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Does God Exist?

04 Jan

discouragemnetMost will agree that the most basic, fundamental question concerning existence is not that nothing is here, but rather that something is here. I am a part of some kind of reality.

I possess a consciousness, an awareness that something is transpiring, unfolding, happening. And you and I are part of it. The reality borne out of our personal observation and experience is that we are participants in a space-time universe which is characterized by a series of events. The mind naturally asks the question, “What is it?” Where did it come from?” Did the cosmos, what we see, simply come into being from nothing, or has this material universe of which we are a part always been here? Or is something or someone which transcends this material universe responsible for bringing it into existence and us with it?

All of these questions relate to the philosophical concept of metaphysics. Webster defines it: “That division of philosophy which includes ontology, or the science of being and cosmology, or the science of fundamental causes and processes in things.”1 When we seek to answer these basic questions, then, we are thinking “metaphysically” about the origin and the causes of the present reality. And at this basic, fundamental level of consideration we really are left with few options, or possible answers, to account for or explain the universe. The three potential candidates are:

(1) Something came from nothing. Most reject this view, since the very idea defies rationality. This explanation to account for the universe is not widely held. Kenny remarks: “According to the big bang theory, the whole matter of the universe began to exist at a particular time in the remote past. A proponent of such a theory, . . . if he is an atheist, must believe that the matter of the universe came from nothing and by nothing.”2 Since nothing cannot produce something by rules of logic (observation, causality), something is eternal and necessary. Since any series of events is not eternal (thus a contradiction), there is, therefore, an eternal, necessary something not identical to the space-time universe.

(2) Matter is eternal and capable of producing the present reality through blind chance. Carl Sagan stated this view clearly when he said, “All that ever was, all that is, and all that ever shall be is the Cosmos.”3 This second view has spawned two basic worldviews-Materialism (or Naturalism) and Pantheism. Both hold the premise that nothing exists beyond matter. Materialism therefore is atheistic by definition. Pantheism is similar but insists that since God does not exist, nature is imbued with “god” in all its parts.

(3) God created the universe. This view, Theism, holds forth the assertion that Someone both transcends, and did create the material universe of which we are a part. There are no other logical alternatives to explain the cosmos. Christians, of course, embrace this third view, along with all other theists, as the most reasonable explanation for what we find to be true of ourselves and of the world. Holding this view is not simply a statement of blind faith. There are sound and rational reasons for preferring this view over the other two. Theism is therefore a reasonable idea. In fact it is more reasonable to believe that God exists than not to believe He exists. Theologians have posed several lines of “proof” to argue for God’s existence. These arguments, while not proving the existence of God, do nevertheless provide insights that may be used to show evidence of His existence.

The Cosmological Argument

Every event has a cause, and that includes the universe. It had a beginning. There was a time when it was not, and a time when it was: An infinite number of real parts of time, passing in succession and exhausted one after another, appears so evident a contradiction that no man, one should think, whose judgment is not corrupted, instead of being improved, by the sciences, would ever be able to admit it.” (emphasis mine)4

Hume is here arguing that time and space are not infinite, not eternal. If this is true, the universe, which is an “effect,” had a cause. Robert Jastrow comments, “The most complete study made thus far has been carried out . . .by Allan Sandage. He compiled information on 42 galaxies, ranging out in space as far as six billion light years from us. His measurements indicate that the universe was expanding more rapidly in the past than it is today. This result lends further support to the belief that the universe exploded into being.”5

He goes on to say: “No explanation other than the big bang has been found for the fireball radiation. The clincher, which has convinced almost the last doubting Thomas, is that the radiation discovered by Penzias and Wilson has exactly the pattern of wavelengths expected for the light and heat produces in a great explosion.”6

Jastrow also concludes the universe is dying: “Once hydrogen has been burned within that star and converted to heavier elements, it can never be restored to its original state. Minute by minute and year by year, as hydrogen is used up in stars, the supply of this element in the universe grows smaller.”7 “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover.”8

Some have argued that an infinite regress of causes may not be logically possible. They say the universe is not a “whole” that needs a single cause, but rather that it is “mutually dependent” upon itself! Mutual dependence misses the point. The real issue is why there is an existing universe rather than a non-existing one. Reality and rationality suggest that every event has a cause. Whole series of events must have a cause as well (since the whole is the sum of the parts). If all the parts were taken away, would there be anything left? If we say yes, then God exists (i.e. an eternal necessary being that is more than the world. If we say no, then the whole is contingent too, and needs a cause beyond it (God).

We will conclude this section with an examination of perhaps the most often-asked question concerning the cosmological argument, “Where did God come from?” While it is both reasonable and legitimate to ask this question of the universe which we have just examined, it is irrational and nonsensical to ask that same question of God, since it implies to Him characteristics found only in the finite universe: space and time. By definition, something eternal must exist outside this space/time continuum. The very question posed reveals the inquirer’s fallacy of reasoning from within his own space/time context! By definition, something eternal must exist outside both time and space. God has no beginning; He IS! (Exodus 3:14).

The Teleological Argument

This second argument for the existence of God addresses the order, complexity, and diversity of the cosmos. “Teleological” comes from the Greek word “telos,” which means “end” or “goal.” The idea behind the argument is that the observable order in the universe demonstrates that it functions according to an intelligent design, something undeniable to an open-minded, intelligent being. The classic expression of this argument is William Paley’s analogy of the watchmaker in his book Evidences. If we were walking on the beach and found a watch in the sand, we would not assume that it washed up on the shore having been formed through the natural processes and motions of the sea. We would rather naturally assume that it had been lost by its owner and that somewhere there was a watchmaker who originally designed and built it with a specific purpose in mind. Intelligence cannot be produced by non-intelligence any more than nothing can produce something. There is, therefore, an eternal, necessary intelligence present and reflected in the space-time universe.

The earth itself is evidence of design. “If it were much smaller an atmosphere would be impossible (e.g. Mercury and the moon); if much larger the atmosphere would contain free hydrogen (e.g. Jupiter and Saturn). Its distance from the sun is correct—even a small change would make it too hot or too cold. Our moon, probably responsible for the continents and ocean basins, is unique in our solar system and seems to have originated in a way quite different from the other relatively much smaller moons. The tilt of the [earth’s] axis insures the seasons, and so on.”[1]

Until about five hundred years ago, humanity had no difficulty in acknowledging God as the Creator of the natural order. The best explanation saw Him as the divine Designer who created it with a purpose and maintained all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17). But the rise of modern science initiated a process we could call the “demythologizing of nature,” the material world. Superstition and ignorance had ascribed spirit life even to forest, brook, and mountain. Things not understood scientifically were routinely accepted to be unexplained, supernatural forces at work.

Slowly, the mysterious, spiritual factor was drained away as scholars and scientists replaced it with natural explanations and theories of how and why things actually worked. After Copernicus, human significance diminished in the vastness of the cosmos, and it was felt only time and research, not God, would be needed to finally explain with accuracy the totality of the natural order. The idea of a transcendent One came to be deemed unnecessary, having been invalidated by the new theory of natural selection.

Ironically, the same science which took God away then, is bringing back the possibility of His existence today. Physics and quantum mechanics have now brought us to the edge of physicality, to a place where sub-atomic particle structures are described by some as spirit, ghost-like in quality. Neurophysiologists grapple with enigmatic observations suggesting that the mind transcends the brain! Psychology has developed an entirely new branch of study (parapsychology) which asserts that psycho-spiritual forces (ESP, biofeedback, etc.) actually function beyond the physical realm.

Molecular biologists and geneticists, faced with the highly-ordered and complex structures of DNA, ascribe a word implying “intelligence” to the chaining sequences: the genetic “code.” And we have already concluded that astrophysicists have settled on the “big bang” which seems to contradict the idea that matter is eternal, and, huge as it is, the universe appears to be finite. Whether we look through the microscope or the telescope it becomes more difficult in the light of experimental science to hold to the old premise that such order and complexity are the products of blind chance. The old naturalistic assumptions are being critically reexamined, challenged, and found to be unconvincing by many of today’s scientists.

r. Walter Bradley, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A & M University states the case: “Discoveries of the last half of the 20th century have brought the scientific community to the realization that our universe and our planet in the universe are so remarkably unique that it is almost impossible to imagine how this could have happened accidentally, causing may agnostic scientists to concede that indeed some intelligent creative force may be required to account for it.”9

The Ontological Argument (The idea of a supreme being)

Man not only has an idea of a God, but he pictures that God is a supreme being, one who is perfect, independent, and infinite. Where does this idea come from if there is no such being?

This argument is generally considered the most profound and Keyser in his book, A System of Christian Evidences, has an excellent statement:

We can not think of the relative without also thinking of an absolute. We can not think of the derived without also thinking of the underived. We can not think of the dependent without also thinking of the independent. We can not think of the imperfect without also thinking of the perfect. We can not think of the finite without also thinking of the in­finite.

Now, if these concepts are not true, and there is no perfect, absolute, infinite Being, then man’s thinking, in its deepest constitution is null and void. If that were true, all our thinking would be insane and futile. Can we believe that?[1] (Little, p. 11, quoting R.E.D. Clark, Creation, London: Tyndale Press, p. 10.)

 

Sometimes this argument is called, The Religious or General Argument with the argument going something like this: Since the belief in God and super­natural beings is universal even among the most backward tribes, it must therefore come from within man, it is something innate. The question is, could it have come from civilization or even from education when people all over the world possess it whether they are civilized and educated or not? The logical answer is no.

Then, where could such an idea come from if there is no God? There is always something to satisfy the desires which are common to the whole human race. There is food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, and a God for the thirsty soul. Stated in the form of a syllogism the argument is as follows:

  • Major Premise: An intuitive and universal belief among men must be true.
  • Minor Premise: The belief that there is a God is universal and intuitive among men.
  • Therefore: The belief that there is a God is true.

There are some very interesting facts regarding the universal belief in God.

(1) More than 90 percent of the religions of the world acknowledge the existence of one supreme being and some even anticipate God’s redeeming concern.

(2) In every case, this monotheistic belief predated other forms of worship or beliefs and heathenistic practices. This is true the world over on every continent.

(3) These other forms of heathenistic and polytheistic practices were invariably the result of failing to pursue the knowledge of God. Failure to pursue belief in the one Supreme Being created a vacuum into which false and demonic beliefs quickly rushed. As an illustration, ancient Chinese and Koreans had believed in a Supreme God who created all things. In China his name was Shang Ti and in Korea it was Hananim, The Great One. This belief predated Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. It goes back 2600 years before Christ and worshippers throughout China and Korea seem to have understood from the beginning that Shang Ti/Hananim must never be represented by idols.[2]

Little writes: It is very significant that recent anthropological research has indicated that among the farthest and most remote primitive peoples, today, there is a universal belief in God. And in the earliest histories and legends of peoples all around the world the original concept was of one God, who was the Creator. An original high God seems once to have been in their consciousness even in those societies which are today polytheistic. This research, in the last fifty years, has challenged the evolutionary concept of the development of religion, which had suggested that monotheism—the concept of one God—was the apex of a gradual development that began with polytheistic concepts. It is increasingly clear that the oldest traditions everywhere were of one supreme God.[3]

[1] Keyser, A System of Christian Evidences,  pp. 196-197.

[2] Richardson, Eternity In Their Hearts, Regal Books, pp. 63f.

[3] Little, p. 8, citing Samuel Zwemer, The Origin of Religion, New York, Loizeaux Brothers as the source of this information.

The Moral Argument

This argument for God’s existence is based on the recognition of humankind’s universal and inherent sense of right and wrong. (cf. Romans 2:14,15). No culture is without standards of behavior. All groups recognize honesty as a virtue along with wisdom, courage, and justice. And even in the most remote jungle tribes, murder, rape, lying, and theft are recognized as being wrong, in all places and at all times. The question arises, “Where does this sense of morality come from?”

Man has an intellectual and moral nature which demands God as his Creator. Man’s conscience, which is a law to man, necessitates a Law-Giver. Man’s free will implies a Great Will. Without God as the basis for right and wrong, no government would be possible except on the principle, “might makes right.”

Though it becomes defiled and seared by sin (1 Tim. 4:2; Tit. 1:15), to some degree all men have that faculty called conscience with its constant impulse to choose the right and leave the wrong. Society and government are based on this recognition of virtue and truth, but where does that come from? The only logical explanation is the existence of a God whose ways are holy, just, and good. A material universe without God as Supreme Governor would of necessity lack moral values and distinctions.

C. S. Lewis speaks of this early on in his classic work Mere Christianity. He calls this moral law “The Rule of Right and Wrong”–“a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves.”10 For years Lewis struggled against God because the universe to him seemed unjust and cruel. But he began to analyze his outrage. Where did he get the very ideas of just and unjust? He said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”11

He goes on to suggest that there are three parts to morality. Using the analogy of a fleet of ships on a voyage, he points out that three things can go wrong. The first is that ships may either drift apart or collide with and do damage to one another (alienation, isolation: people abusing, cheating, bullying one another). The second is that individual ships must be seaworthy and avoid internal, mechanical breakdown (moral deterioration within an individual).

Lewis goes on to point out that if the ships keep having collisions they will not remain seaworthy very long, and of course, it their steering parts are out of order, they will not be able to avoid collisions! But there is a third factor not yet taken into account, and that is, “Where is the fleet of ships headed?” The voyage would be a failure if it were meant to reach New York but actually arrived in Buenos Aires (the general purpose of human life as a whole, what man was made for)!12

The human conscience to which Paul refers in Romans 2 is not found in any other animal–only man. The utter uniqueness of this moral compass within humans, along with other exclusively human qualities (rationality, language, worship and aesthetic inclinations) strongly suggest that man not only has a relationship downward to animals, plants and earth, but also a relationship upward to the God in Whose image he is. As we saw God’s great power and intelligence expressed in the first two arguments, we also see here that this sense of morality, not known in the world of nature, comes from the Great Law Giver Who is Himself in character the “straight line” (righteous, just, holy) against which all human actions are measured.

In closing: “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 they are without excuse.” (Saint Paul, Romans 1:20).

“Only the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” (King David, Psalm 14:1).

Notes

  1. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam Co., Publishers, 1953), s.v. “metaphysics”, 528.
  2. Anthony Kenny, Five Ways (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1969), 66.
  3. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), 4.
  4. David Hume, An Enquiry: Concerning Human Understanding, Great Books of the Western World, vol. 35 (Chicago: William Benton, 1952), 506.
  5. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton,, 1978), 94-95.
  6. Ibid., p. 15.
  7. Ibid., 15-16.
  8. Robert Jastrow, “A Scientist Caught Betwen Two Faiths,” interviewed by Bill Durbin, Christianity Today, 26 (6 August 1982):14-18.
  9. Walter L. Bradley, “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Creator of the Universe?” (lecture given at High Ground Men’s Conference, Beaver Creek, Colo., Lecture given at High Ground Men’s Conference, 2 March, 2001).
  10. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillan, 1943), 18.
  11. Ibid., 45.
  12. Ibid., 70-71.
  13. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, s.v. “agnosticism.”
  14. Leith Samuel, Impossibility of Agnosticism (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, n.d.).
 
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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in God

 

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