Free Will: Really? How? Why?

Life is all about choices… or is it? Is free will just an illusion or is there an immaterial, moral dimension to our experience, to reality? Are we really free? And if so, how should we make the most of that freedom and make the best choices? Is there a shortcut to optimising our decisions by consulting some fortune-telling God? Watch this video to find out.

My Modern 95 Theses

500 years ago Martin Luther kick-started the Protestant Reformation with his own 95 theses posted in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. Much has changed in our world since then, and Martin Luther’s protest was a significant moment in improving many things.

But there’s still a lot left to protest about. I’ve chosen my own 95 points of protests about various social, environmental and religious issues relevant to our world today.

Second coming & prophecy

  1. The same revolutionary Jesus Christ who literally restarted how we count history 2017 years ago promised He would come back to earth and restart history again.
  2. The Bible prophecies of Daniel 2 and Daniel 9 give astoundingly accurate predictions of future events, culminating in Jesus first and second comings. Dead sea scrolls demonstrate authenticity. Jesus’ first coming was exactly as predicted, as were major world events through to now. One event still outstanding: Jesus’ second coming.
  3. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe. John 14:29 – Jesus
  4. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Matthew 24:6 – Jesus
  5. I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:3 – Jesus

(Ir)relevance of the church

  1. Protestant = one protesting against misrepresentations of God and the Bible. 500 years after Luther posted his 95 theses, such protest is very much still relevant. But Christians fighting amongst themselves to be “right” is rather missing the point.
  2. I protest the child sex crimes of the church!
  3. When church is done right, it’s one of the very best things on earth. When church is done wrong, it’s antichrist. – David Asscherick
  4. The aim of most religion is to work to improve one’s standing. Sadly, that’s why religion is losing its relevance – there are far more effective self-help programs out there. Religion IS relevant if it helps us rest in God’s goodness, not pursue our own. He took our bad and gave us His good.
  5. Church done well is a hospital for the sin-sick, not a museum for saints.
  6. Biblically, the church’s role is proclamational not salvational. We have something to SAY but we are powerless to SAVE. Jesus alone saves. – David Asscherick

Separation of church & state

  1. Religious freedom and separation of church and state: one of the best things to come out of the Reformation. Surprisingly, Luther himself didn’t embrace this principle. It’s being obscured again today.
  2. The conservative right wants to impose religious values on society. The liberal left correctly separates church and state. However, the left imposes secularism and makes it difficult to uphold one’s own religious values without being treated – even punished – as a bigot.
  3. When you vote, ask not “Who will legislate my religious values?” but rather “Who will allow freedom of religious values and beliefs, even those opposed to my own, and freedom to express and share religious beliefs and values with others?”

Government & economy

  1. Polarised partisan politics combined with the shallow social media analysis are unravelling Western liberal democracy.
  2. On evidence to date it seems the best of bad options for political systems is liberal democracy. But the jury is out again now thanks to 24/7 (fake?) news cycle, ‘scrutiny’ of social media and plethora of self-serving leaders.
  3. Capitalism: a logical extension of the Reformation and Protestant work ethic. Great source of individual freedom and opportunity, but also basis for huge inequality, populist uprising and global conflict. “Income from labor is about as unequally distributed as has ever been observed anywhere. “ – Thomas Piketty
  4. Given the fundamental selfishness of human nature, it makes sense to legislate on the assumption of homo economicuseven though this presents a less-than-ideal foundation.
  5. I still believe that free market capitalism, with regulatory intervention to protect externalities, is the best of bad options in current circumstances. Only the permanent and complete removal of selfishness and greed will present a better system, but we have to wait for God’s final perfect solution for that.
  6. American exceptionalism only gets off the ground as an idea if the role of government is celebrated (as opposed to minimised) or if the foundational ideology is racist. Otherwise America is just like any other nation, but with a unique set of chance characteristics that happen to put it in a position of global dominance for a limited time.

Salvation & sacrificial atonement

  1. Jesus took the guilt, shame and death that we each deserve so that we could have the abundant life that only He deserves. Amazing!
  2. Jesus on the Cross: the unique story where the hero voluntarily dies for the villain. The best news ever!


  1. The Bible is full of profound and timeless wisdom. Such gems as “do to others what you would like them to do to you.” It’s worth regular reading.
  2. “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.” Martin Luther

Hell & death

  1. Eternal torment in hell: if true, then God is not love but a tyrant. Thankfully, not true. Imported into early Christianity from Greek philosophy.
  2. Ghosts, witches, séances, apparitions, Wicca, etc – all propped up by two wrongs: the myth that the soul cannot die and the real but passing presence of evil supernatural beings.

Health & health care

  1. A vegetarian diet was largely scoffed at just a few years ago. Now it is the rage. 150 years ago Ellen White received prescient health insights and set up a whole demographic for longer healthier living. #AdventistHealthStudy
  2. Affordable universal healthcare saved my life. Thanks Australia!


