We live too-busy lives in a too-busy society. We rush from one thing to another -- work, Little League games, hobbies, etc. However, one must (or should), at times, think beyond the our material existence. We know, at the very least, that we exist ("I think, therefore, I am." -- Descartes). We know, from our senses, that "something" exist. But what is the ultimate nature of existence, reality, and experience? It is "The Question" that has preoccupied the mind of man throughout the ages.
Before we begin to examine this question, we might want to ask ourselves, "How do we think?" And, is there a proper way to think (or reason)? The answer is, yes. So, IF we are going to "think" about our existence and reality, should we not "think" correctly (i.e., in such a way that is most likely to lead us to the correct conclusions)?
Just as there are laws that apply in the disciplines of mathematics and science, the application of which are absolutely essential in order to reach accurate conclusions, so are there "Laws of Thought" in the study of philosophy -- self-evident logical principles -- that enable one to reason (or think) correctly. These are basic principles, or guidelines, that enable one to come to sound conclusions. Although we are seldom consciously aware of it, we use one or more of these laws in the decisions we make every day.
A comprehensive discussion of the field of Logic is neither appropriate nor necessary here (nor am I qualified to do so), but I do want to briefly consider two of these laws -- the Law of Identity and the Law of Rationality.
The Law of Identity states that "if a proposition is true, then it is true." Sounds simple enough, but it is a Law of Thought often ignored in our day of situational ethics and subjective truth ("that's just your truth; your interpretation"). Actually, "subjective truth" is an oxymoron. There is either truth, or there is not. If everything is subjective, then there is no truth. However, there are "ultimate truths" -- objective truths -- i.e., concepts that are true for all people, in all places, under any circumstances.
More importantly, though, I want to consider the Law of Rationality, which states that "one should draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence." Any conclusions drawn should be -- must be -- justified by adequate evidence. If not, those conclusions are, at best, indefensible, and at worst, inaccurate.
Please consider each of the following statements individually, objectively, and rationally before you go on to the next one.
Something cannot come from nothing.
If, at any point in the past, nothing had existed, then nothing is all that there would be now.
Therefore, "something" has always existed.
One of the most basic laws of science and philosophy is the Law of Cause and Effect, which states that "every material effect or observable phenomenon must have an adequate cause." Moreover, that "adequate cause" (for it to be adequate) must have at least two characteristics. First, an adequate cause must have existed prior to the related effect. Second, an adequate cause must be quantitatively greater than, or qualitatively superior to, the effect.
Our universe is a material effect, or an observable phenomenon. It must, therefore, have had a cause. That cause must have existed prior to our universe. Additionally, that cause must have been "adequate" -- that is, it must have been quantitatively greater than, or qualitatively superior to, the effect. Therefore, that "something that has always existed" is the ultimate cause of all that we see and know -- our universe (including, in addition to the physical universe, the more abstract concepts such as beauty, love, intelligence, morality, etc.). That "Ultimate Cause." therefore, must be intelligent, powerful, loving, and moral in sufficient quantity and quality to be an adequate cause.
There is only one rational (Law of Rationality), adequate (Law of Cause and Effect) explanation for the cumulative effect that we know as "existence." "In the beginning God . . ." (Gen. 1:1)
Would it not be reasonable to assume that the (a) Creator would desire to reveal Himself to the crown jewel of His creation -- Man. This He has done through His inspired word, the Bible, a book proven by both internal and external evidences, a book that has withstood the most severe critics and persecutions throughout the centuries, yet has survived.
In the Bible one learns about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Consider the evidence. Here was a man, born in a backwater of the mighty Roman Empire and a resident of an area considered backward and uneducated. Here was a thirty-year-old man who taught for about three and one half years in the days before the public address system, the printing press, radio, television, computers, or the Internet, in the days before mass communication and mass transportation. Yet, He has had the most profound influence on humanity of any person who has ever lived. What are the implications?
Consider the following. Jesus Christ claimed (claims) to be the Son of God. He was, therefore, one of the following three things. The first possibility is that he was the most profound, the most proficient, the most successful liar who ever existed. Or, second, he could have been severely mentally ill and delusional. The third possible explanation is that He is who He said (says) He is.
Is it reasonable to assume that a liar, or someone with a severe mental illness, in three and one half years, under the conditions that existed 2,000 years ago described above, could have had such a profound effect on the world? He is, literally, at the center of history. The only reasonable explanation is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
If God exists (and He does), and the Bible is the inspired word of God (and it is), then is it not in our best interest to read, study, and know His word and what He expects of us? This men have been doing, for thousands of years, with varying degrees of success.
In a search for the truth -- ultimate, objective truth (see Law of Identity above) -- it is necessary to dispense with any preconceived ideas that may cloud one's vision. Forget the paradigm, the pattern, the context, within which you view formalized religion. This, though not easily done, is not only possible, but necessary in the search for objective truth. We are simply going to take an objective look at "religion" and draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence.
While the term "church" is one with which we are all familiar, let us take an objective look at the concept and draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence.
