Why Aren’t More Intellectuals Believers?

ThinkerA recent article by David Denison looked at the question of why few intellectuals are Christians. He noted that, according to a survey of the National Academy of Scientists, only 7 percent of American scientists believe in a personal God. Denson argues for two primary reasons for this tendency. First, there is a tremendous bias against theism within higher education; and second, the American church culture is unfriendly to intellectual scrutiny.

I would agree with Denson’s assessment on both points, but I would take his conclusions a bit further.

While I would agree that there is strong anti-theist bias in higher education, I believe this merely reinforces the tendencies already present in highly intelligent people. When I talk to intellectuals about Jesus Christ, the common answer I get goes something like this: “I’m too intelligent to believe in God. I used to believe in God, but now I’m much too sophisticated in my thinking for that.” What I hear is pride and arrogance. Almost all of the highly scientific non-believers I talk to have a tendency to place their trust in their intelligence. They see God as a crutch for the unintelligent. Paul addresses such thinking in Romans 1:

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools…

Scientists study the physical world, which they should see as God’s handiwork. However, because many highly intelligent people trust their intelligence above all else, they choose to ignore or explain away the very obvious creative design found in the natural world. Intellectuals really aren’t any different than anyone else. Athletes rely on their athleticism; the wealthy rely on their riches; those in power rely on their position. When a person has a lot going for them, it’s difficult to realize that they need anything other than themselves, and it’s easy to reject the truth.

One of the online responses to Denson’s article demonstrates another reason why many intellectuals reject God. Tianhe Yang commented:

I think the reason why people who seek higher ed, especially in scientific and theoretical fields, tend to be non-religious is simply because logic and the scientific method play such a vital part in how we think. Faith, in almost complete contrast, is, by definition, believing in something without all of the necessary evidence.

First of all, let’s get a common misconception of science out of the way. Science is not about “knowing stuff” – it’s a process of 1. constructing a hypothesis to explore, based on current knowledge, 2. testing that hypothesis and broadcasting the results to the greater community, so that other scientists can 3. try to disprove your results from as many angles as we can think of, until we aren’t able to disprove it, at which point it becomes added to the list of theories that form what we know about the world (which is constantly changing).

An important thing to note is that nothing can be absolutely known, because we don’t know the methods, nor do we have the resources, to test everything completely.

Every atheist I talk to about the Christian faith gives me the same reason for not believing: There is no evidence for the existence of God. The flaw in their thinking is that they believe the only way one can absolutely know anything is through the scientific method. They reject any other kind of evidence. Since God is not observable and testable, they argue, there is no evidence for God’s existence. However, there are many things that people know – or claim to know – that are not subject to the scientific method. For example, scientists know their senses are basically reliable, but there is no way to test this, because if their senses were not reliable, they could not reliably make the observations necessary to test whether their senses are reliable. They presuppose that the universe is real, and not imagined, but this cannot be tested. The scientific process itself cannot be tested and proved by the scientific process – there is no way to test the hypothesis that observing and testing a hypothesis produces truth.

There are many kinds of evidence other than scientific evidence, including historical evidence, testimonial evidence, metaphysical arguments, anecdotal evidence, logical arguments, and others. Most scientific intellectuals that I have talked to reject all of these, except the scientific process. The problem is not that there is no evidence; the problem is that there is no evidence that they will accept. Demanding physical evidence for the existence of God is a category error fallacy. A category error is “a type of informal fallacy where things that belong to one grouping are mistakenly placed in another,” or where “a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property.” If someone says, “My gerbil is a Republican,” they are committing a category error – a gerbil cannot be a Republican. Only people can be Republicans. Gerbils do not belong to the category of things capable of being a Republican. The Biblical God is not a physical Being. He is not part of the natural universe. By definition, God is supernatural (super- “Above; over;” natural “Present in or produced by nature”). God is in a totally different category than the natural universe. When someone demands physical evidence for the existence of a non-physical Being, they are committing a category error fallacy. It would be like demanding DNA evidence for the existence of dark matter, or asking for a beaker full of intelligence.

EinsteinScientists are trained to use the scientific method to test theories. This is absolutely appropriate for gaining knowledge of the physical world. The category error fallacy is in trying to apply the scientific method to non-physical concepts. Because the scientific method plays such a crucial role in how many intellectuals think and work, it’s often difficult for them to think in any other terms.

Is the American church culture unfriendly to intellectual scrutiny? Unfortunately, for the most part, the answer is yes.

Most preachers and church teachers tell their congregations what to believe, but seldom go into any depth as to why any of it makes sense. Most Christians can tell you that Jesus was crucified and died, then rose again, and that if one asks Jesus into their heart, they will be saved; but most cannot adequately explain how they know this is true. They cannot explain fairly simple questions, such as why Jesus is the only way to salvation, or what it means to “ask Jesus into your heart,” much less more difficult questions about the supposed conflicts between science and the Bible, alleged Biblical contradictions, or why God allows pain and suffering.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” The vast majority of American Christians can’t even coherently share the Gospel, much less taking the time to prepare themselves to be able to defend the Gospel or answer the difficult questions that intellectuals ask. Far too many Christians are intellectually lazy. As Denison puts it, “Christ’s call to have a childlike faith has been bastardized to a point that encourages blind acceptance of whatever we happen to have been told.” For intellectuals, blind acceptance is unacceptable. Scientists are rightly taught to think critically. If logical, valid reasons aren’t given for the truth of the Christian faith, most intellectuals will dismiss Christianity as nonsense. Unfortunately, very few Christians are prepared to give a reasoned, logical defense of the Gospel.

FaithReasonEvery person is born a sinner, separated from God. Every human being needs Jesus Christ to be saved from their sin, to have relationship with God restored, and to avoid Hell. While it may be easier for less intelligent people to admit their helplessness to save themselves, God loves scientists and intellectuals just as much. It is imperative that believers prepare themselves to always be ready to give a logical, reasoned defense to everyone who asks about the truth of Jesus Christ. While it is true that the Gospel must be received by faith, faith should not be “blind” faith devoid of any evidence or reason. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This does not mean faith and reason are mutually exclusive; rather, faith is absolutely consistent with evidence and reason, but extends beyond what we can see, test, and logically comprehend based on evidence and reason alone.

Christians are not called to a “blind” faith. We are called to diligently study and allow the Holy Spirit teach us to all truth. We are called to share the truth with all people, including intellectuals and scientists, in a way they can understand and embrace, so that they may know the Truth, and so the Truth might set them free.

The Logical Fallacy of Requiring Material Evidence to Prove God’s Existence

The following graphic, which I saw on Facebook, sums up the argument I consistently hear from materialistic atheists in their arguments against God.

For many, this seems like a rational requirement. If something is true, there should be scientific evidence to prove it.

However, such a “rule” is actually nonsense. There are logical fallacies involved in requiring the use of the scientific method to prove the existence of God.

Fallacy #1 – It’s totally arbitrary

The first fallacy of requiring empirical scientific evidence to prove God’s existence is that such a requirement is total arbitrary.

When an atheist demands physical evidence for the existence of God, my first response is, “Why? Why is scientific evidence the only acceptable evidence?”

The usual response is, “Because the only way we can know anything is through physical evidence.”

And again, my response is, “Why?” And I usually get a confused stare, like I’m crazy for even asking such a question.

The point is, there is absolutely no logical reason why such a rule should exist – except for the worldview of the materialistic atheist. The materialistic atheist believes that the material world of matter and energy is all that exists. The thought that anything else could exist is absurd to them. However, material atheism is itself completely arbitrary.

Fallacy #2 – Category Error

A category error is “a type of informal fallacy where things that belong to one grouping are mistakenly placed in another,” or where “a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property.” If someone says, “My coffee is a Republican,” they are committing a category error – coffee cannot be a Republican. Only people can be Republicans. Coffee does not belong to the category of things capable of being a Republican.

The Biblical God is not a material Being. He is not part of the natural universe. By definition, God is supernatural (super- “Above; over;” natural “Present in or produced by nature”). God is in an entirely different category than the natural universe. When one demands physical evidence for the existence of a non-physical Being, they are committing a category error fallacy. It would be like demanding DNA evidence for the existence of black holes, or asking for a test tube full of consciousness, or trying to put time in a bottle.

Fallacy #3 – It’s self-refuting

What do I mean by saying this rule is self-refuting? Basically, this rule, when applied to itself, contradicts itself.

First, the rule requires “empirical results of repeatable experimentation.” There is no way to conduct a repeatable experiment to empirically test whether “empirical results of repeatable experimentation” are required to argue for the supernatural. One cannot use the rule to test the validity of the rule.

