No One Can Prove God!

“No one can prove God exists.”

“It is impossible to prove God exists.”

How often do people (or yourself) make one of these comments? During discussions or debates about God the two comments above are used as a trump for any further discussion. As Christians many times this is where the conversation stops. It seems almost worthless to keeping going, and the person saying such comments most likely has already closed their mind to the idea of the existence of God. However, I believe the conversation could be directed in a more useful and thoughtful direction.

I am currently reading through a book called Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy by Gregory Ganssle, which was recommended by Greg Koukl on Stand to Reason. I would like to share Greg Ganssle’s approach on the above statements because I see benefit in his approach.

When someone says, “No one can prove God exists” they often mean “You cannot provide reasons for thinking God exists that are so good that they will convince all thinking people” (Ganssle p. 25). In this case, Ganssle and I would agree that no one can give reasons that could convince “all thinking people.” One cannot provide an argument that convinces everyone of God’s existence without some possibility of reasonable doubt. Actually, one cannot provide a convincing argument for many philosophical ideas that would be accepted by everyone. For example, I cannot prove that the universe did not pop into existence fifteen minutes ago and that all of our memories are just illusions, that the mountains we see even exist, or that those around us have minds and are not just clever robots. It is not that there are not good arguments to support these ideas, but there are parts that are less than certain. We could say that these arguments could be rationally doubted. So far it seems that there are no philosophical ideas that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The fact the the arguments for God produce any reasonable doubt does not reduce the case for God’s existence (pgs. 25-26).

It is reliable to believe that the universe did not just pop into existence minutes ago, the mountains are real and our thoughts are not illusions, or other minds exist. It is reasonable to believe ideas that are not able to be “proven with unquestionable certainty” (pg. 27). In closing, even if you do not believe in God from the reasonable ideas I have given on this blog, you may at least start to see that those who believe in God are reasonable.

If you are interested in seeing the reasonable answers to the question of God’s existence then check out the articles below or search through my blog.

Articles on Existence of God
If God Were Real…
Evil as Evidence for God
What Science Can’t Prove
Is God Just an Idea?

Sources:

Gregory E. Ganssle. Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy. Kindle Edition.


		
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Filed under Christianity, Existence of God, Logic and Reason

A Religious Showdown….One God Many Ways

Religious pluralism is rampant in our culture today, and only proceeds to become more popular with each generation. When looking around you can find many examples, such as coexist stickers, theological seminaries accepting other religions in their programs, TV shows talking about it, and even congregations that call themselves a mixture of religions (ex. Buddhist Christian). Even if someone does not follow or believe a certain religion, it seems our culture, because of pluralism, demands that each religion be accepted as equally true. At worst many will say, “All roads lead to Rome.” In other words, all religions lead to the same God, power, or whatever you call it/him/her.

In this post I am not going to argue for the truth of Christianity (there are previous posts that do), rather I want to make an argument that not all religions can be equally true, it is not good to mix Christianity with other religions, and we can “coexist” without having to accept another’s religion as true or one-and-the-same.

All Roads Lead to Rome

Two ways people might voice this idea is: (1) all religious understanding is relative and no one interpretation is absolute, or (2) all religions lead to the same end and are equally true. Those statements sound great, pleasing to the ear, and definitely politically correct, but are extremely illogical and easily refutable through common sense.

The first statement has two faults. First, we can evaluate it by the Law of the Excluded Middle. Either God exists or does not exist. There is nothing relative about that. It is either absolutely true that God exists or absolutely true that He does not exist, and there is no other option. There must be truth and truth cannot be relative or it is not truth. Aristotle put it well: If you say, “It is,” and it is, or “It is not,” and it is not, then that is truth. Second, if there is no spiritual truth, then why search for it through any religious means? All it becomes is an invention by man, and a huge waste of time.

The second statement goes against something called the Law of Non-Contradiction. Again the statement sounds appealing at face value, but if you know anything about even a couple religions you will find that there are many contradictions between them. Here are a few examples:

1. Jews say Jesus is not the Messiah…Christians say He is.

2. Buddhists say we live in an illusion…many other religions say this is reality.

3. Christians believe in the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit all are one)…Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. Even worse, Muslims consider it blasphamy to equate Jesus with God.

