Christian Biblical Counsel: ATHEISM & AGNOSTICISM

Atheism & Agnosticism

The Great Debate

by June Hunt

In August of 1939, Hitler—with a master plan for world dominance and a disregard for sanctity of life—invaded his eastern neighbor Poland. Germany’s hostility raised the curtain on World War II. Today, another “world war” has taken center stage in the battle for beliefs. It’s called “The Great Debate—Is There a God or Not?” This war has nothing to do with a supreme military leader, but everything to do with the Supreme Spiritual Commander. This war is fought with briefcases instead of bullets, three-piece suits instead of fatigues, academic arguments instead of artillery. Is human life a divine creation or, as Hitler thought, dispensable? Does an intelligent, personal God who literally intervenes in life exist? Simply put, does God exist? How leaders answer this one short question determines the major moral decisions of our day. The Bible poses the question, “Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain? Its own answer is revealing …

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.”

(Psalm 2:2)

I.     Definitions

At the end of the eighteenth century, an intelligentsia movement in Germany called the “higher critical school” began a siege on Scripture. In the nineteenth century, “higher criticism” attacked the validity of the Bible with a vengeance. From this era came some of the world’s most influential minds: Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche. What they shared in common was a total disregard or utter disdain for deity. And today what these atheists proclaimed still permeates our culture.

“The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”

(1 Corinthians 3:19)

A. What Is Atheism?

•     The Greek word for “atheism” is atheos, which means “no God” and is derived from a, which means “no” and theos, which means “God.”

•     The atheist believes with emphatic conviction that God does not exist.

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” (Psalm 14:1)

•     A “practical atheist” is a person who doesn’t deny the existence of God but lives as if there is no God.

Some who claim the name “Christian” behave as if God does not exist. They acknowledge Him intellectually, but do not rely on His presence and power in their daily lives. This position is not surprising because the Bible describes certain people as …

“… having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

(2 Timothy 3:5)

•     Atheism is the doctrine or belief that denies the existence of God. This worldview is also called philosophical naturalism and secular humanism.

Philosophical Naturalism …

is an atheistic worldview that explains reality only within the confines of the physical universe and the laws of nature (for example, the law of gravity). The naturalist has no belief in the supernatural. The naturalist cannot accept supernatural miracles, especially the magnificent message of full forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross.

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

(1 Corinthians 1:18)

Secular Humanism (or Secularism) …

is an atheistic worldview that centers on the self-sufficiency and fulfillment of the human being through reason (or self-realization). The secularist does not believe in the supernatural.

“In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”

(Psalm 10:4)

Q “What’s the difference between the two worldviews?”

A  A person can be both a philosophical naturalist and a secular humanist. However, a naturalist who believes that a person has no more worth than a worm cannot be a humanist. The secular humanist places the highest value on the worth of the individual.

Q “Which term is generally preferred?”

A  Most atheists don’t refer to themselves as atheists, for the word has negative connotations. More tend to use instead the term secular humanists.

Basic Beliefs of Humanism

In 1963 the Supreme Court of the United States mandated that certain atheistic organizations could be classified as religions. One such philosophy is secular humanism. From this “religion” came the Humanist Manifestos I and II, which contain the following basic beliefs:

•     The universe is self-existing and was not created.

•     Humans emerged as a result of evolution.

•     No deity or divine purpose exists.

•     Moral values are determined by human experience (situation ethics), not by moral absolutes.

•     Moral and sexual values are developed through secular education.

•     The individual has a right to determine life and death, a view that permits abortion, euthanasia and suicide.

The Bible presents very different beliefs …

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.”

(Deuteronomy 30:19–20)

B. What Is Agnosticism?

•     Agnosticism is the doctrine or belief that nothing is or can be known about the existence of God. Thomas Huxley coined the term and introduced the word agnostic in 1869 to a Metaphysical Society in which most people were either pantheists, deists, theists or atheists. The “-ists” identified themselves as knowing something that Huxley didn’t know. Thus, he created the word agnostic—not known. The agnostic was the antithesis of the “gnostics” of church history, who professed to know more about the very things of which Huxley was ignorant. To Huxley’s great satisfaction, the term agnostic became widely accepted by the public.

•     The Greek word for “agnosticism” is agnostos, which means “not known,” and is derived from a, which means “no” and gnostos, which means “knowledge.”

•     The agnostic believes there is insufficient evidence to verify the existence of God.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

(1 Corinthians 2:14)

C. What is Apologetics?

•     Apologetics is a systematic, logical argument or answer in defense of a doctrine. Apologetics is also a branch of theology devoted to the defense of such issues as the origin of the universe, the existence of God, the authority of Scriptures and the deity of Christ.

•     The Greek word for “apologetics” is apologia, which means “a defense or reply.”

•     Christianity is a reasonable faith rather than a blind faith. Christians who are apologists give reasons for believing in the one true God based on His revelation through the creation, the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Apologetics Is an Important Part of the Battle …

•     to disprove false teaching

•     to challenge the thinking of unbelievers

•     to strengthen the faith of believers

•     to keep theology based on the Bible

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

(1 Peter 3:15)

Revelation Is the Fundamental Defense for a Belief in God

•     General Revelation

Revelation through the creation

“The living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.… Has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:15, 17)

Revelation through the conscience

“When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law … they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” (Romans 2:14–15)

•     Special Revelation

Revelation through the Scriptures … the inerrant Word of God

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Revelation through the Savior … the incarnate Word of God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1–3, 14)

 

II.    Characteristics of Atheists and Agnostics

“Religion is the opiate of the people”—so Karl Marx proclaimed. Darwin’s theory of evolution discounted the Genesis creation. Freud defied God and looked to the human psyche and sex for answers. Nietzsche viewed Christianity as a religion invented and perpetuated by people too weak to face a universe that has no ultimate goals, no ultimate truths, no ultimate meaning. Yet during this same period, Abraham Lincoln, considered the most beloved President of the United States, said, “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”

“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

(Isaiah 40:26)

A. Two Types of Atheists

•     The Absolute Atheist

The classic or traditional atheist believes that to suggest the evidence of a supreme being is utterly ridiculous.… God is simply a creation of the human imagination.

Example:

Jean-Paul Sartre: There is not a God, there never was a God, there never will be a God.

Problem:

Where did reason, logic and the law of noncontradiction come from? Atheists must answer that all logical reason and scientific laws are a result of chance (irrational causes and evolution). If no God exists to impose it, then morality had to develop by chance.

Conclusion:

Reason that is based on chance is not trustworthy. God does not call people to live by blind faith but by reasoning—even reasoning about beginning a new life through faith in the Lord.

“ ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 1:18)

•     The Allegorical Atheist

This adaptable atheist believes that deity may have been helpful to primitive humans but is no longer necessary because society has evolved to a higher level of sophistication.

Example:

Friedrich Nietzsche: The God myth was once alive as a model for man to live by, but the myth is no longer needed or workable.

Thomas Altizer adopted Nietzsche’s position of the “God is dead” movement, proposing God was once alive but died at the crucifixion of Christ.

Problem:

This theory cannot be proven or justified by reason.

Conclusion:

Today the theory that “God is dead” is dead.

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12)

B. Two Types of Agnostics

•     The Antagonistic Agnostic

This “hard” agnostic does not know whether God exists or not and therefore states that no one can ever know.

Example:

A. J. Ayer: God is untouchable and unseeable, therefore God is a meaningless word. Ayer proposed the verification principle: something can be verified only by the five senses or by definition. (Example: A triangle has three sides.)

Problem:

The verification principle doesn’t pass the verification test because the test itself cannot be verified by the five senses, nor is its definition true.

Conclusion:

We cannot trust the verification test. The verification test itself is untrustworthy and meaningless.

“This is what God the Lord says—he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it.” (Isaiah 42:5)

•     The Accessible Agnostic

The “soft” agnostic does not know whether God exists or not, but could be willing to investigate.

Example:

Immanuel Kant: There is not enough information to know if there is a God. There are too many unavoidable contradictions in life. We can’t know the way anything is no matter how it appears because there is a difference between appearance and reality.

Problem:

When you undermine all knowledge, you undermine confidence in everything.

