A secular Jew, [David] Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:
- Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.
- Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.
- Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.
- Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.
- Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.
- Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.
- Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.
- Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ballpark.
- Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.
The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions,
With a mindset of unity we will view our economic resources as available to meet others’ needs. We will voluntarily, periodically supply our local assembly’s common fund for the poor. Such a structure should not bind the Spirit’s prompting to be generous as we encounter various needs, nor should it become a matter of obligation. If grace is on us, we will be gracious to others.
William J. Larkin, Acts, p.83.
What are we attempting which could not be accomplished without the Holy Spirit? What is there about our lives which demands an explanation? We will be “filled with the Holy Spirit” when we dare to do what could never be accomplished on our own strength and insight.
Lloyd Oglivie, Quoted by William Larkin, Acts, page 73.
My friend and I stuck my sister in a garbage can. When crabs were biting my other sister’s feet in the bay and she was crying for help, rather than lend her a hand I sat on the dock and laughed. Both times they looked at me shocked that I could turn on them like that, and I was a little shocked too, and the fact that I’m writing about it now shows that I still carry the regret. But growing up is an ugly endeavor at times and we can only try to be good when we know how awful it feels to be bad.
Tom Papa, your dad stole my rake . . ., page 224.
I’m a bit of a chameleon. I’ll change, adapt, and make stuff up just to avoid any tension. Maybe it’s the performer in me, but I aim to please. My wife aims to kill. Not out of ill will or a desire to hurt, but she is going to stick to her position no matter what. I think it’s called a belief system. When I am uncomfortable, the only thing I believe is that I should be going.
Tom Papa, your dad stole my rake . . ., page 219
“Think of Jesus at his trial,” says one biblical commentator, “Was he the prisoner, or were his accusers? . . . He was calling the shots, not they. In this age that values freedom almost more than anything else, Jesus confronts us as the most liberated man who ever lived.”
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 236.
quoting Michael Green, Who is This Jesus? page 14.
Francis Crick, a leading molecular biologist and neuroscientist, famously wrote: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” If there is no God or spiritual dimension, that is pretty much the logical conclusion.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 224.
If we believe that the Resurrection really happened, then Jesus Christ has, as it were, made an opening in the barrier between the ideal and the real. The downtrodden of the world can say, “Now I have got something, I have a hope. I have a hope for the future.” Middle-class people can get excited about philosophy and ethical principles, but not the masses, not the people who are really stuck in the darkness of this world. The Resurrection, not taken as a symbol but believed as a concrete fact, will lift up the downtrodden, and will change the world. Belief in a final judgment gives us enough hope so that we will neither resort to violence to bring in justice nor give in and collaborate with injustice.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 172.
The Gospel would still be true even if no one believed it. The hopeful thing is that, where it is tried–where it is imperfectly and hesitantly followed–as it was in Northern Ireland [and South Africa] during the peace process[es], as it is in many a Salvation Army hostel this Christmas, as it flickers in countless unseen Christian lives, it works. And its palpable and remarkable power to transform human life takes us to the position of believing that something very wonderful indeed began with the birth of Christ into the world.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 192.
Quoting A. N. Wilson, It’s the Gospel Truth.
All judgments that something or someone is good or bad do so based on an awareness of purpose. If you know what that purpose is, then your moral evaluation of something can be a factual statement, a truth that exists apart from your personal likes and dislikes. You may not like watches for some reason, but if it is a good one, you will have to acknowledge it to be so. If you know the purpose of a farmer is to get a crop out of a piece of land, but she does not get any yield at all, year after year, then you know she is a bad farmer, however much you may like her personally. If, however, you have no idea of the purpose of an object, then any description of it as “good” or “bad” is wholly subjective, completely based on inner preferences.
How, then, can we tell if a human being is good or bad? Only if we know our purpose, what human life is for. If you don’t know the answer to that, then you can never determine “good” and “bad” human behavior. If, as in the secular view, we have not been made for a purpose, then it is futile to even try to talk about moral good and evil.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, pages 186-187.