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, 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, 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, Epistemology, Existence of God, Metaphysics

The Impoverishment of Atheism

The Bible plainly teaches that the evidence for the existence of God is so plain and available that a man is a fool who reaches the conclusion that God does not exist (Psa. 19:1-4; Acts 14:17; Psa. 14:1; 53:1). Whether or not this man ever expresses his conviction to anyone else is irrelevant to his own miserable condition. If he says to himself that God does not exist, then the God who wrote the Bible declares this man a fool.

And yet some who reach the unenviable position of such irrational foolhardiness evidently, because of the way that they advocate their conclusion to others, think that there is some positive benefit to be had by subscribing to it. It is one thing to see in atheism only a curse. It is another thing to think that atheism somehow is a blessing. It would seem that depressed atheists would be more open to persuasion to the opposite viewpoint since it would lift their spirits. On the other hand, atheists who revel in skepticism would seem harder to convince that their doctrine is absurd.

Just here I want to make a few brief observations that indicate the absolute worthlessness of atheism. It has no value. It is not simply that it has a little of something good to offer; it has nothing. It is not simply a negative view that is wholly innocent in its nature, but it is seriously destructive in its complete makeup. And when men begin to publicly advance it not only as possibly helpful but as absolutely essential to human improvement and happiness on earth, the perverted use of such nonsense needs to be exposed.

The points that I will make will not be elaborated. They will simply be observed with but few comments, but the points are worthy of much consideration.

First, atheism provides no meaning or purpose to human living. Philosophers have throughout human history been wrestling with the problem of what life is all about. Atheism has absolutely no contribution to make. It is stuck between two impossible intellectual commitments: no Mind is responsible for our existence or that of anything whatever that exists. And at the other end of the spectrum, there is no destiny of the human spirit, because no human spirit exists either! So, everything is meaningless. When the searching spirit cries out for meaning, atheism at best can provide only a temporary fix. It has no answer, because there is no answer except that human life has no meaning.

Two, atheism provides no rational explanation for anything. All is the “product” of fluke, chance, and an impossible ontological situation. Not only is it the case that “out of nothing something comes,” but rather that “out of nothing everything comes!” Somehow, nothing is the grand ultimate provider of something. Philosophically, atheism is bankrupt!

Three, atheism has no explanation for the currently operative “laws of thought.” These “laws” that regulate all of human thinking have been discovered, isolated, and described. The law of identity, the law of excluded middle, and the law of contradiction provide the intellectual capacity for human thought. And the essential thing is, that each law was in operation in every accountable human mind before any one of them was located. It is impossible to think without them, and you can only attack them or deny them by using them! Add to these, the “law of rationality” (the law which says that we ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence) and you have the basic mental framework for the whole of intellectual activity on earth. To deny them is to affirm them and to assail them is to use them! What is the explanation for such an arrangement that makes it rationally impossible to be irrational? Atheism has no answer, because it grounds all mental framework in mindless matter!

Four, atheism has no answer to the question of the origin of the human conscience. The conscience is that intellectual apparatus and feature of human personality that intuits moral law. It is that by which a man is able to grasp a moral distinction between “right” and “wrong.” The significance of right and wrong, to the human, is poised at the position of his conscience. If conscience can’t grasp it, the person cannot become morally accountable. To deny the existence and nature of conscience would be to deny human capacity to enter the domain of the moral. To admit the domain of absolute good and absolute evil is to admit the existence of the conscience. And to deny the absoluteness of moral right and of moral evil is to admit that nothing is wrong in any meaningful sense! And yet, no atheist wants to live in a world where everything is considered morally subjective, at least when it comes to how he himself should be treated!

Five, since atheism is a system that can only allow for subjective ethics, then it can provide absolutely no help in describing the way that humans ought to live. In fact, there is no “ought” to be sought; there is no moral obligation with which men should comply. Everything is “up for grabs.” It is “each man for himself,” in a “dog eat dog” world where no man’s opinion is worth any more than any other man’s opinion as far as an opinion’s capacity to reach the level of moral authority is concerned. An atheist cannot tell anyone how to live or the best way to live, given his atheism as the basis for his suggestion. He can only tell you how he wants you to live. Some atheists think that they can tell what makes for happier people and so ground their ethical suggestions on the metaphysical conclusion that a person should so live as to become the happiest by his course of living. Others might think that a person should so live as to make others happy or to make the greatest number happy. But this is a conclusion not based on atheism, and a conclusion that cannot be discovered as it oozes up out of the mud. A man might follow a course that makes him happy (at least to some degree), but whether or not such basis can be “the” basis of a planned life cannot be grounded in atheism.

Six, since atheism is reduced to the practice of living without meaning, it assails the dignity of man. Man has a nature, and it is complex. According to Scripture, man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. According to atheism, man is not composed. He is only body. His total makeup is like that of a pig. His brain somehow is more highly developed, but again this is all according to chance occurrence and the mindless program of organic evolution. But in the end, whether one has a man’s brain or a pig’s brain, a brain is a brain. And according to nature, there is no value to a man in principle that cannot at the same time be ascribed to a pig. We are all bound for death and that will end us all. Five dollars is, numerically speaking, greater than one dollar. But all dollars are still only dollars. The Bible teaches us of our kinship to God. That is what explains our rationality and our conscience and our purpose and meaning. Man, because of God, has value and dignity. Atheism attacks God and so attacks man. Even atheists who attempt to suggest a kind of ethical program in the hope of helping man, do so under the illusion that they are actually helping. Alcohol producers warn us to “drink responsibly” while producing the product that enslaves and destroys. When misguided atheists write books to help us live better, they do not realize what they are doing.

Seven, atheism cannot explain the continuing order of the universe. How is it that there continues to be an atmosphere in which even an atheist can live and move and have his being? Why does the world continue to exist? Why are the “laws” that science seeks to discover and explain constant as regulators of the affairs of this universe? How can science itself as a legitimate field or category of inquiry continue? It is because that certain “laws” are stable and regulative. And these laws continue. How could mindless matter give rise to the development of the scientific laws over the millions of years of suggested evolutionary development? How could chaos give rise to order and mud to mind given the evolutionary view of things? And how could things get “fixed” and settled as ongoing principles or laws of operation? What gives such laws any ontological status in the first place, to say nothing of why they continue, in the second? Atheism again has only the irrational mutterings of a man on philosophical dope. The management of the universe is as foreign to any offered atheistic explanation as is the origin of it!

Eight, atheism has no contribution to make to philosophy of history. Why has history gone the way that it has? Since atheism cannot explain anything, it certainly cannot explain why the course of human history has taken the form that it has. Of course, human history is a broad and complex field for human analysis, but there are certain principles that explain it to some degree. The progress of nations has always historically been based on whether or not the inhabitants followed the dictate provided in Genesis 1:28. Unless there was for some reason the need for personal divine penetration into human affairs, the side of history (progress in advancement in time) has always been on the side of the country or countries whose citizenry attempted to “subdue” the earth. Too, human character has played a part. Righteousness and sin still effect historical development. The rise and fall of nations entails the application of this truth (cf. Psa. 127:1; Prov. 14:34). And of course, according to Scripture, the overall outline of human history has involved God’s management of human affairs so that men can be saved (Rom. 9-11). If atheism has made a contribution to human history, it is only by means of its impediment to its advancement.

Nine, atheism doesn’t know what to do about truth! Truth as a concept is both metaphysical and eternal. It is not meshed into empirical facts but resides in an atmosphere of eternity and is attached to the person of God himself. No God, no ultimate truth! If atheists are correct, truth is of very recent origin. Facts have to do with events and states of affairs, with things that happen. Truth has to do with propositions. We can illustrate this way: It is a fact that George Washington was the first president of the United States. The statement that “George Washington was the first president of the United States” is true. This is basically the difference between a fact and truth. The concept of “truth” has to do with accuracy with regard to a claim. Fact has to do with what has occurred or exists in a non-propositional way. Given evolution, truth evolved about six to ten thousand years ago. When man first began to think, truth was created! If I were an atheist, I would spend more time on an explanation for the most recent arrival of “truth” on earth than with obsessing over a relatively “young earth” claimed by some religionists. Truth is a human invention, per atheism. And its value is simply that which humans choose to invest in it! Nothing more! This is why there can never be moral obligation for any man to become an atheist!

Ten, atheism provides no sufficient motivation to what it may consider human progress in morality. When atheists write books that attempt to give moral guidelines to other humans, since men are the highest species yet evolutionarily developed, then man is, in fact, the measure of all things. Shades of the Greek sophist, Protagoras! I would ask, however, which man is the measure of all things? Since all men can’t have their way all the time and live in human society, then who should get to have his way? There is no way for an atheist to prove that one atheistic road is better, morally speaking, than another. If one atheist chooses communism and another humanism, which atheist has the higher ground of authority? At one moment, it could be the one with the gun! At another moment, it might be that the better road (one with greater social appeal) was the one being suggested by the atheist without the gun. But since there is no metaphysical basis for any atheistic authority whatever, the claimant for the “better” moral road is without any evidence! At any given moment in history, either the communist or the humanist might have a message of enormous appeal, given the existing social conditions of the time, but neither kind of atheist could produce rational proof that one kind of atheism is better than another kind at all, ever!

Eleven, atheism has no way to provide for justice. Some atheists, no doubt, would be quite willing to cite the crimes of religion against mankind. And we would have to admit that the history of religion on earth has not always been pleasant to consider. There has been much evil perpetrated on people by religion. But not all religion is right. There is much wrong religion. There are many religions. And there is little right religion being practiced. Truth on earth has been rarely found and more rarely practiced. The religion of the Bible, however, does provide for ultimate justice in that it has a doctrine of accountability and justice. Men do in this life often “get away with murder.” But it is at best only temporary, according to Scripture, for a judgment day is coming. With atheism, however, all of the injustice that men get away with on earth, they get away with, period! Atheism cannot produce nor intellectually defend a system of justice.

Twelve, atheism has no way of really offering any meaningful hope to mankind. Some atheists do see themselves as men trying to “better” the human condition, and they do plan and hope for a “better” life on earth. But, in the final analysis, there is no basis for their suggested improvement and no reason to hope that things will, after all, get “better” for man in any really meaningful sense. And the “better” that they envision, they themselves realize is only “better” for a mere moment. It is true that the best religion can degenerate into awful and oppressive false religion. But atheism in spite of its—at times—“humane” motivation, cannot rise far above its basic evolutionary barbarity. The religion of Christ has been often perverted into enormous religious persecution, it is true, but such is the result of falling away from the truth. When atheism is practiced, however, the Godlessness that it advances undercuts any alleged attempt at making things better on earth. Better for whom? For how long? Even if it tries to make things “better” for all men, it can only attempt to make things better but for a moment. There is no lasting hope to atheism! And remember, there are no atheists after death. If atheism were true, then no atheist could survive death. He would no longer exist. But if atheism were wrong, then an atheist must become a theist when he dies! So, there can only be atheists now—not later. Atheism can only at best be of temporary function. It is no accident of association that atheism and degeneration are conceptually snug.

Thirteen, atheism has no way of satisfying the human spirit to the degree that God desires and to the degree that the properly functioning human spirit desires as well. Consider Isaiah 55:2; John 6:27; Acts 17:27; Matthew 5:6; Matthew 4:4. According to Scripture, man’s spirit flourishes on a certain kind of spiritual diet. And atheism simply cannot satisfy the hunger! The sad thing is that some atheists are still hungry, but they are attempting to fill their bellies with the husks that the swine did eat (cf. Luke 15:16). Some tasks can be performed on such food, but great work cannot be attempted, much less accomplished, on such diet. There is still a “balm in Gilead” and a physician is still there (cf. Jer. 8:22; Matt. 9:12; Luke 4:23). It is a shame when men die of a condition that was operable simply because they refused the doctor and his counsel. And how sad that hungry men will not fill up on that which alone can fill.

Atheism is a poverty stricken viewpoint of long and miserable history. There is no defense for it, there is no improvement by it (only in spite of it), and there is absolutely no future in it. It assails human nature, the nature of truth, the nature of value, the nature of explanation, the meaning or purpose of human life on earth, human morality, and human rationality. It attacks all of these things, and yet some atheists would have us look upon their impoverished offering as helpful insights into the way things really are. How utterly misguided any atheist must be! While we love the atheist, we despise his doctrine. With David of old, we too, declare that we hate every false way, and certainly atheism is a false concept. It is an impoverished concept, and the life it really does undergird is a sad and dangerous way.

Posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Existence of God, Metaphysics

Reflections on Mind and God (A Brief Essay Exploring What an Analysis of Our Minds Tells Us)

Humans are in a position, but not a predicament. We are somehow poised in an ontological setting which makes sense if we use sense in evaluating it. By “sense” I do not mean physical impressions, but metaphysical or mind impressions. In other words, if we use judgment, then that to which my mind applies seems rational. There has to be some rational explanation for the fact of the coherence of the physical universe and for the fact of the relationship that exists between the physical universe and my consciousness of it. There has to be some explanation for the fact that I can reason about the universe and that I can reason about reason. Human reason is an element of reality that must be accounted for in its relationship to all other reality. By the use of my mind the only explanation possible for myself and for everything else that I consider in the universe can only be a rational one. Even if I finally decide that the ultimate explanation for everything is a physical explanation (as a final cause), I can only come to this conclusion by the use of my mind. It is in this sense that all of my explanations must be rational. But if all of my explanations must be rational (by the employment of mind and reason), then how could it possibly be the case that the final cause could somehow be less than mind and less than reason?

