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How do you know God exists?

It would seem only reasonable that as the Bible says: For to not provide evidence of His existence, God would be unjust in condemning people for what they didn't know. And the same goes for the issue of "How do we know the Bible is the Word of God?" It is reasonable to expect sufficient evidence for a just God to hold us accountable to.

Whether one accepts the existence of God or not inevitably results in two basic world views. Either we are the product of creation by God, or our origin is purely naturalistic, based soley on stochastic chemical processes devoid of the supernatural.

What are the implications of these two positions?

If our origin is purely naturalistic, then what is the basis upon which we derive concepts of justice and human rights and love or even hate, for that matter? These would have to be essentially man-made and subject to the opinions of the individuals or the ever changing cultures in which we live. I find it strange, therefore, that most people have very strong convictions concerning these subjects even though there really is no basis for saying anything absolute about, for example, the meaning and purpose in life. For if we are not created, then we have no meaning and purpose in an absolute sense.

But if our origin is one born of creation by God, then God defines our meaning and purpose, as any designer defines such for what he has designed. Under such circumstances, concepts of justice, human rights, love and hate can be thought of in an absolute sense, if we have God's opinion on such matters. A lecture was given Harvard University by a panel of renowned scientists under the topic "Life: Cosmic Accident or Cosmic Destiny" It appears that the physical laws of the universe are precisely tuned for life to be possible. It is amazing that any slight deviation from such laws would make life impossible. However one of the scientists objected to terms such as "tuned or designed" being used in a scientific discussion. But later this same man inadvertently made the statement that RNA "invented" proteins.

So the first "evidence" of God's existence I would point out, is the testimony of those who even reject the existence of God. For many, if not all, live a life of philosophical hypocrisy, declaring that God doesn't exist, yet having absolute standards of right and wrong; while declaring that man is purely a product of chemical processes, yet reluctant to convince the woman they love that their love is nothing more than chemistry, rejecting God but using terms only consistent with there being a Creator. Even the declaration that God doesn't exist, being an absolute statement, is inherently self-contradictory. There are also those who say that God's existence contradicts science and therefore, even if He does exist, they won't believe unless given evidence in the form of scientific proof. Yet again this is inherently self-contradictory, for to only believe those things which can be reproduced in the laboratory is to deny the existence of history itself. For history cannot be reproduced as time always progresses forward. Yet no doubt these same people do believe in the existence of history. And yet again, the concepts of justice and love and even the tenets of science itself cannot be "proven" using the scientific method.

Yet it seems that with most things, people really don't require "proof" in an absolute or even "scientific" sense (as many so often use the phrase). Even in science itself intuition is often used in developing a hypothesis which can then be tested. But where does the hypothesis come from? Often a scientist will take limited information and using his intuition infer other information. In fact in the 1930's a mathematician, Kurt Godel, proved that not all mathematical truths are provable. And later this principle of Godel's was applied to many areas of science. It has been essentially proven and accepted by informed members of the scientific and mathematical communities that intuition plays a legitimate role in determining what is true even in the exact sciences.

This explains the apparent contradiction in Romans 1:20, quoted above. That "God's invisible qualities ... have been clearly seen". How can something invisible be clearly seen? Simply by using one's intuition. Intuition is a highly valued quality in society, and is used by all of us every day in most aspects of our lives. So to consider "evidence" which may be of an intuitive nature as purely irrational by those who demand absolute proof, may be yet again another example of philosophical hypocrisy.

Consider two people stranded on a desert island. One sees a footprint in the sand that doesn't belong to either of them. He then tells his friend that someone else has been there. "How do you know someone has been here?" says his friend, "Have you seen anyone else?" The man replies, "No, but I have found a footprint in the sand." His friend, being a skeptic, examines the "footprint" and says, "It could have just been made by the wind blowing the sand around." The man replied, "That's unlikely." But the skeptic said, "Well unless you show me the exact probability calculation of this not being made by the wind, I won't believe that it is a man's footprint."

This kind of objection against evidence of design in nature is often proposed by those who hold a purely naturalistic view of our origin. For what seems "obvious" and "reasonable" to one, may not be so to another. So when Christians point out the functional complexity operating within life forms in nature as evidence of a designer, skeptics may point out extreme simplifications of such can be a product of chance. But a distinction must be made between change within given levels of complexity, versus the emergence of new levels of complexity. For example, a screw cutting machine may accidentally produce a backward threaded screw. However, it will not produce a T.V.!

And just to digress on another point often brought up - namely Ockham's Razor. That idea is that the simplest explanation is the best. But then again what constitutes "simplest"? One could say "God did it" is the simplest explanation for all things and therefore is the best, but others view that as not a "simple" explanation at all. The problem lies in what constitutes "simple". Therefore the concept of Ockham's Razor is not particularly helpful, contrary to some who take it as the be all and end all of explanations.
Now continuing on, what if instead of a footprint, writing were found in the sand? Would that be more convincing? What if not just a few words, but volumes of coded information were impressed within the sand? At what point would it seem "reasonable" and "intuitively obvious" that such was of intelligent origin, without having to calculate the exact probability?

