Monday, October 21, 2013

True or False: God is Real, Part 2

Every Effect Has a Cause

We all learned in science class that every effect has a cause. An uncaused effect is an impossibility. Stated another way, you can’t have an outcome or consequence without having something to cause that result. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine the universe not having a source behind it. Even atheists believe the universe itself is a massive cause. Evolutionists believe that cause came from a big bang millions of years ago. Christians credit the source as Almighty God. Either way, both science and Scripture acknowledge that the universe had a beginning. Science has proven it through such means as the Hubble telescope or the Red Shift; Scripture simple states it as understood truth.

So the question up for debate isn’t whether the universe has an origin, it’s who—or what—prompted that beginning. Imagine you’re sitting in your living room, enjoying a peaceful afternoon while reading the paper. Suddenly, a baseball flies into the room, shattering your window. Obviously, your first question wouldn’t be, “How did that get here?” It would be, in a highly bothered tone, “Who did this?!” The baseball didn’t just smash through your window for no reason. Some agent acted upon it, causing a “disturbance in the force” that ruined your perfectly good afternoon.

The point is, the universe couldn’t have just “arrived” with no force behind it. And unlike the remote possibility that a pitching machine spat a baseball into your living room instead of an actual person, it’s virtually impossible that a universe was just spat out by an inanimate force. It took a Person, a Someone. Holding the Bible at its word, we Christians believe that to be God, the Great Cause.

2. Every Creation Has a Creator
In the same way, it’s impossible for something to be created void of a creator. Something that’s made has to have a maker. Both creationists and evolutionists agree that life didn’t just suddenly appear; it was made by something (a Big Bang) or someone (God). The universe is a creation, and the earth’s life cycle clearly proves that.

Going one step further, however, Genesis proves that God is responsible for creation. The first two chapters serve as “the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (2:4). Obviously, some people think of the biblical creation account as a fairy tale that lacks truthful substance. Yet if all creation serves as proof of a Creator, who—or what—else could be responsible?

3. Every Design Has a Designer
Watch a sunset. Stare at the waves of the ocean. Examine a leaf or a flower. Hold a newborn baby. Our eyes don’t have to travel far to find proof that the earth was intricately designed. The world around us is bursting with wonderful, breathtaking design. And following suit with the previous two “proofs,” this implies that behind the design is an ultimate designer.

But there’s more. The complexity of the earth’s designs—from the mesmerizing patterns of nature to the awesome uniqueness of a DNA strand—tells us that this designer is intelligent. The patterns of life are obviously not mindless happenstance.

Think of it another way: Cars go through a systemized process in their formation. They don’t just build themselves from iron and elements found in soil; they’re formed and fashioned in automobile factories. Likewise, concertos are birthed through composers, paintings come from painters and inventions come from inventors. Each product is uniquely created by the hands of a person. If we acknowledge that this world consists of incredible and intricate designs, how can we not point to the hands of a designer?

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” —Psalm 90:2

4. Communication Requires a Communicator
Scientists agree that the universe around us is constantly communicating with us. When we hear this, most of us imagine some half-crazed researcher spending decades listening to static noise from outer space, waiting for some abnormal yet distinct pattern or variance. The 1997 movie Contact, based on Sagan’s 1985 book, gave us a glamorized version of the legitimate search for extraterrestrial intelligence. In it, Ellie (played by Jodie Foster) is monitoring radio waves and signals from outer space, listening for some sort of ordered, encrypted sequence in the midst of static. She and other scientists eventually decipher a signal that is, as they describe it, “not local.” As a result, they surmise that a complex, ordered pattern “can only come from an intelligent source.”

Yet such communication can be found in our everyday existence. Consider the fact that the blueprint for who we are is intricately coded within the DNA molecules of each of our bodies. In other words, the DNA contained in every cell within your body contains information. It’s filled with “instructions”—complex, coded information. Obviously, information can’t be communicated unless there’s a communicator—and in this case, an intelligent communicator—delivering the information.

5. Every Law Has a Lawgiver
If you’ve ever studied sociology, you know that there are some things that people everywhere recognize—they’re universal. One of those is smiling, and another is the existence of moral law. No matter where you go in this world, people inherently recognize the difference between right and wrong. We are born with a conscience that gives us such a filter. Obviously, we don’t always do what’s right—but we know what’s right.

“Everyone knows certain principles. There is no land where murder is virtue and gratitude vice.” —educator and author J. Budziszewski

Imagine traveling to 10 separate islands out in the ocean. On the first island you visit, you discover an unspoken list of “dos” and “don’ts.” Even without an official government to rule over them and establish laws, you’ve noticed that the locals have established their own code of ethics that prohibits such things as murder, theft, adultery, molestation … it goes on. As long as everyone abides by these “rules,” everyone’s happy.

When you move on to Island #2, you’re amazed to find virtually the same moral code, despite the fact that none of these people have ever had any interaction with those on the previous island you visited. Again, certain boundaries have been naturally established.

Coincidentally, the third island you visit has virtually the same “laws” as Islands #1 and #2, even though these people again have been completely independent and secluded from the other two. This pattern continues for all 10 islands you visit. And though it’s amazing to think of the similarities, it raises several valid thoughts: If the people on all 10 of these islands have never had any interaction with each other, yet all 10 have a similar moral code, wouldn’t it be within reason to assume there’s a natural inclination aiding the establishment of these laws? Since those on all 10 islands have virtually the same idea of what is right and wrong, isn’t it logical to presume this idea came from a third party?

Don’t believe it? Think the scenario is a little too theoretical and idealistic? Believe me, it’s not that far-fetched. In C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, the author documents cultures throughout all history, presenting some of the common threads that bind every civilization. Among these commonalities are the notions that you shouldn’t murder, steal, sleep with your neighbor’s spouse, etc. On the flip side, all cultures esteemed telling the truth, being kind, acting selflessly, etc. In every case—from the Phoenicians to the Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans to 21st Century civilization—humans shared a vehement reaction against injustice: theft, looting, rape, murder, pillaging, etc. Meanwhile, they all innately affirmed heroism, altruism, self-denial, etc.

Lewis’ study (and others by Christian apologists and sociologists) proved that different people groups and cultures, though having no contact with each other, nevertheless had similar moral codes and ethical structures by which they lived. That’s not to say that humans always do what is morally right; Lewis and others assert that all cultures intuitively know what is right.

“A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional or (as they would say) ‘sentimental’ values have in the background values of their own, which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.” —C.S. Lewis

Since human knowledge of moral law appears to be ubiquitous, and since different cultures all seem to know moral truth—whether civilized or primitive, urban or rural—the source of moral knowledge must be absolute, rather than subjective. In other words, morality isn’t just a social mores (a “cultural accident,” as evolutionists would assert) but is intrinsic and from some outside source (i.e., God). There must be an outside lawgiver!

If, then, we’ve established that we all know the law but don’t always live it out to perfection, then that equates to breaking the law. And if we’re honest, we must admit that in breaking the laws, we’ve offended the lawgiver. The moral code, then, doesn’t just point us to the lawgiver, it also reveals our need for forgiveness and a Savior! (We’ll get to that later.)

There Must Be Something More
Say the name Friederich Nietzsche and you immediately think of a single phrase: “God is dead.” The outspoken atheist, who once called himself the Antichrist and labeled his brand of thought “philosophizing with a hammer,” coined the famous declaration as part of his adamant denial of God’s existence. For much of his life, Nietzsche argued that there was no God, no afterlife, and that existence amounted to nothing more than life in this world. But prior to his death, Nietzsche drifted toward insanity and longed for permanence beyond this life. Arguing for what he called “eternal return,” he attempted to retain a belief in naturalism yet hoped for a world continually being reformed and reborn.

Nearing his death, Nietzsche said, “The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over and over, and you with it, a grain of sand.” And in his final years, it seemed this tenacious and influential atheist could not come to grips with his own belief that his existence—and personhood—would one day be snuffed out. Even atheists long for what scholars call transcendence, something beyond this natural, mortal world.

It’s Time to Get Personal
After briefly delving into these five “proofs” (and obviously, there are more—those are just the most frequently addressed issues), let me say something that may rock your boat a little: Don’t get hung up on any of these as your proof that God exists. Because essentially, these can only get us so far in knowing the “who” behind the “what.” These evidences simply lead us to a fuzzy, nebulous supreme being responsible for all of life. In fact, we could have the god of Star Wars—the god of some mysterious “force”—based on what we’ve discussed so far.

Fortunately, there’s more. We’re not left hanging by an unknown God. Quite the opposite, in fact. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, as revealed through creation, history, Jesus Christ and the Bible, it’s that God is personal.

“But I’m still not sure I believe in Jesus or the Bible,” you say. That’s fine. We’ll get there. For now, let’s review some things we’ve already established to arrive at a new and fundamental point.

We concluded that both science and Scripture agree that the universe has a beginning. Was this beginning caused or uncaused? We know that an uncaused effect is impossible, it doesn’t exist—clocks don’t wind themselves, baseballs don’t throw themselves. So the universe was intentionally caused. If that’s the case, we can assume this “Causer” must be personal, since He created personal beings.

How so? Well, simply put, if God isn’t personal, then He’s less developed than we are. God must at least be personal because He created humans to be personal. You and I have a will; we have emotion, personality, volition, ambition. If God isn’t a personal God, then He’s not as sophisticated as us, and we (the effect) have eclipsed Him (the Cause). That’s not rational. And that also means it’s safe to say that because God is in fact the Causer/Creator/Intelligent Designer/Communicator/Lawgiver who, in each case, is above the effect/creation/design/communication/law, then He is indeed personal.

OK, Now That We’re on a Friendly Basis ...

What does this have to do with the price of eggs in China? Remember, the atheist says God doesn’t exist. We’ve already proven the flawed rationale behind that one. Meanwhile, the agnostic says that God may indeed exist, but that He can’t be known. We’ve talked about how that’s a contradiction; but now that we know God is a personal being, there’s more to add. And here’s where it gets good.

Not only does God reveal Himself as personal, He invites us to know all about the rest of Him. God is a revelatory God. How do we know He’s really out there, that He really wants to know us and isn’t just tricking us into being mindless robots that say and do whatever He wants? Simply put, because He’s already proven Himself. He’s shown us. He has—and still is—revealing Himself to the world.

How is He doing this? There are four significant ways He shows Himself. In a general way, He proves Himself through:

• Creation — the universe itself isn’t just proof of His existence, it’s a snapshot photo of who He is.
• Conscience — the basic moral code that’s innate in all of us shows us God’s standards, which reveals His character.

God has also proven Himself through more specific means:

• Scripture — virtually every page of the Bible paints an up-close and personal portrait of God.
• Savior — Jesus Christ came as God in flesh to show us firsthand who God is like nothing or no one else could.

Don’t worry if you’re not sold on these yet, specifically the Bible and Jesus parts. We’ll address those later in the book. For now, my point is simply to show you that God doesn’t have to be viewed as some out-there, far-off supreme being who can’t be described. He is personal, which means there’s more of Him that we can know, more about Him that we can discover. Not only can He be searched, He wants to be searched (and found)—specifically by you!

Reasons for the existence of God:
• A philosophical reason
• A moral reason
• A scientific reason
• A biblical reason
• A Christological reason
• A personal reason

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