WHY DO WE BELIEVE IN GOD?

THE QUESTION OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip, set up their tent and fall asleep. Some hours later Sherlock wakes his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what do you see?"

Watson replies, "I see millions of stars."

"What does that tell you?" Sherlock asks.

Watson ponders for a minute. "Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it's evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Sherlock?"

Sherlock is silent for a moment, then speaks, "Watson, you idiot, someone has stolen our tent!"

This rather humorous story illustrates a point. It is that, with all of his learning and intellect, modern man has often managed to miss the most important fact of all. It is that God IS.

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God..." (Psalm 14:1a).

We had been talking at length when the subject of religion came up. As the conversation shifted and I expressed my belief in the God of the Bible, he said to me, "That is good that you have the belief you have. It is good for people to have faith. I donít believe the way you do, but it doesnít really matter as long as we believe something.

There is only one problem with that sort of relativistic thinking. The problem becomes evident if God really does exist.

A little boy wrote the following letter to God:

Dear Mister God,

What do you think about people who donít believe in you? By the way, someone else wants to know.

A Friend

It is a good question. What does God think of people who donít believe in Him? The Bible does not ever attempt to present evidence for the existence of God. It does not begin in Genesis 1:1 with a five point outline on how we can know that there is a God. Instead the Scriptures assume that God does exist in the same way that any modern book naturally assumes the existence of its author.

When I began writing this article on the subject of God, I did not first try to prove to you that I exist. I did not start with five points on the existence of John Stevenson. I merely assumed my own existence. After all, only a fool would read my article and conclude that I do not really exist.

The same is true of the Bible. It assumes the existence of God. The handful of verses that even mention the concept of atheism deal with it in this manner.

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God..." (Psalm 14:1a).

This is not to say that such evidence for the existence of God (or of myself) is lacking. We shall look at five lines of evidence.

 

THE EVIDENCE OF CREATION

This line of evidence deals with the principle of first cause. In theological circles it is called the "Cosmological Argument," taken from the Greek word kosmos, meaning "universe." It is concerned with the origin of the universe. The principle is set forth in Romans 1:20.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20).

The first line of evidence for Godís existence is seen in the existence of the universe. You donít have to look in every corner of the world to find evidence for God. Such evidence is not hidden. It is plain for all to see. Paul says that it is clearly seen. The universe is an effect that demands an adequate cause.

Every cause has an effect that in turn becomes the cause of another effect. If we trace this back to the original cause, then we find a cause that has no prior cause.

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CAUSE

Does there have to be a first cause? Is it possible that there was ever a time when there was nothing? If there was ever a time when nothing existed, then there could be nothing now.

In the musical "The Sound of Music," Maria sings the short refrain: "Nothing comes from nothing, and nothing ever could." Her theology is terrible, but her logic is correct.

Nothing + Nothing = Nothing

This is basic math. The fact that there is something today indicates that there has always been something.

This brings us to another question. Is it possible that the universe has always been here -- that matter is eternal in nature?

Interestingly enough, there have been scientists who have recognized the need for a first cause and, rather than admit the existence of God, they have suggested that the universe has always existed. The atheist Carl Sagan used to say, "The cosmos is all that is and ever was and ever will be."

If this is true, it means that the universe is infinitely old. We are not merely talking about being very old or even about being billions and billions of years old, for there is an infinite gap between anything that is very old and something that is infinitely old. If the universe is infinitely old, then everything that could possibly ever happen in the universe has already happened in the past. History has repeated itself on a planet just like this one an infinite number of times and with infinite variations. Each variation has been repeated in exactly the same way an infinite number of times. This is true of necessity if the universe is indeed infinitely old.

While such a belief staggers the imagination, it still cannot answer the problem of first cause -- it only postpones it indefinitely.

Furthermore, such a view fails to take into account two very basic laws of nature, long recognized by the scientific community.

The First Law of Thermodynamics is the Law of Universal Conservation. It states that nothing is now being created or destroyed. While matter may change into energy and energy may change back to matter, the sum total remains the same. Creation is not an on-going event.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the Law of Universal Decay. It states that everything in the universe is moving toward random and decay. The sun is a tremendous source of heat and light, but it is gradually burning down and will one day diffuse all of its energy and matter out into space. Likewise, other stars and galaxies will ultimately reach a state of entropy as the entire universe undergoes what has been described as a "heat death" in which all of its matter has been scattered uniformly through space.

Since the universe is not self-creating (First Law) and since it has not yet reached a "heat death" (Second Law), it is impossible that it could be infinitely old. It had an origin. It had a creation. This requires the existence of that which brought it about. It requires a Creator.

The critic is quick to retort, "But who created the Creator? If there is a God, then where did He come from? Was there another God who existed earlier than God and who created Him? The Bible provides the answer to such a question:

"You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. BEFORE ME THERE WAS NO GOD FORMED, and there will be none after Me." (Isaiah 43:10).

God is eternal. He has had no beginning and He will have no end. He has always existed. There has never been a time when He did not exist. The fact that the universe is here points to the fact of His existence.

 

THE EVIDENCE FROM DESIGN

This line of evidence deals with the order and design of the universe. It is called the "Teleological Argument." The term "teleology" is a compound from of the Greek words teleos ("final") and logos ("word" or "purpose"). It is the argument from design. It carries the Cosmological Argument one step further to point to the order and design of the universe.

Cosmological Argument

Teleological Argument

The fact of the existence of the universe points to a first cause: God

The presence of order and design in the universe points to an intelligent designer: God

The principle of design is illustrated in Psalm 19:1-3.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day pours forth speech,

And night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;

Their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3).

If one footprint in the sand convinced Robinson Crusoe that a person was on his island, then by the same logic we can be convinced that God created the world, for He left countless footprints on its surface.

There is a story told, possibly apocryphal, of how the astronomer Kepler used to keep a complex model of the solar system in his office. Supposedly an atheist once came to visit him and, upon seeing the model, inquired who had made it. He replied, "No one made it. It merely came into existence."

"You donít expect me to believe that!" retorted the atheist.

"No," replied Kepler, "But you expect me to believe that our entire solar system came about by chance."

In my younger days, I used to drive a Pontiac Firebird. It was a creation. It had a purpose. Its design showed a function and an order. If I brought in a team of scientists who had never before seen an automobile; showed them all of its features, how the engine operated, how it was designed to carry people comfortably, its various features, and then if I told them that this machine had evolved merely by chance and that it had not been put together by an intelligent designer, what would be their reaction?

I can picture their faces if I were to tell them how this car just happened to come together into its present form by random amino acids joining together by chance after having been struck by a bolt of lightning. Yet there are people today who attempt to tell us that the design and order found in the universe came about by chance.

Look at the human body. Examine the functions of the eyes, the ears, the heart, the lungs and the brain. It contains a reciprocating pump, an automated cooling system, a multi-faceted sensory system and the most diverse and imaginative computer known to man. Did a design like this come about by chance?

For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4).

I live in a house. It has doors and windows and rooms with various functions. It was obviously designed by a being with a certain degree of intelligence. It would be silly for me to believe that it merely came about by chance. Houses do not just "pop" into being. The presence of a house points to thefact that there has been a builder who constructed that house. So it is also with the world in which we live.

THE EVIDENCE FROM INTUITION

This is known as the Ontological Argument. It looks at the way man is. Studies in anthropology show that man is incurably God-conscious. He has an awareness within himself that God exists.

The concept of God is prevalent in every human culture. It is true that this concept has often been warped by polytheism and idolatry, but the basic idea of the existence of God has been found in every culture.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:21-23).

Notice what is said in verse 21: They knew God. Man has a God-consciousness. He inherently knows that God is there. But that is not all. Man has very deliberately turned away from the God who is there to go and to worship a god of his own making.

