Nic Bertsch

Atheism Requires a Little Humility

By Nick Bertsch

When conversing with various atheists, I have encountered sort of a self-righteousness that confuses me. There is a certain sense in which many have a very condescending view of anyone they deem stupid enough to believe in a creator of the universe. The funny thing is, there are more problems in explaining reality for those who deny God's existence, than there are for those who affirm it. Here are a few off the top of my head, just to start.

First, most atheists are also naturalists or materialists. They believe all that exists is matter. In other words, "In the beginning were the particles." If this is the case, then it follows that wherever each person is at this moment is the result of physical processes. We are basically molecules in motion, or "moist robots." This should mean that our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, etc. are not rational but chemical, and we have no control over them. Whatever sense of morality we have, whatever view of God we have, and whatever else we think, are not something freely chosen or deduced rationally, but rather caused by chemical reactions in the brain. In other words, we don't reason, we just react. There is no free will in this view; we are biologically determined. This means that the atheist has no grounds to think his view is rational, because his beliefs are caused by his biology. Chances are though, most atheists will switch categories, claim they have free will, and yet cling to a worldview that undermines it completely.

Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel argues as much in his book Mind and Cosmos. He writes: "Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself."[1]

Second, although I am sure some will disagree, it seems that it is atheists who, more often than not, will take the wildly counter-intuitive position of denying such blindingly obvious things as objective morality and consciousness to argue against a creator. Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, has famously said, "DNA neither knows nor cares, DNA just is, and we dance to its music."[2] There are many atheists who will even argue that our consciousness is an illusion. Despite such bold statements, they will then proceed to argue about the immorality of religion (which is really just people dancing to their DNA, supposedly) using what they feel are rational arguments produced by their consciousness which is supposedly illusory . . . for everyone but them. Makes sense, right?

not-atheist-symbol1Third, when the best answer your worldview can provide in many cases is "we don't know," then it would be polite not to look down on those who draw an inference to the best explanation by positing God. The origin of life, the origin of the universe, and the origin of consciousness are a few things that have no plausible explanation within the worldview of naturalism, and it would be nice to see an atheist or two be a little more charitable with Christians, since "we don't know" is the best they can ultimately come up with when pressed.

Fourth, even though it's a standard atheist tactic to blame religion for causing more wars and violence than anything else, it is actually atheism that has the higher body count. Regimes like those of Stalin, Lenin, and Mao Zedong made atheism the institutionalized position, resulting in the slaughter of over 100 million people combined, many of whom were religious people. Is it because all atheists are evil? Of course not. It is because atheism reduces us from human beings created in the image of God, with intrinsic value, to glorified animals with extrinsic value, who can be killed if they are not useful or oppose what you want. If a person has the power these men had, and views people this way, there is nothing logically incoherent about killing anyone who disagrees. Those claiming to be Christians who committed violence did so against the teachings of Jesus. Read for yourself. However, those who believe we are all animals and are accountable to no one have the logical backing for some pretty ugly things. Most atheists don't think like this, which I am glad for, but there is nothing in the logical outworking of their worldview which would prevent them from doing so. In other words, they are inconsistent yet again, and should be a bit more charitable to those with a worldview that doesn't lead logically to these kinds of things.

Fifth, since most atheists think evolution is really to blame for the way we all think and behave, why is it so impossible for them to keep their evolution to themselves and let Christians and everyone else believe what they want? Why are they so threatened by us? Why do some feel the need to remove any mention of God from anything in society, and silence or ostracize anyone who dares to dissent? I find it a little telling of the weakness of their worldview. If religion is a product of evolution that has helped people survive, then there is no explanation for the irrational hatred so many atheists have for it.

Finally, it is seemingly impossible for many atheists to accurately represent the Christian worldview before they proceed to argue against it. They consistently build a straw man of what we don't believe (with a few verses ripped out of context from the Old Testament thrown in), and then proceed to tear it apart. If you can't argue confidently and logically against a view someone actually holds, then don't look down on them with such disdain for holding it.

I could probably rant forever on this, but I think I have made my point. I love when good conversations happen, but find more and more that the tone, and the tactics, are often unhelpful. There are many like me who have not blindly accepted belief in God, but have logically thought it through and find His existence undeniable. The reality is, there are massive problems with the atheistic worldview, and it would serve some atheists well to have a little humility in view of this. Christians are not the only ones with questions to answer.


[1] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 27.

[2] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 133.

How Is Everything So Messed Up?

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By Nic Bertsch

How many times have you heard someone say something like this?

"This world is so messed up."

Or:

"Human beings are so messed up."

If you have never heard anyone say something like this, just ask the next person you talk to if they agree with either of the statements. The answer will almost always be yes. Those who would identify themselves as atheists, especially when their guard is down, will likewise agree that there is a massive amount of dysfunction in both people and the planet. Beliefs like these, however, are not compatible with atheism. In this post, I want explore this problem and shed some light on the inability of atheism to explain the real world.

Debris on a beach in Sharm el-Naga, Egypt. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)Take environmentalism as an example. Those who would deem themselves environmentalists, would definitely agree that the planet is messed up. After all, they are constantly petitioning people and governments to reduce pollution and increase conservation efforts. They look down with disdain on those who don't believe in global warming. There are even some of the more radical types, who actually favour reducing the population in order to help conserve animal and plant life and cut down on pollution. The question for anyone holding this view, if they are an atheist, is why?

To spot the confusion, we need to take a step back and start at the beginning. In the worldview of atheism, specifically naturalism or materialism, all that exists is matter. The universe came from nothing, by nothing, for no reason. The fact that any kind of life exists defies all probability. Humans, along with every other life form in the universe, are an accident. There is no creator, just particles. Now that we have that established: why should we think the planet is messed up?

Things can only be messed up, if there is a way they ought to be. If everything is an accident, if there is no design or purpose in life or the universe, then there is no "ought." There just is.

Think about it for a second: The temperature of the earth has been both warmer and colder than it is now. The majority of species of animals and plants that have ever existed have gone extinct. This is what happens on earth. Why should we think, especially from the viewpoint of an atheist, that there is any reason to preserve the earth in some arbitrary state that environmentalists determine is the way it "ought" to be? The earth and the universe just are, remember? There is no design or meaning or purpose. We are an accident. We all will die, the earth will die, the universe will die, and no act of environmentalism will change that in any ultimate sense.

This is a big point of inconsistency amongst atheists, as they desperately want to affirm the need to preserve the environment, even though it makes absolutely no sense in their worldview. I say again: If the planet is messed up, it can only be because it was designed, and that design has been disrespected or abused in some way. Well, a design needs a designer. I have a feeling that the idea of a designer is not something many atheists would be quick to embrace, yet they can't help but think in those terms. It's almost like they are fighting against reality.

The same problem exists when dealing with human beings. To say that a person is messed up, also implies there is a way they "ought" to be. Where does that "ought" come from? If we all evolved from lower life forms through an unguided natural process that didn't have us in mind, then who are we to judge the evolution of another human being?

Think about the kind of person that pretty much anyone would classify as "messed up": people like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ted Bundy, Darth Vader, Oscar the Grouch, etc. (Okay, those last two may not quite be on the same level as the others, but they're still very messed up.) To what, or who, are we comparing them to when we refer to them this way? By what standard are they messed up, and us closer to the way humans "ought" to be? If atheism is true, then there is no standard. There is no way humans "ought" to behave. No one is messed up, we are just different.

Here we see once again where atheism runs contrary to reality. Check any atheist blog, website, or podcast, and you will undoubtedly hear a surplus of emoting on the evils of religion and its adherents—especially Christians. Indeed, human beings cannot help but think in moral terms. Moral "oughtness" is a hard concept to escape from, because reality is built that way. The implications of the atheistic worldview don't match up with the way the world really is. If your worldview has no standard to judge humans as "messed up," especially when they clearly are, then it seems to me that your worldview is false.

