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March 28, 2022 12:01 am
Was Christianity invented to meet the deep-seated psychological needs of fragile people? Today, R.C. Sproul turns the tables on this common claim by atheists, addressing their underlying motivations for wanting to believe that God does not exist.
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The question that we use, or the truth claims of Christianity. An exercise in Alice in Wonderland where we are called to take a deep breath and close our eyes and cross our fingers and wish with all of our might, that these things might be true. Thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. There are a few to believe that if you are Christian simply trying to meet a deep psychological need today. Dr. RC Sproul turns the tables on that line of thinking showing that in reality it's the atheist who has a psychological need to reject God and the issue is not intellectual it's more than a Christian for at least six weeks on next certain that at least somebody has come up to you and suggested that your new face as a result of some kind of deep rooted psychological need in your personality. Perhaps they said that you turn to God or to religion as a crutch to help you through the difficulties of life or that you have imbibed in that which Marx once called the opium of the masses seeking narcotics lumber from the harshness of reality that assaults your senses every day. I think every Christian has heard that explanation for Christian conversion. It is so widely stated.
I can remember at the time that I was converted that I had difficulty with that kind of assumption or accusation that I heard more than once for the simple reason that I had to admit to myself that my newfound face was so important to me that I certainly wanted it to be true, and it would've been a crushing blow to me to discover after my conversion to Christianity, but God did not exist or that Christ was a fraud or anything that would undermine my confidence in the truth claims of Christianity. And so what I'm getting at is simply this, that there have been many attempts to discredit Christian truth claims by appealing to psychological motives for faith because of that and because of something else that I did many years ago, which I'll tell you about in a moment I published a book over 20 years ago that was originally titled the psychology of atheism was later reprinted under the title if there is a God, why are there atheists and what I tried to do in that book was to explore the psychological motivations for the denial of the existence of God and try to show the perhaps the crutch was on the other foot a part of the reason for that. As I mentioned a moment ago was that again over 20 years ago when I was a seminary professor in Philadelphia on the campus of Temple University at the Conroe school of theology. One of my assignments as the professor of philosophical theology at that time was to teach a course on atheism and I required my students to read the original sources of some of the most formidable and prominent atheistic intellectuals in the history of Western theoretical thought and so they had to deal with the writings of David Hume and of Karl Marx and Ludvig Feuerbach and Frederick Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud and then in the 20th century people like Walter Koff Mann and Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre and it was a fascinating experience for the students and in this case for the professor as well to try to dig deeply into the thought of some of the most talented and erudite scholars who had taken a strong stand.
Historically, I also noticed in the study of atheism that virtually every one of these opponents of historic theism at some point in their argumentation sought to establish the idea that theism ultimately was based on some kind of psychological need some kind of wish projection or wish fulfillment that beats in the breasts of human beings. That is part of the fantasy of life. I remember looking back to the 17th century to the work of Blaise Pascal when Pascal examined the uniqueness of what it means to be human and Pascal made the observation that human beings are those creatures of the highest grandeur and the lowest misery. Those two words captured Pascal's view of man misery and grandeur. He pointed to the grandeur of humanness in man's unique capacity for profound reflection and contemplation that man's ability to analyze and reflect upon his own origin on his own destiny on his own significance is what sets the human species apart from all other animals that is the point of his grand and yet, paradoxically, Pascal affirmed that this very ability to reflect upon one's own significance is at the root of the deepest level of human misery.
Now how does he come to this conclusion about this paradox. Pascal said this, that every person has the ability to contemplate a better existence than he or she presently enjoys and then is frustrated by the reality that that person is not able to achieve or to accomplish that better existence you think about that for a second and think about your own life and maybe you're very pleased with how your life has gone but surely in a minute moments notice.
You can conceive of ways in which your life could have been better than it actually has been or you can think of ways in the future in which your life could be enhanced and you may revert to using two words that haunt the human consciousness all the time.
Those two words are only if only this had happened then something else. When that happened, or if only such and such would come to pass.
Like when I was a kid and I would ask my mother for certain toys or sports gear that I wanted to own and that was expensive and she saved me two things.
First when I learned from a mother was.
She said money doesn't grow on trees.