In other words, how is it possible on the one hand that my explanation for the existence of everything must be rational, but that the final explanation as a cause could only rise to a level less than the nature of my own explanation? Can the final explanation as cause possibly be less in its essence than the partial explanation provided by a person living on this earth? If my explanations as an observer inside the universe can only be rational ones (since I arrive at them solely and essentially by the employment of my mind), then how would it be possible for the ultimate explanation of the universe from the outside be a non-rational one? By the “principle of sufficient reason,” we know that there is an adequate or sufficient reason for everything. But how could the ultimate explanation for the universe be sufficient if it is deficient in essence to explain “rational explanation” that exists on earth?

Rocks are not reasons, and they are not impressionable entities. We humans are characterized by reason, and we are very impressionable. Consciousness makes this possible. And even though animals are impressionable because of their own level of consciousness, we humans are aware of our consciousness, and we can reflect on it. We can reason about it in a way that escapes all levels of life below the human strata. Let us briefly and only lightly explore the human mind and see what we see in ourselves and what, if anything, it tells us about God.

Let us begin with exploring what my mind tells me about me. First of all, (1) it tells me that I am a superior kind of being to anything that does not have mind. Any normal human values himself above anything less than human. And most people (and all people who are thinking correctly) value all other people above anything less than human. Even atheistic humanists consider human beings as the ultimate expression of reality on earth. So, at first base, we realize that my mind informs me that I have standing or a certain position in the universe. I have value. It is true that many times some humans act out of harmony with this truth. But their failure to live in the light of this truth cannot and does not destroy it. A man may become so enamored with money that he disregards some humans in the attainment of it. He disvalues certain humans because they stand in the way of his acquiring more of that which he overvalues. However, if he finally is called upon to surrender riches or face certain death, he will let the money go to save his life. Truth finally is realized in his desperate moment. Some animal rights activists seem to be willing on occasion to kill a man in order to spare an animal, but again, if they are called on to surrender the animal unto death in order to save their own lives, truth again surfaces in their minds as to what is the more valuable. But even if we found one of them willing to die to save a mere animal, surely he would, if called upon to choose life for an animal or his child, he would save his child. No one on earth would commend him for sacrificing his child in order to save a brute. According to Scripture any person who would save the brute and sacrifice the child would be devoid of “natural affection” (cf. Rom. 1:31). False philosophical concepts regarding the place of man and animal in the universe cannot be consistently applied to reality.

Second, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (2) it tells me that I am somewhat complex. Why do I say this? As I reflect on me, I understand that I am thinking about myself. As a person, not only do I have the capacity to focus on something outside of and other than me, but I can turn the intellectual microscope my way and examine myself through it. In fact, there is something altogether different about self-analysis in this regard. When I look at you, I consider you as an empirical being. I see your body and see by the movement of your body that there is someone animating it. And even if I see your corpse at the funeral home, I see an empirical body from which you have gone. And it is true that in the evaluation of myself, I can certainly look at my body and think about my body as well as about my mind. But there is also this very precious, private, intimate look that I can take into myself that is a self-reflection that is not directed by any exploration of my body. I can look inwardly and deeply into my own spirit or self or core of my existence and think about me as an independent and responsible agent, someone accountable for thoughts that are his own and actions that are his own. This inward look that I am taking is my own “look” at myself. I can examine myself and you can examine yourself in a personal and private and penetrating way that is not possible to someone outside ourselves (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11).

The complexity of my nature is further seen in the fact that while I realize that self-analysis is pursued by reason, reason finds other things than reason within me. Not only do I reason about reason, but I reason about sensation. Why is it that I like to see certain things? Why is it that certain foods taste good? Certain things smell good? Certain things feel good? Certain things sound good? How can a world of physical beauty make an appeal to me? So, I can reflect on mind, I can reflect on body, and I can even reflect on the combination of sensation and thought as they are combined in my human experience. I “feel” comfortable and good after a fine meal. Not only is the belly satisfied because of food within, but the spirit has been affected and is satisfied because of its connection to the body without. The spirit has an improved sense of well-being and is content because of its connection to and association with a physical body that demands food for its continuation.

Further, I find myself reasoning about my emotion or my non-physical feelings. Here I am thinking about feeling within my mind. I am thinking about my mental states or psychological conditions in which my mind resides. Think about the various moods that we experience in our spirit in the course of a day. We may pass through the feeling of happiness, contentment, sadness, anger, indignation, gratitude, resentment, jealousy, guilt, humility, etc.

Third, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (3) it tells me that though I am in a sense confined to my body, there is a peculiar sense in which I can extend myself beyond my body. Paul informs us that the divinely constructed limitation of time and space to human beings on the earth is designed so that man will search for God (Acts 17:26-28). But even though we are all limited in time and space, my mind is able to carry me beyond my body and outside my own moment of existence. How can it do this? It is the nature of spirit which entails the nature of thought that makes such a thing possible. My mind simply is not “fixed” to the reality of space and time as my physical body is. The connections are not the same.

For example, my mind is constantly thinking about things that exist outside my mind and outside my body. A lot—if not most—of our thinking, though done by ourselves, is not about ourselves. So, the limitation of my space (my mind being inside my body) does not prevent me from going to other places in thought. I can think of the house down the street, or the next county that joins my county. I can think of other cities, countries, other people that occupy other spaces, etc. I am all the time thinking about things that exist outside of myself. My own body cannot contain myself in this regard. The body gives way to the spirit’s expression of itself as it explores the universe.

And it is the same in regard to time. My body simply cannot contain my mind when it comes to time. While I am still here in my body, my mind still travels to the distant past. I can even contemplate the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1. I know that I can mentally visit, not simply a prior moment to the present, but I can study the very distant past. And I can even project myself by imagination into the future and think about the things that are to come or the things that I hope will come and even the things that I know will not there occur. And I can reason about the future fulfillment of promises made to me, the fulfillment of which is to take place at some point beyond now. And I can even step beyond time in the sense that I can attempt to contemplate the very meaning of “eternity.”

And the thing is, I do not need a “vision” or miraculous “dream” in order to leave space and time. My mind allows me to do this all the time. And even when I am dreaming in my sleep, I somehow enter a domain that seems to border reality with unreality, another kind of dimension where in my unconsciousness my mind still is active, outside of personal consciousness.

Fourth, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (4) it tells me that in description, language is the key to clarity. When awake, my mind is essentially operative. However, it can take in more than it wants or needs. It can speedily scan so many images. But when it focuses so as to describe anything that it has experienced, it articulates the experienced event by language. Language is necessary to precisely describe what the mind contains. It is amazing that while I can (1) think or comprehend by images or pictures of things, (2) when I tell myself about them rather than simply to remember the picture or image, I use language to do that. Language advances insight.

Fifth, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (5) I see that my memory is the key to my intelligence or rationality. What we call “memory” is the mind’s enduring quality of visiting the impressions made on it. It is so necessary to intelligence and essential to communication that without it we could not make sense of ourselves to ourselves or to other minds. For example, I can only meaningfully talk to you if I remember each word in the sentence that I speak as I continue to add other words to the sentence. As I construct a sentence to deliver to you, I must remember each word and then its connection to each subsequent word in order to know of the meaning of the sentence that I am speaking. And if you do not remember each word as other words are “tacked on to it” in the sentence, you cannot possibly understand what I am trying to say. Memory is that fundamental.

Sixth, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (6) it assures me that I exist. Of course, the Bible speaks of “the inward man” (2 Cor. 4:16), “the hidden man of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:4), and even compartmentalizes us into “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23). Paul once used a rare expression in saying, “I verily thought with myself” (Acts 26:9).

I must confess that I am the one writing this article. Technically grammatically correct, it is I, but, more familiarly, it is me. Who is it that holds memory? Who is it forming these words in mind and typing them out on computer? Who is thinking this through? Thoughts don’t think; thinkers think. Thinkers think thoughts. But just here a curious skepticism has arisen.

The famous (or notorious) Scottish skeptic, David Hume, alleged that he could never find himself without a thought. He concluded that he, therefore, could not know absolutely that he, David Hume, actually existed. But how in the world could Mr. Hume analyze his thoughts without comprehending that thoughts don’t think. Minds do! Thoughts are not the agents; they are the instruments. An agent or source has to produce the thought. As already mentioned, thoughts are not simply “non-connected” abstractions hanging out there somewhere in the universe. If they were, we could simply search for them and collect them as we do butterflies. Only minds have thoughts. Only minds that are somehow like God’s mind can produce thoughts but then can think about them. Men can think about thoughts. Incredible! Somehow we have the extraordinary capacity to focus thought on thought itself. That is absolutely amazing. And when we focus on thought, we can see that every thought is (1) meaningful or intelligible in some sense, (2) a production of a mind, (3) a minimal part of a coherent scheme of things called “rationality,” and (4) an essence completely distinct from all matter.

Just here let us observe that the profundity of these truths admits also a very obvious simplicity. We do not deny the existence of “love” simply because we cannot analyze it in a laboratory. We do not give up the concept of “justice” simply because it is not empirically verifiable. “Mercy” continues as a most desired concept even if many people do not show much of it. Such concepts are meaningful to humans living on earth. All humans live with the constant application of such concepts as fundamental, meaningful, and extremely relevant to human living. There is a constant and driving need to employ words that refer to such things in order to make life in some sense worthwhile and enjoyable.

But let us go back to Mr. Hume. He could not catch himself without a thought. That is because when he sought to find himself, he could only do so by thought. There is no other way! The only instrument at his disposal for the search was thinking! Man alive! That indicates the nature of spirit. Spirit expresses itself through thought; it articulates itself through words. The spirit of David Hume was not subject to vision location but rather to location by intellectual implication.

But, the strange thing about it was that when Hume concluded that he could not know that he was there, although he could find a thought there, someone reached that conclusion! If Hume intended to be taken seriously as to his denial that a person could know assuredly of his own existence, then he had to be equally desirous that his affirmation that the denial is true be taken just as seriously.

The “conclusion” that he could not know that he existed was not and could not be without connection to some mind. Now, if it were not David Hume’s mind, just whose was it? It is paramount to David Hume’s claiming: I am seriously drawing a conclusion, a conclusion that I am seriously intending for others to take equally seriously while at the same time I am also equally seriously meaning to be saying that the one saying this possibly is not making this claim at all! Now, just how profound is that? Not only is it not profound, but it is self-contradictory. Epistemological reality is so constructed that when we humans fall into such high-brow nonsense that our irrationality is showing! But who was on this exploration for the “self” when Hume philosophically tried to locate David Hume?

Consider the following True-False questions: When David Hume attempted to find the “real” David Hume but could only find a thought, then whoever was making the search was…

  1. No one;
  2. Someone;
  3. Everyone.

If it were (1) no one, then the search was not being made. The historical writings of Hume inform us that someone made the search. If it were (3) everyone, no one else knew that he was involved, Hume made no claim that others were involved, and all other men, if they had been asked about it, would have denied that they were in on the search. The evidence is conclusive that the search was being made by the same person who claimed that he could not prove that it was, in fact, himself! The strange thing is that the evidence so available to others as to the identity of the searcher and claimant somehow got overlooked by the searcher and claimant himself! What this bizarre scene tells us is that something so obvious on the one hand (the human self), on the other hand can be so recklessly misplaced even while undergoing intense intellectual investigation (cf. Rom. 1:20-23)!

It ought to be mentioned just here that, given “the law of identity,” no one can look for self unless the looker is the self! Hume cannot at one and the same time say that he looked for himself but could not find himself unless he was himself. The whole enterprise of seeking for self is impossible unless the law of identity holds true. Either (1) Hume was engaged in an irrational search or (2) his conclusion is false. If the one he was looking for was not the same one looking, then he was engaged in an irrational venture. If he concluded that he could not find himself because he could only find thoughts, then his conclusion is false because the thoughts implied himself. Either way Hume presents nothing that ought to disturb the rationally reliable conclusion that each one of us knows of his own existence. And, of course, Hume had to live in practical opposition to the unorthodox theoretical conclusion that he reached in his philosophical inquiry.

The fact is that there was something else that kept him from intellectually finding himself in his search. It could not possibly be that he was not there either as (1) the searcher or as (2) the object of search. If the law of identity holds in all of reality, Hume was both (1) subject and (2) object in his search. His thoughts should have told him that someone was thinking them. “Someone” was pursuing the investigation. If he couldn’t find himself without a thought, then the thought should have told him that he was both the one searching and the one for whom search was being made. If Hume realized he was actually the one looking (and he reported to us in his writings that he did make this search), then there is no rational reason for his denial that it was the same Hume whose location he alleged could not be found! If Hume was the one looking, then the Hume being looked for, had already been found even though not recognized!

The “real” is at times emphatically denied by skeptics. Robert Camp in his excellent article, “The Church Carries the Gospel to the Skeptic,” wrote, “It is often said of a mental patient, ‘He has lost touch with reality.’ This is precisely the position of the skeptic. He contends that it is impossible to be in touch with reality. If he only says it, he may be regarded as a great intellectual, but if his actions are governed by it, he is recognized as psychotic” (The Church of Christ—Essential, All Sufficient, Indestructible, Perpetually Relevant, Being the Freed-Hardeman College Lectures of 1971, p. 436). As Camp went on in his article to point out, skeptics cannot live in the light of their own claimed convictions. What they claim to know does not “fit” real life.

Seventh, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (7) it shows me that my spirit self is far more important and even enduring than my physical body. On this point first let me observe that there is often a connection between the condition of my body and the position of my mind. When my body has difficulty, it affects that way that I psychologically feel. Bodily pain can produce great anxiety within me. But it is also the case that I have “feelings” that are not connected like that to the well-being of my body as such. My spirit can experience some kind of a mood in spite of or without resort to its connection to body. I can have a kind of peace in my spirit in spite of turmoil in the world. I can even have a kind of peace in spite of a bodily ailment and pain. The mood of mind is not always directly the result of bodily consideration. The metaphysical feelings of “guilt” or “innocence,” though not produced by bodily sensation as such do have effect on the human body. None of These Diseases, by Dr. S. I. McMillen, is a good treatment on how the ethic of Christ affects our health in this life. My inner state is more important than my physical body. Many people with good physical health cannot stand life because of their mental torture. If one had only the two options of mental torture with good physical health or bad physical health with mental peace, we would all choose mental peace. The spirit is superior to body.

The second point I wish to make is that the spirit is more enduring than body. Scientists tell us that every time that we live through about a seven year period, the cells in our physical makeup have all been replaced by other cells. We have a new physical body as far as chemical makeup about every seven years. But, notice how this truth was just expressed. I said that “we” have a new physical body. I affirmed the duration of something beyond the duration of something else. The physical body had been replaced by another physical body, but the one whose body it is remains the same in some sense. Also, and interestingly, the new body somehow maintains the same basic form of the old one so that my outward appearance more or less remains the same. My physical body can be identified by others, and I know that by self-reflection that I keep on identifying myself within. I can still recognize my physical form in the mirror as the one belonging to the same spirit within the other body over seven years ago.

And while it is true that my spirit changes in intellectual and emotional and spiritual development, it is not the same kind of change that my physical body undergoes. The growth in development is not a replacement of some sort of metaphysical “cells,” but simply the incline or decline of moral quality. Of course the Bible teaches that the human spirit endures beyond the termination of the physical body (Matt. 10:28; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Now, finally, just what does all of this have to do with God? What is it about the human mind that provides insight into the nature of the Mind that made us all? Does it seem purely coincidental that what we find within ourselves upon self-examination is also what we find contained in Scripture with regard to the ultimate Mind, or God, himself? Let us briefly mention again what, in self-reflection, we have discovered, and then let us see what the Bible says about God.

With regard to what my mind tells me about me, it tells me that:

  1. I am superior to anyone without a mind;
  2. I am somewhat complex;
  3. Though I am in a sense confined to my body, there is a peculiar sense in which I can extend myself beyond my body;
  4. In description, language is the key to clarity;
  5. My memory is the key to intelligence or rationality;
  6. Assuredly, I exist;
  7. My spirit is far more important and enduring than my physical body.

Now, with regard to each insight, compare what we have found about our own minds with what the Bible claims about the ultimate Mind:

  1. God is superior not only to everything without a mind but to all other minds that he has produced. He stands alone as the only self-explanatory and eternal mind (Exod. 3:14; Isaiah 44:6).
  2. God is the ultimately complex being, so much so that while we can and must admit him and submit to him, we cannot completely comprehend him (Rom. 11:33-36).
  3. God has form (Phil. 2:6), but has knowledge of all beyond him that he has made. He is infinite in understanding (Psa. 147:5).
  4. God has always used language with men, either (1) the natural language or communication of nature (Psa. 19:1-6; Acts 14:17), (2) moral law inscribed on hearts of men to inform of the difference between right and wrong (Rom. 2:14-15), or (3) the language of words. On each of the six days of Genesis 1, “God said.” The agent of creation himself—and our Saviour—is called the “Word” (John 1:1-3, 14). The deepest clarity of God’s desire for man is expressed in his word.
  5. As my memory allows me to continually be aware of my own self-identity, God knows himself constantly. Since he is not finite, he does not have to recall, for his Spirit essence is not only to exist but to know. He cannot help knowing everything ( Psa. 147:5; 139).
  6. God assuredly exists. He can be denied but never disproved. He must exist in order for anything else to exist including other minds who are capable to call both his and their own existence into question (cf. Psa. 14:1; Rom. 1:20-23; 9:20).
  7. God, as ultimate Being, is the most important expression of reality that there can be. He is personal and infinite and eternal. Somehow and someway he holds the ultimate explanation of himself within himself. He is ultimate Spirit. He is beyond time and space, though for the sake of man, in the incarnation of Christ, he partially located himself within both for a brief moment in order that man could be saved (Gen. 1:1; Exod. 3:14; John 1:14; 4:24; Psa. 90:1-2).

These things cannot be mere coincidences. We mirror God in our spirit composition. The point of comparison meets in spirit/Spirit kinship. As Moses long ago told us, we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), and as some unidentified Greek poets affirmed and as the apostle Paul has told us himself, we are the offspring of God (Acts 17:27-29). And the image is not in the dirt (Gen. 2:7). It is in spirit/Spirit (John 4:24; Luke 24:36-39).

Our human minds are made to search for God, the ultimate Mind. The search need not be futile, for God wants to be found that we might be with him forever in eternity (Acts 17:27; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:2; Rev. 20:11-15). So, let each of us be cautioned: A human mind cannot possibly have found its divinely intended location or position in reality if it fails to find love for God (Matt. 22:37). Finding God is certainly necessary to the well-being of any human mind, but it is inadequate. Loving God with the full expression of all that entails is what God demands (cf. John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).

Posted in Apologetics, Evolution, Existence of God

The Marvel of Memory

By Weylan Deaver

Have you ever remembered an event or place you had not thought of in years, a memory coaxed out of hiding somewhere in your mind? The aroma of Kool-Aid and mopped floors (or maybe even something else I can’t quite put my finger on) — these things form a smell somehow peculiarly associated in my mind with my first grade cafeteria. I attended a different school for second grade, and several more schools before graduating. Yet, this particular smell I only associate with my first grade cafeteria — not any of the others I ate in for twelve years. Every once in a while, I’ll catch a whiff on the air that takes me back to the room where a six-year-old used to eat lunch. Memory is a profound thing (see here for an interactive infographic on the brain’s basic functions). How is it possible for the brain to store a memory from decades earlier, and hold onto those details, perhaps for a lifetime? An evolutionist has the insurmountable challenge of explaining how matter can produce memory. Imagine a scientist with a tray in front of him containing all the elements: the makings of liquids, gases, rocks and dirt. What elements could the scientist combine in order to get a piece of matter capable of storing a memory? The idea that matter — if it were only arranged in proper sequence — could, by itself, hold a memory within itself, is ludicrous. Physical elements compose the brain, but elements cannot explain all the mind can do. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). In fact, it is only because he has a God-given mind that an atheist can have a thought. Rather, we agree with David’s assessment when he said to the Lord, “I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Posted in Apologetics, Existence of God

The Uncaused First Cause

By Weylan Deaver

Atheists have long grasped at philosophic straws in desperate effort to avoid facing the ultimate fact of reality: God. French existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), argued against God, noting that, if everything requires a cause, and if God created everything, then God would have to have caused himself. The Creator would have to be his own creation, which, of course, is impossible. But, Sartre missed the point. Only contingent (that is, dependent) things require a cause. Every effect requires an adequate cause, but God is not an effect. God simply is. God is the self-existing, uncaused first cause of all creation. As the writer put it long ago, “every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Heb. 3:4, ESV). God is unique in that he is the only one whose very nature is to be. Thus, God instructs Moses to tell Israel, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exod. 3:14). Everything outside God is contingent, requiring a sufficient cause for its existence. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3). The principle of causation leads inexorably to an infinite, uncaused, Creator. The atheist must be false to his own nature (which was made to seek God, Acts 17:27), false to the overwhelming evidence (the heavens declare God’s glory, Ps. 19:1), and false to right reason (since disbelief is inexcusable, Rom. 1:20). His is a fool’s errand.

Posted in Apologetics, Debates, Existence of God, Reviews

The Warren-Flew Debate

By Roy C. Deaver [1922-2007]

[Note: The following review was written by my grandfather soon after the debate occurred, and published in the December 1976 issue of Biblical Notes. The debate was momentous then, and continues to be. Thirty-one years after, in 2007, Flew would publish a startling book reversing everything he stood for in his debate with Warren. Flew would title his book, There Is a God (How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind). In it, Flew refers to his debate with Warren on pp. 67-69. Warren died in 2000; Flew in 2010. The book and DVDs of the Warren-Flew Debate are still available and highly recommended—Weylan Deaver.]

On Thursday, September 16, 1976, Thomas Warren and I moved into a motel room in Denton, Texas to continue preparation for the Warren-Flew debate scheduled to begin on the following Monday night. We were joined on Friday by James Bales and Bob Camp. During these eight days we lived together, prayed together, worked together, studied together — in full and deep realization of the importance of the occasion.

During the months preceding the debate it was advertised as being “The Debate of the Century.” I believe that this is an apt description of it. It was reminiscent of the great Campbell-Owen Debate, but it might be more accurately likened to Paul’s meeting the Athenian philosophers on Mars’ Hill when “…certain also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him” (Acts 17:18). Upon that memorable occasion Paul preached the God whom they had left out. And in Denton, Texas brother Warren preached the God whom Dr. Flew (and all atheistic naturalism) has left out.

The debate was conducted on the campus of North Texas University, in the massive, beautiful coliseum. The debate was well-attended, with thousands of people having come from distant places. Wonderful fruits—even in generations to come—will be produced by these labors.

Since the debate it has been my privilege to speak a few times about the debate, and in these sessions we have devoted some time to answering questions. In this article I would like to consider several questions which have been asked.

How Was the Debate Brought About?

The University church of Christ in Denton, Texas conducts two Bible Chair programs within the city. One is directed by brother Gary Ealy; the other is directed by brother Rex Dean. These Bible Chairs work together in striving to accomplish the greatest good among the students. Each year they plan something “unusual” for the students. Last year (1975) they had Dr. Douglas Dean on campus for a special series of lectures on evolution. For 1976 the Bible chairs—together with the University church of Christ—planned the Warren-Flew debate. Since the debate was conducted by the Bible Chairs it was permitted to be held “on campus” and in the Coliseum.

An Evaluation of Dr. Flew

Many have asked: “How would you evaluate Dr. Flew?” Dr. Flew’s academic credentials are impressive and are unquestioned. He is a professor of philosophy at the University of Reading, in Reading, England. He is in constant demand as a “special lecturer,” and he travels the world as a spokesman for “atheistic naturalism.” He is without doubt one of the top atheists in the world today.

He writes almost constantly on the subject of “God.” brother Warren pointed out in the debate that he (Dr. Flew) seems to be almost “God-intoxicated.” Dr. Flew responded by saying: “I seem to be sobering up from my God-intoxication, and henceforth will not write upon the subject of God—except in response to those who attack me—but will devote more time to writing on social matters.” I consider this to be a highly significant statement from Dr. Flew—one which indicates that he keenly felt the force of Dr. Warren’s arguments.

In order that I might be of more help to brother Warren I have spent considerable time during the past year reading some of Dr. Flew’s books. I have found him extremely difficult to read (probably because of his British accent!). The vastness of his knowledge is apparent. Many have expressed disappointment that Dr. Flew did not do a better job in the debate. We emphasize that Dr. Flew’s failures were not the consequence of his not being a qualified opponent. No atheist has done more writing, or more speaking, or more debating than has Dr. Flew.

Dr. Flew is a personable, likable man. As brother Warren said, “You can’t help but like him.” It is my judgment that Dr. flew was shocked, bewildered, astonished, flabbergasted. So far as he was concerned “Christianity” meant Catholicism and denominationalism. He had never before encountered simple New Testament Christianity. And, he had never before encountered an opponent of Dr. Warren’s caliber. Dr. Flew, son of a Methodist minister, knows full-well that truth cannot be established upon the basis of feelings (emotionalism, subjective experiences). It must have been quite a shock to him when brother Warren said: “Dr. Flew, we fight that kind of thing just as much as you do. On that point you are just speaking to the wrong crowd.”

I think Dr. flew is honest and has some very strong feelings about truth. Dr. Flew entered the debate as a “positive atheist.” In a very short time he had become a “negative atheist.” Then, he began taking positions that were not atheistic, but that were agnostic. This he admitted. Then, he explained that he was “a spokesman for atheistic naturalism.” It seems to me that Dr. Flew left the debate as an agnostic rather than as an atheist.

