Can the claims of the Bible withstand rigorous objections? Among the objections offered to the existence of God are 5 seemingly insurmountable ones for any who claim there is a God. These 5 best objections to God have rocked the faith of the faithful and steeled the resolve of atheists. But just before the Court of Public Opinion pronounces its divinely fatal verdict, the case for the defence of the Divine is granted the right of reply. Here’s a reminder of the Prosecutor’s case against God…
The Prosecution brings out its big guns from the outset: there is no proof for God. They hardly need any more evidence against God. If there is a God – where is the proof?! After all, if the evidence for God was so clear, then no-one could doubt God’s existence. But people do doubt God’s existence because the proof is lacking, they argue. Besides, it is not possible to provide any logical reasons for God existence because “God” is a matter of faith and everyone knows that faith is the opposite to reason!
As the Prosecution, feeling confident that they have delivered a knock-out blow, take their seat as the Defense takes to their feet. Unwittingly, the Prosecution has committed a huge blunder. It is a blunder that the philosophically untrained, such as many Zoologists, commit regularly. The Defense is about to show why.
The Prosecution has used two faulty arguments, claims the Defense. Dealing with the second one first, the Prosecution has used an incorrect definition of faith. They have mistakenly defined “faith” as belief without evidence. That is, if there is no factual evidence for something, then a person is left to accept it on faith. But this is not what faith is. Faith is akin to trust. Trust is based on a certain set of acquired facts. I trust my wife, not because I don’t have any evidence to do so – but precisely because I do!
In this proper understanding of faith, reason is the basis for faith – not the opposite of it.
¶ Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
No one puts their faith in anything without a reason for doing so. When Christians profess faith in God it is not because their is no evidence or reason for trusting God, but the contrary. But what is this evidence? Where is this “proof”? The Defence moves to respond to the Prosecution’s first argument: Proof!?
The Prosecution’s first blunder, says the Defense, is that it has used an inadequate understanding of the word: proof. It has assumed that the only valid kind of proof is that which can be validated mathematically or scientifically. “But is this statement true?” asks the Defense. “After all, this statement can not validated by mathematics or science!” Proof must be appropriate to the type of claim. Proof only needs to be sufficient, not certain, nor exhaustive. The Defense reminds the Jury that in this court cases are decided on the basis of the evidence being beyond all reasonable doubt.
“…the New Atheists regard faith as a peculiarly religious term (which it isn’t) and they define it to be belief without evidence (which it isn’t). This inveitably leads them to another serious error – thinking that neither atheism nor science involves faith. Yet the irony is that atheism is a ‘faith position’, and science itself cannot do without faith.”
Prof. John C. Lennox, “GUNNING FOR GOD”, Lion Hudson, 2011
A test-tube can be used to “prove” certain things, but it cannot be used to prove all things. Mathematics can be used to prove some things, but it can not be used to prove most things. As Professor John C. Lennox says-
“I cannot mathematically ‘prove’ to you that my wife loves me. However, with the cumulative evidence of over forty years of marriage, I would stake my life on it.”
Prof. John Lennox, “GUNNING FOR GOD”, pg. 51
The Defense points out that the claim of God’s existence is a certain type of claim that requires appropriate and sufficient evidence. Geographical claims can be validated with maps. Historical claims can be validated with eye witness testimony. Distance claims can be validated with a tape measure. Spiritual claims can be validated (or falsified) by other means (most powerfully by consistent human experience ~ “An ounce of experience will always beat a ton of argument“). But when spiritual claims intersect physical claims, such as the arguments for God (in a similar manner to a cause and an effect) there are certain means to validate such claims. These means include-
(a) inference to the best explanation;
(b) resonance with the facts;
(c) universal human testimony; and,
(d) the accumulation of consistently supportive data.
The Prosecution jumps to their feet and objects by repeating their claim that there is no proof for God. The Objection is sustained and the Defense is instructed to produce this evidence in line with the four means of validating a spiritual-intersecting-the-physical claim.
