Tom: One of the major themes of the book is eternity, and in particular what people think about it, and what plans, if any, are they making for it.
Dave, last week you made some statements that were rather stunning, which I believe would be helpful for our listeners to maybe develop just a little bit more. You said that true faith is a reasonable faith; in fact, the title of the chapter is, “In Search of a Serious Faith.” Yet most people, when they think of faith, they don’t think of reason or logic or evidence; it’s just something you do – you just believe with no basis. So, in a sense, faith has almost become an antonym for reason and logic.
Dave: Yeah, it shouldn’t be. You just could ask yourself the question . . . in fact, they talk about “faiths,” the many “faiths” on earth. You are of this faith, and I am of that faith, Buddhism is a faith, Hinduism is a faith, Mormonism is a faith, etc. In fact, unfortunately, some of our evangelical leaders – at least we presume they are – such as Pat Robertson, uses the term “people of faith” to encompass everybody that’s involved in his Christian Coalition. There are Catholics, and Mormons, and Moonies, and so forth. Well, then, what is the point, if you just decide to believe something because you want to believe something? Then you couldn’t possibly defend that. It couldn’t have anything to do with right or wrong; it couldn’t have anything to do with truth.
There has to be a reason why you believe what you believe. We recognize that in every area of life. If I am going to buy a house, or a car, or even a refrigerator, or whatever, there must be some way of evaluating whether this is a prudent step to take. And how much more would that be essential when it comes to, as you said, eternity? Faith – people think of that as your religious belief. Well, you ought to have a basis for that belief, and to think that faith is just a leap in the dark – well, “I’m going to believe this,” and “you’re going to believe that,” it just is irrational. Why would I believe something? I have to have that foundation for my faith.
Now the Bible, in fact, gives us foundation for faith. It gives us proofs; it gives us evidences. I was just . . . recently we were in Europe on the all-day train from the Czech Republic to Slovakia, and here are a couple of young Mormon missionaries. I invited them into our compartment and we had a little discussion. And I said, “I can prove that the Bible is God’s Word! I can give you reasons why I believe the Bible. Can you prove that the Book of Mormon is God’s Word?”
Well, they didn’t know. “Well, why do we need proof?” they said. “We prayed about it, and we got a burning in the bosom, we got a feeling. . .”
Tom: An experience.
Dave: Yeah, “. . . and we feel so sure about this.”
“Well,” I said, “a Buddhist could feel sure about his beliefs; so could a Hindu about his beliefs. I want some evidence; I want some facts. And, in fact, the Bible gives it. For example, it says when Jesus appeared to His disciples for 40 days after His resurrection, “He showed himself alive to them by many infallible proofs,” Acts:18:28. We’ve probably quoted it a number of times on this program, speaking of Apollos. It says: “He mightily convinced the Jews, publicly proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.” If I can’t prove that, then why be a Christian? Why not just be a Muslim? “Oh, well, it just depends upon how you were raised.”
No! It depends upon the facts; there must be some basis for what I believe. Maybe I belabored that a bit, but maybe it needs it, because people have the opposite idea.
Tom: Well, that was my point, that, again, when you hear the word “faith,” in the common understanding of the word today, it removes itself from logic and evidence. Even some theologians, or those who would claim to be faith holders, they would say, “Well, if you have to see it, if you have to have evidence, if you have to have proof, then it’s not really faith.”
Dave: Well, Tom, rationally, I’ve got to ask myself, why do I believe what I believe? Why do I believe what I believe about anything? Faith is an obedient response to God’s revealed truth. Faith must have a foundation. I think this is clear rationally; it is, in fact, what the Bible teaches. And how can you defend your faith? I tell God one day, “Well, this is just what I believed because I believed it.” That’s not going to get you anywhere.
Tom: And how can we be obedient to Jude’s exhortation to contend for the faith, if there’s not content there, if there’s not information that we can test, or that it’s objective or it’s anybody’s idea, what do you contend for?
Tom: Or a Baptist . . .
Dave: Yeah, or whatever, “ . . . and I will die a . . . “Well, then that’s really sad, because you had better have a reason for what you believe, and I think that if that holds true in every area of life, then certainly it ought to hold true in that which is most important: Is there a God? If so, who is He? Can He reveal Himself to me?