Dr. Flew stresses that men “ought to be honest” and “ought to seek after truth.” We can continue to hope and pray that his honesty and concern about truth and evidence will yet bring him to the truth of God.

An Evaluation of Dr. Warren

I have known, loved, respected, and worked with brother Warren for near twenty-five years. I know him better than any other man knows him. I stand amazed in contemplation of his great abilities—natural and attained. He possesses the greatest natural brilliance of mind that I have ever seen. He has worked so hard for so many years in so many different academic disciplines in preparing himself to be an efficient servant of the Lord.

I know of his deep feelings related to the fact that as a people we are not doing enough to combat the forces of atheism and liberalism. It grieves him deeply to know that we sit back and allow the atheists to write our textbooks and to exert their infidel influences in the colleges and universities across the land.

More than twenty years ago he determined to do something about this situation. He knew that it would be necessary for him to hold the highest academic degree—and from a university of unquestioned prestige, and in the field which would be respected even by the atheists. To obtain this degree—his doctorate in Philosophy, from Vanderbilt University—he went into the lions’ den. To say the least, his professors were not favorable toward the traditional view (the Bible view) of God. Upon one occasion the professor said: “Mr. Warren, perhaps we ought to let YOU explain to the class the traditional view of God, since we so seldom have a man in this class who holds that view.” I know how hard and how fervently he prayed that—if the Lord so willed—he might be admitted to that program. At the time, Vanderbilt was admitting only six to eight students out of eighty applicants.

In reality, brother Warren’s debate with Antony Flew was that toward which he had been working for more than twenty years.

The more immediate preparation was made during the past year. The magnitude of this preparation is almost unbelievable (and is indescribable). He had very meticulously prepared over 400 charts for the debate. We used only 75 during the debate, but the others were there and ready to be used, if needed.

We thank God for brother Warren’s abilities, but—more than this, for the fact that these abilities are dedicated, consecrated, to the glory of God.

Why Did Dr. Flew Refuse to Make A Sound Argument?

This question comes in recognition of the fact that it is the case that Dr. Flew did steadfastly refuse to make a sound argument.

In logic, the term “argument” refers to the basic unit of reasoning. It means a “unit of discourse in which beliefs are supported by reasons.” An argument is a unit of discourse which seeks to prove that something is or is not the case. An argument therefore, is made up of two basic parts: (1) premises—the evidence—, and (2) the conclusion.

When a series of statements are intended to prove a point they may be (and, in fact, ought to be) reduced to a syllogism. An error which is concealed in three hundred pages becomes crystal clear when reduced to a three-line syllogism.

In order for an argument to be sound two things are necessary: (1) the syllogism has to be valid, and (2) the premises have to be true. A syllogism is valid when the premises (whether true or false) demand the conclusion. There is a difference in validity and truth. There are definite laws (five basic laws) governing validity, and if a single law of validity is violated the syllogism is not valid. If the syllogism is valid, then the logician asks: are the premises true? If the syllogism is valid, and if the premises are true—then the argument is sound.

Dr. Flew knows full-well what a sound argument is. He knows that argumentation is not assertion and is not insinuation. He constantly chides and ridicules religious people for refusing to make a sound argument. He constantly calls upon them to face up to the task of proving their position. The “Law of Rationality” holds that “We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence.” Dr. Flew respects this law. Dr. Flew (of all people) did not refuse to make a sound argument because he did not know what a sound argument is!

Literally hundreds of people have expressed to me their disappointment because Dr. Flew refused to make an argument. He raised questions. He chided. He insinuated. He indicated that he would eventually get around to actual argumentation. But, he never did. He did a lot of talking and philosophizing, but he never did get down to the task of trying to prove his point. (Dr. James Bales observed: “A philosopher often spends his time throwing dust into the air, and then complains because he cannot see.”) One person said: “Dr. Flew would approach the microphone as if he were really going to do something this time, and then…just fizzle.”

It seems to me that the weak and disappointing efforts upon the part of Dr. Flew really show the force, the power, and the value of the debate. If Dr. Flew COULD have made a sound argument the conclusion of which would have been “I know that God does not exist” Dr. Flew WOULD have done so. The fact that Dr. Flew DID NOT proves that he COULD NOT, and that HE KNEW THAT HE COULD NOT! Dr. Flew’s failure to make an argument also indicated his profound respect for Dr. Warren. He knew that every word he said would be carefully and thoroughly examined by brother Warren, and that no error would be allowed to pass unnoticed. Dr. Flew could not make an argument which would stand up under the light of logical examination.

What Did Dr. Flew Say?

He stressed ideas of incoherence, inconsistency, and logical contradiction. These words relate to two basic points: (1) It is Dr. Flew’s view that the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell is inconsistent with the notion that God is all-loving; (2) He holds that the fact of evil in the world is contradictory to the theists’ concept of an all-loving and all-powerful God. The concept of “hell” is really disturbing to Dr. Flew. He said, “It upsets my British cool.” but, Dr. Flew admitted that the concepts of love and justice were not contradictory, and that God could be just in punishing a sinner for “one minute.” Dr. Flew thus placed himself in the position of judging God in connection with what constitutes just punishment.

The atheist habitually accuses the theist of affirming a logical contradiction. The theist affirms the existence of God who is all-loving and who is all-powerful. The atheist counters: “These concepts are contradictory. There is the fact of evil in our world. If God is all-good He would want to destroy evil; if God is all-powerful He would be able to destroy evil. If He wants to destroy evil, but cannot, then He is not all-powerful. If He is able to destroy evil, but does not want to destroy evil, then He is not all-good. If He is not all-powerful, or if He is not all-good, then He is not God.” But, the atheist fails to understand the relationship of the existence of evil to God’s plan for man’s redemption, and the atheist overlooks (and fails to understand) God’s respect for man’s free-moral agency.

Dr. Flew admitted the fact of human guilt and the fact of the existence of human conscience. He also admitted that atheism has no way of dealing with these. He admitted the existence of “law” higher than international law and that the Nazis were wrong in killing six million Jews. He failed to explain the source of this law.

Whether intending to do so or not, Dr. Flew rejected the theory of evolution. In answer to pointed questions he said that the first human being was not born of a non-human, and that the first human being was not the product of transformation from a non-human into a human! What else is left? Only creation by God.

Dr. Flew admitted that philosophy cannot deal adequately with the matter of origin. He said, “I begin with the universe and end with the universe.” This is a mighty restricted view of things, and fails to deal satisfactorily with either origin or destination.

