Authority and the Supernatural

by John UpChurch on November 6, 2009
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A critic’s email provides insight into how some non-Christians view the world. John UpChurch, AiG–U.S., shows how this can impact your witnessing.

please read richard dawkins book just out..there is no adam and eve..ther are no gods or heaven.. no hell except what you are doing to young children...

Although there were no formal questions in this inquiry, the claims made are quite instructive as to how Christians should engage the increasingly secular culture. This email illustrates several of the starting assumptions that non-Christians have, which is why we cannot address them as if they understand the need for salvation. After all, many have been taught that time and death are all there is. Ironic that with this mindset, nothing really matters, so why be concerned about children? They (and you, and we) are just cosmic accidents that will be here for an evolutionarily insignificant amount of time, so why does it matter what anyone thinks?

I would also like to point out that I have read through Richard Dawkins’s new book, The Greatest Show on Earth. If not for his condescending tone, I would recommend it to any creationist interested in learning how atheists view the evidence. It is at it’s best when examining evolution and not attempting to attack anyone who disagrees with the author.1 What the book is not, however, is a polemic against God. Dawkins has other books that do this (e.g., The God Delusion), which is why I find this email odd.

Human Authority

For many people, human knowledge is the ultimate knowledge. This email suggests that we must read Richard Dawkins’s new book, with the implication being that from this book we can see the “truth.”2 Instead of authority being placed in the One who is truth, authority stems from worldly knowledge.

No doubt, Dawkins is a highly intelligent and educated individual. His understanding of naturalism is arguably the most impressive in the world. On this we can agree. His understanding of the things of God, however, leaves much to be desired.

We cannot assume that unbelievers will simply acknowledge the authority of Scripture.

As Christians, we cannot assume that unbelievers will simply acknowledge the authority of Scripture. For many, authority is earned through college degrees, reputation, and/or influence. God, on the other hand, operates on a completely foreign economy: His authority stems from who He is, which is how He established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17).

Approaching someone who sees Dawkins (or any atheist or naturalist) as an authority means digging down deeper. Trusting human authority, after all, amounts to little more than an endless regression. If humans are what Dawkins says we are (i.e., the end result of non-teleological Darwinian evolution), then his thoughts are no better or worse than any other thoughts. If we appeal to his education, we must also remember that, according to naturalism, his education was given by other humans whom we have no reason to believe are not simply deluded by their evolved brains. That is, if evolution is true, we cannot truly know if humans have real understanding of the universe, since we cannot assume that real understanding has better survival value than false understanding.

Let’s put this another way. Dawkins claims to have a better understanding of reality than theists. Otherwise, he would never write books and articles attacking those who believe. But many never stop to ask how he could have better understanding. What special knowledge or trait allows him a superior viewpoint? After all, if nature is all there is and there is no real purpose or meaning, then his thoughts are nothing but empty, purposeless discussion with no ultimate value. Everything is simply the outworking of atomic interactions.

But if the universe is designed (and we believe there’s excellent reason to think so), then there is One who has access to unfiltered truth, who can speak with authority on reality, and who does not need to abide by the laws of the universe He created.

Attacking the Supernatural

The second aspect to consider is the fact that many atheists and agnostics deny the supernatural from the outset. This person, for example, first attacks a historical Adam and Eve and then any so-called supernatural being.3 Since salvation itself requires many “supernatural” elements, witnessing to them begins with exposing the bias they have and helping them to see that this is not a necessary position.

Denying the supernatural is not a neutral starting point, as is often claimed. When people begin with the assumption that God doesn’t exist, they do not seek out equally viable explanations for the world and weigh them. They only seek out naturalistic ones and reject any others. This stacking of the deck leaves them with the false confidence that everything has been or can be explained without God. But triumphantly choosing option A because option B has been taken off the table beforehand does not prove the point.

Naturalists have established false boundaries concerning what is “natural” and what is not. God is “supernatural” because they say so, and He must not be involved. This is the line in the sand that they established to protect themselves from the possibility of divine intervention. However, Christians see God’s interaction as a perfectly natural part of an ordered universe. This does not preclude research, but compels it.

There is no reason to exclude God from how the universe works or began other than personal bias. No empirical research has or could establish the line separating what is natural from that which is considered supernatural; there’s no universal constant separating non-miracle from miracle. It’s an arbitrary standard that can never be tested.

For Christians, God’s supernatural upkeep of the universe is natural. God’s offer of salvation through Christ is how nature works until a new heavens and earth are established. God created what we call nature; refusing to see Him in it does not remove the supernatural aspects.

In Christ,


  1. Even still, the book is highly informative and worth checking out from the library or reading in a bookstore.
  2. One well known anti-theist blogger and professor stated that creationists have “no excuse” since the publishing of the book. Understanding evolution, however, is not the same as seeing it as the best explanation of the evidence and historical accounts.
  3. He curiously adds witches to this list. The flaw here is that some people call themselves witches. Though they may not be what’s depicted in movies or mythology, we cannot deny that they assume this label.


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