Why Believe in God? Why believe in God?
This question has perplexed theologians, philosophers, and scientists through the millennia. With the resurgent confidence of new atheists like Richard Dawkins, the now-deceased Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, this question hangs rather awkwardly in the minds of many. On top of that, we have to contend with the defections of high profile Christians like Joshua Harris, who no longer claims to be a Christian in any meaningful sense. Could they be right? Do we have a reason to believe? Responding to this mindset of unbelievers, many Christians look to philosophy or science for proof. We have all heard the logical arguments: If something exists now, then something has always existed (If atheists deny this point and opt instead for some variation of the “In the beginning, there was nothing” hypothesis, then they have the much more difficult problem of explaining how everything came out of nothing. And when we say nothing, we mean nothing – literally, no thing, that is, no matter, no spacial dimensions, and no time.) Okay, so in the beginning, whatever was there, had been there forever. As such, whatever this was had to have within itself the cause of its own existence. Remember, it was always there. Nobody caused it to be. Here is the key question: Is it likely that that eternal something was an inanimate, impersonal, unintelligent object like slime, for instance? Or is it not more reasonable to posit, as Christians do, that this eternal something is, in fact, an eternal Someone, the Creator of all things? And if slime really were the origin of us all, how on earth did this slime learn to think? And would its thoughts be worth considering?I find this argument quite compelling, and there are many others like it, such as Ray Comfort’s favorite: “If every building needs a builder, surely every creature needs a Creator.” Without such a Creator, how are we to explain the irreducible complexity of living systems? Surely the universe, filled as it is with such an amazing spectrum of life and beauty, needs a cause big enough, wise enough, and good enough to explain it. Seen from that perspective, time, chance, and random mutation don’t really seem to cut it, do they?Such arguments, however persuasive and clear to the believer, rarely convince the skeptic and should not be our mainstay in apologetic conversations.
The question is this: If this line of reasoning rings so clear inside of our Christian echo chamber, why can’t the world hear it? Well, it fails for at least three reasons.
First, the unbelieving mind is hostile to God (Col. 1:21; Rom. 8: 7-8).
Dead in sin and angry with the Almighty, the natural man simply does not want to believe in God. This aversion traps him. He can’t believe because he won’t, and because he won’t, he can’t. Calvin called such unbelievers the devil’s willing slaves. They are quite happy to have his infernal hands firmly over the eyes of their soul. They don’t want to see God’s unavoidable glory and they try not to(Ps. 19:1). As one John Macarthur once remarked, “The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a policeman.”
Second, no matter how hard we try, science cannot prove the existence of God.
It simply does not possess the equipment to find Him. Think of it like this: What scientific evidence for God could possibly convince the hostile skeptic? Remember, science deals with the realm of the visible, the audible, the measurable, the testable, and the observable. Generally speaking, on any given Monday morning, God isn’t any of those things. When the atheist refuses to believe because he cannot find scientific evidence, his demand comes perilously close to a blind man refusing to believe in light that he can’t hear. But light isn’t heard; it’s seen, and this is the blind man’s problem. So it is with fallen science, it does not have the equipment to see God. Such a vision lies open only to the eyes of faith. And faith comes from Scripture, not scientific evidence (Rom. 10:17). This is the fallacy behind scientism (sometimes called logical positivism) which claims that all useful knowledge must be scientifically verifiable. At first glance, this sounds plausible. We are inclined to believe in science because it has done so much for us in recent years. But under closer scrutiny, this statement can’t even pass its own test. How can you scientifically verify that all useful knowledge is scientifically verifiable? What if a world exists that science cannot touch, taste, see, or measure? It is precisely this kind of world that lies at the heart of the Christian’s position.Do you see? The follower of scientism has to assume that such a spirit-world doesn’t exist before he so confidently claims on the basis of “pure science” that nature is the whole show. Ask him to justify this unbelief, and he will simply state, “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence.” Case proved. Or so he thinks.Furthermore, if we cave into a skeptic’s demand for scientific evidence to justify our faith in God, we unwittingly buy into his whole worldview. We allow him to define the rules of the debate in such a way that the Christian position can hardly prevail. How can it if we allow science to take our most effective weapon off the battlefield, which is the Word of the Living God?
Third, human arguments have no power to change a person’s heart.
Only the gospel can do that. It alone contains the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Human words have no power to produce faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). Unless a man is born again, he can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). This has important implications for our efforts in evangelism, for until we get to the point where we actually open the Scriptures, there is no real saving power in anything that we could possibly say. That does not mean, of course, that we only quote Scripture in our encounters with unbelievers. But it does mean that we need to take very great care lest our evangelistic methods contradict our theology and perhaps even dignify the unbelief of those outside of Christ. I find a legal analogy helpful here. In the courtroom, to whom do you present evidence? To the judge, right? God is the Judge of all men, and He says evidence is NOT the problem. It never has been and it never will be. The unbeliever’s pretended ignorance of God is inexcusably dishonest; we all know that we know Him (Rom. 1:18-20).So, do you see, if we approach the unbeliever with a cap in hand, presenting him with evidence for the existence of God, we could easily give the false impression that evidence is the problem and that he is, therefore, the judge of God’s credibility? None of this is true, of course. We are not the ones judging God. The truth lies in the opposite direction; therefore, as gently as possible but as firmly as necessary, we need to remind the skeptic of this from the outset. Consequently, we must learn to deploy the life-giving, soul-renewing, heart-regenerating, faith-bestowing, and repentance-giving Word of God as early as possible in our apologetic encounters. Lord willing, we will look at precisely how to do that next Wednesday. But for the meantime, let us remember Charles Spurgeon’s famous words, “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a Lion!”