I think the initial question in the debate concerning religion is about the existence of God. Why should a person believe that there even is a God? Obviously, if there is not a God, then worshipping him is a pretty limited exercise, at most providing some social stability. I have engaged a number of people in the debate concerning the existence of God over the past few years, although I have yet to find the magic approach that will be convincing to most people; nor am I at all certain that such an argument even exists.
In fact, I am fairly convinced that it is not possible to really prove the existence of God. As appealing as it might be sometimes to have that compelling proof, what would such a proof do to faith? It seems like proof would eliminate the need for faith. But Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” That would indicate to me that God has stacked the deck against those who would seek to develop a way to prove that he exists; because proof would eliminate the need for faith and thus make it impossible to please God.
So why should we bother to develop and offer proofs for the existence of God. In my opinion, a good proof for the existence of God can demonstrate that it is at least rational to believe in God, unlike believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or in the tooth fairy. You do not need to check your brains at the door when you come to faith in God. There are quite a few ‘proofs’ that have been developed over the years, some better than others. Before looking at these, I think it would be instructive to take a look at the basic structure of a proof.
A logical argument is one in which a set of premises (a statement assumed, or believed, to be true) are defined and then a conclusion is drawn from the premises. For example:
- All fathers are male (premise 1)
- I am a father (premise 2)
- Therefore, I am a male (conclusion)
So long as the premises are true and logically lead to the conclusion, then the conclusion should be valid. There are two basic types of logical argument that can be made. The first, and most reliable, is the deductive argument. This argument uses general premises to arrive at a specific conclusion, like the example above. In a deductive argument, if the premises are true, and complete, then the conclusion can be considered to be valid.
Inductive arguments, on the other hand, start with specific premises and try to reach a general conclusion. For instance:
- All of the crows I have seen are black (premise)
- Therefore, all crows are black (conclusion)
In this case, the conclusion may be true, but there is no guarantee of it; the conclusion is not required by the premise.
There are many logical arguments for the existence of God, and some that I find to be compelling, while others are less so. But of course I am already a believer in God, and so it is perhaps natural that I would find some of these arguments convincing. But I have seen atheists, who appear otherwise logical, who were un-swayed by these same arguments. While it is certainly possible that the atheist just refuses to allow himself to be convinced, it is also possible that the arguments require a certain amount of predisposition towards believing in God ahead of time in order to actually be effective.
The Design Argument
- The universe displays a tremendous amount of intelligibility, both internal to objects and in the way those things interact with each other.
- This intelligible order is either the product of chance or of intelligent design
- Not of chance
- Therefore the universe is a product of intelligent design
- Design comes from a mind, a designer
- Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent designer.
The Moral Argument
- Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil
- Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one
- But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation
- Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct
The Cosmological or Kalam Argument
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into existence
- The universe began to exist
- Therefore, the universe has a cause for it’s coming into being.
The Argument from Contingency
- If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist
- The universe – the collection of beings in space and time – exists
- Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist
- What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time
- Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time
The Argument from Miracles
- A miracle is an event whose only explanation is the non-natural, or God
- There are numerous well attested miracles
- Therefore, there are numerous events whose only explanation is the direct intervention of God
- Therefore, God exists
The Ontological Argument
- It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone
- “God” means “that than which a greater cannot be thought”
- Suppose that God exists in the mind but not in reality
- Then a greater than God could be thought (namely a being with all of the attributes of that God plus real existence)
- But this is impossible, for God is “that than which a greater cannot be thought”
- Therefore, God exists in the mind and in reality.
The Argument from Desire
- Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
- But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy
- Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth, and creatures, which can satisfy this desire
- This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever”
Norman Giesler’s argument deals with ’cause’, but it is different than many. He is not arguing for a cause in time past like the Cosmological Argument. Rather he is arguing for current cause, similar to Contingency. The light being on by my chair was caused in the first case by me turning on the switch, and in the second by the electricity that is flowing through the bulbs filament. Giesler argues that just like the glow from the lamp is caused by electricity, so my continuing existence is caused by something.
- Some things undeniably exist
- My nonexistence is possible
- Whatever has the possibility not to exist is currently caused to exist by another
- There cannot be an infinite regress of current causes for existence
- Therefore, a first uncaused cause of my current existence exists
- The uncaused cause must be infinite, unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-perfect
- This uniquely perfect Being is appropriately called “God”.
- Therefore, God exists
- This God who exists is identical to the God described in the Christian scriptures
- Therefore, the God described in the Bible exists
I believe that if we, as the church, the body of Christ, were to love God with all that we are, and were to love those around us, that there would be no need of logical proofs for the existence of God. People would see God in us and be attracted to him. Unfortunately, all too often the world sees little difference between us and them. A transformed people provide powerful evidence of the existence of God. People claiming to be reborn, who are no different than the once born, apart from where they spend Sunday morning, are really an argument against a God, especially as described in the New Testament.
In the end, I think that believing in God is a choice that each person makes for themselves. That choice may be made with little, if any thought. Or it may be made after much thought and consideration. To believe in God, just because someone else does, or even your culture as a whole does, is, IMO, not a very good reason. I do believe that there are valid reasons to believe in the existence of God. But whether those reasons are compelling is something that each person will need to evaluate for themselves.
So why do I believe there is a God? I have believed there was a God for as long as I can remember. Initially it was because of the home I grew up in. But ultimately, it is because of my own experience with what I understand to be his workings in my own life. It is possible that I have misunderstood my experiences, but it seems more logical to me, in light of the writings in the Bible and the experience of others I know and have read about, to believe that it is indeed the actions of God, wanting me to know him and to prepare me for something beyond this life.
Handbook of Christian Apologetics – Kreeft & Tacelli
Reasonable Faith – Craig
Christian Apologetics – Geisler