In the Christian worldview, there is no logical conflict with affirming either of these views. We believe the planet is messed up because we believe it was designed a certain way. The entire Christian worldview is built upon the foundation that at the Fall of mankind, disorder and brokenness entered creation, and since then the world has never been what is was meant to be. There is no conflict or category switching necessary for the Christian to be consistent. Moreover, we believe we do have a responsibility to care for the environment, because we were placed as stewards over what God created. We can explain our obligation to the environment and each other by grounding it in our God-given responsibilities. Atheism cannot ground such responsibility in anything other than personal preference.

Likewise, we believe that people are messed up because there is a way they were designed to be. Our moral compass is something we have from being created in God's image, which is why we cannot avoid—whether as an atheist or theist—speaking in moral terms. We know there is an "ought," when it comes to morality, and a designer is the only logical explanation for that.

The inability to be consistent within one's worldview is a good indicator that the worldview in question is not an accurate description of reality. The planet, and humans really are messed up, and an honest atheist will admit as much. What they will lack in the end, is any logical reason to believe such a thing. Maybe, just maybe, there really is a way things are supposed to be. Perhaps it's no accident at all we feel the way we do.

The 4 C's: A Christian Approach to Homosexuality

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By Nic Bertsch

The tide of the culture has changed, and there is no denying it. There was a time, not too long ago, when the topic of homosexuality was hardly on anyone's mind, especially within the church. But today, the ground has shifted so much that it seems like the only time the church is even newsworthy is when this topic is up for debate. Things have changed so fast, and so aggressively, that many Christians have been left with no idea how to even approach the issue, for fear of being labelled a bigot or a homophobe. The reality is, however, that the church has been dealing with the issue of homosexuality for the last two thousand years. In this post I want to lay out some of the necessary tools for approaching this issue from a Christian perspective. I have named it the 4 C's approach (patent pending).

The first C is Courage. The fact that the issue has become so politically charged means that it requires courage for anyone to involve themselves in the issue if they refuse to adopt the politically-correct view. In many cases, you will be called a bigot or a homophobe, regardless of your motivation or tone, simply for saying that homosexuality is not what God—or evolution for that matter—intended for humanity. Jesus predicted this for those who stood with Him, and we should not be surprised or deterred by it. Courage is also so vital, because that is what our friends, co-workers and family members who identify as LGBT need. They need someone who will have the courage to love them unconditionally, in the true sense of the word. There are enough people in the culture who are going to celebrate their chosen lifestyle, and push them even further into it. To truly love someone requires having the courage to tell them the truth. It means telling them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, but loving them as a human and not a project.

By Enver Rahmanov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsSecond, Compassion. While traditionally holding a strong stance against homosexuality in the past, the church has many times had zero compassion. It has, in many ways, failed to reach out to the LGBT community, and has damaged many people in the process. Every single human being, regardless of size, ethnicity, capability, identity, or attraction, is created in the image of God. The intrinsic value of human beings is part of what makes the Christian worldview what it is—the best explanation for reality. However, it has been rare, especially in the past, for the church to act like they really believe that. There have been many that have looked down their noses at the LGBT community, self-righteously condemning the entire group without the slightest hint of compassion for the truly horrible struggles each person must have gone through.

There are sadly many members of the LGBT community that are former Christians, utterly rejected by their communities simply because of attractions that they did not choose. We as the body of Christ are called to be better than this, to love better than this. We must be more intentional about creating an environment where people can talk openly about their struggles, without fear of condemnation, and where loving fellowship and accountability are readily available for all who seek to deny themselves and follow Christ—whatever their struggles may be.

Third, Consistency. We as Christians, while affirming the Bible's clear teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behaviour, need to be equally consistent in condemning everything else the Bible calls sin as well. Pornography addiction is a massive problem in the church, even though few Christians are willing to speak out against it, admit to their struggles with it, or be held as accountable for it as I am sure we would demand of someone struggling with same-sex attraction. Divorce rates in some churches are virtually the same as amongst non-Christians. Sex before marriage, cohabitation, immodesty, and lust are rampant within Christian circles, and the Bible condemns all of these behaviours. Christians are called to crucify all aspects of the depravity and brokenness that we struggle with, and we need to be as forgiving and patient with those who are battling with unwanted same-sex attraction as we are with everyone else. Homosexual behaviour is not the worst sin, but rather one of many.

