God is. Before anything else is said, that truth needs to be put out there. Nowhere in scripture to any of its authors try to prove this fact. It is simply an assumed point on which they build. The Bible’s starting point from which we must deal with God is clear: “He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
In other words, the base point from which any of us can truly know anything about God begins with the fact that if we seek for Him, we will be found by Him. (Jeremiah 29:13) So if any interaction must begin with a step of faith, and sine the Bible does not attempt to defend God’s existence, why do we?
There are two quick reasons: 1) understanding the case for the existence of God can strengthen the faith of those who believe. 2) A reasonable presentation of why we believe in the existence of God can help remove some of the stumbling blocks from those who are genuinely seeking the truth. Ultimately they will need to have an encounter with God, not just an understanding of God, but a reasonable defense will put them in a place where they are ready for that encounter.
There are other people, no matter what the presentation of truth is given them, who will never accept the fact of the existence of God. This is because there is a moral responsibility that accompanies faith. Some people, no matter how rock solid the evidence, would much rather consciously or unconsciously shirk from that responsibility. (Luke 16:31)
Below are some of the major arguments for the existence of God. I have explained them in a case, rebuttal, counter format where I present the argument, then a common response that the skeptic will have against the argument and finally a counter to this argument. It should be said up front that none of these cases is of itself definitive. While belief in God is the most logical option, ultimately whether a person chooses to believe or not is done on a leap of faith.
Four arguments for the existence of God:
Case – Everything that exists in the universe as we understand it is an effect. I look out my window and see a tree. That tree exists because at some point a seed in the ground sprouted and grew. That seed, before being planted, grew on another tree which sprouted from an earlier tree and so on and so forth. It is the old conundrum: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” No matter what view one holds on creation and evolution, ultimately the question comes down to the question, “What was the first cause?” Or “Who was the Prime Mover.” God is necessary for the existence of the universe.
Rebuttal – There are three rebuttals to the cosmological argument: 1) A first cause does not necessarily have to be intelligent. Throughout the physical world things develop from simple to complex. Hydrogen and oxygen are both simpler than water, chemical bonds join to form complex molecules, etc. If this is the way things tend to go, then the first cause might of necessity be something infinitely uncomplicated and unintelligent. 2) A first cause might not even be necessary. It may be entirely possible for things to pop into existence without cause. Even those believing the cosmological argument believe this in essence, except they think their randomly existing thing is eternal and intelligent. 3) What caused the first cause? If everything came from something, then why do we arbitrarily stop that process with God? If everything is an effect, then what caused God?
Counter – Everything that exists as we understand it must be dependent on something else for its existence. This is true, but the operative words are as we understand it. Either we must continue this on through infinity, which both science and our intellect cry against, or we must postulate the existence of a self-existent being. Even if it were possible for a tiny something to pop into existence (which has not and probably never will be proven), for the vast amount of material which now populates the universe to suddenly pop into existence without a self-existent first cause is pure folly.
Case – Newton thought he had it figured out. The paths and pulls of the planets had been mathematically explained and clock makers the world over were building orreries the world over to illustrate it. We now know that the planet’s cycles are not fixed, their past is far more dynamic, their designer far more intelligent than we once thought. From the smallest part of an atom up to the largest of galaxies and all points between there is a dynamism, a richness in both nature and its laws that scream intelligence. Our universe could no more exist as it is than my computer could exist without a programmer or my books exist without an author.
Rebuttal – The teleological argument is an argument from incredulity. Just because something appears complex does not mean it demands an intelligent designer. We as human beings have an innate ability to see patterns and therefore it is expected that we will recognize design all around us even where it does not exist. Beyond that, there are plenty of evidences of bad design. Would an intelligent designer really leave an appendix laying around where it can do nothing but harm?
Counter – Vestigal limbs are by definition organs or limbs that once served a purpose but no longer do. The fact remains they once served a purpose. Even if they no longer do, or if that purpose is greatly reduced does not negate the fact that without it, we would not be here today. Of what purpose is gunpowder residue to a bullet in flight. It no longer serves a purpose. Does that imply a bad gunmaker? The argument for incredulity is valid for simpler things but it does not hold water for something as complex as our universe. I’ve never met John Locke. I’ve never met anyone who met him or even anyone whose grandparents met him. I have only written record that he exists. How can I know that record is trustworthy? To say that the existence of The Second Treatise of Government demands an author is an argument from incredulity. How do we know it wasn’t random chance? How do we know it wasn’t monkeys typing? To believe that monkeys randomly wrote such a great political treatise would be easier than to believe that the complexity of design in our universe can exist without a designer.
Case – Mankind is a moral creature. They intrinsically know right from wrong. When a person does right their conscience rewards them. When they do wrong they feel guilt. The very fact that in each person there is an innate understanding of right and wrong with a desire and responsibility to do right demonstrates that there is both a Lawgiver and a Judge.
Rebuttal – Euthyphro’s dilemma asks, “Is good commanded by God because it is good, or is it only good because it is commanded by God?” The theist would claim that good is good because God commands it. The thing is, this statement would only be a necessary claim if no other more rational reason for good exists. The fact is, most of what is considered good is beneficial either to the individual or to the species. God is simply a construct to explain why such a good is considered to be good.
Counter – Self sacrifice can only be explained on evolutionary terms through the theory of kin selection. Basically, we will sacrifice ourselves for the purpose of passing on our genes. “I would risk my life for two brothers or eight cousins.” So why is an act of sacrifice for a stranger universally lauded as one of the greatest of goods? There is a higher ideal that goes far beyond the good that benefits an individual or species. Beyond that, even Euthypro’s dilemma has a dilemma. It offers two explanations to why good is considered good but it does not deal with the fact that, with either explanation, good is still good.
Case – The historical argument is actually a collection of arguments: 1) God brings meaning to history. If there is no God, there is no significance both to my life or to the larger flow of history. 2) History demonstrates the triumph of good. As we move through history, humanity has come to a better understanding of what is right. Once slavery is acceptable, now it is not. Once racism prevailed, now it is shunned. Even the great tyrants of history, like Hitler, experienced only short triumphs. 3) History is replete with miracles. Not just those in the Bible, but through time we can see and hear and read of times in history where God has acted on man’s behalf. 4) History is also the story of what God has done for me. He has not just transformed my life but He has done so to countless millions of others. 5) History is the story of Jesus himself who came and lived among us, died and rose from the grave. He is God made flesh.
Rebuttal – 1) There is no meaning to history. It is what it is. The meaning we seek is only a product of our mind. 2) Good has not and does not always triumph. Where is the good in the Rwanda massacres? What about the millions starving to death in Sudan? The fighting and atrocities in Syria… where is the good in that? 3) Miracles do not happen. Those in the Bible are embellishments by later authors, so called miracles of today always have a more logical explanation. Prayers are like placebos, they might trigger the mind to effect a healing, but they do not trigger divine intervention. 4) To blame the positive change in a person’s life on a “god” is to degrade the dignity of the individual who has worked for that change. Besides, Hinduism has “changed” people’s lives. Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism have all “changed” lives. Which “god” is right? 5) Even if Jesus did exist, most of what was written about what he said and did was embellishments by later so called historians who can’t even agree with each other.
Counter – 1) Choosing not to recognize the meaning of a life or of history does not negate its validity. Ultimately, where someone stands with this argument comes down to a choice as to whether a person wants to live with purpose and fulfillment or not. 2) Time is still flowing. History is not complete. To look at the current pockets of struggle and the sorrows of life is to not see the grander flow of time. We are moving in the right direction, even if there is turbulance in the flight. 3) A curious and often unspoken truth of the argument against miracles is that it is always dealt with from a philosophical standpoint rather than a factual one. The fact is, history is replete with miracles. God has acted, is acting, and will continue to act on our behalf. 4) The argument against the life change in an individual is indefensible. Give me one person whose life has been drastically changed for the better through atheism, I will line up one thousand, no ten thousand, who have been positively changed by God. Have other religions changed lives for the better? Even if so, that is not a defense against a God but rather pushes the question forward to “which god?” 5) Jesus existed. There is plenty of historical evidence for that. Without him, there would have been no Paul. Beyond that, if He did not truly rise, why would so many have chosen to sacrifice so much, to the point of torture and death, only in perpetuating what they would have known was a lie. Over five hundred saw him after his death and Paul, writing at least a dozen years later wrote about this, claimed most of them were still alive. (1 Corinthians 15:6) If he were perpetuating a lie, it could have been easily disproved, but nobody did.