HOW ARE TRUTHS ABOUT GOD KNOWN?
“So what does observation and induction have to do with discovering the existence of God? Everything. In fact, observation and induction help us investigate the ultimate religious question: “Does God exist?”
You say, “Wait a minute! How can we use observation to investigate an unobservable being called God? After all, if God is invisible and immaterial as most Christians, Jews, and Muslims claim, then how can our senses help us gather information about him?”
The answer: we use induction to investigate God the same way we use it to investigate other things we can’t see—by observing their effects. For example, we can’t observe gravity directly; we can only observe its effects. Likewise, we can’t observe the human mind directly, but only its effects. From those effects we make a rational inference to the existence of a cause.
In fact, the book you are now reading is a case in point. Why do you assume that this book is an effect of a human mind? Because all your observational experience tells you that a book is an effect that results only from some preexisting intelligence (i.e., an author). You’ve never seen the wind, the rain, or other natural forces produce a book; you’ve only seen people do so. So despite the fact that you didn’t see anyone writing this book, you’ve concluded that it must have at least one author.
By reasoning that this book has an author, you are naturally putting observation, induction, and deduction together. If we were to write out your thoughts in logical form, they would look like this deductive argument:
1. All books have at least one author (premise based on inductive investigation).
2. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist is a book (premise based on observation).
3. Therefore, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist has at least one author (conclusion).
You know the argument is valid because of deduction, and you know the argument is true because the premises are true (which you have verified through observation and induction).
Now here’s the big question: Just as a book requires preexisting human intelligence, are there any observable effects that seem to require some kind of preexisting supernatural intelligence? In other words, are there effects that we can observe that point to God? The answer is yes, and the first effect is the universe itself. An investigation of its beginning is the next step on our journey…
But before we look at that evidence for the beginning of the universe, we need to address one more objection to truth. And that is, “So what? Who cares about truth?”
SO WHAT? WHO CARES ABOUT TRUTH?
We sometimes ask our students, “What’s the greatest problem in America today? Is it ignorance or is it apathy?” One time a student answered, “I don’t know, and I don’t care!”
That sums up the problem in America today. Many of us are ignorant and apathetic about truth—but not when it comes to money, medicine, or the other tangible items we mentioned earlier. We care passionately about those things. But many people are ignorant and apathetic about truth in morality and religion (we know you’re not, because you’re taking the time to read this). Are the people who have adopted the “whatever” theme of the culture right, or does truth in morality and religion really matter?
It really matters. How do we know? First, even though people may claim that truth in morality doesn’t matter, they don’t really believe that when someone treats them immorally. For example, they might claim that lying isn’t wrong, but just watch how morally outraged they get when you lie to them (especially if it’s about their money!).
We often hear that “it’s the economy, Stupid!” But just think about how much better the economy would be if everyone told the truth. There would be no Enrons or Tycos. There would be no scandals or scams. There would be no burdensome government regulations. Of course the economy is important, but it’s directly affected by morality! Morality undergirds virtually everything we do. It not only affects us financially, but, in certain circumstances, it also affects us socially, psychologically, spiritually, and even physically.
A second reason truth in morality matters is because success in life is often dependent on the moral choices a person makes. These include choices regarding sex, marriage, children, drugs, money, business dealings, and so on. Some choices bring prosperity, others result in ruin.
Third, as we pointed out in a previous book, Legislating Morality, all laws legislate morality. The only question is, “Whose morality will be legislated?” Think about it. Every law declares one behavior right and its opposite wrong—that’s morality. Whose morality should be legislated on issues such as abortion or euthanasia? These are issues that directly impact the lives and health of real people. If it’s morally wrong to kill innocent people, shouldn’t that truth be legislated? Likewise, whose morality should be legislated on other issues of public policy that may affect your life, health, or finances? The answers we legislate can dramatically affect every citizen’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
There’s no doubt that what we believe to be true about morality directly impacts lives. Did it matter that the United States Supreme Court (as reflected in the 1857 Dred Scott decision) believed that blacks were not citizens but the property of their slave owners? Did it matter that the Nazis believed the Jews were inferior to the Aryan race? Does it matter today what we think about the moral status of people in other racial or religious categories? Of course! Truth in morality matters.
What about truth in religion? That truth can impact us even more profoundly than truth in morality. A fellow naval officer helped me (Frank) realize this back in 1988 when I was a new Christian. At that time, we were deployed with a U.S. Navy flight crew to a Persian Gulf country. It was near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, and tensions were still high. When you’re in a foreign and dangerous place, you tend to ponder your life and your mortality more seriously and frequently.
One day we were doing just that—talking about God and the afterlife. During our conversation my friend made a comment that has stuck with me to this day. Referring to the Bible, he said, “I don’t believe the Bible. But if it is true, then I’ll be in big trouble.”
Of course he was right. If the Bible is true, then my friend has chosen an unpleasant eternal destiny. In fact, if the Bible is true, then everyone’s eternal destiny can be read from its pages. On the other hand, if the Bible is not true, then many Christians are unwittingly wasting a lot of time, money, and, in some cases, even their lives by preaching Christianity in hostile territories. Either way, truth in religion matters.
It also matters if some other religion is true. For example, if the Qur’an is true, then I’m in just as much eternal trouble as my non-Christian Navy friend. On the other hand, if the atheists are right, then we might as well lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want because this life is all there is, and there are no consequences in eternity.
But forget eternity for a minute. Consider the temporal implications of religious teachings around the world. In Saudi Arabia, some schoolchildren are being taught that Jews are pigs and that non-Muslims (infidels) should be killed (while, thankfully, a majority of Muslims do not believe that non-Muslims should be killed, militant Muslims teach that type of Jihad straight from the Qur’an). Is it really true that there’s a God up there by the name of Allah who wants Muslims to kill all nonMuslims (which probably includes you)? Does this religious “truth” matter? It does when those kids grow up to fly planes into buildings and blow themselves up in populated areas. Wouldn’t it be better to teach them the religious truth that God wants them to love their neighbor?
The Saudis may be teaching Jews are pigs, but in our country, by means of a one-sided biology curriculum, we teach kids that there’s really no difference between any human being and a pig. After all, if we’re merely the product of blind naturalistic forces—if no deity created us with any special significance—then we are nothing more than pigs with big brains. Does this religious (atheistic) “truth” matter? It does when kids carry out its implications. Instead of good citizens who see people made in the image of God, we are producing criminals who see no meaning or value in human life. Ideas have consequences.
The bottom line is this: regardless of what the real truth is concerning religion and morality, our lives are greatly affected by it today and perhaps even in eternity. Those who cavalierly say, “So what? Who cares about truth in morality and religion?” are ignoring reality and are blindly skating on thin ice. We owe it to ourselves and others to find the real truth, and then act on it. So let’s get started with the question, “Does God exist?”
Excerpt From: Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek. “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” Crossway Books. iBooks.
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Art by Darrell Cresswell