The universe exists; therefore, its existence must be explained in some way. We have to answer the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” How did we come to be here? For many years the response was that we have just always been here and always will be. But science has proven that the universe is not eternal. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that it is decaying – eternal things do not decay. We know that there was a singularity event from which the universe came into existence – and scientists even named it: the Big Bang. Stephen Hawking says, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.” Physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler state: “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.” Not only did all matter and energy come into being at the singularity event but time and space as well. That means at one point there was nothing. But now there is something. How did that happen?
We know we can’t get something from nothing. So whatever change the nothingness to somethingness must be different from this something we observe; it must be different from this universe. Everything in this universe is finite and contingent, not eternal. Nothing that we observe here in this universe is capable of creating this universe. This finite, contingent universe of matter is unable to explain itself, so the creator of this universe must be different from what is here in the universe. What would be different from our finite universe of time, space, energy and matter? It must be something that exists outside of our time, space, energy, and matter. Most people would define that entity as “God” of some sort.
Of course, the natural progression from this point is to then question who made God. If God made the universe, then who made God? However, only things that have a beginning require a cause to bring it into being. We haven’t proven that God has a beginning (unlike the universe, which does have a beginning). Since God is eternal, He has no beginning, and therefore does not require a cause.
How can we assert that God is eternal? Are we avoiding the question by making that claim? Not at all. Because we exist now, something had to have existed forever. Since science has proven that the universe has a beginning, then there was a time when there was no universe. But we know that nothing produces nothing. We can’t get something from nothing. If there had ever been a time when nothing existed (no universe and no eternal God), then there would still be nothing now.
Because something does exist now, it follows that something had to exist forever. R.C. Sproul states: “Indeed, reason demands that if something exists, either the world or God (or anything else), then something must be self-existent….There must be a self-existent being of some sort somewhere or nothing would or could exist.” (emphasis mine)
If prior to the existence of the universe there was absolutely nothing – no God, no space, no time – how could the universe possibly have come to exist? The atheist finds it more unintelligible to believe in god than that the universe came into being uncaused out of nothing. To suggest that things could just pop into existence, uncaused and out of nothings is to quit doing serious intellectual study - and resort to magic.
So how did the universe come into being? Sir Arthur Eddington concluded, “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.” It “involves a certain metaphysical aspect which may be either appealing or revolting,” says Hubert Reeves astrophysicist.
The truth is there. We have something where there used to be nothing. The natural cannot explain that, therefore, there must be something supernatural. It should be our life’s goal to understand who or what that Supernatural Being is, to whom we owe our very existence.
I came across a quote recently that got me thinking about the community of the believer. It was talking about the importance, as parents, of helping establish the community of God for our children. Many times, children have better community from their secular activities than they do from their church. And it is important, especially for children, to surround themselves with positive influences. The peers that surround us have more to do with how we make decisions than the guidance we received from our parents.
That much I agree with.
However. However, the point continued to say that if that child is not surrounded by the right community in high school, then they are more likely to stray from the faith in college. It was stressing the importance of establishing the right community in high school, surrounding yourself with like-minded, Christian-valued people and you’ll be all set for life. What a false idea of comfort to parents!! Yes, for the limited amount of time that we have control over who our children’s friends are and who they’re spending their time with, we should be working to protect who they are influenced by. But that control is GONE when our children go off to college. And if we are sending our children off to college with only having built a good community of church-going friends in high school, then no wonder they are leaving the church in DROVES out of high school. If all they have to stand on is that mom and dad orchestrated them to only hang out at church lock-ins instead of after-game parties, then it is no wonder they so easily walk away from church. Building their basis of belief on the fun you have with other Christians is not going to last in the face of the fun that the world offers. And let’s be honest. Satan tempts us into sin because of how fun he makes it look, not because of how dark and not-God it looks. The fun presented by the frat party community will far outweigh the fun presented by the campus ministry community. The church cannot compete with the world in the industry of fun and entertainment.
Because the church is not called to compete in fun and entertainment. The church is called to present the truth of hope to a lost and dying world.
Thank God the community of believers is not what my faith rests upon. My faith does not hinge upon my peer group or my community. My faith stands on what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross. My faith stands on that being truth. If I don’t believe that to be truth, then why would I walk away from the “fun” presented by the world? Ravi Zacharias said, “Unless I understand the Cross, I cannot understand why my commitment to what is right must take precedence over what I prefer.” Unless we teach our children the TRUTH of Christianity against the falsehood of all other beliefs, then they’ll never understand why they should follow Biblical principles. We see the evidence of that. As they leave their neat little church community that mom and dad arranged for them, they face professors and classmates who declare that God is dead. If their only position is that they had fun at church pizza parties, then they will quickly and easily give into the lie that the world has offered – that there is no God.
