The existence of God
The questions or statements that arise on the subject of the existence of God tend to be as follows - "How do you know that God exists?" - "Prove God's existence". - "There is no God". - "I'm an atheist". Generally it is a straightforward denial of the existence of God. Therefore it follows that salvation through Christ, as proclaimed in the gospel, is totally unnecessary. Obviously we need to learn how to handle these questions.
An analysis of questions concerning the existence of God
The first step is to evaluate the motive behind the question. Is it an earnest enquiry, an antagonistic attack, or just a stir? If you understand the motive you will give an answer appropriate to the needs of the questioner.
The second step is to clarify ambiguities, double meanings, incongruities etc. that may arise. This may require some leading questions to enable you to give a more pointed answer. The following are some of the more common examples:
1. I'm an Atheist.
In reply we might ask "Do you mean by "atheist" - a person who knows that God doesn't exist?"
Someone who claims to be an atheist tends to be terribly dogmatic about their position - they know it to be true. Yet this is quite illogical, for if there is any area of knowledge that they are not sure of then it might be just the place where the evidence of God's existence is to be found. The chances are that these are just the areas that they have never consulted, eg. the Bible, Christian experience, historicity of Jesus, etc.
They must be shown that an atheist is someone who, after the study of source material, has decided that the evidence against the existence of God is greater than that for it. The chances are they have never studied the evidence in favour of the existence of God, and so you present your evidence.
2. I don't believe in your God.
In reply we might ask "What do you mean by God?" Here you can end up with any definition, but the chances are that it doesn't fit the God whom we worship.
It is necessary to establish that if we are to know what God is like - assuming that he exists - then there is only one way and that is for him to reveal himself to us. The Christian believes God has done just that through his prophets of old and finally through his Son Jesus Christ. It is this self-revealing God whose existence it is possible to verify. His revealed character is as follows:
He is personal;
He is all-powerful, infinite;
He is righteous, moral.
3. Prove to me that God exists.
In reply we might ask "What type of proof do you expect?"
When someone demands that you prove the existence of God, they usually requiring you to produce God like a rabbit out of a hat. If they can't see God then that means he is not there. To prove that something is true is certainly not that cut and dried. There are three accepted approaches:
a] The tautological proof: Something that is necessarily true, ie. a mathematical certainty, eg. the three angles of a triangle equal two right angles.
b] The empirical and demonstrative proof. Something that is seen to be true by observation - eg. there are kangaroos in Australia.
c] The inferential and interpretative proof (Hypothesis). Something that is inferred to be true because of the existence of other factors, eg. 'X' exists because of the presence of 'Y'. Much of scientific theory is based upon this approach, eg. evolutionary theory. This is the method which we use to prove the existence of God to a questioner. We assemble evidence from which we infer God's existence.
4. There is no God. We're the masters of our own destiny.
Again, in reply, we might ask "Do you mean that our existence is a freak of nature?"
It is worthwhile sometimes to clarify the absurdity of such a position. What is being suggested is that we are an accident, with no purpose but to exist, with no morality except that good is what I like and bad is what I don't like. So in the end, we are meaningless creatures. The strange thing is that most people don't think that way, and why? Because we are not that way. If we are willing to look at life, we will find a meaningful reason for our existence and that meaning is God.
Remember, in English speaking countries the majority believe in the existence of God. It is only a problem to a minority, most of whom are under 40.
The Bible does not develop an argument for the existence of God, rather his existence is assumed.
A problem does exist though as to whether Jesus is God. Most people would see Jesus as a 'good man', but not as God. The New Testament reveals Jesus' divinity clearly. Jesus identifies the Kingdom of God with his own Kingdom, and assumes the title of 'King', Matt.13:41, Lk.23:42. He claims that he is the truth and should be followed, Jn.14:6. Jesus claims that a person's eternal destiny hangs on their response to him, Jn.11:25,26. He claims to forgive sins, Lk.5:20,21; 7:49. Statements like those in Luke 5:20,21; 7:49, John 8:58, 20:28, and 14:9 are direct claims to deity.
A planned answer
First, I would like to say that one of the greatest promises in God's revelation is to those who "seek" after him. It is this: they will find him. So I can tell you this, if you are genuinely searching out God you are going to get a shock.
Let me now assemble the evidence available to us that supports the proposition that there exists a personal, all-powerful, moral being - God.
1. The universal questions
It has been a common historical assumption that there is a God. Examine societies of totally different cultures without ties to each other and you find they have some concept of a 'being(s)' beyond themselves.
Now why should humankind postulate a deity whom they cannot see? The answer probably lies in our inquiring mind, in our ability to question and reason. As we humans have come to face the reality of our existence, certain very basic universal questions have evolved for which only one answer has proved satisfactory - that answer being, that there is a God. The questions are as follows:
i] Where does everything come from? As we examine our environment we can't help but question ultimate origins and in the end the only available answer is to argue for an originator.
This argument is technically known as the "Cosmological" argument. Every existing thing in the world must have an adequate cause; and if this is so, the universe must also have an adequate cause; that is a cause which is infinitely great. The first cause; God.
ii] Why are things in the shape they are in? We can't help but marvel at the order of our universe, its balance and harmony. It's hard to deny the existence of a creator when you think about it. If we were walking along a street and found a wristwatch we would have little trouble accepting the fact that it was designed by a master craftsman. Surely our universe is greater than a watch.
To accept the opposite conclusion is to argue that our universe evolved by means of the blind collision of eternal matter plus time plus chance. The possibilities that our present order has developed unaided by any personal creativity, are about as slim as getting a monkey to accidentally type out the Encyclopedia Britannica.
This argument is known as the "teleological" argument. The world everywhere reveals intelligence, order, harmony and purpose and thus implies the existence of an intelligent and purposeful being; adequate to the design of such a world.
Note that Paul in Romans 1 states that humanity is able to perceive God's existence from the created order, but because of our sinful nature we deny that evidence.
iii] Why do we feel so strongly about right and wrong? Without a doubt we humans have a moral dimension, but why? Some psychologists have suggested that it is the product of societal pressures, but if that were the case, then morality is arbitrary. The problem is we don't view our moral convictions that way, but rather as explicit rules basically applicable to the human race. If this is so then there must be a lawgiver, a judge.
This argument is known as the "moral" argument. Mankind's recognition of a highest good and the quest for a moral ideal, demand and necessitate the existence of a God to give reality to that ideal.
It is the pressure of these questions that force the answer, there is a God.
It is quite impossible for finite humanity to search after and find an infinite God. How can the finite perceive the infinite? Obviously, if God exists and we are to come to know him, then he must reveal himself to us in a way that we can understand. In fact, if there is a creator God, then since he created persons, he cannot be less than personal, and therefore he would reveal himself.
The Christian church believes that the Bible is the record of that revelation of God to man. It confirms the conclusions of our experience that there is a God. It contains the history of God's dealings with mankind, specifically the Jewish people. It contains God's revelation to the prophets of the Old Testament - what he is like, what he expects of us. Finally, it records the life and teachings of Jesus Christ the Son of God, the final revelation of God to mankind.
It is here in the person of Jesus that we are confronted with the reality of God. Jesus said "if you have seen me you have seen the Father." History verifies his existence, even his rising from the dead on the third day. The core of the Christian faith stands on the events of history. When Jesus' life and teachings are examined there are but three conclusions:
i] Jesus was mad - claiming to be the Son of God, the light of the world, able to forgive sins, etc. but was deluded.
ii] Jesus was bad - a confirmed liar, claiming to be the Son of God when he knew he wasn't.
iii] Jesus was God.
There is only one way to check out this type of evidence and that is to read the Bible, particularly the gospels.
The final piece of evidence to look at is probably the most amazing. God is a personal relational being. Through Jesus it is possible to personally know God. Millions upon millions of people have had personal confrontations with God. When you reach out to Jesus, when you seek him, you find the living God. Or probably I should say, God finds you.
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