The professed atheist I was dialoguing was considerate, sincere, and not looking for a fight. Unlike some of the militant, in-your-face atheists that bask in the media limelight and are known for their abusive, derogatory speech, he simply needed to have some important questions answered, and until that happened, he was not going to consider God at all. His challenge to me was simply this:
"If you can give me the faith you speak of, a reason to believe, I'll take it."
The question of whether God exists has been debated down throughout history, with exceedingly intelligent people taking both sides of the dispute. In recent times, the cries against the possibility of God's existence have taken on a militant spirit that accuses anyone daring to believe in God as being delusional, irrational, and not holding an intellectually respectable position. This vein of argumentation is technically called a de jure objection and is really nothing new, although its voice is perhaps louder today than in the past. Karl Marx asserted that anyone believing in God must have a mental disorder that caused invalid thinking. The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud wrote that a person who believed in a Creator God was delusional and only held their beliefs due to a 'wish fulfillment' factor that produced what Freud considered to be their unjustifiable position. The philosopher Frederick Nietzsche bluntly said that faith equates to not wanting to know what is true. The voices of these three figures from history (along with others from the past) are simply now parroted by a new generation of atheists who claim that a belief in God is intellectually unwarranted.
Is this truly the case? Is belief in God a rationally unacceptable position to hold? Outside of referencing the Bible, can a case for God be made that refutes the positions of both the old and new atheists and gives sufficient warrant for believing in a Creator? The answer is yes it can. Moreover, in demonstrating the validity of an argument for God, the case for atheism is shown to be not only intellectually weak but simply reckless to cling to.
To make the case for God, we must start by asking the right question(s). And where to begin is with the most basic metaphysical question posed by famous philosophers such as Gottfried Leibniz, Martin Heidegger, and Jean Paul Sartre: “Why do we have something rather than nothing at all?” This is the basic question of existence - why are we here; why is the earth here; why is the universe here rather than nothing? Commenting on this point, one theologian has said, “In one sense man does not ask the question about God, his very existence raises the question about God”.
In considering this question, there are four possible answers to why we have something rather than nothing at all:
1. Reality is an illusion
Let's being with reality being simply an illusion, which is what a number of eastern religions hold to. This option was ruled out centuries ago by the philosopher Rene Descartes who is famous for the statement, “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes, a mathematician, argued that if he is thinking then he must 'be' - in other words, “I think, therefore I am not an illusion.” Illusions require something experiencing the illusion, and moreover, you cannot doubt the existence of yourself without proving your existence - it is a self-defeating argument. So the possibility of reality being an Illusion is eliminated.
Next is the option of reality being self-created. When you study philosophy, you learn that there are things called 'analytically false' statements, which means they are false by definition. The possibility of reality being self-created is one of those types of statements for the simple reason that something cannot be prior to itself. If you created yourself then you must have existed prior to you creating yourself, but that simply can't be. In evolution this is sometimes referred to as 'spontaneous generation' - something coming from nothing: a position that few, if any, reasonable people hold to anymore simply because you can't get something from nothing. Even the atheist David Hume said, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” This being the case, the alternative of reality being self-created is ruled out.
Now we are left with only two choices - an eternal reality or reality being created by something that is eternal: an eternal universe or an eternal Creator. The 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards summed up the crossroads we have now come to this way:
To date, all key scientific and philosophical evidence points away from an eternal universe and toward an eternal Creator. From a scientific standpoint, honest scientists admit the universe had a beginning, and whatever has a beginning is not eternal. In other words, whatever has a beginning has a cause, and if the universe had a beginning, it had a cause. The fact that the universe had a beginning is underscored by evidence such as the second law of thermodynamics, the radiation echo of the big bang discovered in the early 1900's, the fact that the universe is expanding and can be traced back to a singular beginning, and Einstein's theory of relativity. All prove the universe is not eternal. Of course, various hypotheses exist to try and explain away this fact (e.g. imaginary time, collapsing universes, etc.), but all lack sufficient evidence to seriously be considered at this point.
Further, the laws that surround causation speak against the universe being the ultimate cause of all we know for this simple fact: an effect must resemble its cause. This being true, no atheist can explain how an impersonal, purposeless, meaningless, and amoral universe accidentally created personal beings (us) who are obsessed with purpose, meaning, and morals. Such a thing, from a causation standpoint, completely refutes the idea of a natural universe birthing everything that exists. So in the end, the concept of an eternal universe is eliminated.
Philosopher J. S. Mill (not a Christian) summed up where we have now come to this way: “It is self-evident that only Mind can create mind.” The only rational and reasonable conclusion to acknowledge is that an eternal Creator is the one who is responsible for reality as we know it. Or to put it in a logical set of statements:
Former atheist Lee Strobel, who arrived at this end result many years ago, has commented: “Essentially, I realized that to stay an atheist, I would have to believe that nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason. Those leaps of faith were simply too big for me to take, especially in light of the affirmative case for God's existence and Jesus' resurrection (and, hence, his divinity). In other words, in my assessment the Christian worldview accounted for the totality of the evidence much better than the atheistic worldview.”
But the next question we must tackle is this: If an eternal Creator exists (and we have shown that He does), what kind of Creator is He? Can we infer things about Him from what He created - in other words, understand the cause by its effects? The answer to this is yes, we can, with the following characteristics being surmised:
He must be supernatural in nature (as He created time and space).
Note that the above is not an attempt to fit a round peg into a square hole; the conclusions reached above are intellectually sound and logical, and something that is not forced at all. This being true, it is therefore easy to conclude that those holding to a belief in God - and specifically the God of the Bible - are on very sure footing.
One last subject to address on the matter of God's existence is the matter of how justifiable the atheist's position actually is. Since the atheist asserts the believer's position is unsound, it is only reasonable to turn the question around and aim it squarely back at them. The first thing to understand is that the claim the atheist makes -' no god' - which is that 'atheist' means, is an untenable position to hold from a philosophical standpoint. As legal scholar and philosopher Mortimer Adler says, “An affirmative existential proposition can be proved, but a negative existential proposition - one that denies the existence of some thing - cannot be proved.” For example, someone may claim that a red eagle exists and something else may assert that red eagles don't exist. For the former, all they need to do to prove their case is find a red eagle. But for the latter, they must comb the entire universe and literally be in every place at once to ensure they haven't missed a red eagle somewhere and at some time, which is impossible to do. This is why intellectual honest atheists will admit they cannot prove God does not exist.
Next, it is important to understand the issue that surrounds the seriousness of truth claims that are made and amount of evidence required to warrant certain conclusions. For example, if someone puts two containers of lemonade in front of you and says that one may be more tart than the other, since the consequences of getting the more tart drink wouldn't be serious, you wouldn't require a large amount of evidence in order to make your choice. However, if to one cup the host added sweetener but to the other he introduced rat poison, then you would want to have quite a bit of evidence before you made your choice.
This is where a person sits when deciding between atheism and belief in God. Since belief in atheism could possibly result in irreparable and eternal consequences, it would seem that the atheist should be mandated to produce weighty and overriding evidence to support their position, but they cannot. Atheism simply cannot meet the test for evidence for the seriousness of the charge it makes. Instead, the atheist and those whom they convince of their position slide into eternity with their fingers crossed and hope they do not find the unpleasant truth that eternity does indeed exists and that such a place is an awfully long time to be wrong. As Mortimer Adler says, “More consequences for life and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from any other basic question.”
So does belief in God have intellectual warrant? Absolutely. While atheists such as Freud claim that those believing in God have a wish fulfillment desire, perhaps it is Freud and his followers who actually suffer from wish fulfillment: the hope and wish that there is no God, no accountability, and therefore no judgment. But refuting Freud is the God of the Bible Who affirms His existence and the fact that a judgment is indeed coming for those who know within themselves the truth that He exists but suppress that truth (Rom. 1:20). But for those who respond to the evidence that a Creator does indeed exists, He offers the way of salvation that has been accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."(John 1:12-13)
An Argument for God – in 30 Seconds or Less
Did you know that it is possible to give a strong argument for the existence of God that’s beyond a reasonable doubt in 30 seconds or less? Despite the claims of skeptics, atheists, and agnostics, there is a way for positing the existence of a supernatural Creator who created everything ex nihilo (that is, “out of nothing”) that cannot be logically refuted if one approaches the facts without bias. Ready? Start your stopwatch and read through the following (get the presentation here):
- I exist.
That’s it. Philosophically sound and logically reasonable. Now I’ll admit that this may sound a tad boastful, so let’s work through the various points and see why this 30-second proof for God stands up so well.
You Can’t Deny Existence
Agnosticism is a belief that claims you cannot know for certain that God exists, and many go so far to say that you can’t know anything about anything. But some things are absolutely certain. For example, I exist. To deny that I exist is self-defeating because I have to exist to deny that I exist. Get it? Makes your head swim a little doesn’t it? But you get the point. Trying to deny your own existence is just self-defeating so there’s no reason to try.
And this is why agnosticism is self defeating. Agnosticism claims you can’t know something, but it claims to know at least one thing: that you can’t know anything. Funny isn’t it? The agnostic hangs himself by his own claim.
Something from Nothing? Never!
Do you know what the best definition of nothing is? Aristotle penned it – nothing is “what rocks dream about”. And “what rocks dream about” certainly has no ability to create something. It’s a fact so simple that any child can understand it. You can’t get something from nothing – it’s absolutely impossible. And since you and I are here (something), then it stands to reason that something must have always existed to bring our existence into being. And this “something” has to be eternal – unmade. So what could it be?
An Eternal Universe? Apparently Not
This is only premise that could possibly be attacked by the skeptic or atheist. Therefore, we need to take some time and carefully work through it.
