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Atheism or Theism? (Which Is Reasonable?)

Man Standing Before the Stars

Summary: Discoveries in modern science have challenged old assumptions about the existence of God and the universe. The landscape of related issues is shifting. But will atheism survive? This article deals with the relevant data to that question. Click here to subscribe to future blog posts.


The Resurrection of God

On the 8th of April in 1966, Time Magazine printed one of it’s most famous articles. Featured in bright red lettering over a stark black back-drop, the cover imposingly read “IS GOD DEAD?” The article reflected upon the great amount of unbelief and skepticism which was at that time growing within American thought. The Lost Angeles Times would later refer to it as one of the top “10 magazine covers that shook the world.” [1]

More recently, Jon Meacham, in the widely read Newsweek, similarly wrote on the very same trend. Commenting on the growing godlessness of the American church, he referenced an article written by a Christian entitled: “Does Your Pastor Believe In God?” On the broadside of the journal was a repro of the classic Time Magazine cover which occasioned some 3,500 letters to the editor. There, featured in striking cruciform make, over a plain black backdrop were the words: “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.” [2]

There can thus be no denying it—atheism is on the trend. No single world and life view has managed to halt it’s upward course. America is turning it’s back on God in startling numbers, signaling the largest church walk-out in recent American religious memory. The situation for most Christians appears morbid and grim. Many wonder what it will take to reverse the awful trend. As Christian culture watcher, R. Albert Mohler Jr. recently reported, America seems to be fast becoming “…the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified.” [3]

How shocking then to some when in late 2014, the Wall Street Journal would choose to report on a notably different trend. The article, written by Eric Mataxas, carried the surprising headline: “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” [4] The stunning deposition directly cited the infamous Time Magazine cover, calling it’s 1966 verdict “premature.” [5] Indeed, one might now be hard pressed to disagree with that assessment, since Time itself later published a sequel to that very issue entitled: “Is God Coming Back to Life?” [6]

God it seems has managed to beat the odds. He has defied his own death sentence. And he refuses to fade away. He has outlived the expectations of naturalists who once thought that he would shrink like Thor, the thunder god, before the booming voice of science. Instead, God seems intent on remaining quite alive. He continues to occupy the halls of higher learning. He bewilders the attempts of atheists to refute him, showing them that even their own arguments serve only to prove that he exists.

Our Miraculous Universe

Recently, I wrote of this again while drafting a letter to a loved one. I was urging a friend to consider the gospel truth. He was clearly open to having faith in God, but felt a great lack of evidence was standing in the way. It appeared he was unaware of the startling new proof. He was ignorant of the new scientific evidence for God. For in fact, it was the voice of science itself which lately prompted the Wall Street Journal to describe the universe as “The greatest miracle of all time…” [7]

But at what point should atheists admit that this is true? Or when is it fair to say that creation itself is a sign or a wonder? Today, following nearly a century of profound discoveries, scientists now seem to be agreeing that we have reached that critical point. Sir Arthur Eddington, for example, in his well known book, The Expanding Universe, wrote the following remarkable statement: “The beginning of the universe seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.” [8] And Alan Sandage, a fellow scientist and the discoverer of Quasars, likewise made a similar statement: “God…is the [only] explanation for the miracle of existence, of why there is something instead of nothing.” [9]

But that only begs the question: What exactly is a miracle? Or, what passes as a “textbook case” of this kind? Oxford University Press defines “miracle” as: “A surprising…event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws…” [10] Listed with the definition is perhaps the archetypal example. It is first on the list, so as not to be somehow missed. Incidentally, it is the very same event which comes to mind for most Christians—namely, “the miracle of the resurrection.” [11]

I thus began to answer my friend by turning first to Jesus. I recounted the Bible’s record of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt 14:13-21). In it, Christ offers us a textbook case of a miracle by supernaturally multiplying two fish and five loaves. This is a classic example of creation “ex-nihilo.” That is—it is depiction of a creation “from nothing.” As God himself, Jesus creates “out of nothing,” bringing matter (bread) into existence just to show us that he is mighty.

With the exception of Jesus’ Easter rising, only this bears equal mention. It is seen in all four gospels. It is truly a marvel beyond compare. For this reason, an entire guild of skeptical Bible scholars deny it. Apparently, as Newsweek reports, modern “Bible teachers” agree with atheists. Some things—at least these things—are just too difficult for us to believe. Therefore, these “Christian” college professors are turning their students from their faith in God. How curious then that these very same professors would fail to see that the denial of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 actually debunks atheism.

The Slow Decay

Turning to the man’s letter, I thus reminded him of the current crisis: All of modern science proves the universe had a beginning. In fact, theoretical physicist, Alexander Vilenkin, has written: “With the proof now in place, [we] can no longer hide behind…a past eternal universe…” [12] So it’s time to face the music. There is simply no denying it. We must, as Vilenkin urges, “…face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” [13]

I therefore urged my friend to soberly contemplate this point. I challenged him to consider the brevity of our passing age. I did it by mentioning the most dismal up-to-date proof. I wrote to him of the evidence of the gradual aging of our universe. This is best explained by the science of thermodynamics. It is this which accounts for nature’s inability to keep itself from dying. So, the longer our solar system spins, the more it depletes it’s usable energy. Astronomer, Beatrice Tinsley, described it in the following, despairing words: “Our own sun will become a cold dead remnant floating…in an increasingly isolated Milky Way.” [14]

Tinsley’s portrait of our future fate is certainly very grim. But the prognosis from modern thermodynamics is actually worse than this. For the same set of laws hold that matter cannot be created. The universe therefore cannot back-fill itself with new material as it ages. Simply put, the universe cannot be replenished. Neither can it somehow defy the inevitability of it’s own death. The weakening case for atheism is thus beyond the help of science. The universe surely cannot be eternal.

It is beyond contesting that nothing can age forever. Death will eventually visit to take it’s awful toll. As renowned cosmologist, Carl Sagan, declared before he died, the laws of thermodynamics are among the most proven principles in nature. [15] No one can thus reverse the claims against our aging universe. Any scientists who says otherwise is only dealing in myth. Like the conquistador, Ponce de Leon, he is vainly seeking the fountain of youth. How then can the atheist defend an infinitely-aged universe? He should rather admit (with the rest of us) that the universe had a beginning.

However, admitting this can be very dangerous for the atheist. It leads him onto sacred and holy, hallowed ground. Moreover, when seen alongside Jesus’ meal with the five thousand, it calls into being an irrepressible set of questions. How can the atheist account for the miracle of existence? If he trusts that the creation of matter was accomplished by purely natural means, then why does he say Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand could not be? On the other hand, if he claims the story of the feeding of the five thousand is not explainable naturally, then why does he believe that the creation of matter and the universe could be?

Furthermore, if Jesus can't create bread from nothing by some natural means, then surely the “Big Bang” could not have created dust from nothing by purely natural means. And if the skeptic scholar denies the feeding of the five thousand because only the supernatural can account for it, then he is admitting in the case of the creation of matter, only the supernatural can account for it. Otherwise, if the story of the feeding of the 5,000 is truly explainable naturally, then why does the atheist choose to go on denying it? But if the atheist grants this point, he is also admitting that the Bible could be true, although unexpectedly so…

A Grand Dilemma

Therefore, in the final analysis, the atheist faces a great dilemma: To deny this Bible story is to admit that the universe was supernaturally created. On the other hand, to say that the universe came about naturally is to come near to affirming Jesus. In that case, the atheist could no longer deny with sincerity, the supernatural. In reality, he is quite comfortable with it. He affirms it because he denies the Bible. (Strange eh…)

I therefore completed my letter to my friend by indirectly mentioning the musings of E. Arthur Milne. Incidentally, Milne was one of the most celebrated astronomers of the previous century. As a recipient in 1935 of the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, he wrote of God and the universe in the following compelling manner: “As to the cause of the universe, in context of expansion, that is left for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without God.” [16] Isn’t it therefore high time for an unbelieving world to agree?

You answer the question. ⧉


End Notes:

[1]. 10 Magazine Covers That Shook the World; Los Angeles Times: July 14th, 2008.

[2]. The End of a Christian America; Newsweek: April 13th, 2009.

[3]. ibid.

[4]. Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God; Wall Street Journal, December 25th, 2014.

[5]. ibid.

[6]. Is God Coming Back to Life?; Time Magazine: December 26th, 1969.

[7]. Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God; Wall Street Journal, December 25th, 2014.

[8]. Sir Arthur Eddington; The Expanding Universe; Cambridge University Press; 1933; p. 178.

[9]. Willford, J.N. March 12, 1991. Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest. New York Times, p. B9.

[10]. see:

[11]. ibid.

[12]. Alexander Vilenkin; Many Worlds in One; Hill and Wang Press; 2006; pg. 176. brackets mine.

[13]. ibid.

[14]. Beatrice Tinsley, "From Big Bang to Eternity?" Natural History Magazine (October 1975), 105.

[15]. Carl Sagan, Velikovsky’s Challenge to Science, cassette tape 186-74, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC.

[16]. Edward Arthur Milne. need a proper citation.

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