The Existence of God
Does God exist? I believe that he does. But I cannot conclusively prove that to you. I believe that he exists for two primary reasons. The first is based primarily on my own experience, and secondarily on the experience of others. That there is a God, a God who is interested in me, and who is working in my life, is the best explanation I have for who I am and for what I have experienced. And I am not just an isolated example. I have personally known others, and read about countless others, whose experiences have been similar to my own. I cannot prove to you that God exists, but I believe he has proven his existence to me.
The second primary reason I believe in the existence of God is that it makes more rational sense to me than the alternative. I simply cannot wrap my head around the thought that this universe, including the planet we live on, life itself, and the ability to think rationally are simply the product of blind chance. I know there are some really smart people who seem to have no problem with accepting that; but I just cannot.
I must also confess that my upbringing in a Christian family has had an impact on me. Some would say that I was brainwashed, but I am grateful for that push in the right direction. I may have believed at one time because of my parents, but that time is long past.
Proofs for the Existence of God
If I cannot prove to you that God exists, why would I include a section on proofs for his existence? Well, while I do not believe that a conclusive proof is possible, there have been many attempts over the years to provide logical proofs for God’s existence. Some are convinced that they are effective, but I believe they are really only useful to demonstrate the rationality of belief; a quite different thing than real proof. These proofs include:
Cosmological: There are a variety of cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Each of these is centered on causation or change. Among the most familiar of these is the Kalām argument. This proof takes the form of:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause
- The universe began to exist
- Therefore, the universe had a cause
If the initial two premises are correct, then the conclusion is also correct. This seems like a good proof, but you will not have to use it very many times before you find those who will disagree with one or both of the initial premises. To me, their reasons for disputing the premises seem far-fetched or flimsy, but to those who do not want to believe, any excuse will work.
Teleological: The teleological argument is also known as the argument from design. Essentially the argument is that the universe, and life, is too finely tuned to have been an accident; there must have been a designer. Today, the intelligent design movement is championing the teleological argument. Like all of the arguments listed here, there are those who dispute that the appearance of design requires a designer. If could, for instance, simply be that there are an infinite number of universes, and this one just won the cosmic jackpot and was able to support life.
Ontological: Of all of the logical proofs presented here, this is to me the most confusing. A variation of this argument goes something like this.
- God is by definition the greatest being that you can conceive of.
- But what is greater, that which is only conceived, or that which is actualized?
- That which is actualized is greater, so a god that actually exists is greater than a god who is only conceptualized.
- Therefore God is actual.
Confusing; yes. But it does have its proponents.
Miracles: A miracle is defined as an event that is caused by a supernatural entity. So if miracles occur, then there must be a supernatural entity, God, behind them. So if miracles can be demonstrated to occur, or have occurred in the past, then there must be a God. The biggest miracle ever to occur is the creation of the universe, so God does exist.
Morality: Seemingly hardwired into humanity is a sense of right and wrong, and of fairness. There is also a willingness to self-sacrifice, a willingness which seems contrary to a purely naturalistic understanding of life. What is the source of this morality? Is it a trait that evolution has left us with? Is it culturally derived? Or is it a divine moral lawgiver? There are problems with the first two, so it must be the third.
Religion: Throughout time and place wherever modern man has been found there is some trace of religion, an acknowledgement of something greater than ourselves. That is quite the coincidence, unless the creator has built into us a desire to know him.
What can I know about God apart from the Bible? This is generally what is considered to be general revelation, what is revealed about God through some source other than the Bible or other God inspired writings. General revelation can include:
- Nature: The creation itself bears witness to its creator (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-23).
- History: Sometimes in historical, or even current, events we can dimly see the hand of God at work.
- Conscience: Why do we have a conscience? Romans 2:14-15 identifies the conscience as God’s law written on our hearts.
General revelation is available to everyone who lives, or has lived. But for the most part humanity ignores the witness of general revelation and live their lives as if there were no God. General revelation does not tell us anything very specific about the creator and is best understood in light of his more directed revelation of himself in the Bible.
The Nature of God from General Revelation
So just what can a person know about God based on general revelation? There are a number of attributes of God that can be derived just from what we can see in the creation, and others that are likely.
Powerful: In my way of thinking, power is required to produce something. And the bigger and grander the product, the more power is required to produce it. As humans we think of ourselves as pretty powerful, and yet producing something the size of the moon is well beyond our ability to execute. I cannot imagine the amount of power that would be required to produce a universe. Even a universe that unrolls from a singularity would require an amazing amount of power to start it, and keep it unrolling.
I have no idea about what lies beyond the universe we inhabit, nor what limits there might be on a universe creator in that realm. But within the context of the creation, I think it is safe to identify the creator as all-powerful, omnipotent; without equal in power and ability; able to do whatever he chooses.
Intelligent: The more complex and elegant the design, the more intelligence is required to produce it. And can you think of anything that is more complex or elegant than the universe, apart from its creator? Is there anything about the creation that its creator would not know?
Transcendent: A creator would be distinct from his creation, independent of it and not limited by it. Space and time are two limitations that we are very familiar with. Everything in this universe is limited to being in a single location at any one moment in time. And everything that I am aware of experiences the passage of time in a forward only manner, although I am aware that there is some thought that in the quantum world that forward only direction may not be completely applicable. This lack of limitation has some interesting application to a creator.
Not being bound by space means that the creator can be multiple places at any one instance of time, or even in every place within the universe. This means that the creator could be omnipresent, everywhere at once. While in a sense I am able to be multiple adjacent places at once, limited by the size of my body, the creator could be everywhere in his creation, since unlike me, he is not limited by space.
Even more interesting is that the creator would not be bound by time, meaning that he could move both forward and backward in time; be in multiple time periods simultaneously; or even be concurrently present at all points of time. That is admittedly hard to visualize, but if, as scientists claim, time is just another dimension, then it is really little different than being in multiple places at one time.
If the creator is intelligent enough to create our universe, and is able to be everywhere within it, both in space and in time, then he could know everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen. He would be omniscient.
Miracles: A miracle is generally defined as something that has a supernatural origin, an act of a deity. Much of the argument against miracles assumes that there is no creator. But there are those who will argue that even an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator would be unable to produce a miracle. But that does not really make sense, since creation itself is an act of the creator, a miracle. I can find no rational argument for supposing that a creator would be unable to interact with his creation, i.e. perform miracles. He may choose not to perform miracles, but that is different than claiming he would be unable to.
I am able to manipulate the creation in some limited extent to accomplish my own goals. Why could not the creator be able to do the same thing? While I am not able to manipulate the laws of physics to accomplish my goals, is there any reason to suppose that a creator could not? I was a software developer for many years, the creator of little software worlds. Most users of those applications were limited by the user interface in what they could do. But I was able to tweak the underlying data in ways that they could not, allowing me to accomplish things that the average user could not. That is really no different than the creator manipulating the underlying laws and constants that drive our universe to accomplish something that I would be unable to.
Miracles are impossible if there is no creator. But if there is a creator, then miracles should not be a surprise, even miracles that we do not recognize as such; rather they should be expected.
Purposeful: While it is by no means certain to me, it does seem likely that a creator would have a purpose in his creation. In other words, he had a reason for producing a life friendly universe. Other than for the production of some form of life, it is hard to determine what his purpose might have been, assuming all we had to go on was creation itself.
But if he had a purpose in creation, and especially if that purpose included intelligent life, it would seem reasonable to assume that he would be active in his creation, at least enough to make sure his purpose was fulfilled. It would also seem likely that he might want any intelligent life that developed to have some concept of him and his purpose.
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