I heard that a thousand times. I think ever since then I've wondered if only money would grow on trees. I would have this problem in the other expressions you gave me all the time was we can do all these things one my ship comes in and I didn't quite understand that expression. My mom always talked about her ship coming in and ultimately discovered it was the Titanic so it never did arrive, but I could dream and as every child can do. I could dream of wonderful things and we know as Pascal realized that the human creative consciousness has the ability to contemplate a better world than that which presently exists we can at least think of the world without crime we can contemplate a world without war world without hatred of the world without disease and ultimately the world without death while as we dream this fantasy of the utopian ideal of human existence, and then open the pages of the New Testament and come to the concluding chapters of the Bible we get a description of a life that is just like that, a place where death will be no more, where disease will be abolished. A place where there is no darkness, no night no violence, no murder and no more tears in this place is called heaven and the chief exponent of this ideal existence is Jesus of Nazareth and so the message that he gives is a message that promises life after death, a life of undiminished eternal felicity, a life of perfect and pure beatitude where nothing can cause pain or sorrow to intrude and you look at that and you listen to the message of the New Testament which message is called gospel or good news on the one hand, we might just shrink from it on the basis of the sheer beauty of it and say this is who good to be true, it has to be a fantasy. This has to be wish projection to the nth degree because what is it that you want relief from in this world.
What is it that you're searching for in your own existence. Is there any human being who does not want his life. The count is there any person who doesn't seek relief from guilt is the only person who doesn't seek an escape from the ravages of disease and from death and from violence in all of these things.
And here we have an announcement in the pages of the New Testament that says all this is not simply an exercise in fantasy but it's real, but it's a reality we can't see no one's seen God. And yet we think about what difference does God make in the universe, and I for one have to admit I certainly hope the God of Scripture exists because if I just look at what I see I see a world plagued by injustice were justice does not always rain and I know that the only way the scales of justice can be set right would be as Immanuel Kant argued. If there is life beyond the grave and a perfect judge who can set these scales correctly. I long for personal redemption and I know that you do to. But just because I believe something is desirable does not make it true. The question that we ask is, are the truth claims of Christianity.
An exercise in Alice in Wonderland where we are called to take a deep breath and close our eyes and cross our fingers and wish with all of our might, that these things might be true. I have to confess to you, every fiber of being in my soul. Once the gospel to be true. I want there to be a God in heaven. I cannot tolerate the idea of a meaningless existence.
I cannot stand to contemplate the notion that I am nothing more than a grown up germ a cosmic accident sitting on one call log of one gear of a vast cosmic machine that came out of nothing and is destined to annihilation.
I can't stand to think that all of the sorrows of my life are meaningless.
I can't stand to think that the labor and the sweat and the toil of my brow in the final analysis is worthless. I don't want to believe that a poor player stretches are upon the stage and then is no more. It's really its tail full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
I can't think of any greater horror than to assume that no one is home in the universe and that ultimately my struggle for existence is absurd and meaningless.
Who can Barrett now that's exactly what Immanuel Kant had in mind when he made the statement.
If there is no God.
We still have to live as if there were a God because society would be impossible. Ethics would be meaningless as Dostoyevsky put it if there is no God all things are permissible. We walk around in our culture today and we protest injustice. We live through the civil rights movement were a little black woman one day refused to sit in the back of a bus and turned a nation upside down by her protest, but think about it. If we are grown-up germs.
What difference does it make whether those germs are white or black or what germ sit in the front of the bus or in the back of the bus. It doesn't really matter or all of our rules of society and all of our laws merely an expression of our own personal preferences or is there some cosmic scheme by which ultimate truths may be found, and there can be a real standard for what is right and what is wrong or are we doomed to be locked into a power struggle of lobby groups and vested interest groups, all trying to enact legislation that favors their personal desires is what Dostoyevsky was getting at.
He said that's what's at stake here. If there is no God. All things are permissible state that in different language. If there is no God. Nothing is prohibited. Ultimately, because if there is no God, there is no standard of right or wrong. Ultimately, only preferences that are temporary and fleeting. No, Dostoyevsky understood that Jean-Paul Sartre understood that Frederick Nietzsche understood that both these Titanic intellects that have argued for the existence of God and those who have taken the position of atheism historically understood that everything is at stake.
On the question of the existence of God. There is no more philosophical question or scientific question more weighted down with emotional baggage than the question of the existence of God, and I think we have to understand that.
