The commentary below was a response I wrote to an article entitled “Science and religion: God didn’t make man; man made gods” which originally ran as an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times (July 18, 2011) and was republished by the Lexington Herald-Leader (July 20, 2011). Citing recent research that supposedly unravels religion’s “DNA,” the article by J. Anderson Thomson and Clare Aukofer argued that man invented gods because we needed them and that faith in the supernatural is just another evolutionary adaptation to help us survive. I wrote the Herald-Leader editor and asked if they would publish a rebuttal, and they agreed, but gave me only 700 words. You can read it along with all the reader comments (72 comments at the time of posting) here. The version below is the full version not edited by the paper to make it fit, along with some other expanded content that I included after reading some of the responses to my commentary. I would love to hear your comments.
Imagine a world without religion.
That’s what Thomson and Aukofer, the writers of the recent article “God Didn’t Make Man; Man Made Gods,” ask us to do. Then they point to several radical, negative examples, such as Osama bin Laden, in an attempt to write off all religion.
OK, let’s imagine life with no religion. Most hospitals wouldn’t exist. Many of the best universities in the world wouldn’t exist. Many of the charities. Perhaps even the United States themselves. All these institutions and many more were founded in the name of religion, namely Christianity. If this kind of selective thinking is the basis of the so-called scientific research that Thomson and Aukofer offer as evidence that man created God, then I put little credibility in their conclusions.
There’s nothing wrong with their scientific methods and observations. It’s the conclusions that are wrong, because they filter their results through the assumptions of the theory of evolution. For example, some of their research found that humans have an innate need for attachment and for protectors. Since the writers begin with the assumption of evolution, they interpret this as evidence that humans created “super parents”—gods—to help them cope. But if you begin with an assumption that the Bible is true, the same experiments would support the Scriptures’ truth that man was created in the image of God. God wants fellowship. That’s why He created us. He wired us with the need to live in community and in families. And He built into each one of us a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill.
Take another one of their findings: that even infants have a built-in sense of morality, an “evolved” trait, they assume. Yet the Bible tells us in Romans and other places that God built into each of us a sense of right and wrong—a conscience—that points us to God. It’s one of the ways He has revealed Himself to us.
My point is that there’s nothing wrong with their empirical evidence. It’s their interpretation that’s wrong. They come to erroneous conclusions because their presuppositions come from their authority—the unproven theory of evolution. Christians come to different conclusions because our presuppositions come from our authority—God’s Word.
Even their overarching proposition fails to pass the logic test. On one hand they say faith is a bad thing for the human race. But their argument wouldn’t pass a freshman logic course. Because on the other hand they argue: Evolved traits make creatures more fit to survive. Faith evolved. So the only logical conclusion is that faith is something that makes us more fit, a good thing for humans.
It’s beyond the scope of this letter to debate the shortcomings of the theory of evolution, but my point is that all science—properly interpreted—supports God’s Word.
There are limits to what knowledge can be obtained and proven using reason and empirical evidence. History can’t be proven this way. And supernatural truth cannot be proven this way. Therefore, the man who says he will only believe what passes the judgment bar of human reason and empirical science is selling himself short. There is much more to God’s universe than that.
Of course, I could rehearse all the classic philosophical arguments for the existence of God—the cosmological argument that says there must be a first cause: God. Evolution and science don’t explain the existence of matter. Faith in God does.
There’s the teleological argument: The world is highly complex and organized. Take the human eyeball, for example. Like a fine watch, something that intricate argues for a Designer, not something that fell together in time as the result of a series of birth defects/mutations. From galaxies to solar systems to eyeballs to atoms, there is so much order and complexity in the universe that it takes much more faith to swallow the theory of happy accidents (evolution) than that the Supreme Being designed it all.
There’s not space here to go through all the arguments for God. And there’s really little point. God has revealed Himself clearly to us through His Word—the Bible, through creation, through our conscience, through history, and supremely through His Son, Jesus Christ.
In fact, no man can with intellectual integrity truly claim to be an absolute atheist. An absolute atheist says that God does not exist. But what man would claim to possess 100% of all possible knowledge? Say you claim to know even 50 percent (quite presumptuous). You would still have to admit that God might exist in the portion of knowledge that you do not have. Therefore, there are no true atheists, only agnostics, who can truthfully only say, “I’m not sure if God exists.”
If you’re not sure, then you should look in places in which reason and empirical evidence do not shed light. That is faith. Science has limits. It says, “Seeing is believing.” Faith has no limits, because it says, “Believing is seeing.”
My commentary generated a lively online discussion. And after reading the reader comments on the Herald-Leader website, I was surprised by two things: 1) The high number of people who commented. In less than 48 hours, the story had 72 comments. I read the Herald-Leader online most every day, and that’s a lot for a piece that was practically buried on the op-ed page. 2) How overwhelmingly negative the comments were: 3:1 negative to positive. I had imagined that my fellow Christians, also angered by the original article that attempted to dismiss God as a mutation of our imagination, would flock to my defense. After all, Kentucky is still in the Bible belt, isn’t it? Or have we loosened our belt? Anyway, of the 72 comments to date, 48 were against me, 16 for me, and 8 were neutral or no particular position. And of the 16 in support of me, probably half were from my daughter Ginger who loyally–and quite articulately–defended her Daddy and her Heavenly Daddy.
I don’t have the time to respond to every comment, but most were centered around the same themes anyway. So after reading all the comments, here are my observations and rebuttals:
1. I’m amazed at how militant self-proclaimed atheists are about their, uh, beliefs (?), uh, non-belief (?). You would expect an evangelical Christian to be passionate and proselytizing. After all, we sincerely believe that Jesus is the only way to avoid an eternity in hell, and we are commanded and compelled to rescue as many people as possible from the burning building. But why does an atheist care what anyone else believes? If they truly believe there is no God, what difference does it make to them if I believe? I don’t care if a child believes in the tooth fairy. The fact that atheists are getting more and more militant about their worldview and more and more antagonistic toward Christians is characteristic of the “New Atheism,” led by “the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism,” Christopher Hitchens (who several readers mentioned), Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. These four men have recently published best-selling books on atheism. If you’re looking for a concise primer on New Atheism, I can highly recommend Atheism Remix by Dr. Al Mohler.
2. I’m amused that evolutionists have such a huge blind spot when it comes to seeing that they, too, are “believers” in a faith system. They think their system is based on facts, but the mysteries of the universe are so vast, and all they have are a few random puzzle pieces for which they have extrapolated a fanciful theory, filled in with broad presuppositions and conjecture. Science hasn’t even begun to answer fundamental questions, such as “Where did matter and energy come from in the first place?” Nor specific questions, such as “Why are there no transitional fossils?” The mysteries of life forms are mind-boggling. Scientists cannot begin to create life in a laboratory. How can they be so sure they have figured out how life formed in the beginning? That’s true arrogance. And that’s true faith—in science fiction. I’ve often said that it takes more faith to believe that a fine-tuned athlete like John Wall (brain, senses, muscles all coordinated perfectly) just fell together through a series of accidents, than it does to believe that a Creator designed him. Yes, evolutionists live by faith, too.
3. I’m annoyed that that so many readers are putting their faith in the fact that 99% (or whatever number they happened to pull out of their hat) of scientists believe in evolution, so that makes it true. Truth isn’t true because of popular vote. If it is, then I’d like to turn that on them and say, OK, Christianity is true because more people follow Christianity than any other faith system, including atheism. Christianity is true because it is fact. Many readers don’t get that. They think that faith and fact are two separate worlds. Nonsense. The Bible is true because it is fact. And faith follows fact. You don’t commit intellectual suicide to become a believer. You can read much more about this in excellent books such as Josh McDowell’s, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Lee Strobel’s The Case for…series. Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis resources. The Bible stands up to any truth test.
- The Internal Evidence Test: The Bible has complete unity among 66 books written by 40 authors over 1,500 years in two continents and three languages. The only explanation is that there is one ‘Publisher.” God. There’s much more evidence, such as the more than 300 prophecies that were fulfilled by Christ.
- The External Evidence Test: Ancient historians and modern archeologists have confirmed the historical accuracy of the Scriptures. The Bible is scientifically accurate, too. After all, it was written by the One Who created the world and science. Two millennia before scientists discovered that they were wrong all along about the earth being flat, Isaiah wrote, “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…” (Isaiah 40:22). How did Isaiah know the earth was a circle? Because God inspired him to write it. God wrote the Bible. He knows a little more about the world than scientists. Is it possible that today’s scientists just could be just as wrong about evolution and the big bang?
- The Bibliographic Test: The Bible is supported by more manuscripts by far than any other piece of literature from antiquity. The New Testament has 24,633 extant manuscripts. 2nd place: Homer’s Illiad with 643.
What’s my bottom line in all this? It’s this. The authors of that original article, God didn’t make man; man made gods are partially right—man has made a lot of gods (little “g’). They’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden. And man himself is the chief of all these gods. All man-made gods have one thing in common: they are made in the image of man. As I’ve studied the man-made gods of ancient cultures (Roman, Greek, Sumerian, etc.), I’ve observed that they are all made in the image of their creator—man—with the same attributes as man. They’re petty, jealous, bitter, unforgiving, and on and on—just like man. And salvation always comes the same way. Man makes a way to God. The atheists are right: man is better off without these gods.
Only one God is different. The true God, the God of the Bible, Yahweh, the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. He is not made in the image of man. He is all-loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving. And instead of man finding a way to God, God came to man in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s what sets Christianity apart from all the other religions. “Religion” is man striving, climbing a mountain to find God. Christianity is God coming down the mountain—Mt. Calvary—to save man. That’s no man-made God.
So take your pick. God, Who made man in His image. Or man, who made god in his image. God, Who came to man. Or man, who tries to make it to god. As for me, I’m not smart enough to make a god. But I’m too smart to ignore the God Who made me.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 53:1)
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)