The Creation/Evolution issue isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, I think it’s only ratcheting up in intensity. A quick glance through my texts, emails, and Facebook messages showed that I had over 30 contacts from college students last year who were wrestling with the issue, either in the classroom or with a friend who held a different position.
As a result, I think there’s merit in posting some quick thoughts for Christians to use in the continuing dialogue. I’ve encountered many macro evolutionists who had very thoughtful, curious questions. They deserve thoughtful responses. In other words, defensively writing someone off as a heathen for not immediately buying the Creation account probably isn’t going to be helpful in bringing them any closer to Jesus. An informed response, however, thoughts they might’ve missed, may open the gate for them to do more biblical investigation. The professional term for this is presuppositional apologetics. The Apostle Paul does it at the start of his sermon in Athens (Acts 17). It alone doesn’t make anyone a believer. But it’s sort of like driving your child to church. It may eliminate obstacles that would’ve otherwise prevented an individual from hearing the gospel. Furthermore, in an increasingly post-Christian society, I would suggest that it has increasing value for Christians.
Because there was so much other good stuff to study, we didn’t do too much Christian Apologetics (apologetics means “defense”) in my college or seminary. So, much of what I understand about it is gathered from writers like Alvin Plantinga, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis group, and Timothy Keller. What follows, to a large degree, is a summary of Timothy Keller’s thoughts from several chapters of The Reason for God. Keller there himself is summarizing and explaining Plantinga’s lecture notes from “Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments.”
My hope, long-term, is that Christians can develop some basic philosophical and scientific arguments to disprove the old false concept that Christianity is a matter of faith and Evolution (i.e. macro-Evolution or Darwinian Evolution) is a matter of science.
The ABC’s of Defending Creation to Evolutionists
Keller makes the argument in The Reason for God that the underlying error of many atheists is that they approach the notion of God with a philosophy called “strong rationalism.” Strong rationalism says that the only reason to believe something is if there is undeniable empirical evidence for doing so. Therefore, many non-believers will say, “I cannot believe in God unless you give me absolute, undeniable proof that he exists.” Here’s the logical problem with that statement. There is no empirical evidence that “strong rationalism” is the way to find truth. In other words, it’s a self-defeating theory, much like denying absolute truth. If you suggest that there is no such thing as absolute truth, you just did the exact thing you claimed doesn’t exist – you proclaimed an absolute truth! Similarly, if you use the strong rationalist argument that you won’t believe in God unless there is undeniable proof, you need to give me undeniable empirical proof that the only way to properly believe something is if you have undeniable proof. You’re holding me and my beliefs to a standard that you won’t/can’t hold yourself.
So…..rather than look for undeniable proof of God, why don’t we see which direction the facts we BOTH agree upon is pointing us in?
Argument 1) The Universe Had a Starting Point
When I was a young Christian, I remember reading my science textbooks and thinking that perhaps the naughtiest and yet most fascinating chapter was always that on The Big Bang Theory. It is now the predominate cosmological model that describes the origins of the early universe, having replaced the Steady State Theory. Somewhat ironically, however, The Big Bang Theory actually puts Christians and Macro-Evolutionists on common ground. When Edwin Hubble looked through his telescope in the early twentieth century and made his painstaking calculations regarding the redshift, it was the dawn of an era in modern evolutionary science that said the universe had a finite starting point, a beginning. It was calculated at approximately 13.7 billion years ago. Approximately
Now, I don’t believe in The Big Bang, nor do I believe the universe is 13.7 billion years old. However, I do believe the universe had a starting point. So do most all secular scientists today. We agree on this. We both say that the natural universe had a finite, specific beginning. Furthermore, we also both believe that everything that has a beginning must have a cause. Consequently, if the natural universe does have a beginning and everything that has a beginning has a cause, that means that the thing which caused this universe would have to be beyond natural. So why would you ever expect to be able to prove the existence of this “Cause” through merely natural processes? Additionally, what exactly would you call this Cause that exists outside of nature? Wouldn’t “God” be a possibility?
Now, does this argument prove God’s existence? No. But does it possibly point us in the direction of belief in God? For some, it might.
Argument 2) A “Goldilocks” Planet
Remember Goldilocks. She’s a fairy tale character in “The Three Bears” who always has to have everything “just right” – exactly the way she wants it to be. I always thought she sounded kind of like a spoiled brat. Anyways, sort of like Goldilocks, the conditions of our planet are curiously “just right” for human survival. Strangely precise, in fact.
Francis Collins, atheist turned believer and author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, has pointed out how there are 15 physical constants in the natural world that are exactly as they must be in order for life to survive here on planet earth. These include the speed of light, the gravitational constant, various constants concerning the strong and weak nuclear force, and others. If any one of these universal constants were off by one part in a million, the universe would not be able to continue as we see it today. Not only would there be no mankind, but there would be no such thing as stars, galaxies, or planets.
Seems shockingly coincidental that things are so finely tuned for human existence. In fact, Stephen Hawking once famously said, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.” And elsewhere, “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe would have begun in just this way except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”
The most common counter argument that I’ve heard today to the “finely tuned” universe, is that there are possibly billions and billions of other alternate universes out there. And if that’s the case, then one of them is bound to have circumstances that are ripe for human life. The problem with this is that we have absolutely zero evidence indicating there are other universes out there. In other words, to believe in the multi-universe theory requires faith based on nothing.
Doesn’t it simply make more sense to suggest that a planet that, against all odds, seems about perfect for humans, is that way because a divine being made it that way? If you see a painting of an image that you recognize, do you assume a random chance smattering of paint into an image/language that you comprehend? Of course not. You assume a painter. When you walk into a building, do you assume a coincidental, safe arrangement of tons of bricks that you can enter into? Of course not. You enter a building and you assume a builder. When you recognize the perfectly organized, infinitesimally unlikely, “just right” nature of the universe, doesn’t that point to an intelligent being? In other words, when you analyze the complexity and symbiotic organization of creation, don’t you assume a Creator?
Does this argument prove God’s existence? No. But does it possibly point us in the direction of belief in God? For some, it might.
Argument 3) What Can You Trust?
One of the most common arguments I’ve heard against the existence of God is not so much an argument against God’s existence as it is a rationalizing of why so many choose/want/need to believe in God. Many will suggest that Christians (and others) need God in order to have hope for the world, meaning in life, and security/comfort. More crudely, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura once said, “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.” Most people wouldn’t put it quite that condescendingly, but there nonetheless certainly exists this sort of underlying feeling in culture, particularly in academic circles, that emotionally, psychologically, relationally needy people, people who cannot think for themselves, are the ones who engage in faith beliefs.
Many who hold these opinions believe that “religion” is something that was developed for evolutionary purposes. In other words, long ago (and still today) humans who agreed to similar beliefs about God banded together. And because they were so tightly knit of a community, they were more likely to survive over the ages than free, independent thinking types. Subsequently, they created offspring who were hard-wired to believe in the existence of God, NOT because he is actually there, but because such beliefs would improve their chances for survival.
It’s not a bad try. Here’s why that thought doesn’t work though. Let’s say that the evolutionary biologists are right for a minute and the only reason humans have believed in God is because those beliefs led to stronger, more united tribes that were able to pick off the weak. The evolutionary biologist is suggesting that the thoughts we have, we do not hold because they are true, but because they help us survive. In other words, our thoughts and logic and rational faculties really don’t tell us the truth about the universe, only what is beneficial for continued existence. Now if that’s the case, to be consistent, then we must NEVER trust any of our rationale, including our thoughts about how humans have developed the idea of God in order to survive. You see, once again, it’s a thought that philosophically defeats itself! If you’re going to suggest that I’m biologically programmed to believe in God for survival, why can’t I suggest that you are biologically programmed to believe that God doesn’t exist but that some humans foolishly choose to believe in him? If none of us can trust our thoughts or logic, then you have to be consistent – you can’t trust your thoughts either!
Again, does this argument prove God’s existence? No. But it does possibly point out flaws in the logic of perhaps the most common argument against a God out there right now.
Can I prove the existence of a supernatural God through natural science? No. But I can show fingerprints in Creation that point to a Creator. I can highlight the inconsistent internal logic of those who have written off God or the Bible for personal reasons.
Things to keep in mind…
- Everything that has a beginning has a CAUSE.
- Everything that has complex order has INTELLIGENCE behind it.
- If notions about God biologically developed merely for survival, then logically, so did notions against God.
Nail these three points down and you’ll feel much more confident when the topic arises.
Finally, some might be disappointed that a pastor wouldn’t use more Scriptural support in a post like this. But that’s sort of the point. When dealing with those who simply do not regard the Bible as authoritative, it can be a tricky matter for many Christians to find talking points. I know many frustrated Christians who don’t know where to begin. Consider starting here.
But, since I wouldn’t want to leave you empty-handed….
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1)
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Heb. 1:1-3)