Billions of people have believed in a god, people of differing cultures and times, differing places and customs. Mankind is irreversibly homo religiosis, a religious creature. Even philosophies that had no god eventually had to invent one—this was clearly the case within Buddhism. The Buddha did not teach the existence of a deity, but the Buddha’s followers over the centuries converted Gautama Buddha himself into a god, and he is still revered as such by millions of Buddhists today.
And this shift is also a shift to a personal deity. An abstract “force” does not satisfy the needs of the human heart—we need to know that someone is out there, not just something. This same shift was evident within Hinduism. The monistic impulse of Upanishadic Hinduism, with its highly philosophical Brahman, an abstract higher power, was overshadowed over time by devotion to individual, personal gods. We humans arrive on this earth incomplete, sensing a deep need within our souls for the divine. This is the “God-shaped void” in each heart.
Atheism—the denial of God’s existence—simply doesn’t satisfy the longings of the human heart. Man cannot live without God. When people are denied a god, they invent one to satisfy their hearts.
This is a point the braver atheists like Sartre have conceded. Their suggestion, of course, is that humanity has no meaning, no purpose, no ultimate significance. We cannot find our significance in ourselves—we long to exist for something greater. As was discussed in the previous lecture, if there is no God who exists and has spoken, we are left absurd creatures whose every action is arbitrary. It should come as no surprise that the fervor of UFO people seems so very religious in its zeal! They want someone to be out there, so that we can have a point of reference from which to consider our own existence! Those searching for extraterrestrial life often argue that humanity’s reason for existence—its purpose and destiny—will only be discovered when we make “first contact” with another life form. I would suggest that that other life form is the One that created us, that made contact for our salvation 2,000 years ago. We find our destiny only in him, for whom and by whom we were created.
Everyone has an idea of the perfect, a concept of the good, true and beautiful. This deep moral sense, what C.S. Lewis called the Tao or the Law of Common Decency, had to come from somewhere. Compare the great moral systems of the world through the ages. They are remarkably similar. Faithfulness in marriage, honesty in speech, goodwill toward other people, not shedding human blood, honoring one’s parents—all are moral principles found in every society. Confucius died long before Jesus, but summarized his Law of Reciprocity (shu) by stating, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
This universal sense of right and wrong, what philosophers historically called natural law, cannot be explained very easily without appealing to humanity’s creation by a moral God. And these moral principles are not merely the products of human cultures. Were this so, we would see a lot more variation from one society to the next. But we find them, not only in every culture, but also ingrained in the human conscience. As Paul explained, God’s moral law is “written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15). This had to come from somewhere.
This follows from our universal sense of right and wrong. It’s interesting to note that the skeptic Immanuel Kant best developed this argument. Having attacked the traditional logical proofs for the existence of God (some would suggest unconvincingly), Kant proposed an argument of his own. All human beings experience injustice in this life. Our longing for things to be put right—our hunger for vindication—is not fulfilled in this life. The wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. For our notion of justice to have any meaning, there must be a judgment after this life, a judgment that necessitates a supreme Judge, God.
Many people have claimed a personal experience of God. While these experiences are not all the same, they do suggest that something is going on in the spiritual realm. Further, when religion is weighed in the balance of history, few can deny that belief in God has had a powerful and largely positive role in history. While religious warfare and religious persecution (including the Roman Catholic Crusades and Inquisition) tarnish religion’s track record, the most effective ethical systems in history have all been tied to the existence of God.
The accusation is often made that religion is a crutch for the weak. People invent gods to protect them from the harshness of reality. If the people are hunters, they invent a warrior god to help them in the hunt and to ward off competing tribes. If the people are farmers, they invent rain gods and fertility gods to insure a good harvest. God’s simply reflect the needs of the culture that creates them. This accusation is lodged against all religions.
And this is a great observation. The Bible makes it too. In Romans 1, for example, Paul tells us that people invent God’s, or idols, for their own benefit. But they do this after they have already suppressed the knowledge of the one, true God. Why would they want to do that? Because the real God, Yahweh, the God of the Israel, won’t be manipulated for personal benefit like an idol.
The God of the Bible, a holy Judge who damns sinners, a consuming fire, an infinitely powerful being who commands all people to repent and humble themselves before him, is hardly the type of god that people would willingly invent. If we were going to invent a god, he’d be much friendlier, much more manageable, and far more willing to play by our rules and follow our agenda.
The top of this page doesn’t promise “really good evidence for the existence of God.” It promises proof, so proof shall soon be offered.
Evidence is submitted to help ascertain proof. It deals with likelihood.
Proof is stronger than evidence. Proof deals with certainty. Proof has been reached when the evidence is so probable as to leave one morally bound to come to a particular conclusion. Proof is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
But before we get there, it might be helpful to look at what might be called three irrational approaches to the question of God’s existence:
1. The Relativist: For me personally, God exists, but for other people, he may not.
Hold on. Either there is a God who actually exists (whether we believe in him or not), or there is no God and never will be (no matter how much I want him to exist). When Christians say there is a God, we mean that this God actually exists―we’re talking about reality. Either God exists for everybody and some don’t realize it, or God doesn’t exist for anybody, and some are deluded into thinking God does exist.
2. The Atheist: There is no God. Period.
But to know that God doesn’t exist, you'd have to be God:
1. You’d have to be everywhere at the same time (omnipresent) in order to know that there is no God anywhere.
2. You’d have to know absolutely everything (omniscience) to be sure there is no God.
3. You’d have to be all-powerful (omnipotent), since someone might otherwise have the power to hide God from you.
An omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent being is the definition of God. To know God doesn’t exist, you must be God. Your being God proves God exists.
3. The Agnostic: We simply cannot know whether God exists.
How convenient. All the perks of atheism with none of the need for proof. But the same problem arises. In order to know that it’s impossible to know God exists, you’d have to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Agnosticism assumes that God doesn’t exist, since if God did exist, he would (by definition) have the power to make himself known.
None of these 3 approaches even attempts to prove itself. In fact, there are very few things we can actually prove. Think about proof. There are all kinds of things we believe without proof. We take things on faith all the time. Historians tell us that George Washington crossed the Delaware River. But can you prove that? Were you there? Do you have videotape of the event?
Or, for that matter, how do know that 1967 ever actually existed? Can you prove it? How do you know that the world didn’t start in 1972? Can you prove that the pre-1972 world isn’t just a really big sham? Imagine implanted memories, doctored textbooks, and more. Or just rent The Matrix. Proof is hard to come by. We take most of what we believe on faith, but God has made sure that his existence (at least) is obvious to people willing to think things through.
There's lot's of evidence for the existence of God, but there is also proof. In fact, anything can function as proof for God’s existence. EVEN ________________ CAN PROVIDE ABSOLUTE PROOF FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
4 possible explanations for stuff (the universe), demonstrated by a shoe
There are only four options, given the fact that you see a shoe (or anything else in the large category of “stuff”). Considering the options leaves one no alternative but to conclude that God, in fact, must exist.
But what if other people from different cultures all see the shoe? You see the shoe. Smell it. Listen to it and feel it. Taste it, if you dare. Run a battery of tests on the shoe―it can be demonstrated to exist. Or if you want to suggest that the shoe is an illusion, we’ll see if you flinch when I throw it at you. Or try something bigger than a shoe, like a ready-mix cement truck. If you see such a truck barreling down the road at you, do you sit back and say, “I see an illusion of a truck?” If you get out of the way on a consistent basis, then (like it or not) you trust your own sense data. You base your life on the assumption that the material world does actually exist.
This is the most impossible of all the options, even though it seems to be the most popular among skeptics. The universe could not have created itself; that’s absurd. The problem is that the universe would have had to exist before it existed. The universe would have had to been in existence first in order to exercise the power of creation on itself. It would have to be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship. This is a flagrant violation of the law of non-contradiction.
Other people re-phrase this option by saying that “chance” created the universe. But (to borrow an argument from R.C. Sproul) chance is not a thing. Chance is nothing. Chance has never caused anything to happen. Flip a coin. Is it heads or is it tails? Let’s say it’s heads. What force did chance exercise upon that coin to cause it to come up heads? None at all. The force of the toss, the vector at which it was flipped, the gravity of the earth, wind currents, landing point, and whether you turned it over or not at the end―all of these factors exerted an influence. Chance is just a term we use to describe mathematical probability. Chance is not a thing and therefore cannot “create” anything. Chance doesn't exist. It is not a thing. It is nothing.
Before the universe existed, nothing existed (apart from God, given he exists). Nothing really means no thing. Nothing is not just a big black void. You can imagine a black void. A black void is something. But nothing is nothing. There would have been nothing in existence before everything came into existence, and nothing cannot do something. Nothing especially can’t create the universe.
The classic Latin phrase is ex nihilo nihil fit. Nothing can do nothing.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics leaves little doubt that this is an impossible option. This principle, known as entropy, observes that the universe in which we live moves constantly from order to disorder. Everything naturally gets less organized as time goes on. The fact that we’re not now at a point of maximum disorder proves that there must have been a beginning, a point at which the move to disorder began. (If the universe has existed infinitely (always), the universe would have reached a point of infinite disorder―but we’re far from that degree of disorder.) Similarly, the fact of an expanding universe (and the consequent big bang theory, for what it’s worth) leaves the option of an eternal universe with few modern supporters.
But before modern astronomy came to our aid on this point, Christians had to argue against this notion of an eternal universe. The medieval Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274AD) pointed out that, even if the universe were eternal (and we now know it isn’t), God must still exist. Thomas pointed to the fact of intelligence within the world. The basic elements of our universe cannot organize themselves intelligently. To put it more philosophically, matter does not contain within itself an organizing principle.
If you broke the whole universe down into its basic elements (the periodic table... or even more basically, the materials comprising the tiniest particles), you will see that matter does not possess intelligence in itself. Yet the universe shows signs of intelligence at every level, great and small. Chameleons change colors, protons revolve around nuclei, plants bend toward sunlight, and people design shoes. Matter has been acted upon intelligently, so a God with intelligence greater than all the intelligence in the universe must exist to account for it. There must be something with intelligence (and therefore someone) outside of the world of matter to account for the intelligence in matter.
The material world (stuff, including the elements that make up the shoe) was created by a being greater than all the power in the universe and containing intelligence greater than all the intelligence in the universe. This is the only option left. God created the universe. Like it or not, the shoe provides absolute proof for the existence of God.
It comes as no surprise then that Paul can write in the first chapter of Romans (1:18-20):
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities―his eternal power and divine nature―have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
God’s power, eternity and deity are clearly seen, understood, and plain to humanity, seen in the created world, Scripture says, so that no one can claim ignorance when God’s judgment falls.