The God Questions
Over the past twenty years, Hal Seed has done surveys to see what questions people have asked about God. The top six questions are:
- Is God real?
- Is the Bible true?
- Don’t all roads lead to heaven?
- How can a good God allow suffering?
- Which is right: evolution or creation?
- What happens when I die?
Let’s start our investigation by looking back about three thousand years. Psalm 19 is a poem, a song lyric written by King David of Israel; around 1000 BC David was a victorious general and a king who led his country to economic prosperity, geographic expansion, and nationwide unity. He moved his country from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. He was an innovator and a man’s man. As David reflected on the universe and the existence of God, he began with this statement. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1) David continued on the same thread in the following verses. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:2–4) Day and night, the sun and its daily consistency and the heat it provides to the world—it all points to this God. This beautiful, masterful universe screams of the existence of God! “Think of a time you were impressed by the earth’s beauty. Maybe it was a camping trip where the stars blanketed the sky or a field of wildflowers that burst with color. This breathtaking moment was put together by a God who loves you! Is there a God? The stars say there is! But, everyone wonders about God from time to time because believing in God requires faith. The Bible says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). If you think faith is for the weak, think about all the times you use faith on a daily basis. You put money in the stock market, with faith that you won’t lose it all. You take a job with a company, in faith that they’ll pay you every couple weeks. You get married, believing you’ll live in a committed relationship for a very long time. You got up this morning, having faith that there would be enough air to breathe for you to make it through the day. All day long, you’re using faith. But that doesn’t mean we have to express faith blindly. We invest in the market after reading a company’s prospectus. We accept a job after interviewing with the boss. We get married after getting to know the other person and meeting his/her family. We believe there’ll be enough air to breathe because there was enough air yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Our faith is based on reasoning, facts, and prior experience. God set it up that way. He has made a world of vast and complex logical and scientific structure and He made creation so beautiful and masterful that merely looking at the stars can make you wonder at who this God is! The heavens declare the glory of God. They are telling you that God is real. Creation is one of our first evidences of the existence of God. So, for those of you who came in today curious about His existence or for those of you who get asked questions by your co-workers, take note. Today, we are going to focus on three of the five classical arguments for the existence of God that philosophers have propositionally and logically argued for centuries. Pointers to God’s Existence
- The Teleological Argument: The existence of “stuff”
Stuff exists, which creates a huge problem for the atheist. If nothing exists, then we don’t have to explain it. But the minute we acknowledge that something is real, we have to come up with an explanation for how it got there. The universe exists. It’s real. We live in it. We see it, hear it, feel it, and breathe its air. Where did all this stuff we feel, hear, breathe, and smell come from? Let’s use logic. The law of cause and effect teaches us: For every effect, there has to be a cause. I’m wearing a watch. How did that get there? I put it on my wrist this morning. It says, “M-O-V-A-D-O” on it. How did those little letters get there? Someone must have inscribed them on it. (Author’s Note: Elaborate on the intricacies of your watch or another accessory/item of clothing you are wearing.) Cause and effect. For every effect—every thing that exists—there has to be something that caused it to exist. That’s the teleological argument philosophers have upheld for years. Now, here’s a second philosophical argument for the existence of God. It’s called:
- The Cosmological Argument: The nature of “stuff”
This is also called the Argument from Contingency. The universe is a huge, complex, marvelously well-ordered place. Since it exists, you have to explain where it came from. One possible explanation for how something got here is that it was self-created. It came from itself. But that doesn’t follow logically. You know why? Because scientists who study this sort of thing tell us that just about everything in the universe is contingent. Which means, it’s dependent on something else in order to exist. Take trees, for example. They need air to exist, air to survive, air to have been created in the first place. Trees are contingent on air. (Author’s Note: Use your favorite sports team in this example.) Or the Chargers. The Chargers need players to exist. They need a league to play in, and an owner to pay them. And raving fans who will cheer them on, even though they break our hearts almost every year. The Chargers are contingent. Or the earth. The earth needs the sun. The sun needs the solar system, gravity, and a whole host of photo- and electro-chemical reactions to be able to exist. Nothing we observe around us is self-caused or self-reliant. In fact, it’s easy to conclude that everything we see around us did not exist at one time, now it exists, and it probably will not exist forever. So, if everything we observe is dependent on something else, and not independent or self-caused, the principle of dependency asks, If all that exists is dependent, fragile, and temporary, who or what is responsible for all these dependent objects and beings? Philosophers go through all sorts of mental gymnastics to try to answer this question. But, let’s look at it from a different perspective: In your mind, get way, way away from the universe, zoom out from it, and then take everything in the universe and draw a circle around it—a circle like this. (Hold up Hula-Hoop.) All the galaxies, solar systems, planets, black holes. Shrink the whole thing down to fit inside this circle. The universe, the stars, the planets, our world, and we are all inside the circle. Everything inside this circle is dependent. It relies on something beside itself for existence. According to the second law of thermodynamics, known as the law of entropy, it’s slowly headed toward non-existence. So, not