The topic of the Desiring God National Conference today through
Sunday is “The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life and Imagination in the Work of
C.S. Lewis.” You can view the schedule and watch any and all of the conference
for free online.
Joe Rigney, one of the speakers, has put together a book of
collected essays on his topic, Live
Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles. In the
introduction, he explains that good stories play a part in shaping a person’s
true perception of reality by developing a proper taste in the reader for the
good, the true, and the beautiful:
But it’s not enough to simply feel
something in response to the objective reality of the world. You must also feel
rightly and proportionately to the way the world is….
Aristotle says that the aim of
education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought [The Abolition of Man, p. 26].
These three realities form the
foundation of true education. They also shape the aim of education….
The little human animal will not
at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking,
disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable,
disgusting, and hateful [p. 26-27].
Following Plato, Lewis believed
that we ought to initiate the young into these right responses, even before
they are able to rationally understand or explain what they are feeling. The
goal of such inculcation of right responses is that, when a child raised in
this way grows up and encounters Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, he will welcome
them with open arms, because he has been prepared for, and indeed, resembles
Which brings us, finally, to the
function of the Narnian stories in Lewis’s vision of education. The Narnian
stories display through imaginative fiction and fairy tale the way that the
world really is. Here is courage and bravery in its shining glory. Here is
honesty and truth-telling in its simplicity and profundity. Here is treachery in
all its ugliness. Here is the face of Evil. Here also is the face of Good. A
child (or adult) who lives in such stories will have developed the patterns of
thought and affection that will be well-prepared to embrace the True, the Good,
and the Beautiful (that is, to embrace Jesus Christ) when he finally encounters
them (Him!). Like John the Baptist, Lewis and his cast of Narnians will have prepared
looks to be very interesting, with topics including C.S. Lewis and scientism, imagination
and theology, evil and suffering, discipleship, and even his friendship with
[Update: Watch the lecture given by Rigney at the conference.]
Richard Dawkins, the famous English evolutionary biologist and
renowned atheist, revived an objection related to God’s existence in his
book, The God Delusion. In the fourth chapter (Why There Almost
Certainly Is No God), Dawkins wrote, “[T]he designer hypothesis
immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The
whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining
statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate
something even more improbable.” In essence, Dawkins offered a
restatement of the classic question, “Who created God?” On its face,
this seems to be a reasonable question. Christians, after all, claim God
created everything we see in our universe (all space, time and matter);
He is the cause of our caused cosmos. Skeptics fail to
see this as a satisfactory explanation, however, because it seems to beg
the question, “If God, created the universe, who (or what) created
Part of the problem lies in the nature of the question
itself. If I were to ask you, “What sound does silence make?” you’d
start to appreciate the problem. This latter question is nonsensical
because silence is “soundless”; silence is, by definition, “the lack of
sound." There’s something equally irrational about the question, “Who
created God?” God is, by definition, eternal and uncreated. It is,
therefore, illogical to ask, “Who created the uncreated Being we call
God?” And, if you really think about it, the existence of an uncreated
“first cause” is not altogether unreasonable:
It’s Reasonable to Believe The Universe Was Caused
Famed astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “The Cosmos is everything that
ever was, is and will be.” If this is true, we are living in an
infinitely old, uncaused universe that requires no first cause to
explain its existence. But there are good scientific and philosophical
reasons to believe the universe did, in fact, begin to exist.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the expansion of the universe, the
Radiation Echo, and the problem of Infinite Regress cumulatively point
to a universe with a beginning. In the classic formulation of the Kalam
cosmological argument: (1) whatever begins to exist has a cause, (2) the
universe began to exist, therefore, (3) it is reasonable to believe the
universe has a cause.
It’s Reasonable to Accept the Existence of An Uncaused “First Cause” This “first cause” of the universe accounts for the beginning of all space, time and matter. It must, therefore, be non-spatial, atemporal and immaterial. Even more importantly, the first cause must be uncaused.
If this was not true, the cause of the universe would not be the
“first” cause at all. Theists and atheists alike are looking for the
uncaused, first cause of the cosmos in order to avoid the irrational
problem of an infinite regress of past causes and effects. It is,
therefore, reasonable to accept the existence of an uncaused, first
It’s Reasonable to Believe God Is the Uncaused “First Cause” Rationality
dictates the ultimate cause of the universe, (even if it isn’t God),
must have certain characteristics. In addition to being non-spatial, a
temporal, immaterial and eternal (uncaused), it must also be powerful
enough to bring everything into existence from nothing. Finally, there
is good reason to believe the cause of the universe is personal. Impersonal forces cannot cause (or refuse to cause) at will.
The minute an impersonal force exists, its effect is experienced. When
the impersonal force of gravity is introduced into an environment, for
example, its effect (the gravitational attraction) is felt immediately.
If the cause of the universe is simply an impersonal force, its effect
(the beginning of the universe) would occur simultaneous with its
existence. In other words, the cause of the universe would only be as
old as the universe itself. Yet we accept the reasonable existence of an
uncaused first cause (one that is not finite like the universe
it caused). For this reason, a personal force, capable of willing the
beginning of the universe, is the best explanation for the first cause
of the cosmos. This cause can be reasonably described as non-spatial, a
temporal, immaterial, eternal, all-powerful and personal: descriptive characteristics commonly reserved for the Being we identify as God.
All of us, whether we are atheists or theists, are trying to identify the first cause of the universe.
The eternal nature of this non-spatial, atemporal, immaterial cause is
required in order to avoid the problem of infinite regress. It is,
therefore, irrational to ask “What caused the uncaused first cause?” It
is far more reasonable to simply recognize the attributes of this cause
as an accurate description of God.
I watched an interview recently that Larry King did with Martin Short several months ago. Larry King has been interested in what happens after we die for a long time because, as he freely admits, he's afraid of what comes after. I've noticed that he asks his guests about this often when they've dealt with death in their lives.
Martin Short's wife of many years died of cancer, so King asked him how he copes with it and what he thinks the afterlife is like. Short answered that he doesn't care much because he thinks that either it's nice or we cease to exist. In either case, it's not a bad alternative. Apparently, he's rejected the option of eternal punishment.
It reminded me of Ray Comfort's important message "Hell's Best Kept Secret." He points out that people will not think salvation is all that important, especially when it calls for personal sacrifice, if they don't think there's anything at risk. He gives the analogy of a plane that one passenger knows will be crashing. He pleads with the other passengers to put on the parachute pack, but they grumble and reject it because they are comfortable and the pack is bothersome. They don't feel it's worth the trouble – until they realize the plane is going down. But for many, it's too late by then because few can get their parachutes on at the moment of crisis.
Jesus isn't life enhancement. He's not just our friend. And frankly, the personal cost just isn't worth it if that's all He is. But He's the Savior, our Redeemer. We are all under the just threat of eternal punishment for our crimes against God and His Law. We justly deserve punishment.
If that is not part of our message – the Bad News before the Good News – people will be sanguine about what comes after death. Jesus is worth whatever it costs us to follow Him because of what He saves us from. People need to understand that in order to understand the Gospel.
The constant laws of nature that are the foundation of modern science and mathematics were a development of thinking around the 15-16th centuries – and grounded on theology, the God of the Bible.
Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night God said: "Let Newton be!" and all was light.
Alexander Pope's famous couplet gives the impression that Newton's genius lay in his discovery of previously hidden laws of nature. This disguises what was both a novel feature of the science of the seventeenth century and its enduring legacy—the idea that there existed "laws of nature" to be discovered in the first place.
What are laws of nature? For the Middle Ages, natural laws had been universal moral rules established by God. The injunction against murder, recognized by all cultures, was a typical example of a natural law. The concept of a physical law of nature was completely absent. That came only as Christian thinkers extended God's legislative power to the natural world. As philosopher and scientist René Descartes (1596-1650) expressed it, "God alone is the author of all the motions in the world."
For its time, this was a radical claim. Following Aristotle, medieval scientists had imputed immanent tendencies to physical entities, saying for example that objects went into motion because they were seeking their own natural resting place. Nature had thus enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy.
In the new science, however, natural objects had no inherent properties, and it was God who directly controlled their interactions. In much the same way that the Deity had instituted moral rules, he was now seen to have enacted laws that governed the natural world.
"Nature," observed Robert Boyle, "is nothing else but God acting according to certain laws he himself fix'd."
