To the Seeker with Intellectual Questions
How Can We Know If God Exists?
by M. Tyner, M.A., Christian Apologetics
Over the centuries man has wrestled with the fundamental life question, “Does God really exist?” The answer to this is crucial, for it determines whether or not our lives as human beings have ultimate meaning and eternal benefits. There is either a hopeless end or an endless hope. In general, people either hold to:
Atheism - the belief that there is no God,
Theism - the belief that God does exist, or
Agnosticism - the belief that we as finite beings cannot know if there is a God.
Below is an overview of the formal case for Theism, the case for Christian Theism, and a rational appeal to Atheists and Agnostics.
I. THE TOP TEN PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE.
There are 25 formal philosophical arguments that accord with the accepted rules of logic. They serve as a “many-stranded rope” that makes a strong case for God. (1/240)
A. THREE MAJOR PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENTS
Three classical Theistic arguments (simplified here) have been advanced for centuries:
(1) The teleological argument –There is undeniable evidence of intelligent design found in the universe (e.g., DNA codes, the human eye). The complex design and order that we observe must have some origin, an intelligent Designer.
(2) The cosmological argument –There needs to be a cause of a universe that is expanding and cooling off. A self-existent (uncreated) Being must have caused it because “something does not come from nothing.” Every effect has a cause.
(3) The anthropological argument –Men are conscious of objective moral values (e.g., the Holocaust was wrong). The presence of this objective moral law implies there is a supreme moral Lawgiver.
The above “top three” intellectual arguments exactly complement biblical revelation! According to the Bible, God has revealed Himself through: (1) Creation. The design of God’s work is evident to all (Romans 1:19-20). (2) Scripture. The scriptures declare that God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them (Genesis 1:1-31). (3) Man’s conscience. Moral God gave each person a basic sense of right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15).
B. ADDITIONAL ARGUMENTS
(4) The ontological argument –“God” must exist by definition; that is, the existence of man’s idea of God necessarily involves the existence of God. (5) The argument from desire –There is a longing in the human heart for God, and every innate desire corresponds to a real object. (6) The aesthetics argument –The presence of objective art, such as the music of Bach and Beethoven, points to a Creator. (7) The existential argument – All people are born with a need for significance (ultimate meaning to life), which implies a Creator. (8) The religious experience argument –The vast number of personal encounters with God, reported over the centuries, points to His existence. (9) The argument from the mind – Because matter cannot think, our rational minds must have come from another rational mind: the mind of God. (10) The argument from miracles – There must be a cause for miracles, and such need demonstrates the existence of a supernatural Being.
EVALUATION OF THE EVIDENCE
The hypothesis that God exists provides the best explanation of all the data. It makes sense out of a wide range of the facts of experience.(2/11) Atheism cannot explain the evidences, but Theism explains them coherently and justifiably.
II. THE TOP THREE CHRISTIAN ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE.
While the foregoing philosophical arguments are compelling, the fullest revelation of God to mankind is the Person of Jesus Christ.
A. JESUS CHRIST (SPECIAL REVELATION)
Jesus of Nazareth was unique in His birth, life, death, and resurrection. He was born of a virgin; He was sinless; He was crucified (to endure the wrath of God against the sins of all humanity); on the third day He returned to life in His resurrected body. Jesus made the radical claim that He was eternal God in the flesh (John 8:58; 14:9, etc.), a claim validated by:
• the multitude of miracles He performed,
• His fulfillment of extensive biblical prophecy,
• His supernatural resurrection from the dead.
God has specifically revealed Himself to mankind by sending His Son (Colossians 3:9; John 1:1,14). Christ humbly became a human being and lived on earth among us (approx. 4 B.C. to A.D. 29). His mission as Savior was to redeem the world – to rescue and reclaim it after the fall of mankind.
B. THE BIBLE (SPECIAL REVELATION)
The Bible claims to be and proves to be God’s written revelation to mankind, inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The theme of the Bible is God’s loving plan of redemption for mankind. It includes who God is, why we were created, and what our future holds. Historians agree as to the authenticity of both New and Old Testament writings. Conclusive evidence exists for the Bible’s divine origin and infallibility. This evidence includes the Bible’s complete harmony and unity (written over 1500 years); its extensive prophecy, which was fulfilled hundreds of years later with 100% accuracy (and is still being fulfilled); the bibliographical test results; and the remarkable archaeological confirmations. In addition, the Bible’s text has been transmitted with extraordinary purity, based on the comparisons of thousands of existing manuscripts (including 5,300 original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament).