G.K Chesterton once said that “Behind every double standard lies a single hidden agenda.” Atheists and agnostics often make fun of Christians for claiming that an unmade, eternal Creator exists. How could such a thing be, they chortle? But then they turn right around and say mankind is alive and well because of blind forces that came from a universe that “has always been there”. Interesting. So they claim an unmade eternal universe can exist, but not an unmade and eternal Creator?
Because something can’t come from nothing, you have only two possible solutions for why we’re here – why we have something rather than nothing at all. Either the atheists and evolutionists are right and we have an eternal universe or those who believe that an eternal God exists are right (now to be fair, there are those who argue that the universe is eternal because it’s God Himself, but that doesn’t come into play here since we’re talking about those who say God doesn’t exist). Which way does the evidence point?
Much to the dismay of those who want to disprove God, the facts strongly point away from an eternal universe. And if that’s true, then keep these points in mind:
- Everything that has a beginning has a cause
Let me give you five reasons why the universe isn’t eternal. These are taken from Norman Geisler’s excellent book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist:
First, Proof Point 1: The universe is running down. And something that is running down must have started at some point. The 2nd law of thermodynamics states that the universe is running out of usable energy and if you doubt this, look in the mirror (you’re aging and running down just like everything else).
Next, Proof Point 2: The universe is expanding. This was confirmed through the Hubble telescope many years ago, and it’s interesting to note that it’s expanding from a single point, meaning you could contract the entire universe back into a single point and then into nothing. Also note that the universe is not expanding into space, but space itself is expanding. The birth of the universe is commonly called the “Big Bang” – first there was nothing, then BANG – something came into being.
Now onto Proof Point 3: The radiation echo. This discovered by Bell Labs scientists Penzias and Wilson back in 1965. What is it? It is the heat afterglow from the Big Bang and it actually won Penzias & Wilson the Nobel Prize. Its discovery deals a death blow to any theory of the universe being in a steady state because it shows that the universe instead exploded out of nothing.
Next is Proof Point 4: Galaxy Seeds. If the Big Bang was true, then scientists believed that temperature “ripples” should exist out in space and it would be these ripples that would be the enabler for matter to collect into galaxies. To discover whether this was true, the Cosmic Background Explorer – COBE – was launched in 1989 to find them, with the findings being released in 1992. What COBE found was perfect/precise ripples found that, sure enough, enable galaxies to form. So critical and spectacular was this finding that Georg Smoot, the NASA lead for COBE, said “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God.”
And finally is Proof Point 5: Remember good old E=MC2 from your science class? Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity? Mr. Einstein didn’t like what he had discovered because it meant that the universe had a beginning and was not eternal as he’d believed. Instead of being self-existent, his theory proved that the universe is not a cause, but instead one big effect. Something brought it into existence. Einstein disliked his end result so much that he introduced a ‘fudge factor’ into his theory that allowed it to leave room for an eternal universe. So much for science not being affected by non-scientific feelings.
But there was only one problem. His fudge factor required a division by zero in his calculations – a mathematical error any good math student knows not to make. When discovered by other mathematicians, Einstein admitted his error calling it “the greatest blunder of my life.” After his acknowledgment, and upon confirming further research that showed the universe expanding just as his theory of relativity predicted, Einstein bowed to the fact that the universe is not eternal and said that he wanted, “to know how God created the world.”
God – the Only Logical Answer
With modern science ruling out an eternal universe, the only other possibility in terms of an unmade, forever existing cause for our existence is God. In just stands to reason that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Think of it like this:
- Everything that begins to exist must have a cause
The conclusion is completely logical and beyond reasonable and rational objection. The skeptic, the agnostic, the atheist – they can choose to ignore the facts, but it’s just that – a choice. There is a big difference, as Ravi Zacharias has said, between what is known and what is believed. The human heart is skilled beyond comprehension for rejecting what the mind comprehends to be valid and true.
What about You?
Thirty seconds is all we need to work through the possibilities and reach the logical conclusion that God exists. But what about you? Do you sometimes doubt that God is real? Does the existence of evil in the world or other doubts sometimes enter into your mind and heart and cause you to question whether or not that God could actually be? If so, welcome to being normal. When doubts or questions come, remember these few things.
First, remember what we just worked through. God is the only logical possibility for why we have something (you, me, the universe) rather than nothing at all. No other logical conclusion can be had. That’s the great thing about God – he gets to your heart through your mind, despite what critics may say.
Second, realize answers for your questions and your doubts are available. They can be simple – like the explanation to a Bible passage you don’t understand – to complex, such as how evil can exist alongside an all-powerful and good God in this world. It might take a while to find and work through them, but they’re there. Remember that a scientist doesn’t throw out science when they come upon some anomaly that they can’t instantly explain. Instead, they keep searching for an explanation using what they know is true as a foundation that leads them to the truth. You do the same thing when it comes to God.
Thirty seconds. It can change a life. Forever.