Finding Truth: Identify the Idol
Have you ever been in a conversation where the other person brings up statements about Christianity that you know aren’t true but you don’t know quite how to respond? That as the conversation goes on, you’re not quite sure where the person’s coming from but you feel unable to give a cogent response? Nancy Pearcey’s book, “Finding Truth” is an excellent resource at helping you to understand and respond to your friend’s statements. In the following study, I will attempt to summarize her main points, but I highly recommend you buy this book and study it.
To find the truth behind your friend’s disagreement with Christianity, you can divide your roadmap into 5 parts. Don’t worry if you don’t understand these 5 parts now. We’ll discuss each one in detail:
1…identify their ‘idol’
2…identify the idols reductionism
3…test the idol; does it contradict what you know about the world?
4…test the idol; dies it contradict itself?
5…replace the idol with the Christian God
Principle#1: Identify their “idol”…
An idol is anything in the universe that is put in the place of God. We humans were made to worship. If we don’t worship the Creator, we will worship some part of the creation. If you do not start with God, you must propose something else as the ultimate, eternal, uncreated reality that is the cause and source of everything else. If you take any view back far enough, you reach a point where you cannot go back any further, where you have reached your source.
For example, atheists believe in the philosophy of materialism. This is the belief that matter/energy is all that there is in our universe. Nothing else exists. The late Carl Sagan’s statement that, “The Cosmos (universe) is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be” sums it up. Forget the fact that this statement is not provable as one would have to have ultimate knowledge to know that this is all there is. But the important point is not which claims are religious or secular but which claims stand up the best to what reality is.
Materialists believe the universe started with a Big Bang. That all the matter/energy, time & space was condensed into a singular point of incredible density. At one point, it expanded and formed our present universe. But they were uncomfortable with the universe having a beginning (this implies there was a beginner—oh my!), so some of them have answered this by saying there is a universe-creating entity that is creating trillions upon trillions of universes. By chance, ours just happens to be one universe that is suitable for human life. But this universe-creating entity was itself created out of a quantum fluctuation…i.e., it was created out of nothing. This is known as the multi-verse theory. It has NO observational proof at all!
But this theory is interesting for 2 reasons:
1…it shows the length some scientists will go to avoid evidence that points to a Creator.
2… this quantum fluctuation they are describing as ‘creation out of nothing’. This is exactly how creationists say God created the universe…ex nihilo…this is Latin for ‘creation out of nothing’. So the atheist scientists can use creation out of nothing when it suits their purposes but they disparage creationists when we use it. That’s hypocritical!
Some scientists go so far as to say that our minds are nothing more than chemical/genetic reactions of neurons in our brains. That concepts like ‘love’ is a chemical reaction that our brain forces us to have. To carry this line of reasoning even further, they claim that we don’t have ‘free will’, that we cannot freely choose something. That our brains force us to react in certain ways. That things like morals don’t really exist, that morality is forced on us by the chemical reactions in our brains.
Philosopher Michael Ruse says that ethics are a shared illusion of the human race….Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9
Atheist philosopher William Provine says, “…there is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life and no free will for humans” ….Provine, W.B., Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? The Debate at Stanford University, William B. Provine (Cornell University) and Phillip E. Johnson (University of California, Berkeley), videorecording © 1994 Regents of the University of California.
(See also: Origins Research 16(1):9, 1994; Provine/Johnson Stanford Debate Excerpts. Origins Research 16:1.)
Professor Marvin Minsky said in his book “The Society of Mind” (Simon & Shuster, 1986, page 307), that “The physical world provides no room for freedom of will…but that concept is essential to our own models of the mental realm. Too much of our psychology is based on it for us to ever give it up. We’re virtually forced to maintain that belief, even though we know it’s false”.
This makes us nothing more than robots, not responsible for our own actions. These scientists (materialists) believe all life is made up of matter/energy. The late Christian philosopher, Dallas Willard, said this about materialism, “There is one reality, the natural world, and physics is its prophet.”
In materialism, the idol is matter/energy.
The good thing about Christianity is that God urges us to “plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:36). Paul does this in Acts 17. This means that we can appropriate the best of pagan society into a Christian worldview. That’s why we can say that “All truth is God’s truth, wherever its found”. Paul does this by acknowledging that his pagan Greek listeners had some insight into truth even if it wasn’t all true. So we can agree with much of materialism without agreeing with everything.
How well does Christianity do at explaining these things in comparison to materialism? In Romans 1:19,20 Paul says all people everywhere have evidence of God’s existence by looking at “the things that have been made”…the created world. How does it do this? One example is the laws of the universe. It makes sense that a rational God would create a universe that was run by rational, physical laws. The early modern scientists, who were almost all Christians, believed this. They sought to “think God’s thoughts after Him”. By doing so, they discovered many of the physical laws that govern the universe. Before the mid to late 1800’s, almost all scientific discoveries were announced with Christian language.
Another example of this is the fine-tuning constants of the universe, like gravity, the electro-magnetic force, the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere, etc. If these constants were just a little different in amounts, no human life would be possible. And there are over a hundred of these constants. Astronomer George Greenstein says that, “Nothing in all of physics explains why its fundamental principles should conform themselves so precisely to human life’s requirements”.
Another example is the encoded information in our DNA. Materialism cannot offer a viable explanation for where this encoded information comes from (info that determines your hair & eye color, the shape of your nose, etc.). The source of all other encoded information, like in a computer or the construction of a building) is always from an intelligent source (a human being). Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that an intelligent agent was necessary for creating the universe and human life.
The last example I’ll use is the existence of personal beings (humans). This constitutes evidence that we were created by a personal being, not by a non-personal random chance process. After all, how do you get personality from non-personal, random interactions? Some people go to great lengths to deny the implications of these facts. They “suppress the truth” as Romans 1:18-23 says.
For His Kingdom,