Man is unique in this area. No one has ever seen a chicken or a dog with a concept of God. No rooster ever built an altar to the Lord. No lion ever asked a blessing on the food he was about to eat. Even a praying mantis does not pray to the Lord.

God has created man in His image and has placed within him the concept of Himself. It is for this reason that men of every culture and nation have demonstrated this same God-concept.

It is also interesting to note how much effort and energy has been expended by atheists and agnostics to deny the existence of God. If there were no reason for man to believe in God, then it is unlikely that there would be so much fuss about it. Man would think about God as much as a caterpillar thinks about the Gettysburg Address.

The truth is that man has to fight the God-consciousness within himself if he is to hold to the position that God does not exist. Atheism takes real effort. This in itself is an evidence for Godís existence.

 

THE EVIDENCE FROM MORALS

Man has a built-in sense of "ought." He feels that he ought to do what is right. He was born with this. He did not say at any time, "I think that I ought to have a sense of ought." It is not something that he has brought upon himself. It is universal to every tribe and people.

This does not mean that every man has a proper concept of right and wrong. Rather it means that every man feels that he really ought to do what is right, whatever that may entail.

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis points out that people are always coming into conflict over some kind of standard of behavior that they expect the other person to observe. The quarrel might be major ("You stole my wife!") or it might be minor ("You canít sit here, these seats are saved"). In each case, one party is trying to show the other that they are wrong by appealing to this sense of right and wrong.

The remarkable thing is that the other party seldom replies that they donít care about the standard. Instead the argument usually ensues over the interpretation and application of that standard.

If there were no God to establish that there is right and wrong, then it would be illogical to speak of morals. There would be no way to say, "This is right" or "that is wrong." Left in this position, you would have to come to the place where you could talk about what is against society or what society does not like or even what you do not like, but you could no longer talk about what is right or wrong.

If there is no God and an Adolph Hitler is able to convince 51% of the population that we ought to eliminate a race of people, then who is to say that one group is right while another is wrong?

If there is no God and if we are not made in the image of God, then what is the difference between killing a man and killing a cockroach? Does the size become the issue? Or is it intelligence? Does that make it right to kill a moron but wrong to shut off a computer?

All kinds of moral positions are irrational unless you realize that God exists and that He has made man in His image and has equipped him with a sense of right and wrong.

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them (Romans 2:14-15).

 

Even men who do not believe in God are troubled when they are confronted with evil and cruelty. This is the way that God has made them. They feel that to do right is better than to do wrong. They feel that good is better than evil and that truth is better than untruth. This sense that we ought to do right is still another evidence of the existence of God.

Cosmological Argument

Teleological Argument

Intuitional Argument

Moral Argument

Points to the fact of existence and the need for a first cause

Points to the design of the universe requiring the need of a Designer

Points to the God-concept that is found in mankind in general

Points to manís sense of "ought"

These four lines of evidence all point to Godís existence. But they are insufficient to tell us about the character of God. You cannot come to know God through nature or through looking at your own character any more than you can come to know an automobile manufacturer by driving a car that he has produced. You can only come to know God through His word -- the Bible. This is the final apologetic. It is the evidence from the Word of God.

 

THE EVIDENCE FROM THE WORD OF GOD

This is really the ultimate apologetic in giving evidence to the existence of God. We know that God is there because He has not been silent. He has spoken to man. It is hard to maintain that someone does not exist when he is talking to you. Can you imagine someone saying to you, "Will you please stop talking so that I can tell people how you donít exist!"

Not only has God spoken, but He has put down what He wished to say into a book so that He could communicate to all men in all time. This is the most extraordinary book ever written. It has been translated into more languages than any other book in the world. No other book has ever come close to the Bible in its impact on human history.

In our next chapter, we will look at the Bible to see the internal evidences that show it to indeed be the Word of God.

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