This book is brave and creative in its attacks on so many shibboleths, and clearly the product of a very intelligent brain. In postulating that a large proportion of what people believe today simply is not true, it is a wake-up call to civilization. The author allows us to audit a beginner's course in logic and philosophy, and makes these dry subjects understandable to the layman. It is particularly strong in defining the differences between truth, belief, knowledge and faith. It shows how cognitive bias can distort all of these and therefore their judgement. We pay judges large salaries so that they will be able to separate out these factors, yet the basis of appeals in law are to exploit exactly these failures in logic. Cognitive dissonance is shown to cause all manner of problems where anxiety is generated as a result of holding views which conflict. The chapter on morality suggests that morality is not the product of divine guidance, but this leads to rather dangerous territory when it saddles each of us with the responsibility to define our own morality.
Philosophers postulating a society not dependent on divine forces of both good and evil start from a disadvantage. So much in our universe is much more explainable if such forces are given credence. It is almost as if the human DNA is pre-programmed to believe in divine forces. Although we cannot see them, their effects are all around us for those whose eyes have been opened. I would love to see a version of The Truth Seeker that accepts the Christian faith. There would be less scrambling for non-faith explanations of what we see and experience.
One of the reasons the author rejects any faith-based explanation is that he (and so many others) are fixated on the negative spin-offs of religion,
including wars, fanatical behavior, cult craziness (mass suicide). Close to home in Canada, the scandals resulting from the policy of assimilation of aboriginal culture into the mainstream culture represent
evil in our time, as clergy from Roman Catholic, Anglican and United churches who taught native children also physically, sexually and emotionally abused them over several decades. Should the despicable actions of these criminals - and those throughout history - be cause for Christianity to lose all value and credibility?
On the contrary, Christians believe that God landed on earth in human form and lived and died among us because of the evil in the world. To question his existence because of evil is like blaming Mother Theresa for the slums of Calcutta. Those who promote anti-Christian fervor because of the sins of some 'Christians' invariably ignore the profoundly beneficial effects of belief in God. It has led to no end of human endeavours to improve the lot of fellow humans. It has inspired countless artists and musicians through the ages. It is the basis for our modern practice of law, and much of the structure of western government. Relief agencies are led and staffed largely by Christians. The hospice movement, and many orphanages and hospitals were founded by Christians.
We do not condemn physics because it proves that water boils at 100 degrees C (212 degrees F) and this can scald; we teach children to avoid putting their fingers near a boiling kettle.
The Truth Seeker jumps to some unsupported conclusions in the chapter "Reliability" where the teaching of intelligent design in schools is discussed, implying that the teaching of evolution as fact is supportable.
Yet as a result of major discoveries in astronomy, biology and genetics in the last 50 years, and the exposure of fossil frauds, more and more top scientists no longer believe life was triggered from a spark in the 'primordial soup.' The theory that sophisticated self-replicating cells that are the basis of all life forms have come about through gradual mutation from simpler structures is now seen by many as far less likely than that this is the product of an intelligent designer.
Darwin today is standing on more shaky ground than ever before, and more so with every new discovery. Chapter 3 of "The Case for a Creator" (Lee Strobel)
surveys the current state of the debate in detail. It is clear that the scientific jury is out on Darwin's conclusions. How can the Truth Seeker, which
sets out to separate fact from fantasy imply that evolution is proven? Diagrams still used in text books today of Haeckel's embryos were shown to have
been faked in the late 1860s when his colleagues accused him of fraud. Just as Darwinism is seen by many to negate a divine creator, the trashing of
Darwin's theories would pose serious questions for those seeking the origins of species. The six-feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body's
one hundred trillion cells contains a four letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins from which our
bodies are made. Whenever we find a complex sequential arrangement corresponding to an independent pattern or function, this kind of information is
always the product of intelligence.
As we learn more about the cell, it has become clear that such sophistication cannot have come about from successive
improvements, since only the final result contains all the necessary working parts to perform specific functions in the cell.
It would be a little like expecting Big Ben to toll after removing one cog from the mechanism. The protein flagellin is the propellor in microscopic
outboard motors - the bacterial flagellum - with a rotation speed 10,000 revolutions per minute, used to transport materials within the cell.
Such complexity cannot have been the result of mutation over time since the boat doesn't move until the motor runs. Such 'engineering' is way beyond
modern science's capability to replicate, and evolution cannot show how it came about. Only intelligent design provides a working hypothesis, and once
intelligent design is accepted, God is the only designer in the factory.
Even if it were possible to imagine the gradual development of the human brain over millions of years, what can Darwin offer to explain consciousness? The mind, sensations, emotions, desires and free choices which make us truly alive and aware are a whole aspect of ourselves separate from our physiology.
As near-death experiences (NDE) are studied in greater detail, it seems there is something else about us which may not switch off when our hearts do. In Irreducable Mind, Ed and Emily Kelly lay out the current human experience of
consciousness, proving that it is separate from the brain. Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander has convincingly documented his own NDE in Proof of Heaven. It seems that what has been called the soul for eons is making a comeback in the world of hard science. NDEs suggest the soul outlives the body in humans, one more area where those pesky biblical concepts are showing up.
It is this consciousness that challenges the Darwin-inspired concept of history as the continual fall of a line of dominoes, each event predetermined by its predecessor. Instead, we have the power to choose our own destinies, powered by our minds and policed by our souls.
So let me move to the parts of the book (and there are many) where religion in general and Christianity in particular are ridiculed. Here the author has relied heavily on Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris, who have taken on themselves the responsibility in this generation to debunk Christianity. This has always seemed to me a pointless exercise. I can appreciate that an atheist may not believe in God because I was passionately of that opinion myself in my middle years. But to put such energy into destroying the faith of believers is destructive and hateful, and benefits no-one except possibly the ego of the writer. To try and kill a person's enthusiasm for anything, from team sports to their enjoyment of a movie or a song, is an unjustified attack on one's fellow humans from a partial vacuum of understanding or appreciation. Here's a simple example. The man who denigrates rap music as a genre in a world where it is hugely popular has no moral justification, even though some examples of rap encourage crime. Further, those who would tear down the beliefs and ways of life of others do so from ignorance, not knowledge and understanding. Understanding often is the progeny of belief ("Credo ut intelligam" I believe in order to understand: Anselm of Canterbury), and only those who have attained a level of such knowledge and understanding are qualified to discuss such matters. By definition, most atheists lack this knowledge and understanding. It has been quite common for atheists who seriously seek knowledge and understanding of Christianity, to become Christian.
Conversely, to encourage someone's enjoyment in any discipline that offers benefit to thousands is a loving and productive activity.
There are none so blind as those who will not see, goes the saying. It is as if some people can be oblivious to concepts that others can clearly appreciate. This phenomenon is referred to in the Bible - but it goes further in
reminding us that eyes can be opened. I have experienced this with my conversion. The mystery to me is what motivates or causes the change. I don't think it can be triggered by the individual. I am a musician and if a wrong chord or harmony is played I notice it immediately, while others seem not to care. My impression is that the joy I receive from music is something many others have no concept of. Their ears have not been opened. This is not a perfect analogy, since I cannot remember a time when particular combinations of notes would not move me, even to tears. Nevertheless it may explain why many people
have not experienced the revelation of Christian truth.
Let me see if I can establish a logical sequence of statements that even the author of The Truth Seeker would accept as a justification for a belief in Christ. Note that I did not say justification for Christianity.
- It is impossible to prove that God exists. If this were not so, faith would be redundant.
- He either exists or he doesn't exist. Whether someone believes or not does not alter this.
- The Christian faith is based on eye-witness accounts and circumstantial evidence. There is no reason to doubt that the events described in the Bible happened as described where eye-witnesses were around, and when they weren't (eg Adam and Eve), the stories describe how things might have happened in light of subsequent events.
- God, if he exists, is spirit, not an old man in the sky with a white beard, and no-one has ever seen him.
- Jesus existed.
- The Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) begins with an account of the creation of the universe. Few Christians today believe this to be an accurate description of the details or the time-frames, but it does start with the words: "In the beginning, God..." which is accepted by all Christians. Nothing comes from nothing. So something or someone caused the universe to be created. Genesis rapidly gets to the "Fall" where evil is found to be in the hearts of humans, as a consequence of their being given free will by the creator. The evil element is so pervasive that it appears to be the activity of an evil force, which Jews and Christians know as the devil, or Satan. God - devil: Ying - Yang. From that point on, history is a sequence of acts of extreme violence, hatred, revenge, betrayal, murder and child sacrifice - a time with some resemblance to The Hunger Games. It is the history of the Jews as they brought themselves from an uncivilized past where all these atrocities were commonplace, to a realization that with rules and law in their society, civilization could advance. The problem then became one of guilt for the actions of the past in the minds of all compassionate men and women. They believed they could compensate for their wrong doings by sacrificing animals, as is still practised by Hindus in India and some Jewish sects. At least this was better than sacrificing their children. The underlying concept here is that a sacrifice gains its validity from the magnitude of the loss it incurs to the owner. If a man forgets his wife's birthday, he may buy her a very expensive gift to atone. That is a financial sacrifice. Abraham's willingness to consider sacrificing his only son was not an unknown act in those days. The appearance of an angel who told him he did not need to go through with it was a matter so momentous in history that it spawned two of the world's great religions. You have to ask yourself what drove people (and still drives them) to take such extreme actions as a result of what they see as their wrongdoings. The fact is, doing seriously bad things to others has unpleasant consequences to the perpetrator except for those who are evil.
- The raison d'etre for the Christian faith is that (those who follow it believe that) the only answer to such evil in the hearts of men is love, and the only force strong enough to allow evil to be purged in the heart is the sacrifice of perfection. Only when some people love others more than themselves does a glimmer of hope come down on a people. For those who believe, this concept is so overwhelming and revolutionary that they say God is love. Jesus believed himself to be the "Son of God" ie God in the flesh, and the ultimate sacrifice. Hence the term 'Lamb of God.' Such a sacrifice that of infinite good would have infinite power. Anything less would be insufficient. This implies the divinity of Jesus that he is fully God. It is also an interesting example of the mathematical concept of infinity.
- In this, Christianity is unique among religions. One would expect that, if the principle works, Christians would be free of the guilt and pain of their own transgressions. Certainly in my own life, the knowledge of forgiveness has sustained me and enabled me to operate. Marrying my brother's wife is pretty heavy stuff. Freedom from guilt from repentance and forgiveness is a secular experience as well as a religious one, but it is just the beginning for the Christian. The subsequent joy, contentment and relaxed attitude to whatever life and death could throw at them has long been an object of curiosity, even envy, by non believers. If you would like to see people exhibiting the kind of joyful reverence that comes from communicating and praising their God, watch the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir doing a number.
- Christ's body has never been found, although the bodies of some of his siblings and associates have been discovered in ossuaries. His body rested temporarily in the tomb of a leader in the Jewish religious world, Joseph of Aramathea. Its absence on the Sunday morning was discovered by women(!) They brought the news to a totally demoralized group of apostles who had mostly behaved in cowardly fashion at his death. Who would have made up such a story? His brother James had not been a believer until this, and died a martyr. His closest associates were so convinced that he rose physically from the dead that the 11 apostles gave the rest of their lives to telling the story, and all except one died for this belief. Without the physical resurrection, Jesus would have been added to the list of false claimants to being The Christ who is foretold in the Hebrew Bible. The truth of Christianity hinges on Jesus' rising from the dead.
- It is illogical to say that the resurrection did not happen because miracles do not happen. It is far more logical to say that if this miracle happened, then other miracles can happen.
- 2000 years after these events, Christianity, far from dying out has prospered. Even in underground churches in China, Russia, North Korea, Burma, the church proved impossible to disperse. In the early 1940s before missionaries were forced out of China there were less than 800,000 Christians. Incredibly, during the next 30 years, the number of believers multiplied into tens of millions. In fact the passion of belief in such places where it is a capital offence puts to shame the relatively anaemic practice of Christianity in the west.
- One of the reasons that Christianity has continued to be studied and followed is that each generation is taught about it in some families and schools, and that evangelists bring it to the attention of new converts from unreached peoples to your local neighbourhood. The literature describing the joys and responsibilities of the Christian believer is an increasing torrent. Here is my own Christian reading in the past decade. More books have been written about Jesus than any other subject. The Bible is always the top selling book every month.
- Much of the Christian teaching in every age, and the majority of sermons in churches, is to teach the meaning of every sentence in the Bible. Written by 40 authors over 4000 years, and translated from Hebrew or Greek, the search for Biblical meaning has engaged Christian thought probably more than any other branch of learning. Extrapolating forward in time, it would seem that there must be enough meat embedded in the Bible to engage the brainpower of generations of Christian thinkers for thousands of years hence. Could this possibly have been just the unaided scrawlings of wandering preachers, fishermen and tax collectors?
- Atheists who have never been in a church or attended any Christian education will slice a verse out of the Bible and use it to prove any point they may have on their minds.
- Nothing I have written so far proves Christianity is real. You could argue that it is an extreme example of wishful thinking, coupled with mind over matter, charismatic crowd control and manipulation by bad people for their own ends, usually the pursuit of power. You could say that it is a clever philosophy with benefits but no basis in truth. You could add that prayer is nothing more than self motivation to make happen what one is praying for, since prayer seems to be common to all religions.
- All of the teaching of one generation to another alone cannot explain the growth of Christianity. Atheist philosophers have tried to disprove the possibility of divine guidance in our lives these past 2000 years yet there are now two billion Christians on the planet. So how can we explain the leap experienced by so many Christians from being mere students in the schools of Christianity, to being totally engaged activists on the promotion of this faith and everything it stands for? Such dedication is neither logical, economic, centrally coordinated, legislated, predicted by polls, nor common sense.
- The teaching in the Bible is acknowledged to be the greatest teaching ever known for living a life. The wisdom in the Beatitudes, radical, flying in the face of common experience, has proven sustaining ever since for those who attempt to follow it. The character of Jesus remains uniquely inspiring (for Christians and non-Christians). There are many who
place Jesus high yet cannot abide organized religion. Jesus never looked down on others, and that gave him the ability to see them as people. They werent users, consumers, or customers. They were people in need of a relationship with him, not a dos-and-donts religion.
Once we understand this, we will begin to see people in a similar way. We will no longer use their circumstances or sins to define who they are; we will see who they are as if through the eyes of Jesus.
This perspective, so different from our natural tendencies, brought out the best in the people Jesus met. He saw their true value, and, as a result, they came to know their true value. Are these the actions of a mere man, or are they given us divinely by a loving power?
Jesus saw a woman who would sin no more when others saw a woman caught in adultery.
Our objective is to stop seeing others from our limited perspective, encouraging the best of others.
Jesus saw a man who was able to see when others saw a blind man.
Jesus saw a man picking up his mat to walk when others saw a cripple.
Jesus saw a huge yet hurting heart when others saw a wee little man named Zacchaeus.
Jesus saw an articulate disciple when others saw a tax collector named Matthew.
Jesus saw a woman of willing sacrifice when others saw wasted perfume.
Jesus saw a stable rock for building the Church when others saw an impulsive, impetuous disciple named Peter.
Jesus saw men who did not know what they were doing when others saw evil men pounding nails into a cross.
- Is it just possible there may be other forces at work here that are not explained by science? How can one explain the life of Billy Graham, or Mother Thesesa, or Pope Paul II, or the lives of millions of ordinary believers? Are the extraordinary miracles they report some kind of conspiracy? At times of great grief, masses of people who are not churchgoers need the comfort that apparently cannot be found anywhere else other than a church service with fellow sufferers. Things that have happened in my own life defy all logical explanation. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5." How is it possible that so many scientists through the ages have concluded that the universe must have been the product of a prodigiously intelligent power rather than a gigantic domino effect? And who set up the dominoes?
- As Darwinism loses credibility, intelligent design takes its place as the only other option to explain where we came from, however unlikely and unpalatable that may seem to some. Once this is grasped, and the concept of a designer accepted, atheist scientists are not only accepting the existence of God as a concept, but also finding that the God of the Bible exhibits the characteristics of such an almost infinite intelligence, and creation of the universe and everything within it then becomes explainable, including miracles and the concept of being loved by God as individuals, each one of us representing an example of his supreme achievement, mankind, here on planet Earth, our paradise.
- The laws of chemistry and physics cannot explain our experience of consciousness. It is impossible to explain consciousness as having evolved from inert matter. Only the existence of something else besides chemistry can explain consciousness, aspects of which for thousands of years have been referred to as the soul. it is as if we are built as a (pale) reflecion of the mind of an intelligent designer, or as the Bible says, in the image of God.
- Prayer is central to Christianity. Millions will swear that their prayers have been answered. Others will leave the faith because they feel their prayer have not been answered. Among the Christian literature of repentant believers (eg the recent autobiography of Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham) the stories of answered prayer are breathtaking. Of course Franklin could be lying in order to sell more books. But that implies that thousands of others have lied in order to sell more books. Continual communication with God through prayer is like blood in the veins for many Christians, who will tell you they believe that God hears all prayers, but answers them with our needs rather than our wants. For those who believe, their time of talking with God in prayer is as real as talking to another person. And although examples are few and far between, some will swear they have indeed heard the voice of God, and outside of dreams or hallucinations.
