Introduction to the Intellectual Basis of Christianity, LESSON PLAN 1

OPENNING COMMENTS – In this class when I say things like, “the Bible teaches or says; the biblical position is; according to the Scriptures; etc., I don’t mean there are specific passages that say that – there may be, but I’m referring to the thrust of the Scriptures.  It seems to me that the Bible is written in such a way as to encourage us to draw conclusions.  So by such language I’m referring to summaries that gather in what the revelation is implying and how it treats certain subjects.

PART 1: the question of being or existence – The first question is, What is there [what things do we find in the universe] and what is its origin?  The Bible’s answer to the question of existence or being is in part:

[DIAGRAM 1 - write the underlined words in center of board]

There is a Creator – holy (separate, on a different plane [out of our league], transcendent, in a class by Himself)/eternal/unchanging/infinite (greater than, unbounded, unlimited, inexhaustible) the Being is an intelligent designer

--------------------------------------------{break representing the separation}-----------------------------------

There is also a creation [categories include everything that is part of the material universe]

             stuff - matter (stars, planets, oceans, solids, liquids, gasses, elements, etc.);
 energies (light, radiation, electricity, etc.);                                           ALL NON-LIFE
 [forces – non-substantive influences (gravity, magnetism, etc.)]
animals                      ALL LIFE

What does the existence of a deliberate creation imply?  that there is purpose and meaning

What answer is there to the question of existence without the Bible’s revelation?

[DIAGRAM 2 - write underlined words to the left]

                     stuff - matter; energies; [forces]                       ALL NON-LIFE
animals                      ALL LIFE
                         - - - - - - -

What answer is there to the question of origin without the Bible’s revelation?

The current form and complexity of the physical universe resulted from the random interaction of matter, energy, and forces [the origin of which is unknown] over time.

Discussion - Each inanimate particular behaves consistently according to its own nature, according to what it is.  Under given conditions it will act the same way every time [predictably automatically] as prescribed by the laws of physics and chemistry.  In other words, all such materials and energies exhibit specific built-in programmed characteristics and behave mechanically, like a clockwork machine.  For example, a body at rest or in motion will not change its state of rest or motion unless it is acted upon by an outside force.  A compound, a gas, or any material will remain stable as long as it is not acted upon by an outside force such as heat, radiation, sound, vibration, pressure, chemicals, etc.  In other words, without a sufficient cause, there will be no measurable change [reaction or effect].  [The same applies to living organisms, though there is some variation from one to another of the same type due to biological and conditioning differences.]  This is the basis for all planning, design, manufacturing, and construction.

What does the existence of a randomly generated complex and intricate [interconnected, interwoven] universe imply?  that there is no purpose, meaning, or significance to the existence of any of it

Discussion - In such a framework, the different categories cannot be maintained.  There can be no real difference between mankind and animals…or between plants and the machine [stuff].

[Continue developing diagram 2]

   } machinery
                      } machinery
 } animals

In fact, because everything is randomly generated, all definitions for distinguishing different categories are arbitrary and therefore lack sufficient intrinsic characteristics to maintain their uniqueness from everything else.  After all, it’s all merely stuff smashing into other stuff interacting with energies and forces without any design or purpose.  Ultimately nothing can escape being part of the machine, programmed and operating with mathematical certainty.  Such an inevitable conclusion is completely unsatisfying and unlivable because man doesn’t fit [belong] in this kind of a universe.  Man as man [personal being with free will] is dead [dehumanized, he is a myth, such a man does not and never did exist].  Yet everything in us cries out against this and forces us to find ways to relieve the tension.  Man is caught (1) between what the logic of his viewpoint says he is in contrast to what he knows himself to be, and (2) between what the logic of his viewpoint says the universe is in contrast to what the obvious designed nature of the universe implies.  But because this randomly generated universe is his entire frame of reference, every attempt to relieve or resolve the tension results in just another way to deceive himself.  In the end, he is nothing more than a bio-chemical mechanism having the illusion of life in a universe having the appearance of design.

Given our current understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology, how likely is it that this scenario of a randomly generated universe can or has occurred?  What problems present?

Discussion - Cause and effect must necessarily be the basic principle by which a rational universe operates.  In other words, cause and effect is the underlying principal of rationality.  For every effect observed, only causes deemed firstly possible and secondly adequate may be posited.  This means that every effect is caused and tracing the chain of causes and effects means considering adequate [sufficient for what is required] causes only.  Only the creator can act contrary to natural cause and effect progressions.  He determined the mechanics of the system and He can interrupt it.  What would be an example of this?  Jesus saying stretch out your hand and the man’s withered hand was made whole.