Without fluster, the Defense resumes their presentation and introduces what will be five immediate proofs which comply with the four means of establishing such a claim as God’s existence.
The Defense reminds the court that every effect requires a cause, and that every cause must logically be distinct from, and greater to, it’s effect. If we hear a knock at the door we don’t assume that the knock knocked itself! Since we have reasonable certainty that the Big Bang actually happened, and marks the beginning of space/time/energy/matter, it is very reasonable to assume that the Big Bang must have had a Big Banger! The Prosecution rises again to their feet and objects- “A Multiverse explains away the need for a cause for our universe!” The Defense anticipates this objection and reiterates that even a possible Multiverse is an effect that must have had a cause outside of itself. Therefore, either way, the cause must be beyond space/time/energy/matter (that is: it must be omnipresent, eternal, omnipotent, and immaterial). Whatever, or whoever, this might be is who we generally consider “God” to be.
The Judge reminds the Defense that he can not base his defense on a single strand of evidence. Your Honor, there’s more. The Universe displays thoughtful and artistic design that could only originate from a being with personality and a mind (intellect).
The Universe is equisitely fine-tuned to make human life possible. Imagine if you will, invites the Defense, that you randomly pull in to a motel for a night without booking. Upon arrival, you are taken to a room that jut happens to be your favourite number. Entering the room you smell your favourite fragrance. You then notice that the decor is in your favourite colours. Opening the refrigerator you see complimentary bars of your favourite chocolate and bottles of your favourite drink. As you turn you see on the wall a painting – but not just any painting – this is a painting of your favourite childhood hangout. Then on your bed you see a note addressed to you welcoming you to this motel and hoping you enjoy your stay. Would you consider this just a strange set of coincidences? In mentioning these 7 or so finely-tuned delights, it would be reasonable to assume that someone knew you were coming and that someone also knew something about you.
“According to the research data, an astronomical body capable of supporting human beings and equipping them to launch and sustain a global high-technology civilization demands at least 10700 times more fine-tuning precision than is necessary for support of ephemeral simple life. To put this number (10700) into perspective, the total number of protons and neutrons in the entire observable universe amounts to 1079.”
Dr. Hugh Ross, “WHY THE UNIVERSE IS THE WAY IT IS”, Baker Books, 2008, page 123
To put Dr. Ross’s quote differently, our life can only happen if there are at least 1200 categories of “just right” precision in place simultaneously! This includes the details of our planet’s size, mass and location; the location of the other planets in our solar system; the placement of our solar system in our galaxy; the size, mass, and distance of our moon in relation to our planet; the size, mass and distance of our sun to our planet; the tilt, axis, rotation, and orbit of our planet in relation our sun and within our solar system; the composition of our atmosphere; the states and placement of water around the globe; the tectonic plates that release pressure in the earth’s crust and distribute nutrients back through the world’s water-ways; microbial ecosystems; and more.
The appearance of design in our Universe is generally not disputed, the Defense points out to the court room that there is barely any Scientists who do not acknowledge at least the appearance of design in our Universe. But the Defense’s arguments now go beyond the mere appearance of Design in our Universe – and entail the exquisite fine-tuning and symbiotic nature of these Design features.
“Natural selection is supposed to proceed by undirected small modifications, one bit at a time, but the living cell has turned out to be a maze of molecular machines, in many of which the parts interact in such a way that unless all of them are present at once, the machine either doesn’t work right or doesn’t work at all.”
Dr. Michael Behe, “Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge To Evolution” (New York, Free Press, 1997) Link
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely breakdown.”
Charles Darwin, “The Origin of The Species”, 6th ed., New York University Press (reprinted from 1872) 1988, page 154
The Prosecution senses that they have lost their initial momentum and is invited to continue to present their case against God. They willingly proceed in the hope that the Jury does not ponder for too long the savage blow that the Defense has just dealt them. What the Prosecution was unaware of was that the Defense had not exhausted their rebuttal. They still had another three categories of proof to offer as evidence for God (The Moral Argument; The Resurrection of Christ; The Testability of the claims of the Bible for personal experience).