Consider coded information. In astronomy, the SETI program (the search of extraterrestrial intelligence) presumes that coded information implies intelligent life. For radio telescopes around the world are "listening" for such from the far reaches of space. Yet look at nature itself. Every organism has contained in it the DNA code - volumes of coded information concerning the construction and maintenance of the organism. What should we infer from that? To some it's intuitively obvious.

How do you know the Bible is the Word of God?

If God were to communicate to us how would He do it? The answer is quite simple. He would do it the way in which He designed us to communicate. Concerning complex ideas, He would be limited to words in written or spoken form. For how else would we understand what He is saying if He isn't using language? Though many ideas may be inferred from His design of nature itself, to clearly communicate He would use words, just as we do. Considering He designed us and considering the complex coding He integrated into nature, He certainly has the ability to do so.

My initial thought is that there are two ways in which He could proceed at this point. Either He could communicate to everyone individually throughout history, or he could communicate with a few, and have them pass on His words using the normal channels of human communication.

In either case, the next question that comes up is even if God spoke, how would you know it was Him speaking? For perhaps the words were merely a product of one's own imagination, or perhaps from a spirit who was not of God. Therefore, there would also have to be evidence that the words were from God. What would constitute such evidence if not the miraculous? For to prove that God has spoken would require signs that are unique to His ability.

However, this presents an interesting problem if God speaks to each one individually. For then, He would have to be continually doing miracles to prove that He has spoken. In which case the miraculous would appear to be merely a common event, and therefore not miraculous. Therefore, it would seem more "reasonable" that God would choose to speak to particular individuals (let's call them "prophets"), and provide evidence in the form of miracles to affirm that the prophet is a prophet of God.

There are those who reject any writing as being historical if it contains an account of a miracle. Such is often relegated the status of myth rather than history. Upon what basis is this done? Not on a scientific basis. For science only describes what normally happens. It can only say that the miraculous is not what normally happens. But it can't say that it doesn't happen or hasn't happened in the past. For science is subject to history. History rules over science, for history is fact and science is merely description of fact. You therefore cannot just ignore historical accounts that contain miracles just because they contain miracles. For then you provide no way for God to prove Himself. Even if He were to do a miracle for you today, tomorrow it would be history. Would you then still be convinced tomorrow by the miracle He did today? So what's the difference if the miracles were many years ago?

Yet it is reasonable to question such accounts as to their accuracy. For just as one should not reject an account just because it contains miracles, neither should one "believe whatever you hear." For there are many myths and false accounts of history. But wouldn't God recognize that also? What could He have done to assure those who heard of the miracles many years later, that they did occur? In a sense, this is not an uncommon problem with trial lawyers, who try to convince a jury that the historical scenario he gives is accurate. How does he do it? That depends on what evidence he has available. If he has eyewitnesses, then he has them take the stand and they are evaluated as to whether they are reliable and give their accounts. There may also be physical evidence presented. After presenting the evidence, the jury goes away to infer what happened based on what was presented.

Historical Evidence

What does the Bible have to offer on these points? It is full of miracles affirming the words of the prophets. What of the witnesses? Consider, for example, chapter 2 in the book of Acts. It was the feast of the Pentecost, an annual celebration well known to have been celebrated by the Jews. It was furthermore an international event in that Jews from many nations would come to Jerusalem for this celebration, which is also affirmed in Acts 2:5

"Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven."

Just over a month prior to this, Jesus had been put to death. Despite this fact and threat on his own life, Peter, one of Jesus' disciples stood up in the crowd and gave a speech. In part of it he said "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead" Acts 2:22-24, and "let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Acts 2:36

So his basic propositions were:

What was the people's response to this message?

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:37-41

So it seemed that despite the fact that Peter proposed that these people had killed Jesus just over a month earlier and they knew that he did miracles, 3000 believed. But what if what Peter said was false? What if they knew that Jesus hadn't done miracles? Why would they have believed? They wouldn't have!

It was not an easy thing to become a Christian just at that time. The leaders of the Jews were quite hostile to the followers of Christ, having just crucified their leader. They would be outcasts of society having to live in a communal situation with other Christians because of the persecution and even their own families would cast them out. So why would they believe something they knew to be a lie? If they were so gullible, they would have easily been drawn back by other Jews who could point out the lies to them.

But how do we know this event actually happened? Could the whole thing have been fabricated? If it was fabricated, everyone would have known it. For throughout the Roman empire, the local Jews would have known that it didn't occur because it was an international event and they were there. Furthermore, if it didn't occur, there would be no church. For where did all the early Christians come from?

Throughout the gospels and the book of Acts, events like this challenge the intellectually honest skeptic who asks such questions. And such questions are appropriate as it's only reasonable that God would deal with the issue of history by providing appropriate evidence. After having studied the first five books of the New Testament for such evidence, if you find it to be deficient, then you might ask yourself as to what would constitute sufficient evidence for you? Or if you were God, what would you do to provide such evidence? And do you demand such evidence in the case of your particular philosophy or religion?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources