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The Language of God, written by Francis S. Collins, speaks to the debate between science and faith. Collins is a physician and a geneticist, noted for his leadership in the Human Genome Project of the 1990’s, and current head of the National Institution of Health, appointed by President Barack Obama. Collins contends that what we read in Scripture is not in conflict with what we find in nature, and he writes with the hope that Christians who read it would stop bickering over the issue. He seeks harmony between science and Christianity, rather than continuing the unnecessary war (6). His book pays particular attention to the theory of evolution and powerfully demonstrates its truth. Although he touches lightly on the process of reconciling this with Scripture, he leaves Christians open to search elsewhere for deeper insight into that particular undertaking.

Collins became a Christian when reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, where he was convinced of the truth of the Moral Law. The Moral Law says human beings sense that there is a right and wrong way to behave, and we especially feel it when we are wronged by others. Biological evolution only explains mutually beneficial actions, not altruistic actions. The Moral Law points to a God outside of the natural world, Whom we cannot know through the tools of science. To Collins, faith seemed more rational than disbelief.

As someone who respects the natural world and the pursuit of truth in it, Collins spends many of his early chapters reviewing what modern science tells us of the origins of the universe and of human beings. He explains how the universe seems designed to allow life to exist (the Anthropic Principle), where physical constants (such as the speed of light, the force of gravity, etc.) are set at specific values which has allowed our universe to develop the way it has. The most reasonable conclusion from these observations is that the universe is designed by someone who created it. Collins rejects the “multiverse” theory on the basis of lack of evidence.

Collins stresses that our puny efforts to examine the complexity of life will not dethrone the Almighty. We just strive to answer the question, “How does life work?” Science alone cannot answer questions like “Why is there life?” or “Why am I here?” Using radioactivity and the natural decay of chemical isotopes, we can date moon rocks and meteorites and other debris from which the planet formed 4.55 billion years ago. The first fossils of microbial life is dated at 3.8 billion years ago. Science cannot currently explain the origin of chemical life. It is a mystery. However, don’t put God in the gaps, Collins stresses. Just because we don’t have a natural explanation for it now doesn’t mean we won’t discover it later.

Once life arose, the process of biological evolution through natural selection allowed it to diversify and become more complex. Collins gives a quick history of life on Earth, including dates from the fossil record and the discovery of transition species. He points out that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is accepted by many religious people, and “no serious biologist today doubts the theory of evolution.” The subsequent discovery of DNA gave birth to molecular biology and reinforces Darwin’s theory. DNA, RNA, and proteins function as the mechanism through which natural selection occurs. This doesn’t take the divine mystery out of the world, Collins points out. “For those who believe in God, there are reasons now to be more in awe, not less.” (107)

Perhaps one of the strongest assets of Collins’ book comes from his experience as a geneticist. He moves along to flesh out the evidence for biological evolution as seen in molecular biology. As head of the Human Genome Project, Collins aimed to spell out the entire human genome: 3.1 billion letters of code across 24 chromosomes. He and his team started in the early 1990’s, and they announced its completion with President Clinton on June 26, 2000. It has reinforced biologists’ embrace of evolutionary theory, that we human beings share a common ancestry with other living things. Our gene sequence, Collins points out, is similar to that of other organisms, and it differs from them to a greater and greater extent as you move further away in the “tree of life.” Silent mutations discredit special creation, as does the presence of “junk DNA,” left over from ancient ancestors. The discovery of genetic mutation in DNA gave a new understanding to the mechanism of natural selection. Mutations in DNA are the means through which organisms evolve. While some bring up the objection that we never see evidence of macroevolution, only microevolution, Collins argues that the distinction between the two is artificial. “Larger changes that result in new species are a result of smaller incremental steps” (132). The study of genomes and molecular biology “convinced virtually all working biologists that Darwin’s framework…is unquestionably correct” (141). We couldn’t correlate all the data without the theory.

If evolution is not true, we might conclude that God just put them there to confuse us, which is not in His nature. We can conclude with evidence that God did not create all creatures through individual divine acts. That being said, Collins says he still needs God to explain us. Evolution doesn’t account for the Moral Law or the universal search for God. “Freeing God from the burden of special acts of creation does not remove Him as the source of the things that make humanity special, and of the universe itself. It merely shows us something of how He operates.” (140)

In the final chapters of his book, Collins considers four possible viewpoints in response to what we see in nature: Atheism/Agnosticism, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolution. When it comes to atheism, Collins says that science can neither prove nor disprove God. If one concludes that the evidence for evolution removes God from the role of Creator, that person is moving beyond the bounds of science and into philosophy. Atheists must find another reason for taking that position. Evolution won’t do. Agnosticism should only be arrived at after full consideration of all of the evidence for and against the existence of God. At any rate, neither view seeks harmony with faith, but is at war.

Next, he turns to Creationism, specifically Young-Earth Creationists (YECs). Their views include a six-day creation (24 hours, consecutive days), that Earth is less than 10,000 years old, that all species were created by individual acts of divine creation, and that Adam and Eve were created from dust, not descended from other creatures. YECs affirm microevolution, but not macroevolution. The Young Earth view is roughly held by 45% of Americans and many evangelical churches. They object to evolution for many faulty scientific reasons. He says the YEC view and modern science are ultimately incompatible. Though the views of these Christians are well-meaning and sincere, they would lead to an absolute collapse of physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, and geology. Collins asks if God is truly honored by those who would ignore rigorous scientific conclusions. “Can faith in Him be built on a foundation of lies about nature” (176)?

YECs attempt to provide alternative scientific explanations. Some say God set up the universe to look old to test our faith and let us rely on His Word. Collins’ argument against this was particularly persuasive to me. If the universe is really less than 10,000 years old, then the stars which are millions of light-years away shouldn’t even appear to us yet. God would have had to create photons in-transit in order for them to arrive here on Earth while we are here to see them. This ultimately makes God a “great Deceiver,” which would lead us to throw out Scripture which says that He is the God of truth. Collins pleas for believers to hold fast to the truths of the Bible and to fiercely resist materialism of atheists, but not through a flawed foundation in science. This leads to “easy wins” for opponents of faith.

Collins points out that ultra-literal interpretations of Genesis have only arisen in the last hundred years, as a consequence of evolution. Many older church fathers (such as Augustine) seemed to think that the early chapters of Genesis had a high, semi-poetical structure and feel to them. He doesn’t go into interpretations of Genesis himself, but wisely leaves that to theologians who have expertise in the matter.

When it comes to Intelligent Design (ID), Collins says that it is an unfortunate view both theologically and scientifically. It was put forth first by Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe in the early 1990’s. They propose the following: (1) evolution promotes an atheistic worldview, (2) evolution is fundamentally flawed, not able to account for biological complexity, and (3) therefore, an Intelligent Designer, God, must have intervened against the laws of nature to provide components during evolution. Collins spends time pointing out the scientific objections to Intelligent Design. Many Christian scientists as well as secular do not accept their arguments. As scientists are actually attracted to opportunities for overturning theories, the fact that the ID arguments are not gaining any holds in the scientific community should be a clue to us that they are not valid. Many of their examples of “irreducible complexity” turn out not to be irreducibly complex after all. They confuse the unknown with the unknowable and the unsolved with the unsolvable. Theologically, ID makes God a “clumsy Creator,” intervening throughout the history of evolution. ID is a “God of the gaps” theory. It’s bad for believers, because as scientists fill in the gaps over time, Christians have less ground to stand on.

Finally, Collins comes around to his beautiful conclusion, the view that puts all the pieces together and brings harmony between science and faith. The theistic evolution position is the “dominant view of serious biologists who are also serious believers.” It holds to all of the main claims of modern science:

1. The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago.
2. Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe were fine-tuned for life.
3. While the mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution through natural selection led to biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time
4. Once evolution got under way, no special supernatural intervention was required.
5. Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes.
6. Humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature, including the Moral Law and the universal search for God.

These views can be held in perfect harmony with the idea that God is transcendent and eternal, Creator of the universe and the natural laws that govern it. He chose the elegant mechanism of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. He chose it knowing it would give rise to creatures with intelligence and free will, into which He would breathe the spirit of life, endowing them with the Moral Law and a thirst for Him. This view is science compatible with faith, a view both “intellectually fulfilling and spiritually alive” (201). He points out that there are many different interpretations of Genesis and different views on how Adam and Eve would fit into the evolutionary history.

The Language of God is a breath of fresh air for Christians who are tired of the war between the anti-science religious community and the anti-religious scientific community. Collins represents a body of Christian scientists who strive to find truth in the Lord’s creation and are zealous about it. He cuts a nice balance, exhorting believers to embrace science and worship the Lord in it, but also encouraging scientists to seek the Lord and not draw philosophical conclusions from natural observations.

References

Collins, Francis S. (2006). The Language of God. New York: Free Press

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Introduction

Richard Dawkins (2006), in The God Delusion, makes the claim that “God almost certainly does not exist” (p. 189). He argues that we have enough scientific and philosophical understanding to reject belief in God, that it is a delusion. We can be “happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled” atheists (p. 23). He writes this book in the hope that religious folk who pick it up “will be atheists when they put it down” (p. 28). In addition to deeming religion a delusion, he also suggests that it is the cause of many problems in the world and that we should strive to educate ourselves out of it. I write this review to analyze Dawkins’ arguments from a Christian perspective.

Dawkins makes the point that religion has traditionally carried out four roles for humanity: explanation, exhortation, consolation, and inspiration (p. 389). Most of Dawkins’ book deals with explanation (how we and our universe have come to exist) and exhortation (how we ought to behave.)  My review responds to his arguments involving our explanation, as it most interests me and is what I am most knowledgeable about. Although I have objections to Dawkins’ other points, such as that the Bible is not a reliable document, that evolution explains our thirst for God and our sense of morality, I will not address them here.

Explanation: How we and our universe have come to exist

Biological life looks designed. Giraffes have long necks to reach food in the treetops. Monkeys have opposable thumbs to grip tree branches. Bats send out ultrasound signals to locate their prey in absolute darkness. Historically, this apparent design in nature was an argument for God’s existence. If something looks designed, it must have a designer. William Paley was one of the main proponents of this natural theology (Giberson, 2008, p. 22).  The leading scientists of his day, Charles Darwin among them, were influenced by this idea.

Since science offered no explanation of how all of the plants and animals of the Earth had come to exist, most leading scientists were believers in God who designed them. Darwin himself had a belief in God and saw the world through the lens of natural theology (p. 22).

Likewise, the universe looks designed and fine-tuned to allow life to exist. It had a beginning about 13.7 billion years ago, say cosmologists, in an event called the Big Bang. The rate of expansion of the universe allowed galaxies to form (too fast and they wouldn’t have, too slow and the universe would have collapsed in on itself). Gravity is of the ideal strength to allow stars to form and maintain long enough lives to let life develop on orbiting planets. The Earth is in a “Goldilocks” zone, a perfect distance from the sun, not too far away nor too close for life to exist. These qualities, and others like them, lead to the idea that the universe is designed for life. And if it is designed, it must have a designer: God.

Dawkins’ view

(1) Evolution makes God unnecessary as the Creator of animal and plant species. Dawkins argues that the theory of evolution explains the diversity and complexity of life so well that God’s role as Creator is diminished. Slow, gradual degrees of change from simple organisms to complex ones, evolving to adapt to environments, produce creatures that look designed. This natural selection is “an ingenious and powerful crane” that explains the diversity and complexity of life better than the God hypothesis (p. 188). We don’t need a supernatural explanation, because we have a natural explanation.

