Giving an Answer – Part 11
God’s Not Dead: Thinking Through the HOW
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #093
June 1, 2017
“Father, thankfully we can come together this evening as we take this particular lesson to apply what we’ve studied, what we’ve learned in the previous lessons on apologetics and how to give an answer for the hope that is within us. We pray that we might have insight, that we might be able to expand—and perhaps put some real shoe leather—on these somewhat abstract concepts so that we can each improve in the way we answer questions or present the gospel to others.
Father, we pray that You would use this time for our spiritual growth and our spiritual edification. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
I want to give a little introduction to what is going on in this film. The film that I’m talking about, for those of you who haven’t heard the other parts of this, is the first film, God’s Not Dead . There is God’s Not Dead . And God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness  is just about finished production.
If you go out on the Internet, you can see a number of different reviews—some are good, some are bad. Some of them are very critical of the technical aspects of writing, and editing, and acting. I think, for the most part, especially if you’re a Christian and you’ve been around for very long, it’s such an improvement over much that was done in the 60s, 70s, or 80s under the guise of Christian film and Christian movies. That’s not a perspective I want to talk about or critique, but the comments are that God’s Not Dead  is better on all of those accounts.
If you watch the film, God’s Not Dead , they have like seven plot lines going—six or seven plot lines—with different people who are all struggling with some aspect of their relationship to God. It’s not really clear how all of those other plot lines really fit within the main theme or thesis of the film. I think that was a little confusing. That was one of the things that was pointed out in several reviews. In God’s Not Dead , it says that they didn’t have quite as many plot lines going, so it’s not as confusing.
What’s positive and good about films like this and The Case for Christ, which was just released, is that they can provide a very useful foundation for discussion with unbelievers as well as believers. The downside is that often the arguments that are presented, because of the venue in which they are presented, can’t get very deep or very complex in presenting some rather sophisticated arguments. But they do a pretty decent job most ways.
But one of the positive values about this is that we can look at the film and then talk about. I know several of you have seen the film. Some of you haven’t seen the film. I’ve given you a handout of the script. It gives all of us a chance to talk about what’s going on, because we’ve all had these experiences. We’ve talked to somebody; tried to present the gospel. They’ve asked us questions, and
- We either can’t answer them or
- We give them an answer and then afterwards we think of all the things that we should have said and all the ways that we should have said them.
Then we start kicking ourselves in the pants over that. We all go through that. Let me tell you, after you’ve gone to seminary, and to school, and you’ve taught this as many times as I have, you never get away from it, because we’re fallen, corrupt creatures. There’s no such thing as perfection. Thank God.
As I pointed out, we have the Holy Spirit. According to John 16, He is the One who is making the gospel clear, and He’s the one who’s making the issue clear. So no matter how many mistakes we make, we know that God the Holy Spirit is superintending the whole process.
So when I do this kind of a critique of the film, I don’t want anybody to get the idea, “Well, they really blew it. This isn’t good. We shouldn’t watch it. There’s no value to it.” I think that you should. It’s something that you should watch; you should listen to the evaluations here. Think about it, and think about how you would do what this young man does in that kind of a pressure situation.
It’s sort of like the Super Bowl. One team goes to the Super Bowl—usually it’s the New England Patriots—and they win. After all of the celebration is over and everybody sobers up and relaxes, sometime in the spring they will get together and they will get the game films. And they look at the game films. No matter how well they did, no matter how great the score differential was with the other side, not every player did their best. There were flubs by almost every player, because we’re all human. We all fail. We all lack perfect performance skills.
They watch those films over and over again in order to self-critique, in order to understand what they did, why they did it, how they could do it better, so that the next time they can improve on their skill. That’s kind of what we’re doing tonight. We’re going to analyze and evaluate the moves that are made, talk about it, and see how it could be done better. we’ll all learn some things it in the process.
One caveat that I wanted to bring out is a weakness. If you read a book ... For example, on the website we’ve posted Charlie’s early Framework One book on Giving an Answer. In the last chapter, he gives some sample dialogues, which are good to read through also. But there’s always—that and whether it’s a film—a level of artificiality. Because when you finish writing, as a Christian, we want the unbeliever to become saved. We are, in a sense, making up a dialogue. So there’s a level of—what would you call it—it’s artificial. It’s contrived a little bit.
But in this film, they really tried to stay away from that as best they could. They do a pretty good job. We’ve all had similar kinds of dialogue. In fact, what they did was researched 30 different trial cases, or lawsuits, involving Christian students bringing charges against professors who discriminated against them in the same way that this professor does in the classroom—refusing to give them a good grade, kicking them out of class, intentionally failing them, because of their religious beliefs, things like that. So a lot of the verbiage that comes out of the mouth of the atheist professor is taken from real-life circumstances, situations, transcripts from trials.
So the situation and the circumstance is very realistic. It may not be the kind of thing that your child or grandchild will necessarily face on campus; but it’s realistic, and they very well could. I have heard of many examples from Connecticut, from Texas, from other areas, where similar kinds of situations happened in the classroom. I saw some that were not quite as extreme when I was a student in university, and that was several decades ago. So this kind of thing is not just contrived. We live in a culture where people who are vocal against Christianity are more and more the hero. So we, as Christians, need to know how to face and how to handle these things.
Now, just a couple of things through the slides that I want you to remember as we talk through this. These are the things that we’ve learned from all the biblical examples we looked at.
1. People have a religious system.
This professor professes to be an atheist. But he believes in God. At one point, as a child, he was probably a believer. His mother died when he was 11 years old. He kept praying that God would heal her and that she wouldn’t die, and when she died, he took out all of his anger against God. So he believed that God didn’t exist and God was of no value.
What is he doing? He is suppressing the truth, just like Romans 1:18–23 describes.
2. Unbelievers are not spiritually neutral.
Atheists are not spiritually neutral. No human being is spiritually neutral. No unbeliever is a true atheist. At the core of their soul, they know God exists.
3. The purpose of a confrontation is not just to change their mind about God, but to bring them to salvation.
4. Questions that we ask expose unbelief and are designed to either directly or indirectly challenge people to obedience to the Scripture.
5. People are able to evaluate the evidence despite a prior commitment to suppress the truth.
They are consistently reinterpreting it, as the apostle Paul did, up until the point that the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus.
6. Again and again, the Bible presents evidence for God’s presence and for God’s work, but it’s not treated as neutral between the unbeliever and the believer.
7. God uses historic facts and evidence to expose the unbeliever’s sin and rebellion.
8. Often, their reaction may be quite hostile.
1. Often it begins with questions—asking questions to bring out what people believe and what they mean.
2. The believer should always assume the Creator God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob exists.
We’re not taking a position of neutrality to try to prove God exists—what would be the basis for that. We may give evidence for the existence of God, but that’s different from trying to argue for the existence of God or prove it.
3. Sometimes, the focus is—as Elijah did on Mount Carmel—to point out the inadequacies of the other person’s worldview, their inability to live on that basis.
They’ve taken a position. So, by asking questions, you demonstrate they can’t live consistently with it.
4. Realizing, again, all men know God exists. They are suppressing that truth in various ways, but they know and God the Holy Spirit is also working. So, it’s our job to simply present the truth and answer questions.
Then, just to put this back in your minds again, we have, basically, four different ways that we come to know truth.
Through reason alone, called rationalism.
Empiricism, which is through the use of evidence, through the use of observation, the scientific method.
Mysticism, which is the idea that somehow, intuitively, we come to know.
And revelation; God speaks.
They each have a counterpart in terms of apologetic strategy. The first one is what was called classic apologetics. Now, I want to put this in your head. Think about this. There’s a chart in the back of Ken Boa/Robert Bowman’s book, Faith has Its Reasons. There they say that with regard to science, the classic apologist takes a view of creation that is sort of generic. That’s the dominant view. Tere are going to be exceptions to each of these, but that’s the dominant view.
In evidentialism, which is a counterpart to an empirical basis—that man’s evidence is the point of common ground—facts, history, or science is neutral. Under evidentialism, in terms of science, they usually believe in old-earth creation—not a young-earth creation.
Under mysticism, the counterpart is fideism—just believe. They usually have some form of theistic evolution.
Then, for the person who believes in the priority of revelation and is consistent with it and is a presuppositionalist, then the truth of Scripture is presupposed and they usually believe in a young-earth creation.
Then, one last chart to put in your minds. We saw great evidence of it today. I assume most of you know what happened today. It has been talked about for a couple of weeks. “Will President Donald Trump take us out of the Paris climate treaty or not?” And he did.
If you take the time to go on some website you’ll hear all of the horrible, angry, bitter, vile things that many celebrities said about Donald Trump and accused him of—that he hates the earth, all kinds of things—the anger, the emotion that’s there. See, this is what happens; when you’re thinking about how to get down to the basic levels of how people think, it often starts at a surface level. In this case it’s a political or national decision. It immediately goes to the first layer underneath; it exposes ethics.
These people are angry. And we are going to see this in the film. These people think that what he has done is horrible! It’s wrong! It’s terrible! Where are they coming up with these values? See, emotion is important because it exposes certain things that are going on in a person’s thinking. We will see some evidence of that.
As soon as you ask, “Where did you get that value?” the next thing is, “Well, how do you know that value is true? That’s the issue of knowledge—or as philosophers call it, epistemology. How do you know it’s true?
Then, ultimately, that takes you to ultimate reality. What is ultimate reality? Is it matter? Is it nothingness? Is it a personal, infinite God—what philosophers call metaphysics?
With that for a reminder, I’m going to have James and Gregory come up, and we’re going to have them start reading through the script. There are three points in the film where Josh Wheaton has to get up in front of this college classroom to express his argument for the existence of God.
The scenario is that the professor is an atheist and is angry with God, but that’s not evident at this point in the film. The professor comes along and at the beginning of this philosophy class tells the students that they, in order to get past all this “God talk,” which he thinks is just a waste of time, that he wants all of his students to write out and sign a statement that God is dead. There’s one student who’s a committed Christian, and he’s not going to do it. He won’t sign it. So the professor says, “Well, if you won’t sign it, then why don’t you come and present your case, why don’t you present your evidence for the existence of God and prove that God is not dead?”
So that’s what happens. There are three times in the film when he does that. That’s what the script is that you have in front of you. So we’re going to start with the first one, and we will start with Josh Wheaton. He’s the student, and he starts with the statement, “Atheists say that no one can prove the existence of God.”
Gregory is going to be Josh Wheaton, and we’re going to typecast James, because James was the atheist, science background unbeliever who came to Preston City Bible Church and for the first few dates that he and Laura had, they were looking at Institute for Creation Research websites, talking about Creation and evolution. As the Lord worked on him over a year, that’s when he came to understand the gospel and trust in Christ. So I thought we’d typecast him.
[James] “It took me more than three arguments.”
[Dr. Dean] “It took you more than three arguments? They didn’t have time in the movie for that. It took you a year.”
“Gregory, why don’t you start? Since I’ve got a hot microphone, I’ll just speak into it when I get the female student role.”
Josh Wheaton: Atheists say that no one can prove the existence of God, and they’re right. But I say that no one can disprove that God exists. But the only way to debate this issue is to look at the available evidence, and that’s what we are going to do. We are going to put God on trial; with Professor Radisson as the prosecutor, me as the defense attorney, and you as the jury.
Most cosmologists now agree that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago in an event known as the big bang
. So let’s look at theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg’s description of what the big bang would have looked like. Since he’s an atheist, we can be sure there isn’t any believer bias in his description.
“In the beginning there was an explosion, and in three minutes, 98% of the matter there is or ever will be was produced. We had a universe.” [On-screen animation of the big bang]
For 2,500 years most scientists agreed with Aristotle on the idea of a steady-state universe—that the universe has always existed with no beginning and no end. But the Bible disagreed. In the 1920s, Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre, a theist, who was actually also . . .
Female Student 1: What, what’s a theist?
JW: A theist is someone who believes in the existence of God. He said that the entire universe, jumping into existence in a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, out of nothingness in an unimaginably intense flash of light, is how he would expect the universe to respond if God were to actually utter the command in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light.” In other words, the origin of the universe unfolded exactly how one would expect after reading Genesis, and for 2,500 years the Bible had it right, and science had it wrong. You see, in the real world we never see things umping into existence out of nothingness, but atheists will make one small exception to this rule; mainly the universe and everything in it.
Female Student 2: But, in his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says that if you tell me God created the universe then I have the right to ask you who created God.
JW: Dawkins’ question only makes sense in terms of a god who has been created. It doesn’t make sense in terms of an uncreated god, which is the kind of God Christians believe in. And even leaving God out of the equation, I then have a right to turn Mr. Dawkins own question back around on him and ask, if the universe created you, then who created the universe? You see, both the theist and the atheist are both burdened with answering the same question of how did things start.
What I’m hoping you’ll pick up from all this is that you don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to believe in a Creator behind the Creation. And to the extent that you don’t allow for God, you’d be pretty hard pressed to find any credible alternative explanation for how things came to be.
Professor Radisson: Well, I imagine you’re quite pleased with yourself. I see you carefully avoided the fact that Steven Hawking, the world’s most famous scientist and who’s not a theist, has recently come out in favor of a self-designing universe.
JW: I haven’t avoided it, I just didn’t . . . .
PR: You just didn’t know about it. Well, let’s see what professor Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Physics at Cambridge who occupies a teaching chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton, has to say about the origin of the universe. And I quote, “Because there’s a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing spontaneously. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something instead of nothing; why the universe exists; why we exist. It’s not necessary to invoke God to set the universe in motion,” end quote. So you may have never come across his comment but his point remains. How do you answer it?
JW: I don’t know.
PR: You don’t know? I prick the balloon of your entire argument with a single pin and you don’t know. Huh?
JW: Well, I mean, I’d like to tell you I have the perfect answer, but it doesn’t shake my underlying faith.
PR: OK. So the greatest scientific mind of all history says that God is not necessary, but first semester freshman says, “Oh, yes He is.” Wow, you know, it’s gonna be a really tough choice. Well, I look forward to next week’s lecture. Class is dismissed.
Okay, let’s look at this a minute. What’s going on here?
I’m going to take you back to this chart here. What is Josh’s strategy? Is he a classic apologist? Is he an evidentialist? Is he a Fideist? Or is he a presuppositionalist in this first argument? What do you think? Anybody have any idea? Ten weeks we’ve been talking about this, and you’re like, “Hmmm … I don’t know.” I get an “F.”
What is he? A classic apologist? Not quite. He is not looking at reason. What’s he going to do? The key statement is in the first paragraph. What was the first thing you said, Greg?
“The only way to debate this issue is to look at the available evidence.” That’s your key; that’s your starting point. He’s going to look at the available evidence.
Then the next thing he says to the class is, “We are going to put God on trial; with Professor Radisson as the prosecutor, me as the defense attorney, and you as the jury.”
Is that right or wrong? If it’s right, why is it right? If it is wrong, why is it wrong? Does anybody see a parallel with the biblical incident where God is put on trial? That’s right!
It’s the same thing that Satan does with Eve in Genesis 3. “We’re going to put God’s statement—that if you eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will certainly die—on trial. “God didn’t really mean that, did He?” I mean, that is Satan’s approach. It’s to take a human being to think they can judge God and that they can test God.
Is another incident where Satan tried to get someone to test God? “Job?”
“No, not Job.”
“Christ in the desert.”
“That’s right. I don’t who said that, but that’s it.” Jesus in the desert—the first wilderness temptation. In Jesus’ response, He quotes Scripture, “Don’t test the Lord your God.” We don’t put ourselves in an authority over God.
What would have been another way to have done this that would not have compromised God and put the students in that position where they’re judging God? Put the scientist, or put the professor, on trial. “We’re to put his statement on trial; we’re going to evaluate him.”
Another thing that he could have done … The issue is the statement that he wants everybody to sign—that God is dead. Josh could’ve said … What’s one of the key tactics that I’ve talked about when we’re talking to somebody? Ask questions.
“What do you mean by “God is dead”? Do you mean that God doesn’t exist? Or God never existed? When that phrase first came out, historically, it really didn’t mean God never existed, but that God is no longer needed to explain things—that God wasn’t necessary.
“What do you mean by ‘God is dead’?” When did you first come to this idea? What were the circumstances around that? What evidence do you have that God doesn’t exist? See, you’re putting them on trial to expose their thinking, their values, and to ultimately expose what they think about ultimate reality.
It seems subtle. And that’s what I want to point out. Because we think, “Okay, we’re going to look at the evidence.” There’s a right way to look at the evidence and a wrong way to look at the evidence, and he’s exhibiting a pure evidentialist type of approach. So the student should’ve started by asking questions and by putting the professor and his position on trial.
Then, when we go a little bit further, he makes a statement. “Most cosmologists now agree that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago in an event known as the big bang.” Do you think that he agrees with that or disagrees with that? Josh never makes a case that God created a young earth. He accepts the big bang as a valid explanation. In fact, he is going to quote from Weinberg’s description and from Georges Lemaitre’s explanation that is really a theistic evolution explanation that the big bang was how God brought everything into existence.
But if you look at the description, in the beginning there’s an explosion. So there’s something that explodes. So you have the existence of matter, and then there’s this huge explosion of light, and from all of that comes the stars, comes the solar system, comes planet Earth. But if you look at what the what the Scripture says, the Scripture has a slightly different order of events.
Look at Genesis chapter 1. I’m going to take two approaches here from a conservative young-earth view. View number one is the view that I hold; it’s a young-earth view, but there’s a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, which is when you had the angelic fall and satanic rebellion. So you would have God creating the original universe, and it’s very similar to the universe that’s described in the new heavens and new earth in Revelation 21. There is no salt sea—that comes later. And there’s no darkness. Revelation 21:1, with the new heavens and new earth, John says, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”
As I say in a Genesis series, the presence of the salt sea in Scripture is negative. It’s a consequence of sin. So it’s the deep that’s mentioned in Genesis 1:2, that the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep. In Revelation 21:23 John describes a new heavens and new earth. 23 “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it.” So there’s an earth, and there’s the city of the New Jerusalem and all the inhabitants of the earth, but there’s no sun; there’s no moon; there are no stars; there’s no solar system. There’s none of those things in the new heavens and new earth—just the earth.
