October 2018

October 2018

The Hand of the Designer

Last month I wrote about the “cosmological argument” for the existence of God, which asks the question to which God is the obvious answer: Why is there something rather than nothing? This argument is compelling, but it leads to another that has proven even more difficult for serious atheists to contend with: Why does the something that exists include beings like us? This is what we call the “teleological argument.”

The word “teleological” comes from the Greek word “telos,” meaning “goal” or “purpose.” We naturally recognize that everything has a telos. Everything has a meaning. Everything is there for a reason. But why should this be so? If we take for granted that there is something rather than nothing (without using God to explain it), then why isn’t that something mere disordered chaos? Why should there be any meaning at all in a universe that just popped into existence from nothing, for no reason?

The meaning and purpose inherent in reality requires that there be Someone to give that meaning and purpose. This is so fundamentally true that, in the nineteenth century, when atheism was sweeping the elite classes of Europe, those who took seriously the thought of a universe without God, that is, a meaningless universe, were overwhelmingly driven to despair and the contemplation of suicide. If there’s no God, and therefore no meaning to any of this, then what’s the use? Better just to get the absurd joke that is existence over with. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries this has taken an even more diabolical turn, as mass shooters conclude from the meaninglessness of an atheistic universe that not only they, but all of us, are really better off dead.

But this can be explained in more concrete, definite terms, without recourse to the destructive tendencies that atheism can have in our society when pushed to its logical limits. Consider one of the most remarkable things about reality as we know it: We live in a material universe that can accommodate life. And I don’t just mean human life, or intelligent life. Any life at all, at whatever degree of complexity, requires just the right mix of natural laws to make even the most minimal complexity possible.

In our great quest to make sense of the world around us using the scientific method, we have boiled down the laws governing the material universe to four: the force of gravity, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. If you were to tweak any one of these forces in the slightest, the whole universe would cease to work. Reality would be nothing but a disordered mass of formless matter and energy. But the fundamental forces as we actually have allow complexity, and therefore life, to exist. We live in a “goldilocks universe”: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. And the chances of the universe being just right are slimmer than your chances of picking just the right atom out of all the atoms in the universe. In other words, the order inherent in the universe—the order that makes life, and therefore us, possible—simply cannot have arisen by chance. Someone designed the universe this way, for the purpose of populating it with life, and ultimately with intelligent human life. That someone we call God.

Last month I mentioned the atheist public intellectual Christopher Hitchens, who spent his last years debating Christian apologists (together with Jews, Muslims, and anyone else who was willing to champion the existence of God). Though publicly dismissive of all the standard Christian arguments, in private he revealed that of all the arguments for the existence of God, he and other prominent atheists have the hardest time dealing with this one: the teleological argument, the “fine tuning” apparent in the universe. It didn’t convince him to believe in God, but he did find it non-trivial, and the most difficult for him to dismiss.

Thankfully, we don’t have to tie ourselves in knots trying to figure out how there can be a grand design without a Grand Designer. We’ve known the Grand Designer all along! The teleological argument for the existence of God doesn’t tell us who He is, or how He feels about us (other than that we are worthy of His attention—after all, He tailor-made the universe for us!), but “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaim His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). They do indeed. Let us follow suit!

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf