Posts Tagged ‘evidence’

Did Jesus Actually Exist? An Agnostic Historian’s Answer

Someone in a Facebook group I’m a part of posted this. Inflammatory initial scrawl aside, this is fantastic perspective on the reality of Jesus’ existence by a notable scholar that has no vested interest in the conclusion other than a historical one.

I know that this is not an objection held by any real majority (most reasonable atheists and agnostics don’t dispute the existence of Jesus, rather, the dispute is on the truth of His claims and the claims made about Him). However, the view is popular enough that it warranted discussion on this radio show, and so it warrants discussion here.

Listen to Bart Ehrmann give a terrific account about what matters to historians when discussing historical data, and how this relates to the existence of Jesus.

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Ravi Zacharias’ Take On the Evidence

Before we get to the fourth point of evidence in my argument, I saw this video on YouTube and thought it a very succinct way to say everything from the first three points that I’ve touched on. And it helps that Ravi has much better credentials than I do, so if my arguments don’t make sense, perhaps his will. Enjoy!

Evidence For God’s Existence

For those who have been privy to the attempted discussions I’ve been trying to have at blessedatheist.com, and you actually want to have a reasonable dialogue on the evidence for God’s existence, this is for you.

My evidence for God’s existence begins with a four-pronged effort. These four ideas are thus:

1) Cosmological argument – The universe has a Cause, and that Cause is uncaused and supernatural in origin
2) Teleological argument – The overwhelming evidence of design and order to the universe implies a Designer
3) Moral argument – objective moral values exist, and the only way we can know what is morally right and morally wrong is with an objective standard for these values, which can only be found supernaturally
4) Intangibility argument – intangible things, such as ideas, emotions, etc., exist, and since the natural order shows that things must reproduce after their own kind, these intangible concepts must proceed from something intangible. This something intangible is akin to what the Bible refers to as “soul”

I will tackle each one of these in turn, but for this blog post and in an attempt to see some actual fruitful discussion occur, I’ll stick with point #1 and save the others for other posts.

The kalam cosmological argument follows deductive reasoning in logic, and is stated as thus:

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

In order to break this argument down, you have to show either that one of the premises or the conclusion is invalid, using logic or factual evidence. Conjecture and hypotheses don’t kill the argument.

How do we know the universe began to exist? Well, we know two ways. First, the second law of thermodynamics, in its most famous stating, says thus: “The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.” Translation: everything is winding down. This results in the following: According to the second law the entropy of any isolated system, such as the entire universe, never decreases. If the entropy of the universe has a maximum upper bound then when this bound is reached the universe has no thermodynamic free energy to sustain motion or life, that is, the heat death is reached.

What does that have to do with the universe’s beginning? Well anything that is coming to an end must have had a beginning, for no infinite thing can have an end by the definition of infinite. Therefore, the universe had a beginning.

The second piece of evidence lies in the expanding nature of the universe, discovered by Hubble in using the redshift of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is commonly accepted by science today that the universe is, in fact, expanding, supported by the Cosmological principle (which demands that the universe looks the same way in all directions and has roughly the same smooth mixture of material) and the Copernican principle (which demands that no place in the universe is preferred–that is, the universe has no “starting point”).

But if we take the expanding nature of the universe and dial it backwards to infinite regress, we would find that the universe would collapse in on itself to a state of nothingness. Therefore, we have to assume that the universe began “ex nihilo,” or “out of nothing.” Interestingly, this is exactly the conclusion that Lawrence Krauss has come to by determining that the total energy of the universe is zero, precisely what we would expect to see in a universe that was created out of nothing.

So we have an end to the universe supporting its beginning, and we have scientific evidence that the origin of the universe was “ex nihilo.” So that begs the question: how did the universe begin? Many misinformed people would say “The Big Bang, of course.” However the Big Bang theory doesn’t answer the origin question; note this explanation from Wikipedia: “Without any evidence associated with the earliest instant of the expansion, the Big Bang theory cannot and does not provide any explanation for such an initial condition; rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the universe since that instant.” So the underlying implication is that something caused the Big Bang.

Now there has to be a first cause to the universe. Richard Dawkins’ theory of “complex must be from more complex” makes no sense because if you take the argument to reductio absurdum you get infinite regress–there can be no cause for anything because everything must have a cause great than it. So there is no cause, which means there can be no effect. If you ask for the cause of something like an ice cube, then the cause of the ice cube must have a cause, and that cause has a cause, and so on into infinity. There must have been a first, uncaused cause to the universe in order for it to have the nature of cause-and-effect that we see today. (Note: This Dawkins argument fails to make a reasonable objection to the teleological argument for the very same reasons.)

Now let’s look at alternative theories. First, science seems to have come to this ex nihilo conclusion and realized that this answer to the uncaused cause–to the origin of our universe–lies outside of our universe. Enter the multiverse hypothesis. However, scientists like Krauss fully understand and recognize that even if a multiverse were to exist, we would never be able to see it or know it here on this earth. So it is at best an untestable hypothesis and at worst like shooting a gun with blanks in the dark hoping to kill a deer.

The other theory of course, is that a supernatural entity created the universe. This theory began at least 4,000 years ago with the author of Genesis, so in terms of dating as validation for theory, God’s existence wins. It’s a hypothesis that has been supported and documented throughout history and pre-dates modern science, and nothing that science has found contradicts what is possible with a supernatural being creating the universe. The Big Bang is completely possible as a means for beginning everything by God, timing issues aside.

So if you were a betting man, would you bet on a cosmological theory that pre-dates modern science and has been only corroborated by the scientific evidence found, even in recent years, or would you go with a theory that has never been and never will be tested, one that we can never see or understand (much in the same way that atheists feel about the God hypothesis), and has only been proffered in the past 100 years?

I’ll go with the evidence supporting God’s existence as the much more plausible worldview.