(2) God is too complex to be a good cause of the universe. As we study the history of life on our planet, we see animals evolve from simple beings to complex beings. Life-forms with a few, basic parts evolve into life-forms with many, intricate parts. Likewise, a universe with basic beginnings of particles and forces has organized itself into a universe of galaxy clusters, binary star systems, and planets hospitable to life. Everything that we see has a cause, and the cause is simple.

Therefore, says Dawkins, when we move back to the beginning of the universe, we should expect to find a simple explanation for it. God is not this explanation, he says, because God is complex. To look at the design of the universe and say that there must be a God who started it creates a bigger problem than it solves. God is a super-intelligent mind able to invent worlds, breathe life into matter, listen to millions of prayers simultaneously, etc. That is a complex being. Complex beings require an explanation. But who designed God? Where did He come from? The existence of such a complex, supernatural being is more improbable than the universe He attempts to explain, says Dawkins (p. 138).

(3) There are probably natural explanations of the origin of life and of the universe. Dawkins thinks it more likely that there is a natural explanation for the cause of the life, rather than a complex, supernatural one. Although it has not been discovered yet, a chemical process of life-forms materializing out of the contents of a primordial soup is certainly plausible. It would be a rare occurrence, but consider the vastness of the universe. There are so many planets. A billion billion is Dawkins’ conservative estimate, that is 1 with 18 zeroes after it. Even if one in a billion planets had the right properties to initiate life, that would still leave us with one billion hospitable planets. Out of these one billion with the right conditions, it’s not so inconceivable that life actually forms and sustains itself on at least one or two of them (p. 165). In fact, we know it’s conceivable, because, here we are!

Likewise, our life-friendly universe is not so unbelievable when looking at it from this perspective of probabilities (deemed the “Anthropic Principle”). Dawkins likes Martin Rees’ suggestion that our universe is one of many inside a sort of multiverse, “co-existing like bubbles of foam” (p. 173). Out of an enormously vast number of universes, each with its own set of natural laws, it is not so unlikely that one or two would end up with laws that are favorable to life. In fact, we know it’s likely because we are in one.

The multiverse would be simple. It would be huge, yes. But it would only be governed by the four natural laws that our own universe is governed by. This is a more plausible explanation and is easier to believe in than a complex God (p. 189).

My view

(1) Evolution does not make God unnecessary as the Creator of animal and plant species. God is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe. He started it and He keeps it going. Our existence and that of the universe is radically dependent upon Him. “[All of reality] is in existence only so long as God creates and sustains it…. Were He to withdraw His creative power, the universe would be annihilated in the blink of an eye.” (Craig, 2010). God, however, is the only completely independent being in the universe. His existence depends on no one and nothing. He is self-existent (Craig, 2010).

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25, English Standard Version).

Even if we have laws of physics and scientific explanations for natural phenomena, it is God who determined them from the beginning. He controls everything that goes on inside the universe. Sometimes He uses supernatural intervention to defy the laws of nature, what we would call miracles: raising the dead, healing the blind, etc.

Most of the time He controls it without intervening. In this sense, God is in and behind everything that goes on, but it looks completely natural. Natural events occur because He intends them to: either He wants them to happen or He permits them to happen. Their existence is radically dependent on God’s sustaining power.

So when human scientists discover natural explanations for things, they are discovering how God has set up the universe to function. They are watching God do His work. The implication of this is that every natural phenomenon will have a natural cause, but it is a cause that God began and upholds. The fact that there is a natural explanation does not deny God’s role.

John Walton (2009), an Old Testament scholar at Wheaton College, puts it nicely when it comes to the relationship between the natural and supernatural. He says “I can affirm with the psalmist that God ‘knit me together in my mother’s womb’ without denying the premises of embryology” (p. 140).

Now, back to evolution. The theory of evolution offers a natural explanation for the diversity and complexity of plant and animal species. Dawkins would say that since we have this natural explanation, we don’t need God as an explanation anymore. This view misunderstands God’s role.

God works in and behind the evolution of species throughout time. He intended for a variety of plants and animals to come into being, and they did (Genesis 1:11-12; 20-21; 24-27). Thus, God is a necessary explanation of the origin of animal and plant species. The theory of evolution is a human attempt to explain how God carried it out.

(2) God’s nature makes Him a good explanation as the cause of the universe. Dawkins says that if God created the universe, then we’re left with the problem of God’s origin. Who designed Him? Where did He come from? However, these questions misunderstand God’s nature.

If He created the universe, that is, space, matter, and time, then He must exist outside of it. Therefore, He is timeless, immaterial, and without spatial dimension. His timelessness is what we mean when we say He is eternal. And if He exists outside of time, then the law of cause and effect is not applicable to Him, as it is a physical law, implying change and the passage of time. He does not change. Therefore, theologians are right to say that God is uncaused and does not need an explanation of origin. He always has been, is, and will be.

God, being God, must exist. If we imagine a god who began existing at a certain point, then we are imagining something that, by definition, is not God. Wayne Grudem (1994) affirms this, saying, “All else can pass away in an instant; [God] necessarily exists forever” (p. 162).

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2).

Dawkins is also mistaken to assume that just because God can bring forth complex creatures and think profound thoughts, He must be complex in Himself. He repeatedly brings up his fascination in a God who would be able to listen to millions of prayers simultaneously, which supposedly demonstrates His complexity. However, theologians note that, while God has many attributes, they are all unified into one, whole being. God is not composed of parts. If God were a material being, inside of space and time, He would need to be physically and mentally complex indeed, to be able to genuinely listen to and answer each prayer. As He is, all-knowing and powerful, immaterial and timeless, this does not take any effort for Him. Grudem agrees, “God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act” (190).

“For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:1-2).

God’s other attributes, His will, His omnipotence, and His self-sufficiency, easily account for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and, ultimately, the origin of our species.

(3) Natural explanations of the origin of life and of the universe will still depend on God. That brings us back to Dawkins’ subscription to the multiverse theory and the Anthropic Principle to explain the origin of life on Earth. Dawkins’ use of the theory lets him reject God’s role. We can trust the numbers of the probabilities, he says, which give us confidence in a natural explanation, which we should strive to discover. And if there is a natural explanation, then there is no supernatural explanation. Yet, reminiscent of my point in #1, even if there is a natural explanation, it occurs because God determines and upholds it.

In conclusion, I have argued that God is the primary explanation for the existence of the universe and everything in it. When we adopt scientific explanations to natural phenomena, we merely attempt to explain how God has set up the universe to function. Scientific truth is God’s truth. When we understand science rightly, there will be “no final conflict” between science and Scripture (Schaeffer, as cited in Grudem, p. 275).

“If God is the Creator of all the universe, if God had a specific plan for the arrival of humankind on the scene, and if He had a desire for personal fellowship with humans, into whom He had instilled the Moral Law as a signpost toward Himself, then He can hardly be threatened by the efforts of our puny minds to understand the grandeur of His creation” (Collins, 2006, p. 230).

“We should not fear to investigate scientifically the facts of the created world but should do so eagerly and with complete honesty, confident that when facts are rightly understood, they will always turn out to be consistent with God’s inerrant words in Scripture. Similarly, we should approach the study of Scripture eagerly and with confidence that, when rightly understood, Scripture will never contradict facts in the natural world” (Grudem, p. 275).

“We must not, then, as Christians, assume an attitude of antagonism toward the truths of reason, or the truths of philosophy, or the truths of science, or the truths of history, or the truths of criticism. As children of the light, we must be careful to keep ourselves open to every ray of light. Let us, then, cultivate an attitude of courage as over against the investigations of the day. None should be more zealous in them than we. None should be more quick to discern truth in every field, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it, whithersoever it leads” (Warfield, as cited in Collins, 2006).

