What in the world is naturalism?

Naturalism is the belief that the material universe is all that exists in the universe. You must be able to see it, touch it, or observe it to be real—several other “isms” flow out of naturalism.

Materialism – the belief nothing exists but matter, even mental cognition.

Empiricism – knowledge is limited to our senses.

Determinism – man, is merely a machine and cannot make real choices (free-will).

Relativism – ethics are relative to the person and or culture.

Nihilism – life is meaningless because if life is formed by accident with no intention behind it, there is no reason to believe humanity has a purpose.

Putting On Our Thinking Caps

How did the world come into existence, and where did life come? If we explore this idea and have a meaningful conversation about it, we must boil it down to the two most prominent worldviews. Naturalism is probably the most predominant worldview today. As stated above, we can only know the world around us by observing the natural world.

Naturalism denies the supernatural.

Charles Darwin gave naturalism legs when he theorized that a process of natural selection or evolution was the explanation for the vast difference in life. Given enough time and a single cell of life, everything could evolve into what we have in our world today. Hummingbirds, Orca whales, giraffes, and humans are all a product of a primordial soup, of sorts, that eventually spawned life as we know it. It seems plausible enough for most people to say, “well, yeah, that makes sense,” but does it make sense?

I am simplifying the discussion, not disrespecting Darwin or the reader, but to try and boil it down to the most basic assumptions made in theory.

However, we need to back up. We have made assumptions that single cell life is readily accessible or easily reproduced or made. That is not the case. Science has many answers, but it often has as many questions as answers, and in fact, personal experience shows that often when people throw the word “science” around, they do not know what they mean by science. To define our terms, the science I am talking about is observable. Form a hypothesis, run tests, and record the results. Do this repeatedly until conclusions support the hypothesis.

If this is our starting point, where have we ever observed life formed from non-life?  Life does not come from non-life.

Stephen Hawking said, “because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” [1] That is a big statement.

In a natural world, we have to either start with an eternal universe or a created universe. The second law of thermodynamics rules out an eternal universe. In short, it states, “the total amount of useable energy in any isolated system never increases” in other words, just like your car will always wear out, so will the universe. It cannot regenerate itself. It is always in decay. That means there is a time limit to the universe.

I’ll come back to the law of gravity in a moment because if we truly have a “nothing” universe, how do we account for the law of gravity? Our second option is to have a created universe, and this requires something that sets the whole thing into motion. Enter stage left, the Big Bang Theory.

Oxford Chemist Peter Atkins claims, “By chance, there was a fluctuation, and set of points, emerging from nothing and taking their existence from the pattern they formed, defined a time. The chance formation of a pattern resulted in the emergence of time from coalesced opposites, its emergence from nothing. From absolute nothing, absolutely without intervention, there came into being rudimentary existence.”[2]

By chance

The chance formation

Emergence from nothing

From absolute nothing

Without intervention

Rudimentary existence

Does this sound scientific? It sounds like someone that knows a bunch of big words put them together and made something up.

Jeffrey D. Johnson argues, “Unless you believe in magic without a magician, the engineering marvel of the simplest cell could not have evolved from non-living matter. For life to begin, the simple cell had to spontaneously appear with all its necessary parts, thrown together in the proper place, creating the semantic information needed for the living cell to reproduce itself.” [3]

Johnson quotes Darwin, “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd to the highest possible degree.”[4]

World-renowned chemist James M. Tour asks the real question, “Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.”[5]

If Hawkings and Atkins sound absurd, which I believe they do, Darwin and Tour have no idea how this is possible, then what is the alternative? Do we believe naturalism just because we have been taught it in the school system or because most scientists say Big Bang Cosmology is true? Evolution (macro) is true? Is there a reason behind our disbelief in the supernatural?

In this short video clip Christopher Hitchens argues that the warm feeling he gets through doing a good deed, giving blood, is something that evolution has given him for his sake and everybody else’s.

Do not allow that statement to sneak past. How did evolution give this to us? Evolution is impersonal. It cares not for anything other than eliminating the weak and perpetuating itself. There is no feeling in naturalism. How did feelings evolve? They are immaterial. As an example, how do you know your spouse loves you or that you love your spouse? You can’t see love. You can’t touch love. You can’t put it in a bottle and sell it? It is an immaterial thing.

He says it does not require a divine spark or any programming, but it begs the question, why would you give blood? It does not benefit you.  It only helps those weaker. If “survival of the fittest” is real, giving blood or doing good to your neighbor has no benefit. Hitchens also introduces sin into the conversation, although he does not realize it. He discusses sociopaths and psychopaths. In a natural world, sociopaths and psychopaths are only living out their natural order; they happen to be more aggressive about it, but who can possibly say they are wrong?

The Only Other Alternative

The only other possibility is a supernatural world, created and directed by an intelligent being. Within this framework, there are a couple of possibilities, such as the “god” of deism. Deism is an impersonal god that created the universe and has no further contact with the creation. The god of deism allows the world to play itself out.  That is depressing, and it does not describe the God of Christianity. The God that describes himself as being the One and Only God. The beginning and the end, the God that controls all things and spoke all things into existence.

If we boil it down to the two possibilities described here, let us be honest about something. They both involve faith. Darwin, Atkins, Hawkings, nor Hitchens have answers. Science doesn’t have the answer. Science has failed to produce life from non-life. Naturalism depends on faith, and it’s not even a good guess faith. It is blind faith.

Christianity provides answers to incredibly complex problems. It explains how life began, why life began, how evil entered the world, where consciousness comes from, and a purpose to our existence. For example, when Hitchens argues you do not need a “god” to do good things, he is right. Where he is fatally wrong is that he just cannot justify why you would do good, or what’s wrong with doing evil.

Where did this innate sense of right and wrong come from? Why do people do good to other people for no apparent reason?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

The very opening line of the Bible tells us there was a beginning point for measuring time. There is also an all-powerful being, God, that created all things, and as we journey through the creation story, we will find that God created humanity different from the plants and all the animals.

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed life into Adam, and he created man in the image of God. Man is not only physical, but man is also spiritual. Man has a body, and man has a soul. Man also has a conscience, dictating right from wrong.

Paul writes this in Romans about why people know right from wrong.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:14-16).

Even before Moses received the law on tablets of stone, God had written it upon their hearts. Have you ever noticed the shame a young toddler feels when they lie to their parents? Of course, they are not very creative in their lies. It is easy to catch them, but we become more complex and more industrious in our deceit as we grow. The conscience begins to deaden. The callouses form upon the tender part of our inner being, and we lie without remorse.

God’s law tenderizes that callous. Naturalism has no explanation for the conscience. It has no explanation for those laws of gravity that Hawkings discussed. The immaterial does not produce laws of gravity, laws of logic, and laws of math. We see how he had to sneak over to the other side, borrow a little of this and a little of that from the Christian worldview to support his theory, and Hitchens does the very same thing. They know these things exist; they cannot account for them. I’ve argued this many times with some brilliant people, and this goes right past them. They either ignorantly reject this, or they miss the point.

Is it willful ignorance? I do not know, but we must consider it is the effect sin has on human consciousness. The Bible says man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). He desires to reject authority, go his way, and avoid responding to the God he denies. They would instead embrace absurdity, then surrender to God.

The supernatural aspect of the Bible relies on written and eye-witness testimony, not to mention the fulfillment of prophetic events and human experience. My good friends Donnell and Connell explain that it is easy to deny it if you throw out all the evidence of super-naturalism.

There is so much more to be said, but I will address some more topics, such as free-will in my next article.


[1] Johnson, Jeffrey D. The Absurdity of Unbelief: a Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith. (Free Grace Press, 2016), 131.

[2] Ibid 132

[3] Ibid 147

[4] Ibid 149

[5] Ibid 150

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:1.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:7.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 2:14–16.

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