The other day an old friend of mine said the following: “I believe in Christianity except for the part about the resurrection. We all know that didn’t happen. The New Testament may say Jesus arose from the dead. But that was probably due to corruption of the early manuscripts.” When you hear a quote like that you might assume it comes from reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. More likely, it comes from unwillingness to part ways with philosophical naturalism. In other words, it is not a surface factual problem. It is a deeper worldview problem.
The problem, of course, is that wholesale rejection of super-naturalism doesn’t just force you to reject the resurrection. It forces you to reject the notion of God altogether. Fortunately, there are good philosophical and scientific reasons to accept supernatural explanations for the origins of life and the universe.
Philosophers as early as the Middle Ages concluded that today never would have arrived if there was an infinite number of days that preceded it. So if today is here the universe must have had a beginning. But it wasn’t until the 20th Century that scientists began to converge on the idea that space, time, and matter had a fixed beginning with a “big bang” in the distant past.
This convergence is important because nature cannot be its own cause. If space, time, and matter had a beginning then it must have had a cause that transcends space, time, and matter.
It should go without saying that such a cause must be powerful. Furthermore, the cause would seem to be personal since a choice had to be made to create, and impersonal forces don’t make choices. Think about it: a blind force like gravity can be expected to do the same thing over and over again. In contrast, doing something unique - like creating something from nothing - is the kind of thing we would expect from a personal and purposeful force.
Of course, atheists are in trouble if they accept the idea that the universe had a beginning while simultaneously denying that it had a cause. The entire scientific enterprise depends on the cause-and-effect relationship. If things can simply pop in and out of existence without a cause then science cannot be conducted reliably.
Atheists unwittingly prove my general point every time they sit down to write books denying the existence of God. Their books are, of course, physical things. The book is produced by the atheist’s mind, which is a non-physical entity. But if the atheist tries to deny that his mind is in any way immaterial – that it is just the same thing as his brain – he loses all claims to know the truth. He cannot objectively evaluate the evidence if his thoughts are solely the result of physical reactions over which he has no control. He cannot reason; he can only react. In other words, he cannot know he is a robot if he is only a robot.
Of course, the atheist is not a robot. His physical brain changes over time but he still retains his thoughts long after his brain has physically changed. So his mind and brain are not the same. Moreover, the nonphysical laws of nature remain unchanged, and so do the nonphysical laws of logic he employs to reach his conclusions. Therefore, despite claiming everything is material, the atheist uses the immaterial to make his case. Materialism is false.
However, the writings produced by the minds of atheists like Stephen Hawking have been enormously beneficial in my own understanding of nature’s origins. Hawking estimates that if the expansion rate of the universe was different by one part in a hundred thousand million million one second after the big bang, the universe would have either collapsed back on itself or never developed galaxies. The implications of this are rather obvious.
The physical universe had a beginning and, therefore, had a cause. Because an effect can’t precede its cause, the cause of the physical universe must be supernatural. Given the precision that was required to bring this about, nothing else seems comparably difficult. It would certainly be easier to enter and renter the universe than it would be to create it. In comparison to the creation of the universe, the resurrection seems relatively simplistic.
When we put the resurrection in its proper perspective, we realize that people who reject it are engaged in a broader rejection of supernaturalism. Their reasons for rejecting the resurrection necessitate rejecting God altogether. Ironically, science and reason are also rejected in the process.
Author’s Confession: Nothing in the column you just read is an original product of my mind. I stole everything from my friend Frank Turek’s new book, Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case.”