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Is There a God?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 20, 2021 12:01 am

Is There a God?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 20, 2021 12:01 am

Many people today claim that the world's living creatures naturally developed on their own--with no help from a Creator. Today, R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner continue their mock debate by discussing the origins of the universe.

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In the debate over origins, there are those who say that all living organisms naturally developed on their own with no help from a Creator. I'm very fond of a dandelion seed which spreads out a little bit of an umbrella to be carried out by the wind to places other than where it originated.

Now that's a very clever little device for accomplishing that purpose, and I'm absolutely sure that that dandelion seed did not think that up. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind as we bring you an interesting twist to the idea of a debate. Dr. R.C. Sproul and his longtime friend and mentor, Dr. John Gerstner, spent some time participating in a mock debate to help us understand how best to defend the Christian faith. Before we get to that, though, our President and CEO, Chris Larson, has stopped by the studio. Chris, I know that you want to express your appreciation to our listeners. One thing that has struck me over the years that I've been here at Ligonier Ministries is the number of people who connected with us many, many years ago and remain loyal to this ministry.

Absolutely. And in this, our 50th anniversary year, we are taking some time to reflect on God's goodness and blessing that has come through this ministry for the benefit of His people as the Word of God has gone out with great power and clarity from Dr. Sproul and many other teachers. Amy wrote in recently to tell us that she found that God took hold of R.C.

and used him in so many remarkable ways. She says, It's all about clearly teaching the truths of God's Word and watching God work in hearts as that truth convicts and calls for a right relationship with Him. R.C., more than anyone else I've come across, had the gifts of not only clearly teaching, but doing it eagerly and lovingly. He was likable and eager to share and was passionate about the Word of God, which was contagious. Talk about a pandemic.

R.C. Sproul was a man spreading that wildfire of God's truth far and wide. For that, I am most thankful. And that fire and passion, Chris, is evident in this exchange with Dr. John Gerstner. So let's listen to, Is There a God? Welcome to the second of our debates that we are having here between myself and Dr. John Gerstner. As I mentioned before our first session, these debates are mock debates, so called because the positions that I am expounding in this debate are not my own, but I am trying to act as the devil's advocate and set before Dr. Gerstner some of the classical arguments against Christianity that have been set forth through the ages, and then Dr. Gerstner in his own inimitable fashion will respond to them. In our first session, we consider the question of truth and how we can have it, and in this session, Dr. Gerstner, we're going to get down perhaps to the most important single truth of biblical Christianity, and that's the question of the existence of God. I'm aware, as you are, that the Bible begins with the simple statement, In the beginning, God. There's no attempt at that point to prove the existence of God. It just proclaims, In the beginning, God, and then what's even more astonishing is that the first thing that's said about God is that He creates the heavens and the earth, and I also am aware in the history of civilization that for millennia that people, if I may say unsophisticated people, pre-scientific people to large measure, accepted that introductory statement of Genesis as the truth of God, perhaps even uncritically, that we live on the other side, this side of what has been called the Enlightenment, and as a historian yourself, you know that modern historians are saying we're living in the post-Christian era and that the God hypothesis, which served well during the Dark Ages when there wasn't a grand challenge from science, has now been all but dismissed to a religious sphere of life, and now we seem to have clear evidence that we don't need to appeal to God to account for this universe. In recent months and over the past year or so, we've seen the vast exploration of space through the Hubble spacecraft, and we're getting more information daily about the origins of this universe that seem to suggest that this universe, thank you very much, came into being without any assistance from some supernatural being that we call God.

So in this day and age, why should anybody with any degree of scientific or philosophical sophistication, Dr. Gerstner, still actually want to hold on to this antiquated idea of a supernatural being who created the world? Well, the first thing is I'd question the historicity of what you're saying about people today getting more and more information about a universe which wasn't created by God as the old hypothesis entertained. I'd like to hear you tell me one item of new information about the universe which carries with it the knowledge that no God created it.

Well, you're certainly familiar at least. I'm a layman when it comes to astrophysics and that sort of thing, but I'm familiar with the Big Bang theory that on or about 15 billion years ago, give or take a couple of weeks, there was a previous to this time an eternal condensation of all energy and all matter in the universe into one tiny infinitesimal point of singularity and that that exploded and that has sent bits and fragments of that explosion and in the process of that explosion generating so much energy and heat and so on that it was actually creating, as it was exploding, it was creating new forms of energy and new kinds of atoms and all of that that formed the galaxies and the solar systems as we know it. Now, I mean, that's a perfectly empirical explanation for the universe, and as my friend Carl Sagan says, why is there any need to reach outside of the universe when we can see the ingredients, the mix, the stuff of which the universe is made coming from this point of singularity? First thing you mention is the Big Bang theory, and then you say associated with that is the idea that there was an eternity behind that. Now, I know something about the Big Bang theory, as I'm sure everybody listening here does, but I must not have been reading adequately in the scientific journals when I was told that this Big Bang theory somehow proved that the universe has been there from eternity. Did Carl Sagan say a thing like that, for example? Well, the point is that everything, not that the universe as we now know it has been here from eternity, but the principle that all of the energy and matter that exists now in dispersion through these vast reaches of the cosmos, that at one point in time this was all condensed into one point in space, okay?

