"Answering Objections" part 10
More Reasons to Believe God Exists
by Greg Hanson



Last week, we started to talk about reasons to believe in the existence of God. We talked about three arguments for God’s existence. By way of review, the first argument we looked at is that God’s existence explains our existence. This argument is known by philosophers and Christian apologists as “The Argument from Contingency,” and it can be laid out as follows...

1.    The Explanation of Existence (The Argument from Contingency)

A. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence--either due to necessity or due to a cause.

Examples of what might exist out of necessity would include numbers or colours. The number seven could exist even if there was nothing to count. The colour red could exist even if there was nothing that was red. But just about everything else--certainly everything physical--is contingent; it’s existence is due to a cause. Those cannons on the other side of the road exist because someone made them. You and I exist because of our parents. We are contingent beings. Everything that physically exists in this universe is contingent on the universe. So how about the universe itself? Well, we saw that...

B. The universe does not exist out of necessity.

Why can we say that? Because scientists now tell us that there was a time when the universe did not exist. It’s existence was not necessary. It came into existence due to a cause. Now, what’s interesting is that atheists and skeptics used to claim that the universe has always existed. That Christians were wrong to claim that it came into existence. Today, though, the science agrees with what Christians have believed all along. The universe came into being... there was a time it did not exist... it does not exist out of necessity.

C. Therefore, the universe exists due to a cause.

Examples of what might exist out of necessity would include numbers or colours. The number seven could exist even if there was nothing to count. The colour red could exist even if there was nothing that was red. But just about everything else--certainly everything physical--is contingent; it’s existence is due to a cause. Those cannons on the other side of the road exist because someone made them. You and I exist because of our parents. We are contingent beings. Everything that physically exists in this universe is contingent on the universe. So how about the universe itself? Well, we saw that...

D. If the universe has a cause, that cause is God.

Why does it have to be God? Because whatever caused the universe has to be non-contingent itself. It can’t be due to a cause. Therefore, whatever caused the universe must be eternal. It also has to be transcendent, which means it exists above or beyond the universe. It has to be spiritual or non-corporeal because everything physical is part of the universe. It has to be powerful... powerful enough to cause the universe to come into existence. And it has to be sentient, because non-sentient non-contingent things like colours and numbers don’t cause anything. They just describe. And what do we call an all-powerful, eternal, transcendent, spiritual, sentient being? We call it--of we call Him--God.

E. Therefore, God exists.


The second argument for the existence of God that we looked at last week is known as “The Kalam Cosmological Argument.”

2.    The Beginning of the Universe (The Kalam Cosmological Argument)

This argument is similar to the first argument, except that it focuses in on the very beginning of the universe. This is how this argument is laid out...

A.    Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Very important distinction: it’s “whatever begins to exist,” not just “whatever exists.” If something begins to exist, it begins to exist as a result of a cause. That’s straight out of science and philosophy. Like the first one, this argument does not pre-suppose the existence of God. It starts with an accepted truth, “whatever beings to exist has a cause.”

B.    The universe began to exist.

The Big Bang Theory is not just that the universe sprang from a super-dense pellet. It’s that when you continue to go backward you get to a point where even that pellet disappears along with all time and space. The universe literally came into existence. And since out of nothing nothing comes, the universe came into existence due to a cause. That’s the third premise.

C.    Therefore the universe has a cause.

So we end up with the same conclusion as with the first argument; If the universe began to exist, it must have been caused by an eternal, transcendent, non-corporeal, all-powerful, sentient entity that we’ve identified as God.


3.    The Design and Fine-tuning of the Universe (The Teleological Argument)

The third argument is known as “The Teleological Argument,” and it examines the design and fine-tuning of the universe from the very beginning... the initial conditions that permitted the universe to continue to exist instead of flying apart or collapsing in upon itself, as well as the very narrow range of constants and quantities that had to be in place to even allow the existence or evolution of life.

Here we are with our Open-Air Service today, and all around us we see the incredible beauty and design of the world. For centuries, people have looked to nature as evidence of God’s existence. And that can be a valid argument. But this argument looks back to before any of this even existed. It takes arguments about evolution out of the equation. It says that there were so many variables in constants and quantities that had to be present from the very beginning that if even one if them were off by just a small margin it would make life--any life--impossible.

For example...
•    The gravitational constant.
•    The amount of usable energy in the universe.
•    The rate of expansion of the universe.
•    The mass of the neutrino.

This is how this argument is laid out...

A.  The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe is due to necessity, chance, or design.
B.  It is not due to necessity or chance.

There was no law that required the universe to expand at just the right rate, so it’s not out of necessity. And the odds against all of the constants and quantities to fit within such a narrow range are so astronomically low that even just a few of them happening by chance is considered to be statistically impossible.

C. Therefore, it is due to design.

Those were the three arguments that we looked at last week. From those, you can see how it’s not illogical or unreasonable to believe in God. There are good reasons to believe in Him… reasons that are even compatible with modern science. They’re even supported by modern science. And while you probably wouldn’t use Bible verses when talking with an atheist or a skeptic about arguments for the existence of God—after all, they wouldn’t view the Bible as authoritative—within our own kind of “family conversation” as Christians we did look at verses from the Bible to show just how consistently these arguments match up with what the Bible says.

Today, we’re going to look at three more arguments for the existence of God... arguments that don’t deal so much with astrophysics and cosmology. But which I think are just as powerful...


4.    The Existence of Objective Moral Values and Duties (The Moral Argument)

This is the argument that there really is right and wrong... there really is good and evil. There are things that we should do and things we shouldn’t do. There are things that are really right even for people who might say they are wrong, and there are things that are really wrong even for people who might say they are right. This is how this argument is usually presented...

A.    If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
B.    Objective moral values do exist.
C.    Therefore, God exists.

Let’s look at the second premiss. “Objective moral values do exist.” Do they really? What are objective moral values, anyway? Well, if something is objectively right, then it is always right at all times for all people. If something is objectively wrong, then it is always wrong at all times for all people.

Now, some people would argue that objective moral values do not exist. So let me give you an example.

How about raping and torturing a young child for fun? Is that something that you would say is “really evil,” or is it just something you might not like? Can you imagine any circumstance under which that would be good? I sure can’t. But what about for people who enjoy doing things like that? Who get a thrill from it? If they don’t think it’s wrong, is it really wrong for them? I think the obvious answer is, “yes, it’s still wrong.”

Or how about the Holocaust? Sure, we look back on that during World War II and we say it was a great evil. But what if the Nazis had won that war? What if they successfully eradicated all the Jews as well as everyone who disagreed with what they were doing? Would it have still been wrong, even if everyone remaining believed it was right? Of course it would.

You see, there are things that pretty much every society and every faith in every era have seen as being really good and things that have been seen as being really evil. Objective moral values do exist.

So the real question is, where do they come from? If there are moral values that go beyond just personal preferences or even the good of society, where do they come from? The first premiss says that apart from the existence of God there can be no explanation for an objective standard of morality. Is that true? What other options are there?

Well, evolution can’t answer that. Objective values don’t just evolve. In fact, some values such as self-sacrifice and generosity would seem to go against evolution and survival of the fittest.

So how about if they exist by consensus... just for the good of society? Well, if people just got together and agreed on what’s right and wrong... they could get together again and change their mind. That’s not objective. That’s just a negotiated morality, not an objective morality.

In our world right now there’s a major class of cultures. Prime example: just a few weeks ago Osama bin Laden was killed. Would you saw bin Laden did some evil things, or just things you didn’t like? I mean, he had hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people who supported his actions and saw him as a hero. If morality is just something that is negotiated or agreed upon by society, who are we to say that anything he did was wrong? After all, he had the support of his society... of his community.

The way I see it, there can be no objective standard of morality apart from the existence of God. Therefore, the existence of objective moral values point toward the existence of God. God sets the standard for what is right or wrong, good or evil.

Now let me make something clear. I am not saying that you have to believe in God to be a good person. There are plenty of atheists who are good, moral people. But I am saying that God must exist for there to be things that are really right or wrong, good or evil. There must be an external standard set in place by something or someone other than our own personal preferences. Otherwise, it’s not right or wrong. It’s just like or dislike.

King Solomon in the Old Testament realized that God was the one who set standard. So he made this request to God...

1 Kings 3:9 (NLT)
“Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

Jesus reinforced this by referring to God (and therefore Himself) when He said...

Matthew 19:17 (NLT)
“There is only One who is good.”

Does that mean that no one can be good? No, it means that the very standard of goodness finds its roots in the existence of God.


5.    The Evidence of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus (The Resurrection Argument)

You can broaden this argument to discuss miracles or the supernatural in general, but I like to focus it in on the Resurrection. Just a month ago we talked about the Resurrection and the evidence for it.

Here are the premises...

A.    If the Resurrection really happened, then a miracle occurred.
B.    If a miracle occurred, God exists.
C.    The Resurrection really did happen.
D.    Therefore, God exists.

I don’t think the first two premisses are really up for debate. The sticking point is the third premiss: that the Resurrection really happened.

So did the Resurrection really happen? Well, back on Easter we looked at some of the facts connected to the account of the Resurrection... facts that are not just accepted by Christians but are generally accepted as historical facts.

Evidence for the Resurrection (generally accepted as historical facts)

•    The tomb of Jesus was found empty.
•    Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen Jesus alive after the Crucifixion.
•    The sudden change in the disciples and the resulting birth of Christianity.

About the empty tomb, we talked about how there was no confusion about where the tomb was located so it wasn’t a case of going to the wrong tomb. We also talked about how the followers of Jesus did not have the opportunity, the ability, nor the motivation to steal the body. In their Jewish faith, they weren’t expecting any resurrection until the end of time. So at most, they wouldn’t have preserved the bones of Jesus and treated the tomb as a shrine. As for the Roman and Jewish leaders, the wanted to prove that Jesus was dead. So they had no motivation to steal the body, either. And they never claimed they did.

