Today we are beginning a series called “Apologia: A Defense of the Faith.” This series is going to seek to offer a defense of the Christian faith against common objections leveled against it. It is possible that many of you have never heard a series quite like this in church and that some of you will not even like this series. Some of you may even consider it inappropriate. If that is the case, I will only suggest to you that you possibly have not appreciated the extent to which modernity and radical secularism has advanced in the modern world. It is possible that there may even be a bit of a generational divide concerning who will appreciate this and who will not, though I could be wrong on this. What I mean is, some of you who are older will remember a time when much of what I am going to say today was simply assumed, even by many outside the church, so you may feel that apologetic sermons are unnecessary. However, for many younger people, they are growing up in a world in which the things I am about to say are not assumed. Thus, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Church, and, in particular, pastors, must reclaim an apologetic voice.
All of that being said, I suspect that the majority of you of whatever age will see the need for the church today to address the challenges that are facing us in an increasingly secularized age. Among the many aspects of our heritage that we must reclaim, the apologetic task looms possibly largest of all. Apologia is a Greek word that means “defense.” Apologetics refers to the discipline of defending the faith with evidences.
We will begin with the most fundamental challenge facing the church today: the challenge of atheism. Atheism, or a-theism, is the belief that there is no God. It is distinguished from agnosticism, a position of uncertainty on the question of whether or not God exists. Both atheism and agnosticism are distinguished from theism, the belief that God exists. All Christians are theists though no all theists are Christians. Theism, again, is simply the belief that there is a God, and adherents to many different religions embrace this belief.
We, of course, are Christian theists. We believe there is a God and that He has revealed Himself definitively in Jesus Christ. It is out of this fundamental conviction that we will begin the apologetic task.
Before we begin discussing the existence of God, I would like to explore the notion of proof as that word is used, for instance, in the question, “Can you prove that God exists?” If we mean by that word the kind of proof I can offer that this stage on which I am standing exists, then no, for God is not a tangible thing I can pick up, hold in one hand, and point to with another. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). So of course we cannot prove God’s existence in that sense.
But, of course, that is not saying very much because the fact of the matter is that we cannot prove in that sense any of the greatest things in life, the things we hold most dear. For instance, can you prove that your spouse loves you? Many of you would say yes, but I would counter that you cannot prove that in the way I can prove this stage exists. I can touch this stage and you can see it. It is empirically verifiable. Love is not. In that sense, you cannot prove your husband loves you or that your children love you or that what you and a close friend actually have is friendship. You cannot prove, in that sense, loyalty, devotion, genuine concern, compassion, empathy, etc. That is to say, love and devotion and loyalty and compassion are not material objects that can be held, touched, and examined. You cannot pick up a substance called “love” and point to it.
But does a lack of empirically verifiable proof mean you cannot know something? Of course not. The truth is, you can know that your spouse loves you, that your children love you, that what you and another have is friendship, etc. And how can you know these things? You can know them because of a long trail of evidences, deductions based on those evidences, and intuitions formed by experience. A great deal of our lives is built upon just this kind of evidence-based knowledge of things.
Let me introduce you to Dr. Antony Flew.
He was born in 1923 and passed away in 2010. Flew was a prolific scholar and for decades was one of the most famous atheists in the world. He wrote such influential atheist works as God and Philosophy, Darwinian Evolution, The Presumption of Atheism, and God: A Critical Inquiry. In 2004, Flew shocked the world by announcing that he had rejected his atheism and now believed in the existence of God. He did not convert to Christianity, but merely to theism. But why did he did so? Because, he said, he had to follow Socrates’ dictum that we should follow the evidence wherever it leads. Thus, Flew argued that it was the evidence that drove him to the inescapable conclusion that God exists.
In Psalm 14:1, the psalmist famously wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” That is a powerful way of speaking to the inescapability of the conclusion that there is a God. But what are the evidences for God, for, after all, many people do indeed say, “There is no God.”
There are many logical deductions that point to a Creator outside of the natural order. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century theologian, philosopher, and churchman, offered his famous five proofs for the existence of God in his Summa Theologica.
The argument from motion
The first is the argument from motion. In this argument, Aquinas noted that things in the world are in motion. Whatever is in motion has been put in motion by something else. But taken back far enough, this means there must be something that put everything else in motion that is not itself put in motion.
Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
Thus, Aquinas argued against an infinite regress, the idea that in infinity past there is nothing but a series of things being put into motion by other things. Behind it all, he argued, is God, the unmoved mover.
The argument from causation
In this argument, Aquinas applied the same logic to cause and effect, noting that every effect in the world must have a cause preceding it. Furthermore, Aquinas argued that when you look at the world you see (1) a first cause, (2) an intermediate cause, and (3) a final cause. In the universe, Aquinas argued, there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause, else there will be no intermediate or final cause.
The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.
Thus, God is the uncaused cause.
The argument from contingency
Next, Aquinas drew the distinction between possible things and necessary things. Possible things are things that could possibly not have existed. Necessary things are things that exist by necessity and could not possibly have not existed. Possible things once did not exist or else they would be necessary things.
But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.
Thus, the chain of caused necessities must have an uncaused necessity at its origin. God is the uncaused necessity.
The argument from the maximum
The fourth argument calls for a recognition of a definitive standard by which everything else is judged to be either more or less. In other words, we cannot speak of gradation or more or less unless there is a definitive standard by which these things are judged rendering them more or less. The implications of this in terms of moral goodness are inescapable.
Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.
God, then, is the ultimate good above which there is no other good and by which all lesser goods are judged.
The argument from design
Finally, Aquinas argued that the world bears the mark of having been designed for specific purposes.
The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.
Thus, God is the intelligent director.
All of these arguments have, of course, been critiqued through the ages. Even so, there is a simple logic here that is more than worthy of consideration.
But there are other types of evidence. These are not without logic, of course, but they are not based on such tight deductions as are Aquinas’ arguments. For instance, consider what it means that belief in God is part of the experience of the vast majority of the world’s population. There is a deep and nearly universal sense throughout the world that there is a God. For instance, in late 2012, the Pew Research Center released its findings on “The Global Religious Landscape.”
Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
Most telling, this belief in the existence of God or a higher power or powers is evident even among many who profess not to believe in Him. A 2013 Washington Post article entitled “Some nonbelievers still find solace in prayer” offers a fascinating look at spiritually among self-described atheists. They focus on a self-described atheist named Sigried Gold.
Each morning and night, Sigfried Gold drops to his knees on the beige carpeting of his bedroom, lowers his forehead to the floor and prays to God.
In a sense.
An atheist, Gold took up prayer out of desperation. Overweight by 110 pounds and depressed, the 45-year-old software designer saw himself drifting from his wife and young son. He joined a 12-step program for food addiction that required — as many 12-step programs do — a recognition of God and prayer.
Four years later, Gold is trim, far happier in his relationships and free of a lifelong ennui. He credits a rigorous prayer routine — morning, night and before each meal — to a very vivid goddess he created with a name, a detailed appearance and a key feature for an atheist: She doesn’t exist.
While Gold doesn’t believe there is some supernatural being out there attending to his prayers, he calls his creation “God” and describes himself as having had a “conversion” that can be characterized only as a “miracle.” His life has been mysteriously transformed, he says, by the power of asking.
“If you say, ‘I ought to have more serenity about the things I can’t change,’ versus ‘Grant me serenity,’ there is a humility, a surrender, an openness. If you say, ‘grant me,’ you’re saying you can’t do it by yourself. Or you wouldn’t be there,” said Gold, who lives in Takoma Park.
While Gold’s enthusiasm for spiritual texts and kneeling to a “God” may make him unusual among atheists, his hunger for a transcendent experience with forces he can’t always explain turns out to be more common.
New research on atheists by the Pew Research Center shows a range of beliefs. Eighteen percent of atheists say religion has some importance in their life, 26 percent say they are spiritual or religious and 14 percent believe in “God or a universal spirit.” Of all Americans who say they don’t believe in God — not all call themselves “atheists” — 12 percent say they pray.
As I said, this is utterly fascinating and is, I believe, a microcosmic look at a universal truth: that everybody, deep down, believes there is a power above us, even if they tell themselves they do not believe this. Experientially, we feel this, we know this, and it is so regardless of our professed creeds to the contrary. Is this conclusive evidence? No. Truth is not defined by the majority and the mere fact that many people believe that God exists, including many atheists, does not make it so. Even so, the worldwide religious impulse of man is striking and significant.
Paul, in Romans 1, wrote that everybody knows there is a God, that the evidence of God is so plain that all of humanity is accountable before Him.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
God and His character are “plain,” Paul writes. It is plain “because God has shown it to them.” Thus, it is not surprising that an atheist would daily pray to a higher power he claims not to believe in while crediting this non-existent higher power with freeing him from the powers of addiction. Neither is it surprising that “eighteen percent of atheists say religion has some importance in their life, 26 percent say they are spiritual or religious and 14 percent believe in ‘God or a universal spirit.’”
Man is a religious being, and he is so for a reason: he knows that there is a God.
One of the most powerful evidences for the existence of God emanates from our own sense of morality. We all know that we are morally accountable. This sense of moral accountability can only make ultimate sense if there is a Lawgiver outside of the natural order to Whom we will one day give an account. Furthermore, naturalism, the belief that the created order is all there is, and evolutionary atheism simply do not have the categories to make sense of the moral accountability we all feel.
Simply put, humanity may tell itself that we are merely animals, but no man or woman can truly live consistently with this audacious statement. Where this is most evident is in our innate sense of ultimate moral accountability, the sense that we will one day give an account for our actions and that the concepts of “right” and “wrong” are not mere social constructs.
This, of course, is the only option left to us if there is no God: right and wrong are defined by society that consists of soulless animals but rise no higher than that. But this idea raises all kinds of problems. For one thing, we intuitively know that there is a difference between what human beings do to each other and what animals do to each other. Many of you will be aware of the fact that a little over a week ago, a woman was killed on a wildlife preserve in Africa. She had her window down and a lion lunged at her, biting and killing her. I saw this reported on numerous news venues. It was indeed a tragedy! But that lion undoubtedly kills animals all the time and it is never reported. No matter what might say about human beings simply being advanced animals, we know that is not so. There is something very different and that difference goes beyond mankind being advanced.
Furthermore, if morality is determined by society and rises no higher than that, then that means there are no objective, ultimate standards for morality. In other words, we may say that what Hitler did was wrong, but all we can really mean by that is that we as a people disagree with what Hitler and his minions did. But we cannot say that Hitler has violated an objective standard, a standard that is outside and above all of humanity. I would propose to you that we know better than this, though. We know that genocide, for instance, is the violation of something sacred and transcendent, a standard that is binding for all people everywhere, a standard that is right whether human society recognizes it to be so or not.
In a debate between Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and popular atheist Sam Harris at Notre Dame on the topic, “Is the foundation of morality natural or supernatural?” Dr. Craig concluded his presentation by quoting an article in the Duke Law Journal by Arthur Leff of the Yale Law School entitled “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law.” In it, Leff was trying to answer how we can arrive at any ultimate standard for law and morality without God. Leff was either an atheist or an agnostic, he did not believe that God existed.
In the article, he rightly noted that the idea of a transcendent, objective, ultimate standard for right and wrong demands God. Furthermore, Leff argued that if there is no God that means that right and wrong and the law emanate from within us.
We are never going to get anywhere (assuming for the moment that there is somewhere to get) in ethical or legal theory unless we finally face the fact that, in the Psalmist’s words, there is no one like unto the Lord. If He does not exist, there is no metaphoric equivalent. No person, no combination of people, no document however hallowed by time, no process, no premise, nothing is equivalent to an actual God in this central function as the unexaminable examiner of good and evil. The so-called death of God turns out not to have been just His funeral; it also seems to have effected the total elimination of any coherent, or even more-than-momentarily convincing, ethical or legal system dependent upon finally authoritative extrasystemic premises…Put briefly, if the law is “not a brooding omnipresence in the sky,” then it can be only one place: in us. If we are trying to find a substitute final evaluator, it must be one of us, some of us, all of us-but it cannot be anything else. The result of that realization is what might be called an exhilarated vertigo, a simultaneous combination of an exultant “We’re free of God” and a despairing “Oh God, we’re free.”
