Is there a God?

To some, the question “Is there a God?” seems as ridiculous as the question “Is there a tooth-fairy?” Yet there are many well-educated adults who believe in God, while there are none who believe in the tooth-fairy. This makes clear that whether God exists or not is a question on a very different level from the existence of the tooth-fairy. God is not proposed as an explanation of something incidental which can be otherwise satisfactorily explained; He is the only satisfactory explanation for our universe.

Many have attempted to explain the origin of the universe without God, and the sad result looks something like this: “In the beginning nothing created everything”. That’s it. Ignoring the fact that nothing is the absence of anything, it is spoken of as if it possessed energy, intelligence, and will and could produce the universe.

When God is replaced with nothing, wisdom is replaced with folly (Rom 1.22). Whether it concerns matters of origin or destiny, morality or meaning, logic or love, man’s endeavours to explain reality apart from God always arrive at this same cul-de-sac of absurdity. An atheist must deny the obvious to maintain a belief in nothing.

A friend and I were recently chatting to an atheist who (apparently) believed only in the existence of the physical world. However, in our conversation he appealed to logic, expressed love for his departed wife, passed judgment on the moral character of his neighbours, and told us of a dream which, he affirmed, later came true. Logic and love, morality and dreams - we believe that these exist, yet they are not made of physical stuff. How much does logic weigh? What does love measure? Can morality or dreams be put in a jar and examined? These questions should show the absurdity of believing only in the physical. Our atheist friend, when challenged about the fact that his dream had come true, said that there “must be a physical, material explanation”. I pointed out to him that he had no evidence to support this assertion, and the only reason he said this was because of his commitment to a materialistic worldview. He had already excluded the possibility of the supernatural.

A pre-requisite to finding truth is seeking it. We must be willing to be convinced by evidence. Ask yourself, “Am I determined to reject any evidence for God’s existence?” If so, you are not a truth-seeker, but a truth-suppressor, and there is little hope of convincing you against your will. Consider with me the following lines of evidence which point to the existence of God[1].

Physical Reality

Everything we see, touch, taste, smell, and hear was once not in existence. All physical reality had a starting point. Not only so, but the cosmos is finely tuned for human life. These two facts are intended to turn our thoughts to a Creator and Designer.

The Commencement of the Cosmos

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1.1). At a point of time in the finite past the universe began to exist. This is affirmed by the vast majority of scientists[2].  However, scientists did not always believe this and, as evidence came to light in support of this absolute beginning, many were unhappy. In God and the Astronomers Robert Jastrow (a self-proclaimed agnostic) described the experience of the scientific community after they had “proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation”:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

The beginning of the universe is a major headache for the atheist. Every thinking person knows that anything that begins to exist must have a cause outside of itself for its existence. Things do not pop into existence out of nothing without a cause. To suggest, as some have, that the universe could create itself from nothing is nonsense - to do so it must have existed before it began to exist (an absurdity). If all material stuff began to exist, we must accept that there is an immaterial cause for its existence.

Just as we look at a house and know that it had a builder, so we can look at the universe, and the world in which we live, and be assured that this ‘house’ has a builder. To deny the existence of a builder is not intelligence; it is folly. The Christian accepts the reality of a Creator and ascribes glory to Him: “"You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev 4.11).

The Complexity of the Cosmos

Another confirmation of the existence of God is that the universe has all the hallmarks of design. Richard Dawkins refers to the “illusion of design” and says that it is “so successful that to this day most Americans … refuse to believe it is an illusion”.

His claim, with regard to the universe, is that what appears designed, and what functions as if it is designed, is not designed. However, it is difficult to maintain this stance in the face of the abundant evidence of design which permeates the universe, both at the macro and micro levels. Naturalistic scientists have shown that they are simply unwilling to accept the possibility of design.

Francis Crick, one of the co-discovers of the structure of the DNA molecule, went so far as to warn scientists that “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved”. If scientists did not force themselves to reject the notion of design, “the facts which are staring them in the face and trying to get their attention might break through” (Philip E Johnson, Evolution and Christian Faith).

In everyday life, the more complex a piece of machinery and the more adequately it fulfils a function, the greater our admiration for its designer. Scientists have discovered tremendous evidence that the world is perfectly designed to support human life. In I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist Geisler and Turek compare our world with a spaceship:

In this vast and hostile universe, we earthlings are much like astronauts who can survive only in the small confines of their spaceship. Like a spaceship our earth supports life as it hurls through lifeless space. But also like a spaceship, a slight change or malfunction in any one of a number of factors - in either the universe or the earth itself - could fatally alter the narrowly defined environmental conditions we need to survive.

This is a helpful analogy, and reminds us of the many factors that make life possible. These are known as anthropic constants and include such factors as gravity, oxygen levels, atmospheric transparency, rate of expansion of the universe, the tilt of the earth on its axis, the speed of light, and many more. If these were at all tinkered with, life on the earth would be impossible. J P Moreland, in Love Your God with All Your Mind, sums up:

If gravity’s force were infinitesimally stronger, all stars would burn too quickly to sustain life. If ever so slightly weaker, all stars would be too cold to support life-bearing planets. If the ratio of electron to proton mass were slightly larger or smaller, the sort of chemical bonding required to produce self-replicating molecules cannot take place … If the rate of the universe’s expansion had been smaller by one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed and could not form or sustain life … If the earth took more than twenty-four hours to rotate, temperatures on our planet would be too extreme between sunrise and sunset. If the rotation of the earth were slightly shorter, wind would move at a dangerous velocity. If the oxygen level on our planet were slightly less, we would suffocate; if it were slightly more, spontaneous fires would erupt.

