The existence of God has been a topic of intense discussion for as long as there have been philosophers. Many books and dissertations have already been written about this issue. And while they have value, most of us who live in the hustle and bustle of the real world do not have the time or inclination for deep and lengthy philosophical discussions.
Most of us prefer to deal with issues in a practical, reasonable manner. For example, if you asked someone to prove to you that he had a driver's license in his wallet, he would pull out his wallet and show it to you. If someone asked your employer whether or not you were a good worker, your employer would provide evidence to support the view one way or another.
Most of us are not experts in philosophy or science, but most of us do have common sense and can reason things out in a pragmatic way. This short article seeks to answer the question, "Does God exist?," in a way that is easy to understand to the practical person honestly considering it. To do this, it will be assumed that we do exist, that there is reality, and that the matter of which we are made is real. If you do not believe that you exist, you have bigger problems than this study will entail and you will have to look elsewhere.
IN THE BEGINNING ...
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)
How did all things come to be? Was there a starting point or not? Either we had a beginning or we did not have a beginning. The atheist has always maintained that there was no beginning, that matter and energy has always existed (including the laws that govern them); and all that has happened is that matter has changed from one form to another, but it has always been. To the atheist matter is self-existing and not created. But is this a reasonable position to hold?
See Section on Atheism
To determine whether or not the atheist's view is correct we can first examine what science has already discovered about this. It is a known fact that the universe is expanding. This is due to the movements of the galaxies. All of these galaxies are moving relative to each other. Their movements have a very distinct pattern which causes the distance between them to increase more and more with the passage of time. If we had three galaxies located at positions A, B, and C (as in the diagram below), and if they are located as shown, tomorrow they will be further apart. The triangle they form will be bigger. The day after tomorrow the triangle will be bigger yet. We live in an expanding universe that gets bigger and bigger and bigger with the passage of time.
So what does this mean? If you trace the movements of the galaxies back through time, the distances between them would decrease until they all met at a single, beginning point. This point scientists call a singularity. If the universe had a beginning, then the next question that follows would be, "Who began it?"
Also See Scientific Facts in The Bible
Compelling scientific evidence that the Bible is no ordinary book.
Another proof of the non-eternal nature of matter and energy is the second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics states that all matter and energy tends toward maximum entropy. In any closed system, things tend to become disordered. For example, if a house is not maintained it will eventually decay and fall apart. Aging is simple conformity to the second law of thermodynamics. In space, things get old and die. Brilliant stars eventually dim, burn out, and become dark, cold, dead orbs drifting through the cosmos. Astronomers refer to this aging process as heat death. Scientists like the late Isaac Asimov predict that the universe will eventually reach the point of heat death, where all available energy will be expended and the order of all matter would cease. Even a universe that continually expanded and collapsed forever would die eventually because it would lose energy each time it expanded and contracted.
Ultimately, however, since all matter and energy tend irreversibly toward maximum disorder, and since it is not at maximum disorder today, it could not have been always tending that direction forever. Either the atheist would have to deny the second law of thermodynamics in order to maintain the idea of eternally existing matter and energy, or accept that matter and energy had a starting point. Therefore, the atheist's assertion that matter and energy has always existed is incorrect. The Biblical assertion that there was a beginning is correct.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
"For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:16-17)
If matter and energy have a beginning, as was demonstrated in the previous section, then the next question to follow is what began matter and energy. Matter and energy have no ordering principle within themselves. By themselves they would never have formed the complexities seen in galaxies, stars, our own world, or even our own bodies. If someone dropped a bag of marbles onto a smooth floor in a closed room, a room completely separated from any outside influence, the marbles would fall to the floor and scatter in a totally random pattern. They will not form a castle or some other organized object. Even if a billion years went by, the marbles in the closed room would not spontaneously become organized. They would remain in a state of maximum randomness unless an organizing agent imposed order on them. Likewise, all the matter and energy in the universe could not have become organized unless something else existed to organize them.
The law of causality states that for every effect there is a cause. The atheist's response to the idea of a Creator being the cause of all matter and energy is usually, "Why should the Creator not also be created?" But such a response betrays a lack of understanding of the law of causality. In any chain of cause and effect there has to be a first cause. If there is no real first cause, the chain would go on into infinity. If everything were an effect, there would be no explanation for anything.
There must be a reason for the existence of the universe, because at one time it did not exist, and later it did. If there is a reason for anything to exist, then there must be something that is uncaused or eternal.
The atheist maintains that matter is self-existing and not created. If matter had a beginning and yet was not created, one must logically maintain that something would have had to come into existence out of nothing. From empty space with no force, no matter, no energy, and no intelligence, matter would have to become existent. Even if this could happen by some strange new process unknown to science today, there is a logical problem. In order for matter to come out of nothing, one has to discard known laws and principles of science. No reasonable person is going to do this simply to maintain a personal atheistic position.
As in the first section, the atheist's contention that the universe is uncaused and self-existing is incorrect. The Bible's assertion that there was a beginning which was caused not only makes rational sense, but is supported strongly by the available scientific evidence.