If this God is so good and powerful, the Prosecution rhetorically asks, then why is there is the evil, suffering, tragedy and death in the world?! After all, if God is really good He wouldn’t want these things in His world, would He(?)! Staring down the Defense, the Prosecution delivers a powerful verbal blow: But maybe He’s not really “good”? And if He is All-Powerful, then surely He could stop such unecessary things(?)! But maybe He’s not really All-Powerful? So which is it, asks the Prosecution, is God not really good or is He good but not really All-Powerful?! And if He’s neither good nor all-powerful then He can hardly be “God” can He!!!
The court room is now hushed by this powerful and seemingly unanswerable conundrum for the Theist Defense team.
The Defense senses the weight of this argument on most in the court room. Many of those watching and participating in these proceedings have lost loved ones or had family members experience trauma. How can the Defense possibly respond to this apparent slam-dunk argument?
If there is no God, then words such as “evil”, “suffering”, “tragedy” become meaningless because they have no ultimate standard of comparison. To an around-the-world yachtsman, who wins his race by days, one second is not “a long time”. But to an Olympic 100 metre sprinter competing for the Gold Medal in his race, one second is most certainly “a long time”. The same could be said for this colour, as the Defense holds up a large white card. It appears to be white. The Defense then holds up another card and holds it along side the original card. This new card now makes the original card seem beige rather than white. Without a reference point for Ultimate and Objective “good” we can not regard anything as “evil”, “suffering” or “tragedy”. Rather than the acknowledged presence of evil, suffering and tragedy being an argument against God, it is actually a powerful argument for God.
But the Defense recognizes that their argument, although a surprisingly effective rebuttal to the Prosecution’s case, isn’t quite resonating with those who have felt the sting of evil in their own world. But your Honour, the Prosecution has not really asked the appropriate question when it comes to evil, suffering or tragedy. There are two much better questions that should be asked about God and evil in the world.
Firstly, could a morally good God have a morally good reason to allow evil, suffering or tragedy? Many of those in the court room reflect on how the years that have followed their painful experience have given them a different perspective from their original viewpoint of bitterness. They could now see that they are a better person for having gone through what they’ve gone through – maybe a morally good God could have a morally good reason to allow evil after all.
Secondly (and a far more pastoral question) instead of asking how could a good and all-powerful God allow evil in the world, a better question is: What has a good and all-powerful God done about evil, suffering, and tragedy in the world? To this question, the Defense points out, the Christian has a ready answer – God has entered into it and experienced it and conquered it so that all those who put their trust in Him will enjoy a life after this one where there will be no more evil, suffering, or tragedy anymore. This is what Jesus the Christ did. Christianity regards God as always acting for the highest morally good outcome. “All things work out together for good for those who love Him” wrote the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:28). The Christian does not regard tragedy as pointless. God often brings about an unforeseen morally good outcome from the midst of evil, suffering and tragedy. In fact, central to the Christian message is this fact: Jesus the Christ came and lived as one of us, experienced the greatest evil ever perpetrated, suffered more than any other person ever has or could, and was the victim of the greatest injustice and tragedy the world has ever known – yet, from this, He achieved the means for the salvation of any person who would receive it.
The Prosecution didn’t expect that its two biggest arguments would fall as flat as they now obviously had. Fortunately for them, their next argument was almost irrefutable for their case against God.
There is no absolute proof for God, states the Prosecution. For a matter of such immense importance isn’t strange that we can not be certain whether there is a God?! Your Honor, we can be certain about such trivial matters as 2 plus 2 equals 4, or that water boils at 100 centagrade. Yet we cannot be certain about the existence of God! If God’s existence was so obvious then surely we could be certain about it! The Jury seems moved by this simple case. The Judge invites the Defense to respond.
