Professor Mike Leeming and his wife Karen Leeming were missionaries to Mexico for many years. Presently Mike teaches Cultural Anthropology, English, and Bible courses in Bethany College of Missions, Minneapolis. He is an avid reader of Christian fiction.
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Copyright © 2001
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
1. THE "FOOL" IN THE PSALMS
There are two Psalms (14:1 and 53:1) in which we are told, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" In Scripture, "the fool" is not someone who is simply ignorant, but morally perverse-
The word nabal here used for fool denotes moral perversity, not mere ignorance or weakness of reason. 'Folly' is the opposite of 'wisdom' in its highest sense.1
According to this (biblical) definition, there are fools who are very educated, some of which are even professors in ivy-league colleges. My twelve-year-old son, who is learning disabled, has a sincere faith in God. I asked him what he would if someone asked him why he believes in God. He told me, "All you really have to do is to look around you."
My son had no idea that he was utilizing one of the "Theistic Proofs" for the existence of God-the Teleological Argument. The word "teleological" has, as one of its definitions, "concerned with design or purpose in nature."2 The basis of this argument is that the order and complexity viewed in the natural world indicates purpose and design.
2. A MADMAN'S STATEMENT
Knowing what we do about the universe today, only a madman would say that there is no God. Man has found that the universe works more accurately than any clock or watch he has been able to make. And there is no watch that 'just happened'-some watchmaker made it. The universe that is timed more accurately than a watch tells us that there is a universe-maker.3
This is the thrust of the essay Inanimate Design as a Problem for Nontheistic Worldviews by Robert C. Newman--
Recent advances in science have uncovered far more evidence for a designer than was known in Darwin's time or even ten years ago. Let us look at some of this evidence here.
Life depends upon the more basic substratum which we study in chemistry and physics. Behind all life on earth stands the right chemistry, the right environment, and the right universe…4
The author then proceeds to consider each of these topics, and concludes in the following manner-
In view of all of these carefully tuned balances between the forces in our universe, it becomes obvious that with very slight changes in the strength or balance of these forces, we get a universe which will not support life as we know it or can imagine it. What are we to make of this? The simplest explanation is that we live in a designed universe.5
3. TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
Edward J. Carnell, former Professor of Apologetics at Fuller Theological Seminary, says this about the Teleological Argument-
This is the most impressive theistic proof, for even the most crass logical positivist must confess that the symbols he uses in correlating nature take on a pattern of symmetry and order, despite his effort. Unless one is to completely blind to the empirical evidence, he must confess with Kant that there is an order to the world which evidences such an astonishing conformity to ends that one can hardly resist the temptation to postulate a self-subsisting something behind it as a cause.6
I would agree with Dr. Carnell that this is the most convincing of the theistic proofs. Psalm 8 and Psalm 19, both written by David, remark about the wonder of creation as seen in the heavens-
When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou dost visit him? (Psalms 8:3-4 KJ21)
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day upon day uttereth speech, and night upon night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world (Psalms 19:1-4 KJ21).
Such wondrous design certainly gives testimony to its Planner and Designer-God.
4. COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
Another Theistic Proof for the existence of God, one that I consider to be quite convincing, is the Cosmological Argument. The word "cosmological" comes, of course, from the word "cosmos," which is another word for "universe." The idea of this argument is that all of that which exists, i.e., the universe, must be dependent upon something else for its existence.
The simplest version [of the cosmological argument] argues that if something exists now, something exists necessarily; if anything is, something must have the power of being within itself. The argument does not require a universe full of contingent realities for its power. One datum is sufficient to prove its point; a single molecule, atom, or subatomic particle is enough to prove the existence of God. If we discover one molecule, we are faced with four possible explanations or sufficient reasons for the molecule. The molecule is possibly:
The fourth option above is the only viable one since "God alone has the power of being within Himself. He alone has ultimate causal power."8 In other words, as the character Maria Von Trapp in the movie "The Sound of Music" so aptly put it, "Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could."9
That which precedes the existence of all other things has been called various things, including the "Uncaused Cause," the "First Cause," and the "Prime Mover." But, for the Christian, it is God who is the originator of all and who brought all else into existence from nothing.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJ21)
Thus saith God the LORD-He that created the heavens and stretched them out, He that spread forth the earth and that which cometh out of it, He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: (Isaiah 42:5 KJ21)
For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens, God Himself that formed the earth and made it-He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited: "I am the LORD, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:18 KJ21)
5. THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICSSomething in the realm of physics that certainly seems to confirm the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In brief, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that "the amount of available energy in the universe is diminishing."10 This being the case, the universe cannot be infinite, as many atheists believe, or else it would have already reached the point known as "heat death."
Looking at the universe from the standpoint of energy, the conclusion comes that the universe must have begun a finite time ago. In other words, there has to have been a God who brought the universe into existence…11
So even from the point of view of many secular physicists, the universe had to have a beginning; something or someone must have brought it into existence at some time in the past. Again, for the Christian, God is both the Creator and Sustainer of all.
For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17 KJ21).
6. THE MORAL ARGUMENT
The third Theistic Proof that we will look at is the Moral Argument for the existence of God. C.S. Lewis focuses on this argument extensively in his classic work Mere Christianity. The fundamental idea behind the Moral Argument is that there are values or standards that are quite universal concerning good and evil, right and wrong, and that these standards are evidence of God's existence. And C.S. Lewis calls these values "the Law of Nature."
If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very much like they are to each other and to our own… Selfishness has never been admired… Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you like… [So] whether we like it or not, we [deeply] believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved so decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much-we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so-that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behavior that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves. These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.12
Examples of these universally accepted moral standards include the idea that selfishness is disapproved of in every society13, and that incest-"mating between parent and child and between brother and sister"14 -is condemned in all societies. What is the source of these universal standards of moral behavior? Why do we all have them?
John Frame claims that absolute moral standards presuppose the existence of an absolute personality-God.
Moral standards… presuppose absolute moral standards, which in turn presuppose the existence of an absolute personality. In other words, they presuppose the existence of 15The Apostle Paul claims that God has written the law, His law, on the hearts of those obey the law and yet were never given the law, as were the Jews.
When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:14-16 RSV).So the universal acceptance of certain moral standards is yet another evidence of the existence of God, and, in this case, I believe that it is evidence of the existence of a holy God who distinguishes between good and evil.
"Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am the LORD your God" (Leviticus 20:7 RSV).
"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:14-15 RSV).
7. THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
The final Theistic Proof that we will examine is the Ontological Argument for the existence of God. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines this argument as follows-
"An a priori argument for the existence of God, based upon the widespread existence of the idea of God."16
Anthropologists have long noted that all cultures have a religion of some sort, which includes a belief in a spirit realm.17
John Frame gives us this concise formulation of the Ontological Argument-
Premise 1: God has all perfections.
Three proponents of the Ontological Argument were Anselm of Canterbury, Rene Descartes, and Jonathan Edwards. We will look very briefly at statements by each and then conclude with some Scripture that, I believe, supports the basic premise of this argument.
According to Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), the mere idea of a being than which none greater can be conceived proves the existence of such a being. If it did not, he reasoned, then it would be a being of which we could conceive a higher (namely existent) being… Rene Descartes' (1599-1650) form of the ontological argument (that God alone could account for the idea of God) is self-evidently true. If having the idea of God (not being able to think of God's non-existence) proves His existence, the only ultimate cause of such an idea must be God… He rightly understood that the finite could not even think of the infinite or nonfinite without first having the idea of being which must come from being… According to [Jonathan] Edwards, we have an idea of being and we cannot have an idea of nonbeing: 'That there should be nothing at all is utterly impossible.' This is the other side of Anselm's coin. Anselm, at least implicitly, shows that we cannot not think of being. Edwards shows that we cannot think of nonbeing. Anselm shows that being must be; Edwards that nonbeing must not-cannot-be. If nonbeing is, it is not nonbeing. If being is not, it is not being. Since nonbeing cannot be, it cannot be conceived; just as, since being cannot not be, its nonbeing cannot be conceived. Therefore, we cannot think of being not being ever or anywhere.19
Perhaps the Scripture that best captures the essence of this argument is Psalm 139-
Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me," even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee, but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee(Psalms 139:7-12 KJ21).
There is a similar passage in the book of Amos-
Though they dig into hell, thence shall Mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down. And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from My sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them. And I will set Mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good (Amos 9:2-4 KJ21).
8. THE BEST AMONG THE FOUR THEISTIC PROOFS
Personally, I find this to be the least convincing of the four Theistic Proofs, we have considered, although I do find some validity in the idea that it is inexplicable that finite man so universally acknowledges the existence of an infinite God unless, of course, such a God indeed exists.
The References in the Cited Order
Bibliography of Works Cited
Carnell, Edward John. An Introduction to Christian Apologetics: A Philosophic Defense of the Trinitarian-Theistic Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970.
Frame, John M. Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., 1994.
Hoebel, Adamson, and Thomas Weaver, Anthropology and the Human Experience. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979.
Hiebert, Paul G. Cultural Anthropology. 2nd ed.. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983.
Kirkpatrick, A.F. The Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1982.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: Harper Collins, 1980.
McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5 vols. Nashville: Nelson, 1983.
Montgomery, John Warwick. Contemporary Apologetics I. Cassette Recording Nos. 2, 5, and 6. Newburgh, IN: Trinity College & Theological Seminary, 1998.
Montgomery, John Warwick, ed., Evidence For Faith. Dallas: Probe Books, 1991.
Sproul, R.C., John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Classical Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.
Webster, Noah. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary 2nd ed. Cleveland: Dorset & Baber, 1983.
Wise, Robert (Producer and Director), Ernest Lehman (Screenplay Author). (1965). The Sound of Music. (Film). Beverly Hills, California: Twentieth Century Fox.Versions of the Bible used: KJ21-The 21st Century King James Version of the Holy Bible. Gary, South Dakota: Deuel Enterprises, Inc., 1994. RSV-The Revised Standard Version. Nashville: Holman, 1982.
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