“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” Richard Dawkins
Dawkins believes that any ‘narrow ledge of evidence’ upon which the teetering faithful may have based their beliefs has now been removed by the advance of science, causing them to alight from reason and logic and fly off into mysticism and wishful thinking. It is my aim to show that the supposed ‘ledge’ upon which Christian faith stands is in fact a broad, solid foundation and that it is Dawkin’s own atheistic naturalism which teeters on the edge of blind faith.
I remember meeting a young man while doing some evangelism in town who was quick to tell me; “you’re going to need to try your lies on someone more gullible than me, I am a scientist, I believe in science not faith.” I asked him which science in particular had revealed with certainty to him that which has eluded many of the great luminary minds of our time; that God does not exist. Unfortunately an answer wasn’t forthcoming, he didn’t want to stick around and chat. The fact is, we make faith based decisions every day. You eat your porridge in the morning because you have good reason enough to believe that it won’t poison you. You head to work because you have it on good authority that you are still an employee of that particular organisation. Faith is simply taking a step in the direction of which the evidence points. If we required scientific proof for everything we would never do anything! We’d never leave the house! How could I scientifically prove that no harm would come to you today? How could I scientifically prove that my wife loves me? I couldn’t! This kind of faith is a part of everyone’s life, religious or not.
The biblical concept of faith is rooted in the idea of trust. It is a deep confidence relating to God based upon the revelation of his nature and character. Though I believe that God gives us good reasons upon which our faith stands such as the natural world, the existence of conscious observers and of course the person of Jesus Christ it is not cold reasoning that brings one to a place of saving faith, it is God Himself. Faith in God is granted by God, just as the saving grace available to us through Jesus was also fully granted by God and in no way earned by us. To some degree this gospel will always sound like foolishness to mankind on account of the depth of human fallenness, it takes the light of Christ to remove the scales from our eyes and reveal the truth of the gospel. So, though we can show that Christian faith is underpinned by good evidence, the necessity for one to step out in faith on account of the evidence will never be removed.
Here are 3 reasons that faith in the Christian God is anything but a cop-out:
1. The existence of anything at all
You’ll never guess what?! I was sat in my office minding my own business when all of a sudden this device materialised out of thin air! I’m actually writing this blog on it right now! I couldn’t believe it, it’s functional, I can use it, I can hook it up to the local wifi and everything!
This sounds absurd to us because we know intuitively that things don’t just pop into existence. Some-thing doesn’t come from no-thing. Responding to a documentary in which the narrator stated “15 billion years ago, the universe exploded into being” the late Dr. R. C. Sproul wryly commented “nothing doesn’t explode.” Things that begin to exist have a cause, we now know that the universe had a beginning, therefore the universe had a cause. The cause of the cosmos cannot have been material, held within time or space or constrained by the laws of physics since these things did not exist before they began to exist moments after the Big Bang . The initial cause of the cosmos would not be caused but instead would be the uncaused cause of all life and matter, not a contingent being but a necessary being, able to to choose to create or not. This necessarily existing, uncaused cause of all things can properly be referred to as God, since there can be no greater being that does exist.
2. The appearance of design
It is well documented that the vast majority of children intuitively believe God created the world, this is true even if these children have atheist parents who actively want to teach their child the opposite. Even hardened atheists are open to admitting the clear appearance of design in the universe but is this intuition justified?
“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Richard Dawkins
Of course, Dawkins goes on to argue that are not in fact designed and are the product of random mutation plus natural selection plus time. Therefore, the great diversity of life we now observe has evolved over billions of years through this natural, unguided process we call Darwinian evolution. The idea is that small, positive mutations build up cumulatively over time, eventually equalling large scale change even skeletal change over the course of millions of years. Now, if this macro theory of evolution is true, it ought to be demonstrable at a molecular level. Molecular biologist, Douglas Axe Ph.D, a researcher who has worked with the university of Cambridge and is now based at the Discovery Institute in Seattle has spent 20 years researching protein formation in the cell. Advances in the field of molecular biology have shed light on the remarkable complexity and high function of the cell. Proteins, made out of chains of ordered amino acids are folded into precise 3-D structures that become parts of molecular machines or help make or break down chemicals, they are essential to the working of the cell. Scientists have found that the sequence of these amino acids along these protein chains turns out to be critical for specifying their 3-D folded structures, if the sequence is interrupted or is slightly wrong the protein is useless to the cell. Any one cell needs these protein shapes by the hundreds and thousands in order to live. The probability of just one of these functional protein sequences coming into existence by chance has been calculated by Dr. Axe as something like 1 in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion. Dr. Axe shows that there just hasn’t been enough time for these complex things to have occurred through random chance.
“You can’t get remarkable things by accident. That is an intuition which is solid and empirically confirmed.” Douglas Axe
There is also the fantastically improbable, life-permitting balance of fundamental laws and constants at play in the cosmos. Take the fine tuning of the force of gravity; imagine a ruler divided up into 1inch increments and then stretched right the way across the universe, a distance of some 14 billion light years. The ruler represents the possible range for the force of gravity. The setting for the force of gravity in our universe is but a 1inch measurement on this super-long ruler. If this setting were changed by just 1inch in the entire expanse of the universe the effects upon life would be catastrophic.
Or the cosmological constant; the speed at which space is expanding. If this constant were a fraction faster no planets or stars could form, if it were a fraction slower all matter would collapse in on itself. Physicists have determined that this constant is fine tuned to 1 part in a 100 million, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion! Such precision is comparable to travelling hundreds of miles into space, throwing a dart back down to earth and hitting a target smaller than the size of a single atom.
These are just two of many finely tuned laws and constants. Others include; strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, electromagnetic force, entropy level, mass density of the universe, the velocity of light, the age of the universe, the decay of the proton and many, many more. Moreover, all of these laws and constants must be fine-tuned to their very specific range in tandem to create a life-permitting equilibrium, for if just one of these out of the thirty were off by a fraction, life could not exist. Perhaps the only reasonable response to the remarkable evidence of fine tuning in the universe is that there is a Fine-Tuner.
3. The person of Jesus Christ
Then there is the question of Jesus of Nazareth. A man who claimed to be God come in the flesh, the promised messiah, spoken of through the prophets of the Old Testament hundreds of years before his birth. His existence as a figure of antiquity is beyond dispute as is the miraculous and powerful nature of his earthly ministry. His death by crucifixion and subsequent resurrection are the subject of much debate even after two millennia. No one individual has had anywhere near the level of impact that the Nazarene has wrought upon humanity. To dismiss him as a myth, a fool or a simple teacher of morality would be to deny the historical evidence concerning him.
Quite remarkably, Jesus is known to have fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. We know that these prophecies were written well before the New Testament and are therefore not later interpolations, and we know that the books they are found in have been accurately preserved throughout the ages. The discovery of the complete scroll of the book of Isaiah in Qumran dating to around 350BC showed that the copy preserved in modern day bibles is an accurate translation of the original. Former skeptic and journalist at the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel calculated that the chances of one individual fulfilling just 44 of these prophecies is something in the order of one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion. Big numbers.
There are several well established historical facts concerning the death and supposed resurrection of Jesus that are agreed upon by skeptic and believer alike within relevant fields of study. They are as follows:
1. That Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate
2. That He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea
3. That the tomb was discovered empty three days later
4. The post mortem appearances of Jesus
5 The subsequent radical transformation in Jesus’s followers
“It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’s death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” – Gerd Ludemann, New Testament Scholar & Skeptic
When all this is taken into account the inference that best explains the evidence is that Jesus really did rise from the dead. Other hypothesis fall woefully short in areas of plausibility and explanatory power and scope.
These are just three of many good reasons for faith in the Christian God. Tweetable assertions made by Dawkins, Gervais and the like that ‘faith in God is blind’ are completely untrue in the case of Christianity. In fact, the bold preclusion of ‘God’ from any explanatory theory concerning the cosmos seems to rather fly in the face of existing evidence. Dawkinsian faith, it appears, is founded upon the fantastical improbability that life as we know it is the product of random chance. A rather narrow ledge indeed.
Darwin’s Doubt – Stephen C. Meyer
Undeniable: How Nature Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed – Douglas Axe
The Case for the Creator – Lee Strobel
When Skeptics Ask – Norman Geisler
On Guard – William Lane Craig