  1. How can a mother’s rights over her womb trump her unborn baby’s rights to life while after birth, a baby’s rights to life trump a mother’s rights to her breasts and uninterrupted sleep? I’m all for consistency: let’s also prioritise the rights of the unborn child.

Judgmental intolerant society

  1. The moral relativism, ‘tolerance’ and non-judgmentalism of the left unfortunately tends to lead to absolute intolerance and judgmentalism of anything deemed not to fit the new ethic.


  1. Marriage and the Sabbath. Two institutions given by God right at the beginning in a perfect world. Both under extreme attack.
  2. The Sabbath is the most misunderstood gift to humanity. It is an institution of rest. The exclusion of work. Yet for many it is confused as a works-based approach to God. How can: (no work + rest) = work?


  1. “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22). The prevailing wisdom of the age on sexuality, gender and reproduction is foolishness. – David Asscherick
  2. Arguing for ‘marriage equality’ from an ‘evolutionary origins of species’ point of view has no principled basis for restricting ‘equality’ to two consenting non-related adult humans. From a genetic perspective, ‘marriage equality’ arguments should either let any combination of any number of organisms marry or restrict it to identical twins. Something between those extremes is ‘optimisation’ which negates the whole argument for ‘equality’. I’m all for optimisation. Enough genetic difference (e.g., X & Y chromosomes) yet similarity (e.g., homo sapiens) to optimise life for succeeding generations.
  3. The truest thing about each human’s identity has little to do with their sexual identification or sexual preference. It is that each of us is created in God’s image, and is loved by the Creator of the universe, enough for Him to die for us!
  4. Marriage provides an amazing foundation for a resilient family unit, the building block of a successful society. It is more about fierce uncompromising commitment than about feelings of romance or sexual attraction. Let’s move the conversation to setting the bar high for healthy resilient marriages rather than merely defining legally what marriage is and isn’t.

Gun control

  1. Thanks John Howard for Australia’s gun control. Americans seem to have a hard time figuring out why controlling access civilians’ to personal nukes would be a bad idea.
  2. If you’re going to argue that gun rights are sacred, please articulate a principle that logically differentiates a civilian’s right to bear guns from their right to bear nukes.
  3. The NRA and its ties to conservative politics in the US (actually, both sides for that matter) has totally warped American perspectives on gun violence. One American’s personal stance on never touching a gun speaks volumes: the story of Desmond Doss. #HacksawRidge

Conspiracy theories & polarised discourse

  1. Conspiracy theories are much easier to concoct than accurate explanations of complex realities. Some ‘alternative facts’ may end up proving correct; but there is very little value in peddling conspiracy theories.
  2. Any debate these days tends toward extreme polarised points of view. Truth usually comes with at least two associated error traps often at opposite ends of a spectrum. Slogans and strawmen arguments abound, but wisdom and understanding requires committed engagement.

Inequality & social justice

  1. Thank you Jesus for positively discriminating to assist the downtrodden and disadvantaged.
  2. Act your wage: “People buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like.” – Clive Hamilton, Growth Fetish
  3. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Jesus, Luke 12:15
  4. But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him—how can God’s love be within him? Little children, let us stop just sayingwe love people; let us really love them, and show it by our  1 John 3:16,17

Gender & sexism

  1. The biblical view that I hold is that both genders are of equal value but are created to be different and complementary both ontologically and functionally.
  2. While I don’t believe women should be actively prevented from doing things that men traditionally do, nor valued or remunerated less, I question whether an objective of 50-50 splits or equivalent sameness in all functions and roles is helpful. Men will never be able to perform the incredible functions of women in bringing children into the world.

Climate change & environmentalism

  1. There is overwhelming evidence that anthropogenic global warming is a major global issue. The conservative right, with its ties to the energy and resources industries, has manufactured unreasonable doubt, successfully obfuscating the evidence.
  2. With strong links between evangelicals and right-wing politics, Christians have fallen for twisted logic to believe that humans could not possibly alter earth’s climate.
  3. I’m no leftie, but the left is far more realistic than the right on the diagnosis of climate change, even if not all their proposed remedies are ideal.
  4. Christians take note: caring for the natural environment and animal welfare are very much biblical principles and responsibilities of all humankind.

Foreign policy, immigration & armed conflict

  1. A softer stance on foreign policy happens to be in harmony with biblical principles of “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemies”, and so on. I’m not saying there is never a place for the use of armed forces, but I resonate with stories such as that of Desmond Doss. Far too much is spent on military. #HacksawRidge
  2. Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan as an example of showing open friendship and love to foreigners, who Jesus preferred to call neighbours.
  3. For people who claim to be children of God, having open borders and sharing our wealth and resources makes a good deal of moral sense.
  4. The example of modern Germany, being prepared to take in Syrian refugees, is much more similar to the principles of Jesus than aggressive border protection policies of other Western countries.

Globalisation vs nationalism

  1. Nationalism – putting self first – is against Jesus’ principles of open friendship and sharing. But globalisation can easily entail attempts at coercive central government control.
  2. Globalisation is inherently socially disconnected and isolating. To the extent we embrace global connectedness, we lose local connectedness. We simply do not have the capacity to maintain loving close relationships with that many people.
  3. Christians take note: neither extreme of globalisation nor nationalism is in harmony with biblical counsel and the wisdom of Jesus. How about open, sharing local communities whose open borders are more for the purposes of giving than accumulating and protecting?


  1. The left sees nothing wrong with Islam; while the right sees many things wrong. Yet the right is unable to see own faults. Christians take note: Jesus called out the faults of those who claimed to be God’s followers far more vehemently than He called out the faults of the ‘heathen’ religions outside of Israel.
  2. Jesus continually said good things about Samaritans. He was a friend of the Samaritan; and is a friend of the Muslim today.
  3. The Samaritans were the equivalent of modern day Muslims. Yet somehow Jesus seemed to ignore the hostility of a few of them and focus on the hypocrisy of His own chosen people.
  4. I open my heart, wallet and the place I call home to refugees of all faiths. I’m all for shielding and protecting Muslims, even if not the religion of Islam, or any religion, for that matter.

Morality & law

  1. Finding a basis for moral laws is a philosophically fraught area. It is difficult to argue for any version of foundational morality without appealing to religion (e.g. the Judeo Christian moral law). There does not appear to be any better alternative.
  2. Abandoning the foundation of Judeo Christian law usually diminishes law and order. However, I would only make a pragmatic appeal to a solid foundation of morality rather than attempt to impose religion.
  3. If morality was solely defined by consensus or utilitarian ethics, it seems doubtful that there would always be protection for the basic human rights of minorities or the voiceless – e.g., the unborn.
  4. While I do think that the last 6 of the 10 commandments are the best basis for upholding morals in society, the challenge is finding an appropriate extent to legislate these. For example, it makes sense to outlaw rape, in harmony with the seventh commandment (against adultery), but probably not to outlaw consensual adultery. Similarly, it makes sense to outlaw perjury, but probably not lying about the size of the fish you caught. I can’t think of any reasonable legal application of the commandment against coveting.
  5. To me it seems hypocritical to fight against same sex marriage while not fighting, to the same extent, against the legal provisions for ‘no fault’ divorce. But equally it is hypocritical to claim that opposition to same sex marriage must necessarily be imposition of one’s religion on non-believers.

Personal revival of spirituality

  1. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
  2. God can be more than ‘proved’ – He can be known and experienced – David Asscherick. See Psalm 34:8
  3. Faith rests on evidence and reason, but God offers more (not less) than this: firsthand experience and personal relationship (Heb 11:1). – David Asscherick
  4. Letting go of self and pride, admitting you were wrong, and continually learning. This is the most liberating way to live, and enables us to grow spiritually.

Suicide, mental health, screen time

  1. There is a direct correlation between the amount of screen time and the decline in mental health of our current generation. – Numerous scientific studies.
  2. Enjoy the outdoors with family and friends but without technology!

Is God real? Creation vs evolution

  1. “In the beginning God.” – the Dawkins delusion, by God (apologies to Alister McGrath)
  2. I’m against pseudo-science. But atheists who are respected scientifically get away with speculative and unprovable ideas such as SETI and the multiverse. So it seems reasonable to let Christians get away with the idea of “God” being the answer to SETI or the multiverse. Atheism 0 Theism 0
  3. The common picture of God has been so badly distorted from reality so as to make atheism attractive in comparison. Like the erroneous doctrine of eternal hellfire. That one piece of distortion makes the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin look like child’s play. And God an absolute tyrant. Own-goal by theists.
  4. Theism wins easily, in terms of utility, risk management & opportunity maximization, and philosophical/logical coherence. And, according to John Lennox, empirically, to boot. #PascalsWager Theism 1 Atheism 0.
  5. Accounting for free will. in a materialist (atheist) worldview, everythingis known or determined (even if humans do not yet have insight into the future). There is no freedom. No choice. Just the illusion of it. It is in this (atheist) worldview that I have to conclude that my choices are pointless, that there is no free will, and that everything that was going to happen is already determined. The script is already written. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
  6. The fact that freedom exists is what the new atheist unwittingly tries to take advantage of when he or she tries to persuade others to choose to abandon belief in God. But freedom of choice does not exist in a purely material universe.
  7. The fact that true freedom exists powerfully argues that a powerful intelligence (God) designed it that way. That God loves you enough to give you the choice of whether to believe His claims or not. To serve Him or not. And to love Him back or not.
  8. Abiogenesis: a major stumbling block to an evolutionary explanation for the origin (not just diversity) of species. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
  9. Consciousness: another major hurdle for material explanations of the universe. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
  10. Morality: either it has a transcendent and absolute quality, allowing (say) paedophilia to be vile under any circumstances, or it’s entirely a relative social construct which may change across time and place. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
  11. Meaning, purpose, destiny: without these, life is axiomatically meaningless, directionless, and pointless. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
  12. Material explanations for the universe are struggling to come up with any sort of compelling explanation for the presence of information (e.g., genetic code), logic, and finely tuned physical laws. All from nothing!? Theism 1 Atheism 0.
  13. In the years ahead there will be two massive pendulum swings away from atheism. One will be true (Rev 14:6-12), the other will be false (Matt 24:24-25). The false correction will swing from atheism to experience-based spiritual phenomena (2 Cor 11:14-15). The true correction will swing from selfishness to self-sacrificing love (Jn 13:35).

The great controversy between good & evil

  1. Evil may look like it has a strong foothold, even the upper hand. But love has already won the war. Evil and death have been forever defeated at the cross!
  2. I’m keen for the world as we know it to come to an end, but not because I want conflict and destruction. Instead, I am looking forward to God restoring our lives and planet to the perfect eternal love and happiness He intended.
  3. Christians please note: the Bible teaching regarding the ‘investigative judgment’ as a mechanism for transparently dealing with evil totally makes sense and comes naturally if you believe in ‘soul sleep’ and Arminianism (i.e., personal freedom of choice). It’s a natural fit into the narrative that “God is love”.
  4. God is love! Love requires freedom. Freedom entails risk.

God’s presence in and direction for my life

  1. As our loving Father, God wants us to learn to make good decisions for ourselves based on the principles and values of His character of love and freedom. Not to treat Him as a Divine fortune-teller.
  2. I miss my dad, who died a year ago. He had a big positive influence in my life. He was an atheist who found God and totally changed his direction to live for God. I look forward to seeing my dad again.
  3. I love my wife, Renee, and my kids. They have taught me much about selflessness, love and God. I have found marriage to be the best way to refine one’s character, reduce selfishness, and increase happiness.
  4. I have had numerous life experiences that demonstrate to me that God is real, life has purpose and meaning, and authentic love and freedom truly exist. A ‘chance’ meeting at a train station and recovery from a freak accident are just two of many life-shaping experiences that confirm experientially the empirical and philosophical evidences that God is real and God is love.
  5. Jesus of Nazareth: my guru, friend and Saviour. God of the universe. Yours too.

Atheism solves superficial problems but introduces fundamental problems

In today’s modern Western world atheism is popular. On the surface, it solves several problems:

  • Scientific understanding of reality
    • Age of the earth and the geologic record
    • Natural selection and evolution
  • Social and moral ‘problems’
    • Religious wars
    • Antiquated views on gender roles, marriage, etc
    • The problem of evil (“good God, bad world”)
  • And many more

But taking on an atheistic worldview introduces a plethora of new, more fundamental problems:

  • Accounting for free will
  • Accounting for information, logic, the presence of matter and uniform physical laws and a finely tuned universe
  • Abiogenesis – accounting for life. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a useful maxim here. The Miller-Urey experiment (or any other materialist explanations for abiogenesis) don’t come anywhere near the “extraordinary” criterion in my estimation.
  • Consciousness – accounting for the mind and personality
  • Morality – accounting for human consciousness of good and evil
  • Providing any insight into meaning, purpose and destiny.

The present popularity of atheism reflects our current obsession with advances in the physical sciences, technology, wealth accumulation, and freedom to do as I please.

Once these obsessions wear off, and I don’t think it will take many more decades, I predict a fundamental shift away from atheism.

Free will cannot exist in a material world

As far as I understand it (and I admit my understanding has limits), an atheistic worldview is an entirely physical/material worldview. In this worldview, everything behaves in a deterministic way. Every effect has a cause. Even chaos theory recognises determinism, just that due to the limits of human observation the approximate present does not determine the approximate future.

Let’s just imagine, for a minute, that the human powers of measurement and observation approached perfection. Or if not human, then something somewhere had that ability. And all physical mechanisms were perfectly understood. Then the future state of everything could be perfectly predicted, including your and my choices, assuming that consciousness was a part of the material universe and conformed to physical laws.

Therefore in a materialist (atheist) worldview, everything is known or determined (even if humans do not yet have insight into the future). There is no freedom. No choice. Just the illusion of it. It is in this (atheist) worldview that I have to conclude that my choices are pointless, that there is no free will, and that everything that was going to happen is already determined. The script is already written.

Atheist William Provine understood that human free will cannot exist as one of five fundamental consequences of naturalistic evolution.

Yet we experience what we believe is freedom of choice, free will. As I have written previously, that freedom is awesome! Atheism cannot adequately account for it. Perhaps we need to reconsider theism, even though, I agree, accounting for a future-knowing God and free will also presents challenges to our human powers of reason.

Perhaps the new atheists of our day do not yet understand the problems created by choosing not to believe in God.

Terrorism in the Christian Bible

An atheist meme on the internet in the wake of the Paris attacks caught my attention. An image compares the biblical character of Samson with modern day terrorists such as the suicide attacks of September 11.

Atheist meme: Samson's final act compared to that of the 9-11 hijackers.

Atheist meme: Samson’s final act compared to that of the 9-11 hijackers.

Samson’s final act was to literally bring the house down on about three thousand Philistines, killing them all as well as himself.

On face value, the stories seem analogous. Yet is this really just a cheap shot?

Popular Western culture regards Canadian John Gallagher as a hero for dying a couple of months ago in similar circumstances to Samson. Gallagher was fighting ISIS in Syria.

I say similar because this may well be a better modern-day parallel for Samson when considering the back story to Samson and the Philistines. Could it be that Samson was just as much a hero as John Gallagher?

But the greatest hero of the Bible was Jesus, who died Himself that others may have life.

Looking more closely at the story of Jesus, He actually took on a known ‘terrorist’ (i.e., traitor) in Judas into his inner circle. Not for His own benefit. His inclusive tolerance cost Jesus His own life.

Jesus’ embracing of Judas is in stark contrast to the closed-minded, closed-hearts and closed-borders stance of many professed Christians towards Muslims today.

Perhaps a better parallel image for terrorism in the Christian Bible is the following, which shows Jesus as the innocent victim of treachery worse than that of Australian teenager turned ISIS suicide bomber Jihad Jake.

A better comparison between the Bible and terrorism. Jesus took on a known traitor in Judas leading to His own betrayal and death. "Jihad Jack" is regarded by his parents as a traitor for joining ISIS prior to his death.

A better comparison between the Bible and terrorism. Jesus took on a known traitor in Judas leading to His own betrayal and death. “Jihad Jake” is regarded by his parents as a traitor for joining ISIS prior to his death in Iraq as a suicide bomber.

Utilitarian and other perspectives on the question of God

Arguments for and against atheism invariably tackle the philosophical and epistemological problem of whether one can know that something doesn’t exist in the universe even though one’s knowledge of all things in said universe is extremely limited.

That sounds like a good argument against positive atheism – one that would allow a reasonable person to be agnostic but not atheist.

However, the response of the atheist is usually twofold:

  1. The definition of atheism need not be a positive claim to know that there are no gods worth having, but rather the absence of belief in God. (Thus the definitional distinction between agnosticism and atheism is somewhat blurred.)
  2. The atheist also claims that the choice not to believe in a Deity is the equivalent of choosing not to believe in Santa Claus, the Loch Ness Monster, fairies in the bottom of the garden, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). Most reasonable people would probably state that they do not believe in any of those fairy-tale, mythological beings. People (me included) are less likely to sit on the fence and say they are not sure whether or not the FSM exists.

We know so little of all there is to know. So any argument over whether we can reasonably claim to know there isn’t a God will only go so far.

Sooner or later, it becomes germane to compare other possible options for extra-terrestrial intelligence and/or the origin of life and/or our universe. These are big unknown questions in the scientific community, even if the question of God has been largely classified as beneath modern scientific intelligence.

In contrast to the search for God, these questions tend to be framed toward fitting the epistemological constraints of scientific enquiry. Yet philosophically they are not very much different to the question of whether or not there is a God.

Epistemologically, the germane question is whether everything worth knowing can be found through empiricism.

There are a lot of other epistemological alternatives beyond empiricism.

Naturalism and empiricism look for natural, observable causes. The past removal of superstitions demonstrate the triumph of the scientific method. Modernism thus rejected the use of any other epistemological lenses to view reality.

But adherents to naturalism assume that naturalism has the answer to ultimate reality without actually ever being able to prove it. For example, the scientific method can never discover or explain the uncaused – or original – cause. I believe it will always struggle to provide any meaningful account for the origin of: matter/energy, physical laws, information, life, consciousness, morality and freedom of choice.

Let’s lay aside empiricism for a moment, and use a variety of lenses to evaluate five options for extraterrestrial or supernatural entities. The following table compares the options.

