The Existence of God

What's Your Filter

Date: November 2, 2014
Study: What’s Your Filter? Christian Apologetics and Worldview
Teacher: Kameron Slater

REVIEW
Study Thesis: A Christian worldview enables us to look at all of live through scriptural lenses, which in turn equips us to defend the faith, evangelize wisely, critique unbiblical thought that pervades our culture, and bring God glory in all of life.

Christian Apologetics: the discipline of offering a defense of and case for, or offer evidence for, the veracity and reliability of the Christian faith.

THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Many people today don’t believe that God exists – either conscious rejection – but, more likely –practical rejection: people live as though the here and now is all that matters.

If you have – or anticipate having a conversation a/b the existence of God or meeting someone who asks you questions about the Existence of God – my goal today is to give you some talking points you can use when you talk with people who don’t believe in God so that you can clear up some of the roadblocks and rubble that prevent people from taking the idea of divine revelation seriously.

Today, I want to give you 6 arguments for God’s existence.  The goal is to demonstrate that believing in God is reasonable, consistent with reason, and is actually more rational than the alternative of believing in his nonexistence.

Think of these as basic tools in your toolbox – basic arguments you can use in speaking to others on this topic.

6 Arguments for the Existence of God

  1. Probability: Everyday we exercise faith, and I think it’s reasonable to have faith in the supernatural.
  1. Creation and Design: Creation by an Intelligent Designer is more intellectually plausible than creation by random chance. (Telological and Cosmological arguments).
  1. Anthropic Arguments. Things about ourselves—conscience, capacity for good and evil, yearning for eternity, religious experiences—are best explained by the existence of God.
  1. Argument from Immaterialism. The existence of love, beauty demonstrate that we do not live in a materialistic universe.
  1. Transcendental Argument. Knowledge, logic, and science, etc., are only possible because God’s existence is a precondition for all thinking and knowledge.
  1. Ontological argument. God is the being greater than which cannot be conceived.  The greatest being conceivable possesses the attribute of existence.  Therefore, God exists. 

________________________________________________________

1. Faith in the Supernatural is plausible – more plausible than the alternative

There is misconception that people of faith generally and Christians specifically believe in things that seem like fairy tales or fables or myths.  They do not believe in things based on Facts or Evidence or Rational thinking – and thus cannot be taken seriously.

What does it mean to have faith?  How do you decide what to believe in and what not to believe?[i]

Well here is the bottom line: a) in order to live in the world, we are all required to exercise faith and b) we exercise faith every day by using the three tools of faith: reason or “science”; intuition and our experiences.

Be careful that you use all of these tools when considering questions of ultimate importance.

Many people when talking of matters of “faith” –decide that the only observable, knowable, “scientific” information can be used.  Well, beware that this creates an anti-supernatural bias – leading to an agenda-centric approach to evaluating “evidence” vs. an evidence-centric approach.   And, it seems like religion is probably the greatest area in which people bring pre-determined agendas to the discussion.

Offense: John 1: Revelation is the final pillar or faith that Christians have.  We believe in a God who wants to be known and has revealed Himself most fully in Jesus Christ.

We exercise faith everyday, and I think it’s reasonable to have faith in the supernatural.[ii]

2. Creation and Design: Creation by an Intelligent Designer is more intellectually plausible than by random chance.

How did everything start?  What is the origin of the Universe?  There are two basic answers to this question.  Either a) the universe is self-created or b) it was created by something else.  The question is, which view do you have faith in?  It is not a matter of science versus faith, but faith versus faith.

Naturalism assumes that the origins of everything began through time and chance.   Very simple equation:  Impersonal force (call it what you will – energy, matter, atoms, space) + time + chance = creation.  Given enough time, anything can happen.

What’s the probability and likelihood of this creation coming about through this equation?

To quickly do this, let’s set aside most of creation – the trees and mountains and sunsets.[iii]

Let’s just look at the most basic building block of life: A Single strand of DNA containing 200 molecules must be in a precise order – the probability of a strand of DNA forming through mutations in the primordial soup is extremely low.

What are the odds?  Well, I’ll tell you because I did the math.  Actually – I tried to do the math but Excel wouldn’t produce a high enough number: It turns out the odds are very low that a single DNA was produced this way and very low odds that even if lightning struck the primordial soup and through molecules in the air every second.[iv]

And that’s just the simplest strand.  Then you have the Cell Nucleus/ Substance/ Membrane – then you need eyes, ears, nose, different species of animals, plants, this whole world and universe around us  – oh, by the way you needed an environment in the first place.

Obviously – there is a very low probability that MATTER – the Universe around was – was CREATED through random chance.

Now – I don’t want you to think that I think that low probability means that something couldn’t happen a certain way.  I’m just saying it takes faith to believe in a purely naturalistic explanation for the universe.

Evolution by Natural selection is insufficient to explain the origin, complexity and diversity of life – (but I can understand why it seems elegant and convincing if you conclude that there is no supernatural)

At a minimum – if you can believe in Creation through RANDOM CHANCE/Naturalistic Evolution – then there should also be sufficient evidence for to believe that there was an actual creator – an intelligent a designer.[v]

In the view that an Intelligence Designer created the world – we only have to make 1 assumption – that SOMEONE created the world.  Now that’s a big assumption, but it means we don’t have to take thousands of smaller steps of faith.

I have given you simple arguments as a starting point.  Please note that in making this argument – I’m not taking a stand for any particular creation story or taking a stance on any particular methods an intelligent designer might have used in creating the world.  We know from Scripture that “God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1) and that “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20).

3. Anthropic Arguments.  Fundamental aspects of human nature and human experience are best explained by the existence of a God who created us this way.

There are several forms of this argument.  Most often, it focuses on human conscience, religious experiences or the sense of yearning for eternity, and the human capacity for good and evil.

A: Ethics, Morality and Conscience: A world ordered by a Moral Lawgiver is more humanly satisfying and explains human life better than the alternative.

All humans have a conscience, a sense of right and wrong. Every culture in human history has upheld beliefs about right and wrong.  We seem to operate as though some things are right and others are wrong.  Why is this?  Where did the sense of morality come from?

As before, there are basically two answers.  Our sense of conscience comes from God, who created us within a moral order and equipped us to act rightly, or it came from somewhere within creation, for example or culture, our evolution, our survival instincts, etc.

There are people who seriously argue our sense of conscience comes from evolution or instinct or social constructs—in other words, this morality is not objective, external to ourselves, and that we will not be held ultimately accountable for violating it.

This theory has been taken to its logical conclusion by Princeton professor Peter Singer.  He argues that ethics should be balanced by measuring “the happiness maximizing best interest of society.”  His conclusions lead him to believe – in theory – that’s it’s not only ok but preferred to commit infanticide in the case of severely handicapped babies and that selective geriatricide would save us a lot of money on health care costs.   Presumably, both of these lead to a “relative greater happiness” – an improved lot for society.

Well – I find his moral framework emotionally dishonest.  I reject it not because it doesn’t make sense on paper – it’s actually logically pretty sound based on his assumptions – but, because it doesn’t work in the real world.

We live as though all life has value and meaning.  Even Professor Singer in practice – can’t bring himself to live out his logical theory, choosing to protect his invalid mother and provide her with medical care and dignity, because he can’t emotionally live out the implications of his beliefs.

Relativistic morality will not satisfy our desire for justice and fairness and so, it should be rejected.  We live as though some things are right and others are wrong.  That is why we are indignant if someone takes our parking spot at Christmas.  We appeal to a higher standard – a judge – a sense of fairness.  If morality were socially constructed and we knew it, there would be little keeping us from violating it at will every time we saw an opportunity to pursue our short-term pleasure or gain.  But in fact most people, including most Christians, don’t do that.

We live as though some things are objectively right and others are wrong.[vi]  The belief that morality is relative and socially constructed does not resonate with our experience.  It does not adequately explain the human experience of morality.

So if we a) have a desire for justice and b) generally know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong, we need to ask yourself where did this come from?

Did you mother tell you this? No, it didn’t happen that way.  It’s planted on your brain.  It’s called “conscience.”

OFFENSE

Planted in our brain by a Lawgiver who is Morally Perfect.  And, in the same way that there are laws of nature, so we believe that there are also moral laws or Absolutes and that flow from God – and that He has built into us a Standard of Right and Wrong.

We see Paul teaching this clearly in Romans 2:

“When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

Biblically, we see that our conscience is a gift given to us by God – something left by Him to reveal His Nature to Us.

B: Religious experience and yearning for eternity: Our Desire for Eternity and for Ultimate Meaning points to a Need for a Relationship with God.

Why are we humans so difficult to satisfy?  Do you know what I mean?  It’s seems like a near universal experience.  The atheist Jean-Paul Sartre said that “there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’”   Not as well versed in the classics, the Rolling Stones summarized this near universal experience slightly differently: “I tried, and I tried and I tried but I just can’t get no satisfaction.”

Much more profound than either of these, Solomon in Ecclesiastes evaluated human experience and this is his analysis of the world:

  • there is nothing new under the sun – no new, novel ideas
  • the satisfaction of work and profit is temporary: why? b/c one day we will leave our work to someone else and we will be left without control of it.
  • Material Possessions and Pleasure are unfulfilling: he refused himself no pleasures, but still found them lacking
  • death comes on all of us – regardless of how good or bad we are, how smart or stupid

He concluded that this world is “meaningless, utterly meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

In conversations with others, there are two litmus tests you can use to tease out of others whether they’ve felt this sense of “meaninglessness.”

First: you can get to the “I’m not satisfied” response by challenging people to articulate what – if they had it – would really satisfy them?

Second: Ask: “what’s next” questions  –

“ok – you had a great time out last night – best time ever – what’s next?”

“ok – you have a fancy job – what’s next?”

Ask them to take their dreams and ambitions for life to their logical end – and see if this “What’s next?” will stop.

“ok – you have the huge house and the vacation house – what’s next?”

The point here is that we seem to have a Desire for MORE: more beauty, more desirability, more awesomeness, and more joy.

We have this desire – why can’t we fulfill it?  For every other innate desire that we have, there is a real object that satisfies that desire.  So when we’re thirsty, drinking water satisfies us.  And when we are hungry, eating food satisfies us.  When we’re hungry – reading a book or watching TV doesn’t satisfy us: it may temporarily distract us, it may cause us to forget about our hunger for a few minutes or a few hours, but ultimately, the only thing that will truly satisfy us – that will meet the need that is making us hungry – is food.

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.”[xi]

This, I think, is a great post-modern argument for the existence of God as it allows you to challenge people’s subjectivism.  Why? Because my guess is that what people are filling their lives with is either temporarily filling their need – like food does; or it is distracting them from finding a real solution – like TV.

Our DESIRE points to a supernatural world and materialism will never satisfy our desires.

OFFENSE: ECCL 3:11; JOHN 4 – JESUS AS LIVING WATER.

God has set eternity in the hearts of men and promises that He can fulfill our desires for eternal life.

C: Capacity for good and evil: Human nature is most consistently explained by the Christian view of man, created in God’s image, but born as sinners.

Why do people live the way they do?  We are a strange race, aren’t we?  Individually we can have such extreme thoughts of encouragement and discouragement in our minds.  And, as a race, we are given to actions that we can characterize as very good or very evil.

We have no problem understanding how a mother can sacrifice her life to save her baby.  Or how a firefighter can climb up a burning building.   But, we are also capable of some of the greatest evil.  And – different examples will come to each of our minds.  Stalin – Hitler – Bosnia – Rwanda – etc…

Well, this is where Christianity makes perhaps the most unique and profound statement about the nature of God and man.  Christianity states two things about mankind.  First, that we are made in the image of God and second we have rebelled against Him.

This is unique because no other philosophy so logically and realistically reconciles man’s capacity for great good with his tendency towards great evil.

You see, man is made in the image of God, and therefore He does reflect the Creator’s goodness and His moral character.  Thus, we are capable of some of the greatest good.

Christianity reconciles these two seemingly contradictory realities like this: although we are made in the image of God, we have rebelled against Him.  This is what Christianity calls Sin.

