A February Note from Pastor Rich

What Do You Know?

I was reading the other day about Robert Ingersoll. One can find a lot about him on the internet and especially on Wikipedia. He was born in 1833 in Dresden, New York, and died in 1899 in Dobbs Ferry, New York. He was a Civil War veteran and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Ingersoll was an American attorney and was known in this life as “The Great Agnostic.” He was a man who enjoyed ridiculing Scripture and those who believed it to be God’s Word. In fact, he used to say that “The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of the gentleman who reads it.” He mockingly asked, “Is there any intelligent man or woman now in the world who believes in the Garden of Eden story? If you find any man who believes it, strike his forehead and you will hear an echo. Something is for rent.” Actually, he was more of an atheist than he was an agnostic, but it becomes obvious that neither philosophy has the answers to the world’s problems or can address eternal things.

I love to talk to the atheist. The atheist will tell you there is no God. Generally, he will fight for the belief and defend it to the death as did Robert Ingersoll. But, I always want to ask the atheist a few questions. For example, “How much total knowledge is there in the universe?” I always get the same response, something like, “There is so much knowledge in the universe that there is no way to quantitate it.”

My next question is related, “How much of the total knowledge in the universe do you think you possess?” Of course, he will say that he has very little of the total knowledge. Then I like to give him the benefit of the doubt. “Let’s say, for the sake of our discussion that you have ten percent of all the knowledge in the universe. Of course, you don’t, but let’s assume you do.” 

My final question is the killer. “Do you think that in the ninety percent of the knowledge you do not possess, a god exists?” What is the atheist going to say? Of course, it is possible. Then I like to say something like this, “You are a very strange atheist. First you tell me that there is no god and now you are telling me that there is a ninety percent possibility that there is a god.”

So, the doctrine of Atheism is not so much about what a person knows, but what a person believes. He may believe that there is no god, but that doesn’t change the facts concerning the existence of a deity. Further, whether or not there is a god may well be outside the knowledge of the individual in question.

But knowledge is also important to the Agnostic. Rather than blatantly say “there is no god,” the Agnostic says that one cannot know for sure if there is a god. In fact, the true agnostic would say that a person cannot know anything for sure. He is always attempting to reconcile his experience with the reality of which he can have no certain knowledge. Whenever I run into one of these people who tell me that I cannot know there is a god, I always want to ask that person, “How do you know I can’t know anything for sure?” For people who believe that you can’t know anything for sure, they seem to know a lot about the existence, or lack of it, of God.

I think that Robert Ingersoll is a little like the rich man in Luke 16, “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house...so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’” I am sure, by now Ingersoll has changed his position on these issues. However, the Word of God which Ingersoll so vehemently criticized hasn’t changed at all. The Bible just keeps communicating and explaining the great God of the universe for every person who embraces it as absolute truth.

Serving Christ Together,
Pastor Rich