So he goes on to say, 23 “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” God’s presence illuminated the universe. So I argue that that was the case in the original heavens and earth created in Genesis 1:1, that there’s no salt sea, there’s light, and then something happens and there’s darkness. And that’s Genesis 1:2—that represents the fall.
So you originally have light. Then you have darkness. You just had the empty box of the space–time continuum of the universe, and there’s just one planet, the earth. You don’t have the sun and the moon and the stars created until the fourth day. Now that’s not the same order that you have if you go with a big bang. What happens in theistic evolution is that they try to say, “Well … Moses doesn’t get the order quite right.” And they express their order, “See, it’s just kind of general and you can blend them together.”
But what I’m showing is you can’t make the kind of statement that Josh makes, that this is how you’d expect the universe to respond if God actually uttered the command in Genesis 1:3. The order is different. So he’s compromised Scripture in the way he is presenting his case for God. This is consistently what happens in classic apologetics and evidentialism; the most they get is probability. They’ve compromised their underlying view of God because of their methodology, not necessarily what they say.
If you look down a little bit after the second female student makes her statement about Richard Dawkins, you have a hint of presuppositionalism there. “Dawkins’ question only makes sense in terms in a god who has been created. It doesn’t make sense in terms of an uncreated god, which is the kind of God Christians believe in.”
See, he should have started with this. “As a Christian, the kind of God the Bible talks about is a Creator God Who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. This is the God I’m going to tell you about.” That’s what Paul does on Mars’ Hill. He doesn’t try to prove that; he says, “This is what we believe.”
If you go back and you look at the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis. Ken Ham is a consistent presuppositionalist, and he never steps back to try to prove God exists. He assumes the existence of a triune Creator God all the way through. So that’s that strategic kind of difference. Then, of course, the professor tries to hit him with the “gotcha question” at the end, and that sets up the second debate.
Anybody have any questions about what I’ve said or comments about what went on in that first episode? “This is helpful,” or you’re confused. I can see some nods, so that’s good. Let’s go with the second debate, and that starts when he comes back the next class period. He is going to present a response to the professor’s quote from Stephen Hawking.
JW: [Stephen Hawking] also wrote a book called The Grand Design which says the following, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” To be honest, I didn’t know how to refute that. I mean, after all, Hawking is clearly a genius. But, Professor John Lennox, who teaches mathematics and philosophy, has demonstrated that there are not one, even two, but three errors of logic contained in that one simple sentence, and it all boils down to circular reasoning. Hawking is basically saying that the universe exists because the universe needed to exist, and because the universe needed to exist it therefore created itself.
It’s like this, if I say to you that I can prove that Spam is the best tasting food that’s ever existed because in all of history, no food has ever tasted better, you’d probably look at me strange and say I haven’t proven anything, and you’d be right. All I’ve done is restate my original claim. But when Hawking claims that the universe created itself because it needed to create itself and then offers that as an explanation as to how and why it was created, we don’t immediately recognize that he’s doing the same thing. But he is, prompting Lennox to further comment, “Nonsense remains nonsense even when spoken by famous scientists, even though the general public assumes they are statements of science.”
PR: This is the height of hubris. Are you telling me that you, a freshman, are saying that Stephen Hawking is wrong?
JW: No, what I’m saying is that John Lennox, a professor of mathematics and philosophy, has found Professor Hawking’s reasoning to be faulty, and I agree with his logic. But, if you can’t bear to disagree with Hawking’s thinking, then I suggest that you turn to page five of his book where he insists philosophy is dead. And if you’re so sure of Professor Hawking’s infallibility, and philosophy really is dead, then, uh, well, there’s really no need for this class.
[Laughter from the class; followed by a break in the debate scene to a counseling session between the pastor and Professor Radisson’s Christian girlfriend.]
JW: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, for the last 150 years, Darwinists have been saying that God is unnecessary to explain man’s existence and that evolution replaces God, but evolution only tells you what happens once you have life. So, where did that something that’s alive come from? Well, Darwin never really addressed it. He assumed maybe some lightning hit a stagnant pool full of the right kind of chemicals—bingo—a living something.
But, uh, it’s just not that simple. You see, Darwin claimed that the ancestry of all living things came from that one single simple organism which reproduced and was slowly modified over time into the complex life forms we view today, which is why after contemplating his own theory Darwin uttered his famous statement, “Natura non facit saltum,” meaning, “nature does not jump.” Well, as noted, author Lee Strobel pointed out that if you can picture the entire 3.8 billion years that scientists say life has been around as one 24-hour day, in the space of just about 90 seconds most major animal groups suddenly appear in the forms in which they currently hold, not slowly and steadily as Darwin predicted, but in evolutionary terms almost instantly. So, “nature does not jump” becomes “nature makes a giant leap.” So how do theists explain this sudden outburst of new biological information?
“And God said, let the waters teem with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems according to its kind, and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:20
In other words, Creation happened because God said it should happen. And even what looks to our eyes to be a blind, unguided process could really be divinely controlled from start to finish.
Let’s take a look at this. What’s going on in this second maneuver is that Josh is pretty much reacting to what he’s been saying. So, the first thing that he does is he looks for a refutation or evidence to use against the quote from Stephen Hawking.
Now I’m going to switchover here on the screen so you get a little bit of background on this. One of the things that you and I are not told when we go see the film is that this film was highly influenced by a book called, strangely enough, God’s Not Dead. It was written by Rice Broocks, who is the cofounder of a ministry called Every Nation family of churches. So it’s his book that informs a lot of the arguments here. He’s the real apologist who is influencing the film, and he’s an old-earth theistic evidentialist.
What’s of positive value here is that Josh is taking a really strong stand for creation, but he’s not taking a strong enough stand for creation. What is interesting is if you go on some of the websites and you read some of the statements, there are a few good critiques of the film from doing something similar to what we’re doing here. And then you’ll have a lot of comments from people, “Oh, no, no, no. He believes in creation.” You didn’t listen!
One of the things that people do often—I see this all the time—is somebody says, “I believe God created the heavens and the earth.” They say, “He believes what I believe; he’s a good creationist.” And you read your view into what they said instead of letting them talk, reading between the lines to understand what their view is. I saw this over and over again in viewer comments, that they imputed to Josh what they thought he was saying about creation. So just to put this up there in terms of background.
Another thing to point out is an article written by John Lennox. John Lennox wrote a book to refute Stephen Hawking’s statement that the universe was self-generated or self-created. In the middle of this he points out something that’s very important. In fact, I’ve had people e-mail in questions to me about this because I constantly make the statement that modern science, Western European science, which is the only true development of science in the history of the world, was the result of Judeo-Christian values coming to play in their understanding of things.
In the middle of this article he makes the statement, “The very reason science flourished so vigorously in the 16th and 17th centuries was precisely because of the belief that the laws of nature which were then being discovered and defined reflected the influence of a divine Law-Giver.”
“One of the fundamental themes of Christianity is that the universe was built according to a rational, intelligent design.” Now, Lennox is an intelligent-design guy. He’s not a young-earth guy either, but he has good facts here. He says, “Far from being at odds with science, the Christian faith actually makes perfect scientific sense.”
“Some years ago, the scientist Joseph Needham made an epic study of technological development in China.” Needham died in the 90s. He wrote his classic work—I think it was in the in the 70s—on science and technology in China, a huge work of research. He basically brought up things that I’ve brought up before, but it’s good to have a good source for this.
That the Chinese invented a number of things. We know they invented gunpowder. We know they invented paper. They invented a number of other things. But it never went anywhere. They never developed it. Why? Because their metaphysical worldview didn’t have a creation that was ordered by a God Who sovereignly oversaw the laws of nature, so that what they observed today would be true tomorrow.
You see the same thing went with Islam. Islam has an arbitrary Allah; he is not the God of the Bible, and he can arbitrarily change things tomorrow. So they never developed science either. Only when you had people who were taking the Bible seriously, that there were laws that you could count on, that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that the law of gravity is going to be the same tomorrow, next year, next century, and 10 centuries from now, are you going to formulate a foundation based on a solid ultimate view of reality and a solid view of knowledge to develop science.
So Lennox talks about him and says, “Some years ago, the scientist Joseph Needham made an epic study of technological development in China. He wanted to find out why China, for all of its early gifts of innovation, had fallen so far behind Europe in the advancement of science.”
“He reluctantly came to the conclusion that European science had been spurred on by the widespread belief in a rational creative force, known as God, which made all scientific laws comprehensible.”
See, how many times have you heard me say, “You can’t talk, you can’t think, you can’t exercise logic if you don’t presuppose God.” Because without God there is no order given to anything in God’s creation. Because as a Christian we understand every fact is what it is because God created it. We must think and act on that presupposition, and we can’t step away from it without being inconsistent.
This is reluctantly recognized by Needham. He critiques Hawking because of this. If you go to the godsnotdeadbook.org website, you can see an interview between Rice Broocks and John Lennox, who is quoted in the film.
Strategically what he’s showing is that Hawking’s reasoning is flawed. He’s doing the same thing Elijah did on Mount Carmel—that the priests of Baal’s logic, their reasoning, their belief system is not going to sustain them. It doesn’t work in reality. And he’s doing that. That is an approach, a tactic, that is consistent with presuppositionalism.
In this he’s assuming certain things about creation that are not that evident unless you go back and you know about Rice Broocks and these other things. They’re not that evident; nevertheless, that’s what’s informing him.
The last thing I want to comment on is in both of these first two episodes what is the doctrine that is the focal point in both presentations? Creation. Creation is not some secondary idea that’s not significant or relevant to understanding the gospel. That’s why I pointed out, every time we see Paul talking to an audience, or we see Peter talking to a Jewish audience, they’re presupposing the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who is the Creator God.
Paul establishes and identifies his God as the Creator God of all things before he ever gets to a point where he can talk about the Cross or resurrection. Creation is not some secondary idea that creationists have decided to make an important debating point that doesn’t reflect the Bible. It is central to these guys’ presentation to identify Who the God is that they’re talking about.
Let’s go to the third debate. The focus here is going to be on the problem of evil.
JW: It has been said that evil is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian faith. And it is! After all, the very existence of evil begs the question [sic], “If God is all good and God is all powerful, why does He allow evil to exist?” The answer, at its core, is remarkably simple: free will. God allows evil to exist because of free will. From the Christian standpoint, God tolerates evil in this world on a temporary basis so that one day those who choose to love Him freely will dwell with Him in heaven free from the influence of evil, but with their free will intact! In other words, God’s intention concerning evil is to one day destroy it.
PR: Well, how convenient. “One day, I will get rid of all the evil in the world, but until then you just have to deal with all the wars and holocausts, tsunamis, poverty, starvation, and AIDS. Have a nice life.” Next he will be lecturing us on moral absolutes.
JW: Well, why not? Professor Radisson, who’s clearly an atheist, doesn’t believe in moral absolutes. But his course syllabus says he plans to give us an exam during finals week. Now, I am betting that if I managed to get an A on the exam by cheating, he will suddenly start sounding like a Christian, insisting it is wrong to cheat, that I should have known that. And yet, what basis does he have? If my actions are calculated to help me succeed, then why shouldn’t I perform them? For Christians, the fixed point of morality, what constitutes right and wrong, is a straight line that leads directly back to God.
PR: So you are saying that we need a god to be moral? That a moral atheist is an impossibility?
JW: No, but with no God there is no real reason to be moral; there is not even a standard of what moral behavior is. For Christians, lying, cheating, stealing, and my example, stealing a grade I didn’t earn, are forbidden as a form of theft. But if God does not exist, as Dostoyevsky famously pointed out, “If God does not exist, then everything is permissible.” And not only permissible, but pointless. If Professor Radisson is right, then all of this—all of our struggle, all of our debate, whatever we decide here—is meaningless. I mean, our lives, our deaths are of no more consequence than that of a goldfish.
PR: Come on, this is ridiculous. So after all of your talk, you are saying that it all comes down to a choice—believe or don’t believe.
JW: That’s right. That’s all there is. That’s all there’s ever been. The only difference between your position and my position is that you take away their choice. You demand that they choose the box marked “I don’t believe.”
PR: Yes, because I want to free them. Because religion is like a . . . it’s like a mind virus that parents have passed on down to their children. And Christianity is the worst virus of all. It slowly creeps into our lives when we’re weak or sick or helpless.
JW: So religion is like a disease?
PR: Yes, yes. It infects everything. It’s the enemy of reason.
JW: Reason? Professor, you left reason a long time ago. What you are teaching here isn’t philosophy; it’s not even atheism anymore. What you’re teaching is anti-theism. It’s not enough that you don’t believe, you need all of us to not believe with you.
PR: Why don’t you admit the truth? You just want to ensnare them into your primitive superstition.
JW: What I want is for them to make their own choice. That’s what God wants.
PR: You have no idea how much I am going to enjoy failing you.
JW: Who are you really looking to fail, Professor: me or God?
JW: Do you hate God?
PR: That’s not even a question.
JW: Okay, why do you hate God?
PR: This is ridiculous.
JW: Why do you hate God?! Answer the question! You’ve seen the science and the arguments. Science supports His existence. You know the truth! So why do you hate Him?! Why?! It’s a very simple question, Professor. Why do you hate God?!
PR: Because He took everything away from me! Yes, I hate God! All I have for Him is hate!
JW: How can you hate someone if they don’t exist?
PR: You’ve proven nothing.
JW: Maybe not, but they get to choose. Is God dead?
When we look at this, what we see in this last episode is really where he should have started. Here he has a presuppositional approach. He is doing two things. He’s assuming that God exists. From the very beginning he talks about this basic problem of evil, he presents that, and then he says, “From the Christian standpoint this is why God allows evil.” So he’s not waffling or trying to wobble away from that.