Therefore, while we are saddened by evil and sin, we are not surprised by it.  We understand that apart from Jesus, we are all by nature rebels against God, which means we would rather do things our way than God’s way.  And so when our way and God’s way conflict, we are going to take our way.

But God knows and sees everything that we do; he sees our very thoughts, motivations, and dreams.  And so if we ever violate God’s perfect moral law, His character requires that He give out a penalty.  Just like we take no satisfaction in a known, convicted criminal who bribes a judge and is unjustly let go, so we should take no satisfaction in a god who would allow our rebellion to go unpunished.  We would call this god unjust.

But – and this is the big idea of Christianity – Christians believe that God both punishes sin and forgives us for it.  How does this happen?  How can God punish us and forgive us at the same time?

It’s because of Jesus.  You see Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life.  He died a death that he didn’t deserve.  And, he willingly died this death to pay the penalty for all of those who would turn away from their rebellion and trust in him, and live the way he created and designed for them to live.  If we Trust in Jesus sacrifice for us – God punishes Jesus and Forgives Us.  This is what Christians refer to as the Gospel – or the Good News.

It’s a beautiful thing when you realize that not only is Christianity intellectually satisfying, but that it also restores you to the very relationship that the creator designed you to have with him.

4. Immaterialism

Have you ever been in love?  Have you ever been breathless by a work of art, or the beauty of a waterfall?  If so, how do you account for the experience of love or beauty?  What are they?  Where do they come from?

5. Ontological Argument

This is a tricky argument and we’ll not spend a lot of time on it.  I cover it because you may be asked about it in conversation with unbelievers.  It goes like this:

1)  God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.  2)  The greatest thing that could possibly be conceived of possesses the attribute of existence, because if it didn’t, there is a thing still greater that could be conceived.  3)  Therefore, God exists.

Some have argued that this is just verbal trickery; others that it is the most profound argument possible.  I leave that to you.  I think this works best as a “presuppositional” argument; that is, it works to help bolster Christians’ faith and help them understand God better, but it is unlikely to sound persuasive to unbelievers.

6. Transcendental Argument

How do you know anything?  In our class on epistemology I explained how modern and postmodern philosophers cast more and more doubt on our ability to know—first about the supernatural, then about anything at all.  These philosophers of knowledge, operating in an increasingly secular framework, have come to argue that it is not possible to know anything with certainty.

But does that explain our experience of knowledge?  We all feel as if we know things.  We live our lives as if knowledge were possible and useful, and in fact that belief seems to be born out when we successfully act and make choices on the basis of things we think we know.  If knowledge is real, where does it come from?  How is it reliable?

The transcendental argument argues that God is the precondition for knowledge, logic, science, and conceptual generalizations.  God made the world, He knows all the facts there are to know about it, He made us in His image with the capability to know things, and He upholds both us and the world continuously with His word.  In such a universe, the possibility of knowledge is unproblematic.

Conclusion

My goal has been to show that belief in God is a more plausible explanation of the way things are than not believing in God.  I hope that I have removed some of the barriers that stand opposed to faith.  Belief in God, while certainly mystery and requiring faith, is more plausible than an atheists or naturalists view of the world.

[i] Science: Is it only what we can taste, touch and feel? Do you only use cold reason, and the hard facts and the tools of science? Certainly, scientific inquiry is a tool of faith, allowing us to reproduce events and isolate causes.  Science allows us to have more certainty in elements of our world. Of course, there are limitations to science.  What if we can’t reproduce it – like history?  What if it’s more subjective – like beauty?   How do we gain certainty in these areas?Well, Science alone is not sufficient.

Intuition:  Maybe you use your own intuition – or what feels right to determine what to believe in.  Intuition is certainly more helpful than science in talking about the objective nature of beauty or goodness.  Where tools of science don’t apply, intuition does. Of course, intuition has its limitations as well – it kept sailors from crossing the Atlantic Ocean for centuries for fear of falling off a flat earth and it convinced astronomers that the sun circled the earth.  So, how do we gain certainty using our intuition? We can’t.  Intuition alone is not sufficient.

Experiences: So maybe it’s your experiences – is that the tool you use the most in deciding what to believe and what to reject?  Believing that a chair will hold you is reasonable because chairs have held you for many years.  Believing in God, though, is not because of your disappointing church experiences or because God let you down in the past or because you see suffering in the world.

[ii] It is my opinion, and the opinion of millions of others around the world, that faith in God is reasonable and that it’s important to consider.  So, my first point is to warn you against a supernatural bias when exploring questions of faith as it will lead us to wrong answers and wrong answers will lead us to wrong beliefs and wrong beliefs will lead us to wrong actions.   To paraphrase John Lennon – we need to encourage people to “just give faith a chance….”

We all operate on faith.  What do you have faith in?  How do you know that it is True?

[iii] 200 molecules connected together and these 200 must be in the exact order or it won’t function correctly.

  • If all of these 200 molecules are sitting alone in the primordial soup one night– and lightning strikes and throws them up in the air.
  • What do you think the odds are that if we tried to recreate this – that all of these molecules would end up in the exact order needed to create that strand of DNA?

Well, I’ll tell you because I did the math.  Actually – I tried to do the math but excel wouldn’t produce a high enough number.

3 strands = 3*2*1 = 1/6

4 strands = 4*3*2*1 = 1/24

200 molecules to be in order = 1/10^364  (million has 6, billion has 9 zeros).

Ok, you say, but it happened over billions of years.  How much time is there in a billion years.

60 sec/min * 60 mins/hr *24 hrs/day*8 billion years = 2*10^16th seconds in 8 billion years.

That means that if lightning struck every second for 8 billion years – you still need to 10^346th power that that strand was created.

And that’s just the simplest strand.  Then you have the Cell Nucleus/ Substance/ Membrane – then you need eyes, ears, nose, different species of animals, plants, this whole world and universe around us  – oh, by the way you needed an environment in the first place.

[iv] The odds of for 200 molecules to be in a precise order = 1/10^364  (million has 6, billion has 9 zeros).

Ok, you say, but it happened over billions of years.  How much time is there in a billion years.  Well, even if lightning struck the primordial soup and through molecules in the air every second for a for 8 billion years, if would still take 10^346th power that that strand was created.

[v] Let’s take something smaller than the Universe to illustrate, something we all know well.  Let’s take this building that we are sitting in.  Where did it come from?  How did it get here?

Like the universe and the world we live in, there are two answers we can give regarding the origins of this building.

It’s either impersonal force + time + chance – or there was an architect a designer who made blue prints, who made measurements and who designed it – who planned and designed and created it.

We would all say that this building came about in this second way.  Now none of us would reject this just because we haven’t met the architect or the construction company or the builder.  Even though we haven’t seen the creators, we see their creation and know that this was a product of intelligent human design.

Now – the same is true for this universe and for God.  We can look at His creation and say: this was intelligently designed.

[vi] In light of September 11th, it seems even silly to have to argue this point.  We call the acts that the terrorists committed Wrong – even Evil – not because our society thinks that at this point in history our sophisticated, Western minds have determined that taking life in this manner is wrong.  However, we could see another culture in another time in which this is acceptable.  No we think it’s wrong – no matter what.    You see the point – and, you know that you can fill in numerous other examples from history – whether Stalin, or Hitler or a random sniper.

[vii] “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

[viii] “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, b/c I must leave them to the one who comes after me.  And – who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?  You have no control over the work into which you have poured your effort and skill.”

[ix] I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;  I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

[x] The wise man has eyes in his head while the fool walks in darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both.

[xi] C. S. Lewis, who uses this argument in a number of places, summarizes it succinctly:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, “Hope”)

Now, this “proof” is a bit subjective you might be thinking as it requires someone to say that they have a desire or a need that is going unfilled:  One might say, “I am perfectly happy playing with what I have – with sports cars, or money, or sex, or power,” we can only ask, “Are you, really?” But we can only appeal, we cannot compel. Our souls were created with a profound need to know God.  And whether your soul feels the pangs of hunger today, it will one day.  And when it does, the only thing that can satisfy it is a relationship with Jesus.

RESOURCES
Apologetics and Worldview, Lesson 8. Capitol Hill Core Seminars
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl

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