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March 31, 2022 12:01 am
Many atheists deny God's existence primarily because they believe there is too much to lose in acknowledging the Creator who holds them accountable. Today, R.C. Sproul considers the influence that personal bias can have on a person's thinking.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind when it comes to the question of the existence of God. Here we are dealing with the question that has more baggage associated with it than any other question of truth, unbelief is on the lines in our most recent theological survey. For example, 51% of either agreed or some would with the statement. Modern science disproves the Bible today.
Dr. RC Sproul explains that there are as many psychological explanations for unbelief as their own for belief. Just because someone makes a case for their unbelief. We shouldn't accept it blindly. We continue now with our study of the psychology of atheism. Recall that in our last session we were continuing to explore the major reasons why intelligent learned people come to different conclusions about major issues such as the existence of God. We stated four of those reasons. One was people come from a different epistemological basis to we are prone to making errors in reasoning. What we call formal errors. Errors of logic and so on. And the third reason we spend time on was errors in our empirical sensory perception of things. Thus today I want to briefly talk about the fourth reason, which is a very important reason why people come to different conclusions about very serious matters and that is the influence of psychological pressure or prejudice and that works itself out in many ways.
There's an old adage that says the man convinced against his will, holds his original opinion.
Still, I mean we are all alone was to be proven wrong. We have our own vested interests.
We see this in political campaigns. Where were committed to a particular candidate, and we have a tendency to look at our own candidate through rose colored glasses and interpret the information about the opposing candidate with a jaundiced eye and so that bias can have a tremendous impact on the conclusions that we reach about certain truths Bell John Warwick Montgomery, the Lutheran apologist tells a story that I think is somewhat humorous about a man named Charlie who one morning when his wife came into the room to wake him up. She said Charlie it's time to get up and go to work. And Charlie opened his eyes and looked at her and said honey I can't go to work today and she said why not. And he said because I'm dead. See said now don't be silly, Charlie.
You're perfectly fine you're talking you're awake now get up and get dressed and go to work. He said I can't go to work that men can't work and so he insisted that he was dead and after a few minutes his wife became frustrated and she went downstairs and called the doctor and asked if the doctor could come to the house and so the doctor made a house call and examine Charlie and found that all of his vital signs were functioning well and the doctor announced Charlie Charlie, there's nothing wrong with you you're in a one condition. All you need to do is get dressed and go to work.
He said Dr. I can't go to work. I'm dead and nothing the doctor said could convince Charlie of anything other than that, and so finally the doctor said to Charlie's wife. I can't get anywhere with them. He will take my word for it that I've given them a complete physical examination of Ptolemy's mind but he still is insisting that his debt. This is out of my hands are going to have to take him to a psychiatrist and so she did. She took Charlie to the psychiatrist and psychiatrist said what's the matter, Charlie said I'm dead and the psychiatrists listen to his story and analyzed him and then try to convince him that he was not dead, that this was an allusion from which he was suffering at the moment and nothing that he said could persuade Charlie and so finally the psychiatrist came up with an idea.
He said Charlie he said there's something need to understand about corpses that once a person dies, and the heart stops beating, then the blood stops flowing, so that dead men don't bleed choices will how I know that's true.
He says will come with me and he took Charlie to the morgue and they brought a cadaver of them on the table and the psychiatrist went over there and took a pen and started puncturing the thumb of the cadaver and no blood came out and he said see I proven to you conclusively Charlie that dead men don't bleed. Now do you believe my premise. Charlie suggests you've made it absolutely clear and so the psychiatrists mom said located on Charlie.
Let me see your hand. Charlie gave him his hand.
Psychiatrist took his pin and pricked Charlie's thumb and immediately Charlie's thumb began to bleed in the psychiatrists at sea.
Charlie to see when I'm trying to say when you think of that Charlie sent by B. He said dead men believe after all that there is a case that Montgomery is using when he talks about how stubborn we can be. No matter how much evidence we have to look at if we don't want to believe what the evidence is say now, in addition to that, we also have what I call love lines, we encounter this in the church all the time were Christians will get together in groups and have discussions about theology and all the differences of theology will emerge, and ones of Presbyterian and the other was a Methodist and the other was a Lutheran or an Episcopalian or whatever and we have all these different nuances of doctrine that distinguish the various denominations that represent the Christian faith and people are born and reared within the confines of these subcultural groups and in that process. Not only are we exposed to the particular traditions of our own heritage, but also we develop what we call love lines. Lines of loyalty, where and how I talk to people all the time like this is say what I think that you persuaded me that such and such a position is true, but if I embrace that position.
My parents will disown me or the people in my church will be very, very distressed and that kind of interpersonal relationship has a tremendous impact on our thinking because none of us wants to be ostracized from the subculture to which we belong, but obviously if were committed to the truth. We have the ability to cut through those barriers. But we have to be aware that they are there and they're everywhere.
They're not just in Christian circles, but there in non-Christian circles therein.
All cultural subgroups. We all have those different love lines so we see four reasons why people of great education even who have been trained and have become skilled in analytical thought and critical analysis can still come to differing conclusions about major events every time we have a presidential election in America. All it takes to win that office and doesn't even always take this much is 51% of the vote and you see people who were born in the same country raised in the same country share a common cultural heritage and everything divided right down the middle over Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate, and we see again people coming to differing conclusions that when it comes to the question of the existence of God. Here we are dealing with the question that I mentioned earlier, has more baggage associated with it than any other question of truth.
As I mentioned earlier, those who believe in the existence of God would be devastated if they were to discover that God did not exist. They want there to be a God. We don't want to think that we are alone in this universe and that our lives are ultimately destined towards meaninglessness. On the other hand, if the God who is being affirmed is the Judeo-Christian God, the God of Israel, the God who issues the 10 Commandments, the God who commands obedience to his law and a God who threatens every human being with eternal judgment for sin that if I am a sinner. I have a vested interest. At least I may think I have a vested interest that that God not exist told the story before of the TV interview I witnessed once where Madeline Murray O'Hare was being interviewed on a national talkshow and the host began to enter into dialogue with Madalyn Murray about the existence of God and she was denying the existence of God.
Of course in the host was suddenly fighting for the Angels and they couldn't come to any agreement in the middle of the impasse. The host decided to settle the matter. In the typical American way by pulling the studio audience and so he said to the studio audience how many of you believe that some kind of supreme being or higher power exists and everybody in the studio raise their hand and the talkshow host turned Madalyn Murray in triumphant said see now she surprised me. At that point I thought that she would be more sophisticated in her reply to him. Instead what she did was what you expect from the mass's there still tied to the prejudice of backwards thinking they haven't been dried yet into the 20th century. They haven't experienced enlightenment that she went on and on like that.
What I thought she would've said was this I thought she would've turned to the audience and said okay. You believe in some kind of higher power. What's that cosmic dust. You believe in some kind of force by the force be with you. That's one thing but how many of you believe in your hallway, the God of Israel who threatens you with hell. If you do not submit to him that had she done that.
I wonder what the response of the audience would have been see the way the host framed the question depicted such an amorphous view of God that there was nothing threatening about it who's frightened by a higher power or some nebulous force that is impersonal and who can never hold me accountable for my life, but do see that even in that discussion of Madalyn Murray and the talkshow host.
There were certain things going on here that would frame the question of the existence of God in such a way as to remove some of the emotional attachments to the concept now. As I said one of the things that we want to do in this brief study is to look at some of the most significant views of atheists in the last couple of hundred years.
We know that Europe went through the end of the 18th century.
That is been called the Enlightenment in Germany. It was called the floral and the Enlightenment was not a monolithic movement where everybody adopted and embraced exactly the same philosophy. There were many different strands that were woven together that produced the Enlightenment that was in Germany and France and England to produce the French encyclopedia's with people like Dieter Rowe who called himself the personal enemy of God. And we know that what was behind the announcement of a floral of enlightenment was this basic premise.
The fundamental assertion of the Enlightenment philosophers was that modern man in his scientific knowledge.
Since the Copernican revolution and the Galileo episode, and so on. With the advent of modern science. The basic premise was this the God hypothesis is no longer a necessary hypothesis to explain the origin of the universe or the significance of human beings.
Now we know said encyclopedias. For example, that the universe came into being through what they called at this point in history. Spontaneous generation and since now spontaneous generation is a scientifically established fact. It is no longer necessary to appeal to some metaphysical being, such as Aristotle's first cause, or the prime mover that was argued for by the medieval philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, and so on. Because the world does not require a cause in time and space. It is its own cause.