The Defense glances at the Jury. They are obviously swayed by this simple Prosecution argument. Ladies and gentlemen, how do we know anything? There are some things we can accept even though we do not have absolute certainty about them. Similarly, we may apprehend something sufficiently without comprehending it. Most people don’t understand the physics of alternating electrical current and why it causes the reaction it does to human physiology – but nearly everyone with electricity apprehends that if you put a metal object into a power outlet while holding it with your bare hands, you will get an electrical shock!
Can we be certain that God exists? Yes, we can be sufficiently certain. Your Honour, can the Prosecution be absolutely certain that God does not exist? I think not. The appeal to reject something because there is not absolute certainty is only reasonable if it can be shown that a contradictory concept is more probable. Some have argued that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. But this is false. Extraordinary claims only need what any claim needs to be validated: sufficient proof. When it comes to the claim that there is a God, there is ample sufficient evidence to validate this claim – some of which have already been stated here.
“I object your Honour!” interjects the Prosecution, “I do have contradictory evidence that makes God’s existence less probable!”
The Prosecution continues, “The Defense has claimed that God is needed to explain how the Universe and life came into existence. But this is just nonsense! Science has given us the answers to how the Universe came into being and how life is assembled. Religion is for the unreasonable. Science is for those who embrace reason. Your Honour, Science has given us rational, reasonable explanations about the world in which we live and this does not include myths and fables about tooth fairies, Easter Bunnies, Santa Claus, or God!”
The Prosecution’s argument was very familiar with those in the court room. It is repeated often in the popular media. Many University academics weave this into their lectures and writing. Populist intellectuals champion this argument in their ongoing war against the idea of God.
“How?” asks the Defense. The Prosecution is caught off guard. The Defense siezes the moment and drives home the counterpoint- “This claim is not a scientific claim – it’s a claim about Science.” If there are scientific proofs that show that God is not needed, what are they? Science has not shown how matter can be created from nothing. Back in the 1980s there was conjecture about matter appearing and disappearing at the sub-atomic level (“Vacuum Fluctuations”) but this was short-lived speculation dispelled by improved observation technology which showed that this was not the case. Coupled with this idea was the notion that between the particles of an atom there was “nothing” – a vacuum. But now we know that such space is rich with energy. It is not “nothing”.
Science has still not shown how life could self-assemble. Despite two international teams of researchers having worked for over a decade on this problem (the first is working on a “Top Down” model, and the other on a “Bottom Up” model), we are still no closer to being able to show that any life form could have ever self-assembled from inanimate products.
The idea that Science has disproved God is grounded in a Philosophy called Methodological Naturalism. This is the idea that everything can be explained naturally. That is, there is a physical reason for everything. Nothing that has happened or continues to happen is the result of anything other than something physical. But this is demonstrably untrue. Are our thoughts physical? We think and this results in neural signals being sent through our brains (not the other way around). In this instance there is something immaterial causing a material reaction. We feel happy (immaterial) and it releases endorphines (material) into our bodies.
Proposing that an immaterial God is the Author of all matter, and in particular “life”, is not unreasonablebut is surely the inference to the best explanation. Arguably, God as Creator is actually the most scientific explanation because it composits with all the data.
“Your Honour!” objects the Prosecution, “The Defense is basing their entire case on a disproven book! The Bible has been shown to be contradictory, nonsensical, fictional, and fabricated. In a world were superstition no longer has any place among rational people, we must surely consider a book which describes people being made from dust, snakes and donkeys talking, the sun stopping mid-sky, a man being swallowed by a whale, and people rising from the dead, as belonging to a by-gone era of superstitious myths and fables!”
The Prosecution looked straight at the Jury at this closing point was made. Some in the Jury were nodding in agreement. Surely the Prosecution had delivered a death-blow to any argument for God by showing that the Bible should be dismissed on rational grounds. Driving home the point, they continued-
“Your Honour, the Bible contains over 50,000 textual errors. How could the Bible be God’s infallible Word to mankind with so many errors?! Added to this is that we now know – the Bible was not even around before Emperor Constantine! We can’t even be sure that there ever actually was a Jesus! We have no contemporary historical evidence to show that he even existed!”
This set of claims is frequently bandied about. The Defence was ready for it though. Firstly, they responded by establishing when the Bible was written. They showed that the Old Testament of the Bible which describes the events before Christ came, were written between 1500 BC to around 390 BC. This has largely been validated by such archaeological discoveries as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The New Testament can be dated back to the mid-first century AD – not the fourth century AD. The world’s foremost New Testament Manuscript Scholar, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, points out that we have over 5,000 New Testament manuscripts which date from the Second Century A.D. and that we now have a fragment of a copy of the Gospel of Mark which dates to around 80 A.D. Since this is a copy, we can be confident that the originals must date earlier. Other New Testament scholars have noted that the most dramatic event of the second half of the First Century was the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. This happened in 70 A.D. when Caesar Vespasian’s troops, under the command of his son, co-Emperor Titus, sacked Jerusalem and destroyed its Temple brick by brick. Jesus prophesied in 30 A.D. that this would happen within the lifetime of His audience’s ‘generation’ (Biblically, 40 years). Yet the New Testament makes no reference to this happening. If the New Testament was written after 70 A.D. – yet makes no mention of this event – this would be like writing the history of New York in 2002 and not mentioning 9/11.
There is reasonable scientific validation for the Bible: Big Bang Cosmology is taught in the opening verse of the Bible; the inflationary/expanding universe is referred to in Psalm 104:2; the fossil record corresponds to the order of creation in Genesis 1; the Human Genome Code traces the origin of all humanity back to a single woman (“Mitachondial Eve”) and a single man (“Y Chromosomal Adam”) which matches Genesis 1 and 2; the formation of the continents and the establishment of diverse people groups is referred to in Genesis 10:25; and the fixed physical laws are mentioned in Jeremiah 33:25.
Added to this, there is not one credible Professor of History who would deny that Jesus Christ actually existed. He is referred to by First Century Jewish (Josephus) and Roman Historians (Tacitus, who published around 115) and identified in the Jewish Talmud as an actual person-
Jesus was born out of wedlock (Mishna Yebamoth 4,13) to His mother, Miriam, and her lover Pantera (Shabbat 104b). She is said to have been the descendant of princes and rulers, and to have played the harlot with a carpenter (Sanhedrin 106a). Jesus spent time in Egypt, from where He learned magic. He was a magician who deceived and led Israel astray. He mocked at the words of the wise, was tainted with heresy, and was thus excommunicated (Sanhedrin 107b). He called Himself God, also the Son of Man, and said that He would go up to heaven (Jerusalem Taanit 65a).
We have references by early Christian leaders to the 27 Books of the New Testament early in the Second Century, such as Irenaeus (130 – 200) [Cross, F. L. and E. A. Livingston, ed., “The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church“. Oxford: Oxford Press, 1974]. Later Church Councils ratified this List of New Testament Books (the “Canon”) because they were so unversally recognised as the complete list of inspired New Testament works.
In response to the Prosecution’s claim, arguably their central claim, that it is absurd that a man could rise again from the dead, the evidence for it is extremely reasonable. The death of Jesus the Christ was witnessed by many. No credible historian denies that Jesus Christ was executed. Yet, the evidence for His resurrection from the dead includes a simultaneous sighting by over 500 witnesses; the dramatic change in His formerly despondent disciples; the absence of the corpse; the preparedness of each witness to die cruel deaths because they refused to deny that saw the risen Jesus.
“Your Honour” the Defense continued, “I would argue that rather than the resurrection of Jesus Christ being an argument against God – I would argue that it is actually the most convincing argument forGod.” Every one of the Prosecution’s argument’s against God can readily be dismissed with a reasonable response. A wise man once said: A reasonable man is persuaded by a good argument. A skeptic is persuaded by proof. But a cynics will never change their mind.
Dr. Andrew Corbett