Resources for Following Christ in All of Life
Even if you weren’t a baseball fan before 2017, it is likely you became one if you lived in Houston. Who could have guessed (other than one seemingly prophetic Sports Illustrated writer) that a team that was the worst in baseball for years would win the World Series?
With baseball fandom comes familiarization with a plethora of stats common to the sport, including RBI, ERA, and OBP. Try to talk some baseball smack without sprinkling in a few of these acronyms, and you quickly get exposed. One of the more recent stats, and perhaps least understood, is WAR. It stands for Wins Above Replacement, and is a statistic which tries to measure the number of wins a player adds to his team over what a top minor league prospect would add. Apply the stat to the last 100 years of the sport, and you will find the players with the highest career WAR are Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Ty Cobb.
WAR seems like a pretty intimidating statistic to me. Sure, it might be great if you’re an MVP caliber player like Houston’s Jose Altuve, but what if you’re a run-of-the-mill performer? Do you really want one little statistic publicly declaring how you’d compare against your replacement? I served as a pastor for many years. I wonder what my WAR was. Or how about my WAR as a husband or father? Yikes!
But let’s take this whole discussion a step further by asking the question: What is God’s WAR? How much better is he over his replacement. Of course, if God is anything like what the Bible describes, (omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent) then there really isn’t a comparable replacement. But let’s for the sake of conversation consider a view of the world without God in it.
If our world is one without God, the universe we inhabit would not exist as part of some grand plan, but merely as a product of chance. Our universe would simply be a roulette ball that spilled out of some eternal universe making machine, and our humanity nothing more than the product of blind biological mutation. But this kind of world loses more than just God, it also loses things like reason, free will, love, beauty, justice, and human equality. “How is that?” you might ask.
Take reason, for example. Reason, in a world without God, is simply not reliable. Think it out this way: our reasoning skills in some pre-human formative state were different than they are today, and if evolution continues as it is said to have occurred in the past, our reasoning skills will be different a million years from now. But if reasoning itself is transitory (representing at any time only what helps us survive and not necessarily what is true), can we really trust any conclusions we come to today? Perhaps this is why Charles Darwin wrote: “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”
Free will also cannot be sustained without God. Best-selling atheist Sam Harris declared so much in his book Free Will. As accidents of the cosmos, we are driven by bodily chemical reactions to the stimuli around us. It might feel like we chose the mocha chocolate ice cream during our last stop at the grocery store, but something in the makeup of our DNA made the choice inevitable. At least, that’s the story in a world without God.
Or consider, love and beauty. There is hardly a day that goes by without me telling my wife that I love her and that she is beautiful. But can love and beauty (in any substantive way) be sustained in a world without God? I don’t think so. Love would simply be the name we give to the chemical reaction we are having in response to the object of our affection, and beauty would fare no better. Rather than love and beauty being richly poetic, a world without God makes them nothing more than fizz in an earth-sized lab.
And then there is justice and human equality. These are the battle cries of secular society, are they not? But can these concepts be grounded in a world without God? We never consider one lion fighting another lion unjust; we only say it is the way of the wild. If we are but creatures of chance, should we not come to the same conclusion when one human kills another? Sure, we could say that our sense of justice is a well-honed evolutionary adaptation missing from other species, but even then it would be but a biological mechanism (better found in some individuals than others) and not some standard to which we have a duty. Furthermore, we must remember that justice often rests on the concept of human equality. But can we sustain human equality in a happenstance world? According to the evolutionary model, aren’t some humans more fit to survive than others?
All this might sound a bit unfair, as though I am painting a picture without God in an unnecessarily negative light. But this is not just my picture, it is one that atheists themselves regularly paint. Consider these words from Cornell University’s William Provine: "Let me summarize my views…There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind . . . There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either." 
This is the world without God. Take God out of the equation and replace him with atheism and we have a mechanistic world in which all we truly treasure is nothing but a mirage of nature.
So back to the original question: what is God’s WAR, at least relative to atheism? I think his Wins Above Replacement is nothing less than reason, free will, love, beauty, justice, and human equality, among other things. Take him out of the line up and I can’t help but think the whole human enterprise would go into a slump of epic proportions.
© 2018 John Hopper
1. “Charles Darwin to W. Graham, Down, July 3, 1881,” in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; repr., Boston: Elibron, 2005), 1:285.
2. “Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy?: A Debate between William B. Provine and Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994,” Origins Research, vol. 16, no. 1, http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/ 161main.htm (accessed March 4, 2013).
John likes to help people wrestle with the big questions of life in his work with Search Ministries. He served as a pastor in Houston for 16 years, earned his doctorate at Biola University, and is a contributing author of Reasons to Believe: Thoughtful Responses to Life’s Toughest Questions