Our family moved from Illinois (thank God!) to Florida in June of 2017. Talk about a contrast, one that doesn’t have to be explained. We moved to the Tampa area, and the first thing I noticed is that oak trees and their moss are practically ubiquitous. They evoked in my mind images of a hot, muggy South of the 19th century, with gentlemen and ladies sitting on their porches sipping mint juleps in those days before air conditioning. There are none of these kind of oaks in the Midwest, that’s for sure. In my daily half-hour walk through the neighborhood listening to podcasts on my trusty little MP3 player, I would see these hard little nut looking things and step on them trying to hear a little crunch. It took some time before I realized these were acorns because they didn’t have the little acorn hat like the one our furry little friend from Ice Age is holding.

I can’t say I had ever seen an actual acorn before, and because these were so small it didn’t occur to me that’s what they were, even though (duh!) they were always under oak trees. There are a zillion oak tree species, and maybe some acorns that are bigger, but these are tiny, less than an inch in length. After many months of crunches under foot I picked one up to see if these were in fact acorns, and lo and behold (duh! again), they were! I showed it to my wife, marveling that there is a giant oak tree in this little thing. This was of course an apologetics opportunity! I’ve done similar things with our kids all their lives, and it’s the way I think about everything, even the way I read the Bible (see my post on John 4 for a good example). I’m always looking for evidence to back up the truth claims of Christianity. You should too! And there’s a lot of it!

So back to our acorn. I pointed out that people who believe the universe is one big cosmic accident think that it’s the most “natural” thing in the world that a ginormous oak tree should be contained in a little acorn. In other words, no God required. But just because we know an oak tree comes from an acorn doesn’t mean we have any idea why or how that happens, let alone that it’s “natural.” All we can know is that it does. The nature of the animating principle that causes the transformation is a mystery. Yet, the Triple A’s (atheists, agnostics, apathetic) don’t think it’s any big deal. Nothing to see here, move along. But when you think about it, it’s mind blowing! Really, that tree over there, out of this little thing? Yep. It reminds me of something I read by C.S. Lewis as I was writing the book, and given that it’s C.S. Lewis, and I’m not, I’d never thought of it before. He said that every birth is as supernatural as the virgin birth. Duh! Yet again. Of course it is! That a male seed and female egg should create us? That’s “natural,” no God required? When my daughter was born more years ago than seems possible, all I could think through my blubbering was, “There is a God!!!”

Which brings me again back to our acorn, and a concept introduced to Western intellectual tradition by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle: telos. Or the purpose or the end of a thing. The Triple A’s, but especially the first two (the apathetic, who cares), insist that there is no telos in nature because if they allow purpose then they have to allow a designing intelligence, and they just can’t have that. Every person knows intuitively that a glass or a TV or lamp or anything created by human beings has a telos, and thus someone who created it for a reason. It’s no different in nature, unless you believe the universe is an amazing coincidence.

Aristotle further cemented in the Western mind that nature isn’t “natural” because of his concept of cause. He had no way of conceiving of a personal Creator God, but he knew our complex world isn’t an accident. For him the word cause meant why it is that a thing exists, and there are four:

  1. Material Cause. What does a thing come from? The material cause of a table is the wood used to make it.
  2. Formal Cause. What is it? The formal cause of the table is the idea of the table in the mind of its maker. The idea has to exist in the mind before it potentially exists.
  3. Efficient Cause. What is the means by which it comes to be? The one who makes the table is its efficient cause.
  4. Final Cause. What is its purpose or end? The final cause or purpose of a table is to place things on it.

The Triple A’s have to insist there is no final cause in nature lest we conclude a formal cause and efficient cause, God, exists. But a simple acorn, and the oak tree it produces, shouts: There is a formal cause! There is an efficient cause! It’s really not a difficult case to make, for you or your children.


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