In this video, someone who claims to be an atheist and a scientist asks a fascinating question after making a somewhat audacious claim.
Points from the talk
• He first claims that science has disproven the Bible.
• Ravi responds by pointing out that one of the leading Quantum Physicists and former Dean of Queen’s College Cambridge come to this opposite conclusion. One must then conclude that he stupid for coming to that conclusion, a bit of a stretch, or that science has not, to borrow a phrase from John Lennox, “buried God.”
• Then we are given one of my favorite quotes from David Berlinski, who has a Ph.D. in Philosophy in philosophy from Princeton and taught philosophy, mathematics, and literature at Stanford University. He also worked in the Biology Department at Columbia University. I include that quote here because it is worth reading a few times:
Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.
Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.
Have our sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.
Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.
Has rationalism and moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.
Has secularism in the terrible 20th century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.
Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy in the sciences? Close enough.
Does anything in the sciences or their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ballpark.
Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
― David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
• Ravi points out that he has misplaced his concern between determinism and free will.
• He quotes Stephen Hawking as saying that the problem with scientific materialism is that we do not have free will; we are completely determined. So what the questioner has complained about as a conclusion of Christianity is actually a conclusion of his own stated worldview.
• Ravi Zacharias lets the pin drop by asking the question, “Were you free to ask this question?”
• He then makes an even more poignant point by asking if the questioner (Ian, I believe is his name) if he is making a truth claim. This is a fantastic question, because, as he points out, as soon as you make a truth claim, you are rising above subjectivity and, therefore, violating determinism.
Do you think we can hold people morally responsible for their actions if determinism is true?
Do you believe belief in God takes away our free will?
How would you explain to someone the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will?
I find, when I am having an evangelistic conversation with someone, they will not want to admit that there is no such thing as free will. If they do, they will try to point to their reasoning as proof that we are determined. As Ravi pointed out, if you are trying to make a truth claim through reasoning, you are claiming that you can rise above the subjectivity of the deterministic system to arrive at an objective truth.
As C. S. Lewis says in his book Miracles, “you cannot use reason to undermine reason,” which is what this position tries to do.
Regarding the claim that, because God knows what is going to happen, we, therefore, have no free will: I find it helpful to point out that foreknowledge does not necessarily entail causation. I foreknow that I am going to drink coffee tomorrow morning. However, I still have to make the coffee when I wake up. My foreknowledge does not have a causal relationship with the action of making or drinking the coffee.
Likewise, it is not necessary that, because God has knowledge of what is going to happen, that somehow means he is the cause of those events about which he has foreknowledge. I understand there is a bit of theological controversy around that last sentence. I am, however, pointing out that foreknowledge doesn’t necessarily entail causation, which is a different discussion from whether or not God causes all events to happen.