Is there rational evidence for the existence of God?
The Bible makes it clear that through nature and conscience everyone has some knowledge of the existence of God. See Romans 1:18-2:16 and Psalm 19:1. But science and logic confirm what we already know naturally.
Let's start this discussion with this 9 minute video. It is a very entertaining, as well as instructional 9-minute video, where Frank Turek answers three objections to Christianity from a bright young atheist:
A. Cosmological Evidence
The first is the so-called Cosmological Argument. Authors Boa and Moody (see resource list) explain that there are essentially three possibilities as to the origin of the universe and the implications about God:
- That the universe emerged from nothing. Little needs to be said about this notion. Nothing produces nothing. This premise is neither logical nor reasonable.
- That the universe is eternal. Among many scientific reasons why the universe is not eternal are: (a) the big bang theory, (b) the abundance of hydrogen, and (c) the irreversible decay of the universe.
- The discovery by Edwin Hubble that the universe appears to be uniformly expanding in all directions leads to the conclusion that the universe had a beginning. The Big Bang theory is not merely a proposition that matter expanded from an infinitely small position. It is the proposition that the universe had an absolute beginning—that before this event, not even space nor time even existed at all!
- Hydrogen is continually being converted into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. This process is irreversible, so the abundance of hydrogen in the cosmos belies the notion of an eternal universe.
- The second law of thermodynamics says that while the total amount of energy remains constant (the first law), the availability of usable energy in the universe is constantly declining (the second law). Apart from the intervention of a supernatural agent (God), the stars would have burned out and the universe would have run down like a clock with no one to wind it back up. The logical conclusion is that it cannot be true that an infinite amount of time has passed because the universe would have reached a cold and lifeless state of absolute equilibrium.
- That the universe was created by an eternal being. By process of elimination, the existence of an omnipotent God is the most reasonable conclusion for origin.
There are those who may use terminology that they hope will circumvent the obvious conclusion of the Big Bang. For example, they may say that before the Big Bang, the universe was a "point of singularity." Then at the Big Bang, the pre-universe emerged from a state of organization to one of disorganization. But there is a known scientific law that states that anything at rest must remain at rest until an external force causes it to move. So we again must conclude that something of a higher order of being than the universe itself must have caused the big bang. The conclusion remains that God was the first cause, the prime mover.
But this attempt to circumvent the Big Bang is based on ignorance of what scientists believe about the Big Bang. The Big Bang is not about the rearranging of matter that already existed. It is about all known things—matter, energy, space, and time—arising from NOTHING.
According to Frank Turek in an article at Townhall.com (Big Bang Evidence for God):
"Why couldn't natural forces have produced the universe? Because there was no nature and there were no natural forces ontologically prior to the Big Bang. Nature itself was created at the Big Bang. That means the cause of the universe must be something beyond nature—something we would call supernatural. It also means that the supernatural cause of the universe must at least be:
- spaceless because it created space
- timeless because it created time
- immaterial because it created matter
- powerful because it created it out of nothing
- intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed
- personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don't make choices)
Those are the same attributes of the God of the Bible."
According to Dinesh D'Souza in his book What's So Great about Christianity (resource list), "If you accept that everything that has a beginning has a cause, then the material universe had a nonmaterial or spiritual cause. This spiritual cause brought the universe into existence using none of the laws of physics. The creation of the universe was, in the quite literal meaning of the term, a miracle." He emphasizes, "It is very important to recognize that before the Big Bang, there were no laws of physics. In fact, the laws of physics cannot be used to explain the Big Bang because the Big Bang itself produced the laws of physics...If the universe was produced outside of the laws of physics, then its origin satisfies the basic definition of the term miracle. This term gives [atheistic] scientists the heebie-jeebies."
The Law of Causality is a fundamental principle of science and logic. To deny it is to deny rationality.
In addition to the evidence from science, mathematicians and philosophers also have concluded that the idea of an infinite universe has no merit. See the link to the highly entertaining debate featuring William Lane Craig at the bottom of this article for more on this.
The Bible stands alone among religious books affirming what we have learned to be true from science—that the universe had an absolute beginning. See Genesis 1:1; Genesis 2:3-4; Isaiah 42:5; and many other passages. See this article: The Big Bang—The Bible Taught It First.
