The topic about which I’m writing is actually nothing new, certainly not unique to modern times. Jesus, himself, told his disciples two millennia ago,
“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.”
I try to always document and cite quotes. Some quotes used here were gathered almost nine years ago as I, myself, was deconstructing. Occasionally, I grabbed quotes I had seen on Twitter and other social media platforms. As such, I have lost the links to some references. You are encouraged to fact-check anything I’ve included in this essay. My apologies.
My blogs, commonly being devotional thoughts regarding the Christian faith, are typically concise, 500-700 words. This one, comprising my notes from a 45 minute talk I gave during a student ministry event is more along the mines of a short book.
This post is due to the myriad of requests for a copy of my notes from students and adults. Consider taking your time, reading it in “small bites.”
To, hopefully, make what you’re about to read easier to navigate, I’ve organized it as follows: Preface, Introduction, Chapters 1-10, and a Conclusion.
Lastly, if you’re one who’s deconstructed, you may already be thinking to yourself, “It’s always people who’ve never deconstructed who write these blogs. They write about us. But, they don’t know us.”
Perhaps that’s correct in some cases. But, not in this one. Not only do I know you,…
I am you.
Headlines and social media posts appear every now and then citing stories of those deconstructing from and/or abandoning altogether the Christian faith. The stories I researched tended to focus more on high-profile personalities.
Stories from the likes of Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye; Rhett and Link of the hit YouTube channel Good Mythical Morning; and popular Christian musicians like Marty Sampson of Hillsong and Hawk Nelson’s Jon Steingard.
But it would be short-sighted to believe only celebrities encounter this level of crisis-of-belief. At some point, everyone experiences seasons of suffering and doubt. As such, I am fairly certain even the most devoted of Christians, at some point, wrestle with dark corridors of their faith.
For sake of clarity, let’s try and define terms.
Chapter One: Defining Terms
What is Deconstruction of the Christian Faith?
In my research, as well as personal experience, the following definitions provide a balanced picture of what deconstruction, in the context of the Christian faith, means:
- Deconstruction is a critical dismantling of a person’s understanding of what it means to be an evangelical Christian.
- A “mid-faith crisis.”
- It’s examining your faith from the inside looking for potential weaknesses.
- The process of pulling apart one’s faith in order to re-examine long-held beliefs.
- “Making your faith your own.” In other words, you begin to ask yourself why you believe what you believe, no longer taking your faith for granted just because grandma or a preacher said it’s true.
Deconstruction vs. Deconversion
Deconversion is different from deconstruction.
While deconstruction can actually be a healthy thing (we’ll come back to that), deconversion is altogether different, in that the word represents not someone who is questioning their faith, but rather someone who has rejected and abandoned their faith in the biblical Christ.
The term “de-conversion” was thrust into the mainstream when Christian sociologist, Tony Campolo’s, son, Bart, de-converted.
According to the Bible, as salvation cannot be earned, it can neither be lost. When someone claims they are “no longer a Christian”, it is probable they never made a sincere profession of faith in Christ to begin with. That said, it’s not for us to judge who is, and is not, a genuine Christian. Only God can judge the heart. For further insight into this topic, see my blog titled “Christian De-conversions.’
A Moving Target
Like other trendy terms of contemporary culture, the definition of deconstruction can be a “moving target,” of sorts. Jon Bloom explains,
“Deconstruction” is a confusing term, because there’s no single or simple definition for “deconstruction.”
Just as “contemporary Christian/worship music” can mean different things at different churches, so can deconstruction be defined differently by different people.
In way of example, let’s take a look at the deconstruction story of former DC Talk member, Kevin Max. As one author comments on Max’s story, he quotes Max directly as Max attempts to offer an explanation of his social media post.
Max says he’s still a Christian and told people to “read [his announcement] carefully” then reassured his followers, “I still follow the Universal Christ.”… “I’ve been deconstructing/reconstructing/ progressing/whatever you wish to call it for decades, I’ve been in the outsider/misfit/seeker club for a long time now…Thank you for welcoming me in, but I’ve always been here.” He later posted, “Hello, my name is Kevin Max & I’m an #exvangelical.”
As I studied different stories and posts, I was curious to see what mainline readers thought so I noted their comments. A couple of people offered the following push-back to Max’s announcement.
- “This article does not reveal anything of substance regarding his deconstruction. It could mean almost anything.”
- “Help me understand exactly what you mean by exvangelical.”
Personally, I would add, “What do you mean by Universal Christ? No judgment here. Just wanting to understand.”
The questions asked by those who commented on Max’s explanation surrounding his deconversion are common because the stories rarely include “life context.” In other words, what, exactly, triggered their deconstruction? (I’ll unpack that more in Chapter Three.)
**I’ve not been able to find where Max has offered any clarity on what he was trying to say. If you find something, please pass it along. I’ve always liked Max and would enjoy keeping up with his journey.
Chapter Two: Doubting our Faith
Is it ok to doubt God? To question God?
I remember, as a child, feeling like I would be scolded if I ever doubted God. That’s unfortunate. Because, doubt is a parasite of faith. In short, doubt is normal.
When we doubt our faith we’re in good biblical company.
- In Psalm 13, David is crying out to a God he doubts even cares anymore.
- In Lamentations, Jeremiah describes God as a cosmic bully.
- In John 1, the soon-to-be disciple, Nathanael, mocked his brother, Philip’s, claim that Jesus was the Messiah. When Philip said the Messiah grew up in Nazareth, Nathanael looked at Philip and said derisively, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
- In John 20, the disciple, Thomas, dismissed the other disciples’ claim that Jesus had risen from the grave as utterly ridiculous, demanding proof.
- Thomas got stuck with the moniker, “Doubting Thomas.” In his defense, not a single disciple was buying the “Jesus is alive” news: “…the story sounded like nonsense to the [disciples], so they didn’t believe it.” – Luke 24:11
- In Luke 7, John the Baptist sent his friends to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
- And, in Matthew 28, a few moments before the risen Jesus ascended to heaven, while many worshipped him, even then, “many doubted.”
- **We’ll revisit the stories of Thomas and John in Chapter Four.
The scriptures are clear: it’s perfectly ok, and natural, to doubt our faith. Jesus has no problem with it.
Eric Scot English wrote for Patheos:
“Doubt is healthy and doesn’t necessarily lead to a weakening of one’s faith. There are many people in [Christianity] who begin to doubt and become atheists as a result. This is largely because [Christians] discourage doubt when they should see it as an opportunity. Instead of becoming an atheist, which is a huge leap from doubt, the individual [struggling with doubt] should consider going through a journey of deconstruction.”
If God never expected his people to experience doubt, he would have never included statements like the following in his Word:
“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”
Not only does Jesus have no problem with us doubting him, he welcomes it. In fact, he encourages us to place him under the proverbial microscope and test the evidence for ourselves.
Note what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers,
“…test everything that is said….”
The Greek word for “test” means to “examine, prove, scrutinize to see whether a thing is genuine or not.”
Someone once said,
“Truth does not mind being questioned. And a lie does not like being challenged.”
Jesus, Truth incarnate, is not at all afraid of being questioned.
Philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, rightly asserted,
“Christianity is realistic because it says that if there is no truth, there is also no hope; and there can be no truth if there is no adequate base. [Christianity] is prepared to face the consequences of being proved false and say with Paul: If you find the body of Christ, the discussion is finished, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die. It leaves absolutely no room for a romantic answer.”
The Danger of Doubt
“There’s a kind of doubt that actually wants answers, and there’s a kind of doubt that doesn’t want answers.” – Tim Keller
As we’ve established, to doubt is human. And Satan knows it.
