In our last blog post we discussed the limitations of science and the empirical method. That raises the question, then, of how we can know reality. If science cannot give us all the answers we need, what can? We would suggest a simple, common sense solution to the problem. Our knowledge of God and the world is based upon the agreement of several independent lines of testimony.
The first line of testimony is nature itself. It is our contention that we are surrounded on every hand by the evidence of Intelligent Design. The intricate complexity of nature, far exceeding anything that human engineering can produce, points to an intelligent Being behind it. Every mathematical equation, every Beethoven symphony bears testimony to a rational order in the cosmos. It somehow all fits together in a beautiful harmony and symmetry. Science itself is based on the premise that some kind of order exists in nature.
The question is, where does this order come from? At this point our atheist friends will be quick to answer, from evolution. The gist of Darwin's theory is that natural selection can account for the appearance of design in nature. But this leads to a startling conclusion: there is no rational order in nature. Moreover, there are no fixed categories in nature: everything is in a constant state of flux. On this premise it is hard to see how one can speak of a "law" of nature. A "law" implies a fixed order to things. But in an evolutionary scenario, there is no fixed order. Two thousand years of Western thought have seemingly been overturned.
Space prevents us from a detailed rebuttal here of evolution – readers are invited to see our previous blog post "Why Evolution Is False" (Oct. 5, 2011), a review of Prof. Jerry A. Coyne's book Why Evolution Is True. Suffice it to say here that there are several things about the evolutionary hypothesis that strike us as highly improbable. It would require us to believe that life evolved from non-life, that order evolved from chaos, and that intelligence evolved from non-intelligence. Somehow the normal laws of heredity and genetics are routinely overcome by a constant succession of successful gene mutations. In order for the whole process to begin there had to have been a hospitable environment already in place. The process itself would require the creation of new genetic material as evolution proceeded from lower forms of life to higher. Once we arrive at the point of sexual reproduction, there would not only have to be a viable specimen of the new species but also a compatible mate of the opposite sex at the same time and the same place. (The fact of the matter is that every time a couple engages in sex it is a testimony to the wisdom of the Creator – it is highly unlikely that the act would even be possible were it not for Intelligent Design.) No one has ever observed macroevolution take place in nature and no one has ever duplicated it in a laboratory. Which is easier to believe: that the world was created by an intelligent Being or that it somehow brought itself into existence through a completely impersonal process? The whole evolutionary scenario strains credulity. When one sees a garden one naturally assumes the existence of a gardener!
The second line of testimony is direct revelation in the form of Scripture. The prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New claimed a special kind of inspiration that enabled them to communicate messages from God Himself. They saw visions, they dreamed dreams, they heard voices, they were seized by the Spirit of God. God, it seemed, spoke to them and through them.
The obvious objection to this, of course, is why the Bible alone? Why not the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or the Hindu Vedas? Do they not make similar claims to divine inspiration?
There are many ways in which the Bible is a highly unusual, if not to say unique book. It was written by many authors over long periods of time in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), yet it maintains a remarkable consistency of message. Its monotheism, lofty ethics, and unflattering view of human nature (there are very few unblemished heroes in the Bible) all point to a supra-human authorship. Its simple, straightforward style bespeaks of honesty and integrity. Where clear evidence is available archaeology confirms its historical accuracy. Unless one dismisses out of hand the accounts of the miraculous there is no real reason to doubt the Bible's integrity and trustworthiness.
The third line of testimony is the human conscience. It is a curious fact of human nature that we universally have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. We instinctively believe that there is something wrong with killing and stealing, and that belief is reflected in the civil laws of most civilized human societies.
The obvious objection here is that an intuitive sense of something, let's say of God or of morality, does not mean that the thing itself actually exists. By itself an intuition does not prove anything about external reality. But it does raise an intriguing question: how did we acquire such an intuition in the first place? The Darwinian explanation is that as our brains evolved we acquired a social instinct that enabled us to function in groups, and that morality is a reflection of our desire to be accepted by the fellow members of our group. But there is a problem here. Sometimes our conscience bothers us when we somehow have the feeling that what the group is doing is wrong. If the Darwinian explanation were correct, we would have become slaves of public opinion. Evolution would have produced in us a kind of herd mentality. The rugged individualists and non-conformists, our heroes and martyrs, would eventually have been bred out of the species by a kind of natural selection. But history is filled with examples of courageous men and women who did what they thought was right in spite of public opinion, and sometimes suffered fearful consequences as a result. Is this some form of mental derangement, a fluke of evolution? Do conscientious objectors and political protestors belong in mental institutions? Or is it possible that the conscience is a part of our God-given humanity, part of what separates us from the animal kingdom, the "Law of God written on the human heart"?
It is the concurrence of these three things, nature, Scripture and conscience, that gives us a basis for knowledge. Each one taken by itself if fatally weak; each by itself is insufficient to stand on its own. But taken together they act to confirm each other, and it is their combined testimony that is persuasive.
St. Anselm summed it up like this: "credo ut intelligam" – I believe that I might understand. On the basis of the Christian revelation it is possible to make sense out of the world and of life. It has enabled untold multitudes of people to live happy, productive and fulfilled lives. It is not that we can answer every question – Christianity accepts the fact that there is more to reality than what the human mind can comprehend. But it gives us what we need. "For with You is the fountain of life;/In Your light we see light." (Psalm 36:9; NKJV).