Jack G. Dunn
In a discussion between a believer and an unbeliever, the usual procedure is for the believer to affirm and the unbeliever to deny. Thus the believer takes the positive position, and the unbeliever takes the negative. Consequently the believer is always on the defensive, while the unbeliever is offensive (sometimes in more ways than one).
But the unbeliever affirms things just as surely as does the believer. One cannot deny God without certain affirmations. If two plus two does not equal four, then it must equal five, or three, or some other number. It is unfair for a man to deny that it equals four, and then refuse to affirm what it does equal.
Unbelievers fall into many classes, and are labeled by many names, but their attitudes may be summed up in two categories: atheists and agnostics. The former perpetually deny, and the latter perpetually doubt. The stock-in-trade argument of the agnostic is: “God cannot be demonstrated. That he is is unproved and unproveable. Therefore I cannot go along with believers.” The most common reply is, “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” That, of course, is a good reply; it is a divinely inspired one. But why not turn the agnostic’s argument right around on him? “That God is not is also unproved and unproveable. Therefore we can’t go along with the agnostic!”
Agnosticism Purely Negative
Agnostics never like to affirm anything. By extolling a state of doubt, they can boast of intellectual honesty, and yet, like the atheist, repudiate the moral demands of God. The results of living in doubt are precisely the same as the results of living in open atheism—no standard to live by, no hope to die by. In fact, some have said that the real antithesis to faith is not disbelief (atheism) but doubt. There is a positive element in disbelief. The atheist affirms something; he affirms that God is not. Faith affirms that God is. Both attitudes are therefore, in a sense, positive. But agnosticism—is purely negative. Is it not, therefore, the true opposite of faith?
In this article, we are concerned primarily with the affirmations of atheism. Let us pause, for a moment, in our defense of what the atheist denies, and examine what it is that he affirms. The atheist states that one must be credulous to believe in God. Now, actually, one must be more credulous to deny God. Atheism calls for a far greater faith than ever God called for!
Consider an illustration: Two men are sitting in the park. One of them, reading “Progressive World” or something like it, remarks, “I find it rather difficult to believe in God”. The other, looking thoughtfully at the trees, the birds, the flowers and the growing grass, replies, “Perhaps so. Perhaps so. But I find it more difficult to deny God.”
To deny God! How, then, could he explain the birds, trees, and flowers? How explain the ennobling effects of the sunset? How explain conscience? How explain memory? How explain the origin and perpetuity of myriads of complex laws that are known to exist? How explain life? And the regeneration of life? How explain the longing for immortality in every human breast? How explain man’s power to think in abstract fields, or to create in artistic fields?
Something From Nothing?
The atheist affirms that something came from no thing. He must, by his denial of God, contend that has money came from chaos. He must argue that order was born of disorder, that non-life gave birth to life, thinking and creation are the products of nothing! Who is gullible enough to believe it? Every so-called invention of science is but the discovery of the existence of and the harnessing of laws and principles which are already here. How did they get here? The believer says, “In the beginning God… ” The atheist affirms, “In the beginning, nothing… ” Which calls for greater faith.
Man’s power to think in abstract fields is so great that he sometimes knows a thing is so before it can demonstrated. Many discoveries are not the product of trial-and-error, but the results of proceeding along theoretical lines according to known principles. That Einstein was confident that light rays can and do bend to gravitational pull before it was ever proved. Euclid the Greek mathematician of Alexandria, wrote Elements of Geometry nearly 2,200 years ago. So fixed are the principles of mathematics that modern text-books follow essentially the lines worked out by Euclid. He wrote some mathematical propositions demonstrating the impossibility of perpetual motion which are on file in United States patent office today. No perpetual motion device has ever been presented which cannot be disproved by reference to Euclid! We are not praising Euclid, we are showing the fixedness of certain principles. We as showing, furthermore, that man has the power to think along abstract lines, and keep his thinking attuned to the principles that exist. Proceeding along fixed lines he can arrive at positive conclusions before they are demonstrated, or negative conclusions which can never be disproved. Whence comes this power? Whence are these principles? The believer says, “God”. The atheist’ says, “nothing”.
The “Atomic Theory”
The atomic theory is a fresh expression, so recent in the time when physicists, while certain the atom existed, arrived at their conclusions by computation along the known lines of physics. Hiroshima jolted every layman with the knowledge that the physicists were right. Now some physicists are seeing a universe in the atom, an infinity in the infinitesimal. Yet all this is but the exploration into what is already here. Can such inviolate principles, such powerful force, exist without will to ordain them, and will to perpetuate them? Can there be such Will without Personality? The believer says, “No. There, ordaining and sustaining, is God. The atheist replies, “Believe me, Sir. Nothing started it. Nothing keeps it going.” You will pardon us if, in the face of so much something we find it impossible to believe in so much nothing!
Reducing our argument to its simplest terms: That, which is, is. Somehow, it came to be. To the believer, as to Moses, God is the great “I Am.” God is. He always was. He always will be. “I Am,” then, produced that which is. But the atheist, admitting the existence of things, denies God. God is the “Is Not.” “Is Not,” therefore, produced “is.” Who is stupid enough to fall for it?
Just recently we heard a story, the truthfulness of which we cannot vouch for, but which is most illuminating. Robert G. Ingersoll, it seems, walked into a planetarium, in which the sun, moon, and various planets of our solar system had been arranged as they appear to the human eye. “Well,” he said, “who made this?” Someone standing nearby said, “No one made it, Mr. Ingersoll, it just happened!”
The sarcasm of the reply even a child can see; it is based on the fallacy of Ingersoll’s reasoning.
The Deity Of Christ
Atheists call for great credulity when they deny the deity of Christ, and the inspiration of the Word. Here, too, it is easier to believe than not.
Jesus was reared in Nazareth, a backward village in a backward country, far removed from the “highly civilized” nations of the time. He was in comparative obscurity until He was about thirty, then taught for three short years. After that, He died the death of a common criminal. Yet His influence today is world-wide, far exceeding that of all philosophers, moralists, poets, scientists, and political figures combined! His own brother was one of the most devout disciples. His closest associates gave their lives testifying that they had seen Him in his resurrection. Even his critics agree that His ethics are the best, and His moral stature cannot be improved upon.
Who is willing to affirm that one so admittedly good was a liar and an imposter? Who would contend that He was a deceptive Jew, the illegitimate son of a woman weighed in the scales and found wanton? Think of His influence. Calendars of all the world’s most progressive nations are dated from the time of His birth. Statutes of law are based on His moral code. Thousands of charitable institutions are in existence because of Him. For Him, individually, missionaries suffer and martyrs die. From Him, individually, peace has come to millions of firesides, and hope to millions of hearts. In all likelihood, if the truth were known, even the scoffers, when they come to die, turn their thoughts to the Nazarene.
Who would assert that deception and duplicity brought all this about? Yet that is precisely what the atheist affirms when he denies the deity of Christ!
Take the Old Testament, and compare the conception of God found therein with the pagan conceptions of their gods. Homer, a contemporary of David, was a heathen who pictured his gods as he saw them. He gave to the world a picture of gods a-feuding and a-fighting, motivated by all the base jealousies and passions of unregenerate men. Thus, the world over, pagans portrayed their gods. But David, the grown-up shepherd boy, was writing, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want… The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” These are words as modern today as when they were written, words that live and will live forever in the hearts and on the tongues of men. Deny inspiration to David, and how can his words be accounted for? The believer says, “He was inspired.” The unbeliever says, “He arrived at that sentiment by his own meditation.” Which thought is easier to embrace, recalling the other “meditations” of the men of David’s day?
How can an atheist account for prophecy? Some of the most telling descriptions of Christ anywhere are found in Isaiah 53, written hundreds of years before He was born. Daniel predicted, from his day, the downfall of Babylon and the rise of three kingdoms successively before the advent of the kingdom of God. He listed two of them, the Medo-Persian and the Greek, by name (Dan. 8:20). In John Kitto’s History it is reported (p. 445) that this passage was shown to Alexander the Great in Jerusalem, heartening him considerably when he thought he was the Greek intended. Yet when Alexander saw the prophecy, it was already two hundred years old. He who denies the inspiration of Daniel must affirm the incredible accuracy of guesswork! That is exactly the affirmation the atheist must make.
This article might be extended indefinitely, but we believe we have demonstrated our thesis: that the believer all too often takes a wholly defensive attitude and tries only to “eliminate the negative.” We prefer to put the atheists’ own affirmations on the stand and “accentuate the positive.” The agnostic will not take the stand, so we just won’t “mess with mister in-between.”
As we consider the things which cannot be explained without God—the impossible affirmations of atheism—the ancient words of David come back to us, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”