Though evolution presents a model that can be imagined, it overcomes none of the hurdles relating to existence with a viable explanation: it fails to explain in terms of (1) proving that the existence of what we know to be part of reality or that proposed changes are possible [viable – capable as proposed, workable, practicable, feasible] without intelligent manipulation from outside the system; and (2) that such changes actually happened as the means by which the current universe came to be.  What’s wrong with the answer, the universe exists, therefore it must have happened [ie, come about by chance]?  It is circular reasoning [assumes what it seeks to prove] which discounts the biblical position.  Some of the problems are: [see Cause & Effect]

·                    origin of the universe [existence of matter and energy] and governing laws;
existence of form and structures in the universe
[planetary and stellar systems];
transition from inanimate matter and energy to living entities;
transition from one type of living being to another
[What is the purpose and function of genes - to serve as a mechanism for change from one kind of thing into a wholly different one?  No – stasis: to maintain the distinctiveness of what an organism is while allowing adaptive changes to occur for survival.];
transition to mankind.

Each of these obstacles contains numerous barriers that likewise have not been explained in any sense of the word “adequate.”  For instance, the origin of living organisms requires the following biochemical mechanisms and controlling information be present and functioning simultaneously: organism’s composition and structure [such as selective membranes]; a safe place to live [Is a chemical soup safe?] without being destroyed by detrimental elements within its environment; the animating feature of life; food and a means to recognize and distinguish from poisons; a means to ingest it, metabolize it, including mechanisms for respiration and excretion; a means for growth, maturing, reproducing, and dying; etc.

PART 2: To the first question, What is there and what is its origin, there is a second part to Bible’s answer.

[DIAGRAM 3 - write underlined words to the right]

The creator, God, is a personal being with a personality (distinctive qualities characterizing personness) and character
He created Man as a personal being

--------------------------------------------{break representing the separation}-----------------------------------

There is also the rest of the creation placed under Man’s care

                     animals                      ALL OTHER LIFE
machinery                      ALL NON-LIFE

What does this imply?  that Man is not alone in the universe, there is someone there to whom he can relate.  My existence has significance because I also can act into the creation and effect changes in an unprogrammed way.  What would be an example of this?  By God’s grace, I can alter the flow of the action and reaction cycle by forgiving a wrong against me or not retaliating in kind to a personal attack.  And I can ask God to intervene because He can interrupt the natural laws and reverse my infertility.

What about man without the Bible?  the impersonal beginning by chance interactions of energy particles and matter has, over time [the impersonal + time + chance], kicked man up out of the cosmos, yet he is personal – he knows himself as being more than impersonal plus complexity.  He has aspirations, feelings, moral inklings that there is a right and wrong – this leads to a complete alienation of man from everything else.  Hope, purpose, significance are ultimately unachievable.  Those things that make him man, love, beauty, creativity, motions of morality, rationality, verbal communication, are meaningless.  In such a situation, is man higher or lower than the algae on the rocks?  Once he accepts an impersonal beginning, he cannot escape the conclusion of behaviorism and all forms of determinism (chemical, psychological, sociological) that free-will (the freedom to make uncoerced and unpredictable choices among alternative possible courses of action) is an illusion - he has been reduced to less than man, less than animal – he is a programmed machine.  The only way he can relieve the tension between what he is and what the logic of an impersonal beginning says he is [in the midst of a universe that testifies to the existence of a designer/builder], is through immersing himself in the details of life (work, pleasure, interests) as a technician distracted from or avoiding the big questions of life, or by embracing some form of irrational optimism.  He has no choice but to abandon reason.  Such a man can only function as man for an extended period of time by acting as if the logic of his presuppositions were false and the logic of the Bible’s presuppositions were correct.

Discussion – We can now understand the simple phrases Francis Schaeffer uses to describe these two positions.  Both recognize the consistency of natural cause and effect sequences that operate in a machine-like way producing a cascade of reactions.  But the non-Christian scenario takes place in a completely enclosed [self-contained, isolated] universe where there is no outside influence or cause and everything that exists is part of the machinery – the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.

[Draw a box around machinery in diagram 2]

But, the Christian understands that both God and un-programmed man can introduce new cause and effect chains into the machinery - the uniformity of natural causes in an open system.

[Point to diagram 3]

You can email me questions or comments to, and request these notes.  Put the phrase “Sunday School” on the subject line.  Get the notes and review the material in preparation for next week’s class where we’ll discuss the area of morals and the problem of knowledge and truth from the Christian and non-Christian foundations of this lesson.