He went on to say that if the law emanates from within man, that means there is no ultimate rationale or reason why one claim to right and wrong is superior to a competing claim to right and wrong.
At that point, you see, we are really forced to see ourselves as lawmakers rather than law finders, and we are immediately led into a regress that is, fatally, not infinite. We can say that a valid legal system must have some minimum process for rational determination and operation. We can say that the majority cannot consistently disadvantage any minority. We can say that, whatever else a majority can do, it cannot systematically prevent a minority from seeking to become a majority. We can say all sorts of things, but what we cannot say is why one say is better than any other, unless we state some standard by which it definedly is. To put it as bluntly as possible, if we go to find what law ought to govern us, and if what we find is not an authoritative Holy Writ but just ourselves, just people, making that law, how can we be governed by what we have found?
Leff’s conclusion is as telling as it is sad.
All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us, could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs.
Napalming babies is bad.
Starving the poor is wicked.
Buying and selling each other is depraved.
Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and
Pol Pot-and General Custer too-have earned salvation. Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.
There is in the world such a thing as evil.
[All together now:] Sez who?
God help us.
One feels the tension in Leff’s position. Having concluded that we cannot definitively pronounce something as objectively and ultimately wrong, he then attempts to say that some things are. But why? Why?
Fortunately, most people, even those who claim that there is no definitive, ultimate right and wrong, live as if there is. Paul acknowledged that this was the case, and wrote in Romans 2 that when the world demonstrates an innate knowledge of right and wrong, it inadvertently bear witness to the existence of God.
14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
We know there is a law and there is a Lawgiver. Our very hearts give testimony to this all the time. We know this law is written into the very fabric of the universe and that it does not emanate from the collective subjective opinions of man.
The Evidence of Jesus
Above all of these evidences, however, is the evidence of Jesus Himself. Simply put, Jesus believed that God existed, that God had sent Him into the world, and that He was God. Consider the words of Jesus from John 14.
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
Jesus was driven by this fundamental conviction: God exists, God loves us, God is the righteous Judge of the universe, and we should be in relationship with Him. Furthermore, Jesus said that He was God come among us, that He was the way to the Father, and that He had the power to forgive sins. You must understand that if atheism is true, Jesus was utterly mistaken and absolutely deluded.
Let me ask those of you who have trusted in Christ, who are walking with Christ a question: in your experience with Jesus, have you found Him to be deluded, deranged, and deceitful? For make no mistake: if atheism is true then Jesus is precisely these things.
Church, Jesus believed in God. Jesus is God. It is a profoundly serious thing to say that the convictions of Jesus Christ were the ravings of an unstable man.
As Christians, we call all men to come to the Father through the Son. God exists. God loves you. God has provided a way for you to come home. That way is Jesus. God is perfectly holy and just. We will all one day stand before Him and give an account. The whole point of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can be covered by the blood of Christ and made clean and whole, that we can be forgiven.
L. Mencken famously said of his atheism, “If I am wrong, I will square myself when confronted in afterlife by the apostles with the simple apology, ‘Gentlemen, I was wrong.’”
That is a charming thought, but what of the consequences of rejecting God in this life? What of the consequences of rejecting the Lord Jesus?
“[I]t is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
There will be no time for gentlemanly apologies after we die. Now is the day of salvation. Come to Jesus, God with us, and be saved.
 John D. Wilsey, “The ‘Tergiversation’ of Antony Flew: A Review and Assessment of There is a God.” Southwestern Journal of Theology. Vol. 54, Number 1 (Fall 2011), p.45-54.
 Aquinas, Thomas (2013-07-10). Summa Theologica (All Complete & Unabridged 3 Parts + Supplement & Appendix + interactive links and annotations) (Kindle Locations 748-783). e-artnow. Kindle Edition.
 Quoted in Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir (Christopher Buckley) – Highlight Loc. 2735-37