| A (Not So) Brief Defense of Christianity |
- What is the Most Reasonable World View?
Survival Course Manual
A (Not So) Brief Defense of Christianity
SECTION I: THEISM
I. What is the Most Reasonable World View?
- Metaphysical options
We have stated that the most basic
philosophical question is not that NOTHING is here, but rather
SOMETHING IS HERE, and it demands explanation. I am a part of some
kind of reality. I have consciousness. Something is happening and
I am part of it. Where did it come from? Did everything come from
nothing? Or has the material universe always been here and things
just accidentally got started? Or is there something or someone
that transcends the material universe and is responsible for
bringing it into being, and us with it?
All of these questions relate to the
philosophical concept of metaphysics. Webster defines it
thusly: "That division of philosophy which includes ontology, or
the science of being, and cosmology, or the science of the
fundamental causes and processes in things."
When we seek to answer these basic
questions, then, we are thinking "metaphysically," thinking about
the origin and causes of the present reality. And we really have
few options, or possible answers to consider:
- The idea that "something came from
nothing." (Most reject this view, since the very idea defies
- The idea that matter is eternal
and capable of producing the present reality through blind chance.
This second view has spawned two basic world views:
Materialism, or Naturalism, and Pantheism.
Both hold to the idea that nothing exists beyond matter.
Materialism is therefore atheistic by definition. Pantheism is
similar with the exception that since God does not exist, nature
becomes "God" in all its parts.
- The idea that Someone both
transcends and did create the material universe of which we are a
part (Theism). THERE ARE NO OTHER LOGICAL EXPLANATIONS.
Christians of course, would embrace this third view, theism, as the
most reasonable explanation for what we believe AND for what we
find to be true in ourselves and in reality at large. These ideas
will be developed more fully in the section on the arguments for
the existence of God.
In order to argue for the truth of
Christianity, therefore, we must begin with the existence of
God. Christianity is a theistic religion. That is, we believe
that there is one God who created all things. This is not simply a
statement of blind faith. There are sound and rational reasons for
preferring this view above the others. We will begin to explore
those, but first, let's briefly evaluate atheism and agnosticism.
- Atheism and Agnosticism
Ever since the "Enlightenment" in
the eighteenth century, philosophers have argued that ALL of
reality is to be observed only in space and time. Any notion of a
God who is transcendent, eternal, and not bound by natural laws has
been largely rejected as "unscientific" or "unproveable." Since we
cannot "prove" the existence or the non-existence of God, they
reason, there is no real benefit or practical value in considering
theism as a metaphysical option.
An atheist is a person who makes the
bold assertion, "There is no God." It is bold because it claims in
an absolute manner what we have just said was not possible: i.e.,
the existence or non-existence of God cannot be proven. It is also
bold because in order to make such an assertion, the atheist would
have to be God himself. He would need to possess the qualities and
capabilities to travel the entire universe and examine every nook
and cranny of the material world before he would even begin to be
qualified to come to such a dogmatic conclusion.
The most brilliant, highly-educated,
widely-traveled human on earth today, having maximized his/her
brain cells at optimum learning levels for a lifetime could not
possibly "know" 1/1000th of all that could be known; and
knowledge is now doubling by the years rather than by
decades or centuries! Is it possible that God could still exist
outside this very limited, personal/knowledge experience of one
highly intelligent human being? By faith, the atheist says,
Another curious thing about the
atheist is that before he can identify himself as one, he must
first acknowledge the very idea, or concept, or possibility
of God so he can then deny His existence!
David saw the fallacy of this long
ago when he said, "Only the fool has said in his heart, 'there is
no God.'" (Psalm 14:1).
(Note: For those who desire
additional, more formal material on the existence of God, see the
Appendix at the end of this outline, where this subject is
addressed in greater detail by such philosophers as Anthony Flew,
Ludwig Feuerbach, and David Hume).
By definition, agnosticism takes the
position that "neither the existence nor the nature of God, nor the
ultimate origin of the universe is known or knowable" (Webster).
Here again are some bold statements. The agnostic says, "You can't
know." What he really means is, "I can't know, you can't know, and
nobody can know." Leith Samuel in his little book, Impossibility
of Agnosticism, mentions three kinds of agnostics:
- Dogmatic. "I don't know, you
don't know, and no one can know."
Here is a person who already has
his mind made up. He has the same problem as the atheist above¾he
must know everything in order to say it dogmatically.
- Indifferent. "I don't know,
and I don't care." God will never reveal Himself to someone who
does not care to know.
- Dissatisfied. "I don't know,
but I'd like to know." Here is a person who demonstrates an
openness to truth and is willing to change his position if he has
sufficient reason to do so. He is also demonstrating what should be
true about agnosticism, that is, for one who is searching for
truth, agnosticism should be temporary, a path on the way to a less
skeptical view of life.
Those who have not found atheism and
agnosticism philosophically, scientifically, or personally
satisfying may, at some time in their lives consider the third
alternative, that of theism. They may come to ask our next