Satan hasn’t changed since Eden. He’s an opportunist. Being given free will, it was normal for Adam and Eve to have doubts. But, the serpent saw an opportunity to strike, attaching himself to their doubt and capitalizing on it.
Doubt is okay to visit, but don’t live there.
The devil hopes we’ll remain in our doubt, droning endlessly on philosophically, never willing to make a decision to move on from “high center.”
There will be a strong temptation to choose to exist in a perpetual state of doubt. That’s never healthy, regardless of what we may be doubting. James, the half-brother of Jesus, warned,
“…one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
So, while it’s ok to doubt our faith, we should keep moving and “doubt our doubts”, willing to put in the hard work of finding answers rather than settling for living in our doubt.
Deconstructing is not necessarily something to be avoided as long as we “keep moving.”
Again, doubt is okay to visit. But, don’t live there.
One writer wrote,
“Some people need to doubt before they believe. If doubt leads to questions, and questions lead to answers, then doubt has has done a good work. It is when doubt becomes stubbornness and stubbornness becomes prideful that doubt harms faith. When you doubt, don’t stop there. Let your doubt deepen your faith as you continue to search for answers.”
**As I was writing, I contacted one of my professors from my graduate studies in Christian Apologetics, Dr. Mike Licona. I had remembered him sharing with us how even he, a tenured professor, long-time Christian, and renowned defender of the Christian faith, had experienced periods of doubt. He replied and connected me to a lecture he gave in Calgary, Canada, titled, “When I Doubt God.” I believe Licona’s words will provide some further, valuable insight.
But, how do we arrive at doubt to begin with? Something must have led us there.
Chapter Three: The Anatomy of Deconstruction
Catalysts, Questions & the Happy Ending
In her outstanding book, Faithfully Different: Regaining Biblical Clarity in a Secular Culture, Natasha Crain breaks down research gathered by Biola Professor, John Marriott, as he prepared to write his book, The Anatomy of Deconversion.
Since Marriott’s findings related to deconversion perfectly parallel deconstruction, let’s unpack them one at a time.
Crain cites the following three components common in most stories of deconstruction: a Catalyst; an Avalanche of Questions, and a Happy Ending.
In simple terms, a catalyst is something – a thought, an experience – that “got the ball rolling.” This could be related to intellectual conflict, or moral indignation like the problem of pain i.e. “How could a God who claims to be good and loving allow such evil in our world?” A moment of great pain in our life can serve as a trigger for an acute crisis of faith, plunging us into a tailspin of deconstruction.
In his book, The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity, former atheist and Yale Law School grad, Lee Strobel, recounts his interview with Charles Templeton. During the middle of the 20th century, Templeton was a contemporary of the evangelist, Billy Graham. God was using both men to reach thousands with the good news of Jesus Christ. But, one day, Templeton had a crisis of faith.
Strobel, forty years removed from the day Templeton left the Christian faith, records the following as he and Templeton visited together:
“Was there one thing in particular that caused you to lose your faith in God?”, Strobel asked. Templeton thought for a moment and replied, “It was a photograph in Life Magazine. It was a picture of a woman in Northern Africa. They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, ‘Is it possible to believe there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?'”
It’s a heartbreaking story. But, what Templeton and others like him eventually discover is this: every worldview has its own problem of pain.” To believe that you can abandon the Christian faith and never again have to be confronted with pain and hard questions about life is naïve and unrealistic.
An Avalanche of Questions
After our doubt begins to form cracks in the proverbial dike, the questions hit us like a flood.
As a young adult, I grew weary of listening to people speak of how their alcoholic parent “got help and got sober”, while my dad was never able to do so, finally dying of alcoholism. I could also list my youngest sister who died due to complications arising from a lifetime of drug abuse. And, finally, the suicide of my son, which I will address in Chapter Five. “God,” I asked, “why did you heal others, but not my family?”
Common questions pestering many who doubt the Christian faith are:
- Wasn’t the Bible merely written by men, and then manipulated and altered over the centuries, basically making it a book of myth and legend?
- Why would a loving God send people to hell?
- Doesn’t Darwinian Evolution make the Bible’s teaching about mankind meaningless?
- Aren’t science and faith incompatible?
- How can Christians be so arrogant as to say there’s only one truth and one faith?
These are great questions that deserve (1) to be validated, and (2) receive an honest and respectful response.
Before we move on,…
I would be remiss if I didn’t include here an exhortation for all believers to be equipped to confidently engage in dialogue where the Christian faith is concerned. This in no way means we know all the answers, never having to reply with something like, “That’s a great question. And I have to admit, I don’t know the answer. Could I have a couple of days to do some research and get back to you?” Frankly, for some hard questions about the Christian faith, there is simply no answer. There are just some things God has chosen to allow to remain veiled in mystery.
But, I digress.
What the Bible says about being ready to dialogue with people about our faith is not a suggestion, but a command.
The disciple, Peter, exhorted the early Christians to always be ready and equipped to confidently engage in dialogue where the Christian faith is concerned.
“Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect.”
Making a point about the pervasive complacency surrounding the Christian faith, C.S. Lewis, wrote,
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance; the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Michael Sherrard offers this stinging paragraph in his editorial, “How the Church’s Anti-Intellectualism Will Be Her Jailor“:
This [“moderately important”] attitude [toward our Christian faith] has caused a slumber, a slumber in the proverbial classroom, and the church is now awakening to an exam for which it is not prepared.
Sherrard goes on to compare our culture’s ravenous enthusiasm for sports with what appears to be an anemic devotion to our Christian faith and, even worse, an alarming level of biblical illiteracy.
Our inability to be able to offer, as Peter calls it, a “logical defense” of the Christian faith gives those struggling with doubt one more reason to dismiss the Christian faith as nothing more than “moderately important.”
For example, professor and author, Nancy Pearcey, describes herself as a “leaver” (of the Christian faith) when she was a teenager. In her article, “How Critical Thinking Saves Lives,” she recalls,
“I became a leaver myself at age sixteen. I was not rebellious. Nor was I trying to construct a moral smokescreen for bad choices. I was simply asking, How do I know Christianity is true? None of the adults I consulted offered any answers.“
Crain offers this indictment on a Christian culture that is incapable of engaging in intelligent dialogue where their faith is concerned:
“North American churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral.”
So, it shouldn’t surprise us when people deconstruct from a faith they see Christians treat as though it’s “moderately important.”
Take, for instance, British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, widely known for his lecture, Why I Am Not a Christian. During his lecture, Russell stated,
“I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity it has become. As I said before, in ancient days it had a much more full-blooded sense.”
The 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, observed,
“I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed.”
Now, the Bible is clear: when we stand in the courtroom of heaven before the Judge, Jesus Christ, the excuse, “I rejected faith in you because Christians were hypocrites and didn’t know their Bible,” will not stand up in court. But, as Christians, we’ve got to be prepared to dialogue with people who are struggling with the hard questions of the Christian faith. Most of all, the ones with the questions need to see we care deeply about them, even if we can’t answer their questions.
The Happy Ending
The term usually implies that a person is now able to celebrate the perceived “restraints” and/or “constraints” of a biblical worldview. The phrasing usually looks something like this: “I’ve never felt so free, happy, and liberated! For the first time, I really love my life, and myself.” Crain writes,
“In a secular culture, the ultimate goal is happiness, and the ultimate sin is judging.”
So, it makes sense that behind the celebratory proclamation of liberation is the message, “I never again have to say, ‘But, the Bible says…'” We can now create our own standard, apart from the Bible, for what is right and what is wrong. Biblical, moral objectivity is traded for cultural, emotional subjectivity.
