YGod #2 - Arguing for the existence of bread

REZ Adult Forum Class;  YGod?  Week 2
August 24, 2014   -   Fr. Phil Eberhart
Title:  Arguing for the Existence of Bread
"I guess you could say I lost the last remnants of my faith
 in God during biology class in high school."
(Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, 89)

A great deal of ink has been spilled on the subject of the existence of God, or on proofs for the existence of God. From ancient philosophers to modern apologists, the argument continues to develop , and most recently has turned to elements of the design as some of the best proof for a Designer.

Our title this morning is  "Arguing for the existence of bread!"  Of course, we are using a simplistic example to argue from design to designer, or in this case from the design through the function to the bread!  Imagine a culture in which bread is unknown and imagine the reaction of such a culture to a toaster.  What could it be for? And what could fit in those slots?  Where do we begin?

We must begin with faith, where we were last week.  The apprehension of God is always "by faith."  Jesus was quite clear that all the disciples had was a "little" faith, in fact, he said that faith the size of a "grain of mustard seed" would move mountains!  So perhaps, faith, is the most potent and explosive power in the known universe!  We do know that God does not reveal himself to us without faith, and what we have of that, He gives us.  Our most powerful prayer then is perhaps, "Lord, help my unbelief!"

Philosophical arguments are only effective for those whose predisposition is to consider evidence and change their position.  Precious few actually are ready to do that in response to philosophical or even evidentiary arguments.  Most need to become a part of a community to explore the claims of Jesus and to talk about what they might mean, if true.  The ALPHA Course is a wonderful way to address this need and to bring people into a real conversation.

Also before you can talk about "knowing," it is helpful to talk about how we "know" something ... anything!!  Certainty is something that is frowned upon in our world and culture, especially the "post-modern" culture.  This disposition is an offshoot of the relativistic humanism that has been bottle-fed to us from earliest ages - from the children's comic strips and TV's cartoon culture, to post-graduate educational institutions, the teaching abounds that what we know is our own, and only our own.  It is shaped by our experience and captured from our upbringing, but it is ours and no one else's.  There is little room today for what some call, "Public Truth" or "Absolute" Truth; that is, truth that is true for all people, in all places, across all of time.  Another place we don't go is to "Revealed" Truth.  Pilate may have been being prophetic when he asked the question of the ages, "What is Truth?"

Hebrew and Greek have different words for different kinds of "knowing."  One for what we might call "head" knowledge - book learning - and another for "heart" knowledge - experiential and applied knowledge.  I am convinced that the kind God is after in us, is the later.  I myself had plenty of the former for many years as a good "church" kid in Eastern Colorado, but the "penny" made the 18" drop (head to heart) when I met someone who possessed a different kind of knowing - having experienced God's redemptive grace in a jail cell and having been captured by God's love and grace!

Our hope in this course, and my hope with this lesson is to give us both the head knowledge and the heart application, so as to lead each of you to a place of understanding and meaningful action on that understanding of the Gospel.  So let us turn to the facts of the case:

"Why is there something, rather than nothing?"

The question of "being" - of existence is the first question that we must ask.  Almost unanimously philosophers and theologians since the 17th century have been asking this question.  Whatever exists that had a beginning, must have a cause!  Pure and simple. So what is the cause of this universe, all that we see and hear and touch and smell - all that we know of life on this planet, has a cause.  But what is it?  Without God in the equation, we are left with randomness and chance, which actually take more "faith" than to believe in God!

And modern science has actually added weight to the cosmological argument for God by its discoveries of the Big Bang for instance.  The order of the universe - its "laws" and "constants" - the fact that the world we live on is balanced "on a razor's edge" in such finely tuned balance that even .01% of variation would destroy life on this planet as we know it. What must we make of such finely tuned precision in the universe and especially on Planet Earth, in order to sustain life.  Accident?  Or planned?

The evidence of astronomy, according to leading NASA scientist, Dr. Robert Jastrow, "leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world."  (Kumar)   Apparently biblical writers were correct!

                   "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they   display knowledge"      (Ps 19:1,2)

                   "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he humself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 'For in him we live and move and have our being'"     (Acts 17:24, 25, 28)

"I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos!"   (Albert Einstein)

As mentioned above, the order of the universe, is a big problem for those who propose randomness and chance or chaos as a creative power.  Every where we see evidence of design, order, purpose, beauty and complexity.  Sir Isaac Newton, on seeing the evidence of intricate order and complexity in the universe said, "When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light.  This did not happen by chance!" He continued,"This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being ...    This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called 'Lord God'  PANTOKRATOR, or Universal Ruler .... The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect.  (Principia III; Newton's Philosophy of Nature: Selections)

The Anthropic Principle
The universe seems to be designed for life!  And of course, the only life we know of, is here!  The evidence is minute and it is immense: 

         *   The "electromagnetic coupling constant" that binds atoms together.  The slightest variation in the  
               constant and we would not have atoms as we know them.

         *   The "ratio of electron to proton mass (1:1,836).   Larger or smaller?  No molecules!

         *   Carbon and Oxygen nuclei have finely tuned energy levels

         *   Electromagnetic and gravitational forces are constants that are finely tuned, so our world is stable in its 
                orbit as are other stars.

         *   Our sun is the right color!  Redder or bluer, less photosynthesis.

         *   Our sun is also the right mass.  Larger?  Too much high energy radiation.  Smaller?  the range of 
                planetary distances would be too narrow to support life.

         *   Earth's distance from the sun is crucial for a stable water cycle.  Too far?  water freezes.  Too close?  
               it boils!

         *   The Earth's gravity, axial tilt, rotation period, magnetic fields, crust thickness, oxygen/nitrogen ratio, 
               carbon dioxide, water vapor and ozone levels all tuned!

Paul Davies, head of theoretical physics at U. of Adelaide, Australia said, " ... the seemingly miraculous concurrence of these numerical values must remain the most compelling evidence for cosmic design." (God and the New Physics, 1983, p. 189)   Who in his right mind would think that an explosion in a London print shop produced the Oxford Dictionary?  Frank Borman, Apollo 8 astronaut who orbited the moon, when asked if he had seen God, said, "No, I did not see Him either, but I saw his evidence."

As the Psalmist David wrote, "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands." (Ps. 102:25)

Design of Life
Modern molecular biology has greatly reinforced the argument from design.  Darwin could not dream of the microscopic design, but he anticipated such a reality when he said that in the presence of "irreducible complexity" his theory would begin to break down.  In his book, Darwin's Black Box, molecular biologist Michael Behe explores just such complexity in the design of molecular "motors" in the body and at the cellular level.  It is striking how complex these things are, and it is clear that they could NOT have evolved step by step.  They had to be present, fully functional all at once, for life to flourish.  And we have discovered not only the machines but the instruction manual for them:  DNA.  

"There is enough storage capacity in a single cell to store the Encyclopedia Britannica, all of it, 30 volumes of it, three or four times over!"  (noted atheist, Richard Dawkins)  In modern storage capacity terminology, we all have about 3 Gigabites in each cell!  There are roughly a hundred trillion cells in the human body!  (Stunned silence is appropriate!)  Interestingly this information is readable.  It is a genetic language (actually multiple languages).  The problem is that even the instructions for building the readers are themselves stored in the genetic code.  So which came first, the code or the reader?  Chicken or the egg?  Paul Davies again chimes in and asks, "How did stupid atoms spontaneously write their own software?  Nobody knows ... there is no known law of physics able to create information from nothing."


And so we come finally, to our own moral experience.  Morality is an essential part of our humanity.  Immanuel Kant proposed the argument for God's existence called "the moral argument."  He equated the moral law within, to the starry heavens above!  So, if God exists, we would naturally expect his creation to reflect his moral values.  Every day we observe this reality in our condemnation of racism, rape, violence, child abuse and exploitation, war, corruption murder, treason, betrayal, abortion and so forth - all behaviors we deem "evil" and wrong.  Moral standards of behavior are universal, to the point that it is noted when they are not present!  

CS Lewis writes, "If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilized morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality."  Once we say there is a difference, we are applying a standard.  The question is then, 'are our moral values merely sociological constructs; conventions of society for its own well being?  If so then they are not absolute in any way, able to vary from culture to culture.  But the fact is that morals are not descriptive of our state of being, they are prescriptive - something we should do.  Moral consciousness is not a physical reality, but it applies to all that we do!  

The point of the argument is that our moral experience points to a transcendent God!  In the way that an empty toaster, points to the existence of bread, we have no logical argument apart from the shape of this "hole" in our lives.  Elton Trueblood puts it this was, "the recognition of an objective moral law drives us to the belief in God." (Philosophy of Religion, 1957, p. 115)  


The greatest evidence for the existence of God is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's Son!  An examination of facts regarding Jesus will often bring one to understand that he is no "mere man."  Jesus is a fact of history - no serious skeptic refutes that. But what of his life, his teachings, his claims?  Jesus cannot "be explained by any humanistic system.  He does not fit into any theory of natural evolution, for in that case the perfect flower of humanity should have appeared at the end of human history, and not in the middle of it."  St. Anselm looked at his teaching and logic and commented, "Jesus is either God or he is not good."  CS Lewis likewise argues:
          "The discrepancy between the depth and sanity ... of His moral teaching and the rampant megalomania which must lie behind His theological teaching unless HE IS INDEED GOD, has never been satisfactorily explained.  Hence the non-Christian hypotheses succeed one another with the restless fertility of bewilderment."  

In the weeks to come we will look much closer at the claims of Jesus and the accounts of his resurrection.  These things are absolutely unique among the claims of all the religious founders of the world.  If we reject his claims then we must account for his resurrection.  And the evidence here is almost insurmountable!  Stay tuned as we look at these and other arguments, proofs and truth claims in the weeks to come.

Questions for consideration:

Of the four categories of evidence presented which do you find most compelling and why?

Have you studied or read materials on Evolution and how do you see the overlap between evolution and creation?

"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."  Where does this scripture come from and what does it mean in your experience?

(NOTE:  This lesson is largely a distillation of Steve Kumar's work in Christianity for Skeptics, Chapter One "Does God Exist?"
Week 2 - YGod Class Notes:  Arguing for the existence of Bread.                                           
Aug 24, 2014
Fr. Philip Eberhart, Resurrection Anglican Fellowship

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