Admit that up front. As I've said, going in. I have to confess that I am biased and prejudice emotionally. As I said every fiber of my being. Once their hopes. There is a God because I understand the implications of what it means if there isn't, not just abstract implications, but existential implications on the other hand, when I'm trying to say is that if I want God to exist with every fiber of my being.
I do not have the ability or the power to make that happen. I can take the deepest breath possible and cross my fingers as hard as I want and I can't conjure up God. All I know I can live in a life of fantasy that I'm saying to you. I know that because I want something to be true does not make it true. But also something else that because I desperately want something to be true does not make it.
There's no no rule that says that the truth can't be good news that the truth can be what we wanted to be. But when we know that we want so badly that has to give us pause and give us extra care in producing the evidence for our position when I'm going to be doing in the days to come is to look at this whole question of the psychological motifs that are involved in the issue of the existence of God on both sides and what I want to try to say is that there is also a powerful emotional bias against the existence of God, because the worst news possible to an impenitent sinner is that God exists that he is holy and that he's going to hold you accountable for everything you've ever done. And every word you've ever said that's terrifying. Sometimes we become aware of how much our desires, color, condition or shape our thinking and even when were aware we have difficulty seeking what we call objectivity. Looking at the evidence for what it's worth, and that is what I hope we can learn to do with respect to this question of the existence of God and I want to ask you today before we close.
Can you think of times in your own life where you have caught yourself in bias and prejudice and I want to ask you this. I would ask you to think about today not, do you believe in God, the God of Scripture. But ask yourself as honestly as you possibly can. Do you want the God of the Bible to be true or would you be delighted to discover proof positive that he does not exist. I'm asking you to examine the state of your own heart.
With respect to this ultimate question.
This question upon which so much is so helpful to understand that distinction is in it we find ourselves wondering about truth. We can evaluate our hearts. At that point and asked we want God to exist. We've heard the first message Dr. RC Sproul series the psychology of atheism you're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Monday and I'm glad you could be with assembly web.
It is so helpful to understand the underlying motivations of an atheistic worldview.
RC mentioned that he wrote a book on that subject titled if there's a God, why are there atheists and would like to send you a copy of that book in paperback form when you contact us today with a donation of any amount.
We will send it to you and will include a digital download of the series that were hearing this week find email@example.com or call us with your gift at 800-435-4343 study show that more more people deny the existence of God. We can her teaching fellow Dr. Steven Lawson address that in one of the messages he taught at a leak in your conference solicited what he had to say to say that there is no God. The Bible says makes one a fool. Only a fool would come to such a foolish conclusion of the word fool a ball that does not mean a person of mental incompetence.
It means one of moral perversity and they don't have had problems they have heart problems.
Such fools are often very bright people with high intellect and with impeccable academic credentials. They are not ethical in the sense that they are moronic are they do not have the capacity to to connect thoughts together know they very often are some of the brightest minds in all of the world.
The problem lies far deeper than their heads. Their problem is their heart. The fool has said in his heart. The fool is one who spurns the clear evidence that is set before him concerning the reality of God and makes a fundamental decision of unbelief based upon the evidence that is presented to him. There is by this fool eight deliberate and intentional rejection and refusal of God himself. The heart here refers to the entire inner person is not hard as the Greek thinks of heart, which is simply more the affections to the Hebrew mind, the heart represented the entire inner life of the mind, the emotion, the conscience that the will the entire inner being of the person. The atheists, the fool has said in his heart says there is no God.
You should know in the original Hebrew language. The words there is is not found in the original manuscript. The translators had supplied there is to make this read more smoothly and in the original language. It simply says the photo has said in his heart. No, God.
In other words, the evidence for God has been presented and there has been a deliberate, intentional refusal of God. It would be as if I'd come to your house and I sat down at your table and in the distributing of the portions of the food for the meal and you pass let's say the potatoes to me and I clearly see the potatoes and I put my hands and I just cite no potatoes for me. I see it, there it is and there is an adamant rejection is not that I do not believe that the potatoes are there.
I see them and there is a decision on my part to turn away from what is presented to me realm it brings into sharp focus.
Doesn't atheism is a heart issue. Dr. Sproles will continue his series tomorrow entering this question.
Why is it that so many people with great academic and scientific credentials deny the existence of God. I hope you'll join us for that tomorrow on Renewing Your Mind