By Stephen W. Hiemstra
A core tenet of the scientific method lies in using reproducible empirical evidence to validate or fail to validate a hypothesis. Because God created the heavens and the earth, he lies outside the created order, where direct evidence might be found. Therefore, scientific testing of the existence of God is impossible. However, we can infer the existence of God from the created order, much like we might observe fingerprints of a potter on the pottery—a kind of indirect evidence.
In part three of his recent book, Making Sense of God, Timothy Keller (2016, 217) summarizes six arguments for the existence of God from: 1. existence, 2. fine tuning, 3. moral realism, 4. consciousness, 5. reason, and 6. beauty. These bear repeating.
For existence to even be, it had to have had an uncaused cause (Keller 2016, 218). Think about the evolutionary hypothesis that posits that life spontaneously emerged from non-biological substances and evolved until the creation of human beings. But who created the non-biological substances? The usual response is that the universe just always existed. However, according to the big bang theory, the universe has not always looked like it does today. According to one online dictionary:1
“a theory in astronomy: the universe originated billions of years ago in an explosion from a single point of nearly infinite energy density.”
Given that the universe shows evidence of an uncaused cause, it is reasonable to infer that God created the universe in his own inscrutable way.
From Fine Tuning
Constants in physics appear to be precisely adjusted to allow life to exist. Keller (2016, 219) writes:
“The speed of light, the gravitational constant, the strength of the strong and weak nuclear forces—must all have almost exactly the values that they do have in order for organic life to exist…the chances that all of the dials would be tuned to life-permitting settings all at once are about 10-100.”
Given the small probability that the laws of physics randomly aligned in this way, many scientists have concluded that the universe was intentionally planned. It is kind of like finding a working clock on the beach. No reasonable person would assume that this close was randomly created—the existence of a clock suggests a clock maker.
From Moral Realism
Most people, even ardent atheists, believe that moral obligations, like human rights, exist that we can insist everyone abide by. Keller (2016, 221) writes:
“…some things are absolutely wrong to do. Moral obligation, then, makes more sense in a universe created by a personal God to whom we intuitively feel responsible than it does in an impersonal universe with no God.”
Even an argent atheist would not idly stand by and watch another person drown or be killed in a burning house when something could be done to aid them. This kind of moral obligation is something that virtually everyone feels, yet is counter-intuitive from the perspective of personal survival—water rescues and running into burning buildings routinely kill rescuers, even those trained as lifeguards and firefighters. Why do we feel obligated to put ourselves at such risk? Christians answer that God created us with a moral compass.
Keller (2016, 222), citing Thomas Nagel (2012, 110), writes that “all human experience has a subjective quality to it.” It is pretty hard to argue, as does Francis Crisk (1994, 3), that
“You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” (Keller 2016, 224)
Keller (2016, 224) summarizes: “Consciousness and idea making make far more sense in a universe created by an idea-making, conscious God.”
From Reason and Beauty
Keller (2016, 225) reports that has been popular in recent years to argue that our reasoning and appreciation of beauty both developed from the process of natural selection because they helped our ancestors to survive. Evolutionary psychologists have gone a step further arguing that even our faith in God is a product of evolution and natural selection.
The problem exists, however, that many animals seem to have survived just fine without developing any capacity to reason at all. Furthermore, if our faith is a product of natural selection, why wouldn’t we trust our reasoning capacity to tell us the truth? The arguments for beauty parallel those for reason.
Keller (2016, 226), citing Luc Ferry (2011), writes: “truth, beauty, justice, and love … whatever the materialists say, remain fundamentally transcendent.” In other words, they all point to the existence of a loving God.
Limits to the Proofs
Most proofs of God’s existence focus only on making it sensible to believe in God in an abstract or philosophical sense. They really do not give us a detailed picture of God’s character, as revealed in the Bible.
Philosophers remind us that God transcends our universe because he created it—God stands outside time and space. He is also holy—sacred and set apart. God’s transcendence makes it impossible for us to approach God on our own; he must initiate any contact that we have with him. Christians believe that God revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Uniqueness of Christ
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes the case that God not only exists, but that he is God of the Old and New Testaments. Keller (2016, 228) makes the stunning observation that only Christianity is truly a world religion; it has had indigenous believers fairly evenly distributed across all regions and continents of the world, long before it became a religion in Europe and North America. He writes: “today most of the most vital and largest Christian populations are now nonwhite and non-Western.”
The arguments for God’s existence must be compelling (or Christians must have come to faith for other reasons) because Christianity continues to grow in spite of strong influence of secularism in the West and obvious persecution of Christians outside the West.
Ferry, Luc. 2011. “A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living.” Translation by Theo Cuffe. New York: Harper Perennial.
Crisk, Francis. 1994. “The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul.” New York: Simon and Schuster.
Timothy Keller. 2016. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. New York: Viking Press.
Nagel, Thomas. 2012. “What is It Like to Be a Bat?” Mortal Questions, Canto Classics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Arguments for God’s Existence
Other ways to engage online:
Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.
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