Origins: A Philosophical Argument

Aristotle's Unmoved Mover

Aristotle

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is an obvious feature of the universe we live in. It’s hard to see how it could ever fall out of favor as a proof for theism. Likewise, Big Bang Cosmology is one of the most rigorously tested and accurately confirmed theories in history. Opponents of theism may dislike the implications of these scientific proofs but the fact is that scientific support for theism is very strong. That said, there is always a liability that comes with using scientific arguments like these to ground our case. Namely, the science could change. Fortunately, science isn’t all we have.

There are several philosophical arguments for theism. I am no philosopher but let me present what I believe is the best, and most compelling, of them in the best way I can.

When you and I talk about “motion,” we think about physical things like baseballs transitioning from one point in physical space to another point in physical space. But when philosophers talk about “motion,” they mean something very different. Motion to a philosopher is more like change. Things are constantly changing so the world we observe is constantly “in motion” in that sense. This idea of motion includes objects moving through space but it also includes phenomena like leaves changing color, falling off trees, and reappearing in the Spring or bodies that form, grow, get old, and then die and decay. The world is constantly in motion.

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Origins: Entropy and the 2nd Law

No Free Lunch

Big Bang cosmology isn’t the only scientific evidence for the universe having a beginning. There are parallel laws of nature that point us to the same conclusion and, again, it is not some earth-shatteringly complicated concept to comprehend. You understand it already because you have to charge your cell phone every night.

A battery holds a certain amount of energy within it and, unless and until you plug it in to recharge it, the battery will eventually go dead. A battery can only hold a finite amount of energy. You can use it up, but you won’t get anymore. As far as we know, the universe is a “closed system” similar to a giant battery … except that it is not rechargeable.

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Origins: Cosmological Argument

Beginnings Require Beginners

For a more general discussion of how the origin of the universe gives strong evidence in support of a theistic God, those who don’t already have it can download my document, “Getting To God,” from the resource page elsewhere on the True Horizon website (Directly available here: “Getting To God Download”)

Instead of reinventing that wheel here, I would like to offer a brief overview of the most powerful arguments on this topic and some links to video and other resources I have found helpful. Readers can pursue whichever ones they would like to know more about.

As the subtitle of the post puts it succinctly, beginnings require beginners. Effects require causes. Events don’t just occur without something to make them happen. The universe is not exempt from these facts.

With that in mind, the three most powerful and simple arguments you should be familiar with are:

  • The Cosmological Argument (The Big Bang)
  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics
  • Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover

The first two are scientific; the third is philosophical. Don’t get scared off by “Aristotle” or “philosophical.” The concept is simple to comprehend and actually the most indisputable of the three. As someone interested in defending a theistic view of the world, being able to discuss each of these should become second nature to you.

I will discuss each argument in a separate post to avoid being cumbersome.

Big Bang Cosmology

For thousands of years and with few exceptions, the consensus view of the universe was that it was “static and eternal.”

  • “Static” – while we observed things moving around in the heavens, the common assumption was that the universe itself was not moving at all. It was thought of as a giant “blob” of space that contained all the heavenly objects within it. The blob didn’t move or change; the stuff we could see just swirled around inside it.
  • “Eternal” – the universe had always been here. It had no beginning or end, it just “was.”

No one had much reason to question this view until Albert Einstein came along with his Theory of General Relativity (GR). GR was his attempt to find an explanation for gravity. The mathematics of the problem led him to discover a connection between matter, energy, space, and time. His equations made sense of everything, with one exception.

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Defending Life

On The 45th Anniversary of Roe-v-Wade

January 22nd marks the 45th anniversary of what I consider to be the most dreadful Supreme Court decision in U.S. history. Since 1973, it has directly resulted in the deaths of nearly 60 million unborn children. For that reason, I would like to encourage everyone to consider how well you are able to defend the pro-life view — not in anger, but with an equal mix of truth and grace. If you’re anything like me, you could always improve your game and I would like to offer you help in doing so.

The links below are to two invaluable books that will equip you to make the case for the pro-life view in an easy-to-understand, very relatable way. One (The Case For Life), is for anyone. The other (Stand For Life) is intended specifically for high school and college age students. Both are the work of my friend, Scott Klusendorf, who is probably the most effective pro-life apologist in the country. You can order them directly from Amazon.com at the links at the bottom of this post.

If you live in the Cincinnati area, I will be conducting a pro-life training seminar at my home church on February 11, 2018. Anyone is welcome to attend.

“Making The Case For Life”
5962 Hamilton-Mason Road | Liberty Township, Ohio | 45069
Upper Worship Center
12:00 pm | February 11, 2018
Topics to be discussed
  • Is the Bible silent on the issue of abortion?
  • How do we make the case for life with those who don’t care what the Bible says about anything?
  • How do we clarify what we mean by moral reasoning?
  • What is the “One Question” that really matters in the abortion debate?
  • What makes human beings valuable?
  • How do we handle common objections to the pro-life view?
  • What is our duty?

Manger. Seen.

There is an assumption in our modern, tech-centered society that all of us have tacitly accepted whether we are openly “religious” or not. It is an assumption born in the Enlightenment and nurtured through a few hundred years of modern philosophy, medical breakthroughs, and technological innovation. The assumption is this: The physical world is all that really exists. The logical follow-on to that assumption is that science — and only science — will eventually solve all our problems and provide us answers to our most profound questions. This, as I have discussed many times, is the foundation of the Naturalistic/Materialistic worldview. Though many of us claim not to accept this view, and though we may even vehemently argue against it, it is a difficult assumption to overcome because it is built into the fabric of our culture.

When we hear of an inexplicable healing, or an answered prayer, or an eerie “coincidence,” our initial reaction is to seek a scientific explanation. Though we study and do our best to honor and defend a high view of Scripture, we secretly wonder if the walls of Jericho really just fell down; if the Red Sea really parted, or (though we would be loathe to admit it) if Jesus really rose from the dead. “Miracles, really? Come on, man.” We are hard-wired to be skeptical of that kind of thing. “Test everything. Hold on to the good,” the apostle Paul told us, and we are happy to take him up on it.

There is nothing wrong with that tendency. In fact the Bible, unlike any other holy book, repeatedly encourages it. But when we look out at the world to analyze it we see not just its physical makeup, but the unmistakable aspects of our existence that we cannot see, taste, hear, touch, or smell. The world we live in is not limited to material things. Numbers, and concepts, and meaning, and values, and morals are not physical, but every one of them is real. That’s because ultimate reality is not physical — it is spiritual. The Christian worldview encompasses both the physical and the non-physical. We have a body and a soul. They are not separated; they are integrated.

So while the various types of Monists insist that the world is either composed of nothing but physical stuff, or that physical stuff is an “illusion” that separates us from an all-encompassing divine mind, we can look out and see that both of them are wrong. Whatever explains the ultimate reality of our existence, it must account for both.

And so we celebrate Christmas …

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‘He was only an atheist.’

‘I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,’ said the Inspector, politely.

‘He only wanted to abolish God,’ explained Father Brown in a temperate and reasonable tone. ‘He only wanted to destroy the Ten Commandments and root up all the religion and civilization that had made him, and wash out all the common sense of ownership and honesty; and let his culture and his country be flattened out by savages from the ends of the Earth. That’s all he wanted. You have no right to accuse him of anything beyond that.’

~ G. K. Chesterton
The Crime of the Communist

Atheism, Communism, G. K. Chesterton
The Complete Father Brown Mysteries

Origins: A Reasonable Explanation For Reason Itself

Where Does Consciousness Originate?

When it comes to explanations for origins, the origin of the universe seems to be the logical place to begin the discussion. That’s where I usually start. But as a way of transitioning from the previous topic of morality, I will take a different approach and first consider where reason and logic come from at all.

Think about it (pun intended). The very fact that we can have a discussion about the nature of morality, or the origin of the universe — or anything at all — means that we have the capacity to consider alternative ideas. Ideas are not physical things. So, how can we do that? What is it about the physical neurons that make up our brains transmitting electro-chemical signals back and forth that gives us the ability to compare alternatives between non-physical things like concepts and ideas? How do we explain “intentionality” or free will?

The one thing about this life that we know and experience directly and without any doubt is the awareness of the “self.” We know we exist because we experience the physical realities of the world. But just who is it that has these experiences? There seems to be something about “us” that cannot be explained by the physical stuff we can see, touch, taste, hear, or smell, and it is something for which a purely physical, atheistic universe cannot even begin to account.

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Ethics: The Case For A Good God

If God Is So Good, Why So Much Evil?

In the last post, we saw why the undeniable existence of evil does nothing to undermine the case for the existence of God. On the contrary, the fact that we can identify evil in the world is proof that there must be some kind of objective standard for calling it so — and that objective Standard is what we call God.

But that doesn’t end the debate (in case you haven’t noticed). There’s a reason this whole topic is usually referred to as “the problem of evil.” It’s a problem for sure. But remember, it’s a problem for everyone and everyone wants an explanation. The point of the last post was to show that evil eliminates atheism as an explanation because atheism can’t explain the basis for judging anything as evil in the first place. It turns out atheism has no basis for saying anything is wrong, or bad, or evil beyond the fact that atheists don’t like it.

Evil is proof that God exists.

Theism is the only game in town but it leaves us with the burden of trying to understand — with all the evil things we see go on in the world — why a good God is more plausible than an evil God?

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Ethics: The Reality Of Objective Good

Evil Proves God

“Ethics” sits at the base of our diagram for a reason: If you have any intention of training yourself or others to defend the truth of Christianity, this topic is the most likely source of skepticism, disillusionment, debate, and objection you will ever encounter. Why is there evil in the world if God is so good? How could a good God allow all this pain and suffering? Who are you to say what’s right and wrong?

You will confront this issue in various forms but, no matter how it is presented to you, there are two main points that you should always keep in mind as you attempt to address them.

  1. Complaints about evil assume that there is actual evil in the world.
  2. Every worldview needs to be able to explain it.

It is vitally important that you always keep these two points tied together because every complaint you will ever hear used to argue against God’s existence, or to justify some moral point of view other than the theistic one, violates one of them. The goal (as always) is to show that theism is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of evil in the world and for our ethical solutions to our moral dilemmas.

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A Way To Simplify The Big Picture

The Cumulative Case for Christianity

If you want to be able to train others — even if it’s just your own family — to be able to make the case for the truth of Christianity, you have to understand it yourself. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you do that. I will share the best ones I know of in the series of posts that follow. But before I start, I want to offer a “big picture” that you can always keep in the back of your mind as you think about the different categories of evidence. If you’re anything like me, pictures help do that. So, I have tried to simplify things in the diagram at right.

This is simply a way to organize the evidence in your mind’s eye.

Foundational Evidence For Theism

The brown categories at the bottom of the diagram offer us the basic evidence for the existence of some kind of a theistic God — a God who is real and interacts with the universe in which we live. I have boiled this down into three basic categories that give evidence for the type of God who is a personal, moral agent who must exist outside the physical universe, but is also able to act within it. The evidence contained in these three foundational categories is the only explanation for the following characteristics of our world:

  • It is a world in which we all recognize that real, moral truths exist and that they are constantly being violated
  • It is an actual, physical thing that came into existence sometime in the finite past
  • Whatever/whoever caused the beginning of the universe could not have been a part of the physical universe itself
  • It is designed to allow for, and sustain, the existence of living things
  • Some of those living things are beings who have moral, mental, and physical attributes

Obviously, there is a lot to each of these topics and I will provide resources to support each of them, but the takeaway is simply that our claim to believe that there is a God is not based on some kind of wishful thinking or irrational hope. It is based on evidence — concrete evidence about the way the world actually is.

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