March 3rd, 2013
IBD Vice President Matthew Coombe begins his new series on apologetics by discussing our need for apologetics.
March 3rd, 2013
IBD Vice President Matthew Coombe begins his new series on apologetics by discussing our need for apologetics.
August 7th, 2012
By IBD Vice President Matthew J Coombe
Originally Posted on mjcoombe.com
Incumbent to the duty of the apologist is to be prepared to not only defend the essentials of the faith (the existence of God or the resurrection) but also issues that tend to have a strong grasp on the emotions of people—the seemingly incompatibility of evil and the existence of God is one of these issues. In this paper I will address five questions and that can hinder the intellectual capacity of people to discern aspects of God (be it His goodness or even His existence) and formulate a theodicy. The questions are, 1. Why is there any evil at all? 2. Why are there the types and kinds of evils that there are? 3. Why is there the amount of evil that there is? 4. Why is there the particular evils that there are? 5. Why does God allow moral evils, and, natural evils, as He does?
Before attempting to make compatible the existence of God and the existence of evil, it should be examined from purely a neutral standpoint (if this is even possible)This is a crucial step as it sets the table to answer each of these questions. For the purposes of this paper, suppose we argue that the neutral position consists of a world that is nearly identical in every respect from this world save one major difference, there are no purported religious experiences or in fact no religions at all—no one believes in God and for all intents and purposes God does not exist. In this sense, I will refer to religion as a belief in a being or reality that transcends earth and its inhabitants. In this scenario I would like to ask the question, does this world have a problem with evil? The answer is both yes and no. Yes it has a problem with evil in the sense that people would still kill each other, still commit hate crimes, and commit all sorts of atrocities; or that moral evil would still be as equally prevalent in this world as it is in ours. Further, on top of the problems with moral evil there also the remaining problem of natural evil; earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes still ravage the land leading to death and people losing homes and property.
In another sense, even though it is clear to the inhabitants of our world that the neutral world is full of evil, it is impossible for these events and actions to actually be considered evil (from the neutral perspective). Simply put, if there is no absolute moral law (the ability to claim that certain things in all cases are evil) then there could be no breaking of those moral laws. At best, without the use of a universal standard, one could merely hold to preferences and nothing else, i.e. “I prefer to not be murdered” as opposed to “all incidences of murder are evil.” The only means of having a universal law is through a universal law giver (God), without which universality is impossible.
Any normative system of ethics would deny subjective morality as it pertains to person to person morality. Or that, it seems that a robust ethical system could not be stemmed from the preferences of any given person—there are too many limiting factors between people. Education, culture, mental faculties, past trauma, presupposition, socio-economic status, and upbringing all affect one’s view concerning the morality of any given event. Further, if person to person morality follows, what happens if a conflict occurs? What if Dwight thinks it is perfectly fine to murder but Gareth does not like the idea of being murdered at all. What then? Obviously the scope must be bigger then a given individual.
If person to person morality fails what about having morality decided by a given group of people (such as a country)? The problem with this possibility fails for the same as the previous, different countries have different cultures, educations, socio-economic status and so on. On top of this, if a country or a culture decides what is evil or wrong, then one culture could not tell another culture that their actions are wrong—who could then, by moral grounds rightly stand up against Nazi Germany? Thus far, the neutral world has no means of proclaiming the evil of anything.
This neutral world could, via universal consensus decide that everything on vice list A(which contains things like rape, murder, and stealing) is evil and conversely everything on virtue list A ( which contains things like charity, hospitality, and bravery) is good. If this occurred, would it be possible then for universal objective evil and good to exist? The answer is still no. Even if the entirety of the world were in agreement on the morality of a given action, this would not entail objective morality, but merely subjective morality but with a high degree of agreement.
Further, if the neutral world began to exist (and by however means it did) based on an irrational cause (for there is no rational causer such as God) how could the people of this world ever hope to even formulate words about evil let alone be able to clearly delineate it; or that one could believe that the world is merely a product of an irrational cause, but if that was case, they would have no rational grounds in believing that (or anything at all).
It is only in a world that has a rational cause and an objective moral law giver that one is not only able to make coherent claims about anything in general, but also about what is right and wrong. Even when people deny the existence of absolute morality he will still act upon it. For example, Richard Dawkins has said on numerous occasions that if atheism were true that there would be no universal morality, however he has also stated on numerous occasions that he would not debate William Lane Craig because the God that he is defending committed genocide. If Dawkins were to be consistent his reason for not debating Craig would be a non- sequitur.
Therefore, it would not follow to claim that the existence of God and evil to be incompatible for evil could not even exist without an objective moral law giver in the first place. The next obvious question is, if there exists an objective moral lawgiver (such as God) why does God allow evil to exist at all? There have been several possible answers given to this question. The first is the free will theodicy, which states simply, humans have been given the ability to choose good or evil and he has chosen evil and therefore this is the source of evil.
Several key criticisms of this view are as follows. Why did God (if is omnipotent) create beings who are capable of doing evil? Is God inept in creating such a being (then He could hardly be considered omnipotent) or then is He merely the author of sin and evil (and therefore not good himself). There are three primary responses to this line of thinking. 1. From a metaphysical standpoint, the skeptic might be desiring God to do something that is logically impossible, namely, it might be beyond the capability, even of an omnipotent being), to create free willed beings that never sin. Of course God could create beings who never sin, the same way an architect could design a building with no widows. The crux of the issue is freedom. If freedom was truly given and holds, could God ensure such a being never sins? If the answer is “yes” then perhaps one would wonder “is man truly free?” It boils down to, God could create beings who never sin or commit evil, but it seems He cannot (by definition) create free willed beings who always act in a certain way.
2. There is also the notion of “trans-world depravity.” This considers the actions of free willed beings to always be one of a propensity to do evil. For example, some have claimed something like, “If I was in the Garden of Eden, I would never have sinned.” The concept of trans-world depravity would entail that not only were the actions of Adam and Eve normative, but in any possible world any two sentient and free beings would have eventual succumbed to her baser depraved desires and sinned.
3. Though freedom is able to bring about evil, without freedom there are certain goods that could never be achieved otherwise. For example, a man may wish to be told he is loved by someone. He decides that he is capable of bringing about this desire by one of two means. The first is he could create a robot that is programmed to affirm its love for him. The second option is, he could romance a woman and give her reason for her to decide for herself freely if she loves him. Suppose the man decided to do both, which scenario do you think would have made the man most satisfied, the robot doing as was contrived or the woman freely choosing? Of course as with any scenario of two people in love, there is bound to be fights and difficulties (none of which would be possible with the robot) but obviously anyone who has been in love would not hesitate to maintain that the various problems or ruts by no means entail that the love was not worth it.
On top of this, I do not think there is anyone in the world that would maintain that freedom (even if it at times can lead to evil) is itself an evil thing, I have yet to see people marching in protest on their capital with signs donning things like “Take away our freedom.” Or “More oppression, less choice!” No, in fact the opposite is usually the case, people usually are demanding more freedom. So then, freedom is a good thing, even if it brings about limited bad things.
In sum, evil exists because free will beings exist. And while people maintain that evil is bad, she will also maintain that freedom is good. It could even be noted that the unjust limited of freedom is likewise an evil.
The next question is, why are there the types and kinds of evils that there are? (In answering this question I shall also answer question 5). Generally speaking there are two main types of evil, moral and natural. Moral agents or people commit moral evils, these are willful (but not necessarily intentional) actions done by a person towards another person. Non-moral agents such as hurricanes and tornados commit natural evils.
Often atheists criticize God for either being impotent in preventing evil or evil Himself for allowing it. Richard Swinburne’s argument circumvents this line of reasoning by arguing that there exist certain goods, which cannot be achieved unless there is evil. Or that, God is justified in allowing certain types of evils because it can bring about a good, which could not come about, by any other means. Atheists often claim the best possible world created by God would be one without pain or evil. This line of thinking is misguided.
First of all consider the elements of the best possible movie. What elements would be in the movie? A good or peace is disrupted by an antagonist or natural evil. A hero triumphs over the evil. These two elements are almost always universally found in movies. Would people be willing to spend money to see a movie in which nothing happens? If there is no conflict then there is no intrigue, if there is no intrigue it could never be considered the best possible movie. Further, consider video games. What elements would be in the best possible video game? Would kids or adults be willing to spend 50 dollars on a video game in which there was no journey to take, or princess to save, or enemies to defeat? How much fun would it be to control a character that simple sits in room? Who would think that this could be considered the best possible game?
If the video game and movie analogies follow it could further be argued that the best possible world would be one that likewise had the same type of intrigue. Without pain or difficulty there could be no triumph. On top of this, evil in smaller amounts seems to bring about goodness in larger amounts (and even prevents more evil.) For example having an illness or a disease is an evil, but the having of the disease would create antibodies that could in the future prevent further diseases in the future.
Swinburne mentions a very interesting thought experiment. This thought experiment is as follows; suppose you were given the opportunity for only a few minutes of life. This life is not an immature one or one in which the person has no awareness of his surroundings, but rather that of full cognition and understanding of the environments and surroundings. Then in those precious minutes available you were given a choice. You could either have this time spent in pure felicity in which no pain or malice entered your body or mind. Or, you could warrant this time in pain and agony. The catch is, if you chose the later or the pain, it would not be in vain but rather people would benefit from your minutes of anguish. It would be very strange that people would choose the limited felicity with no lasting effect as compared to allowing limited evil with lasting effects of good.
Both in the animal world and with humans altruism is at times necessary and always seen as admirable. Perhaps animals lack the cognitive faculties to truly appreciate another of its kind when altruism occurs, but humans have the ability to appreciate the deed and see the good in it. Considering both fictional and non-fictional examples, sacrifice for the greater good is always commendable by people. In fiction, when a hero fights to his dying breath to save people who are unable to save themselves, this is universally considered a very meaningful gesture. In war people are considered heroes if they die for others, especially if it is for a group of people. If a solider is wounded or even killed in the defense or for the safety of his kinsmen, he is often rewarded with the highest honors.
In each of these scenarios the goodness of altruism and sacrifice could only be considered good, if there existed evil or conflict in the first place. Without the conflict the goodness could not be achieved. This is the primary thesis and presupposition of Swinburne in his essay. While atheists claim that God is evil or inept for allowing evil they fail to see three primary things. The first is, that there are a certain level of and types of good that could only be achieved in a world in which evil exists. These things would be (to name a few) forgiveness, medicine, reconciliation, and repentance.
Atheists also fail to recognize that not only is the evil that is allowed by God utilized for his (and other people’s) good but also the world in which they claim would be the best possible world (free from evil and pain) actually does exist and is found in the Christian notion of heaven. Everyone would agree that evil or pain is permissible if it can bring about a greater good. For example, suppose a dog with rabies bit a boy, and to save his life the boy would have to endure a series of painful injections to prevent him from contracting rabbis and dying. The pain of the injections would then be considered acceptable because the pain and evil of the injections is of far less consequence then the pain or evil associated with death. So then, God is justified in allowing certain evils, because there are certain goods, which are only possible in a world that has evil in it.
Another possible reason for God allowing evil is seen with Hick’s Soul making theodicy. In general Hick argues that humans are not created complete. Just as a child is born with the need to grow cognitively and socially so too man is in need of certain degrees of growth. There seems to be an underlining theodicy found throughout the Scriptures that feeds this line of thinking. This theodicy is based on the superseding of God on the realities of pain and suffering, that the glimpses of pain are but shadows to the pleasures and comfort, which are found in Him.
Human thinking becomes distorted when she considers God to be something of a Hotel manager whose job is to make her feel as comfortable as possible—comfort has never been the aim of God. Just as it is good for a parent to teach her child to delay gratification, “finish your homework and then you can watch tv,” so also humans must realize the immediate pleasure or happiness is in no way the sum of human experience. Further, if immediate pleasure is not the goal, then it could rightly be applied that immediate pain is likewise not the goal.
Pleasure and pain are a part of the human life and experience and yet neither of them are meant to be the sum of human experience. What then does this tell us? Namely that, the pleasure we feel or can feel is meant to be a taste of what one experiences in ultimate reality (which is heaven) and pain is meant to help refine that person as to groom himself and others for that same ultimate reality. Then question becomes, why would God allow evil and pain, even if it was for the purpose of an ultimate reality such as heaven? The answer to this is, God is in the business of soul winning. The ultimate reality, is the ultimate goal of man. If this is the case then God is justified in allowing evil if it could bring about the condition that a person’s soul is won.
While moral evil has been heavily addressed and given several plausible theodicies, what about Natural evil? While a man choosing to hurt or a kill another man might escape the fault of God, who but God would be responsible for a hurricane? Before answer this question it should be noted that Hick’s soul making theodicy and Swinburne’s theodicy could apply to natural evil as well. Just as a human can only learn forgiveness through being wronged, perhaps a man can only learn the power of fellowship by a group of people fighting together to build a wall of sandbags to save a community from an impending flood.
Further, while many natural evils (disasters) are given the title of “act of God.” Perhaps they should more rightly be called “act of Adam” and natural evils should be reduced to nothing more then the moral evil perpetrated by Adam. If the Jeudeo-Christian tradition is true sin and death entered into the earth when Adam sinned. His free choice cursed the planet. Before his decision to sin occurred there were no natural evils at all. So then, it should follow that essentially there is essentially only is one type of evil, moral evil.
Question 3 asks, why is there the amount of evil that there is? The logical problem questions the compatibility of evil and God, whereas the Evidential problem of God questions the amount of evil in the world. The problem with this style of argumentation is, (especially William Rowe’s formulation of the argument) is, Rowe does not necessarily have a problem with evil but rather the amount of evil. For example, he says “There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.” So then he does not have a problem with evil existing, per se, but rather to the degree and kind it exists today. This is troubling. For example, if Rowe really held to this thesis, then if God removed all evil from the world and decided to place it all on one man, lets call him “Carl” (this would entail that if any evil happened it would happen to Carl, disease, accidents, and so forth). Rowe would have to be satisfied with allowing a much lesser evil to occur (because no one else on the earth would feel the grip of evil except for Carl) for a greater evil. But it seems, even If God did allow this, Rowe would not recant his statement but would rather argue something such as, “why is God doing this to Carl?”
So then the evidential argument fails because it seems like no atheist would consider God a just being, even if he removed all the sin and death and evil from the world and put it on one person and that person suffered it all. Most likely the critics would merely shift the question to Carl’s suffering and not the worlds. Thus the problem would be shifted back to the logical problem of evil, of which no one really advocates to be a problem.
So then, the evidential problem is not really what is at issue. This being confirmed does not entail that the apologist should not be ready with a response. Consider the action of stepping on a nail. Obviously the pain from such an event is a good thing. At first one might be inclined to consider, “How can the pain of being impaled at all be considered good?” Suppose that Bob’s (the man who stepped on the nail) foot had no feeling and there was no reaction to the nail. Further, since his foot has no feeling he did not realize the nail was in there. Because he was unaware of it being inside of him he did not think to pull it out or go to the Doctor to receive a tetanus shot. Eventually the wound becomes infected and since Bob cannot feel the pain, it goes undiagnosed. This could result in an amputation or even death through infection.
So then, it seems pain is good because it can let one know when something is wrong. The next question one should consider however, is why are there varying degrees of pain. For example, if a man slowly dies of dysentery could not he just feel the pain associated with a needle prick or a slight headache instead of the constant agony? Why the excruciating pain? There are several answers to this. 1. Degrees of pain are necessary to affirm severity. Suppose that all pain was equal to that a pin prick. If this was the case then, how else would one be able to differentiate an “ice cream headache” and a migraine cause from a brain tumor? Varying degrees of pain are required for discerning varying degrees of severity. It is for this reason doctors and medical professionals use what is called a pain scale. Via the pain scale and other diagnostic tools the doctor is able to make a determination as to the best course of treatment.
2. If everything was the same sensation there likewise then could be no pleasure either. Pain is important because it can tell a person when something is wrong. Pleasure is important because it can (biologically speaking) tell us when something is right.
3. In cases of severe pain, such as previously mentioned it might be the case that if anything the more pain someone is in, the more deviant the event is from the way things are meant to be. For example suppose you saw a glass vase with the handle broken. Clearly you would be justified in maintaining the handle is meant to be connected to the vase, however, this is a relatively small deviation from the fully functional and connected vase. Further suppose that the next day the same vase was seen but this time it had shattered into a thousand pieces, it could quite easily be noted that the vase as in it is in its current state is a greater deviation from its original state. The same could be said of a person. A broken hand is a deviation from the way it should be, further a shatter or mangled hand is an even further deviation from the way it should be. Incumbent to this line of thinking actually results in evil as evidence for the existence of a meta-narrative. If there exists in humans, a way things should always be, there must exist a meta-narrative and it would follow from this there is likewise a meta-narrator. So then, extreme pain can, if anything else tell humans that the current state of affairs that resulted in the massive pain was not the way things were meant to be. Enter once again Swinburne’s greater good theodicy, as well as Hick’s Soul making theodicy as further evidence.
The amount of evil need not only be considered in terms of severity, but also in terms of quantity. It might be of greater urgency to give a theodicy for one hundred children living in malnutrition then one dying of dysentery. How does the apologist respond to this? The first means is as already mentioned. “Charity” is a good that can only exist in a fallen world. Every opportunity of the pains associated with starvation could be quenched with compassionate people acting upon that compassion. Further, the amount of (moral) evil is invariably limited to the free actions of free people. Or that, God could force people to murder less and feed starving people more, but then the goodness associated with people freely choosing to do the good would lose its potency. Again, God is in the business of making refined souls, not comfortable living.
To answer succinctly, pain is good in limited amounts. In larger amounts if anything it can assure one that the pain is a result of the deviation of a meta-narrative. Further, much of the moral evil can be eliminated if people freely chose to limit it.
And finally 4. Why is there the particular evils that there are? The types of evils that exist are in direct correlation with the free beings that likewise exist. If the Judeo-Christian notion of God is true, God cannot commit evil. Evil is often defined as a deprivation of what is good. Other examples of things that only exist as deprivation are darkness and coldness— neither of these things actually exist but rather are deprivations of something else. If light is completely removed from a room then there is darkness. And while machines exist that can create light, there are none that can create darkness, but rather only things that can remove light.
Further, theoretically with infinite energy there could be infinite heat. Conversely there is no such thing as infinite coldness—coldness is merely the removal of heat. Since coldness is the removal of heat this is why there is such as thing as absolute zero, this is the point of which no more heat can be removed and therefore the coldness is limited. However, the same cannot be true of the possibility of limiting heat.
If evil and God work like this, then the further one removes himself from God and His standards the more evil there is to likely come about. So then, the types and varieties of evils that exist do so because humans have freely rejected the moral consciousness written on her heart. Since this is the case the types of evil that are possible for humans are limited only by their imagination and physical limitations.
Even though God allows humans to continue on with the sin and evils, it should be noted that this is by no means a passive continuance. If God is omniscient it would follow that He would know the consequences of creating a world of free willed beings and if He is good, had even before creation, a plan of redemption. This plan is through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ represents the greatest theodicy that could ever be given.
May 25th, 2007
by Dr. Phil Fernandes
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
The deity of Christ is hard to accept for many people. For one to admit that Jesus is God in the flesh is to admit that he owes Him complete allegiance. Recognition of Jesus’ Godhood calls for the abandonment of one’s autonomy. Therefore, many people refuse to worship Jesus as God and consider Him to be merely a great human teacher. Mohandas K. Gandhi said of Christ:
It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate son of God. And that only he who believed in Him would have everlasting life. If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God . . . then all men were like God and could be God Himself.1
The internationally respected theologian, John Hick, also denies Christ’s deity:
Now it used to be assumed—and in some Christian circles is still assumed—that this Jesus, who lived in Palestine in the first third of the first century AD, was conscious of being God incarnate, so that you must either believe him or reject him as a deceiver or a megalomaniac. “Mad, bad, or God” went the argument. And of course if Jesus did indeed claim to be God incarnate, then this dilemma, or trilemma, does arise. But did he claim this? The assumption that he did is largely based on the Fourth Gospel, for it is here that Jesus makes precisely such claims. He says “I and the Father are one,” “No one comes to the Father, but by me” and “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” But it is no secret today, after more than a hundred years of scholarly study of the scriptures, that very few New Testament experts now hold that the Jesus who actually lived ever spoke those words, or their Aramaic equivalents. They are much more probably words put into his mouth by a Christian writer who is expressing the view of Christ which had been arrived at in his part of the church, probably two or three generations after Jesus’ death. And it is likewise doubted whether the few sayings of the same kind in the other gospels are authentic words of Jesus. How, then, did this Christian deification of Jesus—which began within the first decades after his death and was essentially completed by the end of the first century—take place? Such a development is not as hard to understand in the ancient world as it would be today. . .2
It is interesting that Hick admits that the New Testament, quotes Jesus as claiming to be God. Second, he acknowledges that the deity of Christ was being taught within a few decades of Christ’s death (which is what the creeds prove). And, third, Hick recognizes that the deity of Christ was completely established as church doctrine by the end of the first century AD. However, by admitting these three facts, Hick is inadvertently conceding that all the available evidence points to the authenticity of Christ’s claims to be God. Surely the apostles would have stopped this heresy (if indeed it was a heresy) when it started just decades after Christ’s death. The Apostle John would also have opposed this teaching as it was being established as church dogma at the end of the first century AD.
Contrary to what John Hick believes, true scholarship bases its decisions on the evidence, not on mere speculation. All the available evidence points to the fact that Christ did claim to be God. The eyewitnesses who heard these claims died horrible deaths refusing to deny their validity. No liberal scholar has ever proposed an adequate explanation as to how a legend that Jesus claimed to be God could develop while the original apostles (those who personally knew Christ) were still alive and leading the new church. Legends take centuries to develop into dogma.3 Any attempted origination of legends cannot get started while honest eyewitnesses are still alive (especially if these honest eyewitnesses hold positions of authority in the church). Therefore, liberal scholars like Hick can believe what they wish. However, to deny that Christ claimed to be God is to simply ignore all the available evidence. Liberal scholars throw out any passages of the Bible that do not agree with their antisupernaturalistic biases, but this is not true scholarship. True scholarship examines the evidence; it does not speculate as to how the evidence can be explained away. The World Book Encyclopedia is an example of the high regard in which many people esteem Jesus, while stopping short of calling Him God:
Jesus Christ was the founder of the Christian religion. Christians believe that He is the Son of God who was sent to earth to save mankind. Even many persons who are not Christians believe that He was a great and wise teacher. He has probably influenced humanity more than anyone else who ever lived.4
It is not wise to call Jesus merely a great man and teacher since He claimed to be God. For no merely great man or wise teacher would claim to be God. If Jesus claimed to be God, then we must view Him as either a liar, insane, or God. There are no other alternatives, and no ignoring of the evidence will help.
In chapter twenty-five it was shown that the message found in the New Testament is one and the same as the message of the first generation church. The ancient creeds found in the New Testament predate the New Testament and represent the teachings of the apostles themselves.5 Several of these ancient creeds teach the deity of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, there is no reason to doubt that Jesus claimed to be God. The leaders of the first generation church taught that Jesus is God, and they were willing to die for their testimony. Hence, there is no reason (apart from an a priori bias) to reject the claims of deity made by Christ in the New Testament. The Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be God:
But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working.” For this cause the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:17-18).
Whenever Jesus spoke of a unique Father-Son relationship between God the Father and Himself, the Jews understood Him to be claiming equality with God the Father. Jesus spoke to the Jews in their language. He communicated to them on their terms. They understood Jesus to be claiming to be deity. If Jesus never meant to claim to be God, then He was one of the poorest communicators who ever lived. If Jesus was misunderstood by His listeners, He should have clarified His words. A clear and articulate representation of His words would have been in His best interest; He was executed for blasphemy (Mark 14:60-64).
Jesus taught that He deserved the same honor that the Father deserved:
For not even the Father judges anyone, But He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him (John 5:22-23).
Since the Father is God, the honor due Him is worship. Therefore, Jesus taught that He also deserved to be worshiped. Despite the fact that the Old Testament Law forbid the worship of any being other than God (Exodus 20:1-6), Jesus accepted worship on numerous occasions (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; 20:28-29). Jesus also stated:
You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins. . . . Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am (John 8:23-24; 58).
The Jewish religious leaders understood Jesus’ claim to deity in this passage: “they picked up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:59). The comments of J. Dwight Pentecost are helpful:
Christ affirmed, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (v. 58). “I AM” was the name of the Self-existing God who had revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:14). Jesus Christ was claiming to be “I AM”, the Self-existent God. He was claiming eternity. To the Jews this was blasphemy.6
Merrill C. Tenney also elaborates on this specific claim of Christ:
In actuality the phrase “I am” is an assertion of absolute, timeless existence, not merely of a personal identity as the English equivalent would suggest. A comparison of the use of the phrase, “I am” with self-revelation of Jehovah in the Old Testament shows that much the same terminology was employed. God, in commissioning Moses (Ex. 3:14), said: “Thus shalt thou say to unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” When the Jews heard Jesus say, “Before Abraham was born, I am,” they took the statement to mean not priority to Abraham, but an assertion of deity. To them it was blasphemy, and they picked up stones to cast at Him.7
It is important to note two things about this passage. First, Jesus did not say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” This would have been merely a claim to have preexisted Abraham. Though this would be a bold claim in itself, Christ actually said far more than that. Jesus was claiming that His existence is always in the present tense. In other words, He was claiming eternal existence for Himself. He was declaring himself to have absolutely no beginning. He was claiming that He was not bound by time. He was declaring Himself to be the eternal God. Second, Christ probably spoke these words in Aramaic (the common language of the Hebrews of his day). Therefore, He probably did not use the Greek words “ego eimi” for “I AM.” Rather, He would have used the Hebrew “YHWH.” This was the title for the eternal God. Out of reverence for God, the Jews never spoke this word. So here, Christ was not only be speaking the unspeakable title of God (YHWH), but He was using it to refer to Himself. Properly understood, this was probably Christ’s most unambiguous claim to deity. The Jews clearly understood this, and for this reason they attempted to stone him. Another clear claim to deity made by Christ is the following passage:
“I and the Father are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make yourself out to be God” (John 10:30-33).
Concerning this passage, Merrill F. Unger wrote, “Jesus asserted His unity of essence with the Father, hence His unequivocal deity. . . and the Jews understood Him.”8 In this passage, Jesus clearly claimed to be equal with God the Father. Christ said that His nature is identical to that of the Father. The Jews understood Him to be calling Himself God. They later sentenced Him to death for these claims to deity.
Jesus also made other claims to deity. He said that, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). When He prayed to the Father, He asked the Father to return to Him the glory which He and the Father shared before the universe was created (John 17:5).
The apostles were Jesus’ closest associates. They were more familiar with the teachings of Christ than anyone else and they called Jesus God (Matthew 1:23; John 1:1; John 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). This is further confirmation that Jesus did in fact claim to be God.
Considering the strong evidence for the reliability of the New Testament, Christ’s claims to deity cannot be considered as legends. The teaching that Jesus is God predates the New Testament (as shown in the ancient creeds), and is best explained by attributing the source of this doctrine to Jesus Himself. It must be remembered that the apostles were not liars. They were sincere enough about their beliefs to die for them, and they recorded unambiguous statements made by Christ attributing deity to Himself.
The deity of Christ is not a legend. Jesus claimed to be God incarnate. Hence, one cannot consider Him to be simply a great man; for no mere man claims to be God. If Jesus is not God, then He was either a liar or insane. There are no other options.
The absurd idea that Jesus was a liar who claimed to be God can be easily refuted. For Christ is considered, even by many who reject His claim to deity, to have taught the highest standard of morality known to man. His teachings have motivated such actions as the abolition of slavery, government by the consent of the people, the modern hospital system, education for all children, and charitable programs for the needy. A liar could not have possibly encouraged these movements.
Christ has had a positive impact on mankind like no other person. It is extremely unlikely that so much good could come from a deceiver who led people astray by claiming to be God. The eyewitness accounts of the apostles display the tremendous love Christ had for people. It is not possible that a self-centered and egotistical liar could express genuine affection for his fellow man like that expressed by Christ. The question can also be asked, “Would a liar die for his lie?” It is doubtful that Jesus would lie and then suffer death by crucifixion as a consequence.
It has already been shown that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event and not a hoax. But, why would God raise a blaspheming liar from the dead? Christ offered His resurrection as proof for His claims to deity (John 2:18-21; Matthew 12:38-40). Therefore, His resurrection proves the validity of His claims to be God. He claimed to be God and then proved it by doing what no mere man could do—He rose from the dead.
Christ’s claims to deity have been shown not to be legends or lies, but the possibility remains that Jesus may have been insane. Could it be that Jesus claimed to be God because He was mentally disturbed?
Often, people compare Jesus of Nazareth with other respected religious leaders. However, very few of these leaders (if any) claimed to be God in a unique sense. Some have claimed to be God, but then teach that we are all God. Jesus claimed to be God in a sense that no other man could claim to be God. Usually, when a religious leader makes a claim as bold as this, it is evidence that he is unbalanced. Charles Manson and David Koresh are two examples of this type of religious leader. The evidence for their instability is obvious. However, this is not so in the case of Jesus. He made bold claims to deity, but also backed these claims by the life He lived and the things He did.
Declaring Christ to be insane is not a common view. Nearly everyone admits that He was a great teacher, even if they reject His deity. However, insane people make lousy teachers. The teachings of Christ are not the teachings of a mad man. They are the greatest teachings ever taught by a man, and this man claimed to be God incarnate.
The miraculous life of Christ is also evidence that He was not insane. Christ gave evidence for His bold claims through His supernatural works. The apostles were eyewitnesses of these miracles. Even the enemies of Christ, the Jewish religious leaders of His day, did not deny His miracles. Instead, they stated in their Talmud that Jesus “practiced sorcery.”9 Though they rejected Jesus’ message, they were forced to admit that He did supernatural works. However, the powerful influence for good that Christ has had upon mankind declares His miracles to be from God and not from Satan. Therefore, Jesus’ miracles show that He was not insane. They provide strong evidence to support His claim to be God.
Another piece of evidence that shows Christ was not insane is the fact that His life and works were prophesied hundreds of years before His birth. A small fraction of the prophecies He fulfilled are listed below:
As was noted earlier, these are just a few of the many prophecies that were fulfilled by Christ.10 Even liberal scholars admit that these prophecies were recorded hundreds of years before Christ’s birth. Although they deny the traditional early dates of the Old Testament books, it is almost universally accepted that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) was completed two hundred years before Christ was born.11
Most liberals do not consider some of the prophecies listed above as having been fulfilled by Christ. This is because these liberals a priori deny the possibility of miracles. Since they deny Christ’s resurrection, they also deny that Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of the resurrection. Even if one removes the Old Testament predictions concerning the supernatural aspects of Christ’s life, one is still left with the evidence from the fulfillment of prophecies of the non-supernatural aspects of Christ’s life. Norman Geisler has noted that the chances of Christ fulfilling just sixteen of these prophecies by mere coincidence are 1 in 1045 (a one with forty-five zeroes after it).12
In fact, three of these Old Testament predictions concerning the Messiah—Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 53—are enough to prove that only Jesus of Nazareth meets the messianic qualifications. Daniel 9:26 stated that the Messiah would be executed before the destruction of the temple (which occurred in 70AD). Isaiah 42:4 teaches that the Gentile nations would expectantly await Christ’s law. Isaiah 53 declares that the Jews would reject their Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth is the only person in history who has fulfilled all three of these prophecies. He claimed to be the Jewish Messiah and was crucified around 30AD (forty years before the temple was destroyed), the Jews rejected Him, and He received a wide Gentile following.
The life of an insane man would not be prophesied. It is also unlikely that these predictions would refer to an insane man as the Messiah (God’s anointed one) and “the mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). More than 200 years before Jesus’ birth, His life and works were predicted. He fulfilled these prophecies and performed many miracles. It is absurd for someone to call Jesus insane. To accept His claims is the only reasonable response.
The historical evidence shows that Jesus claimed to be God and proved it by raising Himself from the dead. History shows these claims are not legends, and that He was not a liar, insane, or merely a great man. Therefore, Jesus of Nazareth is God.
The following ancient creed was formulated and proclaimed by the first generation church. It declares Jesus to be God and Savior, and instructs all creation to surrender to His Lordship:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
This ancient creed states that the day will come when all creation will bow down before Christ and confess that He is Lord. One can bow to Jesus now, or one can bow to Jesus later, but, the fact remains, that the day will come when all will bow before Christ, both the saved and the unsaved. The saved will bow before Jesus to worship Him as their Savior and King. The lost will bow before Him, due to their fear of His power and authority.
May 25th, 1997
by Dr. Phil Fernandes
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
The creation model is the view that God created the universe without using evolution. The creation model dominated modern science before 1860.2 Modern science was started by men who believed in the existence of the God of the Bible. Galileo, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, and Blaise Pascal are just a few who fit into this category.3 Their belief in God’s existence formed the foundation for modern science. They believed that a reasonable God created the universe in a reasonable way, so that through reason man could find out about the universe in which he lives.4 In other words, the universe makes sense only because God designed it to make sense. Today, however, atheistic evolutionists have rejected this base for modern science.5 They have rejected the existence of a reasonable God. But the question that they must face is this: “Without a reasonable God, can a person really expect the universe to make sense?”
