After Christian apologist Lee Strobel‘s first response to your questions, there were a lot of remarks and rebuttals.
Before getting to the next question, Lee wanted to respond to your earlier comments (once again, all hyperlinks were added by me):
Wow, my first submission to this site prompted 91 comments the last time I checked. Whew! I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether we achieved the kind of mutual respect and constructive discussion that I think, deep down, we all want. As for me, my biggest emotions in reading through the comments were, first, that I was glad people care enough about these issues to be passionate about them, and, second, that I was really frustrated with this mode of communication.
With each comment, I found myself wishing I could meet with the writer personally, sit down together with a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and have a true back-and-forth conversation. I invariably found myself wanting to know more about each person’s story and all of the factors that have led them to their current conclusions. I wanted to listen more than talk.
Of course, this kind of format, by its very nature, is inefficient and unwieldy. There’s no easy way to go back and forth with clarifications and explanations. Among the 91 posted comments are dozens of additional questions and observations worthy of further exploration. I had to smile as I read them because so many are the same kind of objections I would have raised when I was a skeptic! But it would be time-prohibitive to try to address each and every one of them in this slow, awkward, keyboard-dependent approach. I’ve barely got time to answer the initial questions that prompted this whole encounter!
It was gratifying to see how, in some cases, subsequent posters were able to provide insights to help answer previous posters. For example, some questioned whether I was ever really an atheist because I had speculated that if God exists he would have disapproved of my lifestyle. As a later poster said: “I know that I, myself, sometimes wonder, ‘What if God really exists?’… That doesn’t make me any less of an atheist.” Said another: “Strobel, presumably, already had… knowledge of what the god he was raised with would think.” This, he noted, is decidedly different from believing in that deity.
Several comments begged for further clarification. Did I investigate other world religions? Yes, especially (but not exclusively) Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism, and New Age beliefs. In my writings, I’ve described why I believe the evidence points more strongly toward Christianity than other world faiths. Did I change my morality because of fear of divine retribution? No, the primary reason my morality changed is because God transformed my values and character, giving me a new perspective and new attitudes toward him and other people. Because I love God, I seek to follow him and his teachings as best I can, with the help of his Spirit. That’s not burdensome to me; actually, it’s a great adventure. I’m not recoiling in fear over divine punishment; instead, I have a sincere desire to honor God in how I live and treat other people.
Some posters reacted to my comment that I didn’t have enough faith to believe that nothing produces everything [referring to cosmology]; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason.
As one poster observed, “To make the statement ‘nothing produces everything’ is patently ridiculous.” I agree! Who would ever say such a thing? Well, there’s prominent atheist Quentin Smith, who wrote in Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology (p. 135) that “the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing.”
In this book, Smith tried (but, in my view, failed) to explain away the kalam cosmological argument for God’s existence: Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause. He was pushed into the uncomfortable position of arguing that nothing produces everything, which, frankly, I think takes a huge leap of faith.
But another poster objected: “Logic does not follow that an intelligent being caused [the universe] or that Zeus caused it or even that a tiny unicorn caused it.” Well, I’ve never claimed that the evidence of cosmology takes a person all the way to Christianity, only that it’s one bit of evidence in a cumulative case for the existence of God.
However, there are several logical inferences that can be reasonably drawn from the cosmological evidence: that whatever caused the creation of space and time must be an uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power. And that’s a core concept of God. (Before you jump on me for failing to provide specifics, please see The Case for a Creator, pages 93-123 – too much to reproduce here! And hold off on the question, “Yeah, well, then who created God?” That’s coming in a future post.)
Someone else raised questions about the 1959 origin-of-life experiment that helped lead me to atheism. The poster observed: “Just because there is controversy surrounding the makeup of the atmosphere of early earth does nothing to invalidate the results of [the] Urey-Miller [experiment], which showed that inorganic molecules CAN and DO produce organic biomolecules in the right environment. So, the building blocks of life can come from non-life.”
The problem is that Stanley Miller’s suppositions about the content of the primitive earth’s environment turned out to be wrong. If you replay the experiment using what scientists now believe is the correct atmosphere, you don’t get the same results he did. As one expert told me: “Some textbooks fudge by saying, ‘Well, even if you use a realistic atmosphere, you still get organic molecules, as if that solves the problem…. Do you know what they are? Formaldehyde! Cyanide! They may be organic molecules, but in my lab at Berkeley you couldn’t even have a capped bottle of formaldehyde in the room, because the stuff is so toxic… The idea that using a realistic atmosphere gets you the first step in the origin of life is just laughable… To suggest that formaldehyde and cyanide give you the right substrate for the origin of life, well, it’s just a joke.”
But let’s pretend for a moment that you could produce some amino acids by shooting electricity through the atmosphere of the early earth. Even then, you’re so far away from even the most primitive living organism that no mere waving of the hands can bridge this enormous gap. It would be like saying that rain and dirt and wind can create a rudimentary brick and therefore this explains the origin of Sears Tower.
Interestingly, when I got a chance to question Antony Flew, once one of the world’s leading atheists and author of The Presumption of Atheism, about why he has now abandoned his atheistic beliefs and become a believer in a Creator, one of the key reasons he cited to me was “the integrated complexity of the biological world.”
Flew also said something else to me: the reason he now believes in a Creator is because he was committed to following the evidence wherever it led him — even if it was to an uncomfortable conclusion that contradicted his lifetime of atheistic scholarship. I hope all of us remain as committed to pursuing truth with the same vigor and open-mindedness.