For the post-mortem appearances, we saw that it wasn’t an isolated incident among one or two people. There were several appearances, to individuals and to groups, involving hundreds or even thousands of people. These were not just some visions or hallucinations. Nor was it a case of mistaken identity. Jesus interacted with people, they touched Him, they talked with Him, they ate with Him. You can’t do that with visions or hallucinations. And He was much too close to the people who knew Him best for it to be a mistaken identity.

And then there was the fact that His followers sudden came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, despite there being no predisposition to believe that. Yet they were so convince that they were willing to die for their claim that Jesus rose from the dead. And they weren’t dying for just some belief that they held. There are lots of people who will die for their beliefs whether those beliefs are true or not. No, they weren’t dying for what they believed to be true. They were dying for what they knew to be true. They were among the ones who saw Jesus and talked with Him and touched Him. They knew Him firsthand.

So we talked about those three facts as historical evidence that supports belief in the Resurrection. According to the scholar N.T. Wright, those facts are as certain historically as is the death of Caesar Augustus in AD 14 or the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. These aren’t made up ideas; they are historical facts.

There are other evidences, too, that we didn’t get into. Like the early written accounts, written during the lifetime and in the vicinity of the eyewitnesses. Yet they never disputed the claims. Or like how closely the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus fulfilled prophecies that were written centuries earlier. The odds against any one man fulfilling all those Old Testament prophecies so exactly are so astronomical that it’s statistically impossible.

But the question is, is the Resurrection the best explanation for these facts? Or are there explanations other than a Resurrection that would explain them?

Well, let’s say the post-mortem appearances really were hallucinations. Or even that people saw someone who looked like Jesus. Maybe Jesus had a twin or something. That would do nothing to explain the empty tomb. You would need a completely different independent explanation for that. Likewise, if you claim all the disciples really did go to the wrong tomb and it’s just that no one pointed it out to them... well, that would do nothing to explain the appearances. The Resurrection, though, explains all of the facts.

You see, explanatory scope is an important factor when you’re considering historical evidence. What’s the best explanation in terms of explanatory scope? Does your explanation adequately explain most if not all of the evidence? Or do you need to develop a variety of independent theories?

That’s why I conclude that the Resurrection is the best explanation for the facts. It has a broad explanatory scope as it explains all the evidence, and I believe it’s the most plausible explanation for the drastic change in the disciples and the sudden rise of Christianity.

“We don’t have to believe in the resurrection in spite of the facts. Instead, we believe in the resurrection in light of the facts.”
~ Steve Cable, Probe Ministries

1 Corinthians 15:17, 20 (NLT)
And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins... But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

If the Resurrection happened and Jesus supernaturally rose from the dead, then a miracle occurred. If a miracle occurred, then that is evidence for God’s existence. The evidence suggests that the Resurrection really did happen, which means God does exist. And in this case, not just any God, but the Christian God.

Okay, this final argument is the argument that you don’t need arguments. It’s the argument that...


6.    You can reasonable believe in God wholly apart from the arguments (The “Properly Basic” Argument)

Properly basic beliefs are beliefs you hold that are intrinsic to who you are, that may be based on your own experiences, beliefs that you simply know to be true.

For example, how do you know the external world really exists and that you are not just some brain hooked up in a matrix? You can’t prove it, but it is perfectly reasonable for you to believe that the world around you really does exist.

How do you know other people exist and that you’re not just imagining them? Well, you can’t really prove it. But you’re reasonable to believe other people exist. In fact, it’d be unreasonable not to believe it.

Or how do you know the past really happened? How do you know you didn’t just pop into existence five minutes ago with memories of what may or may not have happened? You can’t prove it, but you accept the past as a reality.

You hold these kinds of properly basic beliefs that you are perfectly justified in holding… not because you have well-formed arguments but because you just know. And unless that belief is proven to be wrong through some kind of defeater, you are reasonable to continue to hold that belief.

This is basically about your own personal story. When talking about the existence of God, logical arguments have their place. They can show that it is reasonable and logical to believe in the existence of God. As we’ve said before, our faith is a reasonable faith. We believe in light of the evidence, not in spite of the evidence.

So the arguments are important. But the most powerful evidence for the existence of God is what He has done in your life. So tell your story. Talk about your own personal experience of God... Your own experience with Jesus. Because what’s really important is not just gaining a head-knowledge about God; it’s being transformed. It’s not just knowing about Jesus; it’s knowing Jesus personally.

Galatians 4:8-9 (NLT)
Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?

James 2:19 (NLT)
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.

It’s not just believing God exists that’s important, it’s knowing Him personally and allowing that relationship to be expressed through the way you live.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Believe He exists, AND seek Him. Seek to know Him.

 

 
Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson