to the workshop. The first lecture of the program dealt with the problem of knowledge and its relationship to the existence of God. The speaker—a highly educated, highly trained, exceptionally capable man—emphasized over and over that there is no way to be sure; there is no way to KNOW; there is no way to PROVE the existence of God. He made brief reference to the various arguments frequently used in efforts to prove the existence of God, but he stressed that these arguments were not adequate. He repeatedly declared that “These arguments take you down to this point but from there on you have to proceed on the basis of faith.” He said that this is the case because “There is no way to really know. ”

Immediately following this presentation there was a question session. I raised my hand, was recognized, and spoke as follows: “I would like to ask the speaker one question: Are you sure about that?” He recognized immediately the force of the question, stepped slowly to the microphone, and said: “No.” This admission, of course, destroyed his entire speech. But, his answer was really the only one he could give. If he had said “yes,” he would thereby have admitted that there is some process by which one can arrive at certainty with regard to at least some points. And, if he could follow that process and arrive at certainty with regard to that point, it just might be possible that I could follow that process and arrive at certainty with regard to other points.

Too, it should be pointed out that the brother who made the speech was misusing the word “faith.” That is, he was not using the word “faith” in harmony with the New Testament usage of the word “faith.” When this brother said, “These arguments take you down to this point but from there on you have to proceed on the basis of faith” he was stressing the idea that evidence will take one just so far, and from there on he must proceed upon the basis of accepting something with regard to which there is no evidence. And, to use the word “faith” in the sense of proceeding where there is no evidence is to use the word out of harmony with and contrary to the Bible usage of this word.

Others also are guilty of misusing the word “faith.” One brother, in insisting that we cannot know but that we can establish strong probability, declares that the man of faith behaves “as if” he knew. We would be inclined to ask the question: if the man of faith acts as if he knows, when in reality he knows that he does not know, why is not the man of faith a hypocrite? Further, why is not the man of faith an agnostic? The following quotations are from men whom I love and respect—men of marvelous educational background, men who love the Lord and His word, men who are personal friends of this writer. I am listing here their statements—not to embarrass them, but to try to drive home the point that many are using the word “faith” in a sense out of harmony with the Scriptures. Note carefully: “As indicated earlier, there is not enough evidence anywhere to absolutely prove God, but there is adequate evidence to justify the assumption or the faith that God exists.” “This choice or commitment is into the realm of the subjective, to be sure, since it transcends the objective and what can be clearly proved, and thus it is a leap of faith,” “Hence, it is more reasonable to take the short leap of faith required in Christian belief than it is to take the long leap of faith that is required in atheism. Absolute, dogmatic, unequivocable, complete evidence is often not possible, but a strong presumption is demonstrable.” “The evolutionist has a faith and I have a faith. I happen to believe that my faith is the more reasonable faith.”

What is the meaning of “faith” in the Bible? How is this word used? Does “faith” (in the Bible sense) mean strong probability? Is it identical with assumption? Does it exist only in the absence of evidence? “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,…” (Heb. 11:4). “By faith Noah…prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7). “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance…” (Heb. 11:8). What does “by faith” mean in these statements? Were Abel, Noah, and Abraham guessing? Were they responding upon the basis of assumption? strong probability? acting where there was no evidence? The Bible declares: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, Biblical faith inherently involves; (1) the fact of the existence of God; (2) the fact of the existence of man; (3) the revealing ability of God to man; (4) the response-ability of man; (5) the testimony of God to man; (6) man’s proper response to that testimony. Faith—in the Bible sense—means taking God at His word. It means doing just what God said do, just because God said to do it. There is no Biblical faith where there is no testimony of God.

Faith does not mean absence of evidence. In fact, Biblically approved faith requires evidence. Where there is no evidence there can be no faith. God expects us to be concerned about evidence. The very existence of the Bible presupposes the need for evidence. John said, “…but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye may have life in his name” (John 20:31). We are not inclined in the least to criticize the attitude of Thomas. Rather, we have great respect and admiration for his attitude. His attitude was: “Without evidence I will not believe. Give me the evidence, and I will believe.” The Lord gave him the evidence. When Thomas saw the evidence, he declared: “My Lord and my God.”

Faith does not in all cases mean the absence of literal sight. Sometimes faith is clearly contrasted with sight (as in 2 Cor. 5:7), but there can be faith where there is sight. The Lord said to Thomas: “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed.” Many more of the Samaritans believed on the Lord because of His word (John 4:41). The fact of their seeing Him did not preclude their believing on Him. There can be faith where there is no sight. The Lord said to Thomas: “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed.”

Neither does faith mean the absence of knowledge. It should be shouted from the housetops that Biblically approved faith does not rule out knowing. Paul said, “being therefore always of good courage, and knowing that whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord…” (2 Cor. 5:6). How did Paul know? “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Cor. 5:7). Here is knowledge which is the product of faith. Many of Samaria who believed on the Lord said to the woman: “Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). These said, “We believe” and “We know.” Faith does not preclude knowledge, and knowledge does not preclude faith. Peter said to the Lord, “And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). Paul said, “…for I know him whom I have believed…” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Can we know that God exists? The basic question underlying this question is: Can we know anything at all? For, if it is possible to know anything, then it is possible to know that God exists. Can one know anything? Is a normal human being capable of really knowing anything? To answer this question we must come to a knowledge of what “knowing” means. (Interesting sidelight: Is it possible for one to come to a knowledge of what knowing is? Would it be possible for one to know that it is impossible for one to know?)

The answer to this question (Can we know anything?) involves the whole field of study called epistemology. Epistemology is that field of study which deals with the origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge. The human being, in two basic ways, comes to have knowledge. We come to know (learn) by experience, and we come to know (learn) by contemplation. Knowledge which comes by means of actual experience is placed under the heading of SCIENCE. Knowledge which comes by means of contemplation is placed under the heading of PHILOSOPHY. The knowledge which comes by experience may be: mathematical, physical, biological, or social. If the contemplation is about the universe it comes within the realm of metaphysics. If the contemplation is about conduct, it comes within the realm of ethics. If the contemplation is about the beautiful, it comes within the realm of aesthetics. If the contemplation is about correct reasoning (the principles of valid reasoning), it comes within the realm of logic. This reasoning involves two kinds: inductive and deductive.

The Empirical philosophers insist that only real knowledge is that which comes by means of the physical senses. The Existential philosophers insist that there is no way that one can really know anything. We are insisting at this point that though it is certainly true that there is knowledge which comes by means of the physical senses, it is also true that there is knowledge which comes by means of contemplation. We are insisting that it is possible for one to know and to know that he knows by working (in thought) according to the demands of the principles of correct reasoning.

It is generally recognized that 7 x 7 gives 49. The “49” represents a conclusion arrived at by contemplation. But it is possible for us to know (and to know that we know) that 7 x 7 gives 49. Likewise, if one places a dime in an envelope, and then places the envelope in a trunk—we can know where the dime is. We can know that the dime is in the trunk. And, this knowledge we have by contemplation, rather than by sense perception. If it is the case that all men are mortal beings, and if it is the case that Socrates was a man, then we know that it is the case that Socrates was a mortal being. I recently said to my students: “If it is the case that the accute accent can stand on either of the last three syllables of a Greek word, and if it is the case that the circumflex accent can stand only on either of the last two syllables of a Greek word, and if it is the case that the grave accent can stand only on the last syllable of a Greek word—then it is the case that if the third (the antepenult) syllable of a Greek word is accented that accent will have to be the accute. And, you can know this, and you can know that you know it.”

The “law of rationality” holds that “We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence.” Adequate evidence absolutely demands certain conclusions. We are not talking about assumptions. We are not talking about guesses, or speculations. We are speaking of that conclusion which is absolutely demanded by the evidence at hand. And that conclusion which is demanded by the evidence is a matter of knowledge. It is “knowledge” just as much as is the case with regard to sense perception. It is evidence at hand. And that conclusion which is demanded by the evidence is a matter of knowledge. It is “knowledge” just as much as is the case with regard to sense perceptions. It is this kind of knowledge in particular that we have in mind when we emphasize that we can KNOW that God exists. It is this kind of knowledge which is compelled by consideration of the facts: there can be no effect without an adequate cause; there can be no law without a lawgiver; there can be no picture without a painter, no poem without a poet, no design without a designer, no thought without a thinker, no engineering without an engineer, no chemistry without a chemist, and no mathematics without a mathematician.

It is not the purpose of this article to discuss in detail how we can know that God exists, but rather to declare emphatically that it is a fact that we can know that God exists.

Perhaps it should be pointed out that so far as concerns those who love, believe and respect the Bible there should be no problem on this point. For, the Bible frequently and emphatically declares that we CAN and that we MUST know God. The Lord said, “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). John said, “I have written unto you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning” (I John 2:13, 14). In fact, in the book of First John the writer uses the word “know” (in some form) twenty-four times. Those who insist that we cannot “know” would do well to study carefully John’s writings.

Posted in Apologetics, Evolution

The Scientific Method: Two Problems

By Mac Deaver

I want to mention two problems with what has been termed the “scientific method.” But before identifying the problems let me assure the reader that I am well aware of the fact that the “method” has over many years resulted in much benefit to the human family. It is the method of trial and error. The scientist will imagine a working hypothesis or theory that he wants to test to see whether or not it can be identified as the given cause of a certain effect. He says to himself that if x is the case (my theory is correct as the cause of this certain effect), then y will follow. He runs his experiment and finds that y is, after all, certainly present. He then concludes that x is to be presently accepted as the cause of y.

Now, the first problem is a problem for atheistic scientists who view the so-called “scientific method” as the completely encompassing route to truth. There are those among us who decry the very concept of the metaphysical or spiritual reality. They claim that there is nothing but matter. For example, Sam Harris in his book, The Moral Landscape, even denies any spiritual person. There is no mind, according to Sam, distinguishable from a brain. Man is at most a brain without any spiritual or metaphysical agent to operate the brain. Matter is all that there is and so matter is all that matters!

And since science is the discipline that explores matter, then science is the vehicle whereby truth (all truth) is known if known at all. In other words, given this radical evaluation of reality, there is no truth accessible to man via any route other than science, and the method by which science discovers truth is the so-called “scientific method.” There is no domain outside the purview of this method since it is believed by atheistic scientists that there is nothing to be explored except matter itself.

But the first difficulty we raise has to do with the selection, identification, and application of this method. Just how is it that scientists have selected this method as “the” method for the discovery of any and all truth that is accessible to mankind? In the first place, if it is a method whose application is to matter only, then the method selected presupposes a metaphysical position with regard to the exhaustive scope of matter. For a scientist to affirm that “matter is all that there is” is not a materialistic declaration. It is an attempted description allegedly of all reality to be sure, and it is a claim that there is nothing besides matter, but the explanation itself is a purely metaphysical explanation. Rocks don’t talk. Monkeys can’t lecture. The very nature of rational explanation implies rationality (not merely a brain) and rationality simply cannot coherently be reduced to matter.

So, for one to say that “matter is all that there is” is to assert something in contradiction to the nature of the assertion. It is like saying, “I am not here.” It is a metaphysical attempt at denying the metaphysical. It is an explanation (whether correct or not), and the nature of explanation is such that it is not reducible to mere matter. A description of matter and an explanation of matter can never be matter itself. Matter cannot explain itself either by content or attempted rational explanation. A brain cannot explain itself. Brains don’t study brains. Minds can study both brains and other minds. Brains can be used by minds in offering explanations (and must be), but brains alone offer nothing by way of explanation any more than kidneys do.

In the second place, when atheistic scientists choose to employ the “scientific method” as their one and only tool for truth discovery, we must point out that their selection of this all-encompassing vehicle of discovery was not made by utilization of the method itself. That is, when they identified the “scientific method” as the alleged one route to all truth, they did not make the selection based on the use of that method at all. They did not use the “scientific method” in order to arrive at the conclusion that the “scientific method” is the route to all truth. And since they used some other means to arrive at that method, they have already implied by the selection of the method for use in science that there is some means of getting at some “truth” other than the method itself, since they used some other means to select the “scientific method” as the only way to find truth! Furthermore since they used some other means of arriving at the “scientific method” (other than the method itself) as the method of choice in truth discovery, that means that whatever it is that they used in order to select the “scientific method” is surely a more fundamental route and a far more encompassing route to the discovery of truth than the “scientific method” could ever by itself be.

The selection of the “scientific method” as the method of choice for science is a reasoned or rational selection made without the use of that method in the selection process. The “scientific method” was simply not employed in order to select the “scientific method” as the one and only method of truth discovery. And even for those scientists who are not atheistic, still it is true that their employment of the method is not based on the use of that method in the selection of that method.

The situation that I am referring to is very unlike the use of reason. We simply cannot identify and describe reason without employing it. We must in every attempt at the recognition and identification of the “laws of thought” always be utilizing them. However, it is not so with the so-called “scientific method.” And even though atheists want to claim that their method of discovery is the only means of discovery, yet their method was not discovered by means of the method! The selection of a trial and error method of truth discovery was not itself made based on any trial and error test for that method. Since the method itself is a metaphysical construct, it could not in and of itself be placed in a materialistic format for analysis. For someone to suggest that “if a is true, then y will follow, and y did follow; therefore, a must be true,” is an exercise in reason (be it right or wrong), and not simply an exercise in matter exploration by other matter. Consider the following points:

  1. Either the atheistic scientist has decided to use the so-called “scientific method” as the exhaustive approach to all truth by means of the “scientific method” or by some other means.
  2. The atheistic scientist did not use the “scientific method” to locate the method nor to elevate it to its alleged exhaustive role in truth discovery.
  3. So, the atheistic scientist decided to use the “scientific method” and prescribe the use of it for all truth discovery on some basis other than the method itself.
  4. This means that the atheistic scientist implies that the so-called “scientific method” is not the only way to discover truth!

The very idea of using the “scientific method” as “the” avenue to all truth is itself not discernible via the method. The method itself cannot possibly prove the non-existence of something outside the purview of that method of discovery. Materialism can never by a materialistic means prove the non-existence of the non-empirical (the metaphysical). In other words, the atheistic scientist who limits the discovery of truth to the “scientific method” has himself used some other criteria for giving that method its lofty and all-encompassing status. He has so elevated it but not by virtue of its all-encompassing nature, but because of his atheism!

The bottom line is that no scientist can defend the “scientific method” without reason. And when he does so, he admits that reason is superior to matter and very necessary in any explanation attempt. And when atheists attempt to claim that the “scientific method” is the one and only justifiable route to truth, they do so ignorantly and in self-contradiction since the employment by them of that route is because of a reasoned choice and not by means of some empirical trial and error vindication of the method itself. In fact, there can be no reasoned justification for the method itself, given the way that it is constructed. And that brings us to the second problem with the method.

The second problem with the “scientific method” has to do with the logical form of it. Consider the following illustration. Let us say that a couple decides to visit some nearby friends but without notifying their friends first. They get into the car and begin to drive. The husband says to his wife, “I hope they are home.” She responds, “We’ll know when we see the yard, for if they are home the yard will be mowed.” Then they get to the house and they see that the yard is mowed, and conclude. “They are home.”

Now, let us analyze what happened and put it into a strict logical form so that we can easily determine what was said and whether or not it was logical and conclusive. Let us use x for “if they are home.” And let us use y for “the yard will be mowed.” If we affirm x (they are home), then we could conclude y (the yard will be mowed). But the couple didn’t do this. They affirmed y (the yard is mowed) because they saw the mowed yard when they drove up to the house, and then they reached the conclusion that x (they are home). Now, let us suppose that they found no one at home. Even though they realized that their friends always kept up their yard work when at home (so that they had a right to say to themselves if x [they are home], then y [the yard will be mowed]), they were not counting on any explanation for a mowed yard other than the presence at home by their friends. But they found y (the yard is mowed) and yet they found non-x (the friends were not at home). Later, let us suppose, they found out that their friends had gone on vacation and had hired some yard workers to attend the yard while they were gone.

You see, the would-be visitors drew a conclusion not warranted by the evidence. They arranged their reasoning in this way: “If they are home, then the yard will be mowed. The yard is mowed. Therefore, they are home.” But then they found out that even though the yard was mowed, their friends were not at home. The argument—or, syllogism—looks like this:

  • If x then y (if they are home, then the yard will be mowed).
  • y (the yard is mowed).
  • Therefore, x (they are home).

And this is an illogical form. It is invalid. The conclusion is not established by the premises. And yet, this is the very form that is characteristic of the “scientific method.” Note this carefully. The “scientific method” entails an illogical or invalid form. And this means that the conclusion reached by using this form is not established! It is not proven! In a hypothetical syllogism (an “if-then” syllogism), we can either affirm the antecedent (what follows the “if”) or we can deny the consequent (what follows the “then”). The first form is called modus ponens; the second is called modus tollens. These are both logical or valid forms. But to deny the antecedent or to affirm the consequent is to construct an invalid form (see Lionel Ruby’s Logic—An Introduction, pp. 272-276). The couple in our illustration constructed an invalid form. They said: if x (antecedent) then y (consequent). That is, if they are home, the yard will be mowed. But then they affirmed the y (the yard is mowed), and concluded x (they are home). And this is an invalid form. They affirmed the consequent.

If a scientist tests his hypothesis and says if x is correct (if they are home) then y will follow (the yard will be mowed), and then he runs his test and finds that y is, after all, present (the yard is mowed), he concludes then that x is established at least as a theoretical cause (they are home) of y. But since the form is invalid, he has no right to reach a conclusion that is absolutely true. The whole process of his trial and error method is logically flawed. For y (the yard is mowed) may be caused by something other than x (their being home). There could well be another explanation for y (the yard’s being mowed).

It is sometimes reassuring that some scientists recognize the tentative nature of scientific claims and admit that they have not proven a position but only identified a possibility. Their conclusions they hold tentatively. However, some bold atheists and obsessed evolutionists overreach their findings and draw conclusions from their method that they deem beyond reproach. It is enough here for us to realize that no conclusion whatever reached via the “scientific method” can by that method be established as absolutely true.

 

Posted in Apologetics, Existence of God

Made To Seek God

By Weylan Deaver

If you are reading this, then you were made to seek God. That is what the apostle Paul affirmed in Acts 17:27. It is an extension of the fact that humans are created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27). Consider that humanity has such dignified status that we can be described as being “a little lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7). The Biblical worldview and the secular worldview could not stand in greater contrast. The Bible says we are a little beneath the angels. Evolution says we are a little above the apes. One or the other is a lie, no matter our personal feeling or preference. It comes down to facts and evidence, of which evolution has neither. Nothing comes from nothing, and everything came from something. Despite a plethora of hopeful guesses, skeptics will never be able to prove the cosmos began on its own, or that matter can explain itself without mind. Thoughtful people should be able to see the absurdity involved in the concept that we, with intelligence, can reflect on a universe that somehow is here by no intelligence whatsoever. The existence of a grain of sand implies God; how much more so, then, the existence of such an incredibly complex, moral being as man is. If God made me, and if God made me to seek after (and find) him, then this conclusion follows: To fail to seek and find God is to be false to my own human nature. God is not absent and is, in fact, “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

Posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Evolution, Metaphysics

The Illusion of the Unattended Brain

In an effort to ground morality in science, Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, wrote a book published in 2010 entitled The Moral Landscape with the accompanying cover description: “How Science Can Determine Human Values.” Also on the front cover, Sam Harris is touted as “New York Times bestselling author of The End of Faith.” Sam Harris is not shy about either attacking religion or about extending the traditional role of science. Having plodded through the book, in keeping with the way that Sam explains his nature and condition as well as that of the rest of the human species, I can now say that Sam is a bold brain, but I can’t say anything else if I remain within the confines of Sam’s own description of himself and the rest of us. If you have read the book or if you follow along in this paper, you should soon see what I mean.

Sam Harris attempts to build a case for ethics based completely on the physical nature of man as an evolved species on this earth. Without evolution as theoretical background and the all encompassing presupposition as the explanation for the existence of mankind, Sam’s argumentation for scientific ethics has nothing to offer, but with it, he thinks that he can argue rationally for an ethical approach to life based simply on a greater understanding of the human brain and its relationship to events in the world. But can he?

Interestingly, a reader does not get far into the text before he realizes that Harris tries, in one sense, to “distance” himself from evolution. He writes, “As with mathematics, science, art, and almost everything else that interests us, our modern concerns about meaning and morality have flown the perch built by evolution” (14). But just what in the world does that mean? How have we humans “flown the perch” that evolution built? Sam doesn’t tell us. But given the fact that he says such a thing impresses me that there is something incongruent about the concept of evolution and the concept of meaning and morality that Sam Harris recognizes. And it is a problem for him throughout his effort to base morality on physicality. Look at the situation like this. When Sam says that we humans have “flown the perch built by evolution” I submit to the reader that since he surely is trying to say something meaningful, that he is either saying:

  • (1) Evolution is false, so we need to distance mankind from it in making the case for evolutionary ethics; or
  • (2) Evolution is irrelevant to the discussion of evolutionary ethics; or
  • (3) Evolution is inadequate as a justification of any evolutionary ethical theory.

I know he not claiming (1) evolution is false, because to the end of the book he stays attached to the claim of its scientific accuracy. I know he is not claiming (2) evolution is irrelevant because throughout the book he constantly employs the concept to bolster his thesis. I conclude that he is conceding, without intending to, that there is something awfully incoherent about conceptually connecting the concept of morality to mere apes. And if the reader thinks that I am being too hard on Sam for referring to people as “apes,” simply read the book and see how many times he uses the word or some synonym or similar expression to describe the human family. His is simply another sad effort at building a case with a missing link. Somehow and in some way (isn’t it strange), Sam thinks that human concern with meaning and morality go beyond the purview of evolution (the expression “flown the perch” has to have some application), and yet throughout the book he writes as though there is perfect harmony between the concept of organic evolution including the evolving of apes to men and the concept of human morality.

Harris chides fellow scientists for claiming that science has nothing to say about morality, and he claims that he has found the explanation as to why science can say something about it after all. It is his contention that facts cannot be separated from value. We all know that scientific work is in the field of empirical discovery. Science attempts to tell us about facts. But, Harris claims, that values are attached to facts, so that if science can tell us what the facts are, it can tell us something about what the values are. And if we know the correct values regarding facts, we can more adequately choose correctly in making our moral decisions.

Of course, Harris’ thesis is that since we cannot separate facts from value and since science is in the business of discovering and reporting the facts, that science then is equally in the business of being able to tell us what the value of the facts are. But, it must not go unsaid, that Harris’ whole case is based on his unproven and unprovable notion that all “facts” are physical ones. This is necessary to the proving of his thesis, but he never does, and he never can prove that only empirically derivable conclusions reached in a scientific laboratory qualify as “facts.” This is what he assumes but cannot prove, and in his book he never seriously tries to do so. He simply writes his book while granting that most Americans still do not believe the theory of evolution, as if they should. He never attempts to prove the theory at all, but takes it as a scientifically established fact. But, here Harris is very wrong. The fact is, that evolution as an explanation for the arrival of the human species has never been proven. Furthermore, given the nature of science and the nature of origins (including the origin of man), such a discussion of the origin of man and the morality of man is outside the scope of science anyway.

On the first night of the four night public debate in 1976 between Thomas B. Warren (theist) and Antony G. N. Flew (at the time a world renowned atheist, but who later disavowed atheism), Warren gave Flew the following True-False question:

  • T/F Value did not exist before the first human being.

Flew answered the question “True” and wrote on the paper that value was a function of the human mind (Warren-Flew Debate, p. 15 and APPENDIX). In his first speech on Monday, Warren pointed out that Flew’s answer to the question meant that since Flew was claiming that value did not exist before the first human did, then value itself was simply a function of the human mind. And that meant that the concept of “value” then is reduced to the subjective likes and dislikes of a person. Warren likened it to “liking or not liking spinach” (Warren-Flew, p. 15). This means that according to Flew’s answer, he was unfortunately taking the position that when men approve of something or disapprove of something, that in saying it is “right” or “wrong” they are simply expressing their likes and dislikes. In Philosophy, that view is described as “the emotive theory” of ethics.

Of course, since Sam Harris is here either by creation or evolution, and since he asserts that he (as well as the rest of us) is here via evolution, he has no basis upon which to dignify the concept of “value” or “morality” that gives it the objective meaning or status that he wants it so desperately in his book to entail. He wants so badly to argue for some kind of “objective” ethics based on some things that humans have in common which tend toward general human well-being. But all of his argumentation amounts to nothing when one considers that “value” is simply an invention of the human mind per evolutionary theory. And that means that “morality” is a merely human invention, too. So regardless what Sam Harris’ thesis is as to how to go about establishing a good evolutionary ethic, it all amounts to the fact that Sam Harris is simply providing us via his book with his own personal wish for the world as he would like it to be. But that is as high a standing in “value” as his thesis can acquire. It represents Sam’s effort at getting his way because the world as he envisions it is the world he wants. It is made up of things he likes. And it is true that a lot of what he likes, others like, too. But that is no basis of morality. And Harris even admits that a view is not established as true by its numerical support. Hear him:

Does a lone psychotic become sane merely by attracting a crowd of devotees? If we are measuring sanity in terms of sheer numbers of subscribers, then atheists and agnostics in the United States must be delusional: a diagnosis which would impugn 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences” (Landscape, 157, 158).

So, while on the one hand Harris recognizes that any particular viewpoint is not established as actually true simply by counting the number of people who support it, yet on the other hand he does argue for a theory of ethics which is based on the overall well-being of or happiness of “the greatest number of people” (Landscape, 28 ). So, regarding ethical theory, numbers do count after all! This is just one of many incoherencies in the development of his thesis.

Thus, basing ethics on the well-being of the greatest number, Harris is ethically a “utilitarian.” Regarding the question of God’s existence, he is an atheist. In fact, he is an atheistic neuroscientist whose view is that science and religion are antagonistic (158-176). They cannot be reconciled. Regarding politics, he says he is a liberal (90), and concerning his origin and nature, he is a self proclaimed ape (2, 114). I am not making this up! He does have a doctoral degree, however, but how impressive should that be among apes? So, the book is the product of an atheistic ape who is attempting to tell the rest of us apes how science, a discipline invented by apes, can help apes live happier lives. Are you following this?

Now, let us get back to the massive wall over which Harris attempts to climb in his effort to establish a science of morality. He does not accept the conclusion of the famous Scottish skeptic, David Hume, who pointed out many years ago that no one can get “ought” from “is.” And to attempt to do so is to commit what has come to be called the “naturalistic fallacy.” Harris thinks that Hume was simply wrong (38). He contends that there is a way for science (which describes to us what our world is) to tell us something of how we ought to act in it. But, we respond, it is just not possible!

Several years before he met Warren in public debate, the then atheist Antony G. N. Flew wrote a little book entitled Evolutionary Ethics. It was published in 1967, and he debated Warren in 1976. In his book, Flew affirmed that one simply could not get from “is” to “ought” in an evolutionary world. He sided with Hume. Flew quoted from Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature:

In every system of morality which I have hitherto met with I have always remarked that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought or ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence….” (Evolutionary, 38).

According to Flew, Hume took the position that “value” was a projection of the human mind onto the things that are being valued. Rather than value existing in the thing itself, value was the position or status granted it by the mind. Mind gave value to the thing rather than the thing’s having a value that presented itself to the mind. This, of course, meant that “value” was not objective. Value was not a characteristic of the thing but rather a propulsion of the mind onto the thing. Mind created value. Flew described Hume’s view as being,

that values are not any sort of property of things in themselves, but that they are in some way a projection out on to the things around us of human needs and human desires. (One resulting problem, more obvious perhaps to us than to Hume, is that of explaining how values can be in some such fundamental way dependent on, and some sort of function of, human needs and human desires, without its thereby becoming the case that some purely descriptive statements about what people do want or would want must entail consequences about what ought to be” (Evolutionary, 39).

And let it be noted that between 1967 and 1976, Flew had not found the answer to that problem! He recognized a great philosophical difficulty for evolutionary theory and ethics. And he never reconciled the two. He saw the problem; he had no answer.

In his third affirmative speech on Monday night of his debate with Warren, Flew said with regard to value: “I can not give a complete account of the nature of value and particularly of moral value, which I regard as even halfway satisfactory…The general line I want to take, as I think all humanists do, is that value is somehow—somehow—a function of human desires, human wishes, and so on…” (Warren-Flew, 43).

Flew went on to suggest that moral value was somewhat like the market value of a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle, and he maintained the likeness throughout the discussion (43, 184, 201). Flew maintained this likeness because he thought it illustrated to him how that moral value (1) was on the one hand a product of human desire—someone’s interest in buying a Volkswagen, and yet (2) on the other hand, the price was not determined simply by any one person’s desire. A man couldn’t buy a 1974 Volkswagen for a price that his desire set or determined. The market price decided what the man must pay.

But in is fourth affirmative on Thursday night, Warren responded:

But I have a question for Dr. Flew along that line: if the Volkswagen is worth $500.00 at one place and $1,000.00 at another place, how is the actual or real value of the car to be decided? Or, does it have any real value? Now, if your illustration is worth anything at all, it will have to have some real value, or else you will have to say that no human being has any real value, and you will have joined the Nazis in a thorough-going way to say that the Jewish people did not have any real value (only a market value that might fluctuate up and down and therefore would be worth nothing under the regime of the Nazis). Dr. Flew, you ought to think those illustrations through before you give them” (Warren-Flew, 186, 187).

Flew responded in his fourth negative that night, “I hope that I did not confuse people about this. Of course I do not think that moral value is in all respects like market value. One terribly important dissimilarity is precisely that market value does vary very freely with a place and time” (Warren-Flew, 201). Flew simply reiterated his point that at least the illustration presented a situation in which value was the product of human desire and yet one man’s desire did not determine what the value of the car would be. However, he was stuck with an illustration that, if like moral value, allowed for a relativistic view of ethics.

The sad thing is that Sam Harris concedes the whole point that, granted evolutionary theory as the accurate explanation for the arrival of the human species, we are stuck with evolutionary value. That is, we are in a situation such that moral values can change! So, on the one hand Harris says that “morality can be linked directly to facts about the happiness and suffering of conscious creations” (Landscape, 64); on the other hand he grants that what makes conscious creatures happy will not necessarily remain the same (84). And, of course, he has no way of countering Flew’s contention that science alone cannot tell us that what humans do, in fact, currently desire is what they ought to desire.

So, it is clear that, given evolution, there can be no such thing as “objective” ethics or, to put it another way, there can be no such thing as an act that is intrinsically good (that is, good in and of itself) or an act that is intrinsically evil. And yet Harris, while admitting this, continues to attempt to establish an evolutionary ethic. In fact, Harris concedes that, given evolutionary theory, it is possible that the science of morality may eventuate into perhaps a contradictory kind of morality so that what is now seen as good could be later viewed otherwise. Listen to Harris:

But what if advances in neuroscience eventually allow us to change the way every brain responds to morally relevant experiences? What if we could program the entire species to hate fairness, to admire cheating, to love cruelty, to despise compassion, etc. Would this be morally good? Again, the devil is in the details. Is this really a world of equivalent and genuine well- being, where the concept of ‘well-being’ is susceptible to ongoing examination and refinements as it is in our world? If so, so be it. What could be more important than genuine well-being?” (Landscape, 84).

Wow! Per Harris, if it turns out that current good is eventual evil and that current evil is eventual good, so be it! Of course, whether current or eventual, his ethical utilitarian theory is that if most people gain happiness by an act, that act is “good.” So, even now (much less later), if a majority of people would gain overall well-being and happiness from an act that gets rid of the minority, such would be good! Flew had no way of overcoming this objection to his concept of ethics; Harris has no answer either. Harris says that if the brain can be changed to look at ethics differently, that is the way that it will be. “The devil is in the details,” he says. No, the devil is behind the very idea of trying to justify ethics without God!

Of course, Harris goes on to express the view that a radical change in the way that we currently look at ethics is not likely to happen, but the fact that he allows for this is a tremendous insight into his theory of ethics. He is advocating “relative” ethics rather than “absolute” ethics, and by his imagination, he has treated us to his view that that is the nature of ethics. And that means that there is no such thing as an absolutely good act or an absolutely bad act! Consider the following:

  • T/F 1. An act is intrinsically good or evil in and of itself (Sam Harris says “False” because an act is only “good” if it contributes to the overall well-being of the majority of the people).
  • T/F 2. The Nazi killing of the Jews in World War II was an intrinsically evil act. (Sam Harris would have to say “False” since no act to him is an intrinsically evil act. And there are conceivably circumstances in which the annihilation of the Jews would contribute to the happiness or over all well-being of a majority of people in a nation or in the world).

Consider that Harris in a footnote bemoans the current standing of atheists in American society. He claims that “atheists are the most stigmatized minority in the United States—beyond homosexuals, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Asians, or any other group” (Landscape, 234, 235). Then, I humbly ask, is it conceivable that we could reach a moment in our history in which the killing of atheists (on the grounds that they are atheists) would be acceptable ethical practice if the majority of Americans and/or the majority of all men deemed that the happiness of most men would be enhanced? According to the basis of Harris’ concept of ethics, neither he nor any other man would be able to pronounce such killing at such time as intrinsic evil! In fact, according to “utilitarian” ethics, such killing would be the right thing to do!

But now, consider the following statement from Harris: “I believe that we will increasingly understand good and evil, right and wrong, in scientific terms, because moral concerns translate into facts about how our thoughts and behaviors affect the well-being of conscious creatures like ourselves” (Landscape, 62). Now, regarding the quotation please notice the following:

  • Sam expects more of us in the future to accept the concept of good and evil as a scientific matter.
  • There are no moral concerns outside the realm of facts (which to Sam must be empirical).
  • Our thoughts and behaviors are determined by empirical facts only.
  • We are conscious creatures.
  • Sam believes this.

Now, dear reader, what you need to see at this point is that the above affirmations are reducible to the last one: Sam said, “I believe that….” We could give attention to each part of the quotation, but such is not necessary because of the relationship that Sam Harris has to the claims. Who believes the assertions? Sam Harris says that he does. Well, who is Sam Harris? And amazingly throughout the book he writes (1) as though a real person named Sam Harris exists who is, in some way, ontologically distinguishable from mere matter while all the time (2) attempting to convince us that neither Sam Harris nor any of the readers actually exists! Do you think that I have simply misread Sam Harris? Follow closely.

To assert that men are simply instances of conscious matter is incredibly self-contradictory. “Consciousness” is not a material property! It is not simply an empirical characteristic of anything. And consciousness has never been found in science (or anywhere else) capable of expressing itself without rationality. Apes have feelings, but apes cannot articulate those feelings in language. And language requires thought. Consciousness cannot express itself without thought. Animal life can express itself by mere animation (movement). But consciousness to express itself beyond movement requires thinking.

But, Sam Harris claims that all thoughts are merely and exhaustively empirically driven or produced. In other words, Sam attributes human thought completely to the human brain! And the brain is simply conscious matter. There is no “real” person attending the brain. The brain, according to Sam Harris, is an unattended physical organ that produces the “mind” with its thoughts and intentions! Furthermore, he (Sam Harris) as a neuroscientist studies the brain, and having studied the brain a lot (to the reception of a doctoral degree), he is now in position to tell us that there is no real Sam Harris! Furthermore, anyone reading his book needs to read it while recognizing that not only is Sam Harris nonexistent, but that the reader is equally ontologically unavailable! And all the while this conceptual and linguistic joke is carried on as though it has real scientific merit. Listen to Sam:

Your ‘self’ seems to stand at the intersection of these lines of input and output. From this point of view, you tend to feel that you are the source of your own thoughts and actions. You decide what to do and not to do. You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. As we will see, however, this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain” (Landscape, 102).

Again, “All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion” (Landscape, 103). Again, “From the perspective of your conscious mind, you are no more responsible for the next thing you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact that you were born into this world” (Landscape, 104). Sam claims that “thoughts arise (what else could they do?) unauthored and yet author to our actions” (Landscape, 105).

Dear reader, can you (and I mean the real YOU) believe it? You may ask, “Well, if no one is responsible for his own thoughts, then who is doing the thinking? Sam would have “us” to believe that the brain is the thinker! Per Sam Harris, the brain produces what “we” think of as the mind and its thoughts. “Decisions, intentions, efforts, goals, willpower, etc. are causal states of the brain, leading to specific behaviors, and behaviors lead to outcomes in the world” (Landscape, 105).

So, there you have it. It is not simply true that the real, personal, spiritual, metaphysical, ontologically distinguishable, Sam Harris has disappeared, but that, according to Sam Harris (whoever that is), there has never been a Sam Harris. But still, “we” have to account for Sam’s thoughts. Well, that is attributed to “Sam’s” brain. Sam is claiming that he is brain. He is conscious matter. But the conscious matter is not personally attended. It is still matter only that somehow in evolution reached a level of consciousness. And now at that level of consciousness, the brain all alone and unattended produces thoughts which express themselves at times in actions.

Dear reader, can you believe such? Of course, it never dawned on Sam that as he was writing his book and trying to inform us all that “we” do not exist but rather that our “brains” are the existent empirical entities that alone are responsible for our thoughts, that he was at cross purposes with himself. First consider the following:

  • T/F 1. I, Sam Harris, am a person ontologically (in the nature of being) distinguishable from my material body (Sam says “False). Per Harris, there is no immortal soul (Landscape, 110).
  • T/F 2. I, Sam Harris, am my brain and body, and my brain is physically distinguishable from the rest of my body (Sam would say True).
  • T/F 3. While I, Sam Harris, am composed of brain and body, it is “my” brain that is responsible for all my thoughts and intentions. (Sam says True).

Now, dear reader, please look at #3 again. The word “my” is placed in quotations because the sentence is written as though Sam somehow exists apart from body and brain, but according to Sam, he clearly does not. Furthermore, he writes this way throughout his book. He writes as though he has a real metaphysical status and that his readers have an actual metaphysical status while all the time attacking the very concept of anyone’s having real metaphysical status.

Please consider the difficulties that one faces when attempting to deny himself (that he actually has a metaphysical existence). Consider the following statement:

I, Sam Harris, deny myself.

The sentence makes sense in that it is pieced together with words each of which has meaning, and the whole of the arrangement seems to be stating a complete thought. However, the sentence does not make sense conceptually. For example, when we consider what is being affirmed and what is being denied, we must face the fact that either (1) the “I” (whoever it is) has to exist in order to make the denial of oneself, or (2) the “myself” has to exist in some sense in order to be denied. So the “I” must be here as denier or the “myself” must be here as the one to be denied. If one says, well, the answer is that the “myself” is not here for it is the very thing being denied, so far so good, it would seem. However, the denial itself must be attached to the “I” in order for the denial to be made. The brute fact is that there is no denial being made at all if someone is not making the denial and neither is someone being denied.

Furthermore, since Harris denies that he exists as an “immortal soul,” then let us consider a further difficulty. When he says that he does not exist, we then face the following possibilities. It is either the case that:

(1) a soul is denying itself; or

(2) a soul is denying its body (including brain); or

(3) a brain is denying its soul; or

(4) a brain is denying its body (including itself).

Since Harris denies having a soul, obviously then he cannot be meaning either (1) or (2). A soul cannot be doing anything since it simply is not there. So he cannot possibly be meaning that a soul is either the “one” (a metaphysical being) denying self or denying its body. So (1) and (2) are out of the issue. If it is then suggested that Sam means (3), that would mean then that a brain would be denying its soul. But since, per Harris, a brain has no soul, how could and why would a brain do that? How can a merely physical organ deny an ontological attachment to a metaphysical entity? A gall bladder can’t do that, nor a liver, nor a lung, nor a physical heart, etc. How is it possible for a merely physical organ, derived from an evolutionary background to go into the negative in describing its own nature? Can an empirical entity create the metaphysical category only to deny that it has any occupancy? And by the way, how would a mere brain know that anyone had ever accused it of having any attachment to a metaphysical entity in the first place? Such would be absolutely absurd!

Either a brain is not a purely physical organ (this, Sam as an evolutionist would deny), or it must be in some way connected to a metaphysical entity that is utilizing it in denying whatever it is that is being denied!

Harris has a personally unattended brain saying that it has no association with or connection to a soul. And, per Harris, the brain’s thoughts are not metaphysical constructs but rather are physiologically driven. Thoughts are the products of the mind which is the product of the brain. Thoughts, anyway, are simply like gas that has escaped the brain. We might say that his view more or less means that a brain merely “erupts” into thoughts. There is no purpose to them nor design for them. They are random secretions for which no person whatever is responsible!

Remember, he has told that “the conscious mind cannot be the source of its own thought and intentions” (Landscape, 216). And furthermore, he says, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me” (Landscape, 104).

And that leaves us with (4): a brain is denying its body (including itself). When Sam Harris claims that he does not exist, he must be telling us that he as a brain is denying that the brain is there (with its body or that the body is there with its brain). But we know that Sam can’t mean to be suggesting (4) because that would mean that the brain is denying itself. And Sam in the book is quite insistent to claim that it is only the brain (with accompanying physical body) that does exist, and that the brain alone is “responsible” for thinking! Each of the four theoretical possibilities is thus eliminated from what Sam could actually be meaningfully saying. Regardless what with his incongruent combination of language and concepts he is attempting to do, the elimination of each possibility shows us that no one can rationally deny himself! And yet the ethic proposal that Sam proposes in his book is grounded in this irrational attempt!

But all the way through his book, Sam is taking the brain as being there and the metaphysical soul as not. He writes, “It seems to be that few concepts have offered greater scope for human cruelty than the idea of an immortal soul that stands independent of all material influences, ranging from genes to economic systems” (Landscape, 110). First, let it be said that without that immortal soul Sam can’t be rationally calling in question the existence of anything, much less himself! Dirt can’t deny the existence of dirt! Apes can’t deny the existence of apes, and they can’t even try.

Only metaphysical entities attached to empirical substance or form or bodies can have the capacity on this earth to deny one or the other of their conceptually distinguishable natures (physical or metaphysical). A purely physical entity has no ontological capacity to deny anything. Only a metaphysical entity has capacity to affirm and deny. Second, Sam is critical of the existence of any independent immortal soul that is not under the influence of “material influences.” But let it be said just here that we theists recognize that the mind or soul currently utilizes the brain. And any damage to the brain certainly can have a significant effect on the mind and its capacity to think. If the brain is the organ that the mind uses (as opposed to the liver, gall bladder, etc.), then any damage to the brain can certainly affect what the mind can or cannot currently accomplish. No one denies this that I know. But that is certainly not the same thing as to claim that there is no metaphysical mind as is proven by the fact that brain study has determined that a damaged brain affects thinking.

Sam Harris has studied the human brain a lot. But Sam has drawn some conclusions regarding human nature, the nature of truth, and the nature of morality that simply cannot be rightly deduced from that study. His denial of himself cannot “square” with his empirical investigation of the human brain. Someone is doing that study. But according to Sam it is merely one brain looking at another brain, and when thoughts are produced, they are unauthored by a person and no person is responsible for them. Notice the following:

  • T/F 1. Sam Harris as a metaphysical soul within a physical body is responsible for his book. (Sam says False).
  • T/F 2. Each reader of Sam’s book is a metaphysical soul within a physical body who is responsible for what he does with Sam’s book (Sam says False).
  • T/F 3. Sam Harris’ brain is alone responsible for Sam’s thoughts which in an “unauthored” way has provided us with Sam’s book (Sam tries to justify this as True though it is a self-contradictory affirmation).
  • T/F 4. Some unidentified brain produced the mind which produced the thoughts which produced the book called The Moral Landscape, attributed to Sam Harris as author (According to Harris’ argumentation as to the nature of man [he is a completely physical entity], this would be True).
  • T/F 5. The “people” who “read” Sam’s book are actually (according to Sam’s view of human nature) only other unidentified brains that produce minds which produce thoughts which produce action, so that only unidentified brains are “responsible” for minds allegedly produced by them (True, if Sam Harris’ view of human nature is correct).

A conscious mind cannot be held responsible, Sam tells us (Landscape, 216). Furthermore, he says that our thoughts are not even “authored.” Remember, he has told us that “…thoughts simply arise (what else could they do?) unauthored and yet author to our actions (Landscape, 105). On the cover of The Moral Landscape we find these words describing Sam Harris: “New York Times bestselling author of The End of Faith.” Therefore, even though Sam Harris is an “author” of books, he assures us that his thoughts have no author other than a personally unattended brain. Believe it who can! How can such drivel be allowed such publication and distribution for public consumption? It is as though Sam is telling us and trying to convince us that our situation is comparable to one computer communicating with other computers, telling them how they ought to act. And there is no “one” in the picture except computers. There is no “mind” behind the brain which uses the brain. There is no Maker of the mind but Sam knows that there can only be a computer and correspondence carried on between computers if someone made the computers and if someone uses the computers. But irrationally, Sam contends the situation is otherwise for the, according to him, evolutionarily developed human species!

Curiously, and without any evidence to support his theory, Harris attributes all thought to a physical organ that is metaphysically unattended, and Sam Harris intellectually attacks any concept of personal moral responsibility! Somehow our moral world is going to be improved when we all face up to what this neuroscientist is telling us: No real person is responsible for anything. Only a brain is! Remember, Harris contends that a “person” is no more responsible for his thoughts and actions than he is for being born into this world (Landscape, 104). As it turns out, given the explanation of the human situation according to Sam Harris, ethics has nothing whatever to do with personal responsibility! Now, there is your ape morality! And mixing such absolute fiction with some sort of “moral guidance” direction for the further development of the human species cannot save it from its on self-destruction.

There are many more very serious mistakes made in the book, The Moral Landscape. But we will not go into the exposure of every wrong turn that Sam took in arriving at his current confusion and explanation regarding morality. Once we see how the foundation for the theory (that science can determine human values) is based on such ontological self-contradiction, we see that everything else to be discussed is peripheral and secondary.

The very idea of a self-styled ape trying to convince other alleged apes how to live is laughable. And while I do sympathize with Sam in his horror over evil done in the name of religion, I cannot sympathize with him in a solution that embodies such incoherence and self-contradiction. And who among us can accurately apprise the misery caused in this nation already over the pseudo-scientific advocacy of organic evolution in its expression of current immorality? Sam incoherently warns us against self-deception (Landscape, 163, 176), all the while assuring us that there is no actual ontological “self” to be deceived! Such confusion is no help in trying to contribute to a better world.

It Is Only My Brain Talking

He said to me that he is not here.
“Who is not here?” I replied.
“Me,” he said as if unaware
That his denial had just been denied!

“If you are not here,” my inquiry began,
“To whom shall I make my reply?”
Someone responded (and I’m not really sure who),
“Me,” without blinking an eye.

“But how can I talk to you when you’re not here?”
“It is merely my brain,” he said with a smile.
“But how can that be?” I asked in response.
He said, “It’s been that way all the while.”

“Your brain? I asked with a skeptical look.
How can that possibly be?
The brain cannot be ‘your’ brain at all
For you just told me that the brain had no ‘me!’”

“There is no ‘my’ brain,” I tried to point out,
Not sure that he at all apprehended.
“If you are not here, the brain is not ‘yours.’
Indeed, the brain is completely unattended.”

Posted in Apologetics, Christianity and Culture, Evolution

Aliens and Evolution (What Happens When Imaginary Green Men Get Credit for God’s Work)

By Weylan Deaver

Aliens are ingrained in our cultural psyche. They abound in books, movies, radio, and a thousand theories about the extra-terrestrial, little green men, UFO sightings, abductions, Area 51, and Roswell.

The year 1898 saw publication of H. G. Wells’ novel, War of the Worlds, which helped pioneer the concept of aliens (and aliens versus man). It was adapted in a 1938 radio broadcast which frightened many into believing aliens were invading America. H. G. Wells was an adoring student of Thomas Huxley, who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” due to his staunch defense of Charles Darwin’s theory of human origins.

If aliens are defined as physical creatures inhabiting other planets or galaxies, then they have no place in a worldview informed by the Bible. Angels and demons are treated as matter-of-fact realities in the Bible, but not as living in space. Stars are created by God (Gen. 1:16) and, though sophisticated instruments will only allow scientists to guess at their number, God knows the precise number of stars and has already named every one of them (Psalm 147:4). One thing the Bible never hints at is intelligent life in outer space.

However, aliens do go hand in glove with evolutionary theory. In his 2008 documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein chronicles extreme prejudice in academia against belief in intelligent design in the universe. At the movie’s end, Stein interviews Richard Dawkins, one of today’s leading advocates of atheism. Asked about the possibility of the world’s being intelligently designed, Dawkins replies:

“Well… it could come about in the following way: it could be that uh, at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved… by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto…perhaps this… this planet. Um, now that is a possibility. And uh, an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the um, at the detail…details of our chemistry molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”

In other words, even an atheist like Dawkins feels the pressure to admit the possibility of what to so many of us is painfully obvious: we are surrounded by intentional, intelligent design. So, with straight face, he posits as a serious suggestion that unidentified aliens, at an untold time, from undisclosed location, by an unknown method, “seeded” on earth a “form of life” they “designed.” Dawkins’ desperation is palpable, and a grasping at cosmic straws.

The debate may be shifting. Whereas atheists used to deny intelligent design in nature, at least some now seem willing to admit it, as long as the designer is anyone but God. What but an entrenched anti-God bias would produce a baseless assertion, such as Dawkins’ theory of intelligent design by aliens? Yet, some will doubtless view it as scientifically credible, since Dawkins said it, even though there is nothing scientific about it.

Scripture affirms the existence of Adam and angels, but not aliens. Rational, thinking beings that we are, there is no excuse for confusion about where we came from. Noting the inescapable evidence for God all around us, the apostle Paul writes that “the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Posted in Apologetics, Existence of God, Metaphysics

“Something” or “Nothing”?

The issue of “origin” as a concept has to begin somewhere. From whence did everything that is arrive? What is the source of all that we experience on earth? Ultimately, we are going to have to face two theoretical possibilities. Either there was a point at which there was “nothing,” or there has never been a point at which there was “nothing.” But before we go further, let us make sure that we are all on the same page regarding what nothing “is.” Look at those last quotation marks. They indicate that the very concept of “is” is opposed to the very concept of “nothing.” If we say that nothing is so and so, we are trying to give nothing some sort of ontological or “being” status, which by definition it simply cannot have. Nothing is not something. Nothing has no characteristics or qualities. Nothing is void of everything. It is the absence of anything and everything. It is the negation of all being. And by “being,” we mean existence at its most fundamental ontological level. If “nothing” were to be the absolute ultimate ontological condition at a given point, then we as men could not “think” it. As humans we cannot live with nothing and our minds are not equipped to even clearly grasp the meaning of the term we choose to describe as the absolute ontological contradiction to “being.” We have to think of “nothing” as a “something” even to bring it forward as a concept for discussion. Isn’t that amazing? And isn’t that insightful?

So, when we talk about “nothing” as a theoretical possibility regarding origin, we are having to intellectually squirm around in the effort to make sense of that which we are trying to describe. It is hard for a finite mind to get hold of the concept of nothing. It would do well for atheists to contemplate this point the next time they criticize the concept of eternal “something”. As humans we can only contemplate “nothing” as a topic from the background of the something that already impresses itself constantly on our minds. The backdrop of the discussion of “nothing” exists as a “something”. It cannot happen any other way. Since a human mind is certainly “something,” then we can only begin to attempt to fathom the concept of nothing via something, that is, our human minds. Minimally, the existence of at least the human mind is always the ontological presupposition to the discussion of “nothing”. Without our minds, there is no discussion, there is no issue, there is no controversy about the ultimate origin of all there is. So either “something” or “nothing” as the ultimate ontological explanation for all else is only relevant to a mind.

Now, just what does that insight tell us? It tells us that “nothing” can only be thought about by “something”! The approach to the topic of “nothing” can be made only by a mind. But a mind must exist before the concept can be thought. It is, then, impossible for “nothing” to be an intellectual category of existence all by itself. It can only exist in some sense as someone’s thought. If there were no thinker, then “nothing” could be thought or mentally produced as a concept. If there were no thinker, “nothing” could ever be known to be the ultimate ontological condition. If there were no thinker, “nothing” could never be discovered to be the ultimate ontological condition. “Nothing” as a concept only exists in a mind. Without a mind, there is no “nothing” to be thought or discussed. If “nothing” were (and without an eternal Mind) to be the ultimate ontological condition, then that “nothing” would have to continue as the ontological state. Out of nothing, nothing comes! That is, ontologically speaking, something cannot come from nothing! It is irrational to attempt to contradict that basic truth.

Think about it this way. Non-being cannot “be”. Non-being is not being. And not-being cannot be an existing ontological category that permits exploration or discovery as an existent category can. This means, then, that when in language we attempt to discuss the concept of “nothing,” that we can only do so by approximation. We can approximate the proposed ontological category of “nothing” only by language accommodation. But we can never actually get our minds around “absolute nothing,” because a mind can only think of “something”. That is the nature of thought. A thought cannot contain “nothing”!

Just as “something” is ontologically prior to “nothing” (as truth is to falsehood and as good is to evil), logically a mind is ontologically prior to the discussion of the possibility for any kind of “nothing”. That means that “something” is ontologically prior to “nothing”! “Nothing” as a category of thought or being only makes any sense either ontologically (in the totality of reality) or conceptually (in someone’s thought) with something already existing. Ontologically “nothing” can be isolated and in concept identified only against the background of “something”. It is, as already stated, like the concept of good or the concept of truth. “Evil” makes sense only on the ontological precondition of an existing good. And falsehood only makes sense on the precondition of an existing truth. Just so, “nothing” means nothing (that is, not anything at all) conceptually unless ontologically “something” exists with which it can be contrasted.

So, it is impossible for “nothing” to exist because “nothing” is “non-existence.” In one sense, to say that “nothing exists” is to say that nothing both exists and does not exist, which is a logical contradiction. This means that nothing cannot be anywhere located. It cannot be discovered because it cannot be found. It cannot be found because, by definition, it has no existence. If it has no existence, it has no accessibility to discovery. We talk about it only in some accommodative sense by an approximation in concept and then in language. Since one cannot discover “nothing,” he can only get close to it by altering the meaning of it. Since men cannot conceive of “absolute nothing,” we imagine a condition that is “almost nothing.” That is the best that we can do regarding the topic of origin. When we try to imagine a state of “absolute nothing,” we always fail. So, perhaps without thinking, we redefine the “almost nothing” that we imagined to be good enough to be the “absolute nothing” that is necessary in the discussion of origin as an alternative to an eternal “something”. So then, we should see that in our discussion of “nothing” and “something,” we cannot even discuss the contrast between the two without at the same time granting some sort of existence to the concept of “nothing” so that our minds can handle the discussion.

Now, think about the fact that if we could comprehend “nothing” (complete and universal non-existence absolutely) without accommodation and approximation, the concept itself could not have clear and precise definition. That is, it could not have clear meaning to us. Why? Because definition distinguishes something from something else. That is what definition does. By the fact that we can discuss “nothing” in some way that seems to make intellectual sense to us in the discussion of origin, we learn that it is being contrasted with “something” already. And I submit to you that the precondition or the backdrop or the contrast that makes the discussion of “nothing” a theoretical possibility in a way that is rationally intelligible is the existence of our minds. Our minds are always being the precondition or the “something” with which the “nothing” we seek to explore is held in contrast. “Nothing” is meaningful as a concept only because of “something” already being presupposed which presupposition is the human mind itself! This is the way that it is; this is the way that it always must be. We think at times that we are really grasping “nothing” because we try to imagine a blank or a void outside of our minds. But the mind itself is so constructed as to impose by its own nature conceptual limitations on our thinking. “Nothing” at minimal ontological reduction must be at least a concept or a thought we try to think or that is manufactured by our imagination, but we can never quite rid it of all content. Never!

To illustrate the impossibility of thinking of “nothing” without approximation (getting only close to its real meaning), let me offer a few items. Let us say that someone objects to our treatment of the topic and says that he can think of and describe, with absolute comprehension, the meaning of “nothing”. Let us say that our objector says that he thinks of “nothing” and can adequately describe it as a hollow or an empty place (void) or a place without form or color or shape. But you see, dear reader, that he is thinking about “nothing” from the viewpoint of “something”. The human mind is stuck right here in its capacity to conceptualize anything. We can only approximate the concept of “nothing”. We cannot grasp it accurately and certainly not comprehensively. We can only think in terms of “almost nothing”. This is as close as we can get! When the objector says that he thinks of “nothing” when he thinks of a hollow or an empty place, he is affirming “something” by which he means to be describing “nothing”!

Interestingly, the first definition in my dictionary of the word “nothing” is “something that does not exist.” And even the second definition, “NOTHINGNESS,” by the “-ness” on the end of the word suggests, somehow, “something” (see Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 577). That is, “nothing” is being considered as “something”. We cannot mentally get to the concept of “nothing” without identifying it as “something,” some state of affairs or condition or situation or location, etc. Now, isn’t that instructive? The human mind simply cannot get its arms completely around the concept of “nothing”. That means that when we attempt to think it or try to discuss it, we are doing so by means of some kind of conceptual and language accommodation, so that each of us knows what the others are meaning to say without anyone’s actually and precisely saying it when we refer to “nothing”. No human being can at one and the same time (1) exist and (2) claim accurately that “nothing” is possible of comprehension. The already existing mind cannot “get it”. We can only intellectually arrive at the border or the idea of the concept of it by thinking and speaking in terms of “almost nothing”. And that is as far as we can go. The bottom line is, then, that in the discussion of origin, we cannot even consider the idea of “nothing” without first presupposing “something”. By negation of “something,” we conceptually arrive at its opposite “nothing”. But that “nothing” cannot have complete meaning without the “something” that it opposes. To make this clear, let me offer the following. Let us identify the ways in which we can think of “something” and “nothing”. We can think of “something” in the following ways:

Possibilities for “Something

1. Something as only a concept (that is, it exists only in a mind).

2. Something as an actual ontological existent (that is, it exists also outside of the mind).

3. Something as only a word or sound (that is, there is no ontological referent for it even though the word can be written or spoken).

4. Something as an actual non-existent.

Number 1 can be illustrated by a 4,000 pound horse.

Number 2 can be illustrated by a real horse.

Number 3 can be illustrated by a unicorn.

Number 4 can be illustrated by a horse no longer alive and whose bones and flesh have been completely absorbed by nature.

Possibilities for “Nothing

1. Nothing as only a concept (that is, it exists only in a mind).

2. Nothing as an actual ontological existent (that is, it actually exists outside of the mind and without a mind).

3. Nothing as only a word or sound (that is, there is no ontological referent for it even though the word can be written or spoken).

4. Nothing as an actual non-existent.

Number 1 means that “nothing” is never outside the mind at all. There cannot be an “absolute nothing”.

Number 2 is a contradiction by definition. “Nothing” cannot be “something”.

Number 3 is actually a denial that “nothing” exists since it is only existing by a sound or a word that names it but gives it no ontological standing. We have a sign without a referent to which the sign points or for which the sign stands. “Nothing” is really simply a word or sound with no meaningful referent.

Number 4 is the meaning of “nothing” being attempted in the discussion of origin, but we arrive at the concept of “nothing” only by conceptual approximation.

Now why is this important to consider? It is important because it means then that, ultimately, there is no alternative to the eternal existence of “something”! Since out of nothing, nothing can come, and since the human mind can only approximate the condition of nothingness by the description that “almost nothing” exists, we are seeing and saying that “something” has always existed. And the very description that “almost nothing” exists becomes itself void of significance in the effort to identify theoretical possibilities in the discussion of ultimate origin. Why? Because we are affirming that “something” really does, after all, exist! And, ontologically speaking, that is the contradiction of the claim that “nothing” exists. In other words, to say that “almost nothing” exists is to say that “something” exists! So, to claim that “almost nothing” exists is not much of a claim, as it turns out, after all.

Think about the concept of improbability. If someone says that it is improbable that God exists, since the claim of improbability is the admission of the possibility of the contradictory, then whoever says that it is improbable that God exists is saying at the same time that God may exist after all! More strikingly, however, when someone says that it is possible that at a point “nothing” existed, since he can only approximate “nothing,” he is saying that at a point “almost nothing” existed, which implies, at that point, “something” existed after all!

Think about it this way. What if someone is discussing a box that he thinks has been emptied of all the apples in it. Suppose he says to a friend of his that the box is empty. Then suppose that his friend looks into the box and finds one remaining apple. Being shown this, the original claimant who said the box was empty now, in response, says that the box is “almost empty”. What does this mean? Obviously, if the box is only “almost empty,” then clearly it is not empty at all! Now to apply this easy illustration, when we find that the “ontological box” is almost empty (conceptually as we attempt to think about “nothing” as a category of inquiry and discussion), we are finding that the “ontological box” is not empty at all. “Something” is in it. But it looks like that something is barely in it. That is, the box looks to be almost empty or void of anything except this one lone, isolated apple.

Ah yes, it looks like there is a large encompassing atmosphere that envelops the one lone apple. The box is larger than is the apple within it.

And here is where the application of this illustration breaks down because the actual ontological condition cannot be that way. Why not? Because the ultimately identifiable “something” has no encompassing atmosphere that is larger than it is. If there is a larger encompassing something that is beyond what the already identified ultimate “something” is, then the “something” identified could not be the ultimate “something” possible! This reminds us, does it not, of Anselm’s correct insight regarding the ultimate Being as being that “greater than which cannot be conceived”. It is not merely coincidental that Scripture claims that God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15; cf. Psalm 90:2). Conceptually, that is not anything close to saying, for example, that God inhabits Georgia. What God inhabits cannot be properly conceptualized as being a place larger than the inhabitant. The nature of ultimate Being cannot be described that way.

The Bible claims, and the situation must ontologically obtain, that beyond time and beyond everything else that there could ever possibly be, something had to be already “in place” with the “place” not being something like geography (e.g. Georgia) but a condition beyond time and place. The ultimate something, whatever or who it is must be beyond time in the sense that everything in time is characterized by the property of merely enduring through moments or segments of durative existence. That is, everything in time is marked by time and must be in the process of passing away or passing out of time. I would describe time basically as the process of diminishing change. The ultimate something or existent must be beyond time. Too, the ultimate existent has to be beyond place in the sense that it must be its own place. When Scripture declares that God inhabits eternity, it is saying that God is his own residence! He simply cannot exist in a place that preceded him, and he could not possibly exist in a place that succeeded him! God is his own area or “place”. He, himself, constitutes the only location there is, at least before any creation occurs.

This means that ultimate Being is something beyond both time and place as we are forced to think about both concepts, because we can only think of time as it applies to things created (that is, finite things); we can only think of place as location always in some sense larger than any possible existing inhabitant. Interestingly, according to Scripture, there is a sense in which God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and he inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). God is the “I Am That I Am” (KJV) or the “I Am Because I Am” (ASV) per Exodus 3:14 in that he is not an effect but the eternally existing Being whose being is explainable only in terms of its own and only ontological self-sufficiency. The reason for God is God. As Aquinas taught us, his essence simply is “to be”. In one sense, it sounds so strange, but when the finite mind begins to explore the nature of reality, the absolute essentiality of such an ultimate essence is found to be not simply a possibility but an essentiality. So, again, God is beyond time and he was, since he was outside of time, the only “location” before creation.

Following creation, all of creation must be “in him”. This is why Paul can tell the philosophers in Athens that men live “in God” (Acts 17:28). The whole creation is a different sort of thing (by the nature of any created thing) from the Creator himself. All of creation must be “in God” in that God is greater than any and all of what he makes. The effect cannot be greater than the Cause. To revert to our “almost empty basket” illustration earlier, we see that God is not simply the lone apple left in the basket that shows that the basket is only “almost empty”. Rather he is the essential and necessary “basket” that contains any and all apples that can exist. So, as it turns out, the “something” that is implied by the “almost nothing” is, in fact, not merely a lone “something” that means that the basket is barely occupied, but rather the “something” turns out to be the necessary Lone Something—or God—that is able to contain everything else that ever there is or could be.

Now, what if someone grants the contention that it is really impossible, after all, for the human mind to completely comprehend the concept of ontological “nothingness,” but then registers the objection that such is irrelevant in the discussion of origin since the human mind cannot fathom the concept of eternity either. Suppose a skeptic says, for example, that the impossibility of complete comprehension of the idea of “nothingness” is not important to the discussion anyway, since the concept of eternity is equally off limits to human comprehension. Let us explore this possible objection and see if there is some merit to it.

When someone says that the concept of an eternal something (God) is just as hard to intellectually grasp as is the concept of an ontological “nothing,” we would suggest that since we humans are here to look at the topic of origin, something is certainly existing now. We must begin the exploration of the nature of the origin of our universe by virtue of the fact that something is already in place. The “something” and all the “somethings” that are present display their nature to be finite (limited) and contingent (dependent) effects without efficient cause and without sufficient reason from within themselves to explain themselves.

It is an obvious feature of our universe with its component parts, that the items that when combined constitute that universe are such as to cry out to us that they cannot explain themselves and they cannot cause themselves. The idea of something’s causing itself is a contradiction in terms. “X” cannot cause itself to exist because if “X” is the cause, it already exists before its effect does, and if “X” is the effect, it cannot be the effect of “X” that does not exist previously. It is irrational to suggest that anything can cause itself! It is an impossible situation that amounts to a claim for an ontological contradiction which is absurd. Well, if it is impossible for anything to cause itself, what about the possibility of something’s being the reason for itself? Those who study philosophy may be familiar with the principle of efficient causality and with the principle of sufficient reason. These are two different principles of tremendous worth. And both of them cover the existence of everything that there is! The principle of efficient causality covers everything that is an effect (which is everything but God). The principle of sufficient reason covers everything including God.

No man thinking correctly can say that (1) he caused himself to exist or that (2) he has the sufficient reason or explanation for himself within himself. Every man, if he thinks about the matter at all, surely realizes that the explanation for himself lies outside of himself and the cause for himself is outside of himself. And such is characteristic of every particle of this physical universe! The efficient cause and the sufficient reason for everything within the universe and the universe itself is outside of itself. That is the very nature of the essence of physicality. And even regarding the mind of man, by self-reflection, each of us can know that (1) he did not cause his mind to exist (since it is a contradiction to claim that a mind caused itself to exist) and (2) the sufficient reason for the existence of his mind within his body indicates that the sufficiency for the arrangement is not within the arrangement itself. It has to come somehow from the outside. Each of us would begin to explore the cause and the reason for ourselves by taking the first step and claiming that our parents are our efficient cause even if they cannot be the sufficient reason for us. According to Scripture, all men have a heritage of efficient cause all the way back to Adam and then to God who is the ultimate efficient cause and sufficient reason for the existence of everything outside of himself.