Then, when the professor starts to come in, he recognizes that what the professor is doing is what I talk about in this slide.
He is immediately making an ethical decision about what is right or what is wrong. He is implying in his statement that, “Well, all you have to do is deal with all the wars, the Holocaust, tsunamis, poverty, etc.; have a nice life.” See, he’s implying this is wrong—he’s judging God by that statement.
So immediately he sees that’s the weakness. And he can now take this ethical decision and drive it down and show that the professor can’t live consistently with that. That gets down to revealing his epistemology about knowing right or wrong. He points out that the professor, if he finds out that a student has cheated, is not going to allow that because it’s wrong. Well, where does he get that value? Only Christianity has this value of right or wrong. And only if you have a righteous God do you have a fixed point of reality. So he is showing that he can’t live on the basis of and within the framework of his own system.
What happens at that point is that he begins to get angry. That emotion is what reveals what this guy believes. JW uses that to ask questions, to try to further expose what the problem is. Before he asked that question about, “How can you hate somebody if they don’t exist?” JW’s response is, “Why do you hate God?” He says, “Because He took everything away from me.” You can’t make a statement like that unless you believe that God exists. He’s admitted it; he has exposed that suppression mechanism via the anger that’s there.
That’s what happens in life. When something happens and we have emotion, that is a window into a belief system. So that last one is an example of a presuppositional approach.
We’ve just about run out of time. Anybody have any questions? Any other observations or thoughts that have popped up in your mind as you’ve listened to it and talked about it? Any ideas?
What is your question?
“They quote Dawkins—that nincompoop. He says, ‘Because there’s a law such as gravity ...’ That’s where you stop him right there. Just a minute, Where did that come from?”
That’s right. That’s what Lennox points out—that’s one of his logical flaws.
“He should have stopped him right then and there.” He should have. That’s a good point. Where does he get that?
Of course, the other logical flaws were clearly evident. Because he personalizes the universe as if it’s intelligent—it’s going to create itself because it knows it has a need. He’s implying all of that, and he has a circular reasoning there. That’s the third logical fallacy.
“How do they know that the Big Bang took three minutes?”
That’s what Lemaire or the other guy said. “Another nincompoop.” “Fool” is a better word, Katherine. Yes, he is a fool. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” Fool—God’s words are better—Psalm 14:1.
You are making the point that he is not presupposing and standing on the Scripture. When Jesus is in the wilderness, what is Jesus standing on? He is standing on the Word of God; He doesn’t compromise it. So, yes, your points are well taken. Very good. I’ll give you an A. “Thank you, Darling.”
If there are no other questions, we will close in prayer. What I want to do over the next two or three class periods—and this has become more complicated than I thought it would be. I think it’s helpful for us as a training … And remember, that’s part of what education is—to train people not only how to think, but what to think, and what to do—is, if somebody make certain statements to you, “Well, how can you trust the Bible?” How do we handle that? You can throw it back and say, “Well, why wouldn’t you think you could trust the Bible?” I think I read somewhere in all of my reading recently that the vast number of people who claim you can’t believe the Bible because it says strange things have never read the Bible.
You throw it back on them. Ask them. Put them on the defensive.
But what I want to do is try to think about how we know the Bible is true—five basic reasons—boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And then do that with the deity of Christ, resurrection, miracles. Not try to cover all the bases and hit everything that we can hit, but just three or four basic things that can come to your mind.
I said this at the very beginning. If you are a Mormon, if you are a Jehovah’s Witness, if you are in some other cult, you would be trained. Like the other day when I was out walking in a neighborhood park back here, there were some Jehovah’s Witnesses with their little booth set up. If you were to talk to them, they’re going to know exactly what your rebuttals are going to be—what your objections are going to be. They have a canned, pat answer for everything. But, as evangelicals, we don’t train people like that.
But we’re constantly getting into conversation and we go, “I got that in Bible class somewhere. I don’t know where those notes are anymore, but I know I’ve heard that.” Well, we should be able to get things in a concise format in our head where we can begin to think through things. We all have this problem—somebody asks us that and our brain freezes! I know that probably hasn’t happened to you; it happens to me.
I was talking to Charlie about this several weeks ago and he said, “I always think of the best things to say three days later.” That’s common for all of us. So if we think about it a little more, then it will be more towards the front of our mind.
“Father, thank You for this time. Thank You for the opportunity that we have through technology and everything else to be able to think, evaluate, use this as a critical thinking exercise to help us improve our own thinking and to sharpen our own thinking so that we can be clearer when we present the gospel and when we answer questions that people ask, so that we can give an answer graciously and with humility for the hope that is within us, and that we can make the gospel clear, ultimately bringing people to a point of understanding the Cross.
Father, we pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”