Tag Archives: Science

Can We Trust Scientists?

Science is fascinating but how thorough is the process of testing and how trustworthy are the results? What do we do with dissenting voices and scientific claims that don’t agree?

These are some of the questions Layton Friesen asks of Dr. Henry Janzen, researcher in the field of soil science at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada | AAFC · Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. Dr. Janzen talks about the process his own research goes through before publishing, the role that skeptics have, and how scientists need the rest of the society when value judgements are required. He also talks about the parallels between his search for truth in science and in faith. Continue reading Can We Trust Scientists?

Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen: The Christian Faith: It Adds Up! Part 2

This is the second part of a two part series. Part one can be found here.

by Hendrik van der Breggen

Contrary to atheist bus ads stating THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD, we can set out a strong cumulative case for the Christian God based on science, history, and philosophy. Often these are intermingled. Earlier we made some preliminary clarifications: we know through intuition and reason. The evidence for our faith is strengthened by a collection of arguments. And we set out three arguments (the universe has an origin, is dependent, and reveals intelligent design). Let’s continue.

Success of Science

Intelligent design arguments can be strengthened by the success of science itself. The universe operates according to mathematical/rational principles. Our minds can understand many of these deep principles, a feat immensely beyond what’s needed for mere survival. These facts make good sense on the view that a rational Mind (Logos) created both the universe and us.

According to Einstein, “The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne adds: “Our ability to understand the physical world [e.g., the quantum realm] immensely exceeds anything that is required for the relatively banal purpose of survival.”

An objection might be that this can be explained by atheistic, unguided evolution. But this neglects the fact that unguided evolution merely secures mental capacities geared to foraging, fighting, fleeing, and reproduction, not discerning deep theoretical truths.

Objective Moral Values

Moral experience points to God. We know—intuit—real (objective) moral value. We know human beings have intrinsic value. Witness all the human rights declarations. We know sticking pins in babies’ eyes for fun is wrong. We know Joseph Fritzl was wrong. Fritzl locked his daughter in a basement bunker for 20 years, raped her repeatedly, bore children with her, and kept them in the bunker. This knowledge is well explained by the doctrine that people are made in God’s image, and evil well explained by the doctrine that people are prone to sin. This counts as evidence for God.

An objection is that this is mere subjective preference. In reply, we should ask firmly: Really? If so, then that you like chocolate and I like vanilla is equivalent to you like helping people and I like torturing them. Surely, this is false—and we know it.

Free Will and Consciousness

Our free will to make moral or immoral choices makes sense on the view that God gave us mental capacity to choose or reject the good. We are made in God’s image in the sense of being free and personal beings.

Objection: Freedom is an illusion. Reply: This just seems obviously false. Think about this the next time you decide to have dessert. We aren’t robots—we know this.

Also, consciousness is mysterious and difficult, if not impossible, to explain on a wholly physical account. But it makes sense if we’re creatures made in the likeness of a Conscious Being.


The existence of evil is often an objection to the Christian God. The idea is that evil logically precludes or renders improbable the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good God.

But this objection falters. First, it’s logically possible for God to create creatures with freedom to love God (the Good) or not. Second, while evil (suffering) is apparently pointless to us, we are not in a position to know God doesn’t have good reasons for it.

Moreover, evil actually confirms the existence of the biblical God. According to the Bible, there has been a Fall—humans have rejected God. Thus on the Christian God view, evil is expected or predicted and this prediction is confirmed in reality. Hence, evil counts in favour of the Christian God view.

Moreover, to judge that evil is real, as the critic does, makes good sense only if God—The Good—exists. Evil is parasitic on the notion of goodness. Evil is a corruption or absence of goodness. Evil is a violation of a design plan of what ought to be.

Miracle: Jesus’ Resurrection

Crucial evidence for the Christian God is Jesus’ bodily resurrection, which confirms His claims to be God. First, consider an important objection from philosopher David Hume.

Hume argues that miracle reports are never reasonable to believe. Why? Because miracles are highly improbable. Miracles allegedly violate a law of nature that dead men stay dead; the vast evidence of dead men staying dead counts against miracle reports to the contrary. Significantly, however, Hume begs the question: he assumes as established that which is at issue. The issue is this: Does a God who sometimes does miracles exist? Hume assumes the answer is no. But this is what only evidence can reveal. Miracles can’t be ruled out in advance.

Here is a “minimal facts” approach in which we look at some generally accepted historical evidence regarding Jesus’ resurrection. This comes in various forms from scholars Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, N. T. Wright, and popularized by Lee Strobel. The facts are:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
  2. Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected.
  3. People were transformed into bold witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection in the face of social ostracism, extreme physical hardship, and death.
  4. James and Paul said Jesus appeared to them.
  5. Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty.

Because of what we know about dead bodies, a resurrection, if it happened, would be best explained as supernaturally caused. This means that Jesus’ resurrection shouldn’t be ruled out prior to historical investigation. The result: Jesus’ miraculous—God-caused—resurrection is strongly suggested by the historical facts. It makes good sense.

Also, non-resurrection explanations have problems. That Jesus appeared to die and later was resuscitated (the swoon theory) is ruled out by the evidence for his death. Hallucinations would be required at various places and with different groups and individuals; these facts throw wrenches into the hallucination theory. Objections tend to beg the question, not look at the historical evidence.

Significantly, former atheist Antony Flew wrote a book, There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. It ended with an essay by respected New Testament scholar N.T. Wright who argues for Jesus’ resurrection. Even Flew, a hard-headed former atheist, is impressed with the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection!

Subjective Experience

We can know that the Christian God exists apart from evidence. How? By direct revelation—personal, subjective knowing—through the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Objection: How do you know this burning in your heart isn’t just heartburn? In reply, it might be heartburn. But that it’s sometimes heartburn doesn’t mean it’s always heartburn. Sometimes deluded doesn’t mean always deluded. Also, a life of prayer and answers to prayer suggest too many coincidences.

God Exists—and Jesus is Lord

In sum, we have a strong cumulative case for believing the Christian God exists. The positive reasons are strong and the objections weak.

Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen

At this point, one might object: So what? In reply, we can say this: The case allows us to take seriously as true Jesus’ claims about Himself as God and His good news that He loves us and has taken the punishment for our sins on the cross. In other words, we have good reasons to put our faith in Jesus and follow Him. He is God—and He exists!

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba.

Recommended readings
Paul Copan, Loving Wisdom
William Lane Craig, On Guard
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed.
Antony Flew, There is a God
Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity

Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen: The Christian Faith, It Makes Sense!

by Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen

A few years ago, advertisements on buses in London, Toronto, and other major cities stated this: THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE. I respectfully disagree with the atheist view about God, not the bits about worry and enjoyment. In a two-part series I’ll set out why.

I’ll make some clarifications, then sketch a cumulative case for God based on science, history, and philosophy. Often these get intermingled.

Ways of Knowing

Through intuition—direct awareness—we know some truths without arguments. I simply know (intuit) that I exist, I’m not dreaming, and that my ordinary perceptions are connected to reality (there is a tree outside my window).

We also know by inference. We gather evidence and then use reason. By seeing the empty cookie jar on the counter and cookie crumbs on my son’s shirt, I infer it’s probably true that he ate the cookies! Sherlock Holmes and scientists do this much more carefully.

Special and General Revelation

The God described in the Bible makes Himself known by special revelation and general revelation.

Special revelation includes Scriptures, the Holy Spirit’s personal witness, and the fact of God stepping into physical-space-time history as a human being—Jesus. He confirmed His claims to be God by not staying dead after being killed.

General revelation consists of clues God leaves of Himself in His creation. These clues can be discerned by looking at the world’s awesomeness: gazing at a sunset, enjoying a flower, or using scientific instruments to examine living cells and distant stars.

Proof Versus Evidence

Proofs are limited to formal logic and mathematics. Here we’re concerned with evidence, as in a court of law. Evidence may not provide 100% proof, but can provide a powerful case—enough for reasonable belief.

Collections of Arguments

Cumulative case arguments are collections of arguments that individually may not provide decisive support for a conclusion, but together do. Think of legal arguments. One line of evidence isn’t enough to convict, but several lines can be enough because they accumulate and converge onto the conclusion: guilty! Just as prosecutors and defence lawyers argue for and against a verdict, cumulative case arguments consider pros and cons.

Our cumulative case argument attempts to discern the objective truth (reality) concerning God through evidence and our best ways of knowing. We’ll examine some objections along the way, and we’ll see how the positive reasons for our faith outweigh the objections.


At this point radical post-modernists might object: Reason is socially constructed, so cumulative case arguing is a dead end. My reply: The careful use of reason leads to knowledge of truth. Even critics of reason must assume it to reasonably persuade us of their view!

A Compelling Case

Our cumulative case argument for the existence of the Christian God consists of several arguments. Each argument isn’t 100% conclusive, though some are stronger than others. But, significantly, together they provide a compelling case. As mentioned, this is a sketch. For further investigation, check the recommended reading list.

A Transcendent Cause

This is known as the cosmological argument. Contemporary science (big bang cosmology) tells us the universe began to exist. All matter, energy, space, and time began a finite time ago. Philosophy tells us whatever begins to exist has a cause. It follows logically that the universe has a cause for its beginning.

This implies the cause of the universe is powerful. It caused the universe! It is nonphysical—it caused all physical matter and energy to come into being. And it’s eternal; it’s beyond time because it caused time to begin. Therefore the universe has a powerful, transcendent cause. This clue points, like a partial fingerprint, to God.

Stephen Hawking objects that laws of nature, not God, caused the beginning of the universe. But Hawking is mistaken. Laws of nature describe or base predictions on nature. So if there is no universe—no nature—there would be no laws. Laws can’t be a cause.

The Universe is Dependent

The contingency (dependency) argument goes like this: Everything in the universe is dependent. It can not-be. Infinite contingency isn’t possible. Otherwise there could be nothing. But out of nothing, nothing comes. Therefore something must-be: a ground of being. If this ground of being is personal, it would appropriately be called I AM. Yes, think of the burning bush and Moses.

Objection: This mistakenly thinks the property of a part transfers to the whole. From everything in the universe is contingent, it doesn’t follow the whole universe is contingent.

Reply: This error occurs in some cases, but not all. It depends on the property in question. “Seeing better” doesn’t transfer from one person standing up to better see the football game to all spectators standing up. This would be an error. But here the property of contingency is additive; it transfers from parts to whole. If each cubic centimeter of space in my gas tank is full of gas, then my whole tank is full of gas. If each part of the universe is dependent, then so is the universe.

Intelligent Design

The universe has features that point to an intelligent designer. The universe’s initial conditions are exquisitely fine-tuned for life. That’s true whether life emerges through some sort of evolutionary process or is subsequently created more directly. This fine-tuning suggests that the previously mentioned powerful and transcendent cause of the universe’s beginning is highly intelligent.

Also, living cells smack of intelligent causation because of their complex machinery. Also, life’s blueprint—DNA’s code—smacks of an intelligent cause. Bill Gates of Microsoft says, “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.” It’s of interest to note that the famous atheist Antony Flew came to believe that a creator God exists because of DNA.

Objection: Some people say there are a near-infinite number of universes, so by chance, not design, we ended up with one that looks designed. Roll the dice long enough, we’ll get by chance a series of, say, 100,000 pairs of sixes. The dice look weighted (designed to get the pairs), but in fact aren’t.

Reply: The multi-verse view hasn’t got much, if any, evidence for it. It also lacks simplicity. It’s simpler to suggest one designing mind than a gazillion universes that also would have intelligent minds.

Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen

To be continued. In the meantime, some of you might check out the recommended readings.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is the associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Man.

Part two of this series can be found here.

Recommended Readings

Paul Copan, Loving Wisdom
William Lane Craig, On Guard
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed.
Antony Flew, There is a God
Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity