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Can Christians Know if God Truly Exists?

The options for the question of whether God exists are simple: either God does not exist (atheism), God may exist (agnosticism), or God does exist. Let us look at each of these in turn.

Published Oct 26, 2023
Can Christians Know if God Truly Exists?

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There has been a great deal of debate over the value of theistic arguments. A person intellectually or spiritually closed to the question of God’s existence will not respond to the evidence, but a person willing to consider the evidence will find a convincing case for God’s existence.

The options for the question of whether God exists are simple: either God does not exist (atheism), God may exist (agnosticism), or God does exist. Let us look at each of these in turn.

1. God Does Not Exist

Even with a perfect memory and a lifetime of study, no one can know more than a vanishingly small amount of all that could be known. It is simply unreasonable to claim, “I know that God does not exist.” To know that a person would have to know everything that exists!

To get around this, atheists frequently recast their position: “I believe God doesn’t exist” becomes “I don’t believe in God.” The idea is to push the burden of proof back onto the theist since the atheist is no longer affirming a negative statement, but it really changes nothing.

At the risk of inviting comparisons to imaginary creatures, the fallacy inherent in this claim becomes obvious when “fairies” are substituted for “God.” “I don’t believe in fairies” expresses the same thought as “I believe fairies don’t exist.”

Another common move is to observe that Christians and atheists are not all that different — the atheist just believes in one less god than the Christian. Even the Christian is an “atheist” in respect to the Greek god Zeus. There are two problems with this.

First, when a monotheist refers to God, he is referring to a transcendent being radically different from the limited gods of paganism.

Second, the unstated assumption is that religious ideas are just subjective opinions that accomplish no necessary function. But the God you pick, or don’t pick, has profound consequences. It’s hardly just a matter of preference.

The implications of a universe without God are stark. The human heart cries out for meaning, value, and purpose, but these are precisely the things that are denied in an atheistic cosmos. Also, without God, we have no robust basis for morality.

Values such as right and wrong or good and bad are totally relative and have no absolute mooring; values such as love and equality are no better than hatred, treachery, or bigotry.

Man is also stripped of purpose in a godless reality. An impersonal universe is bereft of purpose, only moving inexorably toward decay, disorder, and death.

Few people have thought these things through, and no one can live consistently with them. All of us act as though human existence has meaning, as though moral values are real, and as though human life has purpose and dignity. But all these things presuppose an infinite-personal Creator.

2. God May Exist

From a biblical perspective, agnosticism is not simply an intellectual stance, but the suppression of the truth that God has implanted within the human heart. This is a moral, not merely intellectual, issue. Nonetheless, evidence for God’s existence has helped move people to faith.

Before we look at the argument for God’s existence, we must deal with some misconceptions about evidence, argument, and proof.

Some people wrongly demand scientific proof for the reality of God, as though he could somehow be found at the end of a repeatable and controlled experiment.

The scientific method is useful for achieving a great deal of knowledge. But complete proof is rarely attainable in any field, even the sciences.

A decision must be based on sufficient evidence, not exhaustive evidence. But what constitutes sufficient evidence for the existence of God? Because God is not perceived by our five senses, we must rely upon the indirect evidence of cause and effect.

A sufficient cause must exist to account for the effects of the natural universe, order and design within the universe, personal beings, and the phenomenon of morality.

The philosophers Leibniz and Sartre argued that the most basic philosophical question is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” There are only four possible answers to this question:

The universe is an illusion. This is a self-defeating position, equivalent to saying, “It is an objective fact that there are no objective facts.” If everything is unreal, then so is the claim itself. Not only does this option lack rational coherence, it also lacks factual correspondence.

To entertain it, a person would have to reject every shred of evidence from his five senses. No human being can live consistently with the implications of this viewpoint for even a day.

Even the full-blown skeptic looks both ways before crossing the street. And every human relationship calls illusionism a lie.

The universe is eternal. The Big Bang theory, which is almost universally accepted in the scientific world, shows that the universe had a beginning.

There are also philosophical reasons why there cannot have been an actually infinite series of events in time, but the scientific reasons should be sufficient for most conversations.

The universe emerged from nothing. Usually, little needs to be said about the absurdity of this position. All reason and observations tell us that nothing produces nothing.

To say that an effect can exist without a cause is to deny the whole basis of scientific investigation and rational thought.

There have been a number of theories posited over the past few decades that on the surface appear to offer a scientific mechanism for the universe to emerge from nothing, based on the peculiar properties of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory.

Yet none of these theories provide a mechanism consistent with the requirement of creation out of nothing. Both space and quantum vacuums are not nothing but something.

Something eternal created the universe. This is the only option left. The only sufficient cause for the universe is an eternal and necessary being. Otherwise, there would be the problem of an infinite regression of causes and effects.

People still trot out the old question, “Who caused God?” If anything now exists, then something came from nothing or something must be eternal. If the universe we inhabit isn’t the thing that is eternal, then something outside the universe must be eternal and uncaused.

Every effect must have a cause, but God is not an effect because he was never created. God is eternal and self-existent.

3. God Does Exist

Once we recognize the necessity of some kind of eternal “being” or God, the next question is whether this is an impersonal force or a personal being.

To answer this question, we need to narrow our focus. What cause is sufficient to explain the effects of order and design in the universe, the personality of man, and the moral consciousness of man?

Before beginning, note that even the cosmological argument favors a personal over an impersonal cause of the cosmos. If an impersonal cause always existed, why did the universe come into existence only a finite time ago?

It certainly couldn’t be an act of the will. Only a personal being could make the choice to create the universe a limited time ago.

Our universe appears engineered for life. We can find thousands of examples of order and purpose in the world, especially in living systems.

The more we learn about them, the more astoundingly complex they appear. This strongly suggests they were designed.

This raises the question of evolution. Christians are sharply divided over how much evolutionary theory they can accept. From our perspective, arguing about evolution is often unhelpful.

The key question is whether random mutation is sufficient to create the depth of order and breadth of diversity that we see in living systems today, or if the astounding precision and complexity of living things point to purposeful planning.

Going beyond these questions often does not help us get closer to the core issue: “Has the architect of the universe revealed himself to mankind?”

The personality of man points to a personal Creator. Personality refers to man’s intellect, emotion, and will. The issue here is, once again, cause and effect: The impersonal cannot think, feel, or choose and is, therefore, vastly inferior to the personal.

How, then, can an impersonal agent cause conscious, personal beings? We can strengthen this argument by looking in more detail at our intellect, aesthetics, and morality.

The argument from thought shows that the human mind cannot be the product of an impersonal process. If the mind is just a product of a brain that evolved by random mutations, there is no reason to trust reason.

If our minds are material, how can our thoughts transcend the material world, reflecting on abstract concepts like justice, wisdom, and spirit? We can not only think about the future, but we can also think about the process of thinking about the future.

The argument from aesthetics points to the universal experience of beauty as evidence of a personal God. While there are differences in taste, there is, nevertheless, an amazing amount of consensus concerning beauty and greatness in the arts.

This cannot be reduced to a mechanical response to sensory input. The aesthetic capacity transcends the material world, and an impersonal force is insufficient to create this transcendent quality.

The argument from morality holds that explaining man’s moral consciousness requires a personal God. Like aesthetic experience, moral experience is a universal human phenomenon. All ages and countries regard qualities like loyalty and courage as virtues.

The idea that there are no standards of morality is unlivable: everyone has moral standards and judges others by them. The only absolute foundation for morality is the changeless character of the personal creator of the universe.

Putting all these arguments together, we are left with an eternal, personal, and ethical God as the only sufficient cause of the universe, order and design within the universe, and the personality of man.

Join us Monday nights for a live, interactive webinar with Dr. Ken Boa, Think on These Things

For further reading:

Does God Exist?

Did Jesus Really Exist?

Does Proof of Jesus Other Than in the Bible Exist?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Deagreez

Kenneth Boa

Kenneth Boa equips people to love well (being), learn well (knowing), and live well (doing). He is a writer, teacher, speaker, and mentor and is the President of Reflections Ministries, The Museum of Created Beauty, and Trinity House Publishers.

Publications by Dr. Boa include Conformed to His Image; Handbook to Prayer; Handbook to Leadership; Faith Has its Reasons; Rewriting Your Broken Story; Life in the Presence of God; Leverage; and Recalibrate Your Life.

Dr. Boa holds a B.S. from Case Institute of Technology, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. from New York University, and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in England. 


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