Lens Intelligent beings outside earth Creator God Multiverse Loch Ness, FSM, Santa, Fairies Nothing exists outside of our knowledge
Experiential evidence existing? None of significance Yes. Significant. Many people report their lives being profoundly impacted by encounters with God. None Limited Not logically applicable
Empirical evidence existing? None, though SETI has tried hard to find it Not reliably reproducible. Many would also question validity of claimed evidence. None None Not logically applicable
Evidence or logic that precludes this None None None Strong Yes – we frequently discover that we previously had not observed everything there was to observe
Possibility of being able to verify Strong From human perspective, weak. From God’s perspective, strong (if He indeed exists). None, insofar as our current definitions go Strong (i.e., to verify absence) Impossible
Logical / philosophical case Neither strong nor weak Strong (see below) Neither strong nor weak Weak Weak (see above)
Hypothesis of its existence lends itself to scientific enquiry Yes No No Yes, to the extent that one can be convinced that these don’t exist. Yes, though frequently disproved
Utility of this belief None so far Pascal’s wager suggests significant Limited Negative Negative (stops enquiry)
Moral consequence if proven true Unknown: potential for catastrophic conflict or synergistic benefit Humans have a responsibility to their Creator None None No change
Life’s meaning & purpose To the extent that they were not involved in our origin, limited. Profound (to the extent involved in our origin) Limited None None
Life’s origin Unknown Fullest and most complete answer available, acknowledging a possible follow-up question of “what caused God?” Would take the search for the ‘uncaused cause’ a step further back None None
Life’s destiny Unknown: potential for catastrophic conflict or synergistic benefit Full and complete answer None or limited None None
Votes for this A few key thinkers such as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Paul Davies, Carl Sagan. Almost everyone until around 150 years ago. Still majority of world, and significant portion of current thinkers, leaders & scientists A few key thinkers such as Stephen Hawking and even Richard Dawkins to some extent. None None (in its purest form, though some objectivists & empiricists, as well as subscribers to scientism & logical positivism come close)
Plausibility that this extra-terrestrial being exists but would hide itself (at least in our lifetime) To be determined once identified. On current knowledge, plausible. Plausible, even necessary based on Great Controversy meta-narrative By logical necessity Relatively implausible N/A
Motivation for acceptance Search for answers to limited carrying capacity of planet Love of God awakens response of love in our hearts. OR: fear or selfish desire to escape suffering. Philosophical pursuit of answers. Emotional sentimentalism and/or fear Desire to maintain status quo
Motivation for rejection Difficulty of identifying Desire to avoid responsibility for our choices. Perceived impossibility of verifying and thus desire to dispel false hope or fear. Impossibility of verifying Desire to dispel false hope or fear Desire to explore, discover
Aligns with these components of experiential reality Limited. Some observed phenomena that currently do not have better explanations Aligns with our observation that matter, life, consciousness, morality, love, altruism and free choice all exist. Aligns with the difficulty (i.e., impossibility) of establishing deterministic explanations for experiential phenomena. None Almost none. From perspective of children, Christmas presents align with the story of Santa. If we continually repeat previous experience, yes
Related phenomena that would prove difficult to explain otherwise UFOs, to a very limited extent. (I.e., almost none.) Many: consciousness, life, freedom of choice, fulfilled prophecy. Also growing scientific evidence that aligns poorly with naturalism. (See Ashton, Lennox, etc) The existence of our universe (not that the multiverse theory is the only option here) Almost none. History repeating itself; “Nothing new under the sun”
Observed phenomena that this fails to explain and thus is weakened by Fails to explain a lot of things but is not weakened by any of these omissions Experiential phenomena such as suffering and evil can be difficult to reconcile with a loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator. There are also some scientific discoveries that, at face value, appear to contradict the typical account of a Creator God. E.g., natural selection, evidence for the Big Bang, the geologic record Fails to explain a lot of things but is not weakened by any of these omissions Agency of known mechanisms to account for Christmas presents etc. Constant discovery of new knowledge
What lost if turns out to be true Unknown: perhaps some freedoms? Independence and autonomy (perceived) Little – maybe Uniqueness Little – maybe safety Hope for discovering more ‘out there’
What gained if turns out to be true Unknown: perhaps some opportunities? Infinite eternal happiness Little? Little – perhaps realization of children’s fantasies has some value? Removal of fear of the unknown
What lost if turns out to be false All the money poured into SETI Little – maybe hedonistic pursuits Little? Little – maybe children’s fantasies squashed Opportunity to discover more
What gained if turns out to be false Unknown: perhaps some freedoms? Independence and autonomy (perceived) Little – maybe Uniqueness Little – maybe safety Hope for discovering more ‘out there’

Under the “Creator God” heading, there are a number of possible options for which deity. At the high level of this comparison, this should really only be a comparison of theism to atheism.

If there is a Creator God, it would be plausible that there could be multiple interpretations/perspectives of His character and attributes. That need not weaken the case that such a Creator God exists. Especially if it is assumed that the Creator God gives freedom of choice based on love. If he/it were a coercive god, then any argument against the existence of such a deity would be more compelling on the assumption that he/it would be more likely to coerce everyone to form uniform perceptions of who he/it is.

My belief in God is that He is a love personified – the opposite of coercive. This may be reflected in some of my entries under the “Creator God” column in the table above.

The only gap in the above analysis, according to the modern scientific mindset, is the lack of consideration of empirical evidence. But since when is empirical evidence the only way to knowledge? Modernism gave way to post-modernism precisely because of the overwhelming realization that there are other valid epistemologies.

Coming back to empiricism, though, I will let the words of John Lennox assist in wrapping up my blog post. Having systematically exposed the weakness of the empirical claims of atheism of Richard Dawkins et al, he concludes:

In conclusion, I submit that, far from science having buried God, not only do the results of science point towards his existence, but the scientific enterprise itself is validated by his existence.

