Concerning The Existence Of God
Upon leaving the confines of the Earth's atmosphere and entering the vastness of space, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is alleged to have remarked, "Where is God?" This was said out of a sense of mockery that the Lord of the universe could not be found in the final frontier rather than an honest inquiry from a soul awed by a majesty of the cosmos.
Several decades later, God might very well reply, "Where is the Soviet Union?" That nation, once referred to as the "evil empire" because of the threat it posed to human freedom, has become a shadow of its former self. This former superpower decayed from its own internal rot resulting primarily from the regime's rejection of the Judeo-Christian worldview as epitomized by that state's promulgation of revolutionary Communism.
Had Colonel Gagarin and his Soviet comrades been more willing to approach the issues in a more objective manner without the rose colored glasses of their Marxist ideology (perhaps "red" would have been a more fitting characterization) and without suppressing the conclusions that such evidence leads to, the world might have been sparred a Cold War costly in terms of both dollars and human lives. Even now nearly two decades later, the world still struggles to forge a global order and stands ready to fall into international chaos at any possible moment.
Despite what some political conservatives and Pentagon officials might think, the mentioned illustration should not be construed as arguing that the former Soviet Union was the sole source of evil operating in the world throughout the era of its infamous existence. Rather, that one nation merely came to symbolize what happens when man tries to expunge the evidence and knowledge of God from the society and its way of life through the use of violence and intimidation of its citizens. For while the Soviet Union and its kin in the Communist orbit may have perfected the outwardly horrific and bloodthirsty ways of suppressing eternal truths, the democratic West was itself busy finding ways to live as if God did not exist.
It could be argued that the methods used throughout Western society to suppress knowledge of God's existence are in one manner more sophisticated than those employed by the secularist's counterparts behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains. For where the totalitarian Marxist utilized torture in the form of physical violence and coercive psychological manipulation, his Western counterpart simply made God irrelevant by declaring that, while belief in God was acceptable for those too weak to live without Him, this character flaw was to remain a private issue and not to impact the public marketplace.
Phillip Johnson in "Reason In The Balance" characterized this as a primary tenet of naturalism, the belief that the physical world is all that exists in the closed system of the universe and that man can only look to himself for any kind of values (8). Applying the Protagorean ethic of man as the measure of all things with the satisfaction of natural desires as the highest objective, contemporary man has lived up to this lofty goal with all the zeal, fortitude, and ingenuity over which the secular humanists deified the species in the first place --- with a trail of corpses and chaos laying in the social wake.
No sphere of human endeavor has remained untouched from this effort to remove God and His standards from civilized life. These trends illustrated themselves no better than in the field of sexual morality.
According to Cal Thomas in “The Death Of Ethics In America”, the metaphorical death of God and the abolition of His standards causes those adhering to a naturalistic outlook to see the divinely sanctioned rules governing this sphere of existence as an illusion to be ignored by the liberated individual. Yet in a surprising twist, those same individuals holding to a do-your-own-thing kind of ethic change their tune when it comes to doing one’s own thing when it comes to religion, especially if the belief under consideration is traditional Christianity. According to a New York Times poll, a significant number of young adults believe that belief in God is a personality disorder and that theists cannot cope with reality (Thomas, 93).
However, the rules governing these intimate behavioral matters and their Creator are not illusions to solidify the power of an authoritarian priesthood or to comfort the psychologically imbalanced. These precepts were in fact promulgated with the goal of protecting the ultimate happiness and welfare of the beings made in the image of their loving Creator. Mankind ignores these standards at his own peril --- with abortion, venereal disease, and broken hearts the rewards of such folly.
Thomas points out that sexually transmitted diseases now rank as the primary form of communicable disease (93). However, even these kinds of terrifying consequences barely phase the calloused anymore. One student matriculated in a school near Thomas remarked, “We’re not going to get pregnant....If we slip up, we’ll get an abortion (105).”
To fall into sin is tragic and lamentable. To do so with such a callous attitude surely invites judgment. And when that day arrives, the God dispensing it will not be so easily dismissed.
Despite humanity’s attempts to stifle knowledge of its infinite Creator through the calculated disbelief of the atheistic philosopher or the wanton apathy of the hedonist drunken on assorted carnal pleasures, there is little that can be done to totally obliterate the knowledge of God’s existence since this truth is written across the very fabric of the universe and abides in the hearts of men if only they would open themselves to it. Despite this centuries-old effort at suppressing this knowledge, untold masses are seeking after a higher power in record number.
Unfortunately, the same effort once aimed at dethroning the God of the universe has now turned on the rational thought process created by this very same God. The postmodernist movement argues that, at best, objective reasoning does not exist and, at worst, it is a White male imposition designed to foster the dominance of the patriarchy.
This detachment from reality and commonsense often ends in disaster as those with enfeebled mental powers regularly fall for spiritual counterfeits offering their own false answers. An example of this occurred when Marshall Applewhite convinced his followers to commit suicide so that they might find salvation with extraterrestrials circumnavigating the galaxy.
In many instances, the so-called “Christian church” is not much better. Some branches have veered off into a liberalism bordering on agnosticism and atheism. And even some claiming to adhere to a more literalistic form of worship have fallen for dangerous heresies resulting in aberrant beliefs regarding God.
In “Christianity In Crisis”, Christian Research Institute President Hank Hanegraaff warns that one’s conception of God is just as important as having one in the first place. Hanegraaff shows the destruction that can result from thinking not tethered to God’s revelation in Scripture.
One typical example of this faulty theological thinking can be found in television minister Kenneth Copeland who said God “....stands somewhere around 6 feet 2 inches, in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred pounds and has a hand span of nine inches across (Hanegraaff, 121).” Copeland, however, was not preaching on God's incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ. He was, in fact, making these statements regarding God the Father, who according to John 4:24 is a spirit who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
These faulty theological formulations do not confine themselves to the seminary classroom. Rather, they filter down to impact man's view of himself and his relation to the divine Creator. For example, many of these prosperity teachers have demoted the sovereign God into a cosmic department store manager by promoting the doctrine that God is to grant the Christian's every earthly desire whether or not that is in the best interest of the individual making the request or in accordance with God's ultimate will. In so doing, they create an undo emphasis on material wealth when in fact Proverbs 30:8 says, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread."
So what is a soul searching for the truth of God or someone seeking to lead someone to the realization of these profound realities to do as they navigate between the gulfs of outright unbelief and warped forms of theism? If the person needing to be convinced is not at the point of accepting Scripture, one can start with a set of arguments seeking to establish an intellectual basis for God's existence through common reason. These arguments are referred to as the "classic theistic proofs" as a number of prominent intellectuals have appealed to them over the centuries in order to establish a rational basis for theistic belief, their most famous proponent being Thomas Aquinas. These classic proofs touch on the areas of ontology, cosmology, and teleology.
The ontological proof derives its name from the word ontology, the branch of metaphysics pertaining to existence or being. This proof seeks to prove God on the grounds that, since God is the embodiment of perfection, God must exist since existence is better than nonexistence.
Striving to clarify the confusion, in "Apologetics To The Glory Of God", theologian John Frame frames the argument in the following manner. "Premise 1: God has all perfections. Premise 2: Existence is a perfection. Conclusion: Therefore, God exists (115)."
This proof has enjoyed a lengthy and controversial existence throughout the history of Western thought, stretching back to Plato and still captivating the imaginations of intellectuals both pro and con from this era such as Alvin Plantinga and Jean-Paul Sartre. The crux of this debate centers around the dispute of whether or not the forms produced by human thought correspond to an objective reality existing apart from the mind.
For example, some conjecture, because someone can think of a perfect God who must exist since existence a perfection, does that mean such a God really exists? Theologian John Frame believes so, arguing that mental forms do correspond to objective realities.
Frame writes, "Our idea of a perfect triangle is not derived from a specific object of the senses, but it must correspond to something real; else it would not be useful as a criterion (116)." Put another way, the ontological argument bears a resemblance to the innate knowledge possessed by each person regarding God's existence mentioned in Romans 1:19-21.
But while this proof may have entertained the Western world's most formidable minds, it has been pointed out that few have been brought to faith through it. At best, it can clarify one's thinking and re-enforce one's position once they have made a decision for theism in regards to these matters.
Perhaps the best known of these theistic proofs is the cosmological argument. In essence, the cosmological argument holds that every affect has a cause which itself is the affect of a previous cause. Yet this chain cannot go on forever therefore, this chain of causality must have a mover complete in itself, an unmoved mover who is God.
This argument has gained added weight in recent times with the advents of the fields of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. The first points to the need for a Creator and the second establishes the need for His preservative influence.
Thermodynamics argues that a closed system will move towards maximum entropy (a scholarly euphemism for disorder and energy loss) in a finite amount of time. This really socks it to the litany harped by metaphysical naturalists such as Carl Sagan (who claimed that the cosmos is all that was, is or ever will be) that the universe is of an infinite age.
Had the paradigm employed by these weighty academics been true, the reader would not have been able to read this sentence nor the writer able to compose it. The universe would have ground to a halt sometime in the infinitely distant past since, by definition, the amount of time needed for an infinitely old universe to have run down would have elapsed infinite ages ago.
This reality points to a startup point --- a moment of creation if you will --- be it the Big Bang or God speaking the ornaments of the cosmos into existence where they now sit on the celestial sphere. Surprisingly, many Evangelical Christians are now coming to grips with some kind of interpretation regarding the Big Bang theory which they once viewed as suspicious and scientists who once looked to it with cyclical modifications to fit their notions of naturalistic universal renewal are fleeing from it with the speed once reserved for seven-day Creationists discussing the matter.
Related to the revelation of thermodynamics in that sense that it is a scientific theory with divine implications is the esoteric field of quantum mechanics, which warns that there is more to the seemingly deterministic clockwork nature of the universe than meets the eye. According to quantum mechanics, the substance of the universe does not operate in compliance with the Newtonian certainty perceived by the senses but is rather a realm where on the subatomic level a wide range of possibilities exist.
George Bernard Shaw remarked, "Everything happened because it must." Quantum mechanics responds that a particle event is as likely not to happen as happen.
Yet, if such an absolute haphazardness were the case, would not the nightly news be filled with stories of individuals discombobulating into non-existence from the loss of their very molecular cohesion? This gulf between absolute determinism and particle anarchy allows for a creator who holds the cosmos together at all times. Colossians 1:17 says, "...and by him all things consist." This is a reference to the role played by God in the maintenance of creation.
Taken together, the ideas of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics point to the fact that all individuals and structures standing as part of the created order exist as contingent units. Quantum mechanics disproves the deist notion that God left the universe to run its course.
In fact, God plays a pivotal role in keeping the universe together. Mortimer Adler clarifies the notion of contingency by writing in How To Think About God, "A contingent being is one needing a cause of its continuing existence at every moment of its endurance in existence (117)."
Closely related to and amplifying the cosmological proof is the teleological proof for God's existence. The teleological proof argues for the existence of God from the apparent purpose and design of the universe. This theistic proof, with its emphasis upon intelligent design, has taken on added relevance in the early 21st century in light of Darwinism's pervasiveness and the increased levels of knowledge scientists have garnered regarding the intricacies of the universe.
One could argue that these two developments have become one of the primary issues demarcating believers and those unwilling to alter their fundamental assumptions despite the compelling nature of the evidence. Even the most diehard skeptics admits that this argument has brought more unbelievers to God than any other.
And the more mankind learns about the universe, the stronger the argument becomes. For example, pseudo-scientists are at a loss to explain how random chance could bring about complex organic life as it now walks the earth into existence when the chances randomly aligning the twenty amino acids properly in order to form one cell of hemoglobin is reported to be 1 in 10 to the 603 power. And mind you, this is for only an organism as complicated as a single cell.
How then, without reference to a Creator is the rest of the complexity accounted for? Did the viceroy butterflies convene a conference to decide that they would mimic the coloring of the monarch butterflies in order to be avoided by dimwitted predators because the monarch is toxic?
Phillip Johnson points out in works such as "Darwin On Trial" and "Reason In The Balance" that evolution takes as much faith to believe in (if not more so in the light of the evidence) as some form of creation theory. And despite their academic hegemony, the proof evolutionists point to supporting blind chance, unlike the God being argued for in this discourse, does not exist.
The beginning of this paper elaborated in some detail how the world flounders across the stage of contemporary history without the illuminating insight of divine guidance. Related to this is what is known as the moral argument for the existence of God.
Throughout the past two centuries, mankind has striven to retain some sense of morality without reference to the Divine Legislator. And the results have been disastrous.
The role of morality in light of atheistic assumptions was set down by Marquis De Sade who had the “foresight” to realize that, without God acting as a cosmic policemen, all acts that were natural in that they could be carried out by an individual being permissible. The new golden rule became do it to others before they could do it to you.
Anarchy, though, is not the only social threat in an atheistic system. In a situation where God and His precepts are not seen as absolutes binding upon conduct, dictatorship becomes an even greater likelihood as those with a lust for power are no longer burdened by ethical restraints and the people willingly hand their inalienable liberties over to such despots in an attempt to regain some kind of social order, Draconian though it may be.
Even if the sociological climate is not as repressive as Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia (regimes epitomizing the brutalities resulting from political systems inherently hostile to God), what right does anybody have to tell anybody anything if God does not exist? If the Black man is not made in the image of God, what’s so wrong with slavery as it obviously results from his own innate inferiority in the Darwinian survival of the fittest.
Francis Schaeffer once remarked that, if God does not exist, it does not matter whether one helps an elderly lady across the street or pushes her into oncoming traffic. Yet this moral chaos is clearly not the intended moral order. Even those not enrolled in an Evangelical seminary realize that genocide of noncombatants is wrong. No one but the most rabid Skinhead or fanatical Palestinian supports Hitler’s pograms against the Jews.
In "The Abolition Of Man", C.S. Lewis refers to this universal morality as "the Tao" or "the Way" (12). Even though the way the Way is implemented changes as man's understanding of it grows, the Tao itself represents God's universal standards and any reform of the Way as understood by finite human beings must come from within by its loyal adherents. To do so from without amounts to tyranny because those crafting the moral ethos in such an environment will only end up codifying their own arbitrary inclinations as law. With society increasingly marked by crime and arbitrary rule, the moral argument for God's existence will grow in poignancy as millions will grow weary of liberty degenerating into license and justice perverted into political expediency.
While the classic theistic proofs and other arguments such as that for moral values are intellectually formidable, they are merely a starting point as their conclusion could eventually lead to a deity wearing any number of sectarian hats ranging from historic Christianity to deism to Islam depending on the spin put on the proofs. Furthermore, most of the proofs fail to comment on whether or not the deity arrived at intimately cares for the human creation apart from setting up some kind of legal framework, making Him more akin to some kind of metaphysical traffic cop holding the universe together like some kind of subatomic Elmer's glue.
While quite persuasive, these arguments are just that, arguments, not unlike those bandied about night after night on Fox News debate programs where issues are never resolved and the highest goal being to get a rouse out of the opposition. The theistic proofs also bring to mind the Wisdom/Flew parable mentioned by John Warwick Montgomery in "The Suicide Of Christian Theology" where the theist argues that, while God’s handiwork can be deduced through the magnificence of creation there is no concrete way to point out God to those that doubt (89).
It is because that these arguments present a somewhat distant God that there must be a source to bridge the gap. For man steeped in sin to care about God, he must know that God care for him because before such an awakening man is so full of sinful pride to concern himself with his relation to the Creator. The proof of that love and the reality of God’s existence was made certain in the incarnation and redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
Despite the power of the theistic proofs, one cannot come to a knowledge of salvation through them alone. In order to give this intellectual starting point a solid foundation, one must turn to this God’s personal revelation, the Bible.
Wheaton Professor of Biblical Studies Gilbert Bilezikian in "Christianity 101" points out that the Bible never tries to prove the existence of God but assumes it as a given (25). However, Scripture does contain internal indicators as to why it can be trusted. For starters, the Bible is historically accurate.
Paul Little of Intervarsity Fellowship in "How To Give Away Your Faith" quotes archaeologist Nelson Gluek as saying, "No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference (Little, 77).” In fact, the Bible had the historical record straight long before modern historians as evidenced by the controversy surrounding the Hittites, an ancient people once thought mythological but eventually proven an historical reality. Since the Bible has proven itself historically accurate and capable of providing a code of conduct cognizant of human nature, there is little reason to doubt the existence of a God who reveals Himself in its pages and preserved them so that man might come to know Him through this special book.
But perhaps the greatest proof of all regarding the existence of God is His earthly manifestation in the person of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, an act proclaimed in Scripture and making that book the compelling work that it is. While not accepting His claims of deity, most religions and philosophies look to Jesus (or rather a warped version of Jesus) as an exemplary figure above the remainder of the human fray in terms of example.
Yet one cannot have it both ways. C.S. Lewis said that either one accepts Christ’s claims to His own deity or one must think him to be a raving lunatic. There can be none of this “Jesus was a good teacher but...” nonsense.
Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” He reveals that He is God as only God has the power to tell God who is to have access to God. In John 8:58, Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” revealing that Jesus shares the same sacred name of “I am” telling the world that God is the pinnacle of existence.
To further authenticate His claims, Scripture records the accounts of hundreds witnessing Him after the Resurrection. Surely, that many people over a series of different occasions could not all have been hallucinating and, from the persecution they faced, it seems these loyal disciples had little to gain from lying about the issue.
From the arguments presented, it can be concluded that God does exist and that He has placed a sufficient number of indicators to this reality throughout the layers of creation so that man might come to this knowledge. It has been seen that some of this knowledge can be arrived at through common logic.
For example, through the theistic proofs man can conclude that a God exists through an analysis of the creation. The fact that man can engage in this intellectual quest at all points to a rational Creator seeking to imbue His most cherished creations with a finite portion of His own rationality. The scientific understanding of the cosmos also points to God's existence. Even the most simple components of the universe testify to a complexity beyond human comprehension. This is even the case with the so called "simple" organisms such as bacteria and viruses.
Even more importantly, this complexity testifies that God is not beyond the pale of legitimate conceptual discussion. Mortimer Adler argues that, if man can expound on theoretical constructs such as blackholes and subatomic particles without having directly experienced them, then God is therefore not necessarily off limits conceptually.
The contemporary social climate testifies to God's existence as civilization becomes more chaotic with anarchy and tyranny gaining ground simultaneously. Without Scriptural principles under-girding the nation's laws, one can kill their child through abortion but can be sent to jail for disciplining the child should the child be privileged to see the world outside of the birth canal.
Despite the power of these proofs to any unprejudiced individual with any degree of mental acuity, the best proof for God's existence is His revelation to man in the form of Jesus Christ as detailed in Scripture. The only begotten Son of God, whose claims cannot be legitimately dismissed by His enemies, predicted His own resurrection in Matthew 12:39. And unlike the false prophets, hucksters, and shysters who refuse to subject their claims to verification, the risen Christ was authenticated by over 500 witnesses. One of these witnesses was so skeptical that he insisted on sticking his hands into the Lord's wounds in order to be convinced otherwise.
One's alignment in the debate of whether or not God exists is the most important position one will ever take as it will ultimately impact every facet of one's existence. And while this decision is ultimately up to the individual in consultation with the Holy Spirit and cannot be made for them by longwinded apologists attempting to persuade them, they should know that their final decision in these matters will dramatically impact their eternal destinies. There is much more at stake in this conflict than where one will be spending Sunday morning.
By Frederick Meekins