Isaiah 1:18: "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord", a passage that welcomes skeptics and doubters into an intellectual discussion that answers four often-disputed questions about God: 1. Is there an invisible man in the sky? 2. Why is He obsessed with ten things? 3. Will He send us to hell if we don't do them? 4. Given all of the above, does He love us?

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Message Notes

Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more

Message Transcript
We are glad you are here with us as we interact together over some great questions. I love the note I just had somebody run up here and hand me. I had to see where you ran back to. There are so many questions and issues we all have in life. Way too often in environments like this, we're concerned that we're not allowed to ask. Hey look, we're here to celebrate what we know. We don't want folks walking in and point out all the white elephants we sometimes don't deal with. That can be a place that can be very intimidating. Often there are two things that happen. Folks who have honest questions about God don't feel welcome and don't feel like they can come because they feel like they have to be inauthentic even as they are trying to figure some things out. Then there are a lot of us who have responded to what we know who are still hit with questions and hard events and circumstances that make us wonder, "Hey God, if you're there and all‑powerful and all‑loving and all‑knowing, what's up with this?" The question somebody just ran up and handed me, from the outside it was just great. It just said, "Hey, please read this. I want you to know I'm a skeptic and a person in doubt and I'm so glad to be here. Thanks for doing this." I'm glad you handed me this thing. Specifically, she goes, "Are you going to deal with the problem of how a loving and all-powerful God can let this world get so crazy and out of control?" The answer to that is absolutely. That's coming in two weeks from today. We're going to deal specifically with that issue. The problem of evil. How do you get there? All of us have been in a place before where somebody shows up and just drops this bomb. They say something and you're kind of like, "Oh, man. That was so persuasive, so funny, so insightful to some of the complexities of finding real answers. Not nickel answers to million-dollar questions, but that's a million-dollar question I don't have any answer for." You've been somewhere where somebody said some of those things and you kind of wish you had something you were equipped with you could respond to them about. Then maybe some of you guys are like, "You know what. I wish I could even articulate the question in that way, in a way that would let everybody know the pain in my heart, the skepticism, the doubt and the frustration I have. I would choose to believe in God if I knew he was there. I just can't see that he is." You've been somewhere where somebody has said something like this or where you wish you could have so that maybe somebody might have responded. Watch this. [Video] **Male:** I've got to tell you the truth, folks. …you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims. Religion. No contest. No contest. […] Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But he loves you. [End of video] That's funny. If not tragic. That's funny. He says it in a way that you kind of go, "Yeah, what gives with that? How come somebody won't answer that question? How come somebody won't address this invisible man I'm supposed to somehow live in subservience to who's going to throw me in this god-awful place if I don't do these 10 things he is obsessed with?" Ever wondered how you might answer that? I'll tell you what. I'm going to answer four questions today based on that little clip. By the way, that was George Carlin. George Carlin is an icon within comedic skepticism. He was such a well-known spokesman of his day of anti-establishment and was always a guy who was taking on things others wouldn't. He used humor in a way to do that creatively. He was the very first guest host of _Saturday Night Live_. Some of y'all know George Carlin because you've seen _Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure_. That's your whole exposure to him. Some of you have missed both ends of that cultural gap and now you have small kids and you go, "Wait a minute. That's the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine." You're petrified your kid is watching _Thomas & Friends_ and the narrator is taking them down these tracks toward craziness. Let me just tell you, George Carlin is not the issue here today. There is a lot to be said about him, but the argument today is not _ad hominem_. It's not to argue with George Carlin and his issues but to use what he says. We're going to take a little clip every week of one his rants, and we're going to talk about a good and right response to it. You see what those weeks are in that little promotional handout we have for you. If you have friends you want to come in weeks ahead, grab some more of those things and take advantage of them this next week. If you want an email handout, email us and we'll get it to you and you can shoot it to some friends. What about the questions of today? _Is there an invisible man? __Why does he care what we do and obsess over those 10 things?__ Will he send us to hell if we don't do it? Does he love us given all of the above?