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Does God Exist? How Can You Know?

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In a secular world full of skeptics, is God relevant anymore? Is He an obsolete idea, or a living Creator with whom you can have a real relationship? The good news is that God is not just real—He is alive, and He is waiting for you to make contact with Him!

Many of us who are older may fondly remember growing up in English-speaking countries that took for granted their existence as “Christian nations.” We knew that our moral values and legal systems owed much to the Bible, and the language of faith was all around us in public and in private. In recent decades, however, this has changed, as has many people’s very belief in God.

The Gallup organization recently reported that, depending on how pollsters frame the question, as few as 64 percent of Americans are confident that God exists (“How Many Americans Believe in God?,” Gallup.com, November 8, 2019). At the same time, we are seeing an increase in the number of people who profess no religious affiliation at all. Not long ago, a respected polling organization found that, in the United States, “the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular,’ now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009” (“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,” PewForum.org, October 17, 2019).

What does this mean for society? Where the mainline Protestant denominations once set the tone for the U.S., the rise of the non-religious has changed that. In fact,

...the percentage of Americans who don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition is now roughly the same as those who identify as evangelical or Catholic…. Americans claiming “no religion”—sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?”—now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans…. That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) (“‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals, Catholics in the US,” Religion News Service, March 21, 2019).

Amazing! “No faith” is now one of the largest faith groups in America!

Is God Alive or Dead?

When Time magazine published its famous April 1966 cover asking “Is God Dead?,” it was hardly the first to raise the question or to propose an answer. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had boldly asserted more than 80 years earlier, “God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we—we still have to vanquish his shadow, too” (The Gay Science, New York: Random House, 1974, p. 167).

Now, Nietzsche is dead, but his philosophy lives on in the minds of millions who not only disbelieve in God, but who hate the very idea that God exists! In the twentieth century, millions of human beings lived and died under the control of totalitarian states that officially proclaimed atheism and worked hard to keep citizens from believing in a Supreme Being. Even in our Western world, atheism became increasingly fashionable in the twentieth century, as people came to believe that science, not God, would provide their real salvation.

In recent decades, however, science itself has made amazing new strides in understanding the natural world—and many of the new understandings support, or even demand, the existence of an intelligent designer, and a human spirit as something more than a product of biological and chemical processes.

Creation Without God?

For a hundred years after biologist Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species in 1859, the scientific community became increasingly influenced by his theory of natural selection. Darwin himself acknowledged that his theory did not account for some natural phenomena that seemed too complex to arise through the incremental mutations and selections his theory required, but he was confident that these complexities would eventually be explained. Since then, scientists seeking to affirm Darwin’s theory have indeed proposed evolutionary explanations for many complex structures. Their explanations, however, like so much of evolutionary theory, are stuck in the realm of theory, neither reproducible nor falsifiable, and thus are more akin to philosophy than real science.

How many today realize that, even in Darwin’s day, there were other ways to interpret the data he uncovered? How many scientists today even remember the name of Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin who was at one time widely acknowledged as a “co-discoverer” of evolution? Where Darwin is famous for his trip to the Galapagos Islands, Wallace spent eight years in what we now call Indonesia, observing flora and fauna. In 1855, he formulated his own theory of natural selection, and sent to Darwin a short paper on the topic. “Darwin had reached the same conclusion years earlier, and Wallace’s letter spurred him to act. The two men published a joint paper in 1858, arguing the theory of evolution and natural selection” (“He Helped Discover Evolution, and Then Became Extinct,” NPR.org, April 30, 2013).

Wallace, however, looking at the same biological questions Darwin considered, came to a different conclusion. He declared that in studying the world of nature, “to afford any rational explanation of its phenomena, we require to postulate the continuous action and guidance of higher intelligences; and further, that these have probably been working towards a single end, the development of intellectual, moral, and spiritual beings” (The World of Life, 1916, pp. 340–341).

To illustrate his perspective, Wallace asked us to imagine a super-intelligent being looking at the construction of a mansion, bridge, or railway, but seeing only the movement of materials and not the builders. He imagines such an observer saying, “We know the physical and chemical forces at work in this curious world, and if we study it long enough we shall find that known forces will explain it all” (Wallace, p. 320).

If we saw people making things but denied the intelligent work of the people and studied only the things, others would think us foolish. Yet this is essentially the perspective Darwin and much of modern science took for more than a hundred years—until researchers began to make advances in understanding life at the molecular level. Biochemist Michael Behe has observed that

...the science of Darwin’s day had no understanding of the molecular foundation of life. Only now, only within the past twenty years has science advanced sufficiently to examine life in the molecular detail necessary to rigorously test Darwin’s ideas, particularly… the presumptions that complete randomness underlies life and that repeated rounds of random mutation and natural selection can build coherent biological systems (Darwin Devolves, 2019, p. 256).