Another area where the church has not been consistent is in promoting the value of singleness as much as marriage. There are many within the church, both heterosexual and homosexual, who have chosen, or been forced by circumstance, to remain single. While we preach continually on the virtues of marriage, those who are single are often left behind, convinced more and more that they are missing something or are less than what they should be. It is this dynamic, along with the radical individualism in our culture, that has made the idea of celibacy for same-sex attracted individuals a non-option in their minds. In reality, Christ has the ability to fulfil the needs and desires of all who seek Him, and those who are single can be much more fruitful in their service to Him than most married couples often can.

Fourth, non-Compromise. Jesus demands something from every single person that wishes to follow Him: total devotion.

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me . . ." (Luke 9:23 NASB, emphasis added).

Self-denial is expected of anyone who wishes to follow Jesus, gay or straight. There is no reason to adopt the pro-gay theology being pushed on the church. The Bible is clear, and it always has been. For thousands of years, it had been understood that openly and unrepentantly practising homosexuality, like many other things, was unacceptable for professing Christians. The Bible gives no exceptions, and there have been no new textual, historical, archeological or any other kind of discoveries that should change that. We must not compromise on this issue, even if we are hated for it at the moment—and let's face it, we are. We must not begin to call good what God calls sin. As the culture continues to promote sexual anarchy in so many different ways, the body of Christ will end up being the place of refuge for those who have tried to redefine reality and been damaged in the attempt. We are called to be counter-cultural, and to be persecuted for fidelity to Christ is to be expected. He is worth it.

When we approach this issue with the attitude of Jesus, full of grace and truth, we can have a lasting and meaningful impact on the lives of those who identify as LGBT in our midst. We must have the courage to reach out, the compassion to unconditionally love, the consistency to demand of ourselves what we demand of others, and the fortitude to not compromise in the face of cultural pressure. We must not try to convince anyone that heterosexual attraction is necessary to follow Jesus. God requires holiness, not heterosexuality. Changing people is God's job, not ours. Our job is to be ambassadors for Christ, and show those in every walk of life that He is worth whatever sacrifice they have to make.

Nick Bertsch is a 31 year old husband and father of two from Calgary, Alberta. He is an electrician by trade, but has been an avid student of Christian apologetics for many years. He is in the process of obtaining a Certificate of Apologetics from Biola University, and runs a blog site called Defending Truth Apologetics which can be found at defendingtruth.ca

The Most Important Event in Human History

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By Nic Bertsch

It's that time of the year again. Time for chocolate bunnies, painted eggs, and no school for the kids. That's right, it's Easter. In fact, very often those things are the only reason for the season in the minds of many non-Christians. Far too often I have personally encountered people who have no idea what actually happened on Easter weekend. It is a sad reality that the culture in which we find ourselves is extremely ignorant about the most important event in human history. This event created the movement that has impacted more people and cultures and countries than anything else. This event was the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Starting in Israel, Christianity spread like wildfire. By the 300s, the pluralistic, thoroughly depraved Roman Empire was converted, without any bloodshed except that of the Christians themselves. The spread continued across the Middle East and Europe, and eventually came to be the foundation on which our culture was shaped as well. All of the freedoms and values we have come to enjoy are based on Christian values. Things like religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of association, women's equality, and social justice don't come from Islam or Hinduism, and they certainly don't come from atheism. All of these things are rooted in a Christian worldview, and that worldview comes from the fact that over 2000 years ago, a group of people radically proclaimed that a man who had been executed through the most painful means ever created had been raised from the dead.

The difference between this claim and the claims of every other religion is that it was testable. The people Jesus had trained to follow after Him could have said He had been raised in spirit, or that He was alive in their hearts, or maybe even that He had been reincarnated as someone else. But they didn't. They claimed Jesus was physically alive. They claimed to have seen Him, talked to Him, touched Him, and eaten with Him, and they challenged people to prove them wrong. And it wasn't just the disciples of Jesus either. Hostile people like Jesus' brother James and Saul of Tarsus said the same thing. There was no reason for this at all, unless they believed Jesus had actually risen from the dead. None of these people had anything to gain except rejection, imprisonment, torture and death.