The fact that God was the author of these laws meant that they shared something of his nature. Descartes, for example, argued that because of their source, natural laws must be eternal and unchanging. He went on to justify his law of the conservation of motion by appealing to God's immutability. Nature was constant because God was immutable.
This provided a crucial foundation for experimental science. In the words of Newton's predecessor in the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge, Isaac Barrow, experimentalists "do not suspect that Nature is inconstant, and the great Author of the universe unlike himself." Only because they assume that God's decrees are unchanging do they expect the consistent results of a number of experiments to hold true ever after.
This book is not providing a
full-fledged endorsement of intelligent design. But intelligent design needs to
be taken more seriously than a lot of its opponents are willing to.
In an interview
in Salvo magazine, Monton explains why he takes Intelligent Design seriously,
even as an atheist:
ID investigations are part of a
long tradition in philosophy called Natural Theology—of looking for evidence in
the natural world for the existence of God. Intelligent design has prima
facie merit in being part of this long philosophical and scientific tradition.
That's one reason why I think it should be taken seriously. The other is that I
find the arguments of the opponents of ID too emotionally driven and not as
intellectually robust as one would hope. I get upset with my fellow atheists
who present bad arguments against intelligent design and then expect everyone
to believe that they have somehow resolved the debate with these bad arguments.
When asked about the weaknesses of ID, Monton corrects the
commonly-believed idea that ID can’t lead to testable predictions:
At one time, I would have said that
the greatest weakness [of ID] was the failure of ID proponents to put a theory
on the table that makes testable predictions, but that all changed with
Jonathan Wells's book The Myth of Junk DNA. In it, Wells predicted that
this purported junk DNA—these stretches of DNA in our genome that many
scientists had claimed were useless—would be purposeful for the structure of
human biology. Well, within the past year or so, empirical investigation has
confirmed that there is in fact much less junk DNA than scientists had
previously thought. It's just a great example of a testable prediction that was
made by a proponent of intelligent design that turned out to be successful.
Nancy Pearcey has a really great article explaining a strategy for more effective conversations and public dialogue over controversial issues. In this case, she writes about sexual identity and transgender politics.
Every law has an implicit worldview, a set of assumptions that justifies it. The worldview implicit in the transgender movement is that our physical bodies have no particular value -- that our biology is irrelevant to who we are as persons....
The law is being used to impose a worldview that denigrates the physical body as inconsequential to personal identity. It is a worldview that drives a wedge between one's body and one's sense of self, which exerts a self-alienating, fragmenting effect on the human personality.
The transgender movement is a stepping stone to a completely postmodern conception of psychosexual identity. What does that mean? A psychotherapist explains in these words: People "don't want to fit into any boxes -- not gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual ones. . . . they want to be free to change their minds."
Instead we are moving to a postmodern view that gender is something we can choose, independent of biology -- and thus something we can also change....
The autonomous self will not tolerate having its options limited by anything it did not choose -- not even its own body....
The liberal world does not know for sure what a man or woman is....
Because every law presupposes a worldview, the most effective way to address the law is to show the negative impact of the underlying worldview. For the law to be humane, it must reflect a view of the person that is holistic, integrating gender identity with the biological facts of life.
Nancy writes about how to show the positive and holistic view of being human that the Bible teaches. Before jumping into the morality the Bible teaches, it's more effective to start at the foundation of people's values, their worldview. Show how their worldview fails and then show how the Bible provides the best guide for how we are made.
She goes into much more detail on the affects of worldview in her excellent book Saving Leonardo. It's really essential reading.
Lawrence Krauss will be challenging you this week via a quote from his "Has Science Buried God?" debate with William Lane Craig in Australia:
There’s a lot we don’t know about the universe—a lot more we don’t know than we do. That’s the wonder of science; that’s why I’m a scientist. But it is intellectually lazy to just stop asking questions and stop looking for physical explanations and just say, “God did it.” That’s lazy.
Can you explain why proposing God as the cause of a particular thing is not necessarily an illegitimate move? Can you give an example of a situation where applying Krauss's philosophy (as stated above) might actually lead a person away from the truth? Can you succinctly state a better philosophy of how to discover truth? Has Krauss accurately characterized the position of people who say God has
caused certain things in this universe (including the universe itself)?
Make your case in the comments below. On Thursday, we'll hear Brett's response.
[Update: View the video response from Brett. Explore past challenges here and here.]