These are only a few out of many opposing views that both cannot be true at the same time. It would be fine to say that two views or religions are equally valid, but definitely not equally true.

Syncretism 

Syncretism is defined as “the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.” This is not a new concept, but it is something that needs to be addressed. When religions are considered equally true, then there is no need to exclude one religious belief from another. Then people begin calling themselves Buddhist Christians, or claiming to be a Christian yet practicing witchcraft. The issue with this is that Christianity is exclusive in many of its beliefs, and it must be that way to hold to orthodoxy. To do otherwise contradicts the author and creator of Christianity, which is Jesus Christ. Here are some verses that show the exclusivity of Jesus, specifically as salvation (a center piece to Christianity):

1. Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

2. John 4:25-26 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

3. John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me,he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

4. John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

5. Galatians 2:19-22 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

There are many other beliefs in the Christian religion that makes it obvious and wrong to syncretize with other religion. However, the foundation of the Christian religion is the salvation brought through only Jesus, and it must be exclusive or it is no longer Christianity.

Truly Coexist

Last, many want all religions to “coexist.” However, I think the issue here is in the definition of what it means to coexist. Often a word that goes with this statement is tolerance, because anyone who is unwilling to “coexist” is intolerant. What they mean by that is, “You are intolerant and won’t coexist if you claim your religion is true and someone else’s is false.” However, the true meaning of coexisting and tolerance are to accept, respect, and love one another as human beings deserve, without need to agree on religious beliefs as equally true. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, true tolerance requires disagreement.

In the end, all roads do not lead to Rome and all religions are not equally true. So it might be worthwhile to search out which one is true through thoughtful and reasonable questioning and research.

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That’s Just Your Interpretation

How many times in a religious (or worldview) conversation have you heard someone say, “That’s just your interpretation”?

When someone makes such a comment they are actually trying to say, “What you said is not true because it is just what you think it means.” Basically, your interpretation is just an opinion. I strongly believe that this is a poor argument and an incorrect way of looking at the word interpretation.

Often people like to come up with their own definitions, or society redefines a word, then makes the same argument. For example, how often do we hear someone say, “Christians are intolerant.” In most circumstances, the use of the word intolerant is supposed to communicate that the Christian is saying their beliefs are true, and someone else’s belief is wrong. Many see tolerance as accepting all people’s beliefs or views as equally true. However, if you know anything about logic that breaks the Law of Noncontradiction; two opposing things cannot be true at the same time. The true definition, as defined by the dictionary, is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own.” Notice that the true definition requires that I disagree with someone to be tolerant toward them, and it does not require that I agree, rather that I have a certain attitude toward them.

The same issue of incorrect defining is occurring with the word interpretation. In a religious or worldview discussion, many tend to see an interpretation as an opinion or more like a way we see it, but for ourself alone. However, the dictionary defines “an interpretation as an explanation of the meaning of another’s artistic or creative work.” It is important to notice that an interpretation is not just what you think, but rather what you think the author intended in their writing. In that case, there has to be a correct or right interpretation of the text or idea. An interpretation will only hold or be a better interpretation than another’s if there are facts to back up the interpretation.

The next time someone says, “That’s just your interpretation”, then there are two ways to guide the discussion. First, you can use one of the Columbo Tactics by Greg Koukl, from his book Tactics, by asking, “What do you mean by interpretation?” Hopefully that will clear up the larger problem, and guide the conversation to clearer understanding for both people. Second, the person must give proof, or evidence, for why your interpretation is not the correct one. As we have seen there must be a correct interpretation based on the definition of what an interpretation is. Not all interpretations are valid, but we do know there is a correct one. For example, if I told someone I just met that I noticed they hated their wife, but had no reason, or evidence, to prove so, then they have good reason to say that my interpretation is wrong. However, that person could only say that I was wrong because there is a correct interpretation of how he feels for his wife.

I hope you can see now that there is a correct or right interpretation of ideas or text, and that they need proof to back it up whether someone is claiming or rejecting an interpretation. Again there are truths in this world, and two contradictory ideas cannot be true at the same time.

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Committing Suicide

Person A: “I am going to be moving to Thailand?”

Person B: “Why?”

Person A: “I am going to be a teacher, but the main purpose to do missions. I want to tell them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Person B: “I don’t really like proselytizing.”

Person A: “Why don’t you like proselytizing?”

Person B: “I think it is wrong to push your beliefs on others.”

Person A: “So are you telling me it is wrong for me to push my beliefs on others?”

Person B: “Yes.”

Do you see the problem with this conversation? No, I do not mean that the conversation in itself should not be had, actually I strongly hope people are having rich conversations about important topics. However, I want to point out a common mistake people have in their logic when discussing world views, opinions, etc. The mistake many make is called Suicide. This is a wonderful tactic I gained from reading Tactics by Greg Koukl, so all credit goes out to him.

Let’s go back to the conversation above. Person A tells Person B that they will be heading overseas to share the Gospel with others. Many people find this offensive and wrong, so does Person B who responds with “I don’t really like proselytizing.” Person A does a great job at asking a question, so that Person B must defend their claim (burden of proof). The Suicide is committed when Person B gives their burden of proof, which is that they think it is wrong to push their beliefs on others. Isn’t Person B “pushing their beliefs” on Person A with their comment? So in that comment Person B has committed Suicide.

Many inaccurate views tend to easily self-destruct, or commit suicide. We know these commonly as self-refuting views. These views do not need expended energy to address because they destroy themselves. Greg Koukl gives a simple example of this through a statement: All English sentences are false. In this sentence it is easy to see the problem. If all English sentences are false, then obviously the sentence declaring it must be false too.

The Suicide tactic works well because of a rule of logic called the law of noncontradiction. The law follows the commonsense idea that contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time. Basically, A is the case and A is not the case.

Koukl explains how to recognize the suicidal tendencies:

1. Pay attention to the basic idea, premise, conviction, or claim. Try to identify it.

2. Ask if the claim applies to itself. Then it commits suicide.

3. Finally, simply point out the contradiction.

Here are some examples of suicidal statements:

1. There is no truth. (Is this statement true?)

2. There are no absolutes. (Is this an absolute?)

3. No one can know any truth about religion. (And how, precisely, did you come to know that truth about religion?)

4. You can’t know anything for sure. (Are you sure about that?)

5. Talking about God is meaningless. (What does this statement about God mean?)

6. You can only know truth through experience. (What experience taught you that truth?)

7. Never take anyone’s advice on that issue. (Should I take your advice on that?)

Koukl makes a distinction between two types of Suicide tactic: Formal and Practical. The tactic still works the same, but one is committing suicide in the statement, and the other is committing suicide in real-life application.

In the end, everyone should be aware of their own and other’s claims because it can be easy to say something we think is logical, but contradicts itself. If we desire to pursue truth, then we must stay away from contradictions.

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Build It Up And Knock It Down

Many times in conversations about spiritual matters it can feels as though there is no answer to the argument given by the other person. Sometimes it can be from a lack of knowledge of that subject, possibly something we have never considered, or they are misrepresenting your view and giving arguments to defeat that view. Today, I would like to touch on the latter of the three problems someone might face in a discussion.

Not too long ago I had a conversation with someone about evil and sin. Basically, the questions was: How can the Bible say that everyone is evil or sinful? Then it became a battle of definitions of the words evil and sin. The problem was that the person wanted to define evil and sin, then have me answer it from my Christian worldview. They persisted that those who are evil or sinful were extremes such as Hitler. On the other hand, those who did other things like stealing or adultery were misinformed and considered wrong, definitely not evil or sinful. They proceeded to give more examples and prove that my view was wrong. However, the issue was they were redefining evil, sin, and God’s standard for holiness. This is committing the straw man fallacy.

The name straw man fallacy comes from a common practice of knights during the middle ages. A straw man would be mounted on a horse as an opponent for a knight to practice jousting. This gives a vibrant illustration of the straw man fallacy, which is the process of setting up a false argument (straw man) from the other side and then knocking it down. Unfortunately, this way of arguing does not address the actually view of the opponent, and then appropriate rebuttals to that view.

Typically the argument looks like this…

1. Todd affirms J.

2. Frank attributes K to Todd (K is not Todd’s view, but it sounds similar; it is misrepresented).

3. Frank offers rebuttals for K.

4. Frank concludes he has refuted J.

Someone can commit the straw man several ways:

1. Misrepresents the claim of Frank, then refutes it.

2. Cites Frank out of context, then refutes it.

3. Finding someone who defends Frank’s claim poorly, then suggest that is Frank’s claim and refute it.

4. Create a fake person or stereo-type, then presents that person as a representative for Frank’s claim and refutes it.

Another good example of this comes from the infamous question: Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it? First, this is a pseudo-qeustions. Second, the idea of “stronger than” can only be used when there are two subjects, but in this case God is a single subject. Third, this commits the straw man fallacy because it miscasts the Biblical idea of omnipotence. Omnipotence has to do with power, not necessarily ability. God being omnipotent does not mean He can do anything. For example, He cannot create a square circle. This does not diminish His power, rather we must see it as He is not able to be contradictory.

In light of this, we need to be vigilant to the misrepresentations of our views and cautious in our arguments not to misrepresent other’s views. Committing the straw man fallacy leads to false conclusions, which are not based on true claims. If we desire to seek out the truth, then we must also argue truthful claims.

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A Spiritual Journey Less Taken

I had the privilege of attending the Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World Conference in Turlock on April 15-16. It was encouraging, informative, and challenging.

Everyone has a worldview. However, many people have blindly chosen their worldview without any investigation. I suggest that one should embark on a journey to find out the TRUTH (yes that does mean there are false ideas). Craig Hazen, a professor of comparative religion and Christian apologetics at Biola University, spoke about “Christianity in a World of Religions.” I felt inclined to share a bit of the information he imparted at the conference because I think it is applicable to all no matter where you are in your journey. His idea came when he had an opportunity to speak at a state college as a “fundamental” Christian. However, he had a different idea, which was to offer the students and opportunity to learn how to embark on a spiritual journey to find the most valid religion. In a very uncertain world many would love to know how to take off on a journey through a sea of ideas, beliefs, and claims.

Below I am going to share with your the five points that Craig Hazen gave to us at the conference. First, I must preface that Hazen suggests that to appropriately start on this journey one must begin with Christianity and here is why:

1. Christianity is testable.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

At first glance one might see Paul’s writing as bleak and gloomy, but Paul’s point is that Jesus’ resurrection is not only crucial to Christianity, it is provable. Unlike Christianity, there are many other religions where one must literally believe with “blind faith” that it is true. However, in Christianity it is a faith (trust) that is based on true and reliable facts, such as Jesus’ resurrection (if you want more information on this I wrote a post called “Jesus Wanted…Dead or Alive?“).

2. In Christianity, salvation is a free gift.
In Ephesians it says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Unlike other religions, the center of Christianity, salvation, is a free gift. Good works, offerings, money, and many other things are needed to gain anything in many other religions.

3. With Christianity you get an amazing worldview fit
(Psalm 119:159-160; Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1-4) Christianity paints a picture of the world that actually matches the way the world really is! Many other religions paint a picture of reality that doesn’t seem to resinate with the world around us. For example, Buddhism says that pain and suffering is an illusion, yet our senses (which we can trust) shows that this pain and suffering we experience is real. On the other hand, Christianity says it is real, helps us understand that there are reasons for this pain, and redeems the pain and suffering that we will experience. As CS Lewis said, “I beleive in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

4. You get to live a non-compartmentalized life.
Many in the world separate the parts of their life, especially when it comes to religion. For most people their religion is for Sundays, but not for the work week, or when they speak of other subjects like science. However, true Christianity is not separate from any part of one’s life. The God of the Bible not only created the world we live in, but created us to interact with it. He has given us the ability to reason (Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 41:21; John 1:1).

5. Christianity has Jesus at the center.
John 1:1-5 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus is the not only the center of Christianity in salvation, but He is also the one whom through all was created. Many religions want a piece of Jesus; He is a universal religious figure. In other religions Jesus is considered a great teacher, prophet, and much more. So to know Jesus through Christianity also gives you a taste of a religious figure you will find in many other religions of the world (particularly the more prominent ones).

I pray that this will encourage you to search after the truth among many religions, and that you will consider starting with Christianity. However, if you are willing to go searching on a journey be willing to spend time and be teachable.

Also I would like to give all credit to Craig Hazen for this information and his dedication to the truth. If you are interested in this type of journey I also highly suggest Hazen’s new book Five Sacred Crossings.

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Rob Bell: Love Wins And The Problem of Hell

Watch the video of Rob Bell and his promotion for his new book called Love Wins: Click Here

It may seem that Rob Bell is only asking questions, but his question alludes to statements of his beliefs. It is obvious that he is not only questioning, but he is also claiming that orthodox Christianity has gotten the Gospel message wrong this whole time, and that in the end love will win.

I have been reading through the book of Matthew and Rob Bell’s video brought three arguments to mind that I would like to cover: (1) Hell is real and eternal, (2) the Bible speaks clearly about being either for God or against and that each will go to different places after death, and (3) taking hell out of the picture undermines the work of Jesus Christ.

Hell Is Real and Eternal

Rob Bell says, “Ghandi’s in hell? He is?” Again, this may be a question, but it alludes to Rob Bell basically saying that Ghandi is not in hell. Why would Rob Bell say Ghandi is not in hell? The only reason I can gather would be because Ghandi was a good and moral man. Rather, we must “confess with [our] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [our] heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Christ and all of the Bible speaks of the reality that hell is where we, all humanity, are headed. One’s morality, goodness, or attitude does not determine whether you deserve heaven. Rather our rebellion and disobedience to God, the Creator, has deemed us “criminals” and we deserve punishment, or justice, in the eyes of a holy God (Romans 5:10). Hell was created for the Devil and his demons and not originally for man, but now this is our punishment too.

However, I must clarify that many have said that Rob Bell doesn’t claim hell does not exist, rather hell is not eternal. He mentions that the word we interpret eternal is wrong and rather it should be translated “correction”, “pruning”, or “trimming”. Not only would I disagree with this idea, but nothing that Christ says seems to support the idea that hell is not eternal:

1. “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and lawbreakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:43 ESV

2. “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50 ESV

3. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

4. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46.

If hell were a place of trimming, pruning, or correction it seems that Christ and the rest of the Bible would not use such harsh words and images when speaking of hell.

For Or Against God
“Will only a few select people make it to heaven?” Rob Bell questions in his video Love Wins. Along with the reality of an eternal hell, Christ and the Bible make it clear that there are two sides to choose from: For God, or against God. Even the above verses make it obvious that those two people go to different places when death arrives. We get some very strong images of this: separation of wheat and chaff, sheep and goats, wedding guests and none guests, and much more.

1. “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 ESV

2. “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:30 ESV

3. “Before him will be gathered all teh nations, and he will separate people on from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left.” Matthew 25:32-33 ESV

It is obvious that Christ sees either a person for or against God, and that matters here on earth now and in eternity. However, those who are enemies of God go to hell for eternity, and stay enemies of God. The Bible does not allude to or blatantly mention that those who go to hell will eventually be won over by love and all will go to heaven. I do not see that in any of the Bible and I believe anyone who believes the Bible speaks of that is reading into the Scriptures their own thoughts or desires.

Undermining The Work of Christ

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15. We see the theme throughout all of the Old Testament and New Testament that mankind is in need of salvation, not from God (as Bell would put it), but from our sin and disobedience.

When hell becomes a place that is for a short time, and all will leave once won over by love, it undermines the work of Christ on the cross (the central theme to the Bible). Christ came to save that which was lost, and redeem mankind and all of creation. If it is the case that all will eventually go to heaven, then why would Christ come to save the lost here on earth or why would it matter how we responded to the Gospel here on earth? It seems that it doesn’t matter. I could do, say, or act any way I desired and eventually when I went to hell I would have the hope that Christ would win me over with love. Seems pointless.

I do not gather, nor does Scripture show that Rob Bell’s way of thinking is true. I believe that by Rob Bell writing this book and promoting this way of thinking he is leading many in the wrong direction.

Hopefully this post was thought provoking. Please feel free to post your comments, thoughts, ideas, or disagreements. This could have been pages and pages long, but if you want to know the truth about what the Bible says about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived, then read the Bible for yourself.

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