Is belief in nothing an option? Are there world views with no problems? Why rejecting Christianity gives you another set of problems–which might be harder to deal with.
I had a conversation with a gentleman the other night that had to do with morality, and how I felt that his conclusion as a result of some of our thinking together that moral absolutes must exist — at least some moral absolutes must exist — actually does a lot of work for us philosophically. It allows us to reason towards the existence of God, and it helps to falsify some world views like Hinduism or atheism or agnosticism or materialism and empiricism and things like that. It does a lot of work for us.
But there is another point that I made with him that I want to take some time here to stress, and this has to do with epistemology, which means how we know what we know. But it has to do with knowledge and trying to make decisions about spiritual truth or about any truth, frankly. The point that I want to make is that people have to believe something. Everybody believes something, and even what appears to be a rejection of all beliefs is a kind of belief. One holds something to be true. Maybe what you hold to be true is that nothing else is true, but that is something that you believe is true in itself. This is not double talk. Even agnostics have a type of belief. They believe that it is not possible to know things about ultimate issues like the existence of God.
Now, people often reject Christianity because of certain problems. My point is that there is no neutral place to position yourself in philosophic space. There is no place where you can place yourself in which you believe nothing and therefore don’t take on some burden of proof about what it is that you hold. You can’t fairly say, “Well, Christian, you believe this and you must prove this, but I have no burden of proof regarding what I believe because I believe nothing.” There is no person who believes nothing about ultimate things, and even if you are agnostic you believe in the justifiability of your agnosticism — your uncertainty — and you really have a burden of proof to justify your uncertainty — your unwillingness to decide — to justify your agnosticism. So there is nowhere someone can stand where he has no beliefs.
If you reject Christianity there is something else that you end up asserting by default in its place. If you reject Christianity for certain problems that it has — and I admit to you that it does have problems — it seems to me that one would do so because believing something else or believing nothing at all doesn’t face the same kinds of problems or has fewer problems than believing in Christianity. That’s why you reject Christianity. But my point is, in rejecting Christianity one often times creates more problems than he solves by rejecting the Christian viewpoint. This is something a lot of people are not forced to face but they ought to be. They ought to be challenged on this. Christians are often pushed into the corner, shouldering the burden of proof ourselves, instead of asking the other person to prove what they believe as well.
Even if the person says, “Well, I disregard Christianity. I don’t believe it because I don’t think it’s possible to know anything true about God,” we should ask, “Why would you ever believe that?” You see, the other person has a belief yet we feel that we’re the only one that has to do the defending.
It is entirely legitimate to point out that a person can’t stand in a philosophically neutral position as if they believe nothing. In fact, they believe something and if they are going to reject Christianity, for example, it seems only rational for them to reject it if the reasons for believing what they opt for are better than the reasons for believing in Christianity. This is why it is said that if a person rejects God, for example, because of the problem of evil then I have to ask that person a question: How do you solve the problem of evil by rejecting God?
If you reject God, then you’ve got to reject the idea that there’s anything called evil in the world because God is the standard for good which defines what evil is. You have to not only reject the idea of evil, you have to reject the idea that there is anything like good because no absolute standard for good or evil remains to give those words any meaning. So you haven’t solved the problem of evil by getting rid of God. You have actually exacerbated the problem of evil by adding another problem — the problem of good, an additional problem the Christian doesn’t have to face, by the way.
In rejecting God, the atheist still has to face evil in the world and explain where it came from. Can he? I doubt it. But he’s got another problem. He’s got to explain where good comes from, too, because if there is no God, it’s hard to make any sense out of either of those concepts. If there is no God, then there is nothing that is evil, it seems. You have to have a standard of good and evil that stands outside of us to define what evil and good actually are.
So it’s not a liability of a particular belief system to have unanswered questions. That’s not a reflection on the problem of Christianity — if Christianity has unanswered questions, and I think it does. It doesn’t have as many as many people think, but there are some things that I struggle with and I’ve talked about that here on the air. But you know that doesn’t sink my faith. The fact that I struggle with problems in Christianity is not necessarily a reflection on Christianity, it’s a reflection on knowledge in general. Every world view has its problems. Every belief system has its unanswered questions. So when you reject Christianity because of certain problems you then necessarily opt for a whole new set of problems, and in many cases those new set of problems with the point of view you now adopt are much more damaging than the problems you faced in Christianity.
If a person gets God out of the equation, then he has got to say, for example, that everything comes from nothing. He’s got to say that life comes from non-life. That order comes from chaos. He’s got to say that natural law comes from randomness. He’s got to say essentially that the effect is greater than the cause. Now all of these things are patently absurd. These are problems that a person rejecting a form of theism must engage. It’s a whole set of things that they don’t have to face if they believe in theism.
Do you see the tremendous problems created when one rejects the existence of God? Do you see the problems that are added? It may be that these things are true, frankly. I’m not offering this as an argument for God’s existence. I’m trying to put things in perspective. If you reject one point of view you end up landing on another square, another world view with all of its own same problems. And some of the problems in the new world view that you adopt are more extreme that the problems you thought you were getting away from by rejecting the Christian world view.
It may be that everything came from nothing. It may be that life came from non-life, and order came from chaos, and natural law comes from randomness, and the effect is greater than the cause. But boy, you have to have a heck of a lot of faith to believe that kind of thing. It seems to be much more reasonable, given the evidence, that God is the one responsible for these things. As we observe the world it seems that the effect is never greater than the cause.
The atheist doesn’t solve problems by rejecting God. He creates a whole new set of problems, and most of them are much more pressing than the problems he thinks he’s escaping. – Gregory Koukl
This is a transcript of a commentary from the “Stand to Reason,” with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©1994 Gregory Koukl