The biblical Jesus is traded for whatever Jesus you want to subjectively create to make your life more comfortable. Alisa Childers addresses this idea of “creating Jesus in our own image” in her outstanding book, Another Gospel: A Response to Progressive Christianity. Read my blog on this topic here.
We all want a happy ending. But, the Bible tells us that following Jesus costs.
C.S. Lewis warned,
“As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy… If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
Again, following Jesus costs.
On April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenbürg, a Nazi Concentration Camp. He was a Christian, a pastor, and a dear friend to all. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he wrote,
“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of [the Christian faith.] It’s grace without price; grace without cost! Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
Happiness is based on circumstance, while joy is based on biblical truth.
The Cross was not a “happy” experience for Christ. In fact, he pleaded with his Father to provide salvation by some other way. But, the author of Hebrews records that what the Cross accomplished brought Christ joy:
“…Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross,…” (emphasis mine)
I’ve experienced a great deal of happiness in my life as a result of my Christian faith. But, when happiness evaporates in times of crisis, biblical joy, sustained by the Cross and the Empty Tomb, is still mine. (cf. John 16:22)
The “happy ending” within the context of our topic here is on a level with “cheap grace.” The term Bonhoeffer uses for the antithesis is “costly grace.”
“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ…. It is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him…. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life…. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son. Above all, it is grace because God did not consider his Son too dear a price to pay for our life.”
Chapter Four: Biblical Examples of Deconstruction
The Bible is sufficient for all aspects of life. What the Bible doesn’t address specifically, it does in principle. As such, biblical stories of deconstruction are numerous.
Adam and Eve.
All we are told is that their doubts were aroused by Satan (represented by the serpent.) Clearly this decision didn’t happen overnight.
Genesis 3 picks up in mid-conversation between Eve and the serpent. There’s no telling how long they’d been talking about this. The Bible doesn’t tell us. But, we do know one thing: the serpent, the master of deception, convinced them to doubt God. And, rather than doubt their doubts and test their faith against what God said, they took Satan’s bait, swallowing it whole. Life on earth has never been the same.
- Their catalyst was their own pride i.e. “I’m smarter than God.”
Thomas, the Disciple
He’d heard the teaching. He’d witnessed the miracles. Jesus had repeatedly predicted his resurrection, but somehow all the disciples, not just Thomas, had missed it. When the risen Jesus first appeared to the disciples, Thomas was not there. So, naturally, when he returned, he scoffed at their claim that Jesus had appeared. As far as Thomas was concerned, Jesus was dead and gone. Subsequently, he adamantly challenged their testimony.
Thomas was deconstructing.
But, about a week later, while Thomas was present, Jesus appeared again, lovingly providing the proof Thomas had mockingly requested. Thomas fell at his feet and said, “My Lord, and my God.”
- His catalyst was hurt (he thought Jesus had abandoned him), and intellectual conflict (dead people don’t rise from the dead.)
John the Baptist
He was called by God to be the “forerunner” of Jesus i.e. the prophet chosen by God to “prepare the way spiritually” for the Messiah. He baptized Jesus and was witness to the miracles surrounding that event. He even proclaimed publicly that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In contemporary terms, John was strong in his faith! Yet, as I mentioned earlier, an intense crisis can quickly lead to intense doubt.
In prison, John is deconstructing, dismantling everything he thought he knew about Jesus, even sending messengers to ask Jesus if he truly is who he claims to be.
- His catalyst was what we call “the problem of pain” i.e. “How can a God who claims to be good and loving allow me to suffer in prison? I’ve done my best to serve the Lord. Why am I suffering?” John was eventually executed by beheading.
Beginning his letter to the believers at Colossae, Paul writes,
“Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas.”
He includes Demas in his greeting to Philemon, as well.
The scriptures strongly suggest Demas was a close associate of Paul, as well as an encourager to the early church.
But, something happened. The Bible is silent as to what. All we know is what Paul wrote to Timothy,
“Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life…”
- We are given little insight into Demas’ catalyst other than his “love for the things of life.” What we do know is that, at some point, Demas began deconstructing. We are not told if he ever re-constructed.
Before moving on, I do want to point out something I don’t want you to miss.
Jesus didn’t respond to Thomas or John by scolding them. He didn’t shame them. He didn’t say, “How dare you question me!” He loved them. He was gentle, caringly providing evidence for him being exactly who he claimed to be. In fact, even after John doubted, Jesus said, “I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.”
It should also be mentioned that there are stories throughout church history of deconstruction.
The German reformer, Martin Luther, is a prime example.
His Ninety-Five Theses nailed to the church door at Wittenberg was a result of his deconstructing the conventional teachings of the medieval Roman Catholic Church and weighing them against the truth of scripture. Luther stripped away what the church leadership had been teaching and found their words erroneous, contrary to what the Bible clearly teaches.
He doubted, but he didn’t live in his doubt.
Subsequently, his courage to honestly investigate his doubts helped ignite a movement history calls the Reformation.
As with the examples of Thomas, John the Baptist, and Luther, it’s easy to see how deconstruction can actually be a healthy expression of one’s spiritual journey.
Chapter Five: My Story
“No parent should have to bury their child.”
Théoden, King of Rohan; Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
My son, Jordan, suffered from debilitating depression. On May 13, 2013, he lost his battle, and hung himself. I found him. He was 19. (You can read about Jordan here.) (You can read how I survived that day here.)
The days that followed resembled more destruction than deconstruction.
As much as a person can lose their faith in God, I did. After serving in full-time, vocational ministry for over thirty years, I even began looking for a new career. I was convinced I had been living and teaching a lie.
I don’t allow others to do my thinking for me. And, I certainly don’t allow myself to be bullied or intimidated into believing something as life-altering as the question of the existence of God.
So, rather than just “leave the faith,” I set out to prove it was a farce.
***To read my story of “Why Atheism Failed Me” click here for Part 1, and here for Part 2.
I was arrested with the cumulative evidence for:
- The existence of God
- The historical reliability of the New Testament
- The fine-tuning (teleology) of the universe
- The intelligent design of the human body
- And no logical explanation for disproving the resurrection
As a result, I found myself facing the same perplexity scholars and thinkers throughout history have faced before placing their faith in Christ: the overwhelming evidence for the case for Christ.
But, before I arrived at this conclusion, a war was coming. A war with God.
Like Job, I demanded my “day in court.” I screamed, “Why! Answer me! I deserve an answer for why you took my son!”
My Introduction to a Worldview Void of God
I don’t think I ever hated God. I was just done with him. But, to preserve honesty in my decision to leave my faith, I needed to follow through in my quest to prove God either doesn’t exist, or he just doesn’t care.
I had no interest in reading “internet atheists,” those posting half-baked philosophies on social media. For example, Dan Barker is one of the pioneers of deconversion. Barker is an American atheist activist who served as an evangelical Christian preacher for 19 years but left Christianity in 1984. He and his wife are the current co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. In his book Losing Faith in Faith, Barker asserts:
“I am an atheist because there is no evidence for the existence of God. That should be all that needs to be said about it: no evidence, no belief.”
Even in my skeptical state of mind, I easily recognized how ridiculous Barker’s assertion was. His statement is so uneducated it’s laughable.
Consider agnostic astrophysicist, Carl Sagan’s, contradiction of Barker’s ignorant, myopic claim:
“An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence [against the existence of God.]”
So, I was careful to focus on respected thinkers from history and contemporary culture.
