Is Belief In Divine Action Only a Matter of Faith?

I’d like to make a couple comments about an article that recently appeared in USA Today. It appeared in section A on the very back page, in a section called The Forum. The article is entitled “The God Choice” written by Barbara Hagerty. She writes, “A few years ago, I witnessed two great British scientists in a showdown,” John Barrow, on the one hand, and Richard Dawkins on the other. John Barrow, who is a Cambridge mathematician, asserted that “the astonishing precision of the universe was evidence for ‘divine action.’’ When he made that remark, Richard Dawkins, Oxford Biologist nearly leapt from his seat. “But why would you want to look for evidence of divine action?” he demanded.[1]

She goes on to write how today there is some evidence of divine action. One of the anecdotes that she writes about is Pam Reynolds. The story of Pam Reynolds is that she was in an operating room, having a procedure done on her brain. When she awakened from the operation, “She could describe what the operating theater looked like and how many surgeons there were. She could describe the unusual-looking bone saw that cut open her head, as well as the drill bits and blade container. She heard conversations.” Barbara Hagerty points out that from the surgical records—everything even in the smallest details—was confirmed. She then says, this “story raises the question: Was Reynolds’ consciousness operating separately from her brain?” Her conclusion is then this, “In the end, we could learn that we are nothing more than nerve cells and molecules,” or we could come “to believe that our brain activity reflects an unseen reality… Either way, whether you are Richard Dawkins or doctor and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, what you believe is a matter of faith.”[2]

I would say that in that she is dead wrong. It’s not merely a matter of faith. From the perspective of logic we can demonstrate that the mind is not identical to the brain. We can prove that the mind and brain have different properties. For example, “the feeling of pain…is different from anything that is simply physical. If the world were only made of matter, these subjective aspects of consciousness would not exist.”[3]

Furthermore, from a legal perspective, if human beings were merely material, they could not be held accountable this year for a crime committed last year, because physical identity changes over time. Of course a criminal who attempts to use this line of defense wouldn’t get very far. Legally and intuitively, we recognize a sameness of soul that establishes personal identity over time.

One other point; Liberation freedom (freedom of the will) presupposes that we are more than mere material beings. If I am merely material, my choices are merely a function of such factors as genetic makeup and brain chemistry. Therefore, my decisions would not be free; they would be fatalistically determined. The implications of such a notion are profound to say the least. In a worldview that embraces fatalistic determinism, I cannot be held morally accountable for my actions, because reward and punishment only make sense if we have freedom of the will.

While the logical, legal, and libertarian freedom arguments are convincing in and of themselves; there is an even more powerful and persuasive argument demonstrating the reality of life beyond the grave—in other words, demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are more than mere nerve cells and molecules. The argument, of course, flows from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the resurrection, Christ not only demonstrated that He does not stand in the line of peers with Abraham, Buddha, or Confucius but also provided compelling evidence for life after death.

There is so much evidence we have today that we are not mere molecules in motion. We have the origin of life, fine-tuning in the universe to support life, information in the genetic code, irreducible complexity in biological systems, and the phenomena of the human mind. They all collectively pose intractable difficulties for merely natural explanations. Bottom line is that we’re going to never wake up and find out that as Barbara Hagerty, who by the way is a correspondent for NPR, put it, “we are nothing more than nerve cells and molecules.”[4]

It doesn’t matter if you multiply Richard Dawkins by a thousand, philosophical naturalism is dead in an age of scientific enlightenment. The philosophical naturalists are beating their drum and asking us to march lock step with them because it is an ideology that is now so rampant in the universities that unless you embrace it without question, you’re going to have a lot of difficulty getting tenure. This is not about science anymore, it’s about being in step with the times, and being in step with the times means being in step with what is politically correct as opposed to what is demonstratably true.


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[1]  USA Today, 6/22/09, page 9A, The Forum, “The God Choice” by Barbara Bradley Hagerty (http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/06/the-god-choice.html). Accessed 6/23/09

[3] Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland, Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence For Immortality (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 52.

[4] USA Today, 6/22/09, page 9A, The Forum, “The God Choice” by Barbara Bradley Hagerty (http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/06/the-god-choice.html).

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