Let's admit it up front: you can't conclusively prove the existence of God. But we're born with the suspicion of the existence of God—someone, or something, bigger than ourselves.
Not that everyone agrees. More than a century ago, Friedrich Nietzsche said God was merely a figment of our imagination, and this was now dying: “The greatest recent event—that ‘God is dead,' that the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable—is already beginning to cast its first shadows over Europe” (The Gay Science).
But God won't die! Put down the spade—you can't bury Him. There is no corpse. A hundred years after Nietzsche, belief in God has grown stronger. So how do we know there is a God?
Individuals still ask for the evidence— for photographs, for a sample to put under the microscope and another for the test tube. And we're curious: How tall is He? What's His shoe size? What colour are His eyes? What's His favourite ice-cream? Does He barrack for my team—or yours?
If God were some kind of celestial celebrity, we'd probably have answers to those questions. But He isn't. He's much more subtle.
Through the ages, there have been numerous serious arguments for the existence of God. But these have not been proofs but arguments. Like any argument, some have stronger appeal, depending on the individual, than others.
Check the following.
argument from cause
Plato and his pupil, Aristotle, claimed there is a cause for every effect.
For instance, if you're pushed into a swimming pool, there's a cause and effect involved. There's a pusher (the cause) and a pushee (you), with the effect that you are wet and in the swimming pool. Of course, you may jump in yourself, or fall in—and the cause and effect principle still holds.
Plato promoted the concept of cause and effect, then argued there must have been an original cause. Along come Christian thinkers, particularly Thomas Aquinas, who say, “Yes, absolutely right! But we know the cause— it's God.”
argument from design
This has become popular over the past 20 years, and says there's an intelligent cause behind intelligent design.
You can't look at things like the complexity of the human eye, says this argument, and suggest it was an accident.
In 1802, William Paley—an English theologian—published his most popular book with the catchy title: Natural Theology: Evidences for the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature.
He gave one illustration that's still used. If you happened to be walking through a field and come across a watch lying on the ground, you would assume someone had made it. If there's a watch, there's a watchmaker.
Our world and life upon it is incredibly complex in design and function, therefore there must be a designer—God!
argument from concept
In 1078, a Benedictine monk named Anselm, later an archbishop of Canterbury, put forward a fascinating argument that goes something like this: if you can conceive of the greatest conceivable being, God, then He must exist.
Let's try that again. Once we understand what God is—the greatest conceivable being or the most perfect being or the most real being—then we shall see that such a being exists. In simple terms: if you can think of God, He must be.
Could it be delusional thinking?
That's a possibility but there may be something here that doesn't show up at first glance.
Try this. Try to invent an animal in your mind that has never existed.
Easy! Now try to do it without using body parts from other animals. Check out George Lucas and what he did in Star Wars. Fascinating creatures but they tend to be a collection of bits and pieces from animals or insects, or combinations that can be elongated or squashed.
It isn't easy to think of something that is not. That's Anselm's point.
argument from morality
We have an understanding of right and wrong. Where did this come from?
Convicted murderer Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 people. Somehow, we know that's wrong. Where does this understanding come from? Jeffrey Dahmer was a sexual predator. This is wrong.
He ate body parts; he was a cannibal.
Your mother doesn't have to tell you that's wrong. You know it. He kept a human brain and heart in his fridge.
This is sick.
There's good and evil in our world.
We naturally know the difference. It's true that some will want to draw the line between them at different points but there is no society that doesn't recognise good and evil in some form.
The argument from morality says there must be something outside ourselves that brought this understanding into being.
That something is God.
And don't underestimate the power of evil to convince people of God.
The Canadian, Romeo Dallaire, was the United Nations forces commander in Rwanda during the 100 days of madness when 800,000 people were killed. Understaffed and underarmed, he could do little but watch what was happening.
When he returned to Canada, he was asked, “How can you still believe in God when you've seen such horror?”
His answer: “I know there is a God because in Rwanda, I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists, and therefore, I know there is a God.”
argument from faith
The problem with these kinds of arguments is that is exactly what they are—arguments. You can argue against them. To believe, you have to take a step of faith.
We can't prove conclusively that God exists. We can't do a CSI investigation and fingerprint Him, check out His DNA or put Him in a police line-up to identify Him.
What we can say is that you will find evidence of His fingerprints in His creation, if you look. His DNA does show up in the good we find around us. And you can identify His characteristics through at least some of those who follow Him. These are not proofs but evidences to be considered.
Just because we may not be able to taste, see or touch God doesn't mean He isn't there. Comedian Steven Wright says that when his electricity bill comes, he writes a note on it saying he's never seen the electricity he's being charged for, therefore he's not paying.
The problem he faces is that even if he can't see it, the electricity is there. And he can see the results of it.
When George Lucas created the Star Wars realms, he was faced with the dilemma of what to do with this sense of God within us. That's when he created “the Force.”
He explains: “I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people—more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system. I wanted to make it so young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery. Not having enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the question, ‘Is there a God or is there not a God?'—that is for me the worst thing that can happen... . I think it's important to have a belief system and to have faith.”
And our faith can be strengthened by arguments for God and the evidences of Him we find around us. But there is one more step. One would assume, if God exists, He would want to communicate with us.
Here's where the Bible fits in. It presents the story of God's interaction with humans. This interaction comes to a peak with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
It's worth checking out, not only to confirm faith but to help give meaning to life.