photo © 2010 Jeffrey Beall | more info (via: Wylio)Not too long ago I read a terrific book about the Christian church world written by a man who was and is an atheist, even though he has spent a great deal of time visiting various churches (read my review here). Now I'm no skilled debater, and I'm sure my chances of actually convincing someone that God exists when they've got their mind made up are slim, but I did have some thoughts while I was reading the book that I wanted to share over the course of the next several Fridays.
So I thought I would really hit the ground running right away. Let's talk about something atheists seem to think nobody has: proof that God exists.
There is a story in the Bible about a man who dies without acknowledging God, and he winds up in Hell. From Hell he is somehow able to talk to Abraham (who is not in Hell, but is in the afterlife), and he asks Abraham to send him back to persuade his brothers that they should turn to God before they die. "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets," Jesus quotes Abraham as replying, "neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31 ESV) Essentially, Jesus was saying through his story that the testimony of the Scriptures is enough evidence that anyone who hears the message and is open to the truth will be persuaded by them. I never write anyone off, but if someone has his mind made up, if we are to believe this Scripture, it's going to be pretty difficult to sway them.
But I think there is other persuasive evidence. The most comprehensive proof of the existence of God that the Scripture mentions is the world around us. In Romans 1:19-20, the apostle Paul, talking about people who reject God, declares that "...what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Paul says that Creation itself is so amazing that it should point anyone who is open to the idea of a creator toward Him. And in fact, the more science discovers about the complexity of living things and of matter and existence in general, the harder you have to work to imagine that it could have all happened by accident. Science has not by any means disproved the existence of God.
In fact, ironically enough, one of the ideas that Science came up with in the twentieth century caused great consternation to Christians who believe that God personally created the cosmos, but it actually had presented a pretty huge obstacle to those who would like to say there is no creator and life developed spontaneously by chance over the course of many billions of years. The "Big Bang" theory says that the cosmos has not been around for an eternity past, but it originated only something like 13.7 billion years ago, which is kind of a tight schedule by evolutionary standards. Scientists also calculate that the conditions needed to create a universe with planets that could support life are pretty exacting; even a very small deviation from what they theorize must have happened would result in a universe devoid of life, or a universe that would collapse back in on itself or otherwise be destroyed long before life could have developed. The Big Bang theory actually points toward the existence of an intelligent designer; if you choose to insist that this designer is not the God of the Bible, that's one thing, but to insist that the designer does not exist actually runs counter to accepted scientific theory.
But let's quit looking at the world around us for a minute, and turn our thoughts inward. Let's examine ourselves. We are creatures that have two interesting features: first, we believe that some things are morally right and some things are morally wrong. And second, the human race has a strange habit of worshiping things. The existence of the idea of morally right things and morally wrong things does not fit with the idea of "survival of the fittest" which would seem to be the obvious way to live; if I want something and it exists, outside of morality, the obvious thing to do is to take it for myself, even if it belongs to someone else. If I do not like someone, if I have no sense of moral right and wrong, the way to make sure that person never irritates me again would be to kill them and eliminate the problem permanently. But somehow we've gotten the idea that some things are "right" and some things are "wrong." With no logical reason for those kinds of ideas to have evolved naturally, the evidence points toward a supernatural source for them.
Down through the centuries, people seem determined to find something to worship. It may be the Hebrew or Christian or Muslim God, or any of a huge variety of other gods and goddesses, but humans seem to really desire contact with something or someone larger and more powerful than themselves. To me, there are only two reasons why this could be: either there is a creator who has intentionally placed this desire within human beings, or we are a flawed and pathetic race, afraid of the knowledge that we might be alone in the universe. Why would human beings, who in general are fiercely independent, have an inborn weakness that makes them desire to place themselves under a deity? I don't buy it. I think God made us with an inborn desire to know Him.
But let's bring this all the way down to a key point. Does God have to prove He exists in order to exist? Could He possibly exist and not leave any clues at all? Of course He could, and if He exists, it doesn't matter if you believe He exists or not. I love this bit from an old Stan Freburg Christmas recording: "I still ain't made up my mind yet about Toledo!" Does Toledo exist, even if Grudge decides he doesn't believe it does? You tell me.
I think the evidence for a creator is actually pretty strong, and the arguments against that evidence are pretty flimsy. Next Friday I want to discuss what I think the real issue is for many atheists... I don't think the existence of God is the real issue. Find out what I think it really is next week!