I’ve heard the following Chinese parable from Ravi Zacharias a couple of times. It’s on my mind today:
An old farmer who had an old horse for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped through the fence. When the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Is it bad luck? Good luck? I don’t know?”
A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills. This time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Is it bad luck? Good luck? I don’t know?”
The next day, when the farmer’s son attempted to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. The neighbors came around again and commiserated with the old farmer about his very bad luck, but the farmer’s reaction was, “Is it bad luck? Good luck? I don’t know?”
Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg they let him off. Now was that good luck? Or was it bad luck?
We like to jump to conclusions, and we have a tendency to jump to those conclusions pretty quickly. We do this even with ultimate, worldview positions. We have a tendency to want to measure everything by the tools that are convenient and familiar to us, but sometimes we need to be willing to venture off from the light of our comfortable positions into the darkness of unfamiliarity to gain a bigger perspective.
One of the showing stopping questions posed by atheists is this one: If God created the universe, who created God?
It is a clever question, and has stumped many a person who believes in God, but the question, itself, is flawed. Let me explain.
In my response, I am indebted to John Lennox who’s answer to this very question is embedded at the end of this blog article. John Lennox, is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and a frequent speaker on topics of science, philosophy and religion. He has twice debated the vocal atheist, and Oxford professor, Richard Dawkins, who wrote a book, The God Delusion, using this question as a centerpiece.
The flaw of the question is that it is loaded with the assumption that God was created. The response of the Christian (or theist generally) is that such a notion (that God was created) is not a notion about God at all, but a notion about a god – a created thing. Another word for such a thing is an idol.
When Charles Darwin wrote The Descent of Man[i], the title was a play on words. In the context of the book, Darwin meant the word in the sense of “derivation from an ancestor”; “the fact or process of originating from an ancestral stock”; and/or “the shaping or development in nature and character by transmission from a source”.[ii] Descent, of course, can have a quite different meaning.
The word, descent, can also mean “the act or process of descending from a higher to a lower level, rank, or state”; “an inclination downward”; and/or “a downward step (as in station or value”), as in decline.
Darwin probably meant the word in this sense, also, in that philosophers and scientists and thinkers of all types before him had mostly viewed man standing apart from the rest of the natural world, standing above it (just a little lower than the angels). Darwin’s theory revealed man descending not from heaven, but descending (originating from ancestral stock) from lower life forms and ascending (evolving) from those lower life forms to the complexity the human species is today. This is the play on words.
In thinking about these things many generations after Charles Darwin coined the book title, in the context of all that has developed since his time, the subtlety and nuance of the play on words strikes me, but not in the way Darwin likely intended.
In a naturalistic world in which there is nothing supernatural, nothing other than the material world, and everything there is can be summed up by what we can touch, see, hear, feel and measure, survival of the fittest reigns. In a world like that, what is wrong with genocide?
Genocide is like the ultimate survival of the fittest. The superior people group dominates, overcomes and wipes out the inferior people group. What could be more Darwinian? What could be more natural in a naturalistic world?
This, in fact, is largely the history of the world. Why, then, is this expression of survival of the fittest wrong?
Thankfully most people today recoil from such a notion, but on what basis?
Some of the great breakthrough realizations in human history are that the earth is not flat, that the earth is round and rotating, that the Sun does not revolve around the earth, that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and the earth along with other round bodies in space rotate around each other kept in correlation with each other by gravitational pull. These realities are different than the appearances.
We appear to be standing on a stationary earth that, for all we can see, is flat. The Sun appears to rise, cross the sky and set every day. It is no great leap to understand that the sun might move around the earth, though the perception of a flat earth persisted into modern times. The moon seems to move around the earth in the same way the sun seems to move around the earth, but one does move around the earth and the other doesn’t.
Although we have known the realities for centuries, we still talk in terms of the appearances. We talk about the Sun rising and setting. We describe the phenomena as sunrise and sunset. Someone unfamiliar with our colloquialisms might hear us speak and think that we are ignorant of the truth.
The appearances have a strong hold on us. So strong that they persist in our language and how we describe things on a day to day basis. Those appearances stubbornly refuse to leave our everyday speaking patterns.
I began taking notes on a series of hard questions posed to Tim Keller by some heavy hitting interviewers that is posted to the Veritas Forum. I thought I would take my notes and create a series of quick answers to these hard questions, but I got sidetracked by the first question: Aren’t faith and reason contradictory terms?
The question took me back to college when I first began to wrestle with this question.
Implied in that question is an assumption that the only rational conclusion of reason is disbelief in God. Reason is defined by Merriam Webster as “the power of the mind to think and understand in a logical way.” Faith is defined as the “strong belief or trust in someone or something.” Note that faith is not defined in relation to evidence or reason, but the common definition of faith is not antithetical to evidence of reason either.
Reason (logic) depends on a premise, and premises are often tautological. Many premises are susceptible of proof, but many are not. The premise that the natural world is the totality of all reality is a premise many believe to be true, but it is not susceptible of proof (at least not scientific proof, unless one believes that science, which is limited to the study of the natural world is capable of proving that nothing other than the natural world exists by limiting the study to the natural world). Continue reading “Are Reason & Faith in God Contradictory Terms?”→
I listened to a lecture on materialism yesterday. Materialism is a predominant worldview that informs the scientific community. A materialist worldview sees no purposeful principles in nature, no designing influence, no God, no inherent moral or ethical laws and ultimately no meaning in life. The world, in essence, is arbitrary and capricious, “governed” by chance.
When I woke this morning, I began thinking about government. I am an attorney, and I represent local governmental bodies. One cardinal rule that applies to governmental bodies in the United States is this: they can never be arbitrary or capricious. Every law must be a rational basis, a reason, for every law. If no rational basis exists for a law, it will be determined unconstitutional and void.
Ironic, is it not, that we would govern ourselves by such a standard and not believe in purpose, meaning, intelligent design, God or inherent ethical and moral laws.