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Does God Exist?

- Introducing Some Reasons to Believe In the Existence of God

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(Last Updated:  18 Jan 2009 )

Introduction

As Christians, we believe in a God who created the universe and who is the source of moral goodness. And although our faith in God is often to a large extent a result of our own personal experience of his healing power in our lives, it is helpful if we can explain some of the more objective reasons for why we believe. Explanations like this to those who ask can sometimes help our friends be more open to God's call on their lives.

The general outline and content of this paper is based on that used in a variety of debate settings by Christian apologist William Lane Craig.

God Makes Sense of the Origin of the Universe

Have you ever wondered where the universe came from? Why everything exists, instead of nothing? People who don't believe in God have often simply said that the universe has always simply been there, and that's it. But when we think about it, this doesn't work, because if the universe never had a beginning, then in the history of the universe there would have been an infinite number of past events. But if there were an infinite number of events in the past, we would never have gotten to today, because it takes forever to get to infinity! What this means is that the series of events in the past can't go back forever; in fact, the universe must have had a beginning.

And this is what modern astronomy and astrophysics tells us as well. The scientific evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the Big Bang about 15 billion years ago. Physical space and time were created then, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe. The universe is expanding now as a result of that explosion, and if you were to rewind things and go back in time to the Big Bang itself, you'd eventually get to a point where the universe was shrunk to down to nothing at all.

This is a bit difficult for people who don't believe in God, because they now have to admit that the universe had a beginning, but if there's no God they have to say that the universe came out of nothing and by nothing.

But of course everybody knows that out of nothing, nothing comes. We can put it as an argument like this:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This shows that there must be something that brought the universe into existence. But we can go further than this, because whatever caused the universe must itself be uncaused, changeless, timeless, immaterial, and personal.

The cause of the universe must itself be uncaused because, like we mentioned above, you can't have an infinite chain of causes, otherwise you'd never get to the link in the chain that you're looking at right now. It must be changeless and outside of time because it created time. It must be immaterial and not physical because it also created space and therefore must transcend space as well. And it must also be personal, because a personal cause of the universe is able to choose when to create it; if the cause of the universe was just an impersonal set of conditions, the universe would have been around for as long as the cause was around.

This supernatural, personal cause of the universe is what we call God.

God Makes Sense of the Complex Order in the Universe

During the last 30 years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that the chance of a universe where life can exist is much less than the chance of any other sort of universe.

For example, scientists have estimated that if the rate of the universe's expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have smashed back together in a hot fireball. The odds against the initial conditions being suitable for stars to form has been estimated at one followed by a thousand billion billion zeroes, at least. There are around 50 things like this which had to be fine-tuned just right in the Big Bang if it was ever going to be possible for life to exist. And it's not just each quantity which has to be fine-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned, so you end up with odds that are so small they are incomprehensible.

One non-Christian scientist has said, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics."

So what Christians have always believed, that there is an intelligent Designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the view that when the universe popped into being out of nothing and just happened to be fine-tuned to an incredible precision to allow for the existence of intelligent life.

Robert Jastrow (who was for 20 years the Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies) in his book God and the Astronomers has a memorable quote about what modern cosmology and astrophysics has led to:
"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."

God Makes Sense of Objective Moral Values in the World

If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. This is because goodness is based on the character and nature of God; God's perfection, his holiness and love, is the standard for our understanding of morality.

Objective moral values are moral values that are true and binding even if nobody believes in them. For example, when we say that the Holocaust in World War II was objectively wrong, we mean that it was wrong even if the Nazis thought it was right and it would still have been wrong even if they had won the war and been able to kill or brainwash everyone who didn't agree with them.

Many atheists agree that without God there is no such thing as objective moral values. They often say that morality is just something that people have invented to help them survive and reproduce, but that it does not have any deeper meaning. This is actually reasonable enough. If there is no God, then there is nothing really special about human beings - we're just some species that has accidentally evolved on an insignificant planet in an odd corner of the universe. We're slightly more complicated than bacteria, but that's about all.

But objective moral values really do exist, and deep down, everybody knows it. Actions like rape or child abuse or kidnapping or ethnic cleansing aren't just socially unacceptable behaviour - they are really, truly wrong. And things like love, truth, justice, courage, equality and self-sacrifice are really, truly good, regardless of how many people practice them or whether they help us live longer.

But if moral values cannot exist without God, and objective moral values really do exist, then it follows that God exists.

God Provides Meaning and Purpose

From Christian apologist Glenn Miller:

I was fresh out of grad school, had a good job in my field, and life had just 'begun' for me. As I began to live life in the day-to-day reality, I found that I was confronted with a myriad of choices. Many of these choices involved ethics, and some of these choices were very, very difficult and unclear. And so, like many people, I struggled with the issues. I agonized over my choices. I deliberated over trade-offs. And then one day, I realized that the mechanistic, Newtonian universe--cold, bleak, impersonal--couldn't care less about my struggles. That the cold, universal machine would grind on and on--millions and billions of years after the race had died, after the sun had gone out, and the last information trace of me had disappeared from history--and that NO choices I agonized over would make ANY difference in that outcome. And I saw, as a new Christian, the horror of the existentialist's predicament. Without a context that somehow attributed meaning to my choices--BIGGER THAN THE UNIVERSE--my choices became trivial and not worth bothering about at all.

And I instantly saw the beauty of my Christian worldview! Here was a "bigger than the Universe" God who was a conscious Agent, who preserved all of my tiniest actions, deliberations, intentions, motives, agonizing choices in His memory, and who was committed to not only allowing my personal actions to "add value" to the lives of others, but to also function as a basis for eternal recognition in some "hereafter". In this system, in which the individual self survived death and hence could "carry itself with it", there was an entity that survived the death of the universe--me. All the moral choices that I made in integrity became part of me--my character--and I get to 'take my character with me when I die'. All deliberations, however small, now became magnified and leveraged across a huge span of time and space--and all my actions flamed suddenly with significance: the quality of my work, the compassion of my life, the integrity of my heart, the loyalty of my relationships, the honesty of my mind.

With the "meaning" need met, the "purpose" question couldn't be far behind. For, if every action had eternal consequences (via the memory of God and the stream of historical consequences in the lives of other selves who would survive death), then the "purpose" was rather straightforward--organize my life in such a way as to maximize the positive consequences of my choices and actions. Since my actions were important and significant, then these actions could be leveraged for either construction/creation or damage/destruction. Thus, meaning became a foundation for purpose.

Why Doesn't God Reveal Himself More Clearly?

Miller (ibid):
To my personal frustration, God doesn't seem to be interested in public displays of His power, or in doing circus-like tricks to get our attention, or in re-configuring our heads so that we can universally come to full consensus on some theistic argument. His basic modus operandi is "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29.13). He gives us hints, and data, and even a book of His actions in history. He affords us many good arguments (e.g. fulfilled prophecy), and special events in history (e.g. Exodus, Jesus' appearance and resurrection). We develop wonder at the elegance of the mathematical structure of the universe, are moved by the experience of interpersonal bonds, we sense that 'something more' is available and beckoning to us. But in the final analysis, we are personal agents as He is, and we must act as agents--and not as automatons. He seeks lovers, not lathes. We have adequate--but not necessarily conclusive--reasons to believe in His existence, His appearance and involvement in history, and in His desire to become constructively and meaningfully involved in our lives.

Kreeft (The Reasons to Believe):
God provided just enough evidence of Himself for any honest seeker whose heart really cares about the truth of the matter. But not so much that hardened hearts will be convinced by force... Jesus is like a lover with a marriage proposal, not a cop with a warrant.

Knowing God Exists, and Showing God Exists

Most people can know that God exists without needing arguments like these - we can know God just from our personal experience of him as a living reality in our lives, and from the way we see the Holy Spirit changing us to be more like Jesus. But in talking to our friends and family who may not have had this experience, it can be very helpful to use the common ground of reason and logic and scientific facts to show that God exists. This can help clear away some of the obstacles that they might have to belief, so that their minds are more open to the work of the Holy Spirit, and so that there's less in the way of them hearing His gentle call.

"For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6).

Further Reading

There are plenty more resources on this subject. See for example the following:
or on the Internet,


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