I appreciate you sharing your opinion and current convictions with us as to why you are not a theist. Please allow me to respond by explaining in turn why I am not an atheist:
Most physicalists or naturalists point to the great mass of scientific papers and textbooks that supposedly prove a possible natural, physical origin of the universe - without the need for a supernatural being. However, let me suggest that this practically is a logical fallacy, an appeal to authority. Just like some
(not all) believers, who point to even larger piles of religious and philosophical writings accumulated over the centuries as their authoritative proof, naturalists look to scientists as the priests of their religion. Now some physicalists might claim there is a distinction, because science encourages openness, transparency, and falsifiability, and theoretically, one could investigate and verify the validity of every scientific paper ever written. However, practically, that is impossible. The truth is that virtually everybody who points to those piles of papers has only read a smidgen of them, and practically no one has double-checked all the claims, references, calculations, and experiments. At some point, physicalists put their faith in the claims made by others. Furthermore, there are groups of believers that also encourage openness, transparency, and objective falsifiability. I myself am a member of such a group. So, naturalist's claim for the high moral ground fails on 2 accounts. Naturalists operate based on faith just as much as supernaturalists. The difference is that believers openly admit it.
Admittedly, Christianity holds some convictions that are not empirically falsifiable. For example, I cannot perform any experiment in the lab that will prove to any of my 5 senses that Jesus was the divine Son of God, died on the cross for my sins, rose the third day, and ascended to heaven, there reigning at the right hand of God. But, likewise, one cannot use the scientific method to determine the origin of life, much less the universe, because the scientific method is an iterative process that hinges on experimentation
. Unless I can repeatedly test and refine my theories, I cannot truly employ science on answering any question. Therefore, the physicalist suffer from the same vulnerability to lack of falsifiability and experimental validation as do Christians, except the physicalist claims to possess knowledge of events that are billions of years further into history than Christianity's claim for a few thousand years. At best, given the unrepeatability and great expanse of the universe, the best science can do is establish the current natural laws for the operation of the universe, and assuming
they have always been constant, science could hopefully, eventually logically rewind the chain of causes and effects to propose a possible
first cause. However, even then, they will never be able to test it, because they cannot repeat it! Even if we could somehow repeat the first instantiation of life and the universe, we would only be assuming that that recreation represents how our
life and universe began! Science has its place in examining this great question, but ultimately, past, non-repeatable events are a matter of historical inquisition not scientific. So, again, physicalists' claims fail even on the surface.
Let me illustrate this problem another way: Imagine all the best scientists and engineers of our time over the entire world came together to build a spaceship to Jupiter. Imagine there was no internal competition, egos, ladder climbing, career justification, personal interests, and moral implications to their work. They simply all performed harmoniously at peak efficiency and focus. That may not be realistic, but let's pretend for a moment. Now unlike how we build aircraft today, let's pretend that none of it was ever tested or simulated with models based or real-world tests. No engines were strapped to test-stands and fired. No wings were placed in wind tunnels. No models were simulated using real world data. No electrical or computer systems were debugged or tested. Would you ride that spaceship's maiden flight? ... If that seems crazy to put your life in such ideal mortal hands just to travel to Jupiter, why do you put your soul in their far less than ideal hands to build a spaceship to take you back to the beginning of time?
As a person of conscience, how do I deal with these 2 competing theories and decide for myself? I am an engineer, and I am daily immersed in the ridiculing scowl of atheists, so I am not left in isolation to form an opinion that is comfortable with my religious heritage. For me, the answer is a fundamental, personal judgment based on admittedly limited information. To you, which is a more reasonable judgment? That, one, the universe is eternal and has no origin; two, the universe sprang from nothing (since anything outside of the natural universe would be supernatural, be it intellectual or otherwise); or three, the universe sprang from an intellect greater than the universe? To this question, one observation sticks with me: Nothing rises from nothing. Nowhere do I see intellect arising from non-intellect. Only by outside intellect does anything progress from states of disorder to order. Otherwise, things continually run down, moving from states of potential to useless energy, order to disorder. Although our life here is far from perfect (-- It was cursed by design, Genesis 3:14-24; Romans 8:20-25
. --), there is a hospitality to it (Acts 14:15-17
). Generation after generation survives and produces another generation despite all the grievances you mentioned. Generally, we live to wrestle with the same questions and form our own convictions and take our own stand. If our world is but to serve as a testing ground - not be heaven itself - then it has far exceeded its design specifications. Again, I ask, "Where do we see such creation without intellect?" That there is an intelligent creator is far more reasonable to me than to assume all things have always existed, that they had no outside cause, or that they improve without outside cause. Furthermore, all of these other explanations are contrary to fundamental observable, testable laws of science (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics). So, the natural world begs for the supernatural. And, if we are willing to look, it is in creation that we see the magnitude of God's creative power and divinity (Romans 1:20-21; Acts 17:24-27
Furthermore, God has left us witness to His existence and uniqueness in the Bible. Even though the Bible contains books written by about 40 different authors over roughly 1500, it exhibits amazing unity and agreement, as though written by one Author. Beyond that it contains various fulfilled prophecies that are very specific. These are not vague prophecies that cannot fail (i.e., think Oracle of Delphi, fortune cookies, etc.). Rather, they call out kings and nations by name hundreds of years in advance! We have a few articles that cover this train of thought in more detail here:
To summarize and close, please consider these questions:
- Is physicalism any less based on authority and faith than true Christianity? Does physicalism not also have its priests who are trusted by the mass of its believers? More importantly, have you personally read and validated all of the scientific papers and journals which supposedly prove the natural origin of the universe? Moreover, is physicalism free from using scorn, ridicule, and other forms of intimidation to recruit and maintain believers? What proof did you cite? How did you begin this correspondence? Was it not, "I feel ..."? (I am not chiding. I am just trying to make this practical and beg for introspection.) Lastly, are there not any schools of thinking in Christianity that also encourage openness, transparency, individual thinking, etc.? So, where is physicalism's high moral ground?
- Is physicalism any less falsifiable than Christianity? Can physicalism demonstrate through experimentation how our universe and our life originated?
- Does our universe and our world move from order to disorder or from disorder to order? Where is the evidence for eternal physicalism or progressive physicalism - without outside intellect? Does it not require intellect for all things in our universe to improve; otherwise, do they not eventually run down?
- If there is no supernatural, then how were men able to exhibit supernatural powers in miracles and prophecy? How can the Bible contain specific declarations of events hundreds of years in the future? Why did the workers and eye-witnesses of the miracles give their lives, if they were involved in a grand conspiracy to deceive? How many con-artists willingly give their lives for their con?
Please consider these. If you reject the conclusions I have reached, I would like to know why. You will not find mocking and scorn here. The Lord's army is made of volunteers, not those pressed into service (Psalm 110:3
). I hope and pray you will one day choose to be a Christian, but I would not try to make you.
If you have tried being a Christian previously, please know that there are many sects - sadly - within Christianity, and many of them are mindless cultural traditionalists. They have no real spiritual understanding of what they are doing or why. It would not surprise me if they used merely fear and intimidation to compel, since they themselves are likewise bound. If your experience with Christianity was bad, please do not judge all Christians, much less Christ Himself, by the ones you have seen. There are logical Christians with open eyes and hearts.
May God help us to have a sincere love of truth,