As Paul said, "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:14 NIV). This is a bold statement that sets the entire Christian worldview up for failure if someone can prove the resurrection false, and yet no one has. There have certainly been those who have tried, but their speculative theories and radical skepticism have done a poor job of accounting for the strong historical evidence that exists. Virtually all scholars, Christian and non-Christian, hold some facts to be virtually undeniable:

  • Jesus existed.
  • He died by crucifixion.
  • His tomb was empty and His body was never recovered.
  • His disciples and hostiles like Paul and James claimed to have seen Him risen from the dead.
  • His disciples were transformed from cowards, into martyrs that started the explosion of early Christianity.

There are only so many ways to explain this kind of data, and most have been tried and found wanting.

Was the Body Stolen?

This theory raises more questions than it answers. Who would steal the body? The Romans wanted Jesus dead, and so did the Jews. The disciples had nothing to gain by stealing the body except death, which they got. This doesn't explain why Paul would convert, and it doesn't seem logical to say that the disciples who stole the body would then go and die for something they knew was false. People may die for something they believe is true, but not for something they know is false.

Did the Disciples Hallucinate?

This is a popular explanation, but once again explains the data poorly. Jesus appeared to groups of people, not just individuals. Groups of people don't all hallucinate the same thing. If He was a hallucination, then it could have been shown to be false by producing Jesus' body, but the tomb was empty. Why would a hostile like Paul also hallucinate the same thing? Also, while it is true that many people claim to see deceased loved ones after they have died, no one is ever convinced that their loved ones have actually risen from the dead physically.

Maybe Jesus Never Actually Died?

This claim is made by some Muslims and has also been put forth by various skeptics. This theory has massive problems, though. Jesus' death by crucifixion is one of the most well-attested events in history. There is almost no one in the scholarly world who denies that Jesus died by crucifixion. But how does this theory deal with the evidence? It seems hard to believe that if Jesus somehow survived His horrible beating and crucifixion that He could then convince His disciples that He was risen from the dead. They might have been impressed that He could survive such a beating. They might have sent for a doctor. But it seems irrational to think they would be convinced of a resurrection. For more on this, see my article, "Did Jesus Die on the Cross?"

The Resurrection, by Carl Heinrich BlochThere are other theories out there, but these ones are the most common. However, there is no explanation that does a better job of explaining the historical data than the resurrection of Jesus. All that is necessary to accept that Jesus rose from the dead is for people to suspend the inherent bias against supernatural events that most in Western culture are oppressed by. After all, it is extremely dishonest to investigate a miracle claim by starting with the assumption that miracles never happen. Many radical skeptics of the resurrection, once they were able to put their anti-supernatural bias aside and stop assuming that it couldn't have happened, have come to believe it actually did happen.

It seems to me that accepting that the death and resurrection of Jesus as true is not as hard as people claim it is. We believe all kinds of things with much less evidence than we have for the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. What is hard for many people to understand or accept is why? Why did Jesus have to die? Why does it matter if He rose from the dead? The answer to those questions is what really challenges the fallen heart of human beings.

Jesus did not deserve to die. We did. Every single person has broken, or will break, God's law. Worse yet, if we don't want to live by God's standards, we can set our own, and we will still be guilty of breaking them. We are broken and guilty, and every honest person knows it. If God is perfectly just, then He is justified in punishing every single person. God is also not obligated to offer anyone a pardon, any more than any human judge has to offer a pardon to someone who has broken the law before he can send them to jail. This is bad news for all, and it is this bad news that answers the first question: why did Jesus have to die? He died the death that we should have, and because He was God, He was the only one who could satisfy the debt.

When Jesus appeared alive three days after being executed, it showed His disciples several things. It showed them that He was God as He claimed to be. It showed them that death was not the end. And it showed them that the price had been paid for our debt with God, and that all we needed to do was accept the pardon.

It was that understanding that transformed them into men and women that would proclaim this message to their dying breath. It was that message that started the movement that changed the face of the world. That is why the death and resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in human history, and that is why Easter really matters.