I took a quick look at the champions of neo-atheism (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris). But, they spent more time impugning Christians and the Christian faith than respectfully refuting evidence for God’s existence, or offering a better way of life in atheism. More “schoolyard bully” than intelligent debate. Essays like Sam Harris’ “Science Must Destroy Religion” is precisely why the Wall Street Journal has called neo-atheism “militant atheism.”
In short, “militant atheism” is not merely unfortunate, it’s lazy scholarship. Any attorney will tell you, “When the evidence is against you, attack the witness.” In other words, if you can’t refute or denty the evidence for the existence of God, attack the character of the one citing said evidence.
This is a pathetic, last-ditch effort in a debate, and why professor and atheist, Michael Ruse, said of Richard Dawkins’ attack on Christians,
“Richard Dawkins in [his book] The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly, he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing.”
Alas, all worldviews have lamentable, human “advertising.”
So, I began reading David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Nagel, John Gray, David Berlinski, and Raymond Tallis.
But, even these erudite scholars had gaping holes in their arguments for a world void of God.
The “Both Ways Conundrum”
The first problem I found to be common was an antinomy I call the “both ways conundrum.” A purely naturalistic worldview insists we, as humans, are mindless, soul-less products of chemicals, originating from a sort of primordial soup. Void of purpose, meaning, cognition, value, consciousness (what Descartes’ called “the ghost in the machine”), or the ability to reason and choose freely.
The moment you suggest we are anything more than this, you have stepped over the demarcation that separates the natural from the supernatural. You are now forced to admit that the claim “Only science can discover truth,” is self-defeating, since the claim itself cannot be proven scientifically.
You can’t have it both ways.
Cal-Tech physicist, Sean Carroll, was quote by Oxford scientist, John Lennox, in Lennox’s, Can Science Explain Everything? Carroll makes the claim,
“We humans are blobs of organized mud, which through the impersonal workings of nature’s patterns have developed the capacity to contemplate and cherish and engage with the intimidating complexity of the world around us.”
**Carroll’s opinion here is based not on science, but on his philosophical interpretation of science.
My question to Carroll: “What, praytell, caused us to have ‘developed the capacity to contemplate and cherish and engage…?'”
I noted a comment on Twitter in response to a tweet by Sy Garte (Ph.D. in Biochemistry, and former professor at NYU) advocating for the existence of God. Agreeing with Garte and supporting Garte’s argument for the existence of God, the person commented,
“Many atheists I talk to on Twitter have claimed to me that the God of the Bible couldn’t possibly exist. But, when I ask them what they think caused matter to become conscious and self-aware spontaneously and unguided they go silent. A closed mind is a puzzling thing.”
Atheist, John Gray, was the Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. In his dismal and dispiriting book, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, he writes,
“The idea of humanity taking charge of its destiny makes sense only if we ascribe consciousness and purpose to the (human) species; but Darwin’s discovery was that species (of any type) are only currents in the drift of genes.”
In his book, The Devil’s Delusion, atheist, David Berlinksi, quotes physicist, Victor Stengor, as saying,
“Astronomical observations continue to demonstrate that the earth is no more significant than a single grain of sand on a vast beach.”
So, according to Carroll, Gray, and Stenger, all you and I amount to are, “blobs of organized mud,” “currents in the drift of genes,” meaninglessly existing on a “single grain of sand on a vast beach.”
How’s that for giving your life meaning and value?
To be fair, as I did my investigation, I did discover intellectual honesty from Raymond Tallis and NYU’s Thomas Nagel. Probing the limits of science, his book, Mind and Cosmos, Nagal asks,
“Are there other forms of understanding that can render intelligible what physical science does not explain?… “I do not believe that we can regard [the fact that human consciousness exists] as brute facts not requiring explanation.”
Nagel continues to hold to an atheistic worldview, but at least he’s honest and brave enough to admit we’re either a “cosmic accident,” or we’re something special. It’s one or the other. You can’t have it both ways.
We tend to think of only Christians being the hypocrites.
But, I quickly discovered that while atheists were adept at attacking the Christian faith, they were inept at defending atheistic empires, regimes and cultures. Far more than not, there was a convenient sidestep around citing the atrocities carried out by communist regimes and empires. Communism, as you know, is incompatible with religious faith, making the communist nation atheistic.
Karl Marx, commonly referred to as the father of communism, famously called religion “the opium of the people.” (Of note, “religion” is man’s search for God, while Christianity is a relationship with God through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.) Those who followed Marx in ideology – such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot – were responsible for untold deaths and human horror. Rebecca McLaughlin writes of the “nightmare of communism” in Confronting Christianity,
“Sixty-one million people killed in the former Soviet Union. Thirty-five million slaughtered in the People’s Republic of China. Combine these with the horrific democides and human rights abuses perpetrated by smaller Communist states (North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and so on), [and we understand why R.J. Rummel calls] the sheer numbers killed in Soviet Russia and Communist China ‘almost impossible to digest’… Before concluding that religion is the problem, we must recognize that a specifically anti-religious ideology has led millions to commit atrocious acts.”
Translation: If you’re going to denigrate religion/the Christian faith, don’t forget to denigrate non-religion/atheism, as well. If you’re going to trash religious faith by citing the Crusades, then make sure you point out the unspeakable suffering caused in the name of non-religion.
Alas, Atheism was failing Me.
I read through Bertrand Russell’s full lecture titled, Why I Am Not a Christian. Not only were his arguments against the Christian faith, in my opinion, weak, but his reasons for his own worldview (all worldviews are faith-worldviews) were even weaker.
Overall, I found the atheistic worldview consistently lacking in depth and limited in scope by those who were dead-set against merely acknowledging the mountain of evidence for the existence of God.
Further, while proponents of biblical Christianity readily exposed the holes in arguments for atheism, little to nothing was offered to counter the biblical worldview by those who oppose it. About the best argument offered by atheism is the “problem of pain.” But, as I’ve pointed out, the atheistic and naturalistic worldviews have their own “problem of pain.”
I found only the biblical worldview can satisfactorily, both, makes sense of this problem as well as offer hope.
As I make clear in Why Atheism Failed Me, atheism gave me no place to put my rage, confusion, and suffering. Further, it gave me no hope of ever seeing my son again.
On the other hand, the Cross gave me all of this and more! So much more.
Scholars and Their Faith
It should be noted that the claim that science and the Christian faith are incompatible is nonsense.
This was, again, driven home to me while watching a debate between Cal-Tech physicist, Sean Carroll, and William Lane Craig. I really enjoyed listening to Carroll who is a brilliant scientist. But, about the only argument he could offer against the existence of God was “God cannot be clearly defined.” Frankly, I don’t want a God I can explain or define. But, this was Carroll’s argument nonetheless.
As a side note, Carroll is a chief proponent of the multi-verse which, in my opinion, requires far more faith than in a man who eye-witnesses saw do miracles and raise the dead. The multi-verse, with its philosophy of infinite regress, according to science itself, is based on no evidence whatsoever. It’s merely philosophical opinions to prevent, to quote evolutionary biologist, Richard Lewontin, “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
The truth is, reputable scientists, worldwide, convey how science and faith are entirely compatible. James Tour, head of the Nanoscience Center, Rice University, shares,
“I build molecules for a living. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult that is. I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.”
In his book, Miracles, NYT Best-seller, Eric Metaxas, concludes,
“The idea that science is somehow at odds with faith…is false. It’s actually not only false but also demonstrably illogical.”
Salviander holds a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. She particularly enjoys research of Quasars, and Supermassive Black Holes. She isn’t at all afraid of pushing back against “militant atheism,” most likely because she was raised as a “militant atheist,” finally coming to faith in Christ because of science. She writes directly:
“Science doesn’t disprove God. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. There is nothing in established, well-supported science that contradicts the existence of God. Nothing. There isn’t even anything in speculative science that contradicts God.”
I could not deny the brilliance and confidence with which these brilliant scientists shared how science provides overwhelming evidence for the existence of God.
So, left disappointed by efforts to find reason to abandon my faith, my journey now led me to arguments for the Christian faith by scholarly Christian men and women, most of whom hold Ph.D.’s in various scientific disciplines, philosophy, and theology. These people are not intellectual slackers, mind you. They are critical thinkers, rigidly honest in their investigations, far from the gullible masses desperately holding onto some sort of fairy tale or “emotional crutch.”
When I was younger, I was convinced that all scientists rejected the Christian faith. I was sorely misguided. Our world is full of brilliant scientists (currently, as well as throughout history) who’ve placed their faith in Christ.
Sarah Salviander (mentioned earlier) tweeted:
Scientists who believed in God: Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Leibniz, Euler, Lavoisier, Pasteur. Michell, Dalton, Laestadius, Riemann, Faraday, Mendel, Hertz, Heisenberg, Joule, Stokes, Kelvin, Thomson, Walcott, Marconi, Eddington, Fleming, Millikan, Compton, Lemaître, Gödel, Walton, and Sandage.
As I mentioned, Salviander was raised in a strict, atheistic home. As such, she embraced atheism until her studies in astrophysics forced her to come to face to face with the overwhelming evidence for a Creator. She not only placed her faith in Christ, she claims it was science that led them to faith. She writes,
“My view of Christianity was negative from an early age, and by the time I was in my twenties, I was actively hostile toward Christianity…I had come to believe that Christianity made people weak and foolish; I thought it was philosophically trivial… [As I began studying the cosmos] I started to sense an underlying order to the universe. Without knowing it, I was awakening to what Psalm 19 tells us so clearly, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
It’s important to understand that science is impotent to disprove the existence of God.
Certainly, God’s existence cannot be proven scientifically. But, neither can it be disproven scientifically.
When scientists begin using science to support their claims regarding the existence of God they have moved out of the arena of science into the arena of philosophy. They are no longer making scientific statements, but merely offering their opinion.
Oxford professor of science, John Lennox, said of Stephen Hawking,
“I have no problem with Hawking’s science. It’s his interpretations of science with which I disagree.”
Praveen Sethupathy is Professor of Physiological Genomics at Cornell University. He observes what many atheists either forget or simply haven’t thought through: science is impotent to disprove God’s existence. Sethupathy asserts,
“Science is necessarily agnostic with respect to anything outside the natural realm. It neither accepts it, nor refutes it.”
Neurobiologist, William Newsome, is the Human Family Provostial Professor and the Vincent V.S. Woo Director of the Stanford Neuroscience Institute at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He said,
“Your faith should be informed by science, but not replaced by science. Science can’t bear that weight. It can’t give you the things that you need from faith or well-reasoned philosophy.”
Daniel Ray asserts,
“Scientists and philosophers who believe their respective disciplines can explain away God aren’t actually explaining away anything but a caricature of their own imagination.”
This is why Andy Bannister rightly stated,
“The claim ‘only science can discover truth’ is self-refuting, as the statement itself cannot be verified using science.”
The truth is, although the existence of God can be neither proven nor disproven scientifically, the evidence for his existence is staggering. Sure, biblical salvation is by faith, it’s not blind faith.
One writer wrote,
“God has put enough into this world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone. Faith and reason must always work together in that plausible blend.”
Tyler VanderWeele, Professor of Epidemiology; Harvard:
“Christianity is not simply a matter of weak-minded individuals gullibly believing a series of nonsensical stories. There is serious evidence that lends substantial credibility to the Christian faith.”
I’ve always been, and still am, pro-science. So, as I began being introduced to scientists who held to a deeply devoted Christian faith – well, frankly, I was as shocked as I was thrilled. Because of my love for science, this was a game-changer.
Permit me to cite just a few of those scholars:
Meghan Sullivan is professor of philosophy at Notre Dame. She states,
“No Christian faith worth having asks you to believe things on no evidence at all. In fact, the very best thinkers in the Christian tradition – from the gospels onward – have all been trying to give you reasons [to believe].”
Daniel Hastings; professor aeronautics and astronautics; MIT:
“I became a Christian after a search for meaning in my life. I have found Jesus Christ to be the purpose and meaning for which I was searching.”
Rosemary Avery; professor of human ecology; Cornell:
“My search for truth was focused on two questions: does it explain the reality of the world I see around me? Does it answer the deep questions of morality and meaning? I found that truth in the person of Jesus Christ.”
Rosalind Picard; professor and director of affective computing Research; MIT:
“We are not just stuff – just mind and body. We are beings who live in relationship to One who transcends…all space and time, all matter and all mind.”
Martin Nowak; Professor of Mathematics and Biology; Harvard:
“God is both creator and sustainer of the universe….God, who exists outside of time, eternal and atemporal, all-knowing and all-loving.”
And, Ian Hutchinson; Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering; MIT. On Easter Sunday, he posted:
“My Christian colleagues at MIT – and millions of other scientists worldwide – somehow think that a literal miracle like the resurrection of Jesus is possible…To explain how a scientist can be a Christian is actually quite simple. Science cannot and does not disprove the resurrection… Today’s widespread materialist view that events contrary to the laws of science just can’t happen is a metaphysical doctrine, not a scientific fact.
These are just a few of the scholars I’ve read and studied. I could quote many more.
Chapter Six: Deconstruction to Reconstruction
I had spent the months following my son’s death stripping away everything I had ever learned and experienced in my Christian faith. Using home-remodeling as a metaphor, I was now “down to the studs.” I investigated every square inch of my faith for “faulty wiring, leaky plumbing, structural comprises, etc.”
Reconstruction is hard work. But, I had no intention of living the rest of my life in doubt of such an important question as “Does God exist?”
I read once,
“Deconstruction is the only way that harmful beliefs can be dealt with religiously. However, deconstruction cannot happen in isolation. It must be followed by reconstruction… Deconstructing, however jarring and emotionally exhausting, need not end in a cul-de-sac of unbelief. In fact, deconstructing can be the road toward reconstructing—building up a more mature, robust faith that grapples honestly with the deepest questions of life.”
Antony Flew was the 20th century’s champion of atheism. The British philosopher was a proponent in analytical and evidential schools of thought. In 2003, he was one of the signatories of the Human Manifesto III.
But, in 2004, everything changed when Flew rocked the atheistic world by publicly confessing he now believed in God.
Honestly, without bias, considering what makes most sense of reality takes courage.
After my 2013 crisis of faith, I was introduced to Flew’s book, There Is a God. He wrote,
“I made up my mind to obey the command that Plato in his Republic attributed to Socrates: We must follow the argument (evidence) wherever it leads.” – Antony Flew
I deeply respect Flew’s intellectual honesty. For Flew, a brilliant, respected philosopher, the evidence led undeniably to the existence of God.
**It should be noted that Flew had not yet come to place where he believed he could have a personal relationship with God through Christ. Rather, like the two-step process another former atheist, C.S. Lewis, shares in Surprised by Joy, Flew had arrived at “step one:” he now believed there was an intelligent Creator of the Universe.
I’ve already mentioned Francis Schaeffer, but I didn’t mention he also experienced a time of deconstruction of the Christian faith. In 1951, having recently moved his family to Switzerland to launch a new mission, suddenly found himself plunged into a spiritual crisis.