"I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone." (Isaiah 44:24)
From the two previous sections we know that the creation had a beginning and that the beginning was caused. But this leads us to another question: "What was the cause?" We can know from the vast amount of matter and energy in the universe, and their complexity and order, that whatever caused it all had to be intelligent and more powerful than all the matter and energy in the universe combined. Throughout history philosophers and religious people have called this cause God. The Bible not only calls this cause God, but goes on further to say that it was God who did the causing, and did so with planning, reason and logic. Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know God is "through the things He has made." The atheist, on the other hand, will try to convince us that we are the product of chance. Julian Huxley once said:
"We are as much a product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth or the ebb and flow of the tides. We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents."
Consider this for a moment. Let's say you have sailed across the Pacific Ocean and discovered an uncharted island. Upon landing on this island and exploring it you find it completely uninhabited. But you do find a city comprised of magnificent stone buildings stretching to the horizon in straight rows. What would be the first thing a rational person would think when considering the origins of those buildings? Yes, a reasonable person would wonder who designed and built the city. If even an atheist would likely think this way, why then is it so difficult to believe when looking at the majesty, wonder, and order of the cosmos that God, the First Cause, the Grand Designer, the Creator, does indeed exist?
The notion of creation by chance is another way of saying the universe created itself. For something to create itself it would have to exist in order to create. But then it would have to exist before it existed in order to create its own existence. For something to be self-created it would have to be and not be at the same time. This, of course, is contradictory and therefore irrational. If chance is not valid, we are constrained to reject Huxley's claim and to realize that we are the product of an intelligent God.
Also See Section on Evolution
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." (Ephesians 2:3)
The atheist will often say he does not believe in the existence of God because of the presence of evil in the world. In other words, he will say something like, "If God really existed He would not have allowed the Hitler to murder 6 million Jews, or Stalin 40 million of his own people, or ethnic genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda, and on and on."
By pointing out the presence of evil in the world, the atheist makes a moral judgment. How can he do so? If there is no God, then nothing can truly be called evil or good. There would exist no absolute standard to judge such things as genocide, thievery, dishonesty, etc. Some atheists may say that they just know that some things are evil and some things good, or that the community as corporate entity determine moral standards. This, however, fails to provide a rational reason why there exist in people the ability to tell good from evil. To deny the existence of God, yet fail to adequately answer how people can make moral judgments, demonstrates the illogical foundation for the atheist's belief system.
It is impossible to tell the difference between good and evil in the absence of some reference point that is absolutely good. One cannot determine 3 inches from 4 without using a ruler as an absolute reference. One cannot determine actions to be good or evil without an absolute moral standard. The presence of evil actually demonstrates the existence of God rather than disproves it.
The next issue that the atheist will often bring up is why God, if he exists, doesn't just eradicate evil. The false assumption is that God's only choice is to deal with evil in one single act. If indeed God did deal with evil this way, every human being on earth would be eliminated. Why? Because human nature has the ability and inclination to do what is evil. While some people seem to be good by human standards, by an absolute stand of good they are not. So the atheist's desire for God, if He exists, to eliminate evil would produce results he would find unacceptable.
Fortunately, God is dealing with the problem of evil in a progressive way. A way that does not require the destruction of all human beings, yet will bring about the end of evil. The atheist will sometimes argue that if God truly did exist it would not take so long for Him to deal with evil. After all, God could have created human beings without the ability to do evil. Of course, this would have produced a race of robots. People programmed to act a certain pre-determined way. Again, this solution would produce results that the atheist would find unacceptable.
Atheism cannot produce a rational basis for determining what is good and what is evil. It cannot adequately account for the human ability to tell good from evil apart from the existence of God who is the standard of absolute good. And atheism cannot provide a solution to the problem of evil apart from God, or one that does not destroy human freedom or cause God not to violate His nature (e.g. absolute holiness, justice, mercy, etc.).
See The Problem of Evil
In the final analysis, atheism makes objections to God's existence but can itself provide no rational answers or solutions regarding human existence. Ultimately, life from the atheistic viewpoint is devoid of meaning.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:18-22)
To summarize, Atheism is inadequate as a rational worldview because it cannot adequately explain the existence of the universe. The majesty and order of the universe, and the wonder and complexities of life on earth, cries out for an explanation. The atheist, however, is unable to provide a consistent one. If he argues that matter is eternal, he is going against modern science which states that the universe had a beginning and is gradually running down. If the atheist affirms that the universe had a beginning, then he must account for what caused it. Either way, the atheist cannot adequately explain the universe and this world so full of complex forms of life.
The atheistic worldview is irrational and cannot provide an adequate basis for intelligible experience. An atheistic world is ultimately random, disorderly, transitory, and volatile. It is therefore incapable of providing the necessary preconditions to account for the laws of science and the universal laws of logic. In short, it cannot account for the meaningful realities people encounter in life.
Atheism as a worldview can furnish no rational basis for determining good and evil, or the human need for absolute moral standards. If there is no God who is by nature absolutely good, then there is no absolute standard for judging something to be good or evil. The atheist objects to the existence of God due to the presence of evil in the world, but can give no rationale on how he knows the difference between good and evil, much less provide a solution to the problem apart from God.
"A Practical Man's Proof of God", by John N. Clayton
"Answers for Atheists, Agnostics, and Other Thoughtful Skeptics: Dialogs About Christian
Faith and Life", by E. Calvin Beisner
"Reasons to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity", by R.C. Sproul
"Strategies for Dialoguing with Atheists", by Ron Rhodes