The skeptic sometimes asks, "Well, then, who created God?" The answer is that no one created God, as he is eternal. A rule of logic states that every effect must have an antecedent cause. But God is not an effect; rather he is a cause. The logic here is simple but compelling. Since something exists, and since something cannot arise from nothing—and further that the universe itself is not eternal—something outside of the universe must be eternal. An infinite creator God must be that something. Time and space had a beginning, but God exists outside of time and space.
The Bible affirms this truth—that God is independent and self-existing "from everlasting to everlasting" (Psalm 90:1-4, Psalm 102:25-27, Isaiah 40:28-31, John 5:26, Revelation 4:10). As put by Henry Morris, "The only answer that satisfies all the facts of science and human reason is that God is 'from everlasting.' He is the Creator of time as well as space and all things that exist in time and space. This is beyond our mental comprehension, but there is no other rational explanation for our existence." (Morris, Defender's Study Bible, pg. 643)
Take a few minutes to watch this video:
B. Teleological Evidence
In addition to the Cosmological Argument, there is the Teleological Argument. This idea is that the design in the universe implies God. (The Greek work telos means design.) This argument is expressed in various ways scientifically, but with common sense that one can prove with 100% certainty—without calling on faith or the Bible—that God exists. There is evidence of intelligent design all around us. If one sees a bird's nest, he concludes that a bird made it. If one sees a computer, he must acknowledge the evidence of an intelligent computer designer. A painting proves that there is a painter. Information does not derive from non-information. Intelligence does not derive from non-intelligence. The fact of creation proves a creator.
A scientific explanation of the teleological argument is the so-called anthropic principle. This principle is the fact that the universe is based upon several fundamental constants of physics. Even non-Christian Stephen Hawking, considered the best-known scientist since Albert Einstein, acknowledges "...the universe and the laws of physics seem to have been specifically designed for us. If any one of about 40 physical qualities had more than slightly different values, life as we know it could not exist: Either atoms would not be stable, or they wouldn't combine into molecules, or the stars wouldn't form the heavier elements, or the universe would collapse before life could develop, and so on...." (Austin American-Statesman, October 19, 1997.
Since Hawking's statement in 1997, much additional evidence has been identified. Christian astronomer Hugh Ross in 2009 listed 167 physical constants that point to the conclusion of the existence of God. (See Reasons to Believe.) Philosopher William Lane Craig has written extensively in books and articles on this and is an outstanding source for the interested reader. See also the Walter Bradley video in resource list.) The issue is the incredibly interrelated complexity of the laws of physics themselves. Why did they arise in this way if not by an all-powerful God for the ultimate purpose of life? Where did the laws of physics come from? How can inanimate objects like electrons follow laws? Why is reality structured the way it is? Random chance cannot explain it.
The Bible affirms, by the way, the scientific idea of fixed laws of nature. See Jeremiah 33:25.
Another convincing aspect of the design argument for God's existence is the irreducible complexity of biological systems. We address this in detail in another place on our website: Evolution: Science or Creation Story? In this article, we show that not only did life itself not arise by chance, but macroevolution by natural selection cannot explain the existence of humankind. Who programmed the cell with its digital code? Who gave it the capacity to make copies of itself? The advancement of scientific knowledge in this area is a major reason given by famous philosopher Anthony Flew for abandoning his atheism.
But there are important questions outside of the realm of science. If you ask a scientist "Why is the water boiling?" he would answer in terms of molecules and temperatures. But, as D'Souza explains, there is a second explanation: the water is boiling because I want to have a cup of tea. This second explanation is a perfectly valid description of reality, yet it is ignored or avoided by the scientific account. This is where philosophy and logic also point to God. Why are biological systems demonstrably so complex that they could not have arisen by slight successive modifications that evolution postulates? And why do they exhibit purpose?
C. Logical Moral Evidence
There are still other arguments for the existence of God. One of these is called the Moral Argument. Let's consider this logic: (1) If God did not exist, there would be no objective moral standards. (2) Objective moral standards do exist. (3) Therefore, God exists.
Deep down, everyone believes that there are at least some objective moral standards. For example, only a psychotic person would deny that torturing a child for fun is wrong. (See Moral Absolutes.)
Dostoevsky is credited with saying that "Without God, everything is permitted." (or "If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted.") So without God, doing something immoral would be an illusion—even nonsense, or something merely unfashionable. All moral statements would be arbitrary. Atheists cannot escape the problem that without God, whoever has the most political power determines what is moral.
As put by William Lane Craig, "Thus, if atheism is true, it becomes impossible to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil. Nor can one praise brotherhood, equality, or love as good."
Tim Keller in his book The Reason for God insists that such moral sense could not have arisen by evolution: "Today we believe that sacrificing time, money, emotion, and even life—especially for someone 'not of our kind' or tribe—is right....How could that trait have come down by a process of natural selection? Such people would have to have been less likely to survive and pass on their genes....Natural selection does not work on whole populations."
Further, we observe that nature is ruled by one central principle—violence by the strong against the weak. So our moral sense cannot be evolutionary because it is contrary to nature.
Keller: "If you believe human rights are a reality, then it makes much more sense that God exists than that he does not. If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists. This leads us to a crucial question. If a premise ('There is no God') leads to a conclusion you know isn't true ('Napalming babies is culturally relative') then why not change the premise?"
This line of reasoning not only points to the existence of God, it begins to explain who God is, that is, what attributes God has. We can begin to see that God is not some evil monster, but rather is a loving and rational God, consistent with the God of the Bible.
In summary, the logic for God is so overwhelming that the philosopher/theologian R. C. Sproul insists that a reasonable man must aquiesce to this conclusion. The evidence is so compelling, that one must override his senses to deny Him. It is only the person who is blinded by his own agenda that refuses to accept it. A thinking person who denies God must do so on the basis of preferring to believe there is no God in order to try to escape His judgment, thus irrationally seeking autonomy. Our challenge to the skeptic: At some point you must be willing to rationally consider the evidence and honestly seek with an open mind details about the God who made you.
Ultimately, the question of God for the atheist is one of motive. As put by Dinesh D'Souza, "If you want to live a degenerate life, God is your mortal enemy. He represents a lethal danger to your selfishness, greed, lechery, and hatred. It is in your interest to despise Him and do whatever you can to rid the universe of His presence."
St. Paul, writing in the first chapter of the biblical book of Romans, discusses how men are inclined to "suppress the truth." We submit that what we have with atheism is really a philosophy of life that does just that—suppresses the truth. It is a failed attempt to throw out God in order not to be under His authority.
3 ATHEISTS WHO CHANGED THEIR MIND ABOUT GOD:
CS LEWIS: One of the most influential authors of the 20th century, Lewis entered Oxford University as a committed atheist. His intellectual journey and friendship with JRR Tolkien led him in 1929 to become "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."
ANTONY FLEW: In the 1960s, Flew was one of the world’s leading atheist philosophers. In 2004, aged 81, he changed his mind (although he did not commit to Christianity) after becoming convinced that scientific evidence of order in the universe pointed towards God.
LEAH LIBRESCO: Atheist blogger Leah Libresco sparked a social media storm in 2012 when she announced her conversion to Catholicism. She said that her belief in objective moral truths had caused her to question her atheism.
Links and Resources:
Three books that we highly recommend on this subject are (1) I Don't Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek. This is a comprehensive book on the topic. (2) A smaller book is former atheist C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Lewis—a converted atheist—is considered one of the top Christian thinkers of the 20th century and this book has probably influenced more people than any other. (3) The third in our recommended trilogy is The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. This book addresses the heart as well as the mind. All of these are great books to give out to friends.
This a most interesting time in history for the discussion about the existence of God. Some well known lifelong thinkers have converted from atheism to theism. At the same time there is a new crop of young atheists. Here is are articles of interest in the debate:
Here is another highly recommended resource: Debates of Christian philosopher William Lane Craig against various atheist opponents:
(1) A debate between Dr. William Lane Craig, a Christian philosopher and atheist Dr. Bill Cooke: Is God a Delusion? The shallowness of the atheist arguments are quite apparent!
(2) A debate between Dr. Craig and physicist Dr. Kari Enqvist. Craig argues that there is no possible world in which God does not exist but the universe does: God and Universe.
(3) Here is a third debate Craig vs. Kappel.
(4) This fourth debate is between Dr. Craig and Duke University atheist philosopher (head of the philosophy department!) Alex Rosenberg. Here Craig gives 8 reasons why belief in God is reasonable. (This is a long one.) The most intriguing aspect of this debate is that the fact is brought out from Rosenberg's writings that without God there are NO OBJECTIVE MORAL NORMS. Here is the link: Craig vs. Rosenberg.
(5) This fifth debate is between Dr. Craig and Mike Begon.
Also, see the question, "Why can't I live my life as an agnostic?" in this series, as well as the series Evolution or Creation elsewhere on the website. And for a detailed look at atheism, go to this link: Conservapedia/Atheism.