- The Bible describes the process of being born again in the Spirit. This experience appears to be pre-requisite to a dedication to Christian work such as is demonstrated in the lives of huge numbers of people, from Paul the apostle, through Augustine, William Wilberforce, The Earl of Shaftesbury, Dennis Bennett, Bob Pierce (founder of World Vision) and Billy Graham. I experienced this on 19 June 1984 at a mission by Luis Palau in London (though the Christian work I have accomplished is miniscule compared to these others). My experience does however qualify me to state an opinion that the process is not triggered by the actions of people, but comes upon them from some external source, which in retrospect seems to have all the characteristics of the Holy Spirit of God. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck although you can't prove it without DNA testing. I can't prove it is the Holy Spirit at work in my life, but there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to make it so highly probable that I am prepared to accept it as 95% certain. Further, it gives meaning to my live just to work at my Christian activities, and hope for great happiness in the next life (this is not dependent on the Christian activities!) In short, I am 95% content in all circumstances.
- Great acts of compassion and benefit to mankind have been conceived and exercised by atheists and humanists with a heart for others. Scientists have even discovered a gene that pre-disposes people to such acts. All their lives they have brought comfort and love to desperate people. The majority of people without this gene find such acts too daunting to undertake. But in the Christian world, such people who previously were not at all inclined to benevolence have been radically changed so that they have received a desire to act in ways they could never have imagined for the benefit of others. There are countless examples, going back to St. Paul, but an obvious one would be Charles Coulson, the Watergate robber who founded the world's largest ministry (Prison Fellowship) for the welfare of prisoners. Such dedication of a life to the welfare of others is counter-intuitive. Yet the benefits to mankind of the acts of such people after they have been changed are the bedrock of much of our civilized world.
- It is definitely true that great acts of evil have been perpetrated by opposite forces to those described above. Some call this the force of evil (read People of the Lie, by M Scott Peck.) It would fit this theory if the devil works in an analogous way to inspire the commission of acts of evil. It is hard to explain evil without postulating supernatural activity. Death metal freaks and Wiccas wouldn't deny it. It has infected all aspects of our lives. Christians say they experience such activity regularly; they call it spiritual warfare.
The Hunger Games describes life in such a world, where acts of murder are state sanctioned. The ONLY antidote to such a society is one where to love one another is the norm, one of the cornerstones of the Bible, and particularly the teachings of Jesus. In such a world is hope found in abundance.
- So there appears to be a creative force at work that stimulates some people to great acts of goodness. It is significantly more than can be explained by the condition of having learned about Christianity from one's parents or school. Through the ages this has generated apparent evidence for the existence of a benevolent God actively involved in earthly matters. But he is a God who has always hidden himself from our eyes, because the power of faith is essential to make the whole concept work. If he revealed himself, faith, as said above, would be redundant.
Part way through this book, the author states that the purpose of the book is not to attack religion. The fact that much of the book does exactly that begs the question: is this truth he has written about universal or merely subjective - make it up for your own purposes? To write about truth surely embodies as pre-requisite that the author be truthful at least in so far as the book itself is concerned. When I read the book as a believer my beliefs were pressed but not crushed. Now that I have been given the motivation to write a detailed review, and another of the documentary film 'Religulous' my belief has been strengthened and my faith boosted - not exactly the result intended by the author!
Finally, what can I offer as the best proof I know for the existence of God? The answer is easy: Jesus. He is the promised solution to the problems of the world and the problem of sin (which is the same). His influence grows every day. The hope that he offers believers allows them to live with purpose and to die with expectation. A day never goes by that I don't give thanks that I have come to know him. This is a supreme privilege.
- Tony Copple
Atheism and barbarism by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, in The Spectator, 13 June 2013
1 Peter 3:15
How do we know the New Testament is True? by Paul Barnett
The God Delusion debate - Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox, presented by Fixed Point Foundation, 2010
My review of the documentary film Religulous, Bill Maher's parody of religion
Surprized by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
RZIM - Helping the thinker believe; helping the believer think. The ultimate answer, Jesus Christ
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel, from which I have quoted liberally
Kanata Audio Books