Somehow, the mass of men have allowed themselves to become pre-conditioned to assume that philosophers and atheists are super intelligent. We expect to read their writings and be blown away by irre…
I have always said that I have never yet heard an atheist’s argument against the existence of God that was convincing, and even though much work went into this article (Christianity’s Nightmare Question), my statement remains true. These thoughts are not even a little worrisome for Christians, Sunday School teachers, or any genuine Christian. Why? Because the entire article is postulated from the standpoint of humanism: the “Me! Me!! Me!!!” infant cry of humanity as it focuses only on its self and what it deems worthy of God-speak! This article has all of the typical “Jesus was nothing new” rantings of someone who hates any idea of God. But once again, as sites like this always prove, atheists can’t seem to stop talking about God. Please don’t say it’s because you are trying to free people from some imagined spiritual tyranny, blah blah blah, because what you model as an alternative is nothing but the negative despair of people who have no hope, and no purpose greater than yourself or some imagined higher view of human existence. But I do thank you for the article. Reading about atheism and listening to the rants of atheists always, I mean ALWAYS, builds my faith and reminds me of how fortunate I am that God does indeed exist! So, my Christian friends: click on the link below, read the article, and be encouraged in your faith!
The Comprehension Gulf is the argument that God, if He exists, is infinite, and man, being finite, cannot possibly recognize or know Him. 1
This argument is easily dismissed but let’s give the atheists and agnostics a chance to explain.
The atheist Carl Van Doren (1885-1950) wrote:
There is no trustworthy evidence as to a god’s absolute existence. . . . Nor does the thing called revelation, as I see it, carry the proof further. . . . If belief in a god has to proceed from the assumption that he exists, belief in revelation has first to proceed from the assumption that a god exists and then to go further to the assumption that he communicates his will to certain men. But both are mere assumptions. Neither is, in the present state of knowledge, at all capable of proof. Suppose a god did exist, and suppose he did communicate his will to any of his creatures. What man among them could comprehend that language? What man could take that dictation? 2
Atheist Geoffrey Berg writes:
I suppose some people might like to counter this objection by insisting that it is an essential characteristic of a monotheistic God that he can be known by us and can communicate with us. However I think, that given it is impossible for the mortal to be sure of the immortal and for the finite to be sure of the infinite, that would be asking for the impossible. Yet it is generally not supposed to be one of God’s characteristics that he accomplishes what is logically impossible. 3
Both of these writers are willing to suspend their disbelief for a little while and imagine that if God existed He would be infinite or at least be as God should be in order to qualify as God. If He existed, then He would do so as the God He would have to be in order to be God. He would be “that than which no greater thing can be thought (Anselm).”4 Or as William of Ockham put it, “that than which nothing is more noble and more perfect.”5 But, according to the Comprehension Gulf argument, man, because he is finite, would never be able to discover, recognize, or know this infinite God.
Doren and Berg prove that they are capable of imagining what God would be like if He existed. But for some reason they have trouble going one step further in their imaginations, allowing for this infinite God to be so perfect and knowledgeable that He is capable of devising a way to speak to and communicate with finite man. The question becomes, “Could an infinite, all powerful, all knowing God find a way to reveal Himself to humanity if He wanted to?” If you say “No!” then you have not imagined God big enough. In fact, if I can imagine it, He is greater still! So, if one can imagine God big enough, he should also be able to imagine a God who could cross the gulf and communicate effectively to His creation.
Let’s go a little further. If an infinite God did span the gulf and communicate to His creation, how might He do that? Through His audible voice? By making an appearance? Perhaps He would send an emissary. Maybe He would come in a disguise so as not to scare us off before we could understand the revelation. Perhaps once He established communication with someone He would ask that person to share what was revealed with others by speaking to them or even writing it down. Hmm…imagine that?!
Berg makes a curious statement (seen above) when he writes: “Yet it is generally not supposed to be one of God’s characteristics that he accomplishes what is logically impossible.”6 Of course such a characterization of God is amazingly opposite to the truth. Doing the impossible is what God specializes in! Why? Because He is God! Because He is the only One who can and because it is one of His ways of bridging the gap between finite mankind and Himself. The Apostle Paul said it well when he described God as “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17).”
When she was just a little girl (4 or 5), my daughter Katie would imagine that she was the proprietor of a candy store. Of course, then, I would be one of her customers. I remember the first time we played that game. I ordered a certain candy and she said, “Sorry, we don’t have that kind of candy.” “Hold on a minute, ” I would say, “This is an imaginary candy store, why can’t you imagine the kind of candy I want?” She wouldn’t budge! She simply refused to imagine the kind of candy I wanted!
If one wants to disqualify the idea of the existence of God through various other arguments, OK. We can talk about those ideas as well. But one should not make the mistake of disqualifying God simply because his or her imagination is not big enough. Paul knew this:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV).
1 Geoffrey Berg, The Six Ways Of Atheism, (Self-published: 2009), 50.
2 Carl Van Doren, “Why I Am an Unbeliever,” published in, The Portable Atheist, Christopher Hitchens (Da Capo Press, 2007), 139-140.
3 Berg, 56.
4 Alister McGrath, ed., The Christian Theology Reader, Third Edition (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 12.
5 Ibid., 23.
6 Berg, The Six Ways of Atheism, 56.
It is amazing how far we will go just to appease a small fraction of the population! In this case, a school doesn’t want to offend atheists so they doctor the Pledge of Allegiance. How many atheists are in this school? One? Two? Ninety-two percent of Americans believe in God and yet we would ask them to be quiet about it so that we do not disturb the 7% who don’t and the 1% who have no opinion! Honestly, how many more ways will we find to reject God? How long will God continue to hold back judgement from a nation that has so eloquently denied Him?
Interestingly, a Lifeway poll says it found that 25% of Americans feel that forcing kids to say “under God” violates their rights. That’s just the thing: no one is forced to say “under God.” The real issue is that they feel they have a right not to hear the word God! There are a lot of things I would like not to hear but there is a matter of free speech (or there was back when we were a nation under God!).
You can’t make this stuff up! (Well, you could, but in America you don’t have to!)
By Roger Erdvig and Lynn Swaner
On Tuesday night Ken Ham, prominent creationist (CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum), engaged in public debate with Bill Nye (of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” fame) on the topic of the validity of creationism as an explanation for the origin of the universe. There were not many surprises in the debate– Bill Nye did not “convert” to a belief in creationism, nor did Ken Ham capitulate on his strong stance against evolution.
But really, public debates of this nature are not for the purpose of changing the mindset of the debaters. Rather, debates offer the public the opportunity to listen to two (or more) thoughtful individuals engage in a disciplined, well-reasoned dialogue about an important issue. Observers should come away with a greater understanding of the overall issue and of the opposing viewpoints. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people think of debates only in terms of the angry exchanges on talk radio and television news shows. These spectacles are not true debates. By contrast, last night’s debate was a thoughtful public discourse, and we can applaud both Nye and Ham for being respectful (for the most part) and being willing to debate in the first place. To look for a winner is to miss the point of such a debate (and if we are honest, most people’s opinions on who “won” will most likely be derived from their starting view of evolution versus creation).
So what was the point of the debate, especially if we cannot objectively and decisively declare a winner? We think there are three points.
The first point is that despite what we may have heard or read, the question of origins is still alive and kicking. The debate put this issue smack dab on the front page of CNN.com (which summarized the debate as “Nobody knows” vs. “It’s in the Bible”) and other national media outlets. The debate even received decent international coverage. Both sides may label the other position absurd, outlandish, and/or offensive, but the matter is far from “decided” culturally — according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, about two-thirds of Americans believe in evolution, and one-third believe that humans have always existed in their present form. Despite this reality, public science education accepts and teaches evolution as the only viable (and “established”) way to view origins. The debate brought to the forefront that not only is evolution rejected by a sizeable percentage of the American public, but also that the evolutionary stance of public science education is nothing less than “cultural hegemony.” Ironically, that term comes from the secular humanist playbook: a ruling group in a diverse society manipulates the culture — imposing their worldview until it is regarded as the cultural norm, accepted as natural and positive for everyone in that society — in order to preserve the power and status of the ruling group. So it goes with the evolution steamroller in American education, but for one evening the debate forced our society to be honest about the cultural relevance of the question of origins. The debate reminded us that people not only have the right to ask where humans came from, but also the right to open dialogue on that question.
The second point is that the debate underscored the importance of “worldview.” If you watched the debate, it couldn’t be clearer that what we believe about origins is central to our understanding or “view” of the world, and our place as human beings in it. The debaters themselves recognized this, often using the term “worldview” to describe the opposing position. The Bible itself, in Hebrews 11:3, acknowledges the role of worldview as it relates to origins: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Likewise Paul, when preaching in Acts 17 to Greek philosophers, used creation as his starting point to explain the “Unknown God” of the Athenians; he began by saying that God, “who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth…” (v. 24) is the One who “gives to all life breath, and all things” (v. 25) and “has made from one blood every nation of men” (v. 26). Without this understanding of origins, little else in the Bible (including salvation) makes sense or can be claimed as true — a point upon which both Bill Nye and Ken Ham agreed and demonstrated. Everything hinges on worldview.
A third point of the debate – and another point of agreement among the debaters – is that education is a primary agent of worldview development in children’s lives (we witnessed Ham asserting that public school textbooks deprive children the chance to consider creationism and thereby push a secular worldview, and Nye begging that science education be kept “pure” and “free” from the influence of “religion”). Make no mistake about it — the debate was as much about what our children should be taught about origins as it was about what we believe individually. As educators and parents ourselves, we need to take the cue from Ham and Nye and ask the important question of how our children’s worldviews are developing. We need to scrutinize carefully the primary, educational shapers of that worldview. Specifically, we need to think critically about the type of schooling our children receive, the worldview of the adults who provide the schooling, and the curriculum and materials used in that schooling. The implications for our children’s worldviews — and thereby what they believe, who they are, and what they do — are profound.
Given these three points, here’s our final opinion on the debate last night: We think it was wonderful. Even though a number of the answers were not fully satisfying and seemed rushed, we loved every minute of it — and delightfully, there were over 150 of those minutes. We were with a group of over fifty people who stayed engaged for the full debate, and in this age of sound-bite sermons that must be wrapped up in a half hour lest “you lose the congregation,” it was refreshing to see so many people, young and old, listening to sometimes heady dialogue for that long. We cannot all agree on a decisive winner, but the debate helped us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our own arguments, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of others. It also keeps those issues that matter most — our beliefs about where we come from, which in turn influence who we are and what we do with our lives, and the way we shape those beliefs through education — on the front burner of our culture.
For those reasons, Ken Ham and Bill Nye are to be commended for engaging in this critical conversation, and allowing us to listen in. They have helped to educate all of us.
Roger Erdvig is the Superintendent and Lynn Swaner is the Assistant to the Superintendent for Academics at Smithtown Christian School.
To watch the full debate from Tuesday, February 4, 2014, visit www.debatelive.org.