Belief in God or gods occurs naturally all over the world. Ancient agricultural societies had their fertility gods; the Greeks, their pantheon; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, their one god. Histories, from the most ancient to modern, have shown that there is not one nation that did not succumb into the power of this truth. There seems to be something universal to all human experience that causes us to search for something transcendent on which to build our lives. And how so many independent cultures come to religious belief definitely requires an explanation.
People have debated about the existence of God for millennia. Can the existence of God be proven?
The first proof is the Ontological Argument, which seeks to prove the existence of God based wholly on logic or reason alone. According to this argument, there is no need to prove the physical existence of God but we can conclude that He exists just by thinking about it, for it is impossible for the mind to conceive of anything that is non-existent.
There are many claims we can conclude as false without even having to look into them to see if they really do exist. The claim that there are three-sided squares is obviously false. There’s no need to waste time to search for a three-sided square to determine that there is no such thing. The ontological argument suggests that the idea that God does not exist is just as impossible as a three-sided square.
The main point of the ontological argument for God’s existence may be stated in this way: “The human mind possesses the idea of an absolutely perfect Being therefore that Being must actually exist.” The very conception of God definitely includes perfection, for how can God be properly called God unless He is perfect. And if perfect, it would be impossible to conceive of anything better, for there cannot be anything better than perfection. For instance, He has to be omnipotent, because that is what God should be. To call something that is not omnipotent God would be like referring to a square that does not have four sides. Therefore, the implication is, understanding what “God” means makes God’s non-existence impossible.
Dr Samuel Clarke, a nineteenth century theologian said that, “It is certain that “something” has existed from all eternity. Absolute non-entity is inconceivable. Whatever has eternally existed is self-existent, and whatever is self-existent is necessarily existent, and what is necessarily existent cannot be conceived as non-existent. The material world cannot be the “something” that has eternally existed, because we can conceive of its non-entity [or its non-existence at one time]. Therefore, the “something”, which has eternally existed, is God.”
Based on this argument, atheists can be considered to be quite a confused lot, because by believing that God does not exist, they would be able to think Him better than He is; and therefore would imagine Him to exist. Stated differently, to imagine God as not existing is to imagine Him as being imperfect, because a god that does not exist could be better than He is.
The ontological argument has been widely considered to be a valid argument for the existence of God. It also finds confirmation in the Scriptures, the Holy Bible. God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), that is, in Christian parlance, God has placed a God-shaped void in our hearts that only He can fill. In addition, the Divine revelation never tried to prove the existence of God but declares that He is, and that He is from “everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). “The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty; He has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.” (Psalm 93:1-2).
Another purported proof is the Cosmological Argument, also called First Cause argument, which seeks to prove the existence of God from the fact that the universe exists. It is essentially an argument for the existence of an eternal Creator.
The cosmological argument is actually derived from the law of cause and effect that states: “every effect must have an adequate cause.” It supposes the very existence of the universe (the effect) requires the existence of a being that created it (the cause). The claim that the universe has a beginning has been confirmed by modern science, having its origin traced back to the “Big Bang”. Certainly the universe did not cause itself to come into existence, for then it would be both cause and effect, which is downright irrational. Nothing that begins to exist does so without a cause. But for something to come into existence there must be something else that already exists, which brought about its existence. In other words, the fact that the universe has a beginning implies that there is a Creator that brought it into existence.
Now, if this Creator exists in time and has a beginning like the universe, then it would have to be created by something else. Nothing comes from nothing, including God. Basic logic would dictate that the ultimate cause of the universe must never have come into existence; the ultimate Creator must be a being that transcends time, a being with neither beginning nor end. He must be both uncreated and eternal. Stephen Charnock, a 17th century Presbyterian clergyman, wrote: “It is impossible for any to give a beginning and being to itself: if it acts it must exists, and so exist before it existed. A thing would exist as a cause before it existed as an effect. He that is not, cannot be the cause that he is, if therefore, God doth exist, and hath not his being from another, he must exist from eternity.”
David Hume, an 18th Scottish philosopher, resisted the cosmological argument by taking the position that no one can absolutely know anything regarding the original cause. Since no one has ever witnessed how worlds were made, no one has any right to assume that the world had a cause. In fact, nothing must ever be assumed. Proof must be demanded. God, the First Cause, must be proven, not assumed.
However, a sensible answer to Hume’s demand for ultimate proof of a First Cause is to take into account the unchanging order of things. The real sequence of all things is this: first the cause, then the effect. This order indicates that there is something in the cause that produces the effect. The effect never precedes or produces the cause. For example, thunder does not precede lightning, and heat does not precede fire. Lightning causes thunder, and fire causes heat. There is an order. Similarly, the Divine creative power caused the universe, and in turn produced the effect, which is its very existence. It should be noted that it is not necessary to study every instance of cause and effect before a valid affirmation is made that, “every effect must have an adequate cause.”
When the Law of Gravity is observed but once, the witness is very much qualified to declare that the Law of Gravity is in action. The conclusion, therefore, is that: “Every effect not only has a cause, but must have one.”
While the cosmological argument does not by itself prove the existence of God, it can be placed as a connection in the chain of evidence. Together, all the connections of logical arguments for the existence of God will become credible, especially when other explanations for the origin of the universe are proposed, such as evolution. Without doubt, evolution cannot explain the universe for no effect can be greater than its cause. For example: a stream cannot rise higher than its source; life cannot arise from non-life; intelligence cannot come from the non-intelligent; and personality cannot be derived from the impersonal.
A process needs a maker of the process. Evolution has no maker and no explanation of the cause of everything. Evolution attributed everything to the impersonal, time, space and chance. The attempt of evolutionary thought to eliminate God is indeed absurd.
It will never be able to explain the First Cause nor will any other teachings, without returning to the account of creation in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
(Continued next week)