Conclusion:

We can’t have confidence in Kant’s theory because he says you can’t have confidence in anything; therefore, we can’t have confidence in his conclusion. Just because we don’t have complete information about the brain doesn’t mean we reject the reality of the brain and refuse to depend on it. Just because we don’t have complete information about God doesn’t mean we reject the reality of God and refuse to depend on God.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.… ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:6, 8–9)

 

III.   Causes of Disbelief

From Doubts to Denial

Madalyn Murray O’Hair—the most vocal American atheist of the twentieth century—was responsible for removing prayer and Bible reading from the public schools.

What caused her caustic criticism and war against God? In 1945, this unmarried mother was angry when the father of her son refused to marry her. Nevertheless, she called herself by his last name. Eight years later, she became pregnant again, bearing a second son by a second man who also rejected her.

In 1960, Madalyn sought to escape the “oppression of the USA” with the ultimate hope of becoming a citizen of the USSR; however, once again she was rejected. Upon returning to America she sought to enroll her sons in schools that required birth certificates. Madalyn was too embarrassed to produce them because of the multiple last names on the certificates. So instead, she attacked the school system … not because of a political belief, but because of a moral dilemma.

Her son Bill Murray has said, “Rather than confront her conscience, she determined to deny God’s existence and refused to accept any moral constraints.… If there was a Deity, then He could make demands on her life. From that point on she was at war with God.” Madalyn Murray’s doubts about a loving God turned into denial as she arrogantly hardened her heart and trusted only in herself.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.’ ”

(Jeremiah 17:5)

A. Atheism and Agnosticism … Begins with Doubts

Damaged emotions … rejection, trauma or lack of love in early life

Obliterated trust … no confidence in authority figures

Unrealistic expectations … faulty thinking about God and religion

Buried belief … no all-powerful God of love

Twisted truth … significance comes from what I do

Seared consciences … calloused to the touch of God

and Ends with Denial!

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.”

(1 Timothy 4:1–2)

B. Root Cause

Everyone is created with three God-given inner needs: the need for love, for significance and for security. If there has been repeated rejection instead of love, constant criticism instead of significance, trampled trust instead of security, you might try to protect your heart from further hurt.

If you find it too threatening to yield to the wisdom of a Higher Authority, you may “become” an authority unto yourself in order to reinforce your own sense of value. However, the Bible does say,

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”

(Proverbs 3:7)

Wrong Belief:

“Seeing is believing—and I don’t see enough moral, intellectual, scientific or experiential knowledge to prove the existence of a God who is in control of the universe. I can’t give up control of my life to a God I can’t see.”

Right Belief:

Believing is seeing—a universe with design must have a Designer. God reveals His invisible qualities, eternal power and divine nature to all who humbly and honestly seek truth. I’ve given the Lord control of my life for Him to fulfill His purpose for me.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

 

IV.  STEPS TO SOLUTION

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

(Jeremiah 29:13)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Romans 1:18–2:29

Truth on Trial

Imagine a courtroom in the midst of a trial. The charge is high treason against the King of the Universe. The defendants plead “not guilty” on the grounds of ignorance. As the case continues, evidence reveals that God has made Himself known to all people through nature and through their conscience. All have been exposed to the truth about God, even the heathen. Rejection of this truth results in devastating consequences! Take the time to do this short but powerful Bible study from the first two chapters of the Book of Romans.

•     What does God do in response to the   suppression of truth?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:18

 

•     How do people suppress the truth?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:18

 

•     What truth is plain to people?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:19

 

•     Who made the truth plain?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:19

 

•     How long has the truth of God been   clearly seen?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:20

 

•     How has God revealed Himself?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:20

 

•     What happens to those who choose to   ignore God’s truth?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:21

 

•     How do those who deny God see themselves?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:22

 

•     In truth, what are they?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:22

 

•     What is God’s response to those who   reject the truth?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:24

 

•     What do they prefer instead of the truth?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:25

 

•     How does God respond to those who   exchange His truth for a lie?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:26, 28

 

•     What are twenty characteristics of the   godless?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:29–31

 

•     What truth do the godless know?

Answer:

 

 

 

1:32

 

•     What is God’s judgment based on?

Answer:

 

 

 

2:2

 

•     What kind of heart will bring about God’s   wrath?

Answer:

 

 

 

2:5

 

•     What will those who reject the truth   receive?

Answer:

 

 

 

2:8

 

•     Although heathen Gentiles don’t have the   law, what truth has God given them?

Answer:

 

 

 

2:14–15

 

C. Defending the Faith

If God is God, why does He need mere mortals to defend Him? The defense is not for God’s benefit, but rather to illumine unenlightened minds. Many atheists and agnostics hold to their unbelieving positions because they cannot comprehend an Intelligent Designer who is God. Yet, can anyone comprehend 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Centigrade)? Just because you cannot comprehend such heat does not mean you must reject the reality of the sun’s heat.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.… In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun.… Nothing is hidden from its heat.”

(Psalm 19:1, 4, 6)

Q “Isn’t the universe a product of self-creation?”

A  If something exists, we must draw one of the following three conclusions:

•     It is eternal.

•     It is created by something eternal.

•     It is self-created.

During the Age of Enlightenment (eighteenth century), skeptics claimed that the “God hypothesis” was no longer necessary … that the universe came into being by spontaneous generation. Scientists believed that bacteria appeared on bread because of “spontaneous generation.” However, after microscopes became more powerful, spontaneous generation was rejected because the sources of bacteria were discovered. Today the scientific community recognizes that something cannot come from nothing. Therefore, for something to create itself, it would first have to exist. Yet, for something to be and not be at the same time is an impossibility! Ultimately, the only explanation for the existence of the universe is the eternal God. God is what we call self-existent—He has always been, and He will always be.

“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (Hebrews 1:10)

Q “How can a logical person believe in the existence of God?”

A  A logical person would not make such illogical statements.

•     To state, “I know there is no God” communicates, “I know all there is to know—nothing exists beyond my knowledge.” However, no one knows everything. Therefore, if something is not known, that something might be God.

•     To state, “God does not exist” communicates, “I have been everywhere in the universe.” No one has literally been everywhere. Because you haven’t been everywhere, you can’t say God doesn’t exist here.

“ ‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24)

Q “How can I believe something I can’t see and have never seen?”

A  No one has ever seen gravity, yet everyone lives by gravity. The law of gravity pulls all objects toward the center of the earth; therefore, without gravity we would continuously float in the air.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Q Does God really exist, or is God a figment of our imaginations?”

A  Although empirical evidence is not available, scholars and apologists use four lines of argument in the great debate.

•     The Argument from Being (called the Ontological Argument)

—  All cultures, primitive and advanced, have an awareness of God that includes a system of worship and even atonement for sin. The fact that every person has thought about a Supreme Being in one way or another presupposes that such a being exists.

•     The Argument from First Cause (called the Cosmological Argument)

—  Since, scientifically, something cannot come from nothing, our world has to have been created. Therefore, a Creator must have originally caused its creation.

•     The Argument from Man (called the Moral Argument)

—  Because human beings are mentally and morally unique, in contrast to all other life forms, God must have placed within us our mental and moral capabilities.

•     The Argument from Design (called the Teleological Argument)

—  Just as an intricate, workable watch is made by a watchmaker, the design of the world is intricate and workable. Therefore, an Intelligent Designer must have planned it.

“This is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’ ” (Isaiah 45:18)

One indisputable law of science states: “Something cannot come from nothing!” Therefore, if God did not make matter out of nothing, then nothing made matter out of nothing—a scientific impossibility!

Q “What kind of God exists?”

A  Based on the four classic lines of argument:

•     The Argument from Being

—  Because everyone has the idea of God within, God is essential.

•     The Argument from First Cause

—  Because the Creator created something out of nothing, God is all-powerful.

•     The Argument from Man

—  Because human beings exhibit moral, self-sacrificial choices for the highest and best of others, God is moral.

•     The Argument from Design

—  Because God designed an intricate world (for example, balancing heat and cold, changing gases that alternate between plants and humans), God is vastly intelligent.

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Q “Doesn’t the existence of evil presuppose that a loving God does not exist?”

A  Just because knives are used by some people to commit evil such as murder doesn’t mean that knives are inherently evil. God in the Bible reveals His sovereign plan for those who are evil and wicked.

“For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.” (Psalm 37:9–10)

Q “Does it even matter whether God exists?”

A  If God didn’t care about your existence or was too weak to do anything about it, then no, it wouldn’t matter. But if God is all-powerful, yet personal, and if He is concerned about you and if He has a personalized plan for your life, then yes, it does matter.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Q “How can you believe in the Bible—and thus, the God of the Bible—when you cannot prove scientifically that the Scriptures are true?”

A  This line of thinking is a common fallacy. Scientific proof must be based on events that are repeatable. Clearly, historical events are not repeatable, so some other method of determining their reliability must be instituted. Legal, historical proof shows that something is a fact beyond reasonable doubt. In a courtroom, a verdict is determined by the weight of the evidence—exhibits, written testimony and oral testimony. The Bible stands up under the weight of three lines of reasoning.

•     Exhibits—Archeology:

Over 25,000 biblical sites have been discovered, all supporting the historical record of the Bible. Jewish archeologist Nelson Glueck said, “No archeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.”23 Jesus said, “If they [His disciples] keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). Although many critics thought numerous biblical sites were fictitious, the archeological stones have indeed cried out supporting the veracity of the Bible.

Critic

 

Confirmation

 

—  Critics claimed that Nabonidus was the last   king of Babylon—not Belshazzar as mentioned in Daniel chapter 5.

 

—  In 1853, archeologists discovered a cylinder   depicting two Babylonian kings co-ruling as father and son (Nabonidus and   Belshazzar).

 

—  Critics claimed that the Hittites were a   fictitious people although they were mentioned 40 times in the Bible (Joshua   1:4; 2 Kings 7:6).

 

—  In the 1870s, archeologists discovered   evidence of the Hittite civilization near the Euphrates River. In 1906, the Hittite   capital was discovered in what is today modern Turkey.

 

—  Critics claimed that King Sargon of   Assyria—mentioned once in the Bible—was a fictitious ruler whose name was   inserted to fill a chronological gap.

 

—  In 1842, archeologists discovered King Sargon’s   palace.

 

—  Critics claimed that Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah,   Zeboiim, Zoar—the five cities built on the plains as mentioned in Genesis   chapter 14—were fictitious principalities, as were their kings.

 

—  In 1975, archaeologists uncovered thousands   of tablets at the city of Ebla. Some scholars suggest that names found in   these tablets are the same as those mentioned in Genesis chapter 14.

 

•     Written testimony:

In the sacred writings of all the world religions, the Bible alone contains prophecies—specific, detailed prophecies—that are not self-fulfilling. Approximately 2,000 Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled in secular history, and such prophecies, which can be verified by history, are not found in any other world religion.

“I will raise up for them a prophet … I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)

Prophecy

 

Fulfilled in History

 

—  Circa 701 BC Babylon would be   conquered—Isaiah 13:17, 19; Jeremiah 51:11.

 

—  The Fall of Babylon in 539 BC—Daniel chapter   5.

 

—  Circa 571 BC Egypt would lose its superior   status and strength—Ezekiel 29:1–2, 15.

 

—  True since 332 BC

 

—  Circa 650–655 BC The city of Nineveh would   be destroyed—see the Book of Nahum.

 

—  612 BC

 

—  Circa 571 BC The city of Tyre would be   destroyed—Ezekiel 26:3–4.

 

—  332 BC

 

—  Circa 1405 BC Israel would be scattered to   all the nations—Deuteronomy 28:37.

 

—  In AD 70, during the dispersion after the   destruction of Jerusalem, Israel was scattered to all the nations.

 

—  Circa 1405 BC Israel would return to   Palestine in later days—Deuteronomy 30:3–5.

 

—  After five generations of their land’s being   occupied by another country, the occupied people lost their national   identity. Yet in May 1948, the Jews experienced an unprecedented event in all   of history. Israel became a nation … again—a perfect and precise fulfillment   of prophecy!

 

•     Oral testimony:

Many testify to the Bible’s life-transforming power on their personal lives.

“The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

—Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America

“The Bible is the best gift God has given to man … but for it we could not know right from wrong.”

—Winston Churchill, World Leader

“We rest with assurance upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture.”

—Daniel Webster, Lawyer

“I believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the will and Word of God.”

—Charles Dickens, Author

“It is the best Book that ever was or ever will be in the world.…”

—Benjamin Franklin, Statesman

“My advice to you is that you cultivate an acquaintance with and a firm belief in the Holy Scripture.”

Q “Aren’t all religions basically the same?”

A  No. Religions are not like trails leading up a mountain where, from the bottom, many paths lead to only one final destination. To state that all religions are equally valid requires you to ignore the many contradictions among them or to regard these contradictions as insignificant and unimportant. Buddhists deny the existence of a personal God—Muslims state that Judas, not Jesus, died on the cross—Hindus believe Jesus was no more divine than any other man. However, Jesus taught that there is only one personal God … and He is triune in nature. And as for coming into a relationship with God, Jesus left no other religious option when He said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Q “How can I intellectually accept God by faith?”

A  You frequently live by faith. When you board a bus, you don’t know the driver personally. You know nothing about his character, but you exercise faith that he will do his job correctly. When you board an elevator, you don’t first inspect the cables and the flooring. You get in and push the button for the correct floor. And how much more will the One who created you be faithful to you. Faith is your choice. You can take a step of faith to trust Him with your life.

“We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

D. Answers to the Arguments of Atheists

Atheists say, “Man created God,” while theists say, “God created man.” Which is true? When using a radio, a telephone, a camera or a car, you naturally deduce that the item was designed by a person with intelligence. Likewise, things that are much more complex—the sea world, the animal kingdom, the human brain—would logically be the creation of an intelligent Creator.

“How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

(Psalm 104:24)

•     Cause and Effect

If everything needs a cause, then so does God. If God does not need a cause, then neither does the world, then there is no need of God.—Bertrand Russell

Answer:

Only effects need a cause. If you theorize that even God is an effect and needs a cause, then you can never find a “first cause” for the creation of the universe.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

•     Moral Incompatibilities

If God is all good and all powerful, He could and would defeat evil. Evil is not defeated; therefore, there is no God.—Pierre Bayle

Answer:

God did not create a puppet state in which people have no choice over their actions. He allows everyone freedom to choose good and evil now, yet He guarantees the destruction of all evil in the end.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.… But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:4, 8)

•     Unjustifiable Suffering

Unjustifiable suffering is incompatible with a just God.—Albert Camus

Answer:

Our perspective of justice is limited in view of God’s redeeming process, which produces a greater good. Example: The mother whose son is killed by a drunk driver becomes active in a program that saves thousands of lives (MADD).

“Whenever you face trials of many kinds … you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4)

•     Incompatible Attributes

How can God possess attributes such as love and wrath, which are incompatible?

Answer:

Love and wrath are not incompatible. Love is an attribute of God that never changes. God is never without agape love for you—He always seeks your highest good. Wrath is God’s response to sin. God’s wrath, like a refiner’s fire, is born out of His pure love.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” (Malachi 3:3)

•     The Big Bang Theory

The universe is a result of a chance combination of particles in motion. The chance theory is also the explanation of human life.—David Hume

Answer:

A completely random universe that runs by chance defies intricate design, reliability and intelligence, which is clearly visible. Example: If all the parts of your watch were put in a box and shaken for a million years, an intricate watch would not be created.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4–7)

•     Wishful Thinking

Belief in God is based on a wish fulfillment, a childhood neurosis that seeks a protector.—Freud and Sartre

Answer:

The fact that people in all cultures, whether primitive or advanced, feel a great need for God and worship God is universal proof for the existence of a God.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18–20)

•     Physical Liabilities

God cannot be seen, heard or touched.

Answer:

God is not limited to making Himself known through physical attributes. He increasingly reveals Himself through the conscience as a person increasingly grows in faith.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. 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.” (Hebrews 11:1–3)

Deaf, mute and blind—she lived like a wild animal in a dark jungle. Because they had not disciplined the child and she lacked a way to communicate, the parents didn’t know what to do. A young woman, Annie Sullivan, responded to their plea. Over and over she spelled into Helen Keller’s opened hand W-A-T-E-R and then put her hand under the flowing outdoor water pump. Finally the miracle occurred—the light came on in Helen’s mind! She understood the correlation between the word water and liquid water. A whole new world of communication opened up for her. The day came when Annie began to tell her about God. Once Helen comprehended G-O-D, she spelled back that she already knew God. How could that be? It was impossible … where did she get any knowledge of God? The Bible says that God placed this knowledge within her. The Bible says about everyone, everywhere …

“What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

(Romans 1:19–20)

The Circular Appeal to an Atheist

Once when Colonel Robert Ingersoll, known as “the great agnostic,” visited author and Christian writer Henry Ward Beecher, he gazed with fascination at a beautiful globe portraying the stars and constellations. “This is just what I’ve been looking for,” Ingersoll stated. “Who made it?” Beecher repeated, “Who made it? Why, Colonel, nobody made it. It just happened!”

Carefully chosen words—logical words—can cause atheists to rethink their position. This simple acrostic on the word circles gives a logical approach to help you present the good news to those who do not know their Creator.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

(Colossians 4:5–6)

Convey an atmosphere of acceptance and respect.

•     “Am I correct in hearing that you don’t believe in an intelligent, personal God who created the universe?”

•     “I understand that, in reality, there are actually very few true atheists.”

Introduce an alternate way of thinking about knowledge.

•     “Do you consider yourself closed-minded or open-minded?”

•     “Of all the knowledge in the world, what percent do you think you possess?”

 

Represent all knowledge in the world with a large circle.

Create doubts about their conclusions.

•     “Since you said that you are open-minded, is it possible that God could exist outside the circle of your knowledge?”

 

Look at the alternative conclusion.

•     “Since you agree that God could exist outside your circle of knowledge, you really aren’t an atheist, you’re an agnostic … you just don’t know whether God exists.”

•     “If God is knowable, would you be open to consider how to know Him?”

Explain your own experience … personal testimony.

•     “God became real in my life when.…”

•     “I never knew God personally until.…”

Share the steps to a knowledge of God.

•     “If there is a God, why do you think He has created you?” God created you to give meaning and purpose to your life. (Read Jeremiah 29:11.)

•     “Why do you think you have not experienced a personal knowledge of God or of His purpose for your life?” God has said that you must first acknowledge an intellectual power greater than your own power before you can know Him. (Read Proverbs 9:10.)

•     “What do you think keeps you from acknowledging your need to know God and to experience His love?” The sin of pride hardens your heart and keeps your spiritual eyes blind to the reality of God and His love for you. (Read Hebrews 3:12–13.)

•     “Do you know God’s solution for opening your spiritual eyes to recognize and understand who He is?”

—  Admit that you have willfully sinned.      Romans 3:23

—  Realize that your sin separates you from God. That is why you don’t know Him.         Isaiah 59:2

—  Accept the death of Jesus as your personal payment.      Romans 5:8

—  Acknowledge that Jesus is the only way to receive knowledge of God. John 14:6

—  Receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. John 1:12

To   the skeptic who says, “I’ve never seen or heard God,” I offer these thoughts:   Just because the blind never see a star or the deaf never hear a harp doesn’t   mean that stars and harps do not exist. With faith you can see His   footprints. With an open heart you will hear His voice.—June Hunt

 

Selected Bibliography

Blanchard, John. Does God Believe in Atheists? Darlington, England: Evangelical, 2000.

Crabb. Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody, 1989.

Fuller, Edmund. 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Avenel, 1980.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L., and Paul D. Feinberg. Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980.

Geisler, Norman L., and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Hoerth, Alfred J. Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Hordern, William E. A Layman’s Guide to Protestant Theology. Revised ed. New York: Macmillan, 1968.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. (Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

Murray, William J. The Church Is Not for Perfect People. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1987.

Price, Randall. The Stones Cry Out. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1997.

Samuel, Leith. The Impossibility of Agnosticism. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1972.

Sproul, R. C. Reason to Believe. Grand Rapids: Lamplighter, 1982.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Atheism & Agnosticism: The Great Debate (1–23). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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