only does it need something or someone in order to exist, but also it will, at some point, stop existing. So, the big question is, “Where might the thing that caused all this dependent stuff to exist in the first place be located?” Inside the circle, or outside of it? Which explanation makes most sense? If everything that exists inside the circle is fragile, temporary, and dependent, how likely is it that the cause of all these things originated inside the circle of contingency? Doesn’t a thinking person have to conclude that everything that exists inside the circle exists because of something outside the circle? And, by contrast, whatever is outside that circle must be independent, self-caused, and self-reliant, which would make it eternal with no beginning and no end. Unlimited. All-powerful. Which is part of why the Bible says in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” See what God is saying here? “The things that I created and hold together every second of the day are to point you to Me. You can see My existence all over the universe!” Let’s take this one step further. Instead of looking at the big picture of the universe as a whole, let’s zoom back in and look at a couple of small pictures and the way they fit together. Let’s start with one of these. (Pull out a Pepsi can or a can of your favorite carbonated beverage.) Have you ever wondered how this got to be the way it is? Where it came from, or how it was formed? Let me tell you about it. Millennia ago, a massive explosion came out of nothing and nowhere, and sent a gargantuan rock spinning through space. As it cooled, a brown, sweet, bubbly liquid formed on its surface. As time passed, aluminum crept out of the water and shaped itself into these dimensions . . . which just happened to be the right shape and size for a human hand, which would develop a few million years later. Over time, this thing formed itself a one-time retractable lid, then a crease started to appear a bit off-center on the top of the lid, and out of it grew a (click the lid open) pull tab. Centuries later, red, white, and blue paint fell from the sky and clung to this thing, forming the letters P-E-P-S-I on its surface. Obviously, these five letters have a deeper meaning to them, because you see them everywhere. (In fact, if you think about it, you’ll realize that this logo is one of the primordial resonance frequencies of the universe. After all, it’s everywhere. Some have even described the sensation it produces as “the joy of cola.” Others have called it “the choice of a new generation,” but it’s been around for ages.) The really cool part is that the primordial force that generated this pattern even thought to put a little trademark symbol next to it. Question: How many scientific explanations about the nature of matter and the origins of the universe would I have to give to convince you that this happened by chance? What are the odds that something this complex and this coincidentally useful, comfortable, attractive, and might I add delicious (take a sip) came about as a result of a random collision of molecules? It’s too carefully designed to be chance or coincidence, wouldn’t you agree? And this is just a Pepsi can. My conclusion? Some very smart people who knew what they were doing did some thinking to come up with this. How did I conclude that? It is only reasonable to be able to reconstruct certain attributes of the designer by studying his design. Now, let’s look at a banana. Check this out. (Hold up the banana. If you have given one to everyone in the audience, ask them to pick theirs up as well.) The far side of a banana has three ridges, and the close side has two ridges. (Usually this is so, but not always, because unlike the Pepsi can designer, the banana designer is innovative and creative and loves variety and didn’t want to settle for factory or cookie-cutter replicas. So every banana is unique, but they’re all the same in the ways that really matter.) Notice how neatly the banana fits in your hand. It’s kind of like it was made for it. Feel how it’s been thoughtfully made with a nonslip surface. It comes with a time-sensitive indicator on the outside to let you know the condition of the contents before you even open it. Green means keep going, yellow means slow down and eat it, black means . . . banana bread! The top contains a thoughtfully made pull tab for convenient opening. Pull firmly on the tab and see how there are perforations on the wrapper (peel open your banana) so that it will peel into four pieces and hang gracefully over the hand. This wrapper is environmentally sound, made completely of biodegradable substances that in time enrich the soil it nestles in. If left uneaten, this, like every other fruit, has pre-programmed orders to dissolve into the ground so that a new fruit-bearing plant can gain nutrients from it, making it a virtually inexhaustible food-producing source. The fruit is the perfect size and shape for the human mouth, with a point on the top for easy entry (demonstrate). The banana is full of body-building calories and is easy for the stomach to digest. And the Maker of the banana has even curved it toward the face to make the whole eating process easier. Remember how Psalm 19 said that the heavens declare the glory of God? I would argue that the tropical jungles do, too. They not only declare that God exists, but they give us hints of what He must be like. To design something so intricate and delicate and beautiful and superior as this, whoever created the banana must be smart and thoughtful and creative and superior. He must be loving because He designed His creation around the needs of His creatures. How smart do you suppose you’d have to be to design and create one of these from scratch? Friends, this banana tells us something about God’s power and prowess. And, if you want a verse to share with a friend, should they ever ask you how you know there is a God, you can turn them to Romans 1:20, which says, “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 people are without excuse.” If they just stop, look around, and think. Here’s a third argument for the existence of God. It’s called:
- The Moral Argument: My sense of right and wrong
How many of you have been following President Obama’s nomination/selection of the new Supreme Court Justice? Why do we care so much about who does and doesn’t get on the Supreme Court? (Update with current topic in the news.) One reason is because we all carry within us a sense of right and wrong. A sense that certain things are right and should be done, and certain things are wrong and shouldn’t be done. And a judge has to rule on those things.
- S. Lewis stated in his book Mere Christianity, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”
Anthropologists tell us that’s a universal phenomenon. Morals can vary from person to person and society to society, but every person has them. Now, here’s the interesting part: How many of you have ever done what you believed was wrong? You betrayed your own sense of morals? [Raise hands.] Anthropologists tell us that’s a universal phenomenon as well—that all people admit they have within them a moral standard, and that they haven’t lived up to their moral standard. Because their moral standard is actually higher than they are. How do you explain that? How do you explain that all of us have within us a sense of morals that are beyond us? Most who have thought about it eventually conclude that the most reasonable explanation is that our morals were not self-invented, but rather they came from a higher moral source. And, if you want a verse to demonstrate this, Romans 2:14–15 says, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” Now, let’s put a few things together. The circle of contingency leads us to conclude that the universe was created by an uncreated creator: an unlimited, eternal, all-powerful being. Even in the details of the universe, like the banana, we see that the Creator is very smart, creative, thoughtful, and cares about His creation. He put great beauty and care into His creation, so He must at least have the capacity to be smart and beautiful and creative and caring. Our own hearts demonstrate to us that the Creator surpasses us in morals, or He wouldn’t have been able to create morals that were higher than we are. Put all those together and you have an eternal, powerful, smart, beautiful, loving, moral Creator. And that comes very close to a working definition of God, doesn’t it, friends? And, compare this to the alternative: Non-Creationists see all this and believe the world came about by random chance, the evolution of molecules, and the survival of the fittest. Which takes more faith? I would argue that it takes more faith to believe that there is no God than to believe that there is one The Bible claims that this God who exists revealed Himself in three ways: He revealed Himself to us through His creation; He told us about Himself in the Bible—we’ll get into that next week; and He showed us Himself by coming to earth in the form of a man named Jesus. Why would He do that? Because He loves us. (Author’s note: Share a personal story of a time you realized God loved you.) When I was thirteen years old, my parents divorced and my dad moved out. He moved away from me. But he loved me so much that he made a special point of taking me out to dinner every Tuesday night. Tuesday night was our night. Every Tuesday night we’d find a great steak house and have steak together. I realized that, like my father, God came to me because He wanted a relationship with me. The Bible says that God created the world and said that it was “good” (Genesis 1:10). But, sin entered the world when humankind chose to disobey the moral law God had set up. They ate the fruit of the only tree forbidden from them, and in doing so, they broke their perfect relationship with God. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Because of sin and death being a part of our world, many people are blind to the truth that there is a God and that this God loves them. In order to show His love for the world, God sent His Son, Jesus. He died on the cross and paid for our sins, so that we could be forgiven, receive eternal life, and have a restored relationship with God. Would you like to have a relationship with this God we’ve learned about? (Conclusion) Maybe today, what I’ve said has made sense to you. Maybe you’d be willing to admit that God really does exist and that He’s the Creator, even of you! If He created you, then you belong to Him. So, when He asks you if you would like a relationship with Him, He’s inviting you to come home. Would you like to do that? Would you like to begin a relationship with God? The Bible says that God forgives and restores all who believe in Him and receive the gift of life that Jesus paid for on the cross. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) So, what would keep you from inviting Him to direct your life starting today? Fear? Pride? Lack of control? I think the pivotal issue, for many of us, is not “Is God real?” The pivotal issue is “Can I trust Him?” God created the world and has sustained every fiber of every thing from the beginning of time. He gave up His very life to bring us back into relationship with Him. He is preparing an amazing place in heaven for all who believe in Him, and He is coming back to make the world right someday. So, if your question is “Can I trust Him?” the answer is, “Unequivocally, yes! Look around! The heavens declare the glory of God! He has shown himself to be trustworthy with the entire universe, so why not trust Him to direct your life?” For those of you who are ready to come into a relationship with God . . . (Author’s Note: Provide instructions about how you would like to pray with them to receive salvation.) For those of you who have already come into a relationship with God, how should we respond to this truth of God’s existence?
- We worship Him for how He has revealed Himself.
- We prepare ourselves to explain, logically, why we have faith in the existence of God.