Furthermore, we called to be faithful to God REGARDLESS of our community. Consider the life of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers at the age of 17 and had been living as a slave in Egypt for 13 years. What would his “community” have been? No one there believed in Yahweh. Everyone there was a pagan worshiping a myriad of Egyptian gods. Good thing his faith in God was built on something more than community. In fact, his community from his childhood was the same community that sold him as a slave. Yet Joseph maintained his faith and his close walk with God because he knew it was truth. We saw the evidence of his faithfulness when he refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife. He said that would be “sin in the sight of God.” If his faith were just based on his community, he would have said, “Who cares if I sleep with Potiphar’s wife?” We know he walked in faith with God because he immediately had confidence to interpret the baker, the cupbearer, and Pharaoh’s dreams. And he gave God the credit.
Look at the life of Daniel. He was taken into exile as a teenager, away from his family, his friends, his town, and his religious leaders. Yet his faith was strong enough to stand up to King Nebuchadnezzar – even when the rest of his exiled community was NOT! Of all the Israelites living in captivity, it was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abnego who refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. The rest of their community was kneeling before the idol. Daniel continued to pray to Yahweh, in contrast to the community around him, even when threatened with being thrown in the lions’ den.
It makes me think of the persecuted church around the world today. Is the woman in Syria a Christian because she has a group of friends that all go to the same prayer meeting? Or is she a Christian in the face of intense persecution for both her and her family because Jesus Christ is real? Is the man in China a Christian because he found some other men to hang out with that don’t drink alcohol? Or is he a Christian in the face of threat of execution from the government because Jesus Christ changed his life? Many times in life we don’t have a choice about our community. Sometimes we may find a majority of our work colleagues, with whom we spend at least 40 hours a week, are atheists. Sometimes we may encounter any number of religious beliefs as part of study group for a college class. Sometimes we may find ourselves on a sports team, with whom we spend several hours a day in practice and many nights on the road for tournaments, with atheists and those ambivalent about their religion. Our faith should not be dependent on who we are surrounded by.
We are not Christians because we have like-minded friends who abstain from certain things and go to church on Sunday mornings. We are not Christians because church activities are more “fun” than the world’s activities. We are Christians because we believe that we are sinners, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the Cross for our sins, that He was raised from dead three days later, and that He is our Lord and Savior. If we don’t confirm to our children that those things are true, it doesn’t matter what community we surrounded them with in high school. The world will snatch them up and devour them. We must teach the truth of our doctrine and the truth of why we are Christians to our children. Ravi Zacharias said, “What young people are rejecting nowadays are merely caricatures of the gospel. The unadulterated gospel must be preached.” Because there are serious consequences if it is not preached. Children leave the church when they leave the house because they never established their own personal relationship with Jesus. But how can they if they don’t really know the truth of who Jesus is? It is our job to teach that truth to our children. It is our job to train them to know that is truth in the presence of the world’s lies.
In the previous blog, we took a look at some of the violent and immoral things found in the Bible and whether that means God approves of such things. Of course initially we established that just because it is recorded in the Bible does not mean that God approved of it. But then we did see that in many cases, God caused suffering as a means of judgment. We don’t like to think of God as a judge – we either want to only focus on His love or want to say He must be evil because He judges. However, He must judge our wickedness and sin in order to NOT be evil. Only an evil judge would never punish someone for their crimes. A judge who never punished the wicked would be terribly wicked himself by allowing victims to suffer and the wicked to go free. Another reason for suffering and war in the Old Testament also goes to the nation building of the Israelites. Though it is not a pleasant thing to consider, wars are how nations are built.
But what about other examples of violence and suffering in the Bible that many people reference, like slavery and rape and capital punishment (like stoning for blasphemy)? I’m sure we could take several weeks to analyze each and every example to try to understand why that happened and whether God commanded it or approved it or should have punished it differently. Instead though I suggest we look at the heart of the question. By accusing God of being “violent” or “harsh” or “unkind” with those things, we are implying that we universally agree those things are wrong. If we are going to say God’s morality is wrong because it allowed murder, or rape, or slavery then we are agreeing that murder, and rape, and slavery are bad things; that those are wrong no matter the circumstance. It means those things are objectively wrong based on an objective morality that declares certain things are wrong regardless of what popular opinion says.
And now we find ourselves in a logical conundrum. We can’t accuse God of being evil for those things without relying on objective morality. But without God, we have no objective morality. What basis could we possibly have to say that rape, murder, and slavery are wrong if morality came only from the mind of man? That was actually the point of my initial question: how can an atheist declare things are evil? The atheist framework has no god so the only source of morality for the atheist would be from nature (evolution), from society (the mind of man), or from himself (instinct). When we consider those things, however, we see that none of them adequately explain the moral framework that governs our day to day lives. If morality came from evolution, then anything that progresses the species would be morally good. It would mean that if rape led to a stronger human species to ensure propagation of certain stronger traits, then we could not say that was wrong. If morality only come from society or man’s ideas of right and wrong, then we could never judge another society as being more or less moral than another. We would have as many moral codes as we have men and all would have to be equally valid. Who is to say which man’s opinion is “better” than another…unless there is some standard to compare it against, some standard that is outside of man’s mind? If morality only came from our instincts, then we could never explain why we still have a compulsion for which instinct to act upon. In every scenario we face, there are conflicting instincts, fight or flight, herding or self-preservation, but something rises above our instincts to tell us which one we should do. That moral compulsion for the instinct we ought to act upon can’t itself be an instinct.
None of those explanations adequately account for the moral framework in which we live. We do consider certain actions in the animal kingdom to be immoral for humans. We do find it morally good to protect the weaker species instead of just saying only the strong survive. We do judge other societies as being morally better or worse than others. We do find the moral code of Hitler and ISIS to be a bad moral code. We do expect man to behave morally above just his instincts. We do make moral judgments for which actions we should take instead of simply responding through instinct. So for the atheist to accuse God of being evil he must invoke the very existence of God. Making moral objections against God requires an objective morality. And without God, there is no objective morality.
Aside from the logical fallacy found in morally objecting to God, we must then consider the life that God led here on earth through Jesus Christ. That would be the only example of what God’s morality was really about. With the life of Jesus, it wasn’t God using a sinful group of people to build a nation, it was how one man lived His life in perfect harmony with God’s morality. With the life of Jesus, it wasn’t God wiping out wickedly sinful people out of judgment, it was God allowing man’s wickedness to crucify His very Son to bring salvation to those wicked people. So what morality did Jesus show? How did He live His life? We know that God had already provided a moral code in the Ten Commandments. But Jesus made the standard of those Ten Commandments even tougher. The Ten Commandments said, “Do not commit adultery.” Jesus said if a man lusts within his heart, he has committed adultery. The Ten Commandments said, “Do not murder.” Jesus said do not be angry. Before it was to love your neighbor, Jesus said to love your enemy. If people couldn’t even obey the moral code from God with their actions, we certainly couldn’t obey it with the attitudes of our hearts and with the thoughts in our minds. So how did Jesus measure up to that standard of morality? Yes, God’s people sinned in the Bible - and God judged the wicked. But the life of Jesus is what our eyes are to be on. We must look at Jesus, not at Christendom or the Israelites, to determine God’s morality. So what is it that you find wrong with Jesus?
A few weeks ago, I posed the question “how do atheists find things morally evil?” It created a big response among several atheists. However, instead of truly answering the question, they made a challenge about the morality that is instituted in the Bible. I thought it might be a good idea to explore this topic a little more in-depth than what a conversation on Twitter could afford. In fact, I’ll have to address this in two parts. First, we’ll look at what the violence in the Bible is really about. Because in all honesty, there is a lot of violence and heinous acts captured in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. And second, we’ll look at why we have an issue with it.
The first thing we must understand is not everything recorded in the Bible is approved by God. So saying that “it’s in the Bible” does not automatically indicate “God approves.” We see that from the very beginning. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree that He had specifically told them not to. Does that mean because that is written in the Bible that God approved? Of course not. Abraham sleeping with Hagar (Genesis 16), the slaughter at Shechem (Genesis 34), Moses murdering the Egyptian (Exodus 2), and David taking Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) are all examples of things done by God’s people that are not approved by God. The Old Testament captures the history of God’s nation of Israel and all they do – the good, bad, and the ugly. In reality, most of what they do is in direct opposition to what God approves of. We know that because of what the rest of Scripture reveals about God’s character. And God’s character is not defined by what sinful people do.
So when Israel does those things that God disapproves of, they find themselves suffering the consequences. How can we say that when Abraham, Jacob’s sons, Moses, and David from those examples were not immediately punished for their sins? Just because God doesn’t strike them down immediately for their sin, does not mean that God approved of their actions – or that it went unpunished. They all ultimately suffer consequences for those sins. But woe be unto us if we demand God immediately strike people down for sin. We should consider ourselves fortunate that God chooses to refrain His hand of judgment from us until His appointed time and that He is able to use us in spite of our sins.
That leads us to the second thing we must understand. Oftentimes, the suffering is from God removing that restraint in judgment. All our sin must one day be punished. God, as our Judge, has every right to punish that sin how He sees fit. That may make God sound very cold and vindictive, but in reality, it reveals His Holiness and Goodness. A person who lets crimes go unpunished, hatefulness run rampant, and evil triumph would not be considered a good person. We cry out to God to judge evil, yet we shake our fist at Him in anger when He brings down judgment. We question God’s very existence when He doesn’t stop suffering but then question His Morality when He does. Deep down, whether theists or atheists, we long for evil to be judged; we just find ourselves disliking the judgment.
In the Old Testament, God enacts His judgment with three methods.
1) God uses His own power. In Noah’s day, the sins of the people were exceedingly wicked. And it says that all men were corrupt, and the earth was filled with violence. Wouldn’t the people be crying out for that evil, violence, and corruption to stop? Wouldn’t someone that is good HAVE to judge against that wickedness? If they did not, they would cease to be good. So God saw fit to judge against the wickedness of humanity. And in His power, God brought the flood waters. It is important to see that He is the Judge no longer refraining from Judgment, but it is equally important to see that He is Love showing mercy to the righteous. And He called Noah into the ark that day.
The exact same scenario plays out in Sodom and Gomorrah. The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was great, and their sin was very grave. Think about the term “outcry.” Where sin is great, victims abound. How could God continue to turn a deaf ear to the victims of a totally depraved and wicked society? So in His power, God rained down fire and brimstone to destroy the cities. He was the Judge no longer refraining from Judgment. But again, He is Love showing mercy to save the (slightly) righteous Lot and his family.
2) God uses His chosen people to enact judgment on the pagan nations who have chosen to live in idolatry, in wickedness, and in disobedience. He commanded the Israelites to conquer the Canaanites and completely destroy them. The Canaanites were a people who were totally depraved, practicing things like incest, bestiality, temple prostitution, violence, and child sacrifice. We would be exceedingly angry with a God that did not stop those things. And He wanted His nation to have no association with that wickedness and those practices. So God wanted those things completely wiped out. We see God’s judgment on those nations, but we also see God’s mercy. They were given time to repent and the repentant ones were spared (e.g. Rahab).
We must also bear in mind that most of this time of conflict was under the leadership of Joshua in establishing a new nation. Though war is never pleasurable, it is the method by which all nations are founded, and, ironically, it is the method by which to establish peace. Sometimes the only way to restore peace and to remove tyranny is by use of force. Of course, one could speculate why God didn’t find a different way to establish His nation. But He was establishing His nation by using His people. He wanted to use the people and strengthen the people so they could see their weakness and His power all the more clearly. If you read the accounts of how He led them into battle and how battles were fought and won, you can see God’s power in every step through His people so that His name would be known throughout the nations. His victories in battle were known because it was obvious it was not through the power and strength of men. It proved He was mightier than the idols worshiped by the pagans.
3) God uses the pagan nations to enact judgment on His chosen people when they have chosen to live in idolatry, in wickedness, and in disobedience. Even with those examples of God’s judgment on the pagan nations, it is typically the Israelites on the receiving end of God’s judgment throughout the Old Testament. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt–for 430 years. They wandered in the desert for 40 years until an entire generation died. The Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians after ample warnings to repent by the prophets. The Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians. The Israelites were taken away into captivity for 70 years. Most of the suffering in the Old Testament fell onto the Israelites themselves because of their disobedience and sin.
What does all this reveal about God’s character? God judges evil. God is exceedingly patient in His judgment. God provides opportunity for repentance. God shows mercy to the righteous.
As a final example, consider the great city of Nineveh at the time of Jonah. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and was probably the largest city of the ancient world. Nineveh was known for its cruelty and violence, and the people were exceedingly wicked. They now had to face God as Judge. But out of His love, God sent Jonah to warn the Ninevites, even though they were a perpetual enemy of the nation of Israel, and to give them a chance to repent. After receiving that message and repenting, God spared them from destruction. The people of Nineveh had been walking in wickedness and disobedience. God was going to be the source of their destruction as their Judge, but He was also the source of their salvation by sending them Jonah.
A clearer picture cannot be drawn for what God has done for the rest of humanity. We stand full in our sins – our pride, anger, hate, lust, selfishness. And now we stand before the Just God who must punish that sin. God will be the source of our destruction because of His Justice. But because of His Love, He is the source of our salvation by sending us Jesus.
Jesus took on our judgment for us so that we could take on His righteousness and be spared.