The word "church", as used in the New Testament, is not a formal title. It is a descriptive term. It is translated from the Greek word "ekklesia", which is from the root words "ek" (out) and "kalien" (to call); therefore, the "called out." The term was also commonly used to describe a secular public assembly, as it was used three times in Acts chapter 19 (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
Therefore, "the church" refers to those who are "called out," called by the gospel of Christ "out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Pet. 2:9). "The church" is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23), the body of believers collectively. "The church" is not a building, it is not a sect, and it is not a denomination (a part of a whole). Its head is not a man; its head is Christ (Eph. 5:23). "The church" is the people -- Christians -- those belonging to Christ because he purchased them "with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
There is only one body and, therefore, only one church (Eph. 4:4). Christ said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18), not churches. How does this compare with your concept of "the church?" How does this compare with how Christendom and the religious world (and I use these terms in their most general sense) view "the church?" Each week, our newspapers feature a page that invites us to "attend the church of your choice." Televangelists urge us to find "a" church that meets our needs. How does this perception of "the church" compare with the Biblical model?
But, you might say, there is a distinction to be made between the "church universal" (the body of believers collectively) and the various "churches" as within the religious paradigm we are familiar with (Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc.).
However, the term "church," when referring to Christians, is used in only two ways in the New Testament. First, as we have already noted, to refer to the body of believers collectively -- "the church." Secondly, to the body of believers in a specific place, as in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1), or the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 1:4). These are not references to groups that differed from one another doctrinally, held different beliefs, different titles or names, or separate religious hierarchies. They were "in fellowship" with one another. They were members of the same "church" (or body), but simply meeting at different locations. They all "spoke the same thing " (I Cor. 1:10).
Biblically speaking, therefore, there is no Baptist "church," or Methodist "church," or Catholic "church," or Presbyterian "church," or (fill in the blank) "church." These are, more correctly, denominations -- the Baptist denomination, the Methodist denomination, the Catholic denomination, the Presbyterian denomination, etc. A denomination is a name, or designation, for a specific group or class, which differentiates it from others -- a part of a whole. Each denomination has its own hierarchy, earthly headquarters, and formalized creed or doctrine (and these doctrines differ significantly).
A religious denomination is, by definition and practice, a religious group that is smaller than "the" church (universal), yet larger than the local congregation -- a concept of "church" that is completely foreign to the Biblical pattern.
Modern Christendom has evolved into a denominational paradigm. However, not only did such religious denominationalism, or sectarianism, not exist in the first century body of believers, it was specifically condemned (I Cor. 1 10-15; Matt. 15:1-9; Eph. 4:4-5). Of what denomination was Paul a member? Or Peter? In all honesty, how would they react to the concept?
Is non-denominational Christianity, as originally practiced in the first century, possible today? Can we all understand the Bible alike? Is God, the Creator, the author of the Bible through the Holy Spirit, capable of producing a document that we, His creation, are capable of understanding? Does God intend for us to be able to understand, and defend, sound doctrine (Gal. 1:8-10; II Tim. 3:16-17; 4:2-4; Titus 1:9; Acts 20:29-31)?
Are we free to worship God in any way we please -- to supplement, or override, the word of God with our own denominational creeds, manuals, and disciplines? Are these necessary? Are they scriptural? If they contain more than the Bible, do they not contain too much? If they contain less than the Bible, do they not contain too little? If they are the same as the Bible, are they not unnecessary? Are man-made creeds, manuals, and disciplines pleasing to God (Mark 7:7-8)? Should we seek to "find a church that meets OUR needs," as some would advise, or should we strive to worship God according to HIS revealed standards?
There is no "unity in diversity," as some would label the present-day religious system that has evolved into hundreds of different denominations. There is only division and disunity.
Things produce after their own kind. If I plant a seed of corn, it will produce corn. If I plant an acorn, an oak tree will grow. Denominational creeds produce members of denominations. The seed of Christianity is the word of God, the Bible (Luke 8:11). Planted in good and honest hearts, it produces Christians (Luke 8:15). Not hyphenated-Christians. Just Christians.
If one hears the word of God (Rom. 10:17), believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (John 8:24; Mark 16:16), repents of past sins (Acts 2:37), confesses Christ before men (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:10), and is baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27), God adds that one to the church (Acts 2:47). That one is then a Christian, a member of the church (the body of believers) which belongs to Christ (Acts 20:28).
An earnest pleas is being made for the abandonment of sectarianism and man-made doctrines, a return to the Bible, and the restoration of New Testament Christianity.
We must recognize the distinction between "religion" and "faith." Religion is an invention of man, faith is of God.
Logic and the Bible; Thomas B. Warren, Ph.D.; ISBN 0-934916-01-2
The Warren-Flew Debate (on the existence of God); Thomas B. Warren, Ph.D., Anthony G. N. Flew, D. Litt.; ISBN 0-934916-40-4
Have Atheists Proved There Is No God?; Thomas B. Warren, Ph.D.