_ We're going to answer each of those four questions today. You need to know this. As I've already said, too often topics like this and places where you can honestly interact like we're going to today have been run out of this kind of environment. We tell you, "Listen. This is a place where people of faith gather, so don't ask one of those questions that we're kind of looking around going, 'Hey, no one has ever asked that here before.'" What happens is a lot of times kids grow up in that environment, and kids are very polite. If they're at a parade and they go, "Hey. That guy didn't have any clothes," and all the adults put their hand over his mouth and go, "Listen, don't talk about our emperor that way." Kids will put their hands in their pockets and go, "Okay, cool. But I can't wait to get out of this town because you folks are crazy." Then when they get to be 18 or 19, they go somewhere else where there is another parade, there are folks standing there waiting for them saying, "Hey, some of you came here and you've never had a chance before to interact about your emperor, this God your parents told you to believe in. Well, I'll interact with you. I'll tell you, not only did you think he was naked, he's buck naked. It's a shameful thing that the world doesn't speak up against it. There is no God, and there is nothing that you're accountable to." Believe me, there are all kinds of folks, intelligentsia and academia, who are waiting to pass on to those who never had a fair opportunity to process truth here. Skepticism and doubt always have a place where thinking men are. The Bible tells us we're to love this God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength, but what else does he tell us to use? All our mind. God never asks us to commit intellectual suicide to respond to him. It's a tragedy that a lot of people in the world think faith is believing something you know not to be true. It's not surprising that many folks think that outside places of worship, but it's an outright travesty that so many folks who grow up in places where God is talked about think that's the way it's supposed to be. No, not all. God says he is truth. One of the things I know about truth is that if something is true then no amount of scrutiny can affect it. I mean, you can lift up every rock, you can prod every place, you can ask every hard question, and if it's true, you're not going to expose something. I wouldn't need an attorney to defend me, I don't need to plead the fifth, because there is nothing to hide. God never has minded skeptics and doubters. In fact, he has called them to come out. In Isaiah 1:18, he says this, **"Come now, let us reason together..."** God says, "If I'm true, then you can sit here all day long and ask me questions. If you'll do it honestly, I will scratch your itch. Now there are some things you need to know, and that is that you're not me. So to ask me to explain everything to your full and complete satisfaction is impossible, because I'm not going to take my infinite, eternal divine nature and dump it into your finite temporal one." It's as foolish as me asking a Nobel Laureate to not put forward an idea until I can understand it. I will tell you the gap between me and the Nobel Laureate is infinitely smaller than the gap between the brightest of temporal and finite beings and an infinite God. What we have is one person who would have been a Nobel Laureate, had he been alive when the award started to be given out, Blaise Pascal, who said we have a faith that goes beyond reason but not against it. What God is saying is, "You test me every way you can test me. Verify me every place that I'm verifiable. You make sense out of me every place you can make sense out of me. Then you're going to be called at one point to decide on the evidence that has been revealed to you." God will you that the evidences available to men, both without and within, are so overwhelming that he gladly will hold all men into account in their response to it. Now you know men like Jean-Paul Sartre, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell, some of the more famous intellectual skeptics, atheists, free-thought people of the day, all say the same thing. That is that religion is really nothing more than an invention of man that was brought about because of superstition and a lack of sophistication and as soon as men evolve intellectually to the place where they overcome their superstitions and grow intellectually to the place where they are sophisticated enough to know that there are good answers apart from creating this God, they will leave religion behind and attain to life in and of themselves. These men will tell you that Christianity, that faith in God is a crutch. It's something men who are too weak to ably proceed through life use to get through. I want to let you know we don't believe that faith in God is a crutch. We believe it's a cure for a problem that God has been about addressing ever since we said the very first time, "I will not take the relationship that you have created me to live in. I will go my own way and delight in my own understanding." God has come along and provided not a crutch to lean on but a cure for the natural consequence to that separation from the one who is life. I'm going to make a case a little bit later that, in fact, the individuals who have a crutch are not the people who have faith in God. Folks who are skeptical to the point of not wrestling honestly with the evidences that are before us choose to believe in something that will allow them to get through life and walk the way they want to walk despite the fact there are evidences out there which would rightly call them to respond before God. They lean on something which isn't sure but allows them to limp through life the way they want. God comes to call us away from the limp and not just into a walk, but into a run that can really help us experience the life we want. Now they say that only the superstitious and unsophisticated believe in God. Let me just start by reading to you from a list of men, and there are many, but I'm going to just limit it to probably four or five who are men the world has come alongside of and said, "We recognize you in your area of excellence and study and academia. You are the pinnacle of human achievement in areas like chemistry and medicine and philosophy and physics." This is what these men have said, not because they're unsophisticated, and I speak to you today not as a Nobel Laureate, but as one who doesn't need to light a candle in order to see the sun. Look what these men said. Start with Max Born, who was a leading pioneer in the field of quantum physics. He was a Nobel Prize winner in physics. He says, "Those who say that the study of science makes a man an atheist must be rather silly people." How about this? We have one here from Arno Penzias, the Nobel Prize winner also in physics in 1978. "If I had no other data than the early chapters of Genesis, some of the Psalms, and other passages of Scripture, I would have arrived at essentially the same picture of the origin of the universe, as is indicated by the scientific data." Ernst Chain, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, "The principle of [divine] purpose…stares the biologist in the face wherever he looks. […] The probability for such an event as the origin of DNA molecules to have occurred by sheer chance is just too small to be seriously considered." We have one here from a gentleman by the name of Dr. Richard Bube, who is a past-president of the American Scientific Association. He said, "There are [proportionately] as many atheistic truck drivers as atheistic scientists." People ask, "Hey, if this is true, how come so many intelligent people don't believe it?" Answer: for the same reason so many unintelligent people don't believe it. God is going to make the case in his Word, and I'm going to make the case not through people who believe in his Word but who believe what his Word says is true. The problem is not a function of the intellect, it is a function of the will. What do I mean by that? If you have your Bible, and I hope you do. I hope you always bring it. Turn with me to Romans, chapter 1. We're going to look at verses 18-22. 1._ Is there an invisible man?_ That's the first question I told you I would answer. This is what the Bible says about God. It says, **"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…"** There is going to be a day when this God who is in heaven does do what Carlin scoffed would happen one day, which is to put you in a place where there will be nothing that will even remotely remind you of the God you have rejected. When God grants folks the request one day to have nothing to do with him that is the wrath that will be experienced. **"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them…"** I'm going to talk about that in a minute. **"…for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature…"** Everything that ought to be true if there is a divine designer there, if there is an intelligent designer, if there is a God who has created, if he does exist, this invisible man Carlin talked about. **"…His invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they** [all men] **are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…"** Now let me just tell you what has happened. What has happened is the church, because it rightly said the Bible is not a science book, when it was attacked about 140 years ago through the writings and theories of a man by the name of Charles Darwin, completely gave away Genesis. On the foundation of giving away Genesis and with it, physics and chemistry and molecular biology and geology and astronomy, because science told us they knew better than what we had in our little fable of a book, that there was a God who created these things. Now they came up with a scientific explanation as to why we were here and why God was not necessary. For a lot of years, Christians backed off and said, "I'm no Nobel Laureate. I'm no accomplished and acclaimed scientist. I can't interact with that, so don't bring those questions into church." We gave away those things. You need to know God is the father of chemistry. He created physics and natural law. He invented the rock the way he did. He made the heavens and spans them with his hands. He says, "I have designed things in such a way as that order would be evident everywhere you look. There are times I have interrupted natural order. Uniformitarianism as a belief, meaning things happen today as they always happen in a uniform fashion is not so. I have interrupted uniformity at times. You want to know how there are millions of dead things buried in rock layers all over the earth?" His answer: the universal flood. What we see in geology is consistent with what a universal flood would have created. What happens is the church gave away science and gave away intelligentsia and academia. What happens is we started shooting at how people had sex with one another, whether or not they value life the way we do, whether they view marriage the way we do, whether ethics and morality look like we think they should look. The world is looking at us and mocking us and saying, "What are you doing arguing with us about how to live life on these areas when your view of how to life live on this area is built on your belief that God created this earth and we are accountable to him and that he has a relationship with us and we are supposed to live in the way he wants us to live. You've already admitted you can't play with us in those areas." Jesus said it this way in John 3:12. He was speaking to a young man who came to him as a skeptic. Jesus said, **"If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?"** In other words, if we give away geology, physics, chemistry, astronomy and the like, and all the hard sciences we can't defend, how are we going to talk about the soft sciences of morality and ethics and epistemology? We can't speak there because those things are built on the foundation of our belief that there is a God who created the heavens and the earth and he created humankind to live in it, to walk with him to know him to glorify him with the way they live. They have left his way, and now God is pursuing them and will one day bring them into account. God has laid out for us how we are to live and how we are to interact and how we are to love and respond to him or there is a terrible price to pay. We have no authority in the soft sciences if we can't speak to these other issues. Giving away Genesis and caving to evolution and big terms like radioactive carbon dating have been the death knell of our opportunity to not only