The evolution model is the view that life spontaneously evolved from non-life without intelligent intervention.6 The evolution model dominated modern science after 1860.7 Charles Darwin published his book The Origin of Species around that time.8 Darwin proposed a naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe, first life, and new life forms.9 He taught that nature can be explained without appealing to a supernatural origin. Darwin’s proposal quickly became the predominant “scientific” view.
Evolution is not a scientific fact. The scientific method consists of six steps: 1) observation, 2) proposal of a question or problem, 3) hypothesis (an educated guess), 4) experimentation, 5) theory (a hypothesis with a high degree of probability), and 6) natural law (a theory shown to be valid on a universal scale).10 Evolution is not a scientific law or theory, let alone a scientific fact. The supposed evolutionary changes from one species to another cannot be observed.11 They supposedly occurred in the past. Therefore, since observation is the initial step in the scientific method, evolution cannot be proven through the scientific method.
The creation view is in the same category as evolution. Creation, scientifically speaking, is not a fact, law, or theory. Like evolution, the supposed creation is a singular event in the past. It cannot be observed. Therefore, both creation and evolution are only scientific models; they represent different ways to interpret the same evidence.12
This does not mean that creation and evolution cannot claim to be scientific. Contrary to popular belief, the scientific method is not the only way to search for truth in the field of science. Forensic science (crime scene investigation) does not use the scientific method, for the crime can no longer be observed. Still, forensic science is a legitimate science.13 Science can be separated into two main divisions: operation science and origin science. Operation science deals with the repeatable; it is science of the observable present. It uses the scientific method. Forensic science, creation, and evolution do not fall into this category.14 Origin science, on the other hand, deals with the non-repeatable; it deals with the singular events of the past. Origin science does not utilize the scientific method since singular events of the past can no longer be observed.15 Forensic science, creation science, and evolutionary science fall into this category.
Since the non-repeatable events of the past cannot be observed, origin science does not make use of the scientific method. Instead, origin science uses the principles of analogy (also called uniformity) and causality to determine whether or not a model is plausible.16 The principle of analogy states that when a scientist observes a cause bringing about a certain effect in the present, he should posit the same kind of cause for a similar effect in the past.17 In other words, similar effects usually have similar causes. The principle of causality states that every event must have an adequate cause.18 A scientist should use these two principles to determine the plausibility (or lack of plausibility) of a particular model.
Since the creation model and the evolution model fall under the heading of origin science, the principles of analogy and uniformity must be applied to them to determine which model is more plausible. It must be understood that the creation model and the evolution model both deal with the same evidence. An example of this is common anatomy. Common anatomy deals with the similarities in the body parts of different species. Examples of common anatomy are the similarities that exist concerning the arm of a man, the arm of an ape, the wing of a bird, and the fin of a shark. Both creationists and evolutionists agree to the common anatomy between different species of animal life. However, the two models interpret the evidence differently. The evolution model teaches that common anatomy proves common ancestry.19 Common ancestry is the view that all species are related since one species has evolved into another. The creation model teaches that the same data (common anatomy) proves the existence of a common Designer. Animals often share common anatomy due to their being created and designed by the same God.20
Which model is more plausible? In order to answer this question, the principles of analogy and causality must be applied to the origin of the universe, the origin of first life, and the origin of new life forms. Both the creation model and the evolution model must be tested in these three areas to ascertain which model is more plausible.
Did the universe have a beginning, or did it always exist? This is a very important question. For if the universe had a beginning, it would need a cause. It could not have evolved into existence from nothing. If the universe is eternal then it may not need a cause. Fortunately, science is not silent on this question. The second law of thermodynamics is called energy deterioration. This law says that the amount of usable energy in the universe is running down.21 Eventually, all the energy in the universe will be used up. This means that the universe is winding down. If it is winding down, it had to have been “wound up.” If the universe is going to have an end, it had to have a beginning. There had to be a time when all the energy in the universe was usable; this marks the beginning of the universe.
The expansion of the universe and the big bang model also confirm the beginning of the universe.22 In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding at the same rate in all directions.23 As time moves forward the universe is growing apart. This means that if one went back in time the universe would get denser. If one goes back in time far enough, the entire universe would be contained in what scientists have called “a point of infinite density.”24 But, a point can only be finitely dense. For a point to be infinitely dense it would have to be non-existent. Therefore, the universe came into existence from nothing a finite time ago.
There have been two main attempts to refute the beginning of the universe. The first is the steady-state model. This view holds that the universe had no beginning. Instead, it always existed in the same state. However, because of the mounting evidence for the big bang model, this view has been abandoned by most of its adherents.25
The second attempt to evade the beginning of the universe is called the oscillating model. This model teaches that, at some point during the universe’s expansion, gravity will halt the expansion and pull everything back together again. From that point there will be another big bang. This process will be repeated over and over again throughout all eternity. However, the oscillating model fails for three reasons. First, there is no known principle of physics that would reverse the expansion of the universe into another big bang. Second, current scientific research has shown that the universe is not dense enough for gravity to pull it back together again. Third, even if one could prove that several big bangs have occurred, the second law of thermodynamics would still require that there was a first big bang.26
Therefore, science has shown that the universe had a beginning, but, since from nothing, nothing comes, something must have caused the universe to come into existence. Everything that has a beginning needs a cause. Since the universe needs a cause, the creation model is more plausible than the evolution model. If the universe were eternal, then the evolution model could claim some type of plausibility. But, for the above reasons, this is not the case. The universe is not eternal; it had a beginning. Something separate from the universe had to cause it to come into existence.
Evolution teaches spontaneous generation—that life came from non-life without intelligent intervention.27 However, spontaneous generation violates the law of biogenesis and the cell theory. The law of biogenesis states that “all living things arise only from other living things.”28 The cell theory defines the cell as the most basic unit of life, and declares that “new cells arise only from pre-existing cells.”29 Both the law of biogenesis and the cell theory are accepted by evolutionists; the evolutionists merely assume that first life is the exception to these principles. But, a model that violates scientific theories and laws should be abandoned. This is especially true when there is a rival model that does not violate scientific theories and laws.
The creation model posits the existence of an intelligent Being in order to bridge the gap from non-life to life. The creation model recognizes that the specified complexity (highly complex information) found in a single-celled animal could not be produced by chance. A single-celled animal has enough genetic information to fill one volume of an encyclopedia.30 Just as an explosion in a print shop cannot randomly produce one volume of an encyclopedia, there is no way that a single-celled animal could have been produced by mere chance. Intelligent intervention was needed.31
Natural laws by themselves do not produce specified complexity. Geisler illustrates this point by stating that though natural laws can explain the Grand Canyon, they cannot explain the faces on Mount Rushmore.32 The faces on Mount Rushmore reveal evidence of intelligent design.
Evolutionists often offer the Miller and Urey experiments as evidence that life has been produced from non-life in the laboratory. In response, several things should be noted. First, Chandra Wickramasinghe, one of Britain’s most eminent scientists, calls these experiments “cheating.” Miller and Urey start with amino acids, break them down, and then recover them. They do not produce something that wasn’t there to begin with.33 Second, Geisler states that the Miller and Urey experiments do not produce life. They only produce amino acids, which are the building blocks of life. Amino acids are to life what a single sentence is to one volume of encyclopedia.34 Third, Geisler points out that even if these experiments did produce life from non-life in the laboratory (which they don’t), it would support the creation model, not the evolution model. The reason for this is clear. The experiments would merely prove that to get life from non-life intelligent intervention (i.e., the scientists) is needed. The experiments would not prove that life spontaneously arose from non-life.35
Therefore, the creation model is more plausible than the evolution model when explaining the origin of first life. Intelligent intervention is necessary to produce life from non-life. It could not have happened by accident.
Many people believe that the fossil record proves evolution, but, this is not the case. In the fossil record, new life forms appear suddenly and fully developed.36 There is no evidence of transitional forms (missing links). There are no fins or wings becoming arms. There are no intermediate forms. The gaps between forms in the fossil record are evidence against evolution, not for evolution.
Evolution teaches that single-celled animals eventually evolved into human beings. Of course, evolutionists claim this took large quantities of time to be accomplished. A single-celled animal contains enough information to fill one volume of encyclopedia,37 but, the human brain contains enough information to fill twenty million volumes of encyclopedia.38 Natural law, no matter how much time is involved, can never produce twenty million volumes of encyclopedia from one volume. Intelligent intervention is needed to produce more complex information.39
Evolutionists often point to mutations as the process by which evolution takes place.40 However, mutations do not add more complex information to the genetic code. Instead, they merely garble the already existing genetic code.41 For evolution to take place, new genetic information is needed. For example, single-celled animals would need new genes for the development of teeth, yet mutations produce no new genetic information.42
Simple life forms do not go to complex life forms through natural law alone.43 Time plus chance plus natural laws can never produce more complex information.44 Something must impart more information. Therefore, the creation model is more plausible than the evolution model concerning the origin of new life forms.
The scientific case for creation is very strong. Though it is true that creationists have never seen the invisible Creator, evolutionists also have never seen the supposed evolutionary changes of the past. The principles of analogy and causality support creationism as a superior model to evolution. Blind chance and natural laws are inadequate causes for the origin of the universe, first life, and new life forms. An intelligent Cause is needed in each case. The cause of the beginning of nature cannot be nature itself. No being can preexist its own existence in order to cause its own existence. Therefore, nature needs a supernatural Cause. This supernatural Cause must be an intelligent Being to bring life from non-life and complex life forms from simple life forms. Hence, the creation model is more plausible than the evolution model.
May 25th, 1997
by Dr. Phil Fernandes
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
Thermodynamics deals with the relationship between heat, energy, and work.1 The first and second laws of thermodynamics pose serious problems for evolution. The first law of thermodynamics is called energy conservation. It states that the amount of energy in the universe remains constant; no energy is now being created or destroyed.2 This means that if the universe had a beginning, whatever process or act that brought the universe into existence is no longer in operation today. In other words, the “creation process” is no longer operating today. Therefore, either the universe is eternal or the universe was created in the past; no continuing creative process is occurring.
The second law of thermodynamics is called entropy. Though the amount of energy in the universe remains constant, it changes form. The second law states that when energy changes form it becomes less usable.3 Therefore, the amount of usable energy in the universe is running out. This means that the day will come when all the energy in the universe will have been used up. This will be the death of the universe. There must have been a time when all the energy of the universe was usable; this would be the beginning of the universe. In other words, since the universe is going to have an end, it is not eternal. If it is not eternal, then it must have had a beginning. The big bang model and the expansion of the universe also confirm the beginning of the universe.4
The evolutionist faces a dilemma. The first and second laws of thermodynamics together declare that the universe had a beginning. The evolutionists cannot deny these laws, for they are considered to be the most firmly established laws of modern science.5 But, evolution runs counter to these two laws. When a scientific model contradicts a scientific law, the model should be abandoned. Since the first and second laws of thermodynamics teach that the universe had a beginning, then something outside the universe must have caused the universe to come into existence. For, from nothing nothing comes. Therefore, the universe could not have evolved into existence out of nothing.
The evolutionary dating methods are inconsistent and unreliable. All evolutionary dating methods are based upon uniformitarianism.6 Uniformitarianism assumes that there were no world-wide catastrophes; therefore, the rate of decay has remained constant. Uniformitarianism assumes that today’s processes have continued at the same rate throughout all time. However, if there were a world-wide flood and a special creation by God, then this uniformitarian assumption would be unwarrented.7
Evolutionary dating methods have been shown to be unreliable. Rocks known to have been only a few hundred years old have been dated to be hundreds of millions of years old.8 Henry Morris has stated that there are many different ways to date the earth’s age, but evolutionists only use those methods which give astronomically old dates since evolution needs millions of years to seem even slightly possible.9 Two methods which point to a young earth are population statistics and the earth’s magnetic field.10 If one assumes the principle of uniformitarianism, then due to the present rate at which the population of mankind increases, the start of the present population would take one back 4,300 years to the traditional date for the flood.11 Concerning the strength of the earth’s magnetic field, if one assumes that the present rate of decay remains the same going back indefinitely into the past, then about 7,000 years ago it would have been too strong to sustain life.12
The most convincing argument for an old earth is probably that of the speed of light.13 The speed of light is assumed by scientists to be constant. The light of distant stars and galaxies can be seen on earth. Since it would have taken billions of years for the light of some of these celestial bodies to reach earth (assuming the speed of light has remained the same throughout all time), the universe must be billions of years old.14 However, Barry Setterfield of Australia studied every measurement of the speed of light and found that the speed of light has not been constant throughout all time; it had been faster in the past.15 Setterfield’s research, if reliable, reveals the age of the universe to be only 6,000 years old.16
Even if the universe is old, this would not refute the creation model. Many creationists believe in an old universe.17 However, if the universe is young, the evolution model is destroyed. One thing is clear: the principle of uniformitarianism is an assumption that appears to go against the evidence. If uniformitarianism is true, then all the dating methods would reveal the same approximate dates. These dates would be old or young; they would not be old and young. Since some dating methods point to an old earth and others point to a young earth, the evolutionary dating methods are unreliable. Since uniformitarianism is not a given, the date of the universe is an open question.
The fossil record is assumed to prove evolution, but, this is not the case. The fossil record shows no evidence of transitional forms (missing links). New life forms appear suddenly and fully developed.18 There are no animals with half-fins or half-wings in the fossil record. If there were transitional forms, why have none been found? This is a serious problem for evolutionists. Harvard paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Louis Agassiz have admitted this lack of evidence for evolution in the fossil record.19 Aggassiz, a nineteenth-century creationist, stated:
Species appear suddenly and disappear suddenly in the progressive strata. . . . the supposed intermediate forms between the species of different geological periods are imaginary beings, called up merely in support of a fanciful theory.20
Gould, a twentieth century evolutionist, stated:
In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and “fully formed.”21
It is interesting to note that the first geologists believed that the fossil record was evidence for the world-wide flood recorded in the Bible.22 This view is strengthened by the fact that fossilization is extremely rare today. Even if the earth existed for millions of years, that would not be enough time for the present fossil record to have been produced without any world-wide catastrophes.23 Fossilization is world-wide and caused by the rapid burial of animals, which is something a world-wide flood would do.24
Another problem for evolution concerning the fossil record is polystrate fossils. These are fossils that extend through two or more layers of sedimentary rock.25 These fossils are usually trees. In order for a standing tree to be fossilized, it would have to be quickly buried before it decayed. However, in these polystrate fossils, the several layers of earth through which the tree extends supposedly took millions of years to form.26 This reveals that evolutionists are mistaken when they assume that layers of sedimentary rock must take millions of years to form and therefore indicate large quantities of time. No tree can live for millions of years. Therefore, these layers of sedimentary rock are not evidence for an old earth. They could have been formed rapidly.27
Another problem for evolution is the fact that the fossil record often appears out of sequence.28 Sometimes “old” fossils appear resting on rock layers containing “younger” fossils.29 The geologic column is “an imagined chronological arrangement of rock units in columnar form with the presumed oldest units at the bottom and presumed youngest at the top.”30 However, the world is full of strata appearing in the wrong order.31 If these layers took millions of years to be formed as evolutionists say, then this would not be the case.
If one assumes the possibility that the fossil record was formed rapidly, the world-wide flood offers the a better explanation. The flood would tend to bury fossils in this order. First, deep oceans creatures would be fossilized. Then, creatures in shallower water, followed by amphibians and land-bordering creatures. Next would be swamp, marsh, and low river-flat creatures (especially reptiles). After that, higher mammals who retreated to higher ground in their attempt to escape the flood would be fossilized. Finally, humans would be overtaken.32 This would be the “standard” order; still, there would be many exceptions due to upheavals in the earth’s crust during and after the world-wide flood.33 A world-wide catastrophe such as the flood offers a much more plausible explanation for these exceptions than evolution does.34
Other interesting aspects of flood geology are the canopy theory and the global ice age. The canopy theory refers to Genesis 1:6-8.35 In that passage, the Bible teaches that God surrounded the earth’s atmosphere with a huge canopy of water. This would have worked liked the ozone layer does today. It would have filtered out poisonous rays from the sun, thus increasing longevity. This may explain why the Bible records pre-flood men living more than nine-hundred years (Genesis 5). After the flood, man’s life-span would drastically decrease. The water contained in the canopy descended in the great flood (Genesis 6:11-12) and covered the entire earth (Genesis 7:19). This would explain why three-fourths of the earth’s surface is covered with water. In fact, if the earth were a completely smooth sphere, it would be covered by water 1.5 miles in depth.36 After the flood, tremendous upheavals in the earth’s crust due to the catastrophe would cause valleys to sink and mountains to rise (Psalm 104:5-9). The mountains that rose would become the dry land man now inhabits. The upheavals in the earth’s crust could also explain much of the continental shifts that scientists have shown to have occurred.
A global flood would cause a global ice age.37 Today, evolutionists accept the global ice age, but they reject a universal flood which could have caused it. Because of this, glacial geologists have failed to determine what caused the ice age. Also the lack of vegetation due to the ice age would have killed off most of the dinosaurs, though some recent dinosaur sightings are well-documented.38
A devastating problem for the evolution model is the lack of transitional forms. No one possesses an undisputed missing link. All the supposed missing links between apes and men have been dismissed. Neanderthal Man and Cro-Magnon Man both have the features of modern man.39 Colorado Man turned out to be a member of the horse family.40 Java Man (also known as Pithecanthropus) was shown to be the remains of a large gibbon.41 Heidelberg Man consisted of only a lower jaw.42 Obviously, a lower jaw is insufficient evidence for a missing link. One can only speculate as to the makeup of the rest of the skull and skeleton. The Piltdown Man was revealed to be a clever hoax.43 The Peking Man is now thought to be a large monkey or baboon.44 The Southern Ape (also called Australopithecus), Dryopithecus, and Ramapithecus were extinct apes.45 The East African Man (Zinjanthropus) was shown to be an ape.46 Finally, the Nebraska Man, which consisted of only one tooth, was proven to be the tooth of an extinct pig.47 This is rather interesting since this tooth had been presented as evidence in the 1925 “monkey trial” as “evidence” for the evolutionary model.48 When the tooth of an extinct pig is mistaken for the tooth of the missing link between apes and men, it shows how subjective modern science has become. Though high school and college textbooks show drawings of the missing links from apes to men, the fact is that this art merely depicts the vivid imagination of scientists. No undisputed missing link between apes and men has been discovered.
Archaeopteryx was once thought to be a transitional form between reptiles and birds.49 It had features resembling that of a reptile (teeth, lizard-like tail, and claws). But, archaeopteryx also had wings and feathers similar to a bird. Still, the archaeopteryx was fully developed. It did not have half-wings or the like. Archaeopteryx has now been classified as a bird. This is due to the fact that every characteristic of archaeopteryx can be found in some genuine bird, though some of its features are not found in reptiles.50 It should also be noted that the supposed evolution of reptiles into birds is highly improbable. The lungs of a reptile have millions of tiny air sacs, while the lungs of birds have tubes. In order for a transitional form to exist between a reptile and a bird it would have to breathe without having fully-developed lungs.51
An extinct, small three-toed animal called Eohippus was once thought to be the ancestor of the modern, large, one-toed horse.52 It is now doubtful that Eohippus should have ever been classified in the horse family. Eohippus is probably an extinct type of hyrax.53
Evolutions believe that invertebrates (animals without backbones) have evolved into vertebrates (animals with backbones). However, no transitional form between the two has ever been found.54
This lack of transitional forms is very problematic for the evolution model. It has been over 130 years since Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. Still, no missing links have been found. Due to this absence of evidence for evolution, modern evolutionists like Stephen Jay Gould have proposed a new model called “Punctuated Equilibrium.”55 Whereas evolution means “gradual change,” Punctuated Equilibrium teaches that the changes occurred so suddenly that transitional forms did not survive long enough to be fossilized. It appears that Punctuated Equilibrium is an attempt to explain away the absence of evidence for evolution—but it fails as well.
Since there is no evidence of missing links in the fossil record, evolution should be rejected. The lack of transitional forms in the fossil record is evidence against evolution and in favor of the creation model, which teaches that there are no missing links.56
Evolutionists need a mechanism that explains how evolution has supposedly occurred. Many evolutionists believe that mutation is this mechanism.57 However, as was mentioned in the last chapter, mutations merely scramble the already existing genetic code. No new genetic information is added.58 Yet, for evolution to have occurred, a mechanism is needed through which new genes are produced. Therefore, mutations fail to explain evolution. Evolutionists claim that they believe the present interprets the past. However, there is no mechanism in the present that spontaneously produces new genetic information. Until such a mechanism is found, evolution can only be accepted by “blind faith.”
Heisenberg’s principle of indeterminacy is a theory in quantum physics. Quantum physics deals with the atom and the motion of subatomic particles.59 The principle of indeterminacy states that it is impossible to determine both the position in space of a subatomic particle and that particle’s motion at the same time.60 Therefore, subatomic particle movement is currently unpredictable for man. This simply means that scientists aren’t yet able to accurately predict where a specific particle will be at a given moment. Some scientists have wrongly concluded from this that things can occur on the subatomic level without a cause. If this were true, then it would be possible that the universe just popped into existence without a cause. If this were the case, it would not favor either evolution or creation. If things can come into existence without a cause, then the basis for modern science crumbles. All experiments would be a waste of time, for any given phenomena could have come into existence without a cause. Therefore, there would be no need to study the elements of the universe any longer. Modern science would die.
Albert Einstein believed that Heisenberg’s principle did not prove that things can occur without a cause. Einstein held that the causes actually do exist, though man may not be able to find them.61 Man is limited in knowledge, and there may be some causes he is unable to find.62 Heisenberg’s principle, therefore, cannot come to the aid of evolution; the universe (since it had a beginning) needs a cause.
In conclusion, evolution is not a proven fact. It is assumed to be true by many scientists, but they have offered no convincing proofs. There is no evidence for the evolution model. This can be seen in the many unproven assumptions held by evolutionists.
First, there is no evidence for spontaneous generation. The belief that life evolved from non-life contradicts both the cell theory and the law of biogenesis. The Miller-Urey experiments have failed to produce life in the lab (if they were successful, it would be evidence for the creation model not the evolution model).
Second, there is no evidence for the evolutionary assumption that the universe is eternal. Evolutionists must accept this by faith. Evolutionists may assume that the universe evolved into existence from nothing, but this assumption goes against all available scientific evidence.
Third, there is no evidence that intelligence could come from non-intelligence. Intelligence shows evidence of design; it could not have been produced by chance.
Fourth, no evidence has been found proving that multi-celled animals came from single-celled animals. (Even the human embryo does not evolve into a human; it has its full human genetic code at conception.63)
Fifth, there is no evidence for the evolution of animals with backbones from animals without backbones.64 Though there should be multitudes of transitional forms between the two groups, none have been found.
Sixth, there is no evidence for the common ancestry of fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals.65 Common anatomy could point to a common Designer; it does not necessarily point to common ancestry.
All the major gaps that evolution must cross are assumed to have occurred; they have not been proven to have occurred. Therefore, evolution itself is an unproven assumption. Those who dogmatically proclaim it as truth spend more time explaining away the scientific evidence against their view than they do providing evidence for their view. Any scientific model which lacks plausibility should be abandoned. Such is the case with evolution.
Evolution needs God, but God does not need evolution. If evolution is true, then God is needed to bring the universe into existence from nothing, to bring life from non-life, and complex life forms from simple life forms. In each case, a miraculous superseding of natural laws is needed. However, if God exists, He doesn’t need evolution. He could have either started the long evolutionary process or He could have created the universe in six literal days. God could have used evolution, but if He did, He covered His tracks. He left no evidence. Since God is not the author of deception, it is reasonable to conclude that evolution is a myth, devoid of any scientific evidence.
38 Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 350-359. Some of the recent dinosaur sightings noted by Morris include: smaller brontosaurus in the rain forests of the Congo, living plesiosaurs in the Loch Ness and numerous other waterways, and what appears to be a freshly decayed plesiosaur captured and photographed by Japanese fishermen off the coast of New Zealand.
May 25th, 1997
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
Psychological apologists also focus on man’s innate thirst to transcend this earthly experience (chapter 13), and the paradox of man—that man is both wonderful and cruel (chapter 14). An adequate world view must offer a viable explanation for these three phenomena (the absurdity of life without God, the thirst for transcendence, and the paradox of man). Psychological apologists argue that Christianity provides a better answer in these areas than any other world view.
This chapter will examine the argument for God’s existence based on the absurdity of life without God. Though this argument is popular today, it is not new. In fact, King Solomon of Israel used this argument as far back as 935BC. This is rather strange since most historians place the start of philosophy at about 585BC.1 However, there were wise thinkers at a much earlier time. As Solomon began his reign, he prayed for wisdom and knowledge (2 Chronicles 1:10-12). God answered his prayer and his wisdom surpassed that of all other men of his day. People came from remote parts of the earth just to ask him “difficult questions” (1 Kings 4:29-34). The biblical account of Solomon’s wisdom is as follows:
Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. And men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34).
Solomon’s two philosophical writings are Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In Proverbs, Solomon teaches wisdom that can be applied to daily life. It can be viewed as a manual on practical living. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon shows that a man’s life is totally useless until he recognizes his relation to God.
Solomon begins his work sounding like a modern-day existentialist. He cries, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He expresses the view that life is futile and that man is thrust into a state of deep despair. However, Solomon makes this bleak assessment of human existence only when he considers the human condition “under the sun” (1:9). Solomon is attempting to find purpose in life without any appeal to man’s relation to God. Take the God of heaven out of the equation, Solomon says, and life has no meaning. Man, viewed strictly from an earthly perspective, has no hope or purpose.
Solomon proclaims that “. . . in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain” (1:18). The human situation is such that the more that is known of it, the less hope there is (so long as man is viewed in isolation from God).
Solomon attempts to find meaning and purpose in life apart from God. He finds none. Apart from God, life is futile. Solomon surveys a list of candidates that might bring meaning to life apart from God. But he finds in them only frustration and “striving after the wind” (1:14). The attainment of human wisdom is vain (1:17-18). It brings no lasting satisfaction. Laughter and pleasure-seeking are vain (2:2,10). There is no genuine satisfaction in the drinking of wine (2:3) or engaging in building projects (2:4). The accumulation of wealth is without lasting significance (2:8). Music and women can provide only temporary pleasure (2:8). Even popularity amounts to nothing (2:9). Solomon’s conclusion is that “everything is futility and striving after the wind” (2:17).
Though Solomon grieves for all that is “under the sun,” he also begins to acknowledge God’s purposes in the affairs of this world (3:1-11). He states that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men (3:11). Though man cannot fully understand the ways of God, he has an innate longing for the eternal things of God. Without appealing to these eternal matters, man will be damned to a life of despair and frustration. But if man acknowledges his God and serves Him, life has meaning and eternal significance.
Solomon closes Ecclesiastes with these words. “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (12:13-14).
Man’s search for satisfaction and meaning in life is futile if he only looks “under the sun.” Life without God is useless and absurd. Despair is inevitable for all who recognize the futility found in the temporary pleasures of life. True satisfaction can only be found in God. Once man acknowledges God’s existence, the works of man are no longer meaningless. What we do on earth takes on eternal significance. For we must all give an account to God for our actions. And God alone gives genuine meaning to life.
Many modern thinkers have rejected the existence of God. But they also recognize that life is without meaning if there is no God. Still, they live lives of despair (or escape this despair through an existential leap) rather than submit to God who can give meaning to life. Solomon calls upon these modern thinkers to make a choice. Blind leaps into the irrational realm to find meaning are not open to honest thinkers. Man must choose God or despair. There is no other choice.
The Christian thinker Blaise Pascal revolted against the idea that reason alone should settle religious truth questions. Pascal realized that there is more to the decision-making processes of man than mere thought. Man’s choices are also influenced by his emotions and will. “We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart.” 2 Therefore, Pascal set out to develop a defense of the Christian Faith that appealed to these aspects in man.
Pascal stated, “Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things.” 3 Men “have a secret instinct driving them to seek external diversion and occupation, and this is the result of their constant sense of wretchedness.” 4 “. . . it makes a man happy to be diverted from contemplating his private miseries by making him care about nothing else but dancing well . . .” 5 Pascal saw in man a tendency to focus his attentions on temporary pleasures rather than on his own wretched state and certain death. If a man could amuse himself with these temporary pleasures, he could ignore and deny the more important issues of life that cause him fear. But Pascal warns man that there is no genuine satisfaction in this world. He says, “in this life there is no true and solid satisfaction” and that “all our pleasures are mere vanity.” 6 Pascal concludes “that the only good thing in this life is the hope of another life.” 7
According to Pascal, “there are only two classes of persons who can be called reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him.” 8 Pascal considered the possibility of life after death to be of such great importance that he considered those who were not concerned about investigating this issue to be without feeling. 9 Pascal graphically describes the human situation apart from God:
Imagine a number of men in chains, all under the sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of others; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition. 10
All men face their own inevitable death. As they go through life, they seek to hide this dreadful fact from themselves through temporary pleasures. But, as far as Pascal is concerned, this is a meaningless existence. Man can only find genuine meaning in life if he finds the God of the Bible. Apart from God, life is absurd.
Pascal calls his readers to make a choice. It is foolish for them to go on deceiving themselves. They must admit that without God and eternal life, human existence is without hope. Man must choose between despair and God. If a person wagers on God and loses, the person loses nothing. But if a person wagers on God and wins, the person wins everything. If, however, one wagers against God there is no hope of winning. If that person wins, he wins nothing. But if one bets against God and loses, one loses everything. Pascal concludes that the wise man will therefore wager on God. 11 Pascal, contrary to popular belief, is not attempting to prove God’s existence with his wager argument. Instead, he is attempting to persuade others to desire and seek God with all their hearts. Pascal believed that if a person seeks God with all his heart, he will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).
Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer effectively argued that life is absurd without the existence of the God of the Bible. He believed that modern man had thrust himself into a state of despair. Schaeffer saw three key philosophers as leading man away from reason and into this feeling of meaningless existence.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the first of these key thinkers, brought secular philosophy to a halt. His thought concluded that man could only know reality as it appeared to him (phenomena) and not reality as it is (noumena). Man’s mind could not bridge the gap between the two. When one begins with unaided human reason, the phenomena and noumena never meet.12 At this point, secular philosophers gave up their attempt to find “a unified rationalistic circle that would contain all thought, and in which they could live.” 13
The next thinker emphasized by Schaeffer was Hegel (1770-1831). Before him, philosophers for thousands of years had attempted to find truth based on antithesis. This meant that they held to the idea of absolute truth. Something could not be both true and not true at the same time and in the same sense. But Kant had shown that unaided human reason within the boundaries of antithesis led to skepticism about the real world. Hegel therefore concluded that man must try a new method. He recommended abandoning absolutes. His dialectical approach allowed for the synthesizing of contradictory statements. 14 This shift in the concept of truth from antithesis (absolute truth) to synthesis (truth is relative) resulted in modern man’s new way of viewing reality. 15 At this point, modern man faces great despair. For there is no longer any hope of man finding true meaning to life. There are no absolutes. Truth is relative.
The third philosopher Schaeffer discusses is Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). With the rejection of absolutes, modern man was left without meaning in life. Despair seemed to be the only alternative. But this is where Kierkegaard enters the scene. Schaeffer states that Kierkegaard realized that “Man has no meaning, no purpose, no significance” in the rational realm. “There is only pessimism concerning man as man.” But if man takes a leap of blind faith into the nonrational realm, says Kierkegaard, this nonreasonable faith gives man optimism. 16
Schaeffer sees modern man as facing a choice between despair and a false, nonrational hope. Schaeffer’s method of evangelizing the modern man is to show him that he must reason with absolutes. For the only way to deny absolutes is to assume there are absolutes. 17 The Kierkegaardian leap into the nonrational realm is therefore not an option. If the modern man refuses to turn to the God of the Bible, he is damned to a meaningless life of despair (that is, if he has enough courage to refrain from a nonrational leap). Only when a person accepts the existence of the God of the Bible can life have true meaning. Without God, life is absurd. Without God, the reasonable man will wallow in despair.
In his work entitled Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims, Gordon Lewis approvingly discusses the psychological apologetics utilized by Edward John Carnell and Vernon C. Grounds. Lewis recognizes the fact that Christianity alone is able to relieve man’s deepest anxieties. Science and Philosophy can offer no substitute for God’s unconditional love. 18 All people long for loving acceptance, peace, and significance. Only in Jesus can these needs be met. Jesus loves each person unconditionally. He will never stop loving any individual (though each person has the freedom to reject His love and suffer the consequences). Trusting in His promises gives man peace in the midst of trials. One can find true significance in human existence only if he recognizes that all people were created by God for the purpose of eternal fellowship with Him.
Man desperately needs forgiveness to remove his guilt and hope to obliterate his despair. But without Christ’s atoning death on Calvary, there is no forgiveness. And without Christ’s resurrection from the dead, there can be no genuine hope for man. Only in Christianity can man’s deepest psychological needs be met. 19
The stresses of modern life inflict multitudes with anxiety and despair. Modern man is crying out for help. Psychologists often correctly diagnose the problems, but seldom provide any real solutions. The source of man’s anxiety stems from his alienation from God, and only the gospel of Jesus Christ can remedy this. The world desperately seeks joy and peace. However, joy and peace can only be found in Christ, and the church must make this known.
Christian psychologist Lawrence Crabb states that modern psychology has rightly concluded that one of man’s most basic needs is personal worth. 20 Crabb states that there are two required inputs to make a person feel worthy. The two inputs are significance and security. 21
To feel significant, each person must have a sense of purpose and a feeling of importance. One’s life must be meaningful. One must have a definite impact on his world. To feel secure, a person must know he is loved unconditionally and eternally. If he does not feel eternally accepted, he will not feel secure. 22 Man longs for everlasting acceptance; temporary acceptance will not satisfy him.
Crabb argues that Adam and Eve had significance and security before the Fall, but once they alienated themselves from God through sin, they no longer felt significant and secure. 23 Since the Fall, significance and security have alluded man. Man has lost his sense of personal worth. Because of this, each person pretends to be someone he or she is not. Man also seeks significance and security in other people and in temporary pleasures, but inevitably true personal worth always evades man.
However, Crabb finds the solution to this dilemma of man in the gospel. Once a person is saved, his needs for personal worth are met in Christ. Man is significant because God has given each person an eternal mission. The King of the universe has given every person a job to perform. He has called each individual to minister to others in His power and love. 24
Man can also be secure for God loved man enough to send His Son to die for him. God loves all people unconditionally. He loves all people just as they are, and He will never stop loving them. 25 Only in Jesus Christ can man find true personal worth.
Modern man seems more concerned with feelings than he does with reason. Because of this, psychological apologetics can be a very effective method of defending the faith in the present cultural climate.
If the God of the Bible does not exist, there is no hope for mankind. Man cannot experience true peace and joy knowing that he will someday cease to exist. There can be no genuine meaning to life, if God does not exist.
If God does not exist, objective moral values are nonexistent. Right is wrong and wrong is right. If there is no moral Lawgiver above man, there can be no moral law above man. Without life after death and a final judgment, it does not matter if one lives like Hitler or Mother Theresa. A million years from now, it will make no difference.
All men acknowledge the existence of evil (at least in their practice if not in their beliefs). But nothing less than the God of the Bible can guarantee the ultimate defeat of evil.
In short, if the God of the Bible does not exist, man is damned to a life of meaningless existence. To hide from this fact, a person can focus his attention on Pascalian diversions, or maybe a Kierkegaardian leap into the nonrational realm will be one’s choice. But for those with the courage to deal with reality head on, a choice must be made between despair and the God of the Bible. As Pascal has said, the wise man will wager on God.
2 Blaise Pascal, Pensees trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin Books, 1966), 58.
3 Ibid., 66.
4 Ibid., 69.
5 Ibid., 71.
6 Ibid., 157.
8 Ibid., 160.
9 Ibid., 156.
10 Ibid., 165.
11 Ibid., 149-155.
13 Ibid., vol. 1, 10.
14 Ibid., 232-233.
15 Ibid., 10.
16 Ibid., 238.
17 Ibid., 229.
18 Gordon R. Lewis, 231-236.
19 Ibid., 253.
20 Lawrence J. Crabb Jr., Effective Biblical Counseling (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977), 61.
24 Ibid., 70.
May 25th, 1997
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
Gordon Haddon Clark (1902-1985) was the Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years. 1 He and Cornelius Van Til were the two greatest proponents of the presuppositional method of apologetics. In this chapter, Clark’s apologetic views will be examined, and the strengths and weaknesses of these views will be discussed.
Gordon Clark rejected the idea that unaided human reason could arrive at truths about God. Due to this fact, he rejected traditional apologetics. Clark stated that “The cosmological argument for the existence of God, most fully developed by Thomas Aquinas, is a fallacy. It is not possible to begin with sensory experience and proceed by the formal laws of logic to God’s existence as a conclusion.” 2 After listing several reasons why he rejected the Thomistic arguments for God’s existence, Clark added that even if the arguments were valid, they would only prove the existence of a lesser god. They would not prove the existence of the true God of the Bible. 3
Clark not only despised the use of philosophical arguments to provide evidence for God’s existence, but he also deplored the utilization of historical evidences in defense of Christianity. Clark reminded his readers that the facts of history do not come with their own built-in interpretation. He states that “Significance, interpretation, evaluation is not given in any fact; it is an intellectual judgment based on some non-sensory criterion.” 4
Clark declared that while the conclusions of science constantly change, Scriptural truth remains the same. 5 Therefore, believers should not rely on observable facts to prove Christianity. Instead, Christians must presuppose the truth of God’s Word and allow revelation to interpret the facts of history for them. 6
The reason behind Clark’s distaste for traditional apologetics was his belief that unaided human reason could never discover any truth, religious or secular. This, Clark believed, should convince one of his need to presuppose the truth of the Christian revelation. 7 Without this presupposition, man cannot find truth. Clark emphasized this point at the conclusion of his textbook on the history of philosophy. He stated, “Does this mean that philosophers and cultural epochs are nothing but children who pay their fare to take another ride on the merry-go-round? Is this Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence? Or, could it be that a choice must be made between skeptical futility and a word from God?” 8
Empiricism is the attempt to find truth through the five senses. This school of thought believes “that all knowledge begins in sense experience.” 9
According to Clark, Thomas Aquinas was an empiricist. Aquinas believed that “all knowledge must be abstracted out of our sensations.” 10 Aquinas believed that each person begins life with his mind as a blank slate. He held that “everything that is in the mind was first in the senses, except the mind itself.” 11 Although Aquinas believed that God created man’s mind with the innate ability to know things and draw rational conclusions from sense data, Clark does not seem to do justice to this aspect of Aquinas’ thought. 12 Instead, he merely attacks the idea that man could argue from sense data to the existence of God.
Clark turns next to William Paley. Paley argued from the evidence of design in the universe to the existence of an intelligent God as its Cause. Therefore, he, like Aquinas, began with sense experience and then argued to the existence of God. Clark agreed with the criticisms made by David Hume concerning the teleological argument (the argument for God’s existence from design). Hume stated that experience cannot determine if there was one God or several gods who designed the world. Second, since the physical world is finite, nothing in man’s experience tells him that its designer must be infinite. And third, since human experience includes such things as natural disasters, might not the world’s designer be an evil being? 13
Clark pointed out that Hume himself was an empiricist. But Hume was consistent in his thinking. Therefore, he realized that the principle of cause and effect, the existence of external bodies, and the reality of internal selves could not be proven through sense data alone. Therefore, Hume admitted that his empiricism inevitably led to skepticism. 14
Clark emphasized the point that there is a wide gap between basic sense experience and the propositional conclusions made by empiricists. 15 Sense data (the facts of experience) do not come with their own built-in interpretation. Rational conclusions cannot come from sense experience alone. Empiricism, therefore, fails as a truth-finding method. Next, Gordon Clark turned his attention to rationalism.
Rationalism is the attempt to find truth through reason alone. Though Clark admitted that Augustine was not a pure rationalist, he discussed his views of reason. 16 At a time when Greek philosophy was dominated by skepticism, which argued against the possibility of attaining knowledge, Augustine attempted to find a base for knowledge that could not be denied. 17 Augustine declared that “the skeptic must exist in order to doubt his own existence.” 18 Augustine therefore reasoned that even the skeptic should be certain of his existence. Augustine also showed that skeptics could not live like knowledge was impossible. 18
Augustine also held that the laws of logic were universal, eternal, and unchanging truths. Since the human mind is limited and changing, it could not be the ultimate source of these eternal truths.
Hence, there must be an eternal and unchanging Mind as their source. Obviously, this eternal Mind is God. 19
Clark critiqued the views of Anselm. Anselm was even more rationalistic in his thought than Augustine. He believed that the existence of God could be proven through reason alone. Anselm referred to God as the greatest conceivable Being. Therefore, if God does not exist, then one could conceive of a being greater than Him, a being that has the same attributes but does exist. But then this would be the greatest conceivable Being. Therefore, God (the greatest conceivable Being) must necessarily exist. 20 This is called the ontological argument for God’s existence.
Clark wrote that Rene Descartes, also a rationalist, viewed sensation and experience as very deceptive. He attempted to find a single point of certainty by doubting everything until he found something he could not doubt. Through this process, he realized that the more he doubted, the more certain he became of the existence of himself, the doubter. 21
Descartes borrowed Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence. Clark stated Descartes’ version of this argument as follows: “God, by definition, is the being who possesses all perfections; existence is a perfection; therefore God exists.” 22
Clark related that Spinoza also used the ontological argument for God’s existence. But Spinoza’s version of the argument did not conclude with the God of the Bible. Instead he “proved” the existence of a god who is the universe (the god of pantheism). 23 However, this raised questions as to rationalism’s claim to prove the existence of God with certainty. For Spinoza’s god and Descartes’ God cannot both exist. Spinoza was also more consistent in his rationalism than was Descartes. Spinoza realized that if all knowledge could be found through reason alone, then supernatural revelation was without value. 24
Gordon Clark listed several problems with rationalism in his writings. He stated that rationalism has historically led to several contradictory conclusions (theism, pantheism, and atheism). 25 Also, Clark stated that “rationalism does not produce first principles out of something else: The first principles are innate . . . Every philosophy must have its first principles . . . Thus a presuppositionless description is impossible.” 26 Although Clark made much use of reason in his own defense of the faith, he presupposed his first principles. He contended that without doing this, reason can never get off the ground. 27
In discussing the history of philosophy, Clark states that “Hume had reduced empiricism to skepticism.” 28 Immanuel Kant’s views left man with a knowledge of “things-as-they-appear-to-us,” but with no real knowledge of “things-in-themselves.” 29 Clark emphasized this point with the following words: “In his view the uninformed sense data are entirely incoherent. Order is introduced into them by the mind alone, and what the real world might be like remains unknowable. The whole Postkantian development from Jacobi to Hegel convicts Kant of skepticism.” 30
Clark added that though Hegel effectively critiqued Kant, Hegelianism also failed to justify knowledge. 31 In Hegel’s theory of the unfolding of history, truth was seen as relative. What was true yesterday is not necessarily true today. 32 In short, the greatest minds the world has ever known have failed to escape skepticism. The philosophy of man cannot even prove that man can know anything. Empiricism and rationalism have both failed. This has caused some thinkers to accept irrationalism as the method of finding meaning to life. One such thinker was Soren Kierkegaard.
Kierkegaard denied the effectiveness of both reason and sense experience in finding truth. He believed that a man must stop reasoning. Only through a blind leap of faith can man find true meaning in life. An individual’s subjective passion is of more importance than objective truth. Kierkegaard believed that the doctrines of Christianity were absurd and contradictory. Still, he chose to believe against all reason. 33
Clark rejected the irrationalism of Kierkegaard even though it had become so widespread among modern thinkers, both secular and religious. Clark stated of Kierkegaard, “The fatal flaw is his rejection of logic. When once a man commits himself to contradictions, his language, and therefore his recommendations to other people, become meaningless.” 34
As shown above, Gordon Clark rejected empiricism, rationalism, and irrationalism. He taught that they all eventually reduce to skepticism. Man has failed to find truth through these methodologies. Therefore, man, according to Clark, must make a choice between skepticism and a word from God. 35 Clark’s method of finding truth is called presuppositionalism or dogmatism.
When one finds that Clark saw all of secular philosophy as unable to justify knowledge, one might assume that Clark was himself a skeptic. But this was not the case. Skeptical futility is not the only option left. Clark referred to his view of finding truth as dogmatism. Clark argued that if all other philosophical systems cannot give meaning to life, then dogmatism is worth a try. Clark recommended that one dogmatically presuppose the truth of the teachings of Scripture. 36
Clark’s view may seem to some to be fideism. But this is not so (according to Clark). For everyone, no matter what their philosophical system may be, must presuppose something. 37 The rationalist must presuppose his first principles. Otherwise, he must look for reasons for everything. This would result in an infinite regress, and there would be no real base for knowledge. 38
The empiricist must assume certain concepts which he cannot prove through sense experience. Such concepts as time, space, equality, causality, and motion are not derived from sense experience. They are brought into one’s sense experience in the beginning to aid one in drawing conclusions from the sense data. 39 Logical Positivism is an extreme empirical view. One of its first principles is that truth can only be found through the five senses. However, this first principle refutes itself since it cannot itself be proven through the five senses. 40
Clark argued that since rationalism and empiricism have failed to make life meaningful, Christian presuppositions should be utilized. For Christian presuppositions do give meaning to life. 41 Clark argued that “Christian Theism is self-consistent and that several other philosophies are inconsistent, skeptical, and therefore erroneous.” 42 Clark added that Christianity “gives meaning to life and morality, and that it supports the existence of truth and the possibility of knowledge.” 43
One can see Clark’s point more clearly by examining his critique of Kant. In Kant’s thinking, there existed no order in sense data. Instead the mind introduces this order into the sense data. Therefore, Kant’s view collapses into skepticism since one can only know things-as-they-appear-to-us and not things-as-they-are. One cannot know the real world. One can only know the world as it appears to him. 44
Clark’s response to Kant’s dilemma is as follows. Clark presupposes the truth of the revelation found in Scripture. Therefore, Clark presupposes that “God has fashioned both the mind and the world so that they harmonize.” 45 If one presupposes the truth of Christianity, then the order that the mind innately reads into the real world is the order which really exists in the real world.
Having discussed Clark’s view of obtaining knowledge, one must now consider how Clark defended Christianity. Clark did this by convincing the nonbeliever that he is contradicting himself. 46 Clark was willing to use logic (the law of noncontradiction) to refute the belief systems of others. He did not feel that he was being inconsistent with his presuppositionalism or dogmatism. For Clark believed that God is Logic. In other words, logic is God-thinking. It flows naturally from God’s Being. 47 In fact, Clark even translated John 1:1 as, “In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was with God, and Logic was God.” 48
The problem with rationalism is that it lacks sufficient first principles. But, according to Clark, once one presupposes the truth of the Bible, one can use reason to tear down the views of others. Clark spoke of reason in the following manner:
Therefore I wish to suggest that we neither abandon reason nor use it unaided; but on pain of skepticism acknowledge a verbal, propositional revelation of fixed truth from God. Only by accepting rationally comprehensible information on God’s authority can we hope to have a sound philosophy and a true religion. 49
Clark not only defended the faith by tearing down other belief systems through use of the law of contradiction, but he (after presupposing the truth of Christianity) also was willing to confirm the truth of Christianity in two ways. First, Clark showed that it alone is self-consistent. And second, he appealed to its ability to provide man with meaning to life, moral values, and the genuine possibility of attaining true knowledge. 50 Since all other philosophies have failed to obtain knowledge, one must choose between skepticism and presupposing Christian revelation. 51
Still, Clark seemed to revert back to fideism. This was due to his hyper-Calvinistic theology. He firmly believed that one really cannot convince another of the truth of Christianity, for God alone sovereignly bestows faith upon an individual. 52 When answering the question of why one person presupposes the Bible to be true and not the Muslim Koran, he simply replied that “God causes the one to believe.” 53
In his writings, Gordon Clark attempted to answer the question,
“How can the existence of God be harmonized with the existence of evil?” 54 If God is all-good, He would want to destroy evil. If God is all-powerful, He is able to destroy evil. But evil still exists. It seems that God cannot be both all-good and all-powerful. However, Christianity teaches that He is both. This is the problem of evil. 55
Zoroastrianism attempts to resolve the problem by teaching that there are two gods. One is good while the other is evil. Neither of the two gods is infinite since they have both failed to destroy the opposing god. Plato’s views also result in an unresolved dualism. In his thought, God is not the creator of all things. There exists eternal and chaotic space which the Demiurge cannot control. 56
According to Clark, even Augustine’s answer to the dilemma was inadequate. Clark stated that Augustine taught that evil is metaphysically unreal. It does not exist. Therefore, all that God created is good since evil is non-being. 57 (Whether or not Clark treated Augustine’s view fairly will be discussed at a later point in this chapter.)
Clark pointed out that Augustine added to his response the doctrine of human free will. Though God is all-powerful, He has sovereignly chosen to give mankind free will. God allows man to make his own choices. Mankind has chosen evil. Therefore, all that God created is good. Evil can be blamed not on God, but on the abuse of free will by man. 58
But Clark rejected this view of free will. Clark believed that the Bible does not teach that man is free to choose that which is right as opposed to that which is wrong. Clark stated that “free will is not only futile, but false. Certainly, if the Bible is the Word of God, free will is false; for the Bible consistently denies free will.” 59
Though Clark rejected the doctrine of free will, he believed man has free agency. “Free will means there is no determining factor operating on the will, not even God. Free will means that either of two incompatible actions are equally possible.” 60 This Clark rejected. On the other hand, “Free agency goes with the view that all choices are inevitable. The liberty that the Westminster Confession ascribes to the will is a liberty from compulsion, coaction, or force of inanimate objects; it is not a liberty from the power of God.” 61 Clark argued that a man can still be responsible for his actions even without the freedom to do other than he has done. Clark stated that, “a man is responsible if he must answer for what he does . . . a person is responsible if he can be justly rewarded or punished for his deeds. This implies, of course, that he must be answerable to someone.” 62
Clark then asked the question, “Is it just then for God to punish a man for deeds that God Himself ‘determined before to be done?’” 63 He answered in the affirmative. He stated that, “Whatever God does is just.” 64 Man is responsible to God; but God is responsible to no one.
Clark openly admitted that his view makes God the cause of sin. For, in his thinking, “God is the sole ultimate cause of everything.” 65 But, while God is the ultimate cause of sin, He is not the author of sin. The author is the immediate cause of an action. Man is the immediate cause of his sin. But he was not free to do otherwise. For God is the ultimate cause of sin. 66
Clark stated that, “God’s causing a man to sin is not sin. There is no law, superior to God, which forbids him to decree sinful acts. Sin presupposes a law, for sin is lawlessness.” 67 Clark explained that “God is above law” because “the laws that God imposes on men do not apply to the divine nature.” 68
Man is responsible because God calls him to account; man is responsible because the supreme power can punish him for disobedience. God, on the contrary, cannot be responsible for the plain reason that there is no power superior to him; no greater being can hold him accountable; no one can punish him; there is no one to whom God is responsible; there are no laws which he could disobey.
The sinner therefore, and not God, is responsible; the sinner alone is the author of sin. Man has no free will, for salvation is purely of grace; and God is sovereign. 69
This was Clark’s proposed solution to the problem of evil. God is in fact the ultimate cause of sin. But He is not evil, for He committed no sin. And He is not responsible for sin, for there is no one to whom He is responsible. God is just, for whatever He does is just. Therefore, the creature has no right to stand in judgment over his Creator.
Gordon Clark, as this study shows, was a very original thinker. Even if one disagrees with much of what he has written, he has made a tremendous contribution to Christian thought that should not be overlooked. There are several strengths which are evident in the thought of Gordon Clark.
His rejection of pure rationalism. Clark is absolutely correct when he points out the major deficiency of rationalism. That is, rationalism cannot even get started until certain unproven assumptions are made. Reason cannot prove everything. This would result in an infinite regress, and nothing would be proven. First principles must be presupposed. They are not logically necessary (they cannot be proven with rational certainty).
His rejection of pure empiricism. Clark is right when he points out problems with extreme empiricism. Sense data and the facts of history do not come with their own built-in interpretations. They must be interpreted within the context of a person’s world view. Empirical data alone cannot give us rational conclusions.
His rejection of irrationalism. Clark should be commended for his lack of patience for irrationalism. Once a person denies the law of contradiction, then the opposite of whatever that person teaches can be equally true with those teachings. But all human thought and communication comes to a halt if one allows such an absurd premise. A person who holds to irrationalism cannot even express his view without assuming the truth of the law of contradiction.
His knowledge of the history of philosophical thought. Rarely does one read the works of a Christian author who has the insights that Clark had. His knowledge of the thought of the great philosophical minds of the past should encourage all Christians to be more diligent in their own studies. Gordon Clark was a man who had something to say because he was a man who lived a disciplined life of study. Even if one disagrees with the thrust of Clark’s thought, one must never dismiss the insights he shared with others concerning the history of philosophy.
His recognition of the fact that all people have hidden presuppositions. Too often Christians pretend that they have no biases whatsoever, but this is not the case. Every person, believer and nonbeliever alike, has presuppositions that are often hidden. Clark was right in his view that apologetics is more accurately the seeking of confirmation for our presuppositions than it is the unbiased search for truth.
His use of the law of noncontradiction. Clark was justified in his usage of the law of noncontradiction. If two opposite concepts can both be true at the same time and in the same sense, then all knowledge and communication become impossible. Any world view that either is a contradiction or generates contradictions is not worth believing.
He is very consistent in his Calvinism. Too often Christians claim to be Calvinists but actually deny or redefine several of the five main points of Calvinism. Clark is not only a strong defender of all five points, but he also consistently holds to the implications of these points. His rejection of human free will and his view of God as the ultimate cause of evil are unpopular concepts, even among Calvinists. Clark is to be credited with having the courage to believe that which is consistent with his system of thought.
He is right to seek confirmation for his Christian presuppositions. Many presuppositionalists are content in merely assuming the truth of Christianity. But Clark realizes that, after pre-supposing biblical truth, one must still seek justification for this assumption. Clark does this by showing that Christianity does what all secular philosophies have failed to do. They failed to give meaning to life, justify moral values, and find truth.
He is right that man must choose. Clark recognizes that since all secular philosophies have failed to justify their truth claims, man must make a choice. A person can choose to continue to live with contradictory views. Or a person can choose skepticism and suspend all judgment (except his judgment to be skeptical). Clark even remarks that, for some, suicide is their choice. 70 But Clark pleads with his readers to choose Christianity. If secular philosophies have failed to find truth and give meaning to life, then why not choose Christianity? Whatever the case, man must choose.
His denial of the basic reliability of sense perception. Though Clark is correct when he states that concepts such as moral values, causality, time, and space cannot be derived from sense data alone, he goes too far when he speaks of the “futility of sensation.” 71 With Clark’s distrust for sense experience, how can he presuppose the truth of the Bible? For he must first use his sense of sight to read the Bible to find out what it is he is going to presuppose. In fact, the Bible itself seems to teach the basic reliability of sense perception. The Mosaic Law places great emphasis on eyewitness testimony, and the eyewitness accounts of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances are presented as evidence for the truth of Christ’s claims.
His denial of Thomistic first principles. While refuting rationalism, Clark stated that it needed first principles. For justification must stop somewhere. He pointed out that since first principles could not be proven through reason alone, rationalism fails to find truth without appealing to something other than reason. The first principles are not logically necessary. In this he is correct. However, Clark accepts the law of contradiction (what Thomists call the law of noncontradiction), though he says it is not logically necessary. He points out that if we do not accept this law, all knowledge and communication would cease. However, this is the same type of argument that Aquinas (and Aristotle long before him) used for his remaining first principles. Besides the principle of noncontradiction, Aquinas utilized the principles of identity, excluded middle, causality, and finality. 72 Aristotle and Aquinas argued that these principles “cannot actually be denied without absurdity.” 73 In other words, they are actually undeniable (though not logically necessary). But this is very similar to what Clark claims for one of his first principles, the law of contradiction. If Clark is justified in using this principle, then the other Thomistic first principles of knowledge may likewise be justified. If one accepts the principle of causality (every effect has an adequate cause), then one can reason from the effect (the finite world) to its cause (the infinite Creator). This would deal Clark’s entire system a lethal blow since it would justify the use of traditional arguments for God’s existence. This would eliminate presuppositional apologetics as the only way for a Christian to defend his faith.
His downplaying of historical evidences for the Christian Faith. Clark rightly criticized deriving knowledge from sense data alone. Because of this, he minimized historical evidences. For facts of history, like sense data, do not come with their own built-in interpretations. However, if one accepts Thomistic first principles (because they are actually undeniable), then one can attempt to make sense of the facts of history. If a man claimed to be God and rose from the dead to prove His claim true, then one is not justified in explaining this resurrection in purely naturalistic terms. For every event must have an adequate cause. And no naturalistic explanation has succeeded to account for the resurrection. 74 Only a supernatural cause is sufficient in this case.
He gives no credit to probability arguments. Clark points out that other systems of philosophy do not have a starting point based on certainty. They must presuppose their first principles. However, Clark’s own first principles are also not based on certainty; they too must be presupposed. It seems that Clark is judging his own philosophical system in a more lenient fashion than he does other schools of thought. It is true that Clark finds confirmation for the Christian presupposition that is lacking in other presuppositions. Still, this is after the fact. And, as Clark admits, this confirmation itself only makes Christianity more probable than other views; it does not establish its certainty. It seems that more credit should be given to arguments for first principles based upon a high degree of probability. Why should an argument be rejected when its premises and conclusion are very probable, while opposing views are unlikely?
Other philosophers have settled for less than certainty but still have solid systems of thought. Some might argue from premises that they believe are “beyond all reasonable doubt.” Norman Geisler, following in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, uses the principle of “actual undeniability.” 75 Some things cannot be denied without contradiction and therefore must be true. For instance, if I deny my existence I must first exist to make the denial. For nothing is nothing. Nothing cannot deny anything. Only an existent being can deny something. Therefore, it is actually undeniable that I exist. 76
Charles Hodge (1797-1878) based his philosophical arguments on what he believed were “self-evident truths.” Though these truths could be denied by others, their denial is “forced and temporary.”
Once a philosopher finishes lecturing or debating, he returns to the real world and no longer denies self-evident truths such as his existence, the existence of others, and the reality of moral values. 77 He can deny moral values in the lecture hall, but once he is at home, he calls the police when he is robbed.
It seems then that Clark is mistaken. Christians can discover truths that are either “self-evident” or “actually undeniable.” They can then dialogue with nonbelievers using these premises as common ground. Clark was wrong not to give proper due to first principles based upon a high degree of probability. This leaves the door open for traditional apologetics.
His attacks on traditional apologetics. Clark’s attack on traditional apologetics is unfounded. This can be shown from his treatment of the Thomistic cosmological argument for God’s existence. Aquinas argued that all existent beings which could possibly not exist need a cause or ground for their continuing in existence. In other words, all dependent existence must rely for its continued existence on a totally independent Being, a Being which is uncaused and self-existent. 78
Clark comments that Aquinas has not ruled out the possibility of an infinite regress of dependent beings. 79 However, Clark is mistaken. For Aquinas is not arguing indefinitely into the past. He is arguing for the current existence of a totally independent Being. Aquinas is arguing for the cause of the continued and present existence of dependent beings, not just the cause for the beginning of their existence. 80 Aquinas is pointing out that if one takes away the independent Being, then there is nothing to sustain the existence of all dependent beings. Every dependent being relies directly on the independent Being for preserving it in existence. The causality is simultaneous, just as a person’s face simultaneously causes the existence of its reflection in a mirror. At the exact moment the person moves his face, the reflection is gone.
Clark raises another objection against the Thomistic cosmological argument. He states that even if the argument is valid, it would not prove the existence of the God of the Bible. Clark seems to imply that unless we prove every attribute of God, then it is not the identical God. 81 However, if Aquinas proves the existence of the Uncaused Cause of all else that exists, how could this possibly not be the God of the Bible? If Clark can refer to God as “Truth” and “Logic” and still be talking about the Triune God of the Bible, then Aquinas can identify God with the “Unmoved Mover.”
Finally, Clark accuses Aquinas of using the word “exist” with two completely different meanings. 82 When Aquinas speaks of God, he speaks of God existing infinitely. But when he speaks of man, he speaks of man existing finitely. God is existence; man merely has existence. Though Clark’s critique may seem valid, it is not. Aquinas would define existence as “that which is” whether it referred to God or man. True, Aquinas would apply the term “existence” to God infinitely, but to man only finitely. Still, the fact remains that whether Aquinas speaks of God or man, the meaning of existence remains the same.
Apparently, Clark misunderstands Aquinas’ view of analogical language. Aquinas taught that we cannot have univocal (totally the same) knowledge of God. Still, our knowledge of God is not equivocal (totally different) since that would be no knowledge at all. Instead, according to Aquinas, our knowledge of God is analogical (similar). By this Aquinas did not mean that the concepts used of God and man have similar meanings. He meant that they have identical meanings, but that they must be applied only in a similar way. All limitations must be removed from a concept before it is applied to God. However, the concept itself continues to have the same meaning throughout. 83
Not only did Clark express distaste for the cosmological argument for God’s existence, he also disliked the teleological argument (the argument from design). 84 He accepted Hume’s criticism of this argument. Hume concluded that it proved the existence only of a finite god or gods, and that this god or gods may be evil (due to the evil in the world). However, if one argues for the existence of one infinite God through the cosmological argument, and then finishes the argument with the teleological premises, the argument from design will add the attribute of intelligence to the Uncaused Cause. The problem of evil could also be dealt with as a separate issue. In short, Clark’s attempt to destroy traditional apologetics has failed.
His failure to refute the Islamic Faith. After destroying secular philosophy through the use of the law of contradiction, Clark does not apply this law to Islam. Instead, he merely states that God causes some to accept the Bible when answering the question, “Why does one man accept the Koran and another the Bible?” 85 Apparently, after all is said and done, Clark’s system relies on God alone to cause the person to believe. One wonders why Clark went to such trouble to refute secular philosophies. Could not the same response be given to them?
His misrepresentation of Augustine and Aquinas. While dealing with the problem of evil, Clark accused Augustine of denying the reality of evil. He stated that Augustine taught that “all existing things are good” and that “evil therefore does not exist—it is metaphysically unreal.” 86 Clark represented Augustine as reasoning that since evil does not exist, God cannot be the cause of evil. 87 In this way, Clark makes it sound as if Augustine is in agreement with the Christian Science view of evil as an illusion. Clark, is misrepresenting Augustine on this point.
Augustine did teach that God created everything that exists and that all that God created is good. However, evil is a perversion of that good brought about by the free choices of rational beings (fallen angels and men). Evil is a privation. It is a lack of a good that should be there. 88 An illustration of this would be rust. God did not create rust. Still it exists, but only as a corruption of something that God created (metal). Therefore, evil is real, but it must exist in some good thing that God created. All that God created is good. God did not create evil. He created the possibility of evil (free will). Fallen rational beings actualized evil by abusing a good thing (free will) God gave them.
Clark also misrepresents Aquinas by implying that Aquinas is a strict empiricist. It is true that Aquinas believed all knowledge comes through sense experience; he taught that God created man’s mind with the innate ability to draw rational conclusions from sense data. Aquinas spoke of both the active mind (this innate ability to arrive at universals from particulars) and the receptive mind (the aspect of the mind which receives data from sense experience). Clark seems to view Aquinas as only holding to the existence of the receptive mind. He chooses to ignore Aquinas’ teaching about the active mind (also called the agent intellect). 89
His proposed solution to the problem of evil. Clark’s answer to the problem of evil is inadequate. He stated that God is not responsible for evil simply because there is no one above Him to whom He is responsible. Since Clark denied human free will (man could not choose to do otherwise), Clark made God the ultimate cause of evil.
The Augustinian approach, in the opinion of many Christian philosophers, is to be preferred. Augustine held that God gave man the freedom to disobey His commands. Therefore, God permitted sin; it was not part of His perfect will for man. A free will theodicy (attempting to propose a reason why God permitted evil) or a free will defense (attempting to merely show that it is not impossible for an all-good and all-powerful God to coexist with evil) is a much more plausible solution to the problem of evil than the solution Clark proposed. 90 Of course, since Clark denied genuine free will, these options were not open to him.
He does not allow for the use of secular material during evangelism. Clark states, “in evangelistic work there can be no appeal to secular, non-Christian material.” 91 However, this is exactly what the apostle Paul did on Mars Hill. When speaking to Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, he quoted from the writings of two ancient Greek poets to find common ground with his hearers (Acts 17:16-34). If one must choose between the evangelistic approach of Gordon Clark and that of the apostle Paul, then one should choose Paul.
No Christian can show that every non-Christian system of thought is inconsistent. Clark claims that since every non-Christian philosophy has failed, people should presuppose the truth of the Christian world view. However, it is impossible for Clark, or any other person, to thoroughly examine every non-Christian system of thought. 92 Even if it were possible for Clark to expose the contradictions in every non-Christian world view today, there is no guarantee that a totally consistent non-Christian world view will not be produced in the future. 93
Clark’s presuppositional approach to apologetics, with minor adaptions, is a worthy apologetic. Uncovering contradictions in non-Christian belief systems is a necessary component in one’s defense of the faith. However, Clark’s presuppositional approach is not the only method Christians can use when defending the faith. Although Clark successfully demolishes several secular philosophies, traditional apologetics survives his assault.
2 Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation (Jefferson: The Trinity Foundation, 1986), 35.
3 Ibid., 37.
4 Clark, Clark Speaks From the Grave, 54.
5 Ibid., 55.
6 Ibid., 57.
7 Geisler, Apologetics, 37.
8 Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey (Jefferson: The Trinity Foundation, 1989), 534.
9 Geisler and Feinberg, 431.
10 Gordon H. Clark, Three Types of Religious Philosophy (Jefferson: The Trinity Foundation, 1989), 60-61.
11 Geisler, Thomas Aquinas, 86.
14 Ibid., 71,76-78.
15 Ibid., 91.
16 Ibid., 27.
17 Ibid., 28-29.
18 Ibid., 31.
19 Ibid., 32.
20 Ibid., 33-35.
21 Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, 50-51.
22 Clark, Three Types of Religious Philosophy, 35.
23 Clark, Thales to Dewey, 332.
24 Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, 53.
26 Ibid., 117-118.
27 Ibid., 120.
28 Ibid., 93.
29 Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, 62.
30 Gordon H. Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things (Jefferson: The Trinity Foundation, 1991), 315-316.
31 Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, 63-68.
32 Ibid., 98.
33 Clark, Three Types of Religious Philosophy, 101-105.
34 Ibid., 114.
35 Clark, Thales to Dewey, 534.
37 Ibid., 118.
38 Ibid., 51-52.
39 Ibid., 70-91.
40 Ibid., 118-119.
41 Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things, 324.
44 Ibid., 315-316.
45 Ibid., 316.
46 Clark, Three Types of religious Philosophy, 140-142.
47 Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley, 76.
49 Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, 87.
50 Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things, 324.
May 25th, 1997
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
Clark’s presuppositionalism could be called dogmatic presuppositionalism, 1 whereas Van Til utilized what could be called transcendental presuppositionalism. 2 Still, their thought systems had much in common.
Like Clark, Van Til was opposed to traditional methods of apologetics. Van Til taught that because of man’s Fall in the garden “every one of fallen man’s functions operates wrongly.” 3 Van Til stated that “on account of sin man is blind with respect to truth wherever truth appears.” 4 Van Til taught that without the correct view about God, man cannot have the correct view of himself and the world. 5
According to Van Til, the unsaved man is biased against God; he presupposes his own autonomy. 6 The unsaved man believes he can start with himself and find truth without aid from God. There is therefore no neutral ground between believers and nonbelievers. 7 The nonbeliever presupposes human autonomy; the believer presupposes the existence of God.
However, there is common ground: all mankind must live within God’s universe. 8 All men live in the real world of reason and moral values. Because of this common ground, believers can reason with nonbelievers. Still, with the absence of neutral ground, traditional apologetics cannot even get started. People are not unbiased observers who allow the facts to determine their world view. Instead, people interpret the facts by their preconceived world view (their presuppositions or biases). 9 Therefore, all apologetics must be by way of presupposition. 10
Van Til disagrees with Roman Catholicism for declaring the autonomy of human reason. Roman Catholicism “ascribes ultimacy or self-sufficiency to the mind of man.” 11 When Arminians, Evangelicals, and “less consistent” Calvinists defend the faith, they take the side of the Roman Church by assuming the mind of the unsaved man can of itself rise to a proper understanding of the Triune God. 12 Only a consistent Calvinistic position rightly denies the nonbeliever the ability to reason correctly (without faulty biases).
Van Til adds that traditional apologetics would never prove the existence of the Triune God of the Bible. Instead, traditional apologetics only proves the existence of a finite god. 13 Van Til states that Roman Catholicism would never desire to prove the existence of an infinite God who controls whatever comes to pass. The Roman Church, according to Van Til, wants to protect man’s self-sufficiency. 14
Van Til believed the root of the problem is found in the fact that all nonbelievers suppress their knowledge of the true God (Romans 1:18-22). Concerning the unsaved man, Van Til states that “deep down in his mind every man knows that he is a creature of God and responsible to God. Every man, at bottom, knows that he is a covenant-breaker. But every man acts as though this were not so.” 15 By using traditional apologetics, believers mistakenly assume that the unsaved man honestly needs proof that the God of the Bible exists. Instead, Christians should directly confront the nonbeliever by proclaiming the gospel message from the start. 16
According to Van Til, traditional arguments are also misguided in that they use inductive arguments for Christianity. Inductive arguments are probabilistic; they do not prove their conclusions with certainty. Therefore, traditional arguments give nonbelievers an excuse for rejecting the truth of Christianity. For if Christianity is only probably true, then it is also possibly false. Van Til believed that what was needed was not a probabilistic argument for Christianity, but an argument that proved the impossibility of the contrary. Van Til believed that his transcendental argument alone proved Christianity to be true with certainty. 17
The traditional arguments for God’s existence are therefore useless. The nonbeliever must be confronted with the gospel. Only in this direct approach will the believer find a point of contact with the nonbeliever. It should not be assumed that the nonbeliever is an honest, neutral seeker of truth. 18
After rejecting traditional apologetics, Van Til unveils his own method of defending the faith. He states that “a truly Protestant apologetic must therefore make its beginning from the presupposition that the Triune God . . . speaks to him with absolute authority in Scripture.” 19 Now that believers stand on Christian foundations, they can see “the futility of reasoning on non-Christian foundations . . .” 20 Thus, rather than argue to the existence of the Triune God who has spoken to man through His Word, apologists must presuppose His existence.
Van Til sees no middle ground at this point. Two opposing presuppositions are competing for a person’s allegiance. The nonbeliever presupposes that he himself is the final or ultimate reference point in all human thought, but the believer rightly presupposes the final or ultimate reference point in human thought to be the Triune God who speaks to man through His infallible Word. 21 There is no neutral ground here.
If humans were really products of chance as the nonbeliever assumes is the case, then there would be no possibility of knowing the world, ourselves, or anything else. 22 But human thought and knowledge is possible because man is who the Bible declares him to be, a being created by God. 23
Van Til does engage in refuting the beliefs of others. For the sake of argument, believers may “place themselves with the unbeliever on his presupposition” in order to expose the contradictions which the nonbeliever holds. 24 However, even the law of noncontradiction is not presupposed by the Christian. It is only borrowed from the nonbeliever’s system of thought and used by the Christian to show the internal inconsistencies of the anti-Christian thought.
In Van Til’s apologetic system, only the “Triune God revealed in Scripture” is presupposed. 25 Not even nature or the laws of logic are presupposed. For man to start with himself rather than with God would be to deny his utter dependence on God. One cannot argue for Christianity. Instead, the validity of the gospel must be presupposed. However, Van Til will allow believers to utilize the presuppositions of nonbelievers in order to refute their views.
Cornelius Van Til stated that “all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning.” 26 By this he meant that “the starting-point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.” 27 In other words, when attempting to prove something, a person must first assume the conclusion to be true before proving it to be true. Van Til was claiming that every argument contains its conclusion in its initial premise.
Philosophers refer to circular reasoning as “begging the question.” It has long been considered an informal fallacy by logicians. To assume what you are attempting to prove has historically been considered to be an illegitimate form of argumentation. Most believers and nonbelievers agree on this point.
It is interesting that Van Til chooses to refer to “all reasoning” as circular. The point he is stressing is that we argue from our presuppositions, not to them. 28 Apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit, a person will not presuppose the truth of Christianity. 29 Here, Van Til’s Calvinism is evident.
Van Til does not believe that the law of contradiction can be found in God’s being. 30 Whereas Gordon Clark viewed this law as an expression of God’s very being, Van Til considers this law a human limitation that does not apply to God. He believed that Clark, and those who agree with him, make God subject to a human law. Van Til warns that the rational man will allow his reason to sit in judgment over God’s Word. He will not allow the Bible to rule his life. 31
Van Til goes so far as to speak of God’s Word as seemingly contradicting itself. Though he states that God does not actually contradict Himself, he adds that God’s communication to man often appears contradictory to finite human minds. 32 But, Van Til cannot have it both ways. Either God cannot contradict Himself and the law of contradiction flows from His nature, or God can contradict Himself and the law is merely a human limitation.
If by paradox Van Til simply means an apparent contradiction, then even Clark would agree with his premise. Therefore, any criticism that Van Til made of Clark on this point would also apply to Van Til himself. However, if his usage of the term paradox does mean an actual contradiction, then nothing could be known of God.
For God could both love mankind and not love mankind at the same time and in the same sense. It seems that Van Til should have withdrawn his criticism of Clark in this area and admitted that the law of contradiction flows naturally from God’s being.
Though Van Til rejected traditional apologetics, he was willing to do more than refute the nonbeliever’s world view. Van Til was willing to use one argument for the truth of Christianity. He believed it to be the only valid argument for the true God. He called this argument the transcendental argument.
The transcendental argument attempts to uncover the hidden presuppositions of the nonbeliever. These hidden presuppositions are the necessary preconditions for human thought. 33 Van Til argued that all human thought and moral judgments would be impossible if the Christian God did not exist. Van Til claimed that if God did not exist, then man would know nothing. Even for man to be conscious of his own existence presupposes a consciousness of God’s existence. When a nonbeliever argues against God’s existence, he must first presuppose God’s existence just to argue at all. 34
For the sake of argument, a believer can place himself within the unbeliever’s world view to show that the unbeliever has to presuppose the truth of Christianity just to raise an objection against Christianity. 35 Only Christianity justifies man’s ability to reason. Only Christianity gives meaning to life. All other world views lead to irrationality and chaos. 36 In fact, scientific induction makes no sense in a universe without God. For, only the Christian God guarantees the uniformity and order of nature necessary for scientists to argue from the particulars of nature to general conclusions about the world in which he lives. 37
When comparing the thought of Cornelius Van Til with that of Gordon Clark, one finds several points of agreement as well as several areas of disagreement. First, some points of agreement between these two men will be examined.
Both were serious and consistent Calvinists. Because they both believed that no one could freely choose Christ apart from the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, direct attempts to persuade nonbelievers were thought to be counterproductive.
Both agreed that the gospel should be presupposed and not argued for. Van Til and Clark felt that to defend the truth of the gospel was to deny the Calvinist doctrine of the total depravity of man. They both believed that man’s reason was damaged due to the Fall and that direct argumentation for the truth of Christianity would be useless. Still, both were willing to refute the beliefs of the nonbeliever and provide indirect confirmation for the truth of Christianity.
Both agreed that secular philosophy was a complete failure. Clark taught that all non-Christian philosophy eventually reduced to skepticism. Van Til believed that secular philosophy was futile since human reason was fallen. In his view, without presupposing the God of the Bible, no knowledge was attainable. However, Van Til believed that even nonbelievers presuppose God’s existence (though they suppress this truth) in order to find truth.
Both agreed that traditional apologetics is unbiblical and useless. Throughout their writings, Clark and Van Til belittled the traditional method of defending the faith. They believed that there was no neutral battle ground between the believer and nonbeliever where Christianity could be defended. The gospel was to be presupposed rather than defended. They saw no use for the classical arguments for God’s existence or for traditional usage of historical evidences for the Christian Faith.
Besides these points of agreement between Clark and Van Til, there were areas of disagreement. The following examples will illustrate this.
They disagreed about circular reasoning. Van Til believed that all reasoning is circular. The conclusion of one’s arguments can always be found in one’s premises. However, Clark was more rationalistic in his thinking. He considered circular reasoning a logical fallacy. Because of this, Clark dogmatically presupposed his first principle (the existence of the God of the Bible) and then deduced his beliefs from this first principle.
They disagreed about the status and use of the law of contradiction. Clark believed that the law of contradiction flowed from God’s nature. He taught that God is logic. Therefore, when he presupposed the Triune God who revealed Himself in the Bible, he also presupposed the law of contradiction. He would then use this law to destroy the belief systems of nonbelievers.
Van Til, however, believed this law to be a human limitation which Clark forced upon God. Van Til believed that Clark had subjected God to this law. Though Van Til would use this law to refute other belief systems, it was only because he chose to use the “enemy’s own ammunition to defeat the enemy in battle.” In fact, Clark’s view of the law of noncontradiction is probably what caused the widest gap between the thought of these two men. Clark presupposed the law of noncontradiction when doing apologetics. Van Til refused to do so.
In the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til there is much to be commended. The following examples will make this clear.
He stresses the sinfulness of man. Too often, defenders of the faith tend to de-emphasize the effects of the Fall on mankind. But this is not true of Van Til. If Van Til can be accused of any fault in this area, it would be overkill. For, due to his Calvinism, man is not free to accept Christ; regeneration precedes faith.
He stresses man’s suppression of God’s truth. Many apologists assume that the reason why nonbelievers do not come to Christ is merely an intellectual one. Van Til rightly shows that men willfully suppress whatever knowledge of the true God they have. Van Til is correct in his view that the problem is ultimately that of a moral choice rather than an intellectual one. God has proven his existence to all men through His visible creation (Romans 1:18-22). Therefore, man has no excuse for rejecting Him.
He stresses God’s work in salvation. Even non-Calvinists should commend Van Til for his focus on God’s work in salvation. Apart from God’s grace, no man would be saved. Traditional apologists often imply that they can lead people to Christ through argumentation alone. More emphasis is needed on the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit concerning those to whom apologists witness. God can use traditional argumentation. Still, it is God who does the saving. The apologist can remove intellectual stumbling blocks to the faith, but only God can persuade one to turn to Christ.
He stresses the importance of faith over reason. Van Til emphasizes that one must believe in Christ to be saved. Without Christ, even the wisest man in the world will be eternally lost.
Though traditional apologists are right in that man can reason to the true faith (Van Til disagrees with this), once a person through reason finds the true faith, he must submit his reason to it.
He is willing to tear down the belief systems of those who oppose the gospel and use an indirect argument for Christianity. If it were not for this point, Van Til would probably be classified as a fideist. Though he rejects traditional apologetics (like the fideist), he is willing to refute non-Christian views and give one argument for his beliefs (unlike the fideist). Van Til’s transcendental argument goes beyond refuting non-Christian world views; it presents positive evidence for the Christian faith. Still, it does so in an indirect manner, rather than in the direct fashion found in traditional apologetics.
Despite the many good things that could be said about Van Til’s apologetics, there are many weaknesses in his thought. A few of these weaknesses are mentioned below.
He denies that man has the ability to test revelation-claims. Given Van Til’s system, there seems to be no way to decide whether the Bible or the Koran is the Word of God. Yet the Bible frequently commands us to test the spirits, the prophets, and the messages they proclaim (1 Jn 4:1; Deut 18:20-22; Mt 7:15-23; Gal 1:8-9). 38 Also, God provided ample evidence for His revelation-claims by performing miracles through His spokesmen and by raising Jesus from the dead (Jn 20:30-31; 1 Cor 15:3-8). It seems that God has given even fallen man the ability to test revelation-claims. Whether or not man uses this ability wisely is another question. Again, Van Til’s Calvinism can be seen. For without regeneration by the Holy Spirit, no one will accept the Bible as God’s Word.
His view that all reasoning is circular. It is true that much of Van Til’s thought is circular. It is not true that all thought is circular. Even though all men have presuppositions, they can be tested just as scientific hypotheses are tested. One does not have to sneak one’s presuppositions into the premises of one’s arguments. Any argument that uses circular reasoning is fallacious, regardless of whether or not the conclusion is true.
His rejection of the law of noncontradiction being universally valid. Though Van Til claimed that he only used the law of noncontradiction for the sake of argument when he shared his faith with nonbelievers, he often criticized many of his colleagues for being inconsistent Calvinists. 39 Though Van Til implied that this law is a man-made principle, he diligently labored to keep his system free from contradictions. Van Til should have realized that there could be no thought or communication whatsoever without the law of contradiction. Even God cannot contradict Himself. And, since God is not subject to anything outside Himself, Clark was right to view this law as naturally flowing from God’s being.
Van Til’s transcendental argument is not the only valid argument for Christianity. Even John Frame, a former student of Van Til, saw problems with Van Til’s transcendental argument. 40 Although Frame recognized the worth of this argument for apologetics, he did not believe it was the only valid argument for Christianity.
First, Frame doubts that the transcendental argument could be persuasive without “the help of subsidiary arguments of a more traditional kind.” 41 Second, Frame thinks Van Til was wrong in his assertion that the traditional arguments proved something less than the God of the Bible. 42 Third, Frame believes that some traditional arguments often work despite the fact that the traditional apologist might wrongly assume that their arguments do not themselves presuppose a Christian world view. 43 Fourth, Frame doubts that the whole of the Christian faith can be established by a single argument which stands alone. 44 Fifth, if Van Til is right in his claim that the apologist must prove the whole biblical doctrine of God rather than just one or a few of His attributes, then the transcendental argument also fails. For the God of the Bible is more than the source of meaning, morality, and rationality. Even the transcendental argument must be supplemented by other arguments. 45 And, sixth, Frame believes that any argument (including the transcendental argument) can be rejected. Hence, further argumentation may be needed to defend the original argument. 46 Therefore, though the transcendental argument of Van Til may be a good argument for the God of the Bible, it is not the only good argument for the God of the Bible. The traditional arguments (cosmological, teleological, moral) for God’s existence may also be used by the apologist.
His rejection of traditional apologetics. Finally, Van Til was wrong to reject traditional apologetics. The Bible commands believers to defend the faith (1 Pt 3:15; Col 4:5-6). The apostles used historical evidences to lead others to Christ (1 Cor 15:3-8). Even Van Til admits that man suppresses the truth that God has given him in nature (Romans 1:18-22). If this is the case, then why shouldn’t apologists use traditional arguments to attempt to dislodge these truths from the nonbelievers’ subconscious mind? As the last chapter showed, traditional apologetics is on much more solid ground than the presuppositional apologetics of either Van Til or Clark would admit.
2 John M. Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1994), 69-75.
3 Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1976), 43.
4 Ibid., 42.
5 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1967), 73.
6 Ibid., 34.
7 Ibid., 298.
9 Gordon R. Lewis, 128.
May 25th, 1997
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
One of the greatest obstacles keeping people from accepting Christ is the problem of evil.1 This problem can take several different forms. First, the metaphysical problem of evil asks how evil can exist in a world created by an all-good God.2 Is God the cause of evil, or, is evil itself uncreated and eternal? Maybe evil is not real; it is simply an illusion.3 The metaphysical problem deals with the origin and reality of evil in God’s universe.
Second, the moral problem of evil deals with the evil choices of personal beings.4 This form of the problem argues that since an all-good God would want to destroy evil, and an all-powerful God is able to destroy evil, the existence of evil proves that no all-good, all-powerful God exists.5 The Christian apologist defends the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God. Therefore, he will respond to this argument.
The third form of the problem of evil is called the physical problem of evil.6 The physical problem of evil deals with incidents of natural disasters and innocent human suffering.7 How could God allow evil to occur that is not directly caused by the abuse of human free will?8
The fourth and final form of the problem of evil is not really a philosophical issue. It is the personal problem of evil.9 The personal problem of evil is not a theoretical question about the existence of evil. Instead, it is a personal struggle with a traumatic experience in one’s own life.10 Examples of this would be the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one, a bitter divorce, the loss of a job, or the like. In these situations, the troubled person does not need philosophical answers. What is needed is encouragement, comfort, and biblical counsel.11 Since this form of the problem of evil does not deal with philosophical discussion, it will not be dealt with in this chapter. The remainder of this chapter will deal with the first three forms of the problem of evil.
THE METAPHYSICAL PROBLEM OF EVIL
The metaphysical problem of evil can be stated as follows: 1) God created everything that exists, 2) evil exists, 3) therefore, God created evil.12 There are several ways people respond to this argument. First, like the Christian Science Cult, some can deny the reality of evil.13 They view evil as an illusion, but this entails a rejection of Christian Theism which clearly accepts the real existence of evil and offers Christ as its solution.14 Therefore, viewing evil as an illusion is not an option for the Christian apologist.
A second possible response to the metaphysical problem is dualism. This is the view that God and evil are coeternal.15 God did not create evil, in this view, since evil is eternal. This view fails in that it makes evil a second ultimate being along with God. God would then no longer be infinite since He and evil would limit each other. However, the cosmological argument has shown that there must be an infinite Being to explain and ground all finite existence. There cannot be two infinite beings, for they would limit each other. If God and evil are both finite, then there would have to be an infinite cause for the existence of both. Dualism would only push the problem of evil further back. It does not offer any ultimate solution to the dilemma. Also, the acceptance of dualism entails a rejection of the existence of the God of the Bible. Therefore, it is not an option for the Christian theist.16
The Christian apologist must defend the reality of evil without proposing evil as eternal or as a creation of God.17 Saint Augustine dealt with this same problem centuries ago. His proposed solution to the metaphysical problem of evil was that all things created by God are good. Nothing in its created nature is evil. Evil, therefore, cannot exist solely on its own. However, evil is real; it does exist. Still, it must exist in something good; it cannot exist on its own. Evil is a privation, a lack or absence of a good that should be there. Evil is a corruption or perversion of God’s good creation. Blindness in a man is evil, for God created man to see. But, blindness in a rock is not evil, for God never meant rocks to have sight. Evil, according to Augustine, is a lack of a good that should be there. Augustine stated, “evil has no positive nature; what we call evil is merely the lack of something that is good.”18
Augustine stated that God did not create evil; He merely created the possibility for evil by giving men and angels free will. When men and angels exercised their free will by disobeying God, they actualized the possibility for evil.19
Thomas Aquinas argued against the metaphysical problem of evil along the same lines as did Augustine.20 This basic response has been the traditional Christian solution to the metaphysical problem of evil. God did not create evil, but, evil exists as a privation or corruption of that which is good. God cannot be blamed for evil. He is only responsible for creating the possibility of evil. When God gave angels and men free will, He created the possibility of evil. Fallen angels and fallen men are responsible for evil through their abuse of free will.21
THE MORAL PROBLEM OF EVIL
The moral problem of evil affirms that an all-good God would want to destroy evil, while an all-powerful God is able to destroy evil. Since evil exists, it is concluded that an all-good, all-powerful God does not exist.22 Some people respond by denying God’s existence (atheism). Others deny that God is all-powerful (finite godism). Rabbi Harold Kushner is an example of the latter. He argues that God is not all-powerful. Kushner declares that mankind needs to forgive God for His failures and help Him to combat evil.23 Obviously, the options of atheism and finite godism are not viable for Christians. Christians must defend both God’s omnipotence (all-powerfulness) and His infinite goodness. Therefore, the moral problem of evil must be answered in another way.
Christian philosophers Geisler and Corduan offer several effective responses to the moral problem of evil. First, there is an unnecessary time limit placed on God.24 The argument against the existence of the theistic God from moral evil assumes that because evil exists God cannot be both all-good and all-powerful. However, what if an all-good and all-powerful God allowed evil for the purpose of a greater good? What if this God is also in the process of destroying evil and will someday complete the process?25 Second, God may have created the possibility of evil for the purpose of a greater good (human and angelic free will). God would not force His love on angels or mankind, for any attempt to force love on another is rape (and not really love at all).26 Therefore, He gave men and angels the freedom to accept or reject His love and His will. Free will necessitates the possibility of evil coming into the universe.27 In fact, human and angelic free choices brought evil and human suffering into the world.
Third, God will use evil for good purposes. If evil did not exist, there could be no courage, for there would be nothing to fear. If evil did not exist, man could only love his friends; he could never learn to love even his enemies. Without evil, there would be no enemies.28 Only an infinite God can know all the good He will bring out of evil (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Fourth, Geisler and Corduan argue that an all-good and all-powerful God is not required to create the best possible world. They reason that all He can be expected to do is create the best possible way to achieve the greatest possible world. Heaven is the greatest possible world.29
Several other points could also be made. First, the atheist usually denies the existence of objective evil since he knows that this would admit to the existence of the absolute moral law.30 The atheist knows that once he acknowledges the absolute moral law, the existence of God (the absolute moral law Giver) surely will follow.31 For evil to be objectively real, it must exist as a perversion of that which is ultimately good. To escape this conclusion, the atheist usually chooses to deny the existence of evil. Therefore, it is rather ironic that the atheist (who usually denies the existence of evil) attempts to use evil to disprove the existence of the God of the Bible. The presence of evil may be problematic for all other world views (including Christian theism), but it is totally devastating to atheism. If there is no God, then there are also no objective moral values. The most consistent atheists, such as Nietzsche, have readily admitted this.32
Second, all world views must deal with the problem of evil, but the God of the Bible is the only guarantee that evil will ultimately be defeated.33 The God of deism is no longer concerned with the problems of this world (such as evil).34 In pantheism, evil is an illusion.35 In atheism, there is no basis to call anything evil.36 But, the biblical God guarantees that evil will be defeated through Christ’s death, resurrection, and return (John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Romans 4:25; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-9; Zechariah 9:9-10; Revelation 20;4-6).
Third, non-Christians act as if the existence of evil is an unexpected factor in the Christian world view, but this is not the case. God would not have given mankind the Bible had it not been for the problem of evil. If man had not Fallen in the garden, he would have had no need for salvation (Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 3:10, 23; 5:12; 6:23). The Bible could actually be titled “God’s Solution to the Problem of Evil.”
In short, the solution to the moral problem of evil (how an all-good, all-powerful God can co-exist with evil) is that God gave humans and angels free will. It is the abuse of this free will by humans and angels that has brought evil and human suffering into existence. God created the possibility for evil (by giving man and angels free will), not evil itself.
Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga adds an important detail concerning the Christian response to the moral problem of evil. He writes that there are two ways Christians can respond to this dilemma. First, he may develop a free will theodicy. A theodicy is an attempt to explain what was God’s reason (or reasons) for allowing evil. On the other hand, according to Plantinga, the Christian does not have to go that far. Instead of presenting a free will theodicy, he may develop a free will defense. In this case, rather than attempting to explain the reason as to why God allows evil and human suffering, the Christian can merely suggest a possible reason why God has allowed evil and human suffering.37 The free will defense, according to Plantinga, is sufficient in itself to show that the existence of evil does not rule out the possible existence of the God of theism.38
In other words, since the problem of evil is an attempt to prove God’s existence as being impossible, the Christian only needs to provide possible solutions to this problem. Once this is done, God’s existence will have been shown to be possible. Further argumentation (such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments) can then be presented to argue for God’s existence with a higher degree of probability.39
THE PHYSICAL PROBLEM OF EVIL
The physical or natural problem of evil deals with evil not directly connected to the abuse of human freedom.40 All physical or natural evil is at least indirectly related to the abuse of human freedom. Without the Fall of man in history, creation would still be perfect (Genesis 1:31). Still, much physical evil is not directly related to human choices. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and deaths of innocent infants are examples of physical evil.
Geisler and Corduan list five explanations for physical evil.41 None of the five are meant to be all-encompassing. Each explains some of the physical evil that occurs. First, some physical evil is necessary for moral perfection.42 There can be no courage without something evil to fear. Misery is needed for there to be sympathy; tribulation is needed for there to be endurance and patience.43 For God to build these characteristics in man, He must permit a certain amount of physical evil.
Second, human free choices do cause some physical evil.44 It would be an obvious error to assume that no physical evil is caused by the abuse of human free will. The choice to drink and drive has caused much physical evil. Many infants have been born with an addiction to cocaine due to their mothers’ choice to abuse drugs while pregnant. It is impossible for God to remove all physical evil without tampering with human free will.45 It is even possible that some major natural disasters are caused by the evil choices of humans. According to the Bible, this was the case with Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-21; 19).
Third, some physical evil is caused by the choices of demons.46 The Scriptures speak of demons (fallen angels led by Satan) causing suffering to humans (Job 1, 2; Mark 5:1-20). Demons oppose God and His plans, but they will ultimately be defeated by Christ (Revelation 19, 20, 21, 22).
Fourth, God often uses physical evil as a moral warning.47 Physical pain is often a warning that greater suffering will follow if behavior is not changed. Examples of this would be excessive coughing that is often caused by smoking and heavy breathing caused by over training during a physical workout. Also, God may use pain and suffering to cause a person to focus on him, rather than on worldly pleasures.48
Fifth, some physical evils are necessary in the present state of the physical world.49 To survive, animals often eat other animals. Humans eat animals as well. It appears that, at least in the present state of the creation, lower life forms are subjected to pain and death in order to facilitate the preservation of higher life forms.50
Physical evil, therefore, does not present any insurmountable problems for Christian theism. Though man is limited in knowledge and cannot infallibly ascertain why God allows each and every case of physical evil, the five reasons given above should suffice to show that the presence of physical evil in no way rules out the existence of the God of the Bible.
Once the Christian apologist has provided strong evidence for God’s existence, he need only give possible reasons why an all-good and all-powerful God would allow evil and human suffering. God has good reasons for allowing evil and human suffering, even though we may not know them fully. Therefore, the existence of evil does not disprove the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God. These two are not mutually exclusive.
May 25th, 1997
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
Philosophical apologetics often deals with the branch of philosophy called ethics. Ethics deals with issues of morality, that which is right and wrong.1 The Christian ethical perspective holds to absolute moral values, laws that are universally binding. Often, non-Christian views hold to moral relativism. Moral relativism rejects the idea that there are objective rights and wrongs.2 What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another person, and vice versa. Each person decides what is right for himself. Many atheists and pantheists are moral relativists.3
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher. He believed that the advances of human knowledge had proven that belief in God was a mere superstition. Nietzsche therefore reasoned that since “God is dead,” all traditional values have died with Him. Nietzsche was angered with his atheistic colleagues who were unwilling to dismiss traditional moral absolutes which had no justification without God’s existence.4
Nietzsche preached that a group of “supermen” must arise with the courage to create their own values through their “will to power.” Nietzsche rejected the “soft” values of Christianity (brotherly love, turning the other cheek, charity, compassion, etc.); he felt they hindered man’s creativity and potential. He recommended that the supermen create their own “hard” values that would allow man to realize his creative potential.5 Nietzsche was very consistent with his atheism. He realized that without God, there are no universal moral values. Man is free to create his own values. It is interesting to note that the Nazis often referred to Nietzsche’s writings for the supposed intellectual justification for their acts of cruelty.6
Many other atheists agree with Nietzsche concerning moral relativism. British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) once wrote, “Outside human desires there is no moral standard.”7 A. J. Ayer believed that moral commands did not result from any objective standard above man. Instead, Ayer stated that moral commands merely express one’s subjective feelings. When one says that murder is wrong, one is merely saying that he or she feels that murder is wrong.8 Jean-Paul Sartre, a French existentialist, believed that there is no objective meaning to life. Therefore, according to Sartre, man must create his own values.9
There are many different ways that moral relativists attempt to determine what action should be taken. Hedonism is probably the most extreme. It declares that whatever brings the most pleasure is right. In other words, if it feels good, do it.10 If this position is true, then there is no basis from which to judge the actions of Adolph Hitler as being evil.11
Utilitarianism teaches that man should attempt to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people.12 Utilitarianism is problematic. First, “good” is a meaningless term if moral relativism is true, for then there would be no such thing as good or evil. Second, to say that man “should” do something is to introduce a universal moral command. However, there is no room for universal moral commands in moral relativism.13
Joseph Fletcher founded “situation ethics.” Situation ethics is the view that ethics are relative to the situation. Fletcher claimed that he was not a moral relativist. He believed that there was only one moral absolute: love. Still, his concept of love was so void of meaning that his view of ethics, for all practical purposes, is synonymous with moral relativism.14
The situation never determines what is right. It is God who determines what is right. Still, the situation may aid the Christian in finding which of God’s laws should be applied.15 For when two of God’s commands come in conflict due to a situation so that a person cannot obey both, God requires that the person obey the greater command. God then exempts the person from obeying the lesser command. An example of this is the fact that god compliments Rahab the Harlot for lying in order to save two innocent lives (Joshua 2; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).16
Moral relativists deny absolute moral law. Still, they, like all people, recognize the evil actions of others when they are wronged. When they are wronged, they appeal to an objective and universal law that stands above man. Moral relativists deny absolute moral law in the lecture hall, but they live by it in their everyday lives.17 Moral relativists reserve the right for themselves to call the actions of Hitler wrong,18 but, if there is no such thing as right and wrong (as the moral relativists say), they cannot really call any action wrong.
The moral law does not ultimately come from within each individual, for then no one could call the actions of another, such as Hitler, evil.19 The moral law does not ultimately come from each society, for then one society could not call the actions of another society (such as Nazi Germany) wrong.20 Finally, the moral law does not ultimately come from world consensus,21 for world consensus is often wrong. World consensus once thought the world was flat. World consensus once considered slavery morally permissible.
Appealing to world or societal consensus as the ultimate source of the moral law is actually just an extension of the view that the individual is the ultimate source. The difference is only quantitative (the number of people increases). However, for there to be a moral law above all men (in order to judge all men), this moral law must be qualitatively above all men. If there is an absolute moral law qualitatively above all men, then there must be an absolute moral law Giver that stands qualitatively above all men. The moral law is not descriptive of what is; it is prescriptive of what should be.22
Since the absolute moral law leads directly to the existence of the theistic God (the absolute moral law Giver), many atheists and pantheists may feel compelled to reject it’s existence. Also, people who wish to live promiscuous lives often choose to reject God’s existence. The apostle John appears to be talking about these people:
And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed (John 3:19-20).