Every “something” in the universe, or the universe as a “something” considered as one entity, indicates its complete ontological inadequacy in explaining itself or being the reason for itself or in being the cause of itself. Every feature of our world points to a “something” that must exist and not by causing itself (which as we have seen is a contradiction in terms) but which must have the reason for itself within itself. But a mindless “it” or a simple piece of matter has no capacity to be its own explanation or reason, as we see in looking at our universe and all that composes it. The ultimate principle of the universe cannot be just an “it” or an “It” or an “IT”. All of the “its” as a category are effects at best of something that is not. The essence of the ultimate Being has to be greater than everything that composes a part of our universe and greater than the universe as a whole.

The ultimate “something” or “Something” has to be this way! God has the reason for himself within himself. He does not cause himself because such is impossible and also because he is no effect. But he does and must have within his own essence the essential claim on existence. And all effects must be less that all causes. And the total effect of creation must be less, in some sense, than the ultimate Creator. Aquinas taught us that God’s essence is to exist. Now, we may not be able to completely fathom such an essence, but we can fathom the necessity of such an essence when we are considering how it is possible for anything now to exist at all.

So, let us look at our two possibilities as we think about the origin of our universe. Everything is the result finally of either (1) “nothing” or (2) “something”. Now, it is correct to say that it is hard for a human and finite mind to comprehend an “eternal something”. But the “eternal something” is implied by every “finite something” that exists. The fact that it is hard for a finite mind to comprehend an infinite and “eternal something” ought to make us humble, reverent, and submissive while admitting to ourselves that it is impossible for us to completely grasp the nature of divine essentiality. But what we do know is that while we cannot grasp the nature of essentiality (and thus the sufficient reason for God’s infinite eternality), we can grasp the necessary nature of that existence as an explanation for whoever it is that causes everything else to exist. The first cause must be his own explanation. It simply has to be this way. And this is what the Bible means in affirming God!

It is true that we cannot fathom completely the concept of “nothing”. We can know, however, that “nothing” cannot be the ultimate cause of anything. And “nothing” cannot explain anything. We can approximate the category of “nothing” only by looking at it against the background of “something”. In fact, “nothing” is always being considered “something” as we try to imagine it. It is also true that as we talk about the eternal God as the ultimate cause of everything outside of himself and as the sufficient reason for himself, that we are claiming something that we cannot completely comprehend.

However, the two situations are not parallel in that—

1. “Nothing” can ever be the cause or the explanation for anything, period!

2. “Something” necessarily or essentially existed forever in order for something to exist even temporarily today.

3. The incapacity of the human mind to grapple completely with the concept of “nothing” only indicates the necessary background of “something” as the precondition for the discussion of “nothing” anyway.

4. We cannot know “nothing” as such, and we cannot know the essence of essential existence that must characterize the ultimate cause of the universe.

5. But we do know that since out of “nothing,” nothing comes, and that since “something” has come, then the “ultimate Something” somehow carries his own eternal ontological credentials for himself within himself. It cannot be any other way.

In the 1976 Warren-Flew debate on the existence of God, Warren said that an atheist cannot disprove the existence of God by appealing only to the concept of God (see p. 54 of The Warren-Flew Debate). Rather, Warren said that the attempt at disproof would necessarily entail not only the concept of God (which concept by itself is coherent), but such would entail combining the coherent concept with some empirical fact which supposedly contradicts the concept. This is what is involved when atheists attempt to disprove God by the so-called “problem of evil”.

So, according to Warren (and this was never denied by the atheist Flew in the debate), the coherent concept of God plus some empirical fact alleged to be contradictory of the concept would be required to attempt to disprove theism and to establish the claim of atheism.

Now, what have we been saying in this article? We have been saying, in effect, that the concept of “nothing” is really an incoherent concept at best. We simply cannot make sense of “absolute nothingness”. The state or condition or situation of any proposed “absolute nothingness” is an incoherent concept in and of itself! It only becomes intelligible by making it “almost nothing” against the backdrop of a “something”. By itself the concept of “nothing” or “nothingness” can never rationally be suggested as an alternative to the necessity of creation. The concept of “God” is a coherent one, and the atheist Antony Flew did not deny such. But the concept of “absolute nothingness” is not even coherent! In the Warren-Flew debate, Flew suggested in his rejoinder on Monday night, “It seems to me that someone could perfectly consistently be an atheist and believe that the universe is going as a matter of fact to have an end, or believe that it had had a beginning but was not going to have an end. However, I am myself inclined to believe that matter is without end and without beginning. But I do not see why as an atheist I have got to” (ibid., p. 65).

Thus, as an atheist Flew wrongly accepted the irrational notion that (1) “something” can come from “nothing,” while at the same time wrongly accepting the view that (2) matter is eternal. But Flew also conceded correctly that the concept of God by itself is coherent! Warren exposed Flew for accepting the self-contradictory view from Strato of Greece, called the “stratonician presumption,” which claims that “everything there is is a product of nature” (ibid., p. 170f.), which if true would mean, as Warren pointed out, that nature produced itself (now who can possibly actually believe that when he understands what it means?) and he told Flew that he needed to get on with the business of attempting to prove the eternality of matter (p. 187)! Warren used the Second Law of Thermodynamics in physics to show that the claim that matter is eternal is false (ibid.).

Finally, if the concept of “God” is coherent, and if the concept of “nothing” is incoherent, and if the attempt at disproving God must entail not only the coherent concept of “God” but an empirical fact judged to be contradictory to the concept, then what can we finally say about the concept of “nothing” plus some empirical fact? Notice that the incoherent concept of “absolute nothing” plus any empirical fact, means that “something” exists! Why? Because the empirical fact exists alongside the incoherent concept of “nothing”.

So, the concept of “God” plus some empirical fact is what is necessarily attempted by atheists to disprove God when they use the so-called “problem of evil,” but no facts can disprove God, because all facts ultimately demand God for ultimate explanation! As Professor Warren used to teach us, “if one thing exists, then God exists. If the one thing that exists is God, then God exists, and if the one thing that exists is not God, then it requires God for its existence”. And the incoherent concept of “nothing” plus some empirical fact proves “something” rather than “nothing” exists because the empirical fact is “something”.

It is impossible, then, to build a rational case for atheism either by the alleged eternality of matter or by “something” coming from “nothing”. There is no room in the discussion of ultimate explanation of the origin of anything, rationally speaking, for claiming anything other than God!

Posted in Apologetics, Books, Reviews

God’s Undertaker (Book Review)

By Weylan Deaver

Richard Dawkins, irascible critic of the Creator, says “I am utterly fed up with the respect we have been brainwashed into bestowing upon religion” (p. 8). He would like nothing better than to banish theism and religion to the ash heap of historically bad ideas. But, has science buried God? That question is the subtitle of God’s Undertaker, a Lion Hudson book penned by John C. Lennox. With three doctorates, Lennox is a mathematics professor at Oxford and a philosopher of science at Green Templeton College. His twelve chapters are a volley of withering fire against pseudo-science masquerading as the real thing.

Is a Dawkins an atheist because of the evidence, or because of a worldview, not founded on science, which he carries with him to the microscope? Lennox’s thesis is that real science actually points toward an intelligent Designer. That some scientists are so vehemently opposed to God speaks more to their unscientific prejudice and presuppositions than it says about God. The degree of atheistic animosity toward theism is itself a curiosity to Lennox, begging investigation why, if God were fiction, anyone should hate Him so. Lennox gives the much needed reminders that “Statements by scientists are not necessarily statements of science” (p. 19) and “you cannot deduce a worldview from a science” (p. 121). Worldviews are not mixed in a test tube; they originate outside science, but end up influencing the conclusions of scientists.

Lennox claims the biblical worldview, grounded in the ancient Hebrews’ concept of a single, omnipotent Creator has done more to advance science than any contribution from the ancient Greeks. Far from stopping scientific investigation, it was belief in an orderly universe created by God which initially propelled the discipline. Theism gave science its beginning; atheism gives science a black eye.

Lennox takes evolutionary theory to task, pointing out there is an “edge to evolution,” beyond which it cannot go. This is why small changes within species are observed (i.e. microevolution), but evolution across species (macroevolution) has never been observed, much less duplicated by science. Gaps in the fossil record tell an embarrassing tale too often buried as science’s dirty secret.

Further, as science is able to see increasingly on a microscopic level, it is becoming more difficult to argue against design in the universe. Lennox discusses the marvel of DNA from a scientific and mathematic perspective, adding up facts that make it impossible for life to have arisen on the basis of mindless chance. And, as information theory begins to blossom, he draws a striking point on the biblical teaching that, prior to the incarnation, Jesus existed as the “Word” of God. Information is real, but not physical. And there is nothing anti-science in recognizing divinely-put information in a cell, which gives design to an organism (especially when evidence points to the impossibility of its being undesigned).

Rejecting the popular concept that faith is not evidence-based, Lennox gives a cutting edge, refresher course on why we need not bow to brash scientists who overreach into metaphysics and stake claims far too weighty for science to bear. The last chapter is a devastating critique of David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher who did much to destroy belief in biblical miracles.

Lennox is an engaging writer, pulling the rug from under atheism with true British courtesy. But his kindness does not disguise the tatters in which he leaves materialism. His final two sentences are worth the book’s price: “Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second” (p. 210).

[This review was originally published in the April 2011 issue of Sufficient Evidence (pp. 56-58), the journal of the Warren Christian Apologetics Center.]