As Schaeffer contrasted the New Testament’s description of Christian love with the suspicious, angry, separatistic culture of American Protestantism he had been a part of for the previous two decades, he was “torn to pieces by the lack of reality.” (His catalyst was the rampant hypocrisy of Christians.)
But, although Schaeffer wrestled with doubt, he didn’t live there. He kept moving, eventually reconstructing.
One writer wrote of Schaeffer’s deconstruction-to-reconstruction experience,
“He questioned whether Christianity itself was real. For agonizing months, he dismantled his beliefs and reassembled them piece by piece. As a result, Schaeffer emerged with a greater confidence in the core truth claims of Christianity and a deep, life-changing, ministry-shaping conviction that Christian truth and love are inseparable.”
Side note: never base your opinion of the Christian faith on the words and actions of Christians. We are miserable “advertisements” for the faith. Focus not on Christians, but on Christ.
As I continued my deconstruction, I was forced to face something I hadn’t initially considered:
“If I am going to hold to a lifetime of deconstruction, I must be able to intelligently and logically refute biblical Christianity for that same entire lifetime.”
So, I now had a choice to make. I could live in my doubt, or I could keep moving. Choosing to live in doubt sounded miserable. So, like Schaeffer and Flew, I decided to keep moving.
I discovered that asking questions is arguably a sign that a person’s faith is growing, not stagnating.
There are a myriad of evidential reasons for believing the Bible to be true. Voluminous books have been written about them. This essay is already small-book-length, so permit me to share with you just one reason my deconstruction led to reconstruction. I’ll give you the same reason that led Flew to believe: the universe.
Chapter Seven: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God
A gathering takes place in first century Athens, Greece, I would have loved to have been a part of. Let me set up the context.
Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) is journeying throughout Greece, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. After arriving in Athens, he engages in conversation with the philosophers of ancient Greece who regularly gathered to discuss both philosophy and the issues of the day. They didn’t just invite anyone into their conversations – you had to earn it. Paul did just that.
Paul took his faith seriously. He knew why he believed what he believed, and was not afraid of engaging in intelligent dialogue with even the most learned scholars. This impressed his listeners. So, Paul is welcomed to present his “case for Christ” to the Greeks. Luke records the scene:
“People of Athens, I see you are very religious… ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…”
When Paul reasoned with Jews regarding Jesus being the Messiah, he commonly appealed to fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. But, when Paul reasoned with Gentiles (non-Jews), he commonly appealed to the first miracle recorded in all of scripture: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
“The greatest miracle of all time is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles. One that inescapably points to something – or Someone – beyond itself.” – Eric Metaxas
I believe this is one reason Abraham Lincoln pondered,
“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”
It’s certainly why David wrote in the Psalms,
“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place—… O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”
So, how does the universe serve as a logical reason for the existence for God’s existence?
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
The Kalam Cosmological Argument comes from the word “kalam,” the Arabic word for medieval theology.
Al-Ghazali was a twelfth century Muslim theologian from Persia (modern day Iran.) He was concerned that Muslim philosophers of his day were being influenced by ancient Greek philosophy to deny God’s creation of the universe.
Al-Ghazali’s argument is a logical syllogism, based on three premises.
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its beginning.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause of its beginning.
Let’s unpack them one at a time.
Premise One: Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its beginning.
Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause.
Something can’t come from nothing. It’s scientifically impossible. Everything that exists had a cause for its existence i.e. if you hear a sound, something had to have caused that sound; if you see something move, something had to have caused it to move; and so on.
William Lane Craig explains,
“To claim that something can come into being from nothing is worse than magic. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least you’ve got the magician, not to mention the hat! But if you deny Premise 1, you’ve got to think that the whole universe just appeared at some point in the past for no reason whatsoever. But nobody sincerely believes that things, say, a horse or an Eskimo village, can just pop into being without a cause.”
“If something can come into being from nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything or everything doesn’t come into being from nothing. Think about it: why don’t bicycles and Beethoven and root beer just pop into being from nothing? Why is it only universes that can come into being from nothing? What makes nothingness so discriminatory? There can’t be anything about nothingness that favors universes, for nothingness doesn’t have any properties. Nor can anything constrain nothingness, for there isn’t anything to be constrained!”
Back to Paul in Acts 17 as he engages with the Greek philosophers.
Paul, no doubt, took the Greeks by surprise when he eruditely appealed to their own philosophy as evidence for the existence of God. Look at what Paul said next:
Who knows? Paul may have cited the 5th century B.C., philosopher, Plato, who said,
“As for the cosmos, we must ask about it the question one is bound to ask…: whether it has always existed and had no beginning, or whether it has come into existence and started from some beginning. The answer is that it has come into being… And what comes into being…must do so owing to some cause.”
Regardless, Paul no doubt surprised his listeners by saying, “Hey, even the people you study and read support what I am telling you.”
Accordingly, let’s look at statements from non-Christian philosophers and scientists regarding Premise No. 1.
David Hume; 18th century philosopher & skeptic –
“I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.”
Robert Jastrow, the founder of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA
“The universe, and everything that has ever happened in it since the beginning of time, are a grand effect without a cause? An effect without a cause? That is not the world of science; it is a world of witchcraft . . . a medieval world that science has tried to banish.”
We’ve established logically the premise that “Everything that exists has a cause for its existence.” Now, let’s look at the next premise.
Premise No. 2 – The Universe began to exist.
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
Michael Strauss is Professor of Physics at the University of Oklahoma. In his book, The Creator Revealed, he writes.
“In 1915, Albert Einstein, arguably the most famous theoretical physicist of all time, published his theory of general relativity, which is still the best explanation of how gravity works. When Einstein looked at his equations that described gravity, he noticed that they implied the universe should be expanding. He realized that such an expansion also implied the universe probably had a beginning… In the 1970s, three physicists—Stephen Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose—did additional work trying to understand the predictions of the theory of general relativity. Their work ultimately led to the conclusion that the big bang was the origin not only of space but also of time.”
Strauss mentions Stephen Hawking. Hawking once stated,
“Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang”
**It should be noted that later, Hawking, in his book, The Grand Design, seemed to make an “about face” and argued,
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”
This statement from Hawking is surprisingly illogical. Where did the Law of Gravity come from? Something/someone had to have created it. So, Hawking is appealing not to science for the reason for the universe’s existence, but to his own personal philosophical opinion.
Alexander Vilenkin, Physics professor and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University admits,
Scientists “can no longer hide behind a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”
And, Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate physicist, co-discoverer of the cosmic microwave background:
“The best data we have [concerning the big bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”
Astronomer, Edwin Hubble, and his discovery of the Red Shift.
“Hubble discovered the first evidence for the big bang in 1929… Dr. Hubble noticed that every galaxy he observed was moving rapidly away from our own Milky Way galaxy… He also observed that the farther a galaxy is away from us, the faster it is moving away… The best explanation that has been proposed for the observations that Dr. Hubble made is something like an explosion. In an explosion, all the fragments it creates move away from each other.”
Translation: Not only is our universe expanding at mind-boggling speed, it’s accelerating as it expands!
Once again, Dr. Strauss:
“Almost all naturalistic proposals do not address the “entropy problem” of the early universe. Entropy can be thought of as a measure of disorder or randomness. The higher the entropy, the more disorganized. Based on observations and the second law of thermodynamics, we know that at the beginning of the universe, entropy was extremely low, and has been increasing ever since. A low-entropy beginning to our universe means that the big bang origin was not a chaotic event but was highly ordered.”
Logically, an explosion results in disordered chaos. Think: shrapnel flying everywhere after a bomb explodes. Yet, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics tells us whatever caused the Big Bang (an “explosion” beyond human comprehension) brought forth order rather than chaos. Inconceivably, what this “explosion” produced was not confusion, but calibration! It was not accidental, but controlled!