One point. To one point, and that this was there for eternity. Now, wait a minute, you see the one point in time I can follow, but what preceded that one point in time you suggest is eternity. Now, where did anybody get the message along with the Big Bang or any other point of origin that before that was eternity, or that it came out of something which was there from all eternity? All I know is that there are scientists who believe that the universe as we now know it started with a Big Bang.

Though, as you know, the author himself has retreated from that, but that's beside the point. I have no problem with the idea that there may have been a remote Big Bang that had a good deal to do with the present condition of things. You're saying that the sophisticated modern would realize that with that Big Bang was a demonstration that back of that was an eternity of what? Of matter. Of matter. And that's in that condensed state of singularity. These people can demonstrate that there's an eternal matter?

A matter in – it may be in the form of energy, but the point is it's whatever is was there all along. Okay. And all that this did was change the form and the structure.

Okay. Then you are saying that there was back of this – Yes. There was not really any demonstration except a declaration that back of this was an eternal matter. Well, Dr. Gerstner, if you want the demonstration, let me spell it out for you. I was just speaking shorthand because I would think you were – Yeah, condescending in a real estate.

It is. I don't want to be patronizing, but there had to be something to go bang, Dr. Gerstner. So there had to be something before the Big Bang to go forth the bang. What was before it? You say a concentration of energy?

A concentration of energy into its point of singularity. Everything that is now dispersed into the universe was once concentrated in one exceedingly dense mass. Would anybody say that that something which gave birth to the Big Bang didn't exist a moment before the Big Bang occurred? Well, something had to have happened.

Something had. It could have happened, could it not, a moment before that as far as anything science knows? I'm just checking this notion so prevalent today that whatever science says carries with it a kind of implication of eternity and the non-necessity of deity. And if you're going to make statements like that or challenge me about statements like that, I'd just rather like to know. See, I have no problem with your Big Bang. It doesn't really – I don't know whether it's proven or not proven.

It just wouldn't matter to me whether it was or not. But when you suggest, when you make a transition from a Big Bang to eternity and the eternity of matter, I take it there ought to be some sort of demonstration and not a sort of scientific throwing of its weight around. Well, I don't want to just throw weight around, Dr. Gerstner, and I hear the weight – feel the weight of the objections you're making now, and the point is well taken, sir. But my further question is what's the matter with matter? Why not at least postulate an eternal matter? My first point will be this, that you are not proving the eternity of matter. You're just assuming it, though you have no right to condescend and sort of look down. Your academic knows that persons who don't affirm out of hand that matter is eternal. Well, excuse me. I don't want to be condescending in the pejorative sense, Dr. Gerstner, but let me give you my reason for that condescension.

That's what I'd like to have. All right. You grant that there is such a thing as matter now. Okay.

How do you dispute about that? As long as you don't tie anything with it, then I would disagree. There's a matter. Okay. You can see it.

You can tie it. All the things that we went through with the – Okay. Proceed. Okay. Now, we don't agree how long it's been here or how it got here.

It seems like we don't agree. Well, if you would be a reasonable devil, we could come to easy agreement, but I don't expect you to be a reasonable – But at least so far we've disputed that. Okay. All right. The question of the existence of God, okay, is in dispute not only for eternity and for yesterday but for right now. In fact, that's the thing we're discussing, whether there exists now a God.

Now, I said you want to assert the existence of God from all eternity, and I'm saying why not just project backwards the existence of that which we both agree exists now? Okay. I'm willing to do that.

You see the point that I'm making? Yeah. I'm willing to go along with it. All right. Why not just assume – All right. That matter is the mater, that matter is the mother. All right. Matter is the mother, and I'm going ahead with you, but I'm just making the observation. The only thing I'm gratuitously assuming with you is that matter is eternal, and I'm just reminding you lest you get a little bit of the scientific arrogance into your spirit that science hasn't demonstrated that as so, and you have not shown it is, but I'm willing for the purposes of debate to assume what you are more or less affirming and so on that matter is eternal. Okay. Now, the burden of proof is on me that there is still a God even if matter were eternal.

Okay. Now, who is this gentleman, that gentleman right back of you – This man here. – was perfectly willing to admit that he couldn't prove that matter was not eternal, but he could prove that God was the author of it. And I think Thomas Aquinas was quite correct when he said so, and I would like to try to prove to Your Excellency the devil's representative that indeed, even if matter were eternal, we would assume that it's like the matter we know today that shows, for example, intelligence. Now, matter as such is just existing something, but we notice that the matter with which we are familiar does exhibit intelligence. Now, would the devil's advocate grant that much?

Well, Dr. Gerstner, that depends. We use this word, intelligence. What do we really mean by it? Well, we mean that it shows that in this particular matter that we're talking about, there is evidence that it acts as if it knows what it's doing. I'm very fond of the dandelion seed, which spreads out a little bit of an umbrella to be carried out by the wind to places other than where it originated. Now, that's a very clever little device for accomplishing that purpose, and I'm absolutely sure that that dandelion seed did not think that up. Nevertheless, matter per se, in terms of the dandelion seed or millions of other illustrations which we have in the cosmos, show intelligence which must have come from something other than matter. That's all I'm maintaining with respect to this specific instance, and can you deny it?

You cited Leibniz's On My Side as showing that it actually did this even on a very minimal level and Leibniz could easily be – Doesn't that assume that there is some non-material factor to intelligence? Good. Fine. Fine. I mean, it's what you're actually arguing.

Are you granting that, are you? Well, but in modern studies, Dr. Gerstner, indicate that our thinking, and what we call our mind, is simply the result of electrical responses and stimuli in the brain and the neurons and so on. Can we not reduce intelligence to physical reality? Well, as I say, once you mention there, can we not reduce intellectual elements to physical reality and so on, there you're recognizing the difference yourself.

Reduce it too. This is something other than. Here's matter which in and of itself by definition is not a rational entity, but here is an intellectuality associated with it which therefore could not come, could it, from matter itself.

So that we can keep our eye on the issue of the existence of God, number one, and number two, because even as trying as hard as I can to be the best devil's advocate that I can be, even I can't make believe that I can conceive of physical intelligence. So I'll grant that. Let's go on. Okay. Okay.

Now let's get to God now. Okay. Now we've got with the dandelion and these other sorts of things which show intelligence an indication that they must have come from some source other than matter. We're assuming, remember, as a gratuitous assumption that matter is eternal, but matter always shows, as far as we know it, intelligence which is not native to matter itself. You see what that implies? That statement I've just mentioned, wherever we see matter, and even if it existed eternally, presumably, there would be intelligence in it that is not native to it, and I would ask what would be the source of it. Alright. Well, this would indicate that, isn't this, Dr. Gerstner, would it be fair to summarize what you're saying, that this is the old classical teleological argument, the argument from design? Yeah, fine.

It's still as good as ever. That we see intelligence. We see what seems to be purpose and intentional activity. Even Immanuel Kant acknowledged that he found it very difficult to escape the conclusion that there's an intelligent architect for this universe.

Alright. Glad to meet a theistic devil, by the way. Well, it's, just because we have intelligence here, just remember my boss, my chief executive officer in my domain is also exceedingly intelligent. He knows very well, but unlike you, he doesn't admit anything. He's intelligent as can be, but he's also exceedingly wicked.

That's his major. Okay. And maybe what you're doing here is giving a case for the creation of the world by my boss rather than yours, because we see intelligence, but we also see this intelligence making a lot of mistakes. We see all kinds of evil in this world, which all it tells us is if there's an intelligent cause, it's one who isn't perfect in his intelligence and the kind of being that you want God to be. You are tacitly conceding to me, I think, that there may be an intelligent being back of God, but it could be satanic rather than divine because there is so much evil in the world. Is that what I understand you to be saying?

That's exactly what I'm saying. Yes, sir. And I know this much, that your boss, the devil, does indeed love that. That's good news to him that there is evil in the world, and he'll promote as much of it as he can.

But this is the thing about your boss. He himself is a being who is not eternal. Now I know you are dedicated to lying, but remember I got witnesses here, the devil is an evil being who came into existence himself. So he couldn't have been the ultimate source of everything. He had to have a source himself.

Why? Well, as I say, we got it back with matter. You admit matter had to have a source, right? Yes, and all that we've proven is that there had to be something prior to matter that was intelligent.

Right. We haven't proven that Satan, my boss, isn't that intelligent. Why couldn't Satan be that intelligent? The thing about Satan is that if you're an orthodox devil now and will admit something only under pressure because I know you can't be trusted on to tell the truth normally, you will admit, will you not, that your boss is a being who came into existence in time, not of his own origination. No, why would I lie? You're going to lie, are you? Why would I admit that? That's the definition of a devil.

