How the Principle of Causality Points to the Existence of God

All of us, regardless of worldview, are looking for the first, uncaused cause of the universe. As an atheist (and committed philosophical naturalist), I believed science would eventually identify such a cause, and I expected the answer to be something other than “God”. Alexander Vilenkin (professor of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University), for example, believes this cause is an eternal, primordial, quantum vacuum from which our universe (and many, many others) popped into existence. The vacuum, according to Vilenkin, was the first, uncaused cause; making questions like, “Where did the vacuum come from?” irrelevant and meaningless. First, uncaused causes don’t need a cause, after all.

Interestingly, cosmologists have refined their thinking on this issue over the past several decades. Early researchers (like Einstein) initially rejected the idea our universe had a beginning at all. For thinkers like Einstein, our universe was the uncaused environment from which stars and planetary systems evolved. Why is everyone so obsessed with identifying an eternal entity and an uncaused, first cause? Because the nature of this first cause will determine which worldview (atheism or theism) is true. For committed atheists, like Carl Sagan, the desire to identify the eternal is deeply metaphysical:

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What Will We Experience in Heaven?

There are good reasons to believe we are more than simple material beings. If we are living souls (as described in Christian Scripture), there’s no reason to think our true immaterial nature will be limited by the fate of our physical bodies. Our expectations of justice, satisfaction and joy (given God’s holy and perfect nature) provide us with good reasons to expect a life beyond this one. If God has infinite power, it’s reasonable to believe He has the power to eliminate imperfection. God’s perfection must certainly characterize the nature of Heaven, and the Bible describes how each of us, when united with God, will be transformed and made complete, in spite of our present earthly imperfections.

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The Difference Between Believing the Gospels and Trusting the Gospel

I leaned over and said, “I think it may be true.” “What may be true?” asked Susie. “Christianity,” I responded. “The more I look at the Gospels, the more I think they look like real eyewitness accounts.” I spent months examining the claims of the Gospels, evaluating them with the template I typically apply to eyewitnesses in my criminal investigations. At the end of my examination, I was confident in their reliability. I believed the Gospels were telling me the truth about Jesus. But I wasn’t yet a Christian. I had what I often refer to as “belief that”. I examined what the Gospels had to say about Jesus, and after testing them rigorously, I came away with confidence in their accuracy, early dating, reliable transmission and lack of bias. But I still had a profoundly important question: “What is the cross all about? Why did Jesus have to die that way?” My wife, Susie, had been raised as a cultural Catholic, and although she was familiar with the language and doctrines of Catholicism, her answer was simply, “I don’t really know.” After months of investigation, I believed what the Gospels told me about Jesus, but I wasn’t yet ready to accept the Gospel of Salvation.

Yesterday, CBN posted the story of my journey from “belief that” to “belief in”. It’s really the first time I’ve told the story this completely, and I hope it will help you see the role evidence can play in moving someone from intellectual assent to volitional submission:

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Is the Problem of Evil Really a Problem for Christianity?

I just spent an amazing weekend at Green Bay Community Church, teaching adults and students about the reliability of the New Testament Gospels and the nature of truth. Troy Murphy has done a wonderful job assembling a powerful staff at the city’s largest church. GBCC’s youth pastor, Evan Gratz, opened up his youth group to me on Sunday night. As usual, the best part of the time with students was answering questions at the end of the evening. The problem of evil was raised by a teenager who described her recent conversation with an atheist friend. As an atheist myself for most of my life, I resonated with the objection and offered a brief response: If what we believe as Christians is true, evil and suffering are only a problem for atheists. The problem of evil isn’t really a problem for Christianity.

Evil and suffering are typically experienced and understood within the context of one’s life. As an atheist, I hoped for (and expected) a life of approximately ninety years. In the context of this span of time, if I had developed cancer in my forties, I would have been angered by the amount of time stolen from me as I battled the disease. In fact, if I had been diagnosed with a terminal disease at that age, I would have been outraged by the fact it was going to deprive me of fifty percent of the life I expected. When your life is only ninety years long, anything cutting the time short is evil, and any prolonged suffering along the way is unjust and intolerable.

But what if we could live more than ninety short years? What if our lives had a beginning, but no end? How would we see (and respond to) evil, pain and suffering in the context of an eternal life? How many of you who can remember the painful vaccinations you received as a child? If you’re reading this article at the age of thirty, the small period of your life occupied by the pain you experienced during those vaccinations has been long outdistanced by the years you’ve lived since then. As time stretched on from the point of that experience, you were able to place the pain within the larger context of your life. You don’t even remember it now. If you have pierced ears, ask yourself a similar question. The pain you experienced at the point of the piercing is nearly forgotten, especially if it has been years since it occurred. Evil, pain and suffering are experienced and understood within the larger context of one’s life.

If the Christian worldview is true, we are eternal beings who will live forever. We get more than ninety years, we get all of eternity. Our experience and understanding of pain and evil must be contextualized within eternity, not within our temporal lives. Whatever we experience here in our earthly life, no matter how difficult or painful it may be, must be seen through the lens of forever. As our eternal life stretches out beyond our struggles in mortality, our temporal experiences will become an ever-shrinking percentage of our consciousness. The suffering we may have experienced on earth will be long outdistanced by the eternal life we’ve lived since then. Our life with God will be a life without suffering, without pain and without evil. “God will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). It will also be a life where justice is realized, “for the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints,” (Psalm 37:27-28) and He “will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work” (Ecclesiastes 3:17). As our glorious eternal life with God stretches beyond our temporal experience, whatever suffering or injustice we might have experienced here on earth will seem like it occurred in the blink of an eye.

In the context of the Christian eternal life, pain, suffering and evil can be faced and endured with strength, hope and confidence unavailable in an atheistic worldview. What used to seem so unjust to me is now less egregious. What used to seem so unbearable can now be faced with hope. The problem of evil, from my new Christian perspective, isn’t the same kind of problem it was from my old atheistic perspective, because the problem of evil isn’t really a problem for Christianity.

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Did New Testament Writers Twist the Meaning of the Old Testament?

The 39 books of the Old Testament were written to and about the children of Israel, or the Jewish nation. Some critics charge that writers of the New Testament twist Old Testament passages and take them out of context to make them fit their views of Jesus and his teachings. What are these purported distortions that critics refer to?

For example:

Matthew quotes Isaiah 7 and declares that it was prophesied Jesus was to be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel (Matthew 7:14). Critics point out that a full reading of chapter 7 of Isaiah shows it is more likely referring to the birth of Hezekiah, who became a godly king of Israel.

Hosea the prophet says when Israel was a child, God loved him and “called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1). We all know that God did in fact call his people out of Egypt. Yet Matthew says this was a prophecy about Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to Egypt and their later return. They did this to escape Herod’s decree to kill all the newborn Jewish males in Bethlehem.

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Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Salvation

Christians have historically relied on the canonical Scripture as the source of all truth about the nature of God, man and salvation. There have been times throughout Christian history, however, when leaders emerged with competing ideas and motivations, coloring the way they read the New Testament. We’ve been examining historic misrepresentations of Biblical teaching related to the Nature of God the Father and the nature and role of Jesus. Today, we’ll look at a few classic heresies related to Salvation. Distortions of this kind are typically connected to misinterpretations about the nature of Jesus. Did He die for us? Can we save ourselves? Here are some historic heresies:

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Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

The Bible contains 66 books authored by over 40 different people writing on hundreds of subjects, including who God is and how he interacts with his creation. Could all these different authors, who wrote hundreds of years apart, be consistent and in harmony regarding its message? Critics claim that is impossible and assert there are thousands of errors and contradictions in the Bible. Is this true?

When conservative Christian theologians say the Bible is without error (inerrant) they mean that, when all the facts are known, the Scriptures as they were penned by the authors in the original writings and as properly interpreted will be shown to be true and not false in all they affirm. This is of course the case if God is actually the author of Scripture. It stands to reason that if he inspired certain men to reveal his words, he would be sure not to contradict himself, so that his Word would be error-free.

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Is Christian Education Simply a Matter of Religious Indoctrination?

My good friend Brett Kunkle and I have been working diligently to address a dilemma facing the Church: the departure of young Christians who walk away from Christianity in their college years. We’ve had great success with youth groups when we’ve been able to convince their leaders to stop teaching and start training. I’ve been writing recently about the model I employed with my own youth group using the acronym T.R.A.I.N. In response to a recent post, however, two commenters described this effort as nothing more than religious indoctrination:

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Did God Create Aliens?

Are we the only finite intelligent beings in the universe? Are there others out there somewhere that God created who are our “alien relatives”? Many have speculated that intelligent life exists somewhere in the distant universe—it’s just that we haven’t made contact with it yet.

King David wrote, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about human beings that you should care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4). The space that God created, in its vastness and wonder, is majestic and awesome and beyond our comprehension.

Scientists say matter is spread over a space at least 93 billion light-years across. There are probably more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, with countless billions of planets.  10 That blows the mind! And it may cause us to wonder, are we the only intelligent beings God created in this vast universe?

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Does God Love Everyone Regardless of Sexual Orientation?

Not long ago the news media released a picture of a man and a young boy protesting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The young boy was holding a sign that read, God Hates Fags. This particular church group believes that God hates gays above all other kinds of sinners and that homosexuality should be a capital crime. On their website they assert that every tragedy in the world is linked to homosexuality, specifically society’s increasing tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle.

The resentment garnered by this church group is not just a problem for these few picketers. David Kinnaman, in his book UnChristian, indicates that, sadly, more than nine out of ten outsiders view all Christians as anti-homosexual as well.

So what does God think about homosexuals? Does he love them as much as he does heterosexuals, or does he really hate “fags”?

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