One reason that former-skeptics often tend to have a passionate faith is because they’ve had to fight for it. For those who inherited their faith and have never questioned it, their resulting belief can lack passion. This sermon series aims to build up those arguments, to impassion both skeptics and believers alike.
Today Greg presents two main arguments that support a belief in a personal God who created the world and loves us.
Fine Tuning Argument, a.k.a. “The Goldilocks Argument”
We are all familiar with the children’s story of Goldilocks and the three bears — there are three bowls of porridge, one is too hot, one is too cold, and one is just right. The Goldilocks Argument says that the nature of this universe is so perfectly suited not just for life to exist but for there to be matter in the first place, it is not possible to have happened purely by chance.
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Fools say in their heart, “there is no God.”
These both assert that a belief in God is the only logical belief. To demonstrate this principle, Greg placed a metal screw in between 2 magnets. The screw was exactly equidistant between the magnets and it does not move. It isn’t because there is nothing happening but because the forces acting on the screw are perfectly balanced. But as soon as one of the three parts moves just a little, the forces are no longer perfectly balanced and the screw suddenly moves and snaps onto the closer magnet.
Similarly we live in a solid world of stable things. This stability that we take for granted is the result of many forces of nature interacting with each other in specific ways. If these interactions had been any different, life (and matter itself) would not have happened. Each one of these forces that acts up on the world is called a Cosmic Constant. They are things like the speed of light, and the strong nuclear force; forces which we can quantify and that do not change.
Depending on how you group them, most scientists agree that there are 47 different cosmic constants. We will look at four.
1) Ratio of electromagnetic force constant.
If slightly greater: Chemical bonding would be disrupted, elements any more massive than Boron would be unstable, and life chemistry would be impossible. If slightly lesser, Chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry. Chances are 1 in 10 to the 40th power that this force would be set just the way it is. To illustrate just how improbable this is, if you had a dime with a red X on it, and inserted it somewhere into a stack of dimes then asked a friend to pick one dime from the stack — to achieve these improbable odds that your friend would choose the one dime with the red X, you would have to have a pile of dimes all the way to the moon plus a BILLION times further than that!
2) Strong nuclear force constant
If slightly larger no hydrogen would form, hence life chemistry would be possible. If slightly smaller no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry
3) Weak nuclear force constant
If slightly larger, there would have been too much helium created during the big bang; hence, stars would convert too much matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible. If slightly smaller, two little helium would be produced from the Big Bang; hence, stars would convert two little matter into heavy elements, making life chemistry impossible
4) Gravitational force constant
If slightly larger, stars would be too hot and would burn too rapidly and too unevenly for life chemistry. If slightly smaller, stars would be too cool to ignite nuclear fusion; thus many of the elements needed for life chemistry would never form. These are just four of the roughly 47 variables that if just slightly different, would make life impossible.
Stephen Hawking wrote about this: “The laws of science as we know them at present, contains many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron in the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron… the remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finally adjusted to make possible the development of life.”
Modern high-power telescopes tell us that the universe is expanding and that expansion is accelerating. And conversely, astronomers estimate that 13.6 billion years ago all matter was super condensed in a ball around the size of a quarter. At some point it exploded, known as the Big Bang. (Now, nobody knows where the ball came from and why it exploded when it did. But that is the currently accepted theory.)
In this Big Bang scenario, you don’t have that many opportunities to get it right. You have one chance of the universe being set just the way it is. And the odds that it would be just the way it is so that matter and life could come to exist is nearly infinitely unlikely. Remember the stack of dimes from before? Now multiply those odds by 47! It’s just about impossible.
You don’t have to be a believing Christian to see how convincing this is for the existence of God. The astronomer Fred Hoyle said: “A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers that one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Another way to imagine this is to think of dice… On a 6-sided die your chances of rolling a 3 is 1 in 6. If you roll that die twice in a row, your chances of rolling a 3 both times are 6 x 6, or 36. If you roll it six times in a row your chances are 1 in 47,000 that you will roll a 3. Now imagine a die with 10(40)th sides, and rolling a 3 all 47 times in a row!
The only way you can get around this incredibly unlikely perfection is if there was more than one universe (think of more than one marked dime in your stack) so if there were infinitely many universes, then it isn’t so hard to believe that this one happened to be the way it is. But Greg’s opinion is that is a “Hail Mary pass” if ever there was one, because there is no evidence mathematical or otherwise to believe in multiple universes. The difference between an idea and a theory is first, whether there is evidence, and second, whether or not it is falsifiable. Belief in a multiverse is unfalsifiable and there is no other evidence for it, so it remains just an idea. Frankly it’s much more likely that God exists.
The second reason that belief in God is more philosophical. If you’ve come to our church for any length of time, you probably know that when Greg was younger he went to college and lost his faith. During this time, he was miserable. Having been a Christian for a while but then believing in nothing again made life feel vacuous, empty. So he was incredibly depressed.
During this time he took a class about the philosopher Neitzsche, and one day Greg asked the professor, what is the motivation for living or doing good when all are going to die anyway? The universe is expanding and everything will die no when there is more energy and in a material world where there is no God, there is ultimately no point to anything. How do you get out of bed in the morning?
The professor answered, “it gets better, you get used to it.” He also recommended reading a book by Albert Camus called The Myth of Sisyphus. In this myth, a man named Sisyphus is cursed to roll a large boulder up a hill until it rolls down the other side, then start over again, for all eternity. Camus basically concludes that although there really is no point, you go forward and keep living because that has dignity, to do otherwise would be cowardly.
Greg thought this is a terrible argument, because where do you get the idea of dignity in the first place? In a material world, ideas like dignity and cowardice and good and bad are all human constructs and have no ultimate meaning. The fact that we are even framing such questions of purpose and meaning (or lack thereof) using words like dignity is circular.
In addition, Camus believed that human beings are “freaks of nature” (our paraphrase) with self awareness which torments us with longing for things to which there are no corresponding answers. Our desire for God, for an ultimate meaning and purpose to life, to be part of something eternal, or just for a higher power, all of these are things that humanity has craved since we first gathered around a thing called fire.
But how could we have evolved from the first single-cell organisms into creatures that long for something that never existed? It’s like people who live in the hottest desert knowing of nothing else, inexplicably developing a love for skiing. Nature evolves beings who have needs for which there is an answer.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described it this way: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The fact that we long for God means there must be something out there to correspond to that longing. Aside from this, as Greg’s philosophy professor said, the next best option is to just get used to it and stop thinking about it, well that’s a pretty unsatisfying option and not only that but it makes the least sense. It is far more likely that there is a God who is rational, intentional and moral who created us and the world. This is the blueprint from which we were made.
This practice of apologetics (being able to defend your faith) is a kind of discipleship of the mind, where you will live as though it’s true because you believe it’s true. The facts are that either our reality is far more miserable than we can possibly comprehend or admit, or it’s in fact far better than we can possibly comprehend or admit. And, we have reasons — historical, scientific and philosophical — that all point to the actual reality that a loving God made us and all things for the purpose of union with himself through Jesus Christ. It’s not just incredibly good news, it’s also the most likely scenario to be TRUE.
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