Basic to all the facts and doctrines of Christianity and therefore involved in the belief in God, is the creation doctrine. Now modern philosophers and scientists as a whole claim that to hold such a doctrine or to believe in such a fact is to deny our own experience. They mean this not merely in the sense that no one was there to see it done, but in the more basic sense that it is logically impossible. They assert that it would break the fundamental laws of logic.
The current argument against the creation doctrine derives from Kant. It may fitly be expressed in the words of a more recent philosopher, James Ward: “If we attempt to conceive of God apart from the world, there is nothing to lead us on to creation” (Realm of Ends, p. 397). That is to say, if God is to be connected to the universe at all, he must be subject to its conditions. Here is the old creation doctrine. It says that God has caused the world to come into existence. But what do we mean by the word “cause”? In our experience, it is that which is logically correlative to the word “effect”. If you have an effect you must have a cause and if you have a cause you must have an effect. If God caused the world, it must therefore have been because God couldn’t help producing an effect. And so the effect may really be said to be the cause of the cause. Our experience can therefore allow for no God other than one that is dependent upon the world as much as the world is dependent upon Him.
The God of Christianity cannot meet these requirements of the autonomous man. He claims to be all-sufficient. He claims to have created the world, not from necessity but from His free will. He claims not to have changed in Himself when He created the world. His existence must therefore be said to be impossible and the creation doctrine must be said to be an absurdity.
The doctrine of providence is also said to be at variance with experience. This is but natural. One who rejects creation must logically also reject providence. If all things are controlled by God’s providence, we are told, there can be nothing new and history is but a puppet dance.
You see then that I might present to you great numbers of facts to prove the existence of God. I might say that every effect needs a cause. I might point to the wonderful structure of the eye as evidence of God’s purpose in nature. I might call in the story of mankind through the past to show that it has been directed and controlled by God. All these evidences would leave you unaffected. You would simply say that however else we may explain reality, we cannot bring in God. Cause and purpose, you keep repeating, are words that we human beings use with respect to things around us because they seem to act as we ourselves act, but that is as far as we can go.
And when the evidence for Christianity proper is presented to you the procedure is the same. If I point out to you that the prophecies of Scripture have been fulfilled, you will simply reply that it quite naturally appears that way to me and to others, but that in reality it is not possible for any mind to predict the future from the past. If it were, all would again be fixed and history would be without newness and freedom.
Then if I point to the many miracles, the story is once more the same. To illustrate this point I quote from the late Dr. William Adams Brown, an outstanding modernist theologian. “Take any of the miracles of the past,” says Brown, “The virgin birth, the raising of Lazarus, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Suppose that you can prove that these events happened just as they are claimed to have happened. What have you accomplished? You have shown that our previous view of the limits of the possible needs to be enlarged; that our former generalizations were too narrow and need revision; that problems cluster about the origin of life and its renewal of which we had hitherto been unaware. But the one thing which you have not shown, which indeed you cannot show, is that a miracle has happened; for that is to confess that these problems are inherently insoluble, which cannot be determined until all possible tests have been made” (God at Work, New York, 1933, p. 169). You see with what confidence Brown uses this weapon of logical impossibility against the idea of a miracle. Many of the older critics of Scripture challenged the evidence for miracle at this point or at that. They made as it were a slow, piece-meal land invasion of the island of Christianity. Brown, on the other hand, settles the matter at once by a host of stukas from the sky. Any pill boxes that he cannot destroy immediately, he will mop up later. He wants to get rapid control of the whole field first. And this he does by directly applying the law of non-contradiction. Only that is possible, says Brown, in effect, which I can show to be logically related according to my laws of logic. So then if miracles want to have scientific standing, that is be recognized as genuine facts, they must sue for admittance at the port of entry to the mainland of scientific endeavor. And admission will be given as soon as they submit to the little process of generalization which deprives them of their uniqueness. Miracles must take out naturalization papers if they wish to vote in the republic of science and have any influence there.
Take now the four points I have mentioned — creation, providence, prophecy, and miracle. Together they represent the whole of Christian theism. Together they include what is involved in the idea of God and what He has done round about and for us. Many times over and in many ways the evidence for all these has been presented. But you have an always available and effective answer at hand. It is impossible! It is impossible! You act like a postmaster who has received a great many letters addressed in foreign languages. He says he will deliver them as soon as they are addressed in the King’s English by the people who sent them. Till then they must wait in the dead letter department. Basic to all the objections the average philosopher and scientist raises against the evidence for the existence of God is the assertion or the assumption that to accept such evidence would be to break the rules of logic.
I see you are yawning. Let us stop to eat supper now. For there is one more point in this connection that I must make. (“Why I Believe in God”)
Continue reading tomorrow afternoon. . . .