A classmate of mine in graduate school, Daniel Ray, with philosopher, Paul Gould, edited a book titled, The Story of the Cosmos: How the Heavens Declare the Glory of God. One of the contributors, Melissa Cain Travis, quotes the early 17th century German astronomer and mathematician, Johannes Kepler:
“To God there are, in the whole material world, material laws, figures and relations of special excellency and the most appropriate order.”
In his book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, observed,
“This universality of physical laws (of the cosmos) tells us that if we land on another planet with a thriving alien civilization, they will be running on the same laws that we have discovered and tested here on earth…Science thrives not only on the universality of physical laws but also on the existence and persistence of physical constants… If you do the math, you can determine that a star’s luminosity is steeply independent on the universal law of gravity. In other words, if gravity had been slightly different in the past, then the energy output of the sun would have been far more variable than anything the biological, climatological, or geological record indicates.
Such is the uniformity of our universe.”
To say [the Big Bang] was controlled or precisely calibrated can hardly begin to explain the degree of control involved. In fact, the speed at which the cosmos expanded out of that microdot in question was so outrageously perfectly calibrated that physicists say it constitutes the “most extreme fine-tuning yet discovered in physics.”
Metaxas referred to “that microdot.” Cosmologists call this the “moment of singularity.” Using a movie as a metaphor for the birth of the universe, let’s imagine we could “pause the expansion of the universe” and then hit “rewind.” When we finally arrived at the beginning of the “movie” we would find ourselves at that moment, that nanosecond, that “microdot/point in time” scientists call the Big Bang. Or, what the Bible calls “And God said…”
Metaxas also mentioned the “speed at which the cosmos expanded.” Get ready for your brain to hurt.
NGC 2623/Arp 243 is an interacting galaxy located in the constellation Cancer. NGC 2623 is the result of two spiral galaxies that have merged. It is 253 million light years from earth, and traveling away from us at 3400 miles per second. – – Per. Second.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson describes what happened after the “explosion.” What I want you to notice is the speed at which what he describes takes place.
[After the Big Bang], “this sub-pinpoint-size cosmos (moment of singularity) could only expand. Rapidly…. As the universe aged through 10-35 seconds it continued to expand, diluting all concentrations of energy, and what remained of the unified forces split into the electroweak and the strong nuclear forces. Later still, the electroweak force split into the electromagnetic and the weak nuclear forces, laying bare (1)the weak force controlling radioactive decay, (2) the strong force binding the atomic nucleus, (3) the electromagnetic force binding molecules, and (4) gravity binding bulk matter….
“All the while, the interplay of matter in the form of subatomic particles, and energy in the form of photons (massless vessels of light energy that are as much waves as they are particles) was incessant… Shortly before, during, and after the strong and electroweak forces parted company, the universe was a seething soup of quarks, leptons, and their antimatter siblings, along with bosons, the particles that enable their interactions…
“As the cosmos continued to expand and cool, growing larger than the size of our solar system, the temperature dropped rapidly below a trillion degrees Kelvin.
A millionth of a second has passed since the beginning.”
“A millionth of a second.”
One more thing to consider.
The Big Bang is just a term astronomer, Fred Hoyle, (not a Christian) used to try and describe whatever caused the universe to begin to exist. The term stuck. But, according to the Bible, the miracle of the universe is far beyond our human idea of a “big bang explosion”. Dr. Strauss offers this mind-boggling insight:
“The Big Bang was not an explosion, because there was nothing around before the Big Bang to explode!”
Selah: pause and think about that for a moment.
When someone creates an explosion, they first had to create the bomb, gathering the right materials. The Bible tells us the universe was created out of nothing (Latin: ex nihilo).
The Bible describes that moment this way: “And God said…”
Of course, you can believe what you want. But, what science asserts sounds a lot like Genesis, chapter 1.
**The three natural laws listed above are incontrovertible and can be found in any textbook on cosmology and astronomy.
Having scientifically established the first two premises, we now arrive at the logical, final premise.
Premise No. 3: Therefore, the universe has a cause of its beginning.
Nobel Prize winner, Max Planck, is often referred to as the Father of Quantum Mechanics. He wrote:
As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: …All matter originates and exists only by virtue of forces which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The mind is the matrix of the matter.
Astronomer, Allan Sandage, the first to reasonably determine accurate values for the Hubble constant and the age of the universe, earned his PhD from the California Institute of Technology. During this time, while Sandage was still a graduate student, he was the assistant to renown cosmologist, Edwin Hubble, who is eponymously named for the Hubble Space Telescope. He observed,
I find it improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God, to me, is a mystery, but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.
While most people would agree Premises 1 and 2 are reasonable, Premise 3 is where the debate ramps up: If something can’t come from nothing, what, exactly, brought something out of nothing?
The Bible tells us the “what” is a “Who”: God. “In the beginning, God created…”
Aquinas’ stated the Uncaused Cause must, by definition, have no beginning – that is, nothing caused it/him to exist because the first cause, being uncaused, must be eternal. This Uncaused First Cause cannot, then, be spatial-temporal. It must exist outside of both time and space. In short, it must transcend space and time, since it created space and time. Therefore, logic dictates it must be immaterial and non-physical. Further, it must be unimaginably powerful, since it created all matter and energy.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument thus gives us powerful grounds for believing in the existence of a beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial, enormously powerful, Personal Creator of the universe. Or, what Kierkegaard called “the wholly other.”
The Bible calls him God.
Physicist, Michael Strauss, a Christian, wrote,
“If everything in the universe came into being, then the cause of the universe must be transcendent, not a part of this universe. Science kind of stumbled onto something that the Bible declared long ago … that the universe had a beginning.”
Even astronomer, Robert Jastrow, not a Christian, wrote,
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Where did God come from?
But, if God created the universe, and something cannot come from nothing, who created God?
This is where the human brain begins to cramp and break down. As you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and the Bible gives that First Cause a name: God.
It’s the age-old question, “Where did God come from? Who made/caused God?”
The Bible is clear: God always was, is, and is to come. This is precisely why God used the name “I AM” with Moses and not “I was” or “I will be.” When challenged by the religious leaders, Jesus told them, “Before Abraham came into existence, I AM!”
The reality of God’s existence is beyond mere human logic, reason, and intellect. And, that naturally leads many to dismiss God’s eternality altogether.
Bertrand Russell, like many others, naturally considered the First Cause Argument silly. But, his opinion is based on philosophy and theology, not on science.
Professor and pastor, Jim Hardwicke, notes,
“If you keep tracing back the causes of all the effects in the universe, you will eventually, logically come to a First Cause or an Uncaused Cause. Logically, that Uncaused Cause must be a self-existent Creator, the One we call God.”
My friends, my deconstruction led to a treasure trove of evidence for the existence of God, to Christ being exactly who he said he was, and for the Bible being true. Above, I’ve listed merely one reason for my reconstruction. One of many.
I stand with Yale Law School grad and former atheist, Lee Strobel, who said,
“To continue in atheism, I’d need to believe nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces fine-tuning, chaos produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and non-reason produces reason. I just didn’t have that much faith.”
Chapter Eight: The Carpenter’s Loving Reconstruction
I was visiting with my friend and pastor, David Wilson, about this topic. He used imagery that struck me with truth. He told me,
[When we deconstruct the], “Carpenter” can rebuild and repair what’s been broken.
Consider the following.
Jesus was a “blue collar” worker. In those days, sons commonly grew up following in the vocational footsteps of their father. This led Jesus into full-time carpentry until he began his earthy ministry at about 30 years of age. He knew how to build. He knew how to remodel. And, he knew how to repair things that were broken.
I was a broken man.
Not hurriedly. Not forcibly. But, patiently, carefully, and tenderly, the Carpenter lovingly and gently put me back together.
Search the gospels and you’ll find Jesus never imposed his message on anyone. He taught, shared, and performed the inexplicable. But, not once, did he force people to believe in him. He left that decision up to the individual. And, he still does.
Billy Graham said it well:
“Faith in Christ is voluntary. A person cannot be coerced, bribed, or tricked into trusting Jesus. God will not force his way into your life…. It is your personal decision.”
Any master carpenter will tell you that craftsmanship takes time. Alas, in time, I made my personal decision.
Abiding in the Socratic axiom championed by Antony Flew, I chose to follow where the evidence led. And the evidence overwhelmingly led me to believe that the biblical worldview makes most sense of reality.
Chapter Nine: Responding to those who are Deconstructing
Permit me to offer some ideas on how to respond to friends who are deconstructing their Christian faith.
How did Jesus respond?
When Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus took the gracious step of providing attention, time, and evidence (John 20:24–28). Jesus was gentle with Thomas and graciously dealt with his skepticism. We must do the same.
We can’t reason someone into heaven. The goal of a debate should never be to win an argument, but to win a friend.
More than anything else, we want them to see that we genuinely and sincerely love them, regardless of what they believe.
“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
People who are deconstructing are dealing with heavy doubts and questions. That last thing they need is for someone to “add weight” to their burden.
So, leading with love, here is a sincere line of questions you can ask those who are considering either a modified version of biblical Christianity, or something else altogether:
- “Why do you think that’s true?”
- “What makes that a better option?”
- “Can you help me square that with scripture?”
What if they say, “We all have our truth. You follow your truth, and I’ll follow mine.”
First of all, logic dictates there cannot be multiple truths i.e. “your truth and my truth.” There must be only one truth.
For someone to claim, “there are many truths” is self-defeating since they, themselves, are making a truth-claim. For further insight on “relativism”, click here. to listen to a friend of mine, philosopher, Dr. Paul Copan. His reasoning is based on simple logic.
Satan is a brilliant strategist. Often, rather than try to convince someone there is no God, he’ll be perfectly satisfied creating a distorted impression of God in our minds, just as he did with Adam and Eve. In that case, the following can be effective:
“Tell me about the God you believe in. Chances are, I don’t believe in that God either.”
Respectfully ask them to help you understand the Jesus they now believe in (if they still believe in him.) Your objective here is not necessarily to change their mind as much as it is to understand where they’re coming from. Then, with their permission, you can begin dialoguing with them why (1) the Christian faith makes best sense of reality, and (2) what Christ has meant to you, personally.
It would be easy for those who’ve deconstructed to believe they’ll no longer struggle with how to define what is right and what is wrong, or doubts about their worldview. The reality is that there are unanswered questions in any worldview.
In general, when dialoguing about what one believes, Sean McDowell suggests the following three questions to ask:
- What is your worldview? (we all have one; a worldview is a view of reality through which we form our philosophy, theology, ethics, morality, definitions of right and wrong, etc.)
- How did you get it?
- Is it true? Please explain.
In The Story of Reality, Gregory Koukl, writes,
“Every worldview has four elements (whether we want to acknowledge them or not): (1) Where did we come from? (2) What is our problem? (3) What is the solution? (4) How will things end for us? Biblically, this is described as creation, the fall, redemption and restoration. Creation tells us how things began, where everything came from (including us), the reason for our origins, and what ultimate reality is like. The Fall describes the problem (since we all know something has gone wrong with the world). Redemption gives us the solution, the way to fix what went wrong. Restoration describes what the world would look like once the repair takes place.”
Oxford’s Alister McGrath has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics. A former atheist, he concludes,
“I became a Christian at the age of 18 while studying chemistry at Oxford University. My conversion related to my perception that Christianity offered a more comprehensive, coherent and compelling account of reality than the atheism I had embraced in my earlier teenage years.”
For me, the biblical worldview not only is supported by overwhelming evidence. It also makes the most sense of reality.
The former atheist, C.S. Lewis, wrote,
“In science, we have been reading only the notes to the poem; In Christianity, we have the poem itself.”
Chapter Ten: The Heart of Jesus
If you’re reading this and are burdened by doubt and/or a terrible event that has caused a crisis of faith, please know Jesus loves you.
And he gets it.
“He was despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with deepest grief.”
We can’t reason someone into the Christian faith. In other words, it’s very possible for all the verbiage filling this essay to sound logical, yet also meaningless.
More than anything else I’ve shared here, I want you to know the heart of Christ.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…for I am gentle and lowly [humble] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
I love how Eugene Peterson renders this passage in The Message Bible:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
It is my heartfelt prayer that, should you be deconstructing and/or deconverting, you would give Jesus another chance. His love for you in incomprehensible. He longs to hold you and visit with you about all of your doubts, your questions, and your disillusionment with man-made religion.
Certainly, Jesus is Judge of the living and the dead, and his wrath sure for those who die following a life of rejecting him. But, he’s also a tender Shepherd, longing for a relationship with you. The very one who spoke this cosmos into existence so desired to be with you that he died for you.
This is what Paul meant when he wrote,
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jonathan Feng, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UC Irvine:
“The God who made the universe, from quarks to galaxies, also cared enough about us to be born as a human, and to suffer and die to bring forgiveness and new life to broken people.”
In his book, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, Dale Ortlund unveils Jesus’ humble and compassionate heart for those who are seeking truth and hope.
“Gentle and lowly’ – [These two words], according to his own testimony, [describe] Christ’s very heart. This is who he is. Tender. Open. Welcoming. Accommodating. Understanding. Willing…. The Jesus given to us in the Gospels is not simply only one who loves, but one who is love; merciful affections stream from his innermost heart as rays from the sun.”
Permit me to use one other quote from Ortlund, but to change a couple of words so that you might grasp its application and truth regarding the topic we’ve covered:
“The cumulative testimony of the four Gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees [his children deconstructing their faith due to doubt and pain], his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward [their struggles] and suffering, not away from it.”
Oh, Jesus loves you.
To paraphrase the 17th century French scientist, Blaise Pascal, please don’t wager against the Bible being true.
Conclusion: Rebuilt. Stronger.
In 2007, I broke my back. Wanting to encourage me while I spent eight only weeks in a upper-body brace, a physician said, “Nick, I know it may not feel like it now, but your back will heal. And, believe it or not, those bones will heal back stronger than they were before you broke them”
It appears our faith follows a similar pattern.
I sat across the table from a former student not long after my journey back to the “gentle and humble” heart of Jesus Christ. I shared with him the following:
“In John 6, Jesus delivers a blistering message to the crowds of people who’d been following him for some time. They loved the miracles i.e. the multiplication of the fish and loaves, the healing of their loved ones, the raising of their dead, and Jesus’ words of love and grace. But, they had no interest truly devoting their lives to him. They loved the “sizzle,” but not the “substance.” And Jesus knew it.
After he was done speaking, John records in vs 66,
“From this time many of [Jesus’] disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
The Greek wording behind “turned back and no longer followed him” carries the weight of “finality.” The crowd sneered, mocking Jesus with disgust, and never followed him again. With Jesus’ humanity on display, we see inside his broken heart as he, perhaps with tears in his eyes, turns to his twelve disciples and asks,
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I looked at my friend and said, “I finally told Jesus, ‘Where else could I go? I have come to believe that you alone have the words of truth.”
Solus Christus, nw