C. NATURE AND CONSCIENCE (GENERAL REVELATION)
People can clearly see the Creator-God’s invisible attributes and His great eternal power through all that He created (Romans 1:19-20). Consider, for example, birds with their natural compass systems; or trees with their beauty, design, and function; or the vast cosmos containing stars, moons, and galaxies. They all declare God’s glory and show His handiwork (Psalm 19:1-3). In addition, consider the existence of man’s conscience (our inner judge of moral issues). God’s basic laws are written within man, so that his conscience sometimes accuses him and sometimes excuses him (Romans 2:14-15). Man’s conscience could not have evolved from matter.
EVALUATION OF THE EVIDENCE
Christianity is the most rational form of Theism according to: the unique life, claims, and miracles of Jesus of Nazareth (who rose from the dead), the supernatural Bible, observable nature, man’s conscience, plus history, science, and archaeology.
III. A RATIONAL APPEAL TO ATHEISTS AND AGNOSTICS.
A. CIRCLE OF KNOWLEDGE (AN ILLUSTRATION)
This simple exercise demonstrates that Atheism is not as rational as Theism. On a piece of paper, draw a large circle with a dot inside it. The area within the circle represents all the knowledge of the universe, while the dot represents your personal knowledge. (Note that Einstein claimed to possess 2% of the world’s knowledge, and our solar system is but a speck within the Milky Way galaxy.) Now, in light of the limited knowledge you possess, and the amount of knowledge you have not yet examined, can you rationally assert that there is no God? Is it possible there could be a transcendent God (existing beyond man’s circle of knowledge) who could enter the circle and reveal Himself to mankind?
B. PASCAL’S WAGER (AN EXPERIMENT)
This pragmatic argument is based on the premise that we know we will die. What will happen at death according to Atheism and Theism? (1) If there is no God, there is no payoff at the end of a “wager” that is for or against the existence of God, for we neither gain nor lose anything if we do not exist. (2) If there is a God, the “wager” to believe in Him (and make peace with Him during our lifetime) offers us an infinite payoff – eternal life in joy with God! Thus, Atheism is a no-win bet. Faith is a no-lose bet. Even if the evidences for and against God were equal, it still would be rational and wise to wager that God exists, for there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.(1/289-90) (Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematical genius.)
C. PASCAL’S PLEA TO THE AGNOSTIC (AN ANALOGY)
The Agnostic may refuse to bet on either Atheism or Theism until more evidence is produced. However, he cannot wait to place his wager! As Pascal wrote, the “ship of self” has embarked. It is moving along the waters of time past the port of God. The fog will only clear when it is too late – after death. The ship has a finite amount of fuel, and there is a point of no return. To every question there are three possible answers: yes, no, and wait. Death eliminates the third answer. (1/290) In one sense the Agnostic is correct. According to the Bible, the “natural man” is unable to understand spiritual truth without enlightenment by God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). Truth is granted to the “spiritual man” who responds to the light already given to him (e.g., general revelation through nature).
Quotation by Christian Theist
“If there is a God of infinite goodness, and He justly deserves my allegiance and faith, then I risk doing the greatest injustice by not acknowledging Him.” (Peter Kreeft) (3/86)
To believe that God exists is both prudent and wise. The stakes are high. Belief in God provides life, hope, and significance over death, despair, and meaninglessness.(2/7) A profound and relevant question posed to each of us by Jesus Christ, out of His incomparable love, is: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). What if a person gained the wealth of the world during his brief earthly years, but lost eternal life? God is not willing that anyone should perish. His Son has paid the tremendous price for every person to choose life. He freely offers each of us the gift of everlasting life!
“For God so loved the world,
That He gave (sacrificed)
His only begotten Son,
That whoever believes in Him
Should not perish, but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16, NASV, parentheses added)
A PRAYER TO RECEIVE JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOR:
“Dear Father God, thank You for sending Your Son to die for our sins and to literally rise again, so that we can live with You eternally. Jesus, please forgive me for my sins and be my personal Lord and Savior. I trust in You. I want to follow You and have a relationship with You now and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
A PRAYER FOR THE SKEPTIC (to test the religious hypothesis):
“God, I don’t know if You exist or not. I might be only talking to a myth or fantasy, but I’m not sure. So if You do exist, You can hear me now, and You know me and my heart. You supposedly promised that all who seek You will find You. If You are the truth, I’m honestly seeking You now. So please let me know that You’re real, in Your own way and Your own time. I’m open and ready if You are.” (1/291)
REFERENCES: 1. Moreland, J./P. and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist? Prometheus Books, Ól993. 2. Craig, William Lane. God, Are You There? RZIM Ministries, Ó1999. 3. Kreeft, Peter and Ron Tarcelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics, IVP, Ó1994. 4. Moreland, J. P. Scaling the Secular City, Baker Book House, Ól987. 5. Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith, Moody Press, Ól994. 6. Geisler, Norman and Ronald Brooks. When Skeptics Ask, SP Publications, Ó1990.