devotional

29MAR
2016

The New Atheism

I briefly interrupt my London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 tour to address a matter strong upon my mind of late.
There’s a vicious attack against the Bible in a sort of “fangs-out” atheism today. Even just a brief look through some of the Twitter discussions or Facebook pages set up against the Christian Faith will show a level of vitriolic attack that I think hearkens back to the persecutions of the first 200 years of the church in its hateful ideology. Thankfully, however, this modern persecution’s “teeth” are not actual teeth. I engage with atheists and the like often in social media venues. Most of these engagements seem useless, but I do not underestimate the value of even these difficult interactions. My convictions are that God’s word never fails to accomplish its ends when used properly.
Atheists are fond of demanding “proof” for God’s existence. They do this because they’re convinced that there is none. Christian answers to this “spade card” of a question on proof often center on a few central themes. 1) The teleological argument or the argument “from design”. This is the argument that presupposes God as manifestly evident in the obviously intelligent design of the material world. I.e. one cannot have an egg before a chicken ergo the first chicken was designed by God. 2) The argument of the Bible’s obvious prophetic inspiration. Since the Bible alone contains thousands of predictive prophecies undeniably written hundreds or even sometimes a thousand or more years before being fulfilled it demonstrates a kind of unique inspiration over all the other so-called religious books that are all utterly devoid of such proof. 3) What might be called a “higher truth” argument. Truths like conscience proving a moral standard that is not at all relative, or appealing to the “rightness” of God’s judgment over a world like this. That there “must be” a God if it is always wrong to murder, etc. I use all of these arguments and more. They should be used. They’re good arguments. I’ll talk on positions 1 and 3 below.
What I’m writing on today is what’s emerging in my mind as I try to understand my culture’s anti-God-ness. All evidence is framed by us in our worldviews. Helping an atheist or a Christian to understand this can be highly productive. So, there may be two people observing a kind act from one person to another. Person 1 has no ability to repay person 2, and person 2 just does something kind like feed person 1. One observer may look at that kindness and frame it as evidence of the inherent dignity of all men and a reflection of the kindness of God resident perhaps even in the fallen hearts of men. Another may look at the same act and determine it an evolutionarily developed social disposition to improve one’s own existence by being kind to others. The same act, irrespective of person 2’s motives, would be framed by each person’s view with neither “proving” anything as to the certainty of either one’s conclusions. This would be exactly the same with absolutely every other “evidence” in the known universe. Atheists have helped me see this. Using a much more difficult proof, the atheist may look at a blind child and say, “see, there is no God. What sort of a “good God” would create that?!” And the Christian, who may herself be blind might quote Exodus 4:11 which says, ““Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?” They would say that even the worst of abnormalities in this fallen world don’t escape God’s providence, or demean one’s value. Both responses would suit the frame of each person’s individual presuppositions. Hence, I’ve learned that a) all evidence is evidence in any direction, including my own, and this leads me to conclude b), that the illusion of the atheist today that they just “stick to the facts” is but another philosophy with no ultimate proof of anything. They’re framing the same silent evidences I am. I can examine every evidence of every legitimate scientific discipline and it will 100% evidence my God. To them they won’t. Thus all of the evidence is “up for grabs” in this regard. There are scientists who are atheists and scientists who are not. “Science” and faith are not opposed to each other even though some “scientists” may say they are. In short I’ll say therefore that no atheist’s problem is a lack of evidence; it’s instead the suppression of truth. Romans 1:20. No physical evidence proves anything since none of us were there in the beginning, and all evidences can point to any direction. It all depends on the framing of the facts! P.S. the Bible’s veracity does not hang on the age of the earth!
Even in Jesus’ earthly day most doubted. If an atheist had said to Simon Peter, “show me proof of God”, and Peter took them right to one of Jesus’ sermons where he healed a blind man also, that would not “prove” anything if the person present wished to frame his argument against it still. Ask the Pharisees. Even the Resurrection itself is deniable if you wish. The Apostles were given miracle power to attest to their words yet they were rejected. Some walked through the Red Sea on dry land and still denied God. God will one day make himself known in a visceral, experiential, undeniable way. That will not be life as we know it.
God has designed a world where those who truly see him must do so with eyes they don’t get from their parents. God could have done it any way he wished, but life would simply not be life as we know it if God sat visibly in a Vatican City somewhere. It would not be what he designed which was a world full of a church of people who acted on his word as truth. Being someone of your word is a virtue we rarely see taught to our kids today, but it’s the very highest of dignities. God is a being of his word.
The axiomatic of truth itself must remain one of our apologetics. We should not be shy to presuppose the existence of God. Despite the fact that his earth, everything around it, and everything in it is proof of him if properly framed, there is also a higher truth of God we can know without an acid test. I wrote the following to an atheist this week who said that the only reason to ever believe anything is material evidence, etc. I wrote it to him as evidence of higher truth: It’s Germany in 1940. You, a foreigner, happen upon a scene on the side of a dirt road where two SS Soldiers are about to execute a Jewish family of seven. You instantly realize the danger and know you’ve only seconds, but you know you must try to intervene so you instinctively throw up your hands to the Soldier with his pistol at the youngest’s head and shout, “STOP! You can’t kill them!” He’s startled and looks at you, but now imagine if he looked back at you and without hesitation retorted, “WHY NOT? They’re just stinking Jews!” At that moment you’d realize that if there truly is nothing more than “material evidence [for] impetus…conjecture and prediction” then there’s not only no hope for this family, but that there’s no hope for this man…or man altogether. “Is there not a law for our laws?” -Lawyer at the Nuremberg trials.

We must remember the complete futility of mere words to change anyone’s heart. Having to “prove God” exists is evidence of a depravity so far gone that it’s like having to “convince” a Nazi Solider that a Jewish person is a human being. Words become ultimately worthless against such deadness. Only the Spirit of God can convert us! Everything else, no matter how powerful, is footnotes. This is why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”.

God can be known. He can be “proven”. All you need is ALL of the evidence…and the right presuppositions. Our fight is not in an octagon or a petri dish. It’s between the minds of men and the invisible visible God.

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