NOTE: The following blog essay was originally published in April on Apologetics 315 as part of a series surrounding the question: "Is Christianity True?" Yesterday, the blog 'commonsenseatheism' began publishing a series of 'rebuttals' to the Apologetics 315 series. Since my essay was the first in that series, mine was also the first to receive a 'response'. My next post will contain my response to Luke's response to this brief essay. So I am putting this essay here to set the context for what will follow. Plus - I thought the essay was pretty darn good!
DOES GOD EXIST? A BRIEF APOLOGETIC FOR BASIC THEISM
Is there a God? How can you be sure that God exists? Can you prove to me that God is real? Does the existence (or lack thereof) of God make any significant difference? Was Nietzsche right in declaring: “God is dead!”? These questions strike at the very heart of human existence, and cry out for our personal attention and deliberation. Furthermore, these questions must be answered before we can inquire into the truth of Christianity. After all, if there is no God, then Jesus certainly isn’t God in the flesh! If there is no God, there is no Christian faith worth considering. In this brief essay, I will share three persuasive clues (traditionally called arguments or proofs) that point to the existence of God. This is not an apologetic for Christianity, but rather for basic theism – an argument that God exists, not an argument that the Christian God is real.
The Human Condition: Why God Matters
Before considering arguments for God’s existence, however, I want to briefly address the importance of God’s existence. To put it bluntly: what are the implications if Freud was right – if God is a delusion, a projection of the human subconscious, an expression of insecurity and wish-fulfillment?
The Book of Ecclesiastes poetically summarizes the life without God: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” Atheist philosopher Jacques Monod states: “Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance.” What is man, in the absence of God? An insignificant and doomed member of an insignificant and doomed race on an insignificant and doomed planet adrift amongst the infinitely immeasurable universe. What is our ultimate fate? Nothingness. Extinction. Humanity without God is not a pretty picture. The existence of God matters.
So the question becomes: does God exist? Let us look at the clues provided by the unquenchably religious spirit of man, the origins and fine-tuning of the universe, and morality.
Can Man Live Without God? An Existential Argument from Human Religiosity
First, consider the nature and extent of religious desire and religious experience. From the dawn of known history, human beings have been remarkably religious. Every human culture and civilization has had a concept of the divine - gods, goddesses, and spirit beings. People have a relentless desire to understand and touch the divine. St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) said, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in You [God].” Notice also that our natural desires (e.g. hunger, thirst) are all matched by something which will satisfy them (e.g. food, water). This suggests that our desire to know and touch God is matched by something in reality which will satisfy that desire - namely, God. There is indeed a hole in our hearts that can only be filled by God.
Human beings also have a hunger for eternal life, to persist beyond physical death. All human cultures express this desire (e.g. the pyramids of Egypt, the spirit world of native religions, Asian ancestor worship/veneration). This yearning for eternity suggests that we exist for more than just this lifetime. Finally, human beings have always sought answers to the great questions of life–“where did I come from?”, “what is wrong with me (and the world)?”, and “how can we fix it?” We all seek answers, we all want wrongs to be set right, and we all yearn for eternal life. This is a part of the human condition because we have been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).
The Heavens Declare the Glory of God : An Evidential Argument from Cosmology
Second, consider the origins of our unimaginably vast and majestic universe. Our four-dimensional space-time continuum and all physical matter originated in the Big Bang about 15.7 billion years ago. What caused the Big Bang? The cause has to be transcendent, that is, outside of the physical universe itself (and therefore outside of time and space as we know it). The cause also has to be personal (a “timeless rock” couldn’t cause anything). The God of the Bible is a transcendent, personal being who brought the universe into existence—as Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Someone might ask: “If God made the universe, who [or what] made God?” But God, as the transcendent personal cause of the universe, exists independently of time, and as such has no beginning. Therefore, nothing caused God; He has always been.
Furthermore, our universe is fine-tuned. It is governed by a number of physical constants and laws (e.g. gravity, relativity) which are set at exactly the right place to support life on earth. This is not random chance or pure luck, as some might argue. Rather, it is evidence of a transcendent Being who created the universe (time, space, and matter) so that we might live and come to know Him.
So, the next time you gaze at the stars, remember that the heavens do indeed declare the glory of God, and the stars declare the work of His hands (Ps. 19:1)–our universe points to the existence of God.
Good & God: A Rational Argument from Morality
Third, consider our awareness of morality–right and wrong. Some people claim that morality is relative to the individual (right for me, wrong for you). But deep down everyone knows that morality is objective–that some actions are truly wrong and others are truly right, regardless of whether someone agrees or likes it. We recognize our own wrongdoing, and rightly feel guilty about it (see Rom. 2:1-5). We also know that some things are wrong for all people in all cultures at all times–child abuse, rape, murder. If someone disagrees, pummel them until they admit that it is really wrong for you to do so!
Where does our awareness of objective morality come from? Perhaps we make it up as individuals or as societies, according to our own tastes. If so, then the Holocaust was not evil, but rather the expression of Nazi Germany’s moral tastes. Perhaps morality is a product of evolution instrumental to human survival. If so, what we call “wrong” today may be “right” tomorrow. Either way, morality is not a prescription for how we ought to behave, but rather a description of how we do behave. If moral standards are not grounded in something transcendent (that is, outside of humanity), it is impossible to say (as we all do) that anything is always morally wrong (or right). Simply put, if there is no God, then the evil that men do is not evil, it simply is.
Objective morality comes from our transcendent God, who has declared what is right and what is wrong (e.g. Ex. 20) based upon His character–His holiness, justice, and love. God is the source of our knowledge of right and wrong–the clue of human morality points to the existence of God.
Come, Let Us Reason Together : An Invitation to Theism
I have touched briefly on three persuasive clues that point to the existence of God. I have not had time to lay the arguments out fully, but I have provided suggestions for further reading in each area.
Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that the arguments are not conclusive proofs. I find them powerful and persuasive, but if you are entirely closed to considering the possibility of God’s existence, then no one will convince you. If God is not in your “pool of live options”, then you will not be persuaded no matter what evidence and arguments are presented in God’s favor. Thus, I wish to conclude with a personal appeal: I entreat you to not close your mind to the possibility of God. Consider the clues for God with an open mind; consider the following essays (arguing for the truth of Christianity in particular) with a willingness to be persuaded.
For further reading, see Ravi Zecharias, Can Man Live Without God?; William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith; Lee Strobel, The Case For a Creator; Norm Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Timothy Keller, The Reason for God.