Naturalism vs. Theism

rgrBriefly stated, naturalism is the belief that nature is all there is. It is the philosophical commitment that “…there exists a single, natural, physical world or universe in which we are completely included. There are not two different worlds, the supernatural and natural. Since we are completely included in the natural world, there’s nothing supernatural about us. (here)” Theism is the belief that the natural world owes its existence and continuance to a supremely perfect Being known as God. Utilizing what we experience, it is reasonable to ask “which worldview fits best? Which worldview offers the most intellectually, existentially, and empirically satisfying context for such evidences? How can we explain the evidences?” This is an inference to the best explanation style structure. IBE (inference to the best explanation) argument structures usually are styled as follows: 1) we have some data D, 2) the best available explanation to D is hypothesis X, and 3) so hypothesis X is true. Below is a concise chart of phenomena we observe in our day to day experience. Ask yourself, “which fits?”

Naturalism Vs. Theism: Which Context Best Explains the Phenomena We Observe?




(Self)consciousness exists. God is supremely self-aware/-conscious. The universe was produced by mindless, non-conscious processes.
Personal beings exist. God is a personal Being. The universe was produced by impersonal processes.
We believe we make free personal decisions/choices, assuming humans are accountable for their actions. God is spirit and a free Being, who can freely choose to act (e.g., to create or not). We have emerged by material, deterministic processes and forces beyond our control.
Secondary qualities (colors, smells, sounds, tastes, textures) exist throughout the world. God is joyful, and secondary qualities make the world pleasurable and joyful to His creatures. The universe was produced from colorless, odorless, soundless, tasteless, textureless particles and processes.
We trust our senses and rational faculties as generally reliable in producing true beliefs. A God of truth and rationality exists. Because of our impulse to survive and reproduce, our beliefs would only help us survive, but a number of these could be completely false.
Human beings have intrinsic value/dignity and rights. God is the supremely valuable Being. Human beings were produced by valueless processes.
Objective moral values exist. God’s character is the source of goodness/moral values. The universe was produced by non-moral processes.
The universe began to exist a finite time ago— without previously existing matter, energy, space or time. A powerful, previously-existing God brought the universe into being without any pre-existing material. (Here, something emerges from something.) The universe came into existence from nothing by nothing— or was, perhaps, self-caused. (Here, something comes from nothing.)
The universe is finely-tuned for human life (known as “the Goldilocks effect”— the universe is “just right” for life). God is a wise, intelligent Designer. All the cosmic constants just happened to be right; given enough time and/or many possible worlds, a finely-tuned world eventually emerged.
First life emerged. God is a living, active Being. Life somehow emerged from non-living matter.
Beauty exists (e.g., not only in landscapes and sunsets but in “elegant” or “beautiful” scientific theories). God is beautiful (Ps. 27:4) and capable of creating beautiful things according to His pleasure. Beauty in the natural world is superabundant and in many cases superfluous (often not linked to survival).
We (tend to) believe that life has purpose and meaning. For most of us, life is worth living. God has created/designed us for certain purposes (to love Him, others, etc.); when we live them out, our lives find meaning/enrichment. There is no cosmic purpose, blueprint, or goal for human existence.
Real evils— both moral and natural— exist/take place in the world. Evil’s definition assumes a design plan (how things ought to be, but are not) or standard of goodness (a corruption or absence of goodness), by which we judge something to be evil. God is a good Designer; His existence supplies the crucial moral context to make sense of evil. Atrocities, pain, and suffering just happen. This is just how things are— with no “plan” or standard of goodness to which things ought to conform.


~This chart can be found in the appendix section of the Apologetics Study Bible pg. 1918.


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