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GOD'S NOT DEADEVIDENCE FOR GOD IN AN AGE OF UNCERTAINTY
By RICE BROOCKS
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Rice Broocks
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGOD'S NOT DEAD
What divides us is not science, we are both committed to science, but our worldviews. No one wants to base their life on a delusion, but which is a delusion? Christianity or atheism?
When a Man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything.
—attributed to G. K. Chesterton
I WAS IN MY THIRD YEAR OF COLLEGE WHEN MY ATHEIST older brother, Ben, decided to try to talk me out of my Christian faith. I probably looked like an easy target. I had not been a Christian that long, and Ben was in his third year of law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He was at the top of his class, already had a master's degree in counseling, and had been sharpening his disdain for Christianity for a while.
We arranged to meet over a weekend at our parents' house in Dallas. Ben prepared as if he was going to be trying a legal case, studying the Bible to get the ammunition he needed to blow me out of my new faith. He told one of his classmates, "I'm going home to get my little brother out of this born-again thing." He showed up with his prepared questions and finely tuned challenges, anticipating anything I might say. He was confident he could get me to abandon this whole notion of faith in God and belief in Jesus Christ.
I'd like to tell you that I had brilliant, learned answers for everything he brought up. But I never had the chance to respond. As I listened to and addressed Ben's doubts simply, the truth of God's Word began to soften his heart. I could see he was doubting his doubts. There was finally a moment when I told him, "Ben, it's not what you don't know about God that's keeping you from believing; it's what you do know. You know He is real and you know He is holy [meaning pure]." The apostle Paul wrote that people "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). The reason? They don't like God's rules. The problem with this is that it's like trying to hold a beach ball under the water: the harder you push truth down, the more forcefully it resurfaces. This was definitely what my brother was doing. He was trying to escape from the pangs of conscience that were convicting him of his behavior.
At the end of the day—the day on which he intended to talk me out of my faith—I baptized Ben in a swimming pool. Not long after he came up out of the water he said, "I don't think you answered all my questions, but I think I was asking the wrong questions." Today, Ben is a successful trial attorney in Austin, Texas, and a formidable witness for Christ.
That weekend thirty years ago was a turning point for both Ben and me. He became a believer in Jesus Christ while he was trying to talk me out of "this born-again thing." And since that day, I've devoted my life to getting people out of "this atheist thing." I work primarily among university students around the world, and I have been joined by thousands of others who have found that faith in God is both spiritually revitalizing and intellectually satisfying. We've also seen the opposite: that atheism doesn't satisfy a man's heart or mind.
The End of Faith?
More than forty years ago, the cover of Time magazine asked, "Is God Dead?" The writers were reflecting upon the famous claim made by nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that God is dead. Other voices from that century raised the same issue in different words. Followers of Charles Darwin had suggested that belief in God would soon disappear from a scientifically progressive society. Karl Marx had said that religion is a drug, "the opium of the people." In 1999, The Economist magazine published an obituary for God.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral. In 2009, the senior editor of The Economist cowrote the book God Is Back, which served as a retraction of the 1999 article. Christianity is experiencing astounding growth in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In Europe, where there has been generations of religious decline, there are encouraging signs of spiritual growth, particularly in places such as London, Berlin, and Dublin that have a deep history of faith in God. This is due to an intellectual renaissance as well as a spiritual one. People are awakening from the dogmatic slumbers of secularism and naturalism. And in America the overwhelming majority still acknowledge the existence of God, and the nation is beginning to witness a spiritual awakening among youth. In spite of the fact that God has been virtually banished from the classroom, university and high school students are questioning what they've been taught—the naturalistic dogma that the universe and life are merely the product of blind, random forces—and they are acknowledging that there is rational grounds for believing in a Creator. The thick fog of unbelief that has hovered over academia is starting to burn off as more and more evidence for an intelligent Creator surfaces.
With this rise in faith worldwide has come a corresponding response. Over the last decade the secularist camp set out to stem the tide of renewed faith. The term new atheists has been given to a group of skeptics who have sought to revive the arguments against God and repackage them for a new generation. Ironically, very little is new about these atheistic arguments. In fact, the success of their claims is mostly due to the fact that the theistic responses to their claims—which are the truth about God—have not been widely circulated.
A generation ago, C. S. Lewis composed a set of lectures that were broadcast over the BBC and were transcribed and published as Mere Christianity. Formerly an atheist, Lewis realized that he had to ignore too much evidence to maintain his unbelief:
If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest one, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most.
The arguments atheists use against God quickly disappear like a mirage when they are answered by learned believers such as Lewis. Atheists claim that the universe isn't what you would expect if a supernatural God existed. All this death and suffering, they say, are plain evidence that a loving, intelligent God could not be behind it all. The truth is that God has created a world where free moral agents are able to have real choices to do good or evil. If God had created a world without that fundamental choice and option to do evil, then we wouldn't be having this discussion. God made a world where choices are real and humanity is affected by the choices of other humans. Drunk drivers kill innocent people. Some murder and steal from their fellow men. Though God gave clear commandments to humanity, we have for the most part ignored these directives. The mess that results is not God's fault. It's ours.
We are called to follow God and love Him with all our hearts and minds. This means we have to think and investigate. Truth is another word for reality. When something is true it's true everywhere. The multiplication tables are just as true in China as they are in America. Gravity works in Africa the way it does in Asia. The fact that there are moral truths that are true everywhere points to a transcendent morality that we did not invent and from which we cannot escape.
As Creator, God has placed not only natural laws in the earth but also spiritual laws. For instance, lying is wrong everywhere. So is stealing. Cruelty to children is wrong regardless of what culture you're in or country you're from. When these laws are broken, people are broken. Not only does violating these spiritual laws separate us from God, but it causes pain in our lives and in the lives of those around us. The big question becomes, what can be done about our condition? When we break these spiritual laws, whom can we call for help? How can we be reconciled to God as well as break free from this cycle of pain and dysfunction?
Is Atheism a Religion?
Within every human is a desire for God. We sometimes attempt to satisfy this hunger by practicing a religion, by having faith in something. Atheism, in all its railings against God, also has intrinsic beliefs, dogmas, and tenets that supposedly can't be challenged. It is itself a belief system with all the markings of a religion. In an issue entitled "Forget the Church. Follow Jesus," Newsweek magazine agreed, calling atheism a "belief." Atheism as a religion (a set of beliefs) is just as intolerant and closed-minded as the claims made against any faith system it assails.
With the fervor of the religious fundamentalists, these new atheists reject any competing ideas not just from religion, but also from philosophy. Stephen Hawking, in his book The Grand Design, declared that "philosophy is dead." However Daniel Dennett, one of the so-called Four Horsemen of Atheism, has admited, "There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination." Therefore, in their minds, science becomes the only source of truth; like a ruthless dictator in a third-world country, atheists must eliminate all competition. No deviations from the atheistic, Darwinian dogma tolerated. Want to lose credibility in these secular citadels? Merely suggest that there might be something beyond nature that's responsible for our existence. This skeptical overreaction is simply ... unreasonable.
Delusion of Disbelief
In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserts that God must be a delusion because God couldn't exist. Dawkins, who is perhaps the world's most famous atheist, makes the claim that though the universe appears to be designed, it couldn't have been because we are still left with the question "Who designed the Designer?" This is itself an example of the irrational, unyielding position of the atheistic mind. The truth is you don't have to have an explanation for every explanation. Such a demand sets up an infinite regress where nothing would be knowable and science and reason would all break down (granted, that is a worse-case scenario).
If you were walking through the woods and found a turtle on top of a fence post, you could rationally conclude that it didn't get there by itself. Someone put it there. Even if you didn't have an explanation for who did it, you would be reasonable in assuming that time and chance wouldn't eventually place a turtle on a fence post.
Sigmund Freud spoke of religious belief as a wish-fulfillment, the desire to have some "father-figure in the sky" who can straighten things out for us and talk to us when we are lonely. David Aikman, a former senior correspondent for Time and author of The Delusion of Disbelief, put atheism in the same category as religion, saying, "Atheism is itself a delusion," the ultimate wish-fulfillment. There are real reasons why unbelievers don't want God to exist or at least seek to reduce Him to a blind impersonal force. No God—no accountability. No God—no real morals. "If God is dead," said Malcolm Muggeridge, "somebody is going to have to take his place," and that somebody else is usually man himself.
Think about it: more than 90 percent of the planet believes that God exists. To maintain that those who believe in God are deluded means atheists (or radical skeptics as I call them) believe the majority of the world is under some kind of mass delusion. In order to maintain this position from an objective intellectual standpoint, they would have to dismiss all evidence of God and then explain how everything we see around us arose on its own—by chance.
The taunt of the skeptic is that those of us who have faith have no real proof for that faith. Skeptics say it's all based on feelings or delusions or due to our religious upbringings. One of the standard lines from atheists sounds like this: "When I'm asked to prove god doesn't exist, I ask believers to prove there are no fire-breathing dragons living in the center of the earth." Some of the other analogies commonly used are the tooth fairy and Richard Dawkins's personal favorite, the "Flying Spaghetti Monster." They sit back as if this alone justifies their disbelief, but they are wrong. There are no good reasons to believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster, the tooth fairy, or fire-breathing dragons in the center of the earth. There are good reasons to believe in God.
The real question is, how much proof is enough proof to convince you that God is real? Most of the time atheists haven't thought about what it would actually take to get them to believe. When Dawkins was asked this during a public debate, he said, "That's a very difficult and interesting question because, I mean, I used to think that if somehow, you know, great big giant, nine-hundred-foot-high Jesus with a voice like Paul Robeson suddenly strode in and said 'I exist. Here I am,' but even that, I actually sometimes wonder whether that would ..." He doesn't appear to have given much thought to this trivial answer. In fact, if someone else claimed to see a nine-hundred-foot Jesus, he or she would be ridiculed. The truth is, if your mind is made up about what you don't believe and won't believe, then no amount of evidence will convince you. You will dismiss even the most devastating testimony against your position.
I have been challenged repeatedly on university campuses: "You're going to have to prove to me that God exists and Christianity is true." My response? "If I do, will you believe in Him and follow Christ?" When they say no I respond, "Your problem is not a lack of information. If you have all your questions answered and still don't believe, then your real problem is spiritual, not intellectual."
War of the Worldviews
No one comes to these discussions completely neutral or objective. In other words, reason isn't always reasonable. Our reason can be compromised by our own selfish motives. People who act corruptly or destructively may think they have reasons that justify their actions. On top of that, they have a way in which they view the world. Their worldview consists of a set of presuppositions that bias reason.
The theistic worldview centers on God. Theos is the Greek word meaning "god," therefore a theist believes in God and sees God as the creator and sustainer of life and the world around us. The physical laws, the constants in nature, and the complexity of life all point to a rational intelligence. Theists push that logic, believing this intelligence isn't merely an impersonal force but is conscious and relational as humans are conscious and relational beings. Just as we desire intimacy, trust, and love from the relationships we value, so does our Creator.
The atheist worldview, also described as naturalistic, centers on nature. A-is the Greek prefix meaning "absence," therefore an atheist believes in the absence of God. Everything can be explained by natural causes and effects. As the lead singer for Bad Religion stated in his book Anarchy Evolution:
If people ask me about my worldview, I say that I am a naturalist. When most people hear that word, they think of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors watching birds and admiring landscapes—and I suppose that description applies to me. But I think of naturalism as a philosophy rather than a lifestyle. From a philosophical perspective, naturalists believe that the physical universe is the universe. In other words, there are no supernatural entities or forces acting on nature, because there is no empirical evidence for anything beyond or outside of nature.
This worldview eliminates the possibility of God from the outset; therefore, no evidence for an intelligent Creator will ever be convincing.
The pretense of many atheists is that somehow they don't really possess any of these presuppositions. They project this air of objectivity, arguing with Socrates, "Scientists follow the evidence wherever it leads." Unless, of course, it leads to God. To say that nothing exists outside the physical world is a statement of faith. There is no way that anyone can prove that is true. Atheism and other worldviews are just ideas—big ideas—and as history has proven, ideas have consequences. For example, the naturalistic worldview stemming from Darwinian evolution has had disastrous repercussions when applied philosophically and ethically: millions died at the hands of atheist Communists and Nazis during the twentieth century.
"Imagine There's No Heaven"
If there is an anthem of unbelief, it is no doubt the song "Imagine" written by the late John Lennon: "Imagine there's no heaven ..." What if Lennon's song were true? Would the world be a better place if there were no God? Let's imagine.
If there is no heaven, then there is no God. If there is no God or heaven, then this life is all there is: when you're dead, you're dead. What John Lennon imagined, Vladimir Lenin had already built in the communist state of Russia. The godless world of that Lenin was a living nightmare of torture, genocide, and darkness. The twentieth century was the bloodiest century in history, thanks to the atheistic regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong.
If God is dead, then man is dead as well. Utopian dreams of humanistic paradise seem ideal until one fatal fact is recalled: man is the true cause of evil. Without the restraint of God and His law, humanity is free to act out any impulse, desire, or passion. Nothing would be ultimately right or wrong. Imagine an announcement was made in any major city of the world that the police were taking the week off. No crimes would be prosecuted, no laws enforced. What do you imagine would be the result? Peace and tranquility or lawlessness and chaos?
Excerpted from GOD'S NOT DEAD by RICE BROOCKS Copyright © 2013 by Rice Broocks. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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