The Polemic Shot In the Foot

Ravi Zacharias 4

by Ravi Zacharias

Some time ago I was speaking at a university in England, when a rather exasperated person in the audience made his attack upon God.

“There cannot possibly be a God,” he said, “with all the evil and suffering that exists in the world!”

I asked, “When you say there is such a thing as evil, are you not assuming that there is such a thing as good?”

“Of course,” he retorted.

“But when you assume there is such a thing as good, are you not also assuming that there is such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to distinguish between good and evil?”

“I suppose so,” came the hesitant and much softer reply.

“If, then, there is a moral law,” I said, “you must also posit a moral lawgiver. But that is who you are trying to disprove and not prove. If there is no transcendent moral law giver, there is no absolute moral law. If there is no moral law, there really is no good. If there is no good there is no evil. I am not sure what your question is!”

There was silence and then he said, “What, then, am I asking you?”

He was visibly jolted that at the heart of his question lay an assumption that contradicted his own conclusion.

You see friends, the skeptic not only has to give an answer to his or her own question, but also has to justify the question itself. And even as the laughter subsided I reminded him that his question was indeed reasonable, but that his question justified my assumption that this was a moral universe. For if God is not the author of life, neither good nor bad are
meaningful terms.

This seems to constantly elude the critic who thinks that by raising the question of evil, a trap has been sprung to destroy theism. When in fact, the very raising of the question ensnares the skeptic who raised the question. A hidden assumption comes into the open. Moreover, as C. S. Lewis reminds us, the moment we acknowledge something as being “better”, we are committing ourselves to an objective point of reference.

The disorienting reality to those who raise the problem of evil is that the Christian can be consistent when he or she talks about the problem of evil, while the skeptic is hard-pressed to respond to the question of good in an amoral universe. In short, the problem of evil is not solved by doing away with the existence of God; the problem of evil and suffering must be
resolved while keeping God in the picture.

Copyright 2000 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)

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Inventing Our Own Rules

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No wonder there is so much emotional and relational emptiness. No wonder there is so much addiction and depression. If there is no purpose to life, then does it really matter what we do?… Our increasingly secular world wants to get rid of God and then act as if our lives still matter. But this is misguided. In fact, it’s like trying to play a game of Monopoly when people invent their own rules.

—Sean McDowell

The Mystery of Beauty

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Beauty touches something deep within us. It captivates and delights us. It is consoling, stunning, intriguing, inspiring, exhilarating. We recognize it. It arrests our attention.

But beauty is elusive.

We are unable to analyze, categorize or place beauty together with all the other topics that we study. Our attempts to describe it fail miserably; our definitions fall short. The greatest philosophers acknowledge that the best we can do is to recognize it when it is there. Beauty will not be explained or contained. It is real, it is wonderful—but it defies analysis.

Something similar happens with God.

Humans have an innate sense that he is there, but we cannot reduce him to a formula or an equation. We can worship or reject him, but we cannot fully explain him. It is a mistake to ask scientists to prove or disprove his existence. He does not reside within their field of study—and good science recognizes its limitations.

“The secret of beauty lies, not in its chemical analysis, but in another mysterious reality,” writes J. Warner Wallace. Science cannot explain why a certain combination of pigments on a canvas is beautiful. And it is incapable of unraveling the mystery of God. When science finishes explaining everything it will have explained nothing.

Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Wonder does not exist on the basis of rational explanations. It simply doesn’t work that way. It shows up unexpectedly and gives itself to those who are ready to be astonished. We are not about to figure out beauty and much less God—the source of all beauty—but they demand our attention. To ignore them is to be blind.

And to be fully alive involves responding to the awe-inspiring reality of both.

–J. O. Schulz

An Escape Mechanism

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The new Atheists quote Sigmund Freud, that God is a ‘wish fulfillment; a fictional father figure projected in the sky of our imagination and created by our desire for security.’ On this view, Heaven is an imaginary projection of our extinction and death. And religion is simply a psychological escape mechanism so that we don’t have to face life as it really is. Well, of course, that’s all true; provided only that God does not exist. But if God does exist, exactly the same Freudian argument will show you equally convincingly that it is atheism that is the flight from reality. A projection of the desire not to have to meet God one day and give account for your life. If God does exist, then atheism can easily be seen as a psychological escape mechanism; to avoid taking responsibility for one’s life.

–John Lennox

Wishful Thinking

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Sigmund Freud popularized the notion that belief in God is simply a projection of a deep-seated wish for protection, and that theists create God in their parent’s image. He insisted that God exists only in our minds, and he called upon people to grow up and give up the “fairy tales of religion.”

However, the wish-fulfillment argument works both ways. Who is to say that the atheist does not arrive at his belief in the non-existence of God because he wants no one to interfere with his life? He prizes his autonomy, and atheism appeals to his deep-seated wish to be left alone.

A person’s attitude toward God may well arise from a wish for or a wish against God’s existence.

And, far from ruling out the existence of something, “wishful thinking” may actually be evidence for its existence. C.S. Lewis argues: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Well known atheist, Stephen Hawking, declared, “Religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” It may well be the other way around—that atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light.

The refusal to acknowledge the existence of light does not remove the existence of the sun. We cannot blot it out. Those who dwell in darkness may choose to be obstinate, but it only makes the final inevitable encounter with reality highly unpleasant.

–J. O. Schulz