References

Collins, Francis S. (2006). The Language of God. New York: Free Press

Craig, William Lane. (2010, March 10). Doctrine of God [#2]. Defenders Podcast – Series 2. Podcast retrieved from http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/Defenders2_DoctrineofGod2.mp3

Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion. Great Britain: Bantam Press.

Giberson, Karl W. (2008). Saving Darwin. New York: HarperOne

Grudem, Wayne. (1994). Systematic Theology. Great Britain: Intervarsity Press & Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan

Walton, John H. (2009). The Lost World of Genesis One. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic

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I grew up in the church and always considered myself a Christian. All through high school and college, I knew that I was a sinner and that Christ was the only one who could save me. I could not save myself. I knew this in my mind. However, I never felt affection for God, especially not over my affection for things in the world, like videogames and girlfriends. I lived a moral life, by human standards. My friends deemed me gentle, considerate, and loyal. All my classmates and teachers held me in high esteem. But the status of my salvation was always uncertain to me. I never rested in the assurance of faith.

At the end of my sophomore year at BGSU in 2007, I learned about the concept of predestination. It threw me into despair because I felt utterly powerless in my salvation. This, along with atheist literature, eventually spurred me to reject God. I decided to openly abandon my faith. I lived as I wanted, striving after the impulses and desires of my heart, caught up in the affairs of the world. I flaunted intellectual objections to Christianity and religion, but I still favored my reputation as a gentle and loyal human being.

After about a year of reading atheist and Christian arguments, I returned to God in my mind. With a refreshing change of perspective, I discovered that Christianity had the answers to the big questions in life. I even found it more reasonable intellectually than the atheist arguments against it. Over the next three years up to the present day, God has drawn me closer to Him so that I acknowledge Him in my heart, not just my mind. At first, I followed Him because it made sense. But the more I learn about Him from His Word, the more I recognize my need for Him, the more I genuinely love Him and desire to glorify Him and obey Him.

God has now given me grace to look at my past and see it with clarity. Prior to 2007, I did not have a change of heart. I did not live in a lot of sin, but I counted that as my own self-righteousness. I never had much affection for God because I gave myself my worth. In my eyes, God saved me because He saw value that I had apart from Him. That is to say, I didn’t need Him entirely. This is exactly the kind of belief that would not renew my mind, would not lead to repentance or self-denial, would not humble me, would not let me trust or love God, and would not produce authentic good works pleasing in His sight. It would send me to hell.

So it was God’s glorious will that I be exposed to the concept of predestination (the doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election,) that would show me that I really was completely devoid of any good or value. In that summer, I felt so helpless and powerless to attain my own salvation, and that was the right way to feel. That is exactly what leads me now to throw myself on the ground before Him who is my only hope and salvation. It is my joy to fear the God who can destroy my body and soul in hell, who loved me despite my utter lack of loveliness, who came Himself down into the world to save it, who crushed Himself whom He loved so that sinners could be justified and His wrath satisfied, who has all authority on earth and in heaven. Glory be to God!

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(continued from the last post)

…So it was by a mix of curiosity and having nothing to lose that I picked up The God Delusion in a London bookstore. Despite the fact that there was an oral presentation I should have been working on all weekend, I spent most of my down time reading the first half of that book. Richard Dawkins declared in the first chapter that he hoped to convert anyone who read his book to atheism, and I could already feel its effects by the sixth chapter.

He moves from the introduction to a general discussion on the different religions of the world, taking a particular amount of time to focus on each of the two testaments of the Bible. During this section, he also spends a large effort making the point that many of the Founding Fathers of the United States were probably more secular than religious, and that the U.S. was not founded on the principles of Christianity, which many people claim today. I haven’t yet done much reading on this besides Dawkins’ work, but the quotes and evidence that he gives are convincing enough, and I have to agree with him on that particular point until I do more thorough research.

One whole chapter is devoted to various “proofs” of God’s existence that he refutes one at a time. Then he goes on with a defense of the theory of evolution and an attempt to reason that there “almost certainly is no God.” When addressed with the question of how life came to be, or why we are here, he says that God is an unsatisfactory answer, because it redoubles the problem. We should then ask, “How did God get here?” This was one of his biggest arguments, as I remember him repeating this several times.

I find myself going into too much detail about this book than I’d like to be, but I just wanted to give an idea of what I was reading that gave me my first taste of an atheistic perspective. From there, I leapt back to the U.S. and did some investigating on various websites to find even more objections to religion and Christianity. I began to look down upon religious people, because I thought they did not question their beliefs enough to find what I’d found.

I told my girlfriend and my parents that I no longer considered myself a Christian, and gave them some of my main doubts that seemed so unanswerable. But to be completely honest, they weren’t the only reasons. There was something about going against the grain of all my Christian friends and family that seemed exciting. I became arrogant. It pleased me to know that I had found questions that most people couldn’t answer. Along these lines, my rejection of Christianity was really more about me and the reputation I wanted than the actual doubts about the religion.

My girlfriend bought me a couple of books, which were targeted at the faithless and doubting audiences, and I agreed to read them. A quote at the beginning of one book was by the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, saying “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” This got me thinking. Were my doubts and questions proof enough to abandon Christianity? I hadn’t ever bothered to try and answer them myself. And I undoubtedly found my current beliefs attractive. I could live how I wanted and liked the glory I felt in “knowing” things others didn’t. Pascal’s quote told me pretty explicitly that my transition wasn’t justified as it went.

So for the next few weeks and months of the summer, I researched many of my questions and found that they didn’t really hold up in the face of the answers. Some of the doubts were based on bad logic; others were resultant of a simple misunderstanding of the nature of God. So He used authors and people who reasoned with the same logic that I had used in my objections to show me that my thinking was wrong.

At first, I turned back to Him only in my head, seeing that it made logical sense. But as weeks and months went by, I learned to pray.  I learned to read the Bible and apply it to every aspect of my life in every hour of my life. God has been letting me discover who He is. And as I learn more about Him, He shows me more and more about myself, and how desperate my situation as a fallen human being is. How much I need Him.

I am proud and selfish.

My motivation is self-seeking, and my actions are self-glorifying.

God created me and loves me, but I hardly give a thought to Him, not even a smidgen of the glory He deserves.

As Paul Washer says in the sermon I mentioned in Part 1, the issue is not that I have sinned. The issue is that I’ve never done anything but sin. Even my very kindest and most loving deeds are just filthy rags, polluted garments, to the LORD.

My situation is desperate. I am worthy of nothing better than eternal death. God saves me because He loves me – NOT because I am worth it.

Jesus dying on the cross doesn’t tell us how much we’re worth. It tells us how dire, how drastic, our situations are that God has to crush his Son.

-hasta pronto

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Okay, so if I had to start my story somewhere, I’d choose the early summer of 2007, but right now I think I’d rather start with this picture of a squirrel that I took this week. Enjoy.


Anyway, early during the summer in 2007, I met with a good friend of mine from high school. He had studied a lot of theology, and during the drive home from the meal, our conversation turned to Christianity. He brought up Calvinism, of which I had never heard before. Calvinism is particularly known for what it has to say about predestination—that God, as the omniscient and omnipotent creator that He is, has the right to say where each human being will end up at the end of his or her life. At the time, it sounded to me that believing this would be to believe that we, as humans, don’t really have free will. Whoever God created us to be, we’ll be, and wherever He intends for us to go, we’ll go, and there’s nothing we can do about it. This scared me a lot. (I plan on focusing a separate post on this topic of predestination later.)

My friend also recommended a preacher named Paul Washer to me. Brother Paul, as he likes to go by, is a southern Baptist preacher who has gone and started ministries in Eastern Europe and South America, namely Peru. I listened to a sermon he gave at a church camp in Alabama. In this shocking sermon, he told the more than 6,000 listeners that he figured the great majority of them would be in Hell when they died. His main point is that here in America, Christians are taught to believe that as long as they pray “the prayer” and ask Jesus into their heart, He will undoubtedly do so. He takes the verse Matthew 7:20, which says that people are to be identified “by their fruits,” to support the claim that if you’re a Christian, there should be obvious evidence of it. Someone should be able to look at you before the change, and then look at you afterwards, and see a major difference. You should be turning away from your sin and look different than the rest of the world. (Go here to watch the sermon for yourself.)

I listened to this, and realized that all that of which he was accusing the listeners there in Alabama could have been charged against me as well. I admitted to myself then that, according to this man, who I believed (and still do) was speaking the truth, I was not a Christian. You would not see any major difference between how I lived before I became a Christian and afterwards. In the words of Brother Paul, I “looked like the world, smelled like the world, sounded like the world, and loved so much that was in the world.” I could sin again and again without pausing but for a couple of seconds to ask forgiveness, and there were even certain sins where I didn’t even feel any guilt at all.

Pairing this realization up with what I thought I knew about predestination, I came to the following conclusion: not only was I not a Christian, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I was going to Hell when I died. And for some reason, I was okay with this conclusion. For the rest of that summer, and for most of my trip to Spain in the fall, I was a fervent believer in Christianity, but believed myself excluded from the Good News that it preached.

It wasn’t until the end of the year, during my trip to London, where I found a book called The God Delusion by atheist Richard Dawkins, that I began to let my beliefs about Christianity turn negative.

Well folks, I apologize for the bad timing and sudden ending of this story, but I’m tired, and it is simply becoming too long for one post. I will tell the other half next time. (Click here to read it right now) But here, have another squirrel picture. 😀

-hasta pronto

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During my time in agnosticism, I obviously had many different questions and doubts about Christianity. One particular objection that I remember having is one that I find pretty simple to refute now. I chose to start with this objection because it requires no outside research and extra work on my part, which many of the other topics are going to involve.

I remember thinking to myself that the only reason I was ever a Christian was because my parents raised me that way. Most of our family and friends were Christians, and when someone has certain beliefs and values, they tend to pass them on to their children. If I were born in the Middle East, say, odds are that I would be Muslim. Looking back now, I don’t really see why I considered this one of my objections. I guess it just bothered me that one’s religious beliefs seemed partly dependent on the region of the world in which one grew up. The majority of South Americans are Roman Catholic, the Middle East is known for its Muslims, and most Indians are Hindu. So any children born in these places are very likely to be raised with the dominant values and beliefs of that society.

But of course, to believe something just because someone else does or because most people do isn’t a good idea. That would be foolish. I don’t believe the New Testament just because it’s part of the Bible and my pastor tells me to. I believe it because I have seen strong evidence that the books of the New Testament are historically reliable and true. I’m not a Christian because my parents raised me so; I’m a Christian because I’ve realized that I am fallen – I deserve eternal death. But God has forgotten my sins – He’s forgiven them and thrown them out into the depths of the sea so that He doesn’t even remember them anymore! I have faith from Him that He is the only one who can – and does – save me, give me eternal life.  My mom and dad first brought me to church and let me hear about Jesus, but they are not my reason for believing what I believe.

Likewise, people who were raised in other countries can look critically at their own belief systems and decide for themselves whether or not they’re worth believing. I hope they are not content to just take their society’s word for it.

So in the end, what I thought was an objection to Christianity was actually just a general objection to blind beliefs with no basis or regard to other possibilities. Silly me. 😀

-hasta pronto

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