The God Question Part One: Is it Reasonable to Believe in God?
Dave Fields, September 9, 2018
A Christian answer to the God Question (1 Peter 3:15)…
- Claims to be reasonable
- Is to have a posture that is respectful and gentle
Greek Philosopher, Socrates argued that the key to a mature and rewarding life is to “follow the argument wherever it leads,” unafraid of the consequences.
– Socrates (469-399 BCE)
One of the reasons why people stop looking at the God question reasonably is that there are consequences. No one can look at the God question objectively.
What Kind of Reason? What Kind of God?
God is not a being within the material universe. God is Being itself. Because God exists outside of the material world, we can’t look for “proof” of God in the same ways as we would for proof of the Sasquach or the Loch Ness monster.
Logical Inference: “Theory X is more reasonable than theory Y because it explains all the data (what we can see) better than theory Y.”
God can’t be put under the microscope; what we can do is look at the data – the physical world and our own experience in it – and then make inference about what we believe about God.
- Outward: The Beginning of The Universe
“I never asserted such an absurd position that anything might arise without a cause”
– Scottish skeptic and philosopher, David Hume
“Nothing cannot produce something. Everything must come from something that already has being. This means that there must be some unique being that [a] exists without a cause, [b] that did not spring out of nothing, that [c] is its own cause and the source of everything else. That one being who is Being itself is God.” – Timothy Keller
“Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang” – Stephen Hawking
“And the very fact that the universe had a beginning implies that someone was able to begin it. And it seems to me that had to be outside of nature.”- Francis Collins
The Kalam Cosmological Argument:
- Anything that begins to exist must have a cause
- The universe began to exist (scientists point to the Big Bang)
- Therefore, the universe must have a cause
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)
But…What Caused God? Two responses:
- God is not a material, natural being. God exists outside of time.
- Removing God from the equation doesn’t address the problem
If there is no God, then either:
- Original matter sprang from nothing, or
- Original matter has always existed without a cause
In either of those cases, we are well beyond the realm of science and we’re well beyond the universe that we know.
“Ironically, then, there is an agreement that modern science is completely insufficient to explain the existence of the world. Whatever brought it about must have been something extra-natural or supernatural.” – Timothy Keller
Practical Implications: Believing that God created the universe – out of love and for love – gives me real meaning in life: to receive God’s love, and share it with others. Knowing that there is a Creator gives me reason to actually see that the creative work we as humans do in the world is truly meaningful – its not all just going to burn up with the sun.
- Inward: Justice
“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the later [Christian morality] is absolutely not self-evident: one must make this point clear again and again…Christianity [with its values of egalitarian benevolence, or love, and compassion] possesses truth only if God is truth – it stands or falls on belief in God.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Without God, we cannot claim that anyone should be obligated to agree with us or support our view of what is just or fair. They can just say, “Well that’s your view, I have mine.” The Christian view says that God, being perfectly good, is the standard of goodness: “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all” (1 John 1:5).
Practical Implications: Christianity provides a firm, objective basis to claim that all humans have value. Because God made all people in his image and has endowed every single person with dignity and worth, we have good reason to fight for the rights of all people. In fact, we are bound to: “What is good? What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
III. Inward: Beauty. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker proposes that all our sense of aesthetic is based on passing on genes that helped our ancestors survive. All of our sense of beauty can be explained by natural selection.
“Here the challenge is to the unbeliever, to find a non-theistic register in which to respond to [their experiences of beauty], without impoverishment.”
– Charles Taylor
For the person who thinks that no God exists, there is no real meaning to what they sense – and so they have to ‘suspend their belief system’ if they are to actually enjoy the beauty.
“You can’t go on getting very serious pleasure from music if you know and remember that its air of significance is a pure illusion, that you like it only because your nervous system is irrationally conditioned to like it.” – C.S. Lewis
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”
Practical Implications: The Christian view says that what I’m experiencing is actually meaningful – beautiful. The Christian hope is that God will one day remove all ugliness and injustice and restore his good creation to what it was always meant to be.
Conductor Leonard Bernstein famously admitted that when he heard great music he sensed “Heaven,” some order behind things. “[Beethoven] has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: something is right in the world.”
Personal Reflection or Group Discussion:
Though God’s existence cannot be “proven” Dave pointed out that we can make logical inference from what we can He pointed to the Kalam Cosmological Argument – that points to existence itself as evidence for God’s existence.
a. Was that a new idea for you? Was it helpful for you to think more clearly about the evidence for God’s existence? Why or why not?
b. What further questions does it raise for you?
Albert Camus, and other atheist philosophers like him, have often described the tension between the reality that their worldview means that there is no objective meaning or purpose in life. But they often feel that their worldview doesn’t explain what they feel should be the case.
a. Does the disconnect between our logical conclusions and our existential experience itself seem like an important reason to reconsider our logical conclusions? Put differently: Is it important that our existential “sense” or “intuition” line up with our belief system?
b. Is that evidence to you for the view that there is a God? Why or why not?
Do you agree that we all have an inherent sense of justice: that some things are just “right” and other things are just “wrong”? Why or why not?
Does it make sense, as Dave suggested, that without God there is no basis for moral obligation – the idea that all people should agree with, say, human rights? Why to you think that?
Dave made the following point in the message: “Like most people in our Western world today, I firmly believe in human rights. But what Christianity gives me is a firm, objective basis to claim that all humans have value. Because I believe that God made all people in his image and has endowed every single person with dignity and worth, I have good reason to fight for the rights of all people. In fact, I’m bound to do that – as we read in Micah 6:8, “What is good? What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
a. Do you agree with his point? Why or why not?
b. How does that verse challenge or encourage you?
C.S. Lewis writes: “You can’t go on getting very serious pleasure from music if you know and remember that its air of significance is a pure illusion, that you like it only because your nervous system is irrationally conditioned to like it.”
a. In terms of our experience of beauty, do you agree that it is hard to get “very serious pleasure from music” within the secular frame – the view that there is no transcendence or “beyond” that the music points to? Why or why not?
b. Think of an experience you had with sensing that beauty was pointing “beyond itself.” How does that connect to your idea of God’s “being there”? Does it function as evidence of his existence or non-existence for you? Why?