This is the first post in a four part series. A second, multi-post series, Why I Am A Christian, will be published next.
I think we are all united by some fundamental questions, important questions. Where we start to distant ourselves lies with the answers.
- Origin: where did it all come from/why is there something instead of nothing?
- Meaning: is there a purpose to life?
- Morality: are there things I ought or ought not do?
- Destiny: where is all of this headed?
There are all kinds of different answers. Buddhists, atheists, Christians etc. answer them differently. I don’t mean to imply that we are all equally gripped by each question. Rather, our outlook on life, our worldviews/life-views have a response to these reality-seeking questions. Atheism, however its defined, leans towards answers to these questions that are best explained by something other than a god, gods or goddesses.
My next bold claim is that we all want the TRUTH. We may define truth differently, and yet I doubt anyone reading this is content to be knowingly deceived. When I employ the term truth, I mean that which describes reality as it actually is. For a statement to actually describe reality, I assert that it must meet two standards:
- Correspondence: adequately account for and/or explain all the relevant facts, data and evidence
- Coherence: it can’t contradict itself
Any of us who offer an answer to an above question shoulders the burden of proof. Even if your answer is, “no one can know.” That is a claim. Unless you concede that you’re being arbitrary, it’s on you and it’s on me to demonstrate why we go with one answer over another. “Burden of proof” is somewhat of a misleading statement. We aren’t going to prove theism, atheism or any other ism. Yet, we can argue for and reason to the best explanation. Whatever that explanation is, I maintain those answers must meet the requirements of CORRESPONDENCE and COHERENCE. If those standards are not met, I just can’t figure why anyone who seriously bank on such an answer.
A LOGICAL DILEMMA
There’s just one more, NOT SO TINY PROBLEM…when answering these questions every single one us will rely on Logic. Just the attempt to make sense of what I’ve written, even if you find me laughable, demonstrates that you value being reasonable. Not only must our views provide meaningful answers to the above questions, our viewpoint has to make sense of Logic as well.
In all seriousness, why would you insist that I or anyone else be logical? You can’t answer that question without appealing to (assuming) the Laws of Logic? What’s the best explanation for them? Are they made of (grounded in) the same stuff that our universe is made of? Immaterial laws for thought cannot be explained by matter, space, time or energy. If you’re committed to Logic, and I hope that you are, can you justify that without being circular?
If your answer sounds something like, “the Laws of Logic are a human concept,” let me stop your right there. If they’re products of our minds, that means they are made up by our minds. We could then edit them or cancel anytime we wish. That line of reasoning will quickly fracture.
If your best answers exclude a god, what is the best explanation for the immaterial reality of the Laws of Logic? I’m not implying that we should abandon Logic. Rather, whatever our view of reality is, it has to make sense of Logic as well.
(Thanks for letting me set the table)
MY RESPONSE TO QUESTION 1 | Origin: why is there something instead of nothing?
This is both complex and simple. First, the simple. Either the universe is eternal or it began to exist. If the universe is eternal a god is unnecessary, but could still exist. If the universe is not eternal it began to exist. I insist that anything that began to exist has a cause. If that statement is resisted, one of the following statements must be embraced:
- Something can come from/be caused by nothing. I’m not sure how you can do science and believe that. Most scientist who argue that the universe came from nothing don’t really mean nothing-nothing. They mean a little something, like a quantum flux. Yet that begs the question, “What’s the source or cause of the quantum flux?”
- Something can cause itself. This is ultimately incoherent. For something to cause itself it would have to exist before its existence!
Either the universe is eternal or it began to exist. Is the universe eternal? In short, NO.
All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning. –Alexander Vilenkin
Unless this world leader in physics and cosmology is wrong, the universe began to exist. To be fair, it does get complicated at this point. For those who wish to explore the scientific evidence further (by non theistic scientists) please check out:
If the universe began to exist, and the best science insists that it did, what kind of cause is required? It is a cause that is outside of our own universe. That is by definition supernatural. Since time, matter and energy all came into being at the spark of the universe, whatever that cause is cannot be bound by time, matter or energy. Therefore, that cause is timeless (outside of time), imaterial (not made of matter) and amazingly powerful.
The next question to consider, “Is that cause personal or impersonal?” If we say impersonal, we would have to concede that the cause created out of necessity. Such a concession would require yet another governing force that guides the creating force. What is that force and where did it come from? And, what caused that force and where it did it come from? Now, we’re in danger of slipping into the absurdity of infinite regression. The other option is that the cause of the universe is, in fact, personal. It caused out of desire, not necessity.
WHAT IS THE BEST ANSWER FOR QUESTION 1?
The universe began to exist because of a personal, immaterial, timeless and amazingly powerful cause. That answer is best explained by historic, orthodox Christianity (Biblical theism).
Clearly, I have not yet made a case for the God of the Bible. Rather, I wanted to demonstrate that belief in God (a personal, supernatural cause) is reasonable. Appealing to the supernatural is not anti-science, nor does it fail to meet the twin requirements of correspondence and coherence. Atheist flavored explanations stumble over correspondence, by ignoring the finite past of the universe. Or, they topple under the weight of coherence, by settling for a causeless beginning.
Any explanation that endures at the expense of either correspondence or coherence isn’t worth mine or your intellectual investment.