Second, the rule requires “cogent, non-fallacious argumentation.” Yet, as I’ve already demonstrated, the rule itself is fallacious.

Fallacy #4 – Even when the rule is met, material atheists ignore the evidence

This fallacy isn’t with the rule itself, per se, but with the way atheists handle the scientific evidence that does support God’s existence.

There is a tremendous amount of “empirical results of repeatable experimentation” and much “cogent, non-fallacious argumentation” that supports the existence of God. The sheer volume of such evidence makes it impossible to present these evidences in this brief blog. A simple Google search will bring up tens of thousands of articles, peer-reviewed papers, and Websites that present the scientific arguments for God. My point is, when confronted with these evidences, the materialistic atheist will reject it anyway. Why? Because to acknowledge the validity of scientific evidence for the existence of God would completely shatter the material atheist’s entire worldview. They would be forced to face the fact that they are wrong. In other words, the material atheist cannot objectively examine scientific evidence that is presented; they must deny it, not because it isn’t scientific, but because it leads to conclusions they don’t want to acknowledge. Romans 1:18 states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Those that reject God must suppress, or hide, the truth. Romans 1 continues:

19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Those who reject God ultimately do so, not because of a lack of evidence, but because they foolishly refuse to submit to His authority over their lives. The issue is not evidence; the issue is rebellion.

Christians need to continue to present the Gospel to non-Christians, including materialistic atheists. We must continually pray for the lost, be prepared to present cogent arguments when needed, and rely on the Holy Spirit to us to reach the lost. We must not be swayed by the fallacious arguments used to deny God, but must stand on the truth of God’s Word as the foundation of our beliefs.

Grabbed this off Facebook a couple of minutes after I posted this blog. It seemed to fit.

The Christian Foundation of Atheist Values

What most atheists fail to recognize is that the majority of the beliefs that they value are Christian in origin.  In an April 15, 2012 article posted on www.theage.com.au, atheist Chris Berg acknowledges the Christian foundation of modern secular values.  Berg writes,

Berg

…virtually all the secular ideas that non-believers value have Christian origins. To pretend otherwise is to toss the substance of those ideas away. It was theologians and religiously minded philosophers who developed the concepts of individual and human rights. Same with progress, reason, and equality before the law: it is fantasy to suggest these values emerged out of thin air once people started questioning God.

Bacon

He is, of course, correct.  For example, most atheists highly value the scientific method as the primary means of gaining knowledge.  The scientific method was developed by Sir Francis Bacon – a Christian.  Bacon wrote, “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of the Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”  The scientific method was derived from Biblical principles.

A mantra of atheism is the separation of church and state – the core of atheist political philosophy.  Berg points out the Biblical origins of this concept:

Early Christian philosophers thought seriously about what Jesus’s words, ”Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” meant for the formation of political society.

Another core belief of most atheists if human rights.  Again, Berg points out the Christian origins of human rights:

The idea of human rights was founded centuries ago on Christian assumptions, advanced by Biblical argument, and advocated by theologians. Modern supporters of human rights have merely picked up a set of well-refined ethical and moral arguments.

At the end of his article, Berg makes the following profound statement:

But while our age may be secular, it is, at the same time, still a deeply Christian one. If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.

I doubt that even Berg understands the implications of this statement.  Since modern atheism is built on a foundation of Christian beliefs, it is ultimately self-refuting!  If atheism is true, then God does not exist;  if God does not exist, then Biblical principles, such as truth, love, human rights, honesty, and reason are meaningless;  and, if these values are meaningless, modern atheism is also meaningless!

Here’s another example:  Atheists typically believe the scientific method is the source of knowledge.  The Humanist Manifesto III states, “Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies.”  The scientific method is predicated on the fact that the universe follows absolute, unchanging, universal laws.  Here’s the paradox:  If there is no God, then why would the universe follow absolute, unchanging, universal laws?  If there is no God, then the universe should be random, and should not follow any laws at all!  Yet, it’s not random; it’s highly organized by absolute physical laws that should not exist if God does not exist.

Chris Berg is correct to recognize the Christian foundation for modern atheist values, but he’s completely missed the implications of this truth:  atheism is self-refuting, and therefore irrational.  Atheism couldn’t exist if it were true.  “If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.”  If only atheists understood the implications of this statement!