enter into the public square but to stand there tall and show people Romans 1:18-22 is true and anybody who is sophisticated would acknowledge it. I don't want you to listen to me. What I do want you to do is let me walk you through a number of different scientists, not believers, but men who are going to say, "I have risen to the top of my field, and I am telling you that I'm not sure what to do with it yet, but I'm kidding myself if I say there is not an invisible, intelligent designer." You know this to a certain level. If you and I were walking through the woods, stumbling our way between the pines, kicking up leaves and all that was dying and decaying around us, and all of a sudden my foot hit something shiny and gold and it stumbled across the path in front of me and the sunlight caught it and shot up into my eye. I reached over, and I picked it up. If I turn to you with this little object that had a glass face and a sweeping hand and two other hands pointing to the exact time of day that both of our watches verified, a band that fit nicely around my wrist, and I said to you, "Would you look at this amazing freak and accident of nature and improbability that these leaves have fallen, the rocks have melded with the leaves through erosion, the dirt has churned, the worm has come, and look what has happened by chance and this thing with R-o-l-e-x on it has formed unbeknownst to us." The magnificence and brilliance of natural forces would bring us both to a sense of awe. You would take one look at me if I said that and you would run as fast as you could out of the woods because you would say if something as simple as a Rolex watch in my worldview could be formed through happenstance and chance, you would say I am not a safe person, probably, to intellectually walk through the park with, and rightly so. No, the very first thing that should come to our minds is, "Hey. As we walk our way here around Walden's Pond, we can be sure we are not the first intelligent creatures to have come this way. Somebody has gone before us. Somebody has been here who was obviously of an intelligent nature, not so smart to spend $20,000 on a watch but smart enough to make a watch somebody would pay $20,000 for." The point is, you and I both know at that moment that something happened there that is different than just natural forces. A. _What is evident without._ Let me take you deeper, because molecular biologists, astronomists, physicists, geologists, chemists, medicine experts, philosophically honest people have all come to the same conclusion as they got deeper into their study. They would expect, based on the laws they say are natural in the way this world is operating, that things go from order to chaos. They would expect the farther out we get things would become increasingly random. Something has deeply troubled scientists over these last number of years, and that is the further out into space we go we see not greater chaos but continued order beyond even what we can reach. As you go deeper in to the smallest microorganisms, smaller than an atom down to a quark and beyond, we see not increasing chaos and decomposition, but we see order and building blocks that stun those who study such things. Let me read you a quote from a physicist, Sir Frederick Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe. He is a Buddhist professor of applied mathematics at the Cardiff University in Wales. They wanted to know the answer to the question "Is it possible for life to have originated somewhere in the universe or on planet earth through naturalistic causes?" Taken into consideration were the sciences of cosmology, of gravity, of strong force, of electromagnetic force, of weak force. After a decade of research, Sir Frederick Hoyle and Chandra came to the conclusion that the possibility of life evolving from inorganic matter has 1 chance in 10 to the 40,000th. Let me just explain this to you. To show how impossible life evolving by chance is according to these figures, they explain it would be easier for a whirlwind to pass through a junk yard and assemble a Boeing 747 jet in flight coming out the other end. How large is 1 to 10 to the 40,000th? Physicists explain that in the entire universe there are only 10 to the eightieth power electrons. This is phenomenal stuff. If we fill the entire universe with electrons, meaning all the spaces between all the electrons that do exist, it would come to 10 to the 130th power electrons. That means it would be easier for someone to mark a single electron and then blindfold a man and have him wander through the entire known universe and by chance pick that one marked electron than it would be for life to have evolved by chance if these folks are correct. Infinitely so. Mathematicians tell us anything that is greater than 10 to the 50th power is a statistical impossibility. It can't happen. In other words, there are not enough seconds in the history of creation… If you take it back even to millions of years skeptics want you to believe that this earth has been around there hasn't been enough time to even begin to pass yet to suggest that even the simplest form of life could have been brought into existence at this moment. That is not a theologian speaking, that is the learned sophisticates of the day. Let me take you some other places. Here is one from Dr. T.N. Tahmisian, "Scientists who go about teaching that evolution is a fact of life are great con-men and the story they are telling may be the greatest hoax ever." Now what's that sound like? There is George Carlin, the high school dropout, who was kicked out of the military less than a year in, a dishonorable discharge, who has a lot of anger built up to those he was around in a parochial school, who has been anti-disestablishment for a long time, who says religion is the all-time master of… And we edited some very choice words out there in a very skillful way and you didn't miss them, but you got his idea. He said it's a hoax. Or you have these folks who don't believe what I believe, but who believe what Romans says, that is, "Look folks, we are kidding ourselves if we look at creation and say there is not an intelligent designer." Here is another quote. It says, "The extreme rarity of the transitional forms in the fossil record persist as the trade secret of paleontology [the study of dinosaurs]." "Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin's argument." What do you think the price is? Follow this. "We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life's history…" Not the theologians. "...yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study." This is by a Harvard professor, Steven J. Gould, who was the curator of Invertebrate Paleontology Museum of Comparative Zoology in his book _The Panda's Thumb_. What he is saying is, "Let me tell you what we've done in order to continue our little lie and charade. We have professed to be wise while we know we are fools." Do you see what these men are saying? They are not men who are prone to belief, but they are intellectually letting you know what is behind the patina of rich and famed intellectualism. Dr. Colin Patterson, who is also a paleontologist, said this. "One of the reasons I started taking this anti-evolutionary view…was…it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years and there was not one thing I knew about it. That's quite a shock to learn that one can be so misled so long. […] For the last few weeks I've tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people. Question is: Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing that is true? I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, 'I do know one thing—it ought not be taught in high school.'" Now I say that because I want to show you this. If you go and look at what the National Association of Biology Teachers states, it says, "The diversity of life on Earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies, and changing environments." That is what the National Association of Biology Teachers said. Not the Nobel Laureates in biology. This is the dogma we keep putting forward, even though those who are light years ahead in sophistication are saying, "All we know is this. Put it forward as a theory all day long, but it's a theory for people who don't want to admit the truth that there is an intelligent designer." Whether or not we are accountable to him, let's go there next. This is the evidence, and folks, I don't have the time to read you all the stuff I have. I'll take all my work and I'll put it on the web under these notes and you can see the ones I shared with you. You can capture some others that are there. There is evidence without. Now I want to talk to you about… B. _What is evident within._ Turn to Romans, chapter 2, with me. In Romans, chapter 2, you come across a little section there in verse 12, which says, **"For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified."** Let me just stop you right there and tell you what this very bright man 2,000 years ago was writing to tell us. That is, not everybody was on this little mountain in the middle of a desert between Egypt and Israel called Sinai. Not everybody had this shepherd of people come down off the hill with two tablets that were engraved with 10 very important things telling folks, "Look. This is how to basically have general order in life. This is how to keep life on a good road. This is how to walk, yea run towards joy. Live this way. I love you, I don't want to leave you to futile speculations, so I revealed to you what is in your heart, but I will crystalize that it should be in your head." There are people that God has revealed the big 10 to, but he goes on to say, **"For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them..."** Meaning, if you've never heard of the big 10, you still in your heart of hearts have known these from the beginning. You need to know this about theology. Monotheism is not the evolution of all sorts of creations of men. In other words, pantheism, that everything is god, polytheism, that there are many gods who war with one another, have not evolved in this late day to monotheism where we've brought them all together under one intelligent designer. Anthropologists who go back and study such things, the nature of religion in the heart of every man, have said that every people group that they can go back and look at did not start as polytheistic and pantheistic or atheistic. No, they started as monotheistic. They didn't all call him the same thing, because they spoke and formed words with different movements of the tongue and shapes of the lips, but they all started with a belief in one creator God and then they spun off into all types of different directions. In other words, pantheism, polytheism, atheism, being agnostic, are de-evolutions of what is written on the hearts of every known people group. Also in every known people group, where they've never heard of a Bible, never heard of Moses, never heard of Sinai, there is not a people group that exists that believes if your neighbor has a chicken you want it is okay for you to covet your neighbor's chick, just to walk over there and grab it because you're bigger and stronger and want it more than he must. There is not a known civilization where it is considered appropriate and right for one man to walk over to another man and take his head off just for sport. It's always considered wrong. The big 10 have been given to us by God in order that we might not spiral into destruction and destroy ourselves. There is not a people group alive who doesn't have what is called this natural law written on their hearts. It is there, the Bible tells us, because the God who created all of us placed it there as people who were made in his image. What I want to share with you are a couple of quotes, one by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis is a known theistic follower of Jesus Christ. He has said, "…human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it." They don't know what to do with it. Now what's interesting is people who don't want to believe in God know what to do with it. They develop something that will allow them to lean on it so that they don't have to respond to his invisible attributes, his eternal power, and divine nature, even though all of creation without and all of consistency within would suggest to them that they should. Don't just take C.S. Lewis' word for it. This week I spent some time at atheist.org, a website I don't typically surf, but I was glad to this week. I want you to read what is on the atheists' website. "The definition of an atheist is someone who is 'without theism.' As atheists, we see God as a legend or fairy tale, and equate God with Santa Claus and Zeus." See also, "Intellectual people don't believe in the existence of God or the invisible man who will cast people to hell to suffer forever and ever and ever, is obsessed with very 10 rules, who loves them despite that." Sophisticated and unsuperstitious people move past this. Sound familiar? "If you actively disbelieve that Santa and Zeus exist, yet can find no reason that God should be given more credibility…" I certainly cannot. I don't know this gentleman personally, but I did look over the entire list of Nobel Laureates and did not see his name there; nonetheless, he puts himself as one you should trust if you can't see the existence and nature of God and creation. "…you are an atheist by most definitions. Whatever you may call yourself, be atheist, agnostic, freethinker, or anything else, this guide is geared toward you and helping you become more comfortable telling others about your views." In other words, helping people know what atheists are like. So, what are atheists like? It's hard to say. "To me, one of the best components of atheism is the freedom of thought and mind. Prejudice against people of other sexes, races, or sexual preferences is rare, because most of such prejudice is religion-based and completely illogical." Let me just let that go without responding to it right now. "We argue with each other, thrive on debate, and feel like we're better people after we've been proven wrong. We do good because it's the right thing to do…" How do you know? "…not out of selfish fear of eternal damnation or a need to 'win points' with a deity. If you 'come out' with your atheism, being prepared for all the typical responses including 'so now are you going to Hell' or 'does this mean you pray to Satan?' the best defense for this is to have answers for questions at the ready. You know your people better than anyone and are best suited for guessing what those questions might be. Below are some frequently-used statements and some suggested counterpoints for your reference:" They say people who scoff at atheists might to say to you, "'Atheists have no morals, since they don't believe in God.' What a sad world it is when people can seriously say humans need to fear eternal damnation in order to do good. Humans have the idea of right and wrong imbedded in them by their own brains." Why didn't he quote right there "See also Romans 2:12 and following." What he is saying is, "We know what right and wrong is. It's written in our hearts." My question is why is it written in your hearts? How do we all evolve to the same ethic and morality at the exact same time? Do you have a good answer for that, much less how organisms began in the first place? We have an answer. This goes on and on. Let me just share with you, Antony Flew, who is one of the greatest skeptics of the modern era, at the age of 81 is the kind of man God loves when they come to him and ask questions. This is an AP article that came out in December of 2004. "A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God—more or less—based on scientific evidence and says so on a video released yesterday. Antony Flew, 81, has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Mr. Flew said…" He's re-doing a book he previously wrote called _God and Philosophy_, a book that he already had out. It's scheduled for release from Prometheus Books. "Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well 'that's too bad. My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.'" What the Bible says is there are people who don't want to follow the evidence because they want to lead their life the way they want to lead their life. The God who all of intelligentsia is rushing toward, a disproportionate number of Nobel Laureates are calling you to believe in. They're not sure, exactly, of his nature and name, but they say, "We cannot argue with his eternal power, invisible attributes, and divine nature as seen in all of creation." This intelligent designer has given us 10 very important rules. Here is the reason he has done that. Because left to ourselves, we will make choices that will not only be self-destructive, but will destroy the world we live in, which is to give us a time to enjoy one another and glorify the God who has created us. There has been recently a group of men, this was in a _New York Times_ story in February of 2005, where a leading number of psychologist and sociologists got together and debated whether or not something could be called evil. They debated this because they felt like they didn't have the right to call something evil because evil is subjective and not objective, so if we call something evil we have to be careful because we're putting a moral judgment on other people. I'm telling you, I read this very long article in the _New York Times_, and I read it in disbelief and sadness, but eventually they came to the point as they studied serial murderers, who they found to be intellectually competent, who murdered people for no other reason than the sensual, sexual, maniacal pleasure it brought them. They said, "We think we can at least classify this as evil." What's interesting is they went back and looked at these serial killers and sociopaths, and they found out these serial killers and sociopaths were raised in dysfunctional homes, that if you read into the story, did not live by the Ten Commandments. All these boys are doing is taking the next step down that chain of rebellion and isolation and self-expression. The further we get away from the standard written in our hearts and that God has revealed to us, the quicker we get to a time of great destruction. Let me read you what C.S. Lewis said at another place when he was addressing this on his own. He said, "The natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. All that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." 