By L. Alfred James
What do you do with that cantankerous uncle or brother-law who makes it a point (at every family gathering) to loudly proclaim, “I don’t believe in God! I only believe in science! I don’t believe that anything exists beyond what we can see perceive with our senses”? In the past you may not have known what to say, so you just kept quiet. But I’d like to equip you with three reasons for thinking it is almost 100% certain that a supernatural realm exists. All three of these are easy to understand and easy to use in virtually any conversation you might have.
This begins a new series of posts I will be writing on arguments for moving away from the most hardcore form of atheism (what is called “materialism”) towards fully accepting Christianity as the absolute truth. We begin—in this and the next couple of posts—with reasons for believing in a supernatural realm. Then, in a few weeks, we will discuss why we should believe there is a personal God, and then provide reasons for thinking that Christianity (of all the world’s religions) is exclusively true. For now, we start with easy-to-understand (and easy-to-use) reasons for belief in the supernatural:
The Beginning of the Universe
Among scientists, there is a very strong consensus that the universe had a beginning in the event that is commonly called “the big bang.” The big bang is the beginning of the existence of all of nature. What do I mean by “all of nature”? Well, anytime anyone refers to “nature” or to something that is “natural” they are referring to something that is part of the universe. All philosophers and scientists agree that there is nothing natural that exists outside of the universe.1 If something is part of nature then it must (by definition) exist within the universe itself. It is no more possible for something natural to exist outside of the universe than for a triangle to have five-sides. It is simply a matter of definition.
If I am correct, then there is an important conclusion to draw from this, so try to track with me here. You can follow my logic in three simple steps:
- None of this natural stuff existed prior to the universe’s beginning. It simply couldn’t, because this stuff is part of the universe itself.
- That means that nothing natural—no natural stuff—caused the universe to come into existence. To say it another way: Nothing natural started the big bang. Why? Because nothing that is natural existed before the universe. And if it didn’t exist it couldn’t start the big bang. It couldn’t do anything.
- Therefore, whatever created the universe transcends nature. That is, it is outside of nature. It is, quite literally, super-natural.
Thus, what science tells us about the creation of the universe points directly to something supernatural as the source of the universe. As Ted Koppel once said, “Bangs have bangers.”
The Origin of Life
Science has absolutely no plausible theory for how any (merely) natural process caused life to begin. To be sure, there are a few origin-of-life theories that attempt an explanation, but they all have severe and insurmountable problems. None of these theories has garnered a scientific consensus. In fact, as science uncovers more and more complexity in cells and in DNA, the problem continues to get exponentially more difficult. In fact, after Stephen Meyer published Signature in the Cell (a book about the impossibility of life beginning by chance) the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel praised the book in the Times Literary Supplement for how well it explains this gigantic problem for evolutionary theory.
The Existence of the Laws of Logic
If matter and energy are the only things that exist, then how in the world do the laws of logic exist? Are we to believe that these laws are actually composed of matter or energy? Do they physically exist somewhere, perhaps etched into some stone tablet floating in space? If not, then then they simply can’t exist (in a world in which only physical things exist.) But if they do exist as some kind of physical objects, then it is totally bizarre that they impose themselves on our thinking and make us feel that we must intellectually obey them in order to arrive at truth. How in the world could some physical things that exist somewhere in the universe impose themselves on our minds like that?
Someone might respond: “But the laws of logic are simply conventions that we have, as a society, agreed upon.” If someone says this to you, then you need to call their bluff. Tell them that you plan on stealing their debit card and spending lots of their money, but this shouldn’t be a problem for them. After all, if the laws of logic are not objective rules about reality, then there should be no contradiction between these two statements: “I just spent all of the money in your checking account,” and “You still have plenty of money in your checking account.” These two statements are logically contradictory: They can’t both be true if the law of non-contradiction (one of the three most prominent laws of logic) is real. But if the laws of logic are just based on convention then, pshaw! Let’s not get all uptight about a simple statement regarding a bank account. To heck with convention! Let’s not worry about contradictions! Your bank account can still have plenty of money in it—after I spend it all—right?
No. As a matter of fact, all of us know that two contradictory statements cannot both be true, no matter what anyone says. The laws of logic are not just conventional. They are true whether we want them to be or not. But if that’s the case, then how can they exist in a purely material universe? They can’t. This means that the world we live in is more than just matter and energy.2
There you have it, three quick and easy arguments for refuting hardcore atheism. If you practice using them you will never again find yourself speechless at those family gatherings.
1. The only way there is an exception to this rule is if someone believes in a multiverse. This, of course, is a completely metaphysical hypothesis for which there is not a shred of evidence. It is simply a logical possibility…and logical possibilities come cheap. I will discuss the multiverse hypothesis in a future post.
2. If you want a role model of someone who uses this argument effectively, I recommend two debates.
Greg Bahnsen vs. Gordon Stein (though the audio is poor, so you will have to listen closely): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anGAazNCfdY
Paul Manata vs. Dan Barker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCqUjfAoXZc