Ravi Zacharias – The scientific naturalist view does not answer our questions, nor prove God’s in existence

Zacharias ravi

Question from Ethan Kaiser:

Hello, I am a scientists and an atheist, and my question is: Since the Bible has been scientifically disproven, as far as all the claims, you know, the theory of evolution, and archaeology, you know, Noah’s ark, Adam & Eve, since we know this didn’t happen because of our science, my question is: According to the Bible, how do we have free will, if God is this omniscient being, that knows everything about us, everything that we will do, and he pretty much knows our outcome before we’re even created, so he creates us, knowing everything we will do, we can’t surprise him by our actions, we have no free will. Our choices have been predetermined, and that the act of judgment is completely immoral, because he knows what we’re gonna do, nothing can surprise him.

Ravi Zacharias:

It’s interesting that you began, by saying that, as an atheist, all of this has been disproved, and so you live with scientific materialism as your world view. I studied under John Polkinhorne at Cambridge University. You probably know the name- one of the world’s leading quantum physicists. He came to the exact opposite conclusion you did, while being a dean at King’s College, as quantum physicist, taking the same data you did. So, obviously, for a man of his intellectual ability, to come to a totally different conclusion, one would either have to say he is stupid to come to that conclusion, or else his empirical data is … I want to read to you what David Berlinski says about the scientific, naturalistic world view. He is one of the world’s leading physicists, who is an agnostic, but took issue with Richard Dawkin’s book „The God Delusion’, and wrote a book called „The Devil’s Delusion’. Here’s what he said,

  1. Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.
  2. Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.
  3. Have the scientists explained why the universe is fine tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.
  4. Are physicists and biologists even willing to believe in anything, as long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.
  5. Has rationalism and moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.
  6. Has secularism in the secular 20th century been a force for good? Not even close.
  7. Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy being taught in the opinion of the sciences? Close enough.
  8. Does anything in the sciences or the philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ballpark.
  9. Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.

Ethan (questioner), what you are wrestling with is not uncommon. Many people from a scientific and materialistic worldview will say what you’ve said, and will come to that conclusion. The problem is, what you’ve mispositioned is your concern between  determinism and free will. Your application could have gone in many directions, but you came to that one for some reason, which was unfortunate. In Cambridge, I listened to a talk, in 1990, by Stephen Hawking. As you know, he can’t speak, he uses a speech synthesizer. His whole talk was on determinism and freedom. Do you know what he concluded? That the tragedy with scientific materialism , if we take its assumptions, is that we are not free, we are totally determined. That was the world’s leading physicist at that time, saying, „The very thing you are asking of the Christian faith, he pinned on your backs (the scientific atheists). You can go online and trace it. And he said, „The only escape I have is since I don’t know what has been determined, I may as well not be. The whole auditorium moaned and groaned, with an escape hatch that he gave for himself, after telling us that we were completely determined. That’s Berlinski’s issue, that is actually something that even people like Dawkin’s will concede. Or, you read Stephen Pinker and the others, totally determined. So the question is: Were you free to ask this question?

If you are totally determined, you are prewired to think the way you do. The nature means you are hardwired to come to a conclusion. Out of flux, nothing but flux. What you put into the computer has to come out. But, you have to ask yourself: Are you making a truth claim? If you’re making a truth claim, you’re rising above the subjectivity, and the moment you claim a truth claim, you’re violating determinism.

Ravi’s response comes at the 7:15 minute mark of the video-

Free will vs. Free Agency

A good definition of two theological terms:

a contrast from http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/09/free_will_vs_free_agency.php    with thanks to Gabi Bogdan for the link.

Free will vs. Free Agency

Visitor: What’s the difference between freewill and free-agency?

Response: While descriptions may vary, I find the following explanation to be helpful. When it is said that people have no „free will” it does not mean that a person is coerced from the outside and must act against his will. Let that be clear up front. With this in mind, it is important that we learn to distinguish coersion vs. necessity. We are indeed free of external coersion but not free of necessity. Let me explain:

What we mean by denying a (fallen) person has free will is that he/she will act, by necessity, according to the corruption of his/her nature. They are in bondage to sin meaning the love of God and His law are not the unregenerate persons’ deepest animating motive and principle (nor is it his motive at all), in anything he does. No one is coercing a sinner to act as they do. Man eagerly volunteers his submission to sin. This means, the unregenerate person will always choose according to who they are by nature, driven by their disposition. In other words, our choices are all voluntary, but we are not free to choose otherwise because we will not understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14) and indeed are hostile to them, according to Scripture. Men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20) Without the Holy Spirit, man, by nature, is hostile to Christ. In other words, we are in bondage to sin until Christ sets us free. Jesus himself says that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, that a thornbush cannot bear figs. Jesus is teaching us that the nature of a thing determines BY NECESSITY (not coersion) the direction he/she will take.

Consider the concept of free will by applying it to God Himself. If freedom were defined as the freedom to choose otherwise, let us ask ourselves, does God have such freedom to choose otherwise? In other words, can God freely choose to do good or evil as He pleases? No, of course not. God in his essence is holy and therefore, by definition, cannot sin or be unholy. If he sinned or broke His sure promise He would no longer be God. The same kind of example can be applied to the glorified saints in heaven. God has sealed them in righteousness and they can no longer sin, and more than this, they have no ability to sin or choose otherwise. Yet we consider them the MOST free of all creatures.

Thus the Bible defines freedom, not as the freedom to choose otherwise in any way we please (contrary to our innate disposition), but as holiness, freedom from sin. Read Romans chapter 6. When Jesus says He will set people free, He does not say they are now free to choose good or evil but He will set them free from the bondage of sin. And where there is bondage, by definition there is no freedom. Yes we have free agency, that is, we can voluntarily choose according to our desires, but because our desires are in bondage to corruption of nature this is not freedom in the Biblical sense. Liberation of the will occurs when the Holy Spirit acts to free us.

Consider the opposite theological position which affirms that God elects people based on some kind of forseen faith. If God already knows who will be saved even before He creates them, then such a reality (their salvation) is fixed and cannot be otherwise. Thus God would be wasting His time to try to convert persons whom He knows will never come to faith. Synergists say that God is trying to save every man, yet such a position is untenable if God already knows who is to be saved, that is, unless you are willing to concede that God is not omniscient, but then you would be denying that He is indeed God.

If God knows the end from the beginning exhaustively then He knows who will be saved even prior to creating them. There is certainty here, an unchangable certainty. An additional problem with this is that it means that there is no real free will in this Arminian foreseen faith position because the future is already certain and cannot be otherwise. Yet in this same view God does not determine this future, and thus something else, like Fate perhaps, determines who will believe. The position is so untenable that many traditional Arminians have fled to become open theists who believe God has no exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. But this heretical view will not stand and is sub-Christian.

Free will (4) and prayer/petition

Libertarian Free Will & Prayer

by John Feinberg

If I [believe in libertarian freedom and] plead with God to remove my friend’s illness, that is not absurd, for God can answer that prayer without negating anyone’s freedom. But what about the request that God change the attitudes and actions of my friend’s tyrannical boss? What about petitions that ask God to move those processing applications for graduate school to accept my friend? Or what about prayers that ask God to keep my enemies at work from bothering me? And what about pleading with God to save a dear relative or friend? In all of these cases, what am I asking God to do, if libertarian free will obtains? I am either asking God to override others’ freedom, or I am asking him to move them to do something freely in spite of the fact that my belief in libertarian free will means that I believe Gold cannot get anybody to do anything freely. If I truly value libertarian free will as much as libertarians say they do, why would I ask God to override it just because of my petition? . . . Libertarians may be asking God to try to persuade their friends, but I repeat that God can only guarantee their persuasion by casual determinism, and that abridges libertarian free will.

On the other hand, if I am not asking God to override someone else’s freedom, then I’m asking him to do something which I believe he cannot do (make it the case that someone else does something freely). I may ask him to try to persuade the person, but I know that without God overriding their freedom, he cannot guarantee that they will change. In fact, since at the moment of free decision making nothing decisively inclines their will, regardless of what God or anyone else does or says, the matter may be hopeless. In light of such problems with interceding with God to change someone’s incompatibilistically free actions or attitudes, there is good reason for anyone committed to libertarian free will who understands the implications of the position to think twice before offering intercessory prayers of the kind mentioned. In fact, prayer to change either our or others’ actions seems problematic.


Foundations of Evangelical Theology, pp. 705.
…[W]ith libertarian free will many prayers make no sense. . . .

…[C]onsider petitions about ourselves that do involve our free will. Suppose we ask the Lord to help us be more faithful in Bible reading, prayer, and witnessing. Or suppose we pray that the Lord will help us treat our family or neighbor better. I maintain that if libertarian free will obtains in our world, these are to a large degree absurd requests. For what are we asking God to do? In order for me to be more faithful in Bible reading, prayer, and witnessing, won’t I have to decide to do these things? But if I have libertarian free will and am allowed to exercise it, how can God fulfill my request? If he doesn’t override my libertarian freedom, he cannot guarantee the fulfillment of my request. So what am I asking him to do? Override my freedom? Make it the case that I freely decide to do these things? But here libertarians tell us that, if God brings it about that we do anything, we don’t do it freely. It seems that God cannot be certain to grant my request unless he overrides my freedom, but why would God want me to engage in these spiritual exercises because I’m forced to do so (according to my libertarian free will, I would be forced, but God wants my love and devotion freely!)? Shouldn’t I, then, petition myself in an attempt to convince myself to do these things? After all, only I can freely effect what I choose to do, given libertarian free will. But if I did petition myself, wouldn’t that usually mean I had already decided to do these things, and if so, the petition becomes unnecessary? I submit, then, that unless I really want God to override my freedom, what I ask him in these cases is absurd. If he doesn’t tamper with my libertarian free will, he can’t do what I ask; only I can, but petitioning myself engages me in the further absurdities mentioned. (via) Monergism

Free Will (3) St. Augustine

Here is a short excerpt from the writings of Augustine, who first addressed Pelagianism as North African Bishop who lived from 354 to 430 AD. You can read a short biographical account of St. Augustine’s life here.

(St Augustine via) Monergism

Grace Creates a Truly Free Will – Augustine

Do we by grace destroy free will? God forbid! We establish free will. For even as the law is not destroyed but established by faith, so free will is not destroyed but established by grace. The law is fulfilled only by a free will. And yet the law brings the knowledge of sin; faith brings the acquisition of grace against sin; grace brings the healing of the soul from the disease of sin; the health of the soul brings freedom of will; free will brings the love of righteousness; and the love of righteousness fulfils the law. Thus the law is not destroyed but established through faith, since faith obtains grace by which the law is fulfilled. Likewise, free will is not destroyed through grace, but is established, since grace cures the will so that righteousness is freely loved. Now all the stages which I have here connected together in their successive links, are each spoken of individually in the sacred Scriptures. The law says: ‘You shall not covet’ (Ex.20:17). Faith says: ‘Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You’ (Ps.41:4). Grace says: ‘See, you have been made well: sin no more, in case a worse thing comes upon you’ (Jn.5:14). Health says: ‘O Lord my God, I cried to You, and You have healed me’ (Ps.30:2). Free will says: ‘I will freely sacrifice to You’ (Ps.54:6). Love of righteousness says: ‘Transgressors told me pleasant tales, but not according to Your law, O Lord’ (Ps. 119:85).

How is it then that miserable human beings dare to be proud, either of their free will, before they are set free, or of their own strength, if they have been set free? They do not observe that in the very mention of free will they pronounce the name of liberty. But ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor.3:17). If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will? For ‘by whatever a person is overcome, to that he is delivered as a slave’ (2 Pet.2:19). But if they have been set free, why do they puff themselves up as if it were by their own doing? Why do they boast, as if their freedom were not a gift? Or are they so free that they will not have Him for their Lord Who says to them, ‘Without Me, you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5), and, ‘If the Son sets you free, you shall be truly free?’ (Jn.8:36).

Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 52

––––––––

Note: From this quote, we clearly see that Augustine understood „free will” to mean free from the bondage of sin. But to those without the Spirit he asks this rhetorical question showing he affirms that the unregenerate have no true free will: „If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will?”

Free Will (2) Thirteen Things a Lost Person Can Not Do

by Curtis A. Pugh (via) monergism

That the lost sinner must cast himself wholly on the mercy and grace of God must be obvious to those who read and believe the Scriptures. But the Bible knows nothing of such foolish man-made ideas as „praying the sinner’s prayer”, or „making a decision for Christ”, or „inviting Jesus into your heart” or „going forward to receive Christ.” No New Testament preacher ever used such terms or tactics! To tell spiritually dead sinners that there is something they can do to bring about their salvation is damnable heresy for by its false hope sinners are taught to trust in what they have done rather in Christ who has done all. 

Consider these thirteen spiritual things an unsaved person cannot do:

1. HE CANNOT THINK AS GOD DOES:

„For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

2. HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND GOD:

„. . . thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself . . .” (Psalm 50:21)

„Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? (Job 11:7-8)

3. HE CANNOT SEE SPIRITUAL THINGS:

„Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

4. HE CANNOT KNOW HIS OWN HEART: 

„The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

5. HE CANNOT PROPERLY DIRECT HIS OWN PATHS:

„O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)

„There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

6. HE CANNOT FREE HIMSELF FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW:

„For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 3:10)

7. HE CANNOT RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT:

„Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not . . .” (John 14:17)

8. HE CANNOT HEAR (receive & understand) GOD’S WORDS:

„He that is of God heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God.” (John 8:47)

„But the natural (unsaved) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Corinthians 2:14)

9. HE CANNOT BIRTH HIMSELF INTO THE FAMILY OF GOD:

„Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God.” (John 1:13)

„For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:15-16)

10. HE CANNOT PRODUCE REPENTANCE AND FAITH IN CHRIST:

„For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that (faith) not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

„. . . for all men have not faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2)

„For unto you it is given . . . to believe on him . . .” (Philippians 1:29)

„. . . if God peradventure will give them repentance . . .” (2 Timothy 2:25)

„. . . to them that have obtained like precious faith with us . . .” (2 Peter 1:1)

11. HE CANNOT COME TO CHRIST:

„No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him . . . Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:44, 65)

12. HE CANNOT BELIEVE ON CHRIST:

„But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep as I said unto you.” (John 10:26)

13. HE CANNOT PLEASE GOD:

„For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. . . . So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:5, 8, 9)

SO THEN, MANKIND IS SHUT UP TO THE FACT OF HIS OWN TOTAL INABILITY TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT HIS LOST CONDITION.

In the light of these things which a spiritually dead (lost) sinner cannot do, how then do we account for the command of God to all men to repent? The Bible does state that God „. . . now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). What do we do about the counsel of God to men which says they are to believe on Christ? Would God command and instruct men to do that which they cannot do?

We answer an emphatic „Yes!” Our proof is the holy Law of God given to Moses on Mount Sinai. While there was nothing wrong with God’s Law, no man is able to keep those commandments (1 Timothy 1:8; Romans 8:3). No man ever kept the Law of God and yet God was right to give it to man and command its keeping! By that Law we see ourselves as sinners (Romans 3:20). That was the purpose of the Law!

While God requires repentance (the will to turn from sin) and faith (the will to believe in Christ), no man is able of himself to do either. Thus, as with the Law, man is forced to see that there is nothing good in him and that he cannot repent and believe savingly in Jesus Christ.

Throughout the Bible God’s children recognize their own inability to do anything to save themselves. In addition to the portions previously quoted in this tract, consider the following statements:

„. . . I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18)

„Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

„. . . I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.” (Psalm 88:8)

Turn us. O God of our salvation . . .” (Psalm 85:4)

” . . . Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.” (Jeremiah 31:18)

„But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our riqhteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee . . .” (Isaiah 64:6, 7)

„. . . Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).

Those who think that they can properly repent of their own ability and savingly believe of their own faith fall into error. They trust in their own ability and not in the saving work of Jesus Christ! Is not this true of those who boast of their past sins and their turning from them? Do they not claim that they did it themselves? Repeatedly we hear this in their popular „testimony meetings.” Some are willing to share the glory and admit that they had a little help from God, but even this is wicked confidence in the flesh. And do not some religionists boast of their faith as if it was some great thing worthy of reward? Faith (confidence) in my faith or in my turning to God is not „. . . the faith of God’s elect.” (Titus 1:1)

Paul wrote concerning true children of God, „. . . We . . . worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3). To trust in anything done in the flesh (human nature and strength) is to have „confidence in the flesh.” To trust in your prayer, your baptism, your goodness, your faith or any experience you may have had is to have confidence in the flesh and not to trust in Christ. The faith and confidence of the true believer is in Christ! Those born of God trust not in rituals, sacraments, good works, their own repentance or their faith in Christ, but rather in Christ alone!

„Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith . . .” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you trusting in your faith or are you trusting in Christ? What is the object of your faith? Do you really see that all your „righteousnesses are as filthy rags”? (Isaiah 64:6). Have you seen that you deserve Hell? Are you willing to take your place as a sinner and if God sends you to Hell will you say He is just, fair, and righteous to do so? Or do you think yourself unworthy of eternal punishment?

Consider these words from the old English Baptist Gadsby Hymnal.

O beware of trust ill-grounded;
‘Tis but fancied faith at most, 
To be cured, and not be wounded:
To be saved before you’re lost.

Have you never been wounded by the Word of God so that your sins have been laid bare? Have you never been lost–that is, have you seen yourself as hopelessly lost and a Hell-deserving sinner? How can you think yourself saved if you have never been lost? Jesus said, „. . . I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). If a sinner, surely the Scriptures cited in this tract have shown that you are helpless to do anything about your terrible lost condition!

Salvation is free and comes, „Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us . . .” (Titus 3:5). Look to Jesus Christ, who has done all things necessary and possible, „for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

May God give you grace to see yourself as He does, and may He give you the twin gifts of „. . . repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) so that you are „. . . not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).

Adrian Rogers – Satan’s choice for evil and man’s free will (1)

Interviewer- While we’re talking about evil, why does God allow evil on the earth?

Adrian Rogers-

Do you know? That’s a great question and I’ve seen today that more people are perplexed with that question (the problem of evil) than the problem of science. When I started the ministry, people were talking about evolution and whether or not man was created, and they’re not that interested in that question today. They say if there is a God, how can he allow, for example, what happened in New York, on Sept. the 11th? How could God allow the atrocities of war and the devastation we have in the world today?

What about the problem of evil? And people have a little syllogism (conclusion or logical appeal). Before God there was nothing, God created everything, evil is something, so God created evil, so God must be evil. That’s faulty syllogism.

When God made the devil, the Bible says,…and by the way- God created the devil. The devil is not self existent as God is. Only One is self existent. That is God. When God created Satan, he created him in perfection. God did not create evil, God created a perfect being. In Ezekiel chapter 28, God said of Satan, „You were perfect in beauty and the day that you were created, you were perfect.” He’s created, created in perfection.

God did not create evil. He created a perfect being, but now listen. He gave that perfect being, perfect freedom. Now, why did God give the angels  freedom and why does God give us freedom?

Photo(C) by http://www.martin-liebermann.de”

Because God wants worship and God wants love. If God made me, where I were not free, why couldn’t I choose to do evil? Then, correspondently, I couldn’t choose to do good. If I can not choose not to love God, I can’t choose to love God. If I can’t choose to be loyal to God, I cannot choose to be disloyal. I would only choose to be an inanimate object, a robot or whatever. So, God created a being, perfect in wisdom and perfect in beauty and that being chose to sin. Now, what is the highest good? The highest good, the greatest commandment is to love God. That is the greatest commandment. This is the first and great commandment. Therefore, that is the highest good- to love God. Well, in order to love God, I have to have a choice. And, so, God gave us a choice that we might attain the highest good. And, Satan had that choice and he blew it, he ruined it through pride.

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