2._ Why does God give us 10 rules we should obsess on?_ Because he wants to keep us from all those things. He said, "Look, man, you get these 10 right and you're well on your way." The Jews broke those 10 into 613, and then when God himself came and walked on this earth, he took the 10 and he boiled it down to two. He said, "You want to know what the deal is? If you just love God and love those who God created, you have all the Law and all the Prophets." It's really that simple. I've had folks ask me this question, "Todd, if that is true, that people who have followed God, the God of the Scriptures, have the Ten Commandments, why are there so many marriages of people who don't believe in God that are better than marriages that are in the church?" That is a very easy question to answer. Because having the law does not bring you blessing. Knowing right and wrong does not bring you joy. To the great shame of those who have said they have found truth, there are those who don't claim to know personally the intelligent designer who live more biblically and who live according to the order God said we should order. Where there is obedience, there is always blessing. That is never going to merit salvation or redemption, but it does bring about blessing on this earth in this life when you live that way. I don't care how many times you walk forward in a Billy Graham crusade, if you don't love your wife as Christ loved the church, if you don't serve those you're in authority over, if you don't tenderly give yourself away to those you're in community with, your life is going to be filled with broken relationships and isolation. If there is somebody who mocks God but loves because they believe it's right and good and obey the law that is on their heart, that marriage will always be better than the person who carries their Bible with them but doesn't let their Bible lead them. C.S. Lewis says one more thing I want to quote for you. Why is it that people don't respond then to the evidence without and the evidence within? He says, "[The natural life] knows that if spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that." In other words, I want to do what I'm going to do, so I have to find something to lean on that will give me some sense of peace that leaning on it is not suicide. 3._ Will there be a consequence if we don't live that way?_ Will this God, who is not invisible, but has revealed himself in numerous ways out, within, and most fully through his Son, who has given us 10 rules because he loves us and wants our life to be filled with the blessing of obedience, will he send us to hell if we do not follow his ways? Answer: People ask me all the time, "Todd, is there anything that God can't do?" The answer is yes. God can do nothing that will violate his character, nothing that will cause his nature to be corrupted. God can never be one thing at the expense of another thing that he is, which is infinite and good. To have love in this world without justice would not be good. To love men, put their arms around them and say, "Now you got a little out of control when you grabbed that deputy's gun, shot her, shot somebody else, and shot the judge, killed another agent in town, and finally turned yourself in. Thank you for coming to your senses. We're glad you're back home. Let's carve the turkey and go forward together." That is not a loving society. It is a society that welcomes chaos and destruction. You are not loving in any jurisdiction when you allow that which the whole world recognizes as evil because it is written in their hearts continue without consequence. God will never be loving at the expense of justice. God has told us in his Word how he has reconciled the fact he loves humankind, wants to allow humankind to be restored into relationship with him, and yet will not violate his justice. He has allowed a way that causes us to wonder and to sing about and to celebrate forever where he is both just and a justifier of those who love him. That way is through the cross he himself died on. The infinitely perfect God who was offended had an infinitely perfect sacrifice offered up for him in order that those who were not righteous might become righteousness through him because him who knew no sin became sin on their behalf. God, in his grace, is allowing right now this world to go whichever way it chooses. All the while, his evidence, his call, his pleading is going forth. There will be a day when he will close the book, and he'll say, "I'm done with rebellious and foolish men, and now it's time for the wrath of God to be revealed even as I was revealed in all of creation." People ask me all the time, "Todd, is there anything that God can't do?" I say to them, "Yes, there is." God cannot do something that will cause him to violate his nature. He will not compromise his character just to show off. People say, "Can God make a rock so big that he couldn't move it?" I say, "Yes, and then he'd move it." "What do you mean by that?" "Because God can do whatever he wants. He can make a rock so big he couldn't move it and then he'd move it, because he can't violate his own character." He is able to create anything he wants, but he is able to move by his power anything he creates. The point here is that God cannot, because he is loving, ignore what is another necessary attribute of his character, which is justice. We cannot call ourselves a loving society if we let men walk into courtrooms and shoot people because they are angry. That's not a loving society. It's a society filled with terror and chaos. People who love others will not let that kind of chaos reign. We cannot call ourselves a loving world if we let folks melt buildings with innocent people inside just because they're angry about choices we have made, some which we are very accountable to. No, a loving and just world would say we must move against this evil. We must stand against it or this world is bound for destruction from within. God will not violate himself. There was a time when Moses was on Mount Sinai and he said, "Show me yourself." This is how God revealed himself. In Exodus 34:6-7, **"Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed,** **The Lord, The Lord God**** , compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."** Do you catch that? He says, "Let me just tell you who I am. I am so full of love and kindness and truth and compassion, I forgive every iniquity, but I'll tell you something else. The way I'm going to forgive iniquity is when folks ask for forgiveness and when I provide a means through which those I love and seek to justify are justified without in any way disqualifying my justice, because I am good and good never has love in the absence of justice." What God says in the very beginning is, "Absolutely there is a consequence to disobeying me and running away from me and suppressing the truth in who I am in unrighteousness. That consequence is as eternally awful as I am eternally good. The evidence that I am there in my invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature, are clearly seen so that all men are without excuse. If you want to stomp on that and laugh your way out of it, you will meet me one day. Because you have brought such horror into my world and have refused my gracious provision to bring you out, I will give you what you have chosen, which is I will put you in a place where there is nothing that will ever remind you of me again." There are two kinds of people, and this gets to my fourth question. 4._ Does he love us?_ Those who say to God, "Thy will be done. Take what is written in my heart and enlarge it. Break me. Show me my sin, show me my rebellion against you, show me my foolish skepticism and lead me in the everlasting way." Those to whom God will one day say, "Thy will be done. You don't want anything to do with a God who has revealed himself this way, then I will grant you your wish." Because the one thing a loving God will not do is force people to love him, because when you force people to love you, they are not people who have the ability to make choices, including love, they are robots and robots cannot love. Stuffed animals you can pretend love you, but because they are not free creatures, they cannot really love. God made perfect creatures. One of the things perfect creatures must have is the freedom to choose. He has given you the freedom to choose him. He has given you compelling evidence to make it easy for you to do so, but your flesh wages war against this God who loves you. Specifically, the Scripture says **"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet** [rebels against him] **sinners, Christ died for us."** You know the verse. **"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."** God loves you and wants to call you out of darkness and into life. He has come so that you might be freed up from the one that has come to steal your hope, kill your joy, and destroy your life. He wants to give you life and give it to you abundantly. Yes, he loves you. The greatest evidence for it is in the fact he has entered into our history. We can go back and we can look at history, we can look at archaeology, we can look at the sciences and see they don't in any way one time contradict what God in his miraculous nature has preserved for us. He has told us to respond to the empty tomb that is the greatest evidence that this Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and all who want a relationship with God must come to him through him. Listen, we had 45 minutes to get in this today, and we don't think for a second that just this beginning conversation will bring you necessarily to a place where you're ready to respond. I think it should, but if it doesn't, we want to let you know we're not afraid of elephants and your opinion that our emperor has no clothes. We invite you into the public square to discuss with us and to reason with us and to wrestle with us. Don't suppress the truth in your pride and arrogance and humor and what you think are persuasive zingers. Bring those persuasive zingers over here, your theories and ideas, and let us go through them together and we'll allow you to do the same with us. Let's pray. Lord, I thank you for the chance we have to gather like this. I thank you that you're not bothered by us when we raise our fists against you and say, "We're not really sure God, that we can make sense out of who you are in light of what we see with evil and horror and hypocrisy." Lord, when we come and we sit and we stay and we look and we study and we reason with you we see that because you are true that every one of those difficult questions has a good, solid answer in a way that will allow us to believe without suppressing truth. Father, you still left faith for us there, because without a need to believe beyond what we can know, there is no choice and you want us to choose to love you because our love of you and what you've revealed in abundance to us is what glorifies you. I pray for friends who are here today that they would reflect on where they are in the quietness of their life, of skepticism, frankly, just of superficial response. Where there is not radical devotion here this morning, Father, will you chisel away at that heart, including mine, and bring us more into complete surrender to the God who loves us and who has written in our hearts all that is necessary for life. I pray, Lord, our heart's conviction would lead us to repentance and our repentance would lead us to hope that we can find through your Son, Jesus Christ. We thank you for the testimony that you have done and will continue to do these things, amen.