For this world to be a home for humanity, the whole universe machine had to be finely tuned to a level far beyond the capacity of the greatest of human minds. God has made the universe not only to demonstrate His power but to display His wisdom. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim 1.17).

Moral Reality

Is rape wrong? Is murder evil? Is child-abuse wicked? I think, as you read those questions, you answered “Yes, yes, yes!” But why? Why is rape wrong? What makes murder evil? On what basis is child abuse wicked? Make no mistake - these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily by the atheist because, without God, there is nothing to ground belief in objective morality.

This is not to say that atheists deny the existence of evil - some do, but many don’t. Nor is it true that atheists cannot perform good actions at a human level. Like all other human beings, atheists have the capacity to make good moral choices. The question is not whether an atheist can know or do good, the question is whether the word ‘good’ has any objective meaning if there is no God.

The consistent atheist acknowledges that, in the absence of God, morality is an illusion. If there is no God it follows that, as Richard Dawkins has put it, “there is at bottom … no evil and no good”. We may use the words good and evil, but they have no objective meaning.

While this is consistent atheism, there are probably no atheists who live according to their creed. Dawkins is known to condemn religion as evil, and to pass moral judgment on God Himself, even though he claims there is no “good and evil”. It is no use pretending moral values do not exist - the common experience of all people says otherwise.

Imagine telling a rape victim that there is no such thing as evil. Imagine telling a man whose wife has been murdered or whose children have been abused that wickedness does not exist. I have met people who deny the existence of morality yet, when someone has stolen from them, or lied to them, or been unfaithful to them, they have taken the moral high ground and condemned the person who wronged them. This is just being inconsistent.

Let’s be honest: morality is a part of reality. Just as there are physical laws which describe what is, so there are moral laws which decree what ought to be. These moral laws confirm the existence of a Lawgiver.

Consider the article you are reading as a simple analogy. This article exists, and is evidence for the existence of its author. Whether or not you believe I exist, you can read the article. However, if I did not exist, there would be no article for you to read. Similarly, moral values and duties exist, and are evidence for a moral Lawgiver. Whether or not you believe God exists, you can still be aware of moral values. However, if God did not exist, there would be no moral values and duties for you to be aware of.

God’s nature is the grounding of morality, for He is the ultimate standard against which every act will be assessed. “No one is good but One, that is, God” (Mt 19.17).

Historical Reality

There once lived in this world a Man unlike any other. The fact that Jesus was here is not in dispute, and the uniqueness of His life is evident to those who take the time to investigate. William Lecky (a historian, and not a Christian) noted:

It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character which through all the changes of 18 centuries has inspired the heart of men with an impassioned love … the simple record of ... three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.

However, Jesus Himself made clear that He was the Son of God from heaven who had come to give Himself as a sacrifice to provide salvation for sinners. The greatest evidence that He was who He claimed to be was His resurrection from the dead. It is this historical event which, more than any other, affirms the existence of God.

Was Jesus raised from the dead? There is no doubt that the Lord died, nor that He was buried in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea. Neither is there any doubt that, three days later, the tomb was found empty. It is also non-controversial to say that the disciples claimed they saw Him alive after He was crucified. Let’s consider this stupendous claim.

Were the disciples right or wrong? If they were wrong, then they were either deceivers or they were deceived. The evidence is all against them being deceivers because they lost everything in this world as a result of their claim, and if their claim was a mere deception then they had no hope for the next world either. People tell lies to get themselves out of trouble, not to put themselves into it. Noone sacrifices himself for what he knows to be a lie[3] but, without exception, the apostles remained true to the original story in their testimony concerning Christ, even as they were martyred. They were not deceivers.

But were they deceived? The evidence is all against this conclusion also. The claim was not that they caught a fleeting glimpse of Jesus in the distance. They claimed to have been with Him over a period of 40 days, sharing food with Him on a number of occasions, and walking miles with Him. They said that they saw Him on the mountain-top and on the sea-shore, individually and in groups (on one occasion a large company of above five hundred at once saw Him). Could they all have been deceived? No, they were not deceivers, and they were not deceived. They were not wrong when they claimed that they saw Him alive after the crucifixion. If they were not wrong, then they were right: Jesus is alive.

The implication is that God exists. Christians believe in “Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom 4.24). The God who created all physical reality, and is Himself morally perfect, has entered human history and, by the miracle of resurrection, confirmed the identity and glory of His Son.

Conclusion

We can know that there is a God because of the external evidence of creation, because of the internal witness of our conscience, and because of the historical reality of Christ. However, the Bible affirms that we can get to know God at a personal level, and that we were made for this very purpose.

A friend of mine told recently of how his car had been filled with the wrong fuel. With quick thinking, he added a different oil to the tank and managed to finish his journey, but the car was not running as it should - the car was designed for diesel, but it had been filled with petrol.

Sadly, this is your story if you have not entered into a personal relationship with God through Christ. You have been designed to know and love your Creator, but you have filled your tank with something else. It is possible to get through this life without God, but your life will not be what it should be or could be. Sadly, to die without God, is to be banished from your Creator forever, with no hope of reconciliation, and with no possibility of escaping His righteous judgment for your sin. Thankfully, you can enter into relationship with God right now. “Christ … suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3.18), and He is the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim 2.5). Receive Him as Lord and trust Him as Saviour, and you will know the true God in this life, and be with Him forever in the next.

 

[1] By using upper case ‘G’ for God, I am stating that the God towards whom the evidence points is the God of the Bible.

[2] As the result of the following lines of evidence: the second law of thermodynamics, the expansion of the universe, the radiation echo, and the philosophical problem of infinite regression.

[3] Many have sacrificed themselves for what turn out to be lies; however, the point is that if they knew they were lies they would not have done so.