And what does the molecular detail show us? The late astronomer Fred Hoyle is famous for one illustration of the improbability of natural selection without intelligent design. He observed that a yeast cell and a jumbo jet have approximately the same number of parts. Yet no one would seriously propose that a jumbo jet could spontaneously evolve from its parts. Hoyle wrote that the probability of 2,000 proteins arising, each with 200 amino acids, is about the same as the probability of a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747 (The Intelligent Universe, 1983, p. 17).

Anything to Avoid God?

Is it a coincidence that just as science is coming to terms with so much evidence supporting intelligent design, human creativity is struggling to find ways to keep God out of the picture? Some propose a “multiverse,” in which our universe exists alongside countless other universes, most of which do not support life as ours does. In this theory, the odds of a life-supporting universe may be one-in-many-trillions, but our universe just happens to be that one!

Another creative approach gained attention when philosopher Nick Bostrom published his 2003 article “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” (Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 53, No. 211, pp. 243–255). Most viewed it as a fringe idea, perhaps an interesting intellectual exercise, but certainly not a serious alternative worldview. Put briefly, Bostrom proposed that unless most human-level civilizations become extinct before they are advanced enough to create computer simulations of persons, or they become advanced but have no interest in running such simulations, the vast majority of those experiencing personhood are doing so as part of a computer simulation.

Do you see what Bostrom has done? By his logic, the vast majority of persons must be the result of intelligent design—yet Bostrom does not confront the idea of a divine Creator! Neither does he eliminate the need for such a Creator; he merely pushes it away by a step. How did his simulators come to exist? Eventually, when Bostrom runs out of simulators who are themselves simulated, the question remains: how did his supposed simulators come to exist as intelligent beings capable of running the simulations? Bostrom’s argument only highlights the need for a Creator who exists beyond His creation!

Life Comes from Life!

Simulations aside, the principle of biogenesis—validated by all experiments and experience throughout the history of mankind—states that life can only come from life. Scientists have indeed tried to create life from non-life—and have utterly failed! When even the simplest of cells is astonishingly complex, is it reasonable to believe that life can arise from non-life?

And can law arise from lawlessness and random chance? Scientists know there are intricate mathematical laws that determine the motion and expansion of the universe. What accounts for those laws, and for their expression in our universe? Scientist Patrick Glynn writes that everything had to be “‘just right’ from the very start—everything from the values of fundamental forces like electromagnetism and gravity, to the relative masses of the various subatomic particles, to things like the number of neutrino types at time 1 second, which the universe has to ‘know’ already at [10 to the negative forty-third power] second. The slightest tinkering with a single one of scores of basic values and relationships in nature would have resulted in a universe very different from the one we inhabit—say, one with no stars like our sun, or no stars, period” (Patrick Glynn, God: The Evidence, 1999, pp. 7–8).

Yes, the laws of physics existed from the very beginning of the universe. Scientists admit that this had to be so. And those laws are finely tuned to allow our universe to exist the way it does today—with us in it! Mathematically, it is far beyond improbable that such a universe would randomly come into existence with just the right properties to allow human existence.

Many scientists, trapped by the philosophy of materialism and determined to come up with explanations that exclude divine creation, have invented fanciful theories to explain the complexity around us. Yet many of these theories require huge leaps of “logic” or assumptions that a mathematically improbable event “just happened.” By contrast, intelligent-design theorists point to the “irreducible complexity” of many living structures and processes as evidence that they could not have come about by random mutation and natural selection.

Evolutionists have offered rebuttals to claims of irreducible complexity in nature, but even the most creative biologist cannot avoid the reality of mathematics. Many scientists’ arguments against intelligent design rely on extraordinarily improbable chains of events, proposing, in some cases, mutations that would take trillions of years to occur—in a universe they estimate to be only 14 billion years old!

Evolutionists sometimes accuse creationists of offering a “God of the gaps” explanation—attributing to an omnipotent God any phenomena that are not yet understood by science. Yet even the National Geographic Society, a prestigious, mainstream organization, could not avoid a startling admission in a comprehensive discussion of evolutionary theory, admitting that “the fossil record is like a film of evolution from which 999 of every 1,000 frames have been lost on the cutting room floor” (“Was Darwin Wrong?,” National Geographic, November 2004, p. 25). Yes, evolution—not intelligent design—is the theory that relies on gaps in the evidence!

The Mystery of Consciousness

Materialist evolutionists, faced with the phenomenon of human consciousness, find many of their assumptions challenged. Author and philosopher John Searle has noted the persistent mystery surrounding human self-awareness: “We don’t know how to explain it. Compare consciousness to physics. We’re doing pretty well in physics, even though we have some puzzling areas, like quantum mechanics. But we don’t have an adequate theory of how the brain causes conscious states, and we don’t have an adequate theory of how consciousness fits into the universe” (Robert L. Kuhn, Closer to Truth: Challenging Current Belief, 2000, p. 5).

Philosophers have asked the question, “How can we prove that anything exists other than my own mind?” The philosophy called solipsism proposes that the only reality is in your mind, and that nothing else truly exists. How can we be sure that there is intelligence outside of our own mind? One way, as scientists like Wallace and Behe have proposed, is to look for signs that another mind has acted. But how can we look at physical things around us and conclude that another mind has acted? It’s not the things around us that convince us of others’ intelligence, but the purposeful arrangement of things. Noise, purposefully arranged, may be speech that communicates ideas. Stone and metal and wood, purposefully arranged, may be a building. If you recognize evidence of purposeful arrangement that you do not fully understand, your mind cannot be the only one in the universe, as you have detected an intelligence higher than your own!

The idea that the world around us provides evidence of intelligent design did not originate with scientists like Wallace and Behe. Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul told Christians in Rome, “For since the creation of the world  His invisible  attributes  are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,  even  His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Yes, by recognizing the purposeful arrangement of the world around us, we can infer intelligence—and, ultimately, the divine intelligence of our Creator!

Unknown Dimensions?

Materialist scientists may think that their minds are illusions, mere byproducts of the “meat” of which their bodies are made. They deny entirely the existence of a dimension of mind, or of spirit. This is an old problem, and the Bible gives it much attention. The Apostle Paul discusses the relationship of spirit to humans, asking, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Paul is not discussing an immortal soul, but the human spirit.

The human spirit enables humans to know “the things of a man.” Animals cannot know “the things of a man.” Though animal instinct is an amazing mechanism that lets animals do many incredible things, they cannot think on the human level. The qualitative difference between human mind and animal brain is enormous. Animal instinct is often remarkable, but only human beings can conceive of multiple physical dimensions beyond the visible. And if scientists can theorize ten (or more) invisible physical dimensions, how hard should it be for an objective observer to consider the spiritual dimension?

Physicists use massive instruments such as the Large Hadron Collider to understand physical dimensions beyond our view. What do we need to understand the spiritual dimension? We need the Spirit of God! Only then can we truly and deeply understand “the things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). So, how do we receive the Spirit of God? On the day of Pentecost at the beginning of the New Testament Church, the Apostle Peter preached to thousands, proclaiming to his audience, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Evolution cannot explain, and often even denies, the existence of spirit—even though the greatest reality is not material existence, but the existence of spirit. We read, “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). The Apostle John also proclaims this truth: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Scientists make many wonderful discoveries, but their tools can take them only so far. If God has not opened their minds to understand the things of the Spirit, they cannot spiritually discern the full reality of what He is doing here on the earth. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

God’s Plan for Creation—A Spiritual Family

Many who puzzle over the physical creation of the universe are missing out on the most astounding aspect of God’s creation. Not only has God created the physical universe, He is creating in human beings the spiritual masterpiece of His creation: His very own holy and righteous character, which becomes the character of humble, yielded, genuine Christians. Not only has God created finely tuned physical law to form the universe, He has given spiritual law to form the character of Christians. Jesus gave the two “great commandments” in Matthew 22:36–39, which magnify the Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. These spiritual laws are just as real as the physical laws that govern the universe.

Philosophers have claimed that God is dead. But many of those philosophers themselves are dead, and God is alive. Psalm 14:1 gives us a clear perspective on that reality: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Can you prove that God exists? Yes, you can! Not only can you know God exists, but you can “know that you know” that He is alive! How can you have this certainty? Yes, it is good to understand the logical and philosophical points we have considered briefly in this article—properly used, reason and logic are not the enemies of faith. Yet we have seen that much modern “science” hardly deserves that name, as it does not offer us reproducible experiments that can prove or disprove theories such as evolution and intelligent design.

However, you can perform one vital experiment on your own and examine the results personally. That experiment is found in your Bible: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). You can prove God’s existence by living the way of life He has revealed through the Bible and through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. If you do this, you can know for yourself that God is alive and that He rules supreme—not only over the vastness of the universe, but also over the tiniest concerns of our lives (Matthew 10:29–31). From there, you can begin building a personal relationship with God!

However, you cannot do it halfheartedly and expect to determine the truth of the matter: “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). Following God’s will is a matter of deepest commitment. Trust in the Lord! Seek the living God with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will find Him!

So, is there a living, caring God who was involved in the creation of the universe and the life within it—and who intervenes in human lives and world events today? Can you refute the critics who say, “God is dead”? Can you prove that God is alive? Yes, you can!

That living God loves us, and wants us to think like He thinks. He wants us to become like Him in nature and character. And so, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to give us an example of godly life and character, and to save us from our sinful nature. God wants us to be conformed to the loving image and nature of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Darwin’s greatest mistake was his banishment of purpose from life. The truth, however, is that you and I were created for a great purpose. Our Creator is not just alive—He wants us to have a relationship with Him for eternity, as part of His very Family! Will you respond to Him?

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