Inevitably, of course, not only those of us who do science, but all of us, have to choose the presupposition with which we start. There are not many options – essentially just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.

So I conclude, then, that the case for a Creator God is the strongest of the above options. (I have made five options to help demonstrate the comparative utility of theism and futility of atheism, but they can be boiled down to the two that Lennox presents.)

Theism wins easily, in terms of utility, risk management & opportunity maximization, and philosophical/logical coherence. And, according to Lennox, empirically, to boot.

Try the varied epistemological approach for yourself, using the above table as a starting point if you wish. I’m curious to see how my framework withstands scrutiny and critique. Are there elements that are wrong, arguable, incomplete or missing?

The Futility of Promoting Atheism

Imagine you were one of the two miners trapped alive in the Beaconsfield mine collapse. You sense that rescue may be near. You perceive faint glimpses of communication from the outside world.

But your mate plays down your optimism as blind faith and misplaced hope. He takes a purely evidence-based empirical view of your shared new world, trapped almost a kilometre underground. From his perspective, one of his colleagues is already dead, and there’s insufficient reason to believe anything other than imminent demise through further collapse, starvation or exposure. He tries to convince you to give up hope of rescue.

Sounds like Richard Dawkins arguing for atheism, doesn’t it?

My adaptation of the Beaconsfield tragedy is hypothetical. Both Todd Russell and Brant Webb were, in fact, optimistic believers in their developing rescue as it unfolded. Their optimism helped them to survive their ordeal.

But my imagined scenario highlights the futility of arguing for atheism. Atheism, if true, offers no hope relative to its alternatives.

Theism, if true, offers unlimited hope, love and happiness.

Atheism offers no satisfying solutions to the deep questions of life – its origins, meaning, purpose or destiny.

Why expend energy articulating ideas that extinguish hope, meaning and purpose?

Perfect love allows freedom to believe that faith in God is futile. It even allows freedom to promote those beliefs, no matter how dark and sad they may be.

But why promote darkness and sadness over light and happiness (see John 1:1-14)?

Part of the answer is that the common picture of God has been so badly distorted from reality so as to make atheism attractive in comparison.

Like the erroneous doctrine of eternal hellfire. That one piece of distortion makes the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin look like child’s play. And God an absolute tyrant.

There are many more deceptions about God’s character, too. Their chief source? Ironically, the Christian church.

Back to my imaginary scenario at Beaconsfield. The trapped miner arguing against hope for rescue may have had good reason to mistrust the rescuers based on past negative experience. And that would make his pessimism more understandable, though still not justifiable.

How? Let’s follow my imaginary scenario just a bit further. Imagine that in the weeks leading up to the Beaconsfield mine collapse tragedy, your pessimist miner friend had tried to improve safety standards and culture at the mine. But the mine safety manager’s response was to show a blatant disregard for personal wellbeing. Instead he pursued vindictive vendettas for the purpose of his own career development. Under this scenario, his pessimism entirely makes sense!

But the good news is that God is love (1 Jn 4:8)! Just as the rescuers at Beaconsfield were actually working for the best interests of the trapped miners, so too God is good! In fact, perfectly good.

He truly does have your best interests uppermost in His heart and mind (Rom 5:8). When you realise the depth of His love for you, your life will make perfect sense (Jer 29:11). Your happiness will be unlimited (Jn 10:10, 15:11).

Atheism and Religion: a swinging pendulum?

Atheism has gained increasing and widespread acceptance since the French Revolution a couple of hundred years ago. There are a lot of things right about atheism’s ‘correction.’ Atheism is a reasonable reaction against the excesses of the church.

Interestingly, atheism wasn’t the answer to preventing the needless bloodshed perpetuated by institutionalised religion. In its first few years the French Revolution was just as bloody as the Church to which it was reacting.

Why was atheism not able to provide a completely satisfying answer to the ills of religion?

Reality Simplified in Three Word Slogans

Human nature has a habit of taking an issue and simplifying it down to slogans that address only one end of the tension. Australia’s former PM, Tony Abbott, has a penchant for such “three word slogans” such as:

  • “Stop the boats”
  • “Axe the [carbon] tax”
  • “Islam needs reformation”

There are virtuous principles, good values, and undoubted truth behind elements of each of those slogans. But they clearly ignore a whole different set of principles, values and truths that quickly neutralise any enduring appeal or significance of such three word slogans.

Could it be the same with atheism and religion? Does “There are no gods worth having” eventually ring hollow?

History Repeats in Swings and Roundabouts

Election cycles quickly take care of political over-reach. Political leaders’ own parties can even intervene earlier – just ask Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, and Julia Gillard. Political leadership changes tend to provide correction back and forth from one extreme to the other with only an occasional centrist refreshment.

Could it be that we have done the same in the area of religion and atheism?

Throughout history there have been many pendulum swings, over a variety of issues:

  • Democratically elected governments go between emphasis on a welfare state and free-market economic rationalism.
  • Germany’s territorial expansion associated with both world wars, with a period of overly harsh treaty provisions in between.
  • The Bible documents Israel’s inglorious history, going between abject apostasy and over-zealous Pharisaism.
  • The Christian church, going between syncretistic pluralism and fundamentalist persecution of heresy.
  • The renaissance and scientific advancement, going between belief in a Creator of natural order and the positive atheism of the New Atheists.

The above examples demonstrate that some pendulum swings can be fast; some exceedingly slow. A single pendulum isn’t always going to swing back to the exact same spot it came from last time. The cliché is true: history does tend to repeat itself, but the pattern can be irregular.

Atheism’s Future Correction: Back to Religious Fundamentalism?

What will be the popular opposing pendulum swing to atheism, when patience for its failures eventually runs out? I don’t think it’s likely to be a widespread return to narrow-minded dogmatic expression of religious fundamentalism. There may be the odd recruit to ISIS for whom fundamentalism is an appealing correction. But for society at large, we’ve come from there too recently to want that again.

Something that would both oppose atheism and have popular appeal would be a supernatural experiential phenomenon. An observable manifestation of a spiritual dimension would, by logical necessity, neutralise the appeal of a materialistic atheist worldview. It would also be likely to interest or even satisfy someone searching for more out of the vicissitudes of life regardless of their faith orientation.

In fact, it is prophesied in the Bible (see 2 Thes 2:9). True Christianity will soon be threatened not so much by disbelief in the existence of God, but by faith in manifestations from the spirit world that are fundamentally evil.

The world has lost its spiritual discernment, in part because it has largely chosen an atheistic worldview. Without spiritual discernment, any widespread appearance of spiritual phenomena will, of logical necessity, be embraced as enlightenment compared to atheism.

Another Overdue Correction

Not all pendulum swings are resolved by coming to rest in the middle position.

The one pendulum swing that we need above all others – without a settling into the middle – is a switch from widespread selfishness (Matt 24:12) to pervasive selfless love (Jn 13:35). The selfishness of our society is evident in such catchphrases as “if it feel’s good, do it.” It is a natural and unfortunate outcome of a Darwinian worldview where survival is for the fittest.

The world has seen one great display of self-sacrificing love, when Jesus Christ came to earth (Rom 5:8). That display sparked a revolution that spread internationally through the early Christian church. But institutionalised religion soon obscured any glimpses of God’s true character into one that looked like a coercive tyrant.

I believe we will see a widespread return (Rev 18:1-4) of this selfless Christian revival (2 Cor 5:18-21) in the near future (Matt 24:14).

Two Corrections Coming in Parallel

Thus there will be two pendulum swings away from atheism. One will be true (Rev 14:6-12), the other will be false (Matt 24:24-25).

The false one will swing from atheism to experience-based spiritual phenomena (2 Cor 11:14-15). The true one will swing from selfishness to self-sacrificing love (Jn 13:35).

The Awesomeness of Free Will

The freedom to choose one’s own destiny is a profound element of human existence. It makes love possible.

Love is only worth something because there is another alternative. Love that was automatic or compelled would simply be robotic.

Philosophers have come up with concepts such as determinism, compatabilism and incompatabilism as different ways of dealing with the deep questions arising from the experience of free will. Some of these are attempts to account for reality through a materialistic lens – a naturalistic worldview.

It seems fairly self-evident to me that a materialistic worldview can only account for determinism, not for free will. This poses a philosophical problem. An existential riddle. For the naturalist, materialist and atheist, that is.

Everything we do as humans, everything we are taught, is on the assumption that our decisions matter. That we really do have freedom to choose.

I would suggest that compatabilism has simply been made up, though logically untenable, to deal with the cognitive dissonance created by trying to marry materialistic atheism with freedom of choice.

In the Great Controversy between good and evil, it suits the forces of evil to promote the belief that freedom doesn’t exist. Either that God doesn’t exist (naturalistic determinism) or that even if He does exist, He controls every decision and outcome and that there’s still not freedom of choice (Calvinistic predestination).

But human experience powerfully argues that you really can choose. A trivial example is that you can freely choose whether to alter your breathing pattern right now or not. And that no scientific theory could be devised to accurately predict your choice of breathing pattern, even if all your knowledge, emotions, surroundings, circumstances, and all other relevant factors could be taken into account by such a theory.

If such a theory were to be true, it would remove all motivation to make the world a better place or to pursue personal growth or ambition. Such aspirations only make sense if there truly is freedom.

The fact that this freedom exists is what the new atheist unwittingly tries to take advantage of when he or she tries to persuade others to choose to abandon belief in God.

The fact that this freedom exists also powerfully argues that a powerful intelligence (God) designed it that way. That God loves you enough to give you the choice of whether to believe His claims or not. To serve Him or not. And to love Him back or not.

What will you choose?