Brother Warren powerfully refuted the theory of evolution. He stressed that the doctrine of evolution cannot be substantiated by the claims of science. Dr. Flew responded: “I am not a scientist—I am a philosopher.” I find this statement (and the attitude which it evidences) most astonishing. Here is a man who is a world-renowned atheist-philosopher. In rejecting the existence of God he puts himself in the position of having to accept the theory of organic evolution. This theory at least claims to rest upon scientific evidences. But, when the errors, inadequacies, and false claims of this theory are pointed out Dr. Flew simply says: “I am not a scientist—I am a philosopher.” It is astonishing—indeed, incredible—that a man would build his entire atheistic, philosophic house upon a doctrine which at least claims to rest upon science without knowing whether or not the scientific claims were true. How in the world could Dr. Flew be content simply to say: “I am not a scientist—I am a philosopher”? Keep in mind also that when Dr. Flew said that the first human being came (1) not by birth and (2) not by transformation that he rejected the theory of evolution.

What Basic Arguments Did Brother Warren Present?

First, brother Warren presented the cosmological argument. He argued (and proved) that for every effect there has to be a sufficient cause. He discussed our marvelous universe as an amazing effect. He declared that only the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God of the bible is sufficient cause. He considered man—marvelous man—as an amazing effect, and the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God of the Bible as the only sufficient cause. He considered the matter of the existence of law—law beyond national law, and beyond international law—the existence of which Dr. Flew admitted. Brother Warren argued that there can be no law without a law-giver. Brother Warren forcefully argued that the theory of evolution cannot explain (1) our universe, (2) man, or (3) the existence of law higher than international law.

Precisely stated, brother Warren’s argument would be as follows:

MAJOR PREMISE: If it is the case that our universe (or man, or moral law) is of such a nature

that it’s very existence can be explained only in terms of its having been cre-

ated by the all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving God—then it is the case that

God does exist.

MINOR PREMISE: It is the case that our universe (or man, or moral law) is of such nature that

its very existence can be explained only in terms of its having been created

by the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God.

CONCLUSION: It is the case that God does exist.

Second, brother Warren made the moral argument. This argument overlaps the cosmological argument. Brother Warren emphatically argued that there does exist such a thing as outside, objective, moral law—that there is moral law beyond (greater than) international law. Brother Warren stressed that Dr. Flew admitted (1) the existence of this law, and (2) that the Nazis were wrong in murdering six million Jews. Brother Warren also stressed the fact of the existence of human conscience—that “Dr. Flew has a conscience, and Dr. flew admits that he has a conscience.” How explain the existence of moral law and the existence of human conscience? The theory of evolution has no explanation. These can be explained only in the light of creation by the God of the Bible.

Third, brother Warren stressed the argument based upon design—sometimes called the teleological argument. He had carefully and meticulously prepared beautiful charts on the human hand, the eye, the respiratory system, the skeletal system. Brother Warren argued that the marvelous design involved in these could be explained only in the light of an all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving Designer. Brother Warren presented a chart with a picture of an artificial hand. He asked Dr. Flew: “Did this artificial hand have a designer?” Dr. Flew admitted that it did have a designer. Amazing indeed! The artificial hand has a designer, and could not exist without the fact of the designer, but the natural hand does not have a designer! Dr. flew admitted that the automobile has a maker, but denies that the automobile-maker has a maker.  “He just growed.”

Time and space would not allow consideration here of the beautiful and fantastic details with which brother Warren pressed this argument. Its force was completely devastating to atheism.

Why Didn’t Brother Warren Use More Bible in the Debate?

The fact is that brother Warren did use the Bible frequently in the debate, but (for obvious reasons) he did not build his argument upon what the Bible says. As brother Warren said to a certain man who had asked this question: “What passage would YOU cite to Dr. Flew to prove that God exists?”

The argument that the very nature of the Bible proves the existence of God is another entire debate. We felt that to introduce this argument during this debate would have allowed Dr. Flew too much room in which to wander, and consequently, would have detracted from this debate. Brother Warren, in his final speech, did offer to debate Dr. Flew on the “Bible argument,” preferably in Reading, England.

What Do You Think Will Be the Greatest Benefits of the Debate?

There have been and there will continue to be great and wonderful benefits from the debate.

1. Because of the debate many people of the world will hear of the church of our Lord who otherwise would not have heard of it.

2. Some have already been baptized into Christ as a consequence of having heard the debate, and others will be.

3. I think the debate will cause New Testament churches—especially those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area—to become more militant in the battle for truth. The whole world will know that we have absolutely nothing to fear in going up against the forces of atheism.

4. Most probably, there will be other debates. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one or two debates of this type could be conducted every year—on campuses of colleges and universities everywhere. It seems to me that congregations should—beginning right now—set aside funds to help so that at least one debate per year can be conducted.

5. I think the debate will astound the philosophical world. Dr. Flew will be discredited as a debater in the eyes of his fellow-atheists. Can you imagine an honest, sincere student in one of Dr. Flew’s classes—with a copy of the WARREN-FLEW DEBATE in his hand?

6. The debate will emphasize to God’s people everywhere—and especially to Gospel preachers—the value of and the importance of real education. What an example we have in Thomas Warren.

7. Undoubtedly, the greatest benefits (which cannot be measured) will come from (1) the book, and (2) the video-tape. The book is now being published, and the video-tape will soon be available. These will be tremendous tools in combating the forces of atheism.


Brethren, the debate was wonderful and will prove to be one of the most significant events in the history of God’s people.

We express our sincere thanks to Gary Ealy, Rex Dean, Perry Hall, the elders and members of the University church of Christ in Denton, Texas—for making the debate possible. We thank God for—and continue to pray for—brother Thomas Warren. We express our gratitude to the God of heaven by whose providence the debate was brought about. Also, our sincere thanks to Dr. Flew for his willingness to have his atheistic philosophies tested upon the polemic platform. Likewise, we express sincere thanks to brethren Bob Camp and James Bales for their wonderful assistance before and during the debate.

We fervently pray that God will continue to use this great work to His glory and to the salvation of thousands of souls.


I would have to honest with myself. I would have to be concerned about evidence. I would have to be concerned about proper reasoning. Before I could be an atheist I would have to be able to prove that:

1. Life can come from non-life;

2. Something can come out of nothing;

3. Order can come out of disorder—cosmos can come out of chaos;

4. Chance can produce arrangement;

5. There can be a design without a designer;

6. Like does not produce like;

7. There can be an effect without a cause;

8. Mind can be produced by matter;

9. There is no real purpose in life;

10. There is no hereafter;

11. The Bible is not the word of God;

12. There is no God!

How would YOU like to have the task of proving (1) that the Bible is not the word of God, and (2) that God does not exist?