It just came into being spontaneously and we can give scientific evidence for such forms of generation where you see tadpoles emerging suddenly out of mud puddles in the middle of the street, and we know that prior to the rainstorm. There weren't any frogs around, and so on. And we had all these cases of spontaneous generation are some of you I'm sure study this body in high school, but probably an elementary school as I did when I was growing up. One of the things that are science teacher talked about was this idea of spontaneous generation and how earlier scientists had believed in this and now we know it's a myth now that our ability to examine microscopic things has so far exceeded what was available in the 18 century the now we know that these things that seem to appear suddenly out of mud puddles, and so on have been transported there by birds or whatever and that there is a causal explanation for the appearance of these small organisms, and so on. I remember are science teacher who carried no briefer Christianity telling us that we could blame spontaneous generation that was nonsense, and then I saw an essay written by a Nobel winning physicist from the West Coast who with a straight face. I presume penned this document saying that the time has, in modern scientific inquiry were no judicious scientists can affirm the idea of spontaneous generation, he said. Now we have to understand that generation from nothing can only take place after an enormous periods of time have elapsed, that it has to be viewed as a gradual experience and so what he was saying is that we cannot have spontaneous generation of something out of nothing.
We can have gradual generation of something out of nothing. The other view was seen as impossible because of the quickness of of it. Now if we just allow enough time for the impossible to occur, it will occur. I couldn't believe it when I read that essay that in this day and age, we still have respectable scientists talking about spontaneous generation, but the point here is not to debate the idea of something out of nothing, which is an idea that comes out of nothing and has no credibility to it rationally.
Nevertheless, what I'm trying to do is to understand what went on, not in the Enlightenment, but in the 19th century because, as a result of the Enlightenment, even though the premise of spontaneous generation was later discredited.
There was this massive sense of independence of science from philosophy and from theology and they had made their points. Virtually universally, that the God hypothesis is no longer necessary. Nevermind that the grounds for that assumption later proved to be insubstantial. The idea now became pervasive in the intellectual world, so the 19th century philosophers that were going to look at briefly, were not concerned to disprove the existence of God. They felt that had already been taken care of.
The question they were asking was this now that we know there is no God. How can we explain the virtually universal phenomenon of religion. Why is it that in every culture we examine, we find some at least rudimentary forms of religious activity. Why is it that Homo sapiens which is the term for man seems to be incurably home of religiosity's in simple terms the question… If there is no God must come there's religion if there is no God. Why do so many people believe in him that that was the question that people like Freud and Marx and Feuerbach and Nietzsche and others sought to provide an answer and we will look at the answers that they set forth to this question in the following days, but in the meantime, let me ask you to continue to turn the guns for a moment away from your neighbor or away from your opponents turn among yourselves. We all need to do this from time to time and say why do I have prejudices about certain crews that are important to me and to others. Why do what I believe what I believe is it because this is what my parents believed what my friends believe or what my church believes or if I really thought through the grounds for the most important principles that I hold to be true and that govern my life. We all need to do that engage in self-criticism and self-analysis to see what will stand up under that critique and what needs to be jettisoned has access back know that that really underscores doesn't it to our mission here at modular ministries to help you know what you believe and why you believe it is why we are featuring Dr. RC Sproul series the psychology of atheism. This week here on Renewing Your Mind.
We understand the underlying motivations of an atheistic worldview were better equipped to refute it. RC wrote a book on the subject. It's titled if there's a God, why are there atheists that would like to send you a copy of this book, simply contact us today with a donation of any amount will also provide you with a digital download of 15 of the messages from the series that we been hearing this week. I get is titled the psychology of atheism.
There a couple of ways you can make your request and give your gift one is email@example.com or you can call us at 800-435-4343. As we continue this series were seeing that atheism is not an intellectual issue its moral and atheist doesn't want to believe in God, look at her teaching fellow Dr. Steven Lawson talked about that at one of our conferences.
One should look at creation all around and say something not only of the fact of God Creator, but to know something about him that he is a transcendent creator. He is an immense Creator is a powerful creator and he is created with genius design.
He has built into creation order and beauty. My father was a professor in medical school for over 30 years.
He would say to me, Stephen. Just take the human eye that is clear testimony to the fact that master creator, a master designer.
There is no way that the human eye has evolved any merged out of nothing, or out of moderato's line. The perfection with which it functions take the human heart or take the human brain partake that human lungs or take any part of the human body know anyone with intellectual integrity and honesty would be able to look at creation and the changing of the seasons and the spinning of the earth and is properly being held on its axis at just the right angle that there is a God in heaven, a creator who has made all of this and who has made us God exists and everyone knows it admitted not what we really can't understand the psychology of atheism without taking a critical look at the destructive influence of Sigmund Freud.
The atheist philosopher will be the focus of Marcy's lesson tomorrow. We hope you'll join us for that here on Renewing Your Mind