The Existence of God
- Buddhists believe in no god – rather that we are all one with the universe and play our part in making it work.
- Hindus say there are many gods and you must be true to your god.
- Eastern religions – Shintoism for example – say each family’s ancestors are gods.
- Muslims says there is one God, Allah, and no other.
- Jews say there is one God, Yahweh, and no other.
- The Bahai’s – there are many gods and spirits – all represent the one god. Bahai is sort of a Western Hinduism.
- The atheist says there is no God. This is all there is – life is about how you live now.
- The agnostic says there may be a god but we cannot know.
- Some people worship Mother Nature as an actual spiritual force, the power behind all things that we need to coöperate with and even please or she will react. This isn’t new by the way – nature worship, and worship of the spirits of the earth is one of the oldest religions in the world.
- Some people worship the universe. Self help books like “The Secret” – claim that the universe will provide anything to those willing to ask for it. Ask, believe, receive – simple! Which is sort of a materialistic consumer driven Buddhism.
- People worship Satan as a god – they call him “the prince of darkness” as though that makes him great, and ask him to grant them all good things – which is impossible.
And they say we’re strange!
According to some statistics 19% of Australians attend a church at least once a month. 65% say there is a god. They have a multitude of ideas about that god – he’s distant, spiritual, inhabits the heavens, plays games, she’s female, doesn’t care, walks like a goat! But, for the majority of Australians, God simply isn’t part of each day. They may have some vague idea of something greater than them in the universe – but it doesn’t really mean anything. They might pray when in trouble or looking for a parking spot – but equally might use Jesus name as a swear word or God as an exclamation mark – “oh my …”!
Psalm 10:4 “In his pride the wicked person does not seek God; in all their thoughts there is no room for God.”
Some Christians say people have a God shaped hole. Is that true? Really? The Bible says that without God’s direct intervention people don’t seek God – and left to our own devices we happily ignore God. I reckon if you ask around most people don’t think they have a God shaped hole – though that may be the point being made – the hole is there but we don’t know what it is. Most people have issues, mortgages, credit card bills and problems like everyone else – but God doesn’t get a look in. If they think they have a void, how do they try to fill it? A good job, a promotion, a new house or bigger car; earn more money, give the kids a better start, a plasma TV, a nice holiday, keep their kids off drugs. The void might be filled by alcohol, sex, food – anything that feels like it works. There are a million ways that don’t involve God – any god… “in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” I think Christians like to think people have a God shaped hole – maybe it gives us something to aim for? The reality is though, most people only think about God in relation to death! They make no connection between God and living.
What do Christians believe? What do you and I believe?
- We believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
- And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended to the dead. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
- We believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy universal church; the fellowship of the saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen
- There is one God – who has been revealed to us by his creative work in the world, by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and by the ongoing work of Jesus in our lives and in the world in the person of the Holy Spirit. One God, three persons – God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!
Reasons to Believe
When the majority of the world disagrees with you… why do you believe?
Our reasons can often be a turn off for non-Christians. For many of us the answer to “why do you believe” is “I just do!”
- I feel that there is a God.
- I have experienced God’s love or kindness.
- I have felt the Holy Spirit at work in me.
- I know Jesus loves me.
- I can’t believe that there isn’t a God because of the complexity of the universe.
All of these are exactly the same excuses an atheist uses to disprove God’s existence – they are the centre of their world and it doesn’t make sense to them… therefore there is no god. They have never seen God at work and therefore God must not exist.
As a Christian my reasons for believing in God cannot be centred on me. Or in other words… I am not the reason you should believe in God.
Why do I believe in God?
- Jesus – I’ll come back to him in a minute…
- Creation – I find creation is too amazing, too beautiful, too complex to be anything other than the work of a Creator. This is my belief and my observation and the interpretation of the evidence, and whilst I think atheists are wrong, their beliefs about creation and my beliefs are equally valid. They start from a position – “a priori” there is no god – therefore the creation is the result of some other force – natural forces. For me – I start from the position of knowing Jesus – “a priori” there is a God and he has revealed himself to us. So when I read…
Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
…I agree – the hand of God in creation is obvious to me.
- I find water fascinating and amazing – it can be in the form of ice, steam, liquid – the freezing point and boiling point of water are exactly right for life on earth. The freezing properties of water, the universal solvent, that it is the basis of life – our bodies are 97% water – and waterfalls – I find waterfalls to be majestic and a thing of beauty – something that for me points to the creator. I could go on about water – waves, oceans, etc.
- I find the enormity of space – the majesty of the stars – the size of the universe – the complexity, the inter-connectivity of relationships between sun and moon and earth and planets and stars – the beauty of the galaxies – all point to a creator rather than chance
- The human body – where to start – the eye… a wonder of evolution or the creation work of an incredible God? The brain – the heart – the complexity of the nervous system. We humans are smart – but there is so little we really understand about the body – we can walk on the moon, we can excise cancer – but we can’t defeat the flu?
- I could go on – talk about complexity and apparent design – there’s the old story… I was walking along a street the other day when I looked down in the gutter and saw all these atoms and dust particles laying there – and as I watched they started changing and evolving before my eyes until finally there was this beautiful watch laying the gutter – and I picked it up and it was working and telling exactly the right time – and I thought to myself – isn’t it amazing how the universe just evolved out of nothing.
- The thing is though – I start from the position that there is a God and we can know him. The atheist starts from the position that there is no god. Science only helps – it’s not absolute unless you’re willing to accept the evidence. That’s what faith is – what you are willing to accept as evidence of the truth.
- Parents – my parents are part of the equation of belief and faith for me. I don’t mean that they forced me to believe – but I saw the evidence of their lives that matched with their words. My father was a minister – my parents were in ministry for many years – and despite failings and sinfulness and all the rest of the normal human equation – mum and dad lived by what they said. Their lives matched what they preached and taught. That had an enormous influence on me – because I could see the reality of the Scriptures lived out in front of me – imperfectly to be sure – but still true.
- Sin and death – these two great enemies of mankind have something in common. No matter what I do – I cannot defeat them. No matter how hard I try I still sin – I want to do what is right and I fail and I struggle with not doing things I don’t want to do – and I fail. And death – death is not natural – death is an aberration. Someone has to deal with sin and death – they cannot be allowed to continue unabated. Again though – this is just my opinion and belief.
- In the end – my reason to believe comes down to Jesus – Jesus is the answer to the question. I don’t think atheists and agnostics engage with the question of Jesus.
How do you know God exists?
Because God sent his son, Jesus, to died on the cross and pay the penalty for sin, and Jesus rose again from the dead to prove his power over death and to offer us life with him.
In fact – like in Sunday school – Jesus is the real answer to every question – not in a superficial way. You can use all the other evidence, but often they simply become side tracks, ways for people to get out of dealing with Jesus – and that’s the one thing they need to do. For example – people say…
- I couldn’t believe in a God that hates homosexuals!
- The answer is… “God sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and raised Jesus to life to offer us victory over death. He doesn’t hate homosexuals.”
- There is no God – otherwise there would be no pain or death or evil.
- The answer is… “Jesus died on the cross to deal with sin and the penalty for our sins and God raised Jesus to life to offer us victory over death. He has dealt with evil and death.”
- All religions are the same. Why should I believe in your god?
- “Because God sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to rise from the dead to prove his power over both sin and death.”
Just as we might “just know” that Christ died for our sins, and we “believe” that there is no other way to be saved, and we are “certain” of what we believe – the reason is not that we just believe. I could ‘just believe’ that the earth is flat. I can say “I know the Holy Spirit is in me” and someone can deny that reality with equal conviction. I can say “I feel God loves me” – a new age proponent can say they “feel at one with the universe”. I can say “I know the power of the Holy Spirit” and a Satan worshipper can say that they “know” the power of the prince of darkness – with equal conviction.
Religion is about faith – but unless that faith is based in real things, it is simply blind wishful thinking. In my opinion the most religious and faithful people in the world… are the atheists.
- They refuse to believe in the existence of a God despite the evidence that seems so obvious to me.
- Or they simply refuse to think about it – they don’t want God in charge and they do want to be in charge so rather than thinking through the issues they just claim there is no god, and they latch onto any reason they can find that ‘disproves’ the existence of God.
- Richard Dawkins who wrote “The God Delusion” says that the human body, despite its complexity, does not display the purpose and plan of an “intelligent designer” because in many ways it is foolish. No intelligent creator would make the body so fragile. The need to excrete waste, the pointlessness of the appendices, the wasted potential of the brain – all this points to evolution as a much better explanation over millions of years rather than a god.
- Douglas Adams, the author of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: “…I am convinced that there is not a god… I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one.” “…People will … say “surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?” … If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back … impressed him, then … I would chose not to worship him anyway.”
- Just two of a million different reasons people have for not believing. The common denominator in every reason not to believe in the existence of God is… the person at the centre. The atheist and the agnostic are their own gods in their own little world.
Defend the Faith
As Christians we are told that we need to be prepared to defend our faith.
1 Peter 3:15 “…in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
200 years ago we didn’t have to convince the majority of people that God existed. But increasingly preaching the gospel will have to start with helping people see that there is a God and that we humans must take notice of Him. They need to be introduced to Jesus – that’s where our answers need to start and finish – not with me and what I think or feel but with Christ and what he has done.
I think Paul’s conversion and ministry is a good example. Paul was converted when he was confronted by the living physical risen Lord Jesus who appeared to him in a blaze of heavenly glory as Paul was on the road to Damascus where he planned to kill Christians. It would be hard to think of a more dramatic life changing experience of Jesus. Yet when Paul preaches the gospel, and he starts almost immediately, he uses the history of Israel, the scriptures, the confusion of the gentiles, the logic and reality of the world and the creation.
Acts 13:26-33 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”
He never uses his feelings or the strangeness of his experiences to proclaim the truth of the gospel. It would have been all too easy to put those weird experiences down to other things – rather than the reality and power of Jesus. This is something we need to understand in our world too. Jesus is the proof of God’s existence. Telling people we’re trying to witness to that we’re praying for them is one thing – and that’s a weird thing for most blokes. But talking about spiritual feelings and experiences will turn most people away. They will only believe when they have understood the truth about Jesus, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus = the Proof
As we defend what we believe there are four things that are important in our understanding of God and in what we tell people.
- He exists – he has shown himself in the person and work of Jesus the Christ. In Jesus we meet the Lord of the whole universe. This is no distant spiritual force – we can know God as his friends.
- He creates – this is God who is intimately connected to his creation – one of the surprising things about Jesus is the power he displays over creation – the wind, waves, demons, sickness and disease, life and death – and over people. The world responds to the voice of the creator when it responds to Jesus.
- He cares – he sent Jesus to deal with sin and death – the two enemies that would defeat us without God’s intervention. He sacrificed his Son to pay the price of our sins.
- He commands – commands repentance and obedience. People in our world want to ignore God – but that’s a very dangerous thing to do. He commands that all people everywhere live according to Jesus.
Acts 17:30b-31 God “…commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
In the end it won’t be science or history or experience that changes people. Richard Dawkins needs to meet Jesus – it’s as simple as that. He needs to come face-to-face with the risen Christ, just as Paul the Apostle did. For us we need to help people meet Jesus – or at the very least we need to help people see that they need to deal with Jesus – he claims authority over sin, death and over our very lives – and offers life and perfect freedom to those who belong to him.