Is God Real? Pastor Chris Debates Dr. Schriner

I recently enjoyed making a presentation in which I argue with myself about whether God exists, debating the issue to a decisive draw. Pastor Chris, my theistic persona, makes a case for theism, and skeptical Dr. Schriner pokes holes in it.

In my university days I loved debate, so I decided to use a modified college debate format, with pro and con statements on the proposition:

Resolved: That a personal deity created the universe

Each side makes one five minute opening presentation and two shorter rebuttals.

It’s usually harder to prove that something is true than to show that it could very well be false. So because the negative side has an inherent advantage, the affirmative side is allowed to begin the contest and also to have the last word. Therefore Pastor Chris, who maintains that a deity exists, will begin AND end the debate.

In listening to a debate, people typically root for “their team” while inwardly arguing with the other side. Research shows that we strongly resist data that contradict our preconceptions. We are, then, in a prison of our own making, the prison of self-justifying beliefs. If we want to break out of this conceptual jail, we can identify early-warning signals that tip us off when our minds are closing. We can learn to feel ourselves slamming the door against new truth. Continue reading

Is Stephen Hawking Right About God and the Cosmos?

On August 7, 2011, a Discovery Channel program featured Stephen Hawking’s reflections about the nature and origin of Everything. Hawking stated unequivocally that the universe could have spontaneously sprung into being without being caused by a creator-god. For a Christian view of the program see:

For a wide variety of atheist responses see:

I was impressed by Hawking’s courage in making a bold statement which many will condemn. My main criticism of the program is that he sometimes stated his own opinions as if they were based solely on science. For example, he said the laws of the universe are never violated, but obviously we cannot prove that this is so. How could we tell whether some law of nature was violated last September in some minuscule way in the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud, 160,000 light years from Earth? Or in three molecules on top of Everest last Tuesday?

Science operates on the working hypothesis that nature’s laws are inviolable, and this hypothesis is quite helpful. It may well be true, but to believe that it’s true, always and everywhere, is a statement of faith rather than fact. To be fair, however, even though this is a faith-statement, it is based upon evidence and theoretical analysis rather than on tradition or special revelation.

Hawking also says that since time did not exist before the Big Bang, there was no time in which a creator could have made the universe. But there may be atemporal causal processes about which we know nothing. When we talk about what may or may not occur outside of our universe, we are speculating, pure and simple.

Despite these criticisms, I appreciated Hawking’s “here I stand” proclamations, and his ability to unveil marvelous cosmic mysteries. Since my goal is to find common ground among theists, atheists, and agnostics, I recommend that theists read or watch Hawking to see why an intelligent person might believe the universe appeared spontaneously. I recommend that atheists examine Hawking to decide for themselves which of his statements are based on research data, and which ones are faith-statements of his personal philosophy of life.

If you saw the TV show or you’ve read Hawking’s comments about the origin of the cosmos, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Perplexed? Or all of the above?