18
Jul

We Don’t Need To Know How God Created To Know That He Did

854261_thunderboltScientific discoveries like the Big Bang give support to the Christian position that God created the universe. Nonetheless, the atheist will often challenge the believer by deriding such acknowledgement of God as primitive or foolish. Often, the skeptic will use ridicule to drive home his point, comparing, for example, belief in God to a primitive man attributing thunderbolts to Thor.  When we say that “God” created the universe, the skeptic will argue, we are just admitting that we don’t really know how the universe was created, so we make something up, some “magical” being that can “pull the strings.” Why don’t we just admit that we don’t know, the skeptic will ask.

This argument is clever because it puts the believer on the defensive. The implied critique goes something like this: if primitive people were ignorant when they assumed a personal agent caused lightning or thunder, then all people who draw inferences about personal agents causing events are also guilty of ignorance. God, in their view, is simply a kind of make-believer actor who serves as a convenient – but in the end unnecessary – explanation. But this of course is simply false. Sometimes personal agents cause events – like when someone sets a fire – and sometimes events occur by chance or by some impersonal law – like when lightning causes a fire. The point is to decide which is the cause, and to do that we use reason to assess the available evidence.

Since primitive man had no scientific knowledge, it is understandable that he might attribute a powerful event like lightning to a personal source. The reasoning is simple and straightforward – something doesn’t come from nothing, and since lightning is a “something,” someone must be behind it. And in a sense he was right – whoever created the universe is the ultimate cause of lightning, even if that someone doesn’t look like Thor hurling thunderbolts. But more importantly, Christians are not imagining a creator when they look at the evidence of the universe. Quite the contrary: given the nature of the universe – its order, fine tuning and the complex design inherent in life – we quite properly infer that something immensely intelligent and immensely powerful set it in motion. Though we cannot fully understand God, and all that infinite perfection entails, our minds are moving toward that ultimate being who is the source, the beginning, the first uncaused cause.

What, then, of the challenge that we don’t know how it was done, how God went about this wonderful act of creation? It is true that we do not yet have such knowledge, and perhaps we never will. But what difference does how make, when the only question really at issue, for the truly important question anyway, is not how, but by whom? By the skeptic’s reasoning, I should also admit that because I am ignorant of how programming, hard drives and BIOS’s work, the source of computers is simply unknowable. I should just “be honest and admit that I don’t know,” as the non-believer might put it. But what I don’t know is simply the mechanism by which the thing is done, and this is very different than the existence or the source of the thing itself.

And this is where the atheist’s dogmatic position starts to fall apart. If I really am ignorant of how a computer works, how could I conclude that everyone else must be as well? Would it not be possible that others who had studied the question more or who had access to other sources of knowledge might know what I didn’t? So, if I really believed my own ignorance, why challenge others to also admit ignorance? Could it be that the atheist doesn’t just feign ignorance, but is succeeding in making himself so?

As Christians, we bear witness to a personal God, not because we are grasping at myths, but because we believe the evidence of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection sufficient for us to know Him in a personal way. In other words, we personalize the source of the Big Bang not by myth but by specific revelation.

In the end, science and the Christian worldview are not in conflict. It is the one who insists despite the evidence that there is no God – and ultimately no one to whom we will one day be called to answer – that is persisting in ignorance.

Posted by Al Serrato

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4 Comments

  1. zilch says:

    Al- I presume this is your work, it has your touch- again, I agree with you to some extent. If you don’t expect me to explain why the Universe has physical laws, I won’t expect you to explain how God made those physical laws or why.

    But again, I find that your argument is off the mark. In the first place: if explaining order is the problem, then positing a God who created the order does not answer the problem, but merely shoves it along to a higher level of problem and doesn’t even attempt to answer that higher question: why and how is it that God exists?

    Second: your analogy with computers and BIOS limps. While I’m probably in the same boat you are, or an even leakier one, with regards to how computers and BIOS function, I know that there are people in the world (my brother for instance, who builds hardware) who understand the subject through and through down to the physics. The same cannot be said of knowledge of God- or for that matter, even knowledge of the elementary forces, despite string theory.

    cheers from hot Vienna, zilch

    • Al says:

      Zilch,
      Nice to hear from you again. Yes, we have had this discussion. I think the problem with your view is that it leaves us still with the question: where did the universe come from? My answer – God – is sound because it fits the evidence, even if the next question is, “how did God get here?”; maybe I’ll develop an answer to that someday, and maybe I won’t, but the truth of “God created this” does not change, even if I can’t tell you much about why God is. Your answer – we don’t know how the universe got here – doesn’t really advance the ball, and it misses some pretty obvious clues – intelligence, life, morality, etc require an intelligent source. More importantly, it risks some nasty consequences in the life to come, if the Christian view turns out to be correct.

      Al

  2. John Moore says:

    You speak of the order, fine tuning and complexity in the universe and say we “quite properly” infer that an immensely intelligent and powerful agent set it in motion. Here’s my question for you: Can you think of a logical alternative to the powerful agent creator? A creator is one explanation, I admit, but couldn’t there be another explanation? Not simply a negation but an actual alternative explanation.

    • Al says:

      John, I can’t think of a reasonable alternative, but of course I am open to hearing one. Were you asking, or have you encountered a competing – reasonable – alternative?

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