If God is not just sort of a lump of Silly Putty that you can massage and put it any way you want it, if God has any standards, if He has any morals, if He has any purpose and meaning for His existence and for our existence, then we ought to find out what it is. And just to say, “Well, I have faith, just so long . . .” Well, it’s what our vice-president, Al Gore, says. He said this at the 1993 Presidential Prayer Breakfast. He said, “Faith in some higher power, by whatever name, in my opinion, is essential.” So, just so long as you believe in some higher power, it doesn’t matter who he is or what he is, but just so long as you believe . . . . That doesn’t make sense! I am sorry, and I don’t think God is going to be happy with people who call Him a “higher power,” and they think that they can make Him in their image, and they can decide what kind of a god He is . . . no! That isn’t going to work!
Tom: No, Dave, it’s ridiculous, but that’s kind of the mentality that’s out there, and it’s all wrapped up with – we’re going to get into some of this – intolerance, preference versus conviction.
Dave: Another reason for this idea is pride. “I don’t want you to show me that my faith that I was raised in, whatever I believed, my religion, is wrong.” So I’m defensive about it. “Don’t try to tell me anything about it; I don’t want to examine the facts.”
I’ve seen so many people like this! They have a closed mind because they just want to continue to be loyal to that system of belief, or religion, or whatever it is, in which they were born. This is true, I find, of atheists, people who call themselves atheists, or people who believe in evolution, supposedly. They don’t want to face the facts. In fact, I’ve talked to several people like that, a PhD from Harvard on my last trip in an airplane, and another scientist on the next flight. They weren’t willing to face any evidence to the contrary of their belief.
Tom: Dave, last week you laid out some really terrific points with regard to evidence, to proofs, that have to do with the universe being created, that there has to be an intelligence behind all of this. But there was one statement you made, and I want to go back to it, because it sounds like a contradiction of what you’ve just been saying. For example, you said that God created everything out of nothing. Now for most people, when they hear that, they say, “Wait a minute! That doesn’t sound reasonable, rational, logical . . .” But it is!
Dave: Well, if He made it out of “something,” then where did the something come from? What did He make the something out of? Did He make the something out of something? So then, “something” always existed. Well, then, I guess it must have existed before God’s creative act. That doesn’t make sense. So you are driven to the conclusion that whatever God made, He must have made it out of nothing. If He made it out of himself . . .
Tom: That’s the next question.
Dave: . . . then everything is part of God. That doesn’t make sense, because then God is evil as well as good. God is pain and sickness and death, or at least He is subject to it.
Tom: And God is dying because we know that . . . (obviously, He’s not dying, but if you take this view, you would have to believe that God is dying because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics).
Dave: Right. If He made everything out of something, then whatever this something is it must have existed as long as God existed. And we know that things don’t exist forever. You said it, Second Law of Thermodynamics. Matter, energy, does not last forever – that’s how we know the universe hasn’t been here forever, and if it had been all the stars would have burned out by now. So . . .
Tom: So these are good reasons for why God must be transcendent. He’s not part of the universe; He’s not part of His own creation and so on . . .
Dave: He’s eternal. He must be eternal.
Tom: Yeah, and you can hold that by faith, a reasonable faith, with regard to one of the qualities, one of the characteristics, of God.
Dave: Well, let’s take another step here, Tom. For example, Hebrews:11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.” Now, I don’t understand it. How can God, just by speaking, create atoms, molecules, electrons, protons, and energy? I don’t understand it, but I am driven to that conclusion. And when the Bible has proved to me that this is God’s Word in so many ways – prophecy [being] a major way – so that when it says something that I can’t fully comprehend with my peanut brain (which is what we are, if we want to admit it, compared with God. I mean, we are so . . . “nothings”), then I believe it.
So faith does take a step beyond reason. It does take a step beyond verification, but it always takes that step in the direction that the evidence has pointed. In the direction that the evidence God has given me for His veracity and for His infinitude in wisdom and power and so forth, I have all that evidence. Now, when God says, well, He created everything out of nothing, I mean I can’t fathom that, but I am driven to that conclusion. So, faith does encompass some things that are beyond my ability to prove or to fully comprehend, but it only takes that step in the direction that the evidence has pointed and after having been given sufficient evidence to warrant such a step.
Tom: Yeah! And it has to be, because we’re dealing with an infinite God, and we’re finite beings, let alone sinners and depraved, and we just cannot fully comprehend an infinite God and what He does. But He did say, “Come, let us reason together,” and He did reveal Himself to us in His Word, and He’s not going to lay something out like that if we can’t, to some degree, comprehend what He is communicating to us.
Tom: Dave, I hope for some of our listeners that this is kind of exciting, because as many times as I’ve had the opportunity to speak to groups and so on, one of the things that gets to me a little bit is that a lot of people don’t want to think through these things. And I’m not a big-time thinker, you know? Just make it simple, have it make sense, and I get really excited.
That’s what I like about your book, An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, because you do just that. You lay out some things that people have not thought about, or have not thought through – that’s the premise. People are facing eternity, and most of them are facing it backwards. They’re not interested in what proofs there may be, what evidences there might be, for thoughts that they have about how and where they’re going to spend eternity.
Dave: It’s very important, Tom. As I’ve said, just in the last few days I’ve run into several PhDs or MBAs from Harvard, scientists and so forth, people from all walks of life, from all kinds of beliefs – Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims. Now, so you say, “Well, most people don’t have that opportunity.” They don’t travel and run into these people like I do. Okay? But here’s a person in high school, a young person in high school, or in university, or just in the neighborhood, or just watching TV, and they are confronted with ideas that undermine the truth, and they are confronted with ideas that are so popular, and they can easily be swept along with the stream of humanity that is on its way to destruction because it has turned its back upon God. And if you haven’t thought these things through, then you could be swept along. Therefore, I try to give . . . I’ve had so many conversations in my many, many decades. I’ll be 74 my next birthday. I’ve been dealing with people around the world for a long time. I think I’ve probably faced every question that you could face. So out of that have come some ways of dealing with these things, and I think that it’s helpful.
Tom: It is.
Dave: Young people, especially, really need that today.
Tom: Dave, along that line, there’s a scripture that I’m sure most of our listeners have heard, at least in some form, and it says, “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” This is Genesis:1:27. Now, as you consider that verse, it’s telling us that we are created in the image of God. In other words, some people just look at us and say, “Well, that’s how we’re created,” but it tells us something about the character of God as well, that our Creator must be not some thing, as you point out in the book, but some one.
Dave: Right, not the physical image, of course.
Dave: God is not a man, the Bible very clearly says. God is not flesh and bone and blood. He doesn’t have a body. God is a Spirit. Jesus himself said that in John 4. Well, then how are we in His image? I think you can rationally arrive at this conclusion. We have thoughts of right and wrong, morals, ethics. We have the capacity to love; we have the capacity to have a purpose in life – realize that we need to have a purpose in life. We are rational beings. We have a sense of justice, although we have never seen real justice on this earth. We have a sense of truth. As we've mentioned, you read 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter,” and you are confronted with a love that is beyond anything we’ve ever seen. We know that it exists. The most beautiful novels and movies and poems and so forth, they’re all about love. There is an ideal that we hold up in our minds that we have never seen but we recognize it. That can only be because God created us in His image, and it tells us something about God! It tells us He must be perfect in justice. Surely He is the one from whom we have these standards. He must be even above the standards that we can imagine in our finite minds.
Tom: Dave, simply, as well, it tells us that God is personal. The only other alternative is the “big bang,” that all of these things that you mentioned are the product of an explosion of matter – all those elements, those characteristics, those qualities.
Dave: It can’t be a force that brought us into existence. And Richard Dawkins – we’ve mentioned him, one of the world’s leading evolutionists - he’s written a number of books: we’ve quoted him from The Blind Watchmaker to the effect that the nucleus of every cell has a digitally organized database larger than the thirty-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica!
Now, you can’t put that together by chance, by some force. But this man, in his determination to do away with God, has destroyed man, who was made in God’s image! You see, if you do away with God, you do away with man as man – as a real being who has purpose and meaning and choice and morals.
So, Richard Dawkins – one of his books is called The Selfish Gene, and he says we are simply – our whole body that’s put together, with our eyes, with our brains, everything – is just what this selfish gene that began this whole thing back there had done all of this in order to replicate itself, to protect itself and replicate itself. He says that what we think is purpose and meaning and choice that we make is a delusion! And the gene has created this delusion in order to further its survival and its development. Come on!
How can you possible imagine that? Okay, but when you reject – when you refuse to believe in God, you become foolish enough to believe in anything. If man was indeed made in God’s image (and we can’t escape that) – as you said, we didn’t arrive at what we are from a “big bang,” and the words that I am speaking are simply the results of the antecedent motions of the atoms in my brain; it all began with a “big bang” and it’s all by chance, then what I am saying is meaningless, and all the theories, even his theory about the “selfish gene,” is meaningless because that came about by chance.
You can’t believe that! And the only possible explanation for the personality, the sense of truth, of right and wrong, of morals, and purpose, and justice, and so forth – there must be a God, who is all of this and more, who gave this capacity to man. We are made in His image and we are accountable to Him, and you cannot possibly escape that rationally.
Tom: Dave, what you said just reminds me of two scriptures: One, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” The evidences that you’ve laid out, you’d have to be a fool to reject it! Also Romans:1:22: “Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.” And that’s to their own peril, I’m afraid.