Look it up in the dictionary. It's the definition of the devil by Christians and by theists who believe that the devil was created by God, and I'm saying this God that you're talking about sounds very much like my boss if he is the architect for this mess down here that's filled with evil. Why should I attribute it to God, or why don't I just assume that your God that you're saying is the Creator is evil?

Alright, now let's put it this way. Keep granted now there is a divine, I'm not talking about this as a creator, but a divine Creator. Now the reason we're in a little bit of a dilemma here is because we haven't looked at that Creator very closely, so it may take a little time here, but there's a great deal of good in this universe.

Are we prepared to grant that? Now take that silly little dandelion, after all that serves its purpose, and the rain serves its paper, and the snow, and all that, okay? And manifestly things are geared for our benefit. There may be some good things there, but there's an awful lot of bad things. And this being, if we're talking about Him now, since you're willing to talk about Him, this would be the source of all good. I have agreed that everything good comes from Him, but I still am not sure why everything bad doesn't come from Him. Well, because of this fact, if He by nature is good, if we can just… Well, why not if He's by nature good and bad? Because of the fact that… You're capable of doing good and bad, and you're intelligent. All we're trying to find here is an intelligent architect who's more intelligent than you are, more intelligent than I am. Hey, maybe his goodness is greater than your goodness, and maybe his wickedness, you know, maybe he's like the proverbial little boy. When he's good, he's very, very good, and when he's bad, he's horrid.

Here's the thing now. When we look, that's a fairly hypothetically sound reasoning, but when we get back to the cosmos itself, look at our cue to the nature of this being, and don't just hypothesize that he may be evil as well as good and maybe more evil or more good as the case of that. When you look at him as the author of matter and look at matter in general, it is geared for the benefit of man, not for the destruction of man. That's a good God who obviously, if He's omnipotent and evil, could get His kicks out of tormenting His creatures, but we can see the universe isn't geared that way. It's meant to benefit the universe.

I know you're always thinking, what about the hurricanes and the pestilence and all that type of thing? I'll be willing to take that up if you're willing to go with me that the fundamental nature of the cosmos, and we're talking about this matter that you began discussing with, is fundamentally geared to benefit us. I'll concede that, and I'll tell you what else I'll concede. I'll concede that you've demonstrated in this short period of time that there has to be something eternally intelligent and is the architect of the universe.

And good. And that would certainly justify a claim to a Creator. Now there's a lot more to be said about that, and a lot of it that we know about it and argue about is from the content of the Bible. Well I'm not appealing to the Bible now. I know you're not, but maybe what we need to do, since our time is up for this session, is to lay the rest of this on the table for a while and look ahead to that time when we can look at the picture of the trustworthiness of that book that gives so much information that you – Am I allowed to get in a final word before the bell rings? Yes, you are. You get one final word.

I would rather insist that we can know without any Bible that there is a Creator, that He is basically good, that something has gone wrong with the universe we haven't had time to discuss, just from nature, and if He actually revealed Himself in this book we're going to talk about, that would make it all the clearer. No more authoritative, but all the clearer. Are you willing to go along with that? You bet. Well, that was Dr. R.C. Sproul and his longtime friend and mentor, Dr. John Gerstner. R.C.

had immense admiration and respect for Dr. Gerstner, and that's why he was more than willing to give Dr. Gerstner the last word. We're glad you've joined us today. For the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind, I'm Lee Webb, and what we've just heard is part of a five-part series that we call Silencing the Devil. It's a mock debate, and it's part of a resource offer that we're presenting to you today. If you'll call us at 800-435-4343, we would be glad to send this to you, along with Dr. R.C. Sproul's sweeping overview of apologetics called Defending Your Faith.

In 32 lessons, R.C. surveys the history of apologetics and demonstrates that reason and science are allies in defending the historical truth claims of Jesus Christ. So again, with your donation of any amount, we will send this to you. It's a bundled resource.

Our phone number is 800-435-4343, but if you prefer, you can give your gift and make your request online at Our goal over the past couple of days is to bring up some of the most common arguments against biblical truth. Dr. Gerstner has given us some great ammunition to fight the lies we hear every day in our culture about the Christian faith. If we're nothing more than cosmic accidents, our lives really don't matter. Our joys, pains, sacrifices, and triumphs last for a moment before disappearing forever.

But God's Word refutes this devastating lie. Since we were made by a wise Creator for a purpose, every moment of our lives bears incredible value because every moment matters for eternity. And that's what we'll focus on next week as we share several sessions from this year's Ligonier National Conference. The theme was, Right Now Counts Forever. So make plans to join us here for Renewing Your Mind. Amen